One-Minute Book Reviews

October 8, 2009

The Good News About Herta Müller’s Nobel Prize in Literature

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:07 am
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I haven’t read Herta Müller, a Romanian-born German who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in literature today. But the good news about the Swedish Academy’s announcement is that the award didn’t go to Bob Dylan (the 25-1 favorite a few days ago with bettors at the London odds-making firm of Ladbrokes). Writers, no need — yet — to start taking electric guitar lessons to boost your chances of winning the world’s most prestigious literary honor.

More comments on Müller and links to information about her work appear in yesterday’s posts.

October 6, 2009

2009 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner To Be Announced on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 6 a.m. Eastern Time (US), 11 a.m. GMT and 1 p.m. CET — Live Webcast and Interview

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:16 am
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The winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in a live Webcast from the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 6 a.m. Eastern (US) Time or 11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 1 p.m. Central European Time (CET). You can watch the live Webcast and learn more about the award on the news page of the Nobel Prize site. An interview with Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, will follow the announcement.

September 13, 2009

John Ashbery, E.L. Doctorow Help Critics Celebrate Their 35th Anniversary

The winner of the first National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry

Update: 2:25 p.m. Monday: A video of John Ashbery’s entertaining talk has been posted on the NBCC blog.

You might expect an anniversary party for a literary-critics’ organization to resemble a wake now that so many book-review sections have folded or shrunk. But the mood was lively at the festivities that marked the 35th year of the National Book Critics Circle last night at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in downtown Manhattan.

I spoke at the event along with the poet John Ashbery, the novelist E. L. Doctorow and dozens of current and former NBCC board members. Ashbery, born nearly a half century before the critics’ organization was founded, received the first NBCC Award for poetry in 1975 for his Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which also won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. And he set the tone  of the anniversary celebration when he said: “It’s great to be back here. Actually, it’s great to be anywhere.”

Ashbery praised the Rain Taxi Review of Books and offered it as partial evidence that serious criticism of poetry and other art forms exists amid the meltdown at newspapers. The NBCC has posted a brief news report on his speech on its blog. You’ll find excerpts from other speakers’ comments, including mine, in a separate post there. The full text of all the speeches is scheduled to appear soon the NBCC site.

March 5, 2009

Imprint Blight in American Book Publishing

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:16 pm
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The colophon of the respected Margaret K. McElderry imprint.

On this site I focus on the quality of the writing in books and generally avoid reporting on unrelated publishing news or gossip. But an article in today’s New York Times involves a trend that’s been on my mind for years: the proliferation of imprints at major publishing firms.

Many of the new imprints bear the names of their editors. And — to oversimplify a bit — they allow the editors to go out on a limb and buy books that reflect their tastes even if others at their firms dislike them. That freedom is in theory a good thing, because it allows editors to acquire worthy books that may be too narrow to appeal to staff members who might otherwise have to sign off on them. And some imprints have a longstanding reputation for high quality, such as the Margaret K. McElderry children’s imprint at Simon & Schuster.

But named imprints can also remove some of the checks-and-balances at publishing firms. And recently they have produced at least two books so tarnished by questions of credibility that they should never have been published in the form in which they reached stores: James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces (from Nan Talese Books at Doubleday) and Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone (from Sarah Crichton Books) at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

I won’t belabor this point here, but if you’re interested in imprint blight in book publishing, I’ve put up a series of tweets about them on my Twitter feed. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

February 25, 2009

How Badly Can You Write and Get a Book Published in America? Find Out Thursday, Feb. 26, When the Shortlist for the 2009 Delete Key Awards Is Posted

Are you tired of reading about what a hard time publishers are having? Do you wish that somebody would write about what a hard time we, the readers, are having with some of the clinkers they’ve thrown at us?

Stay right here. Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will post the shortlist for the Third Annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books for adults or children. The finalists will be named in random order and numbered in reverse order, from No. 10 through No. 1, at roughly half hour intervals, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The full shortlist will be posted by 5 p.m.

Last year John Brockman said on the blog for the Powell’s Books:

“Arguably the second-best online literary award after the TOB’s Rooster [co-sponsored by Powell’s] is the 2008 Delete Key Awards for ‘the year’s worst writing in books,’ awarded by the One-Minute Book Reviews blog.”

Please check back tomorrow to learn the finalists for this year’s booby prizes for clichés, bad grammar, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, incoherence, dumbing-down and more.

One-Minute Book Reviews does not accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, authors, agents or others with ties to the industry.

© 2009 Janice Harayda
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

February 2, 2009

How Great Books Got Their Titles — When ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ Was ‘Angry Raisins’ — André Bernard’s ‘Now All We Need Is a Title’

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:07 am
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F. Scott Fitzgerald took his editor's advice, but many authors didn't.

Alfred A. Knopf urged Dashiell Hammett to change the title of The Maltese Falcon because he thought “falcon” might be hard for people to pronounce. The staff at Harper Brothers protested when Eugene O’Neill handed in Mourning Becomes Electra, a trilogy that later helped him win the Nobel Prize, because they believed the reference to Agamemnon’s daughter was too obscure. And the editor Max Perkins talked F. Scott Fitzgerald into calling his greatest novel The Great Gatsby instead of Trimalchio in West Egg (or at West Egg), perhaps fearing that few would recognize the name of a character in Petronius’s Satyricon.

Stories like these abound André Bernard’s ‘Now All We Need Is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way (Norton, 127 pp., $11, paperback), an engaging collection of anecdotes and commentary about how well-known books got their titles. A former Book-of-the-Month Club editor who worked in publishing for 25 years, Bernard covers more than 100 books that range from classics to late 20th-century bestsellers like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries, each of which has a letter (“A” Is for Alibi, “B” is for Burglar) in title.

Many of the stories in Now All We Need Is a Title involve misguided efforts by editors to overrule authors. But Bernard shows that translators, book clubs and others can also do damage. John Steinbeck loved the title of The Grapes of Wrath, inspired by a line in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” He didn’t live to see the translation published in Japan, where his widow, Elaine, found the book being sold as Angry Raisins.

This is the first in a series of posts that will appear this week on some of my favorite books.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

This Week – Some of My Favorite Books

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:36 am
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In the past month or so, I’ve trudged through a lot of underwhelming books — some that won (or had a chance to win) American Library Association Awards and others that could win the Delete Key Awards that I’ll hand out next month. So this week I’m going to have fun and write about some of my favorite books, either classics or more recent books that I’ve returned to often with pleasure. First up: André Bernard’s Now All We Need Is a Title, a book that tells how famous books got their titles, coming on Monday.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

October 9, 2008

Jean-Marie Le Clézio – The Biggest Nobel Surprise Since Dario Fo

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:17 pm
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No, you’re not the only one who hasn’t heard of him. After the Swedish Academy announced that the French novelist Jean-Marie Le Clézio had won the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature, Lev Grossman wrote in Time: “The sound of America’s literary journalists searching Wikipedia en masse is deafening” www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1848582,00.html.

Le Clézio’s selection may be the biggest surprise since the Italian playwright Dario Fo won in 1997. Not long after Fo won, the book editor of a major newspaper asked a group of us who were attending a National Book Critics Circle meeting, “Had you heard of him?” No hands went up. If you had asked me two days ago to name a French longshot for the Nobel, I would have said unhesitatingly, “Annie Ernaux,” whose work I reviewed on Feb. 20 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/20/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

October 8, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Why Isn’t John Updike on the Odds-Makers Lists of Favorites for the Nobel?

A mystifying aspect of the lists of bookies’ favorites for the Nobel Prize in literature: Why isn’t John Updike’s name on any that I’ve seen?

Yes, the requirements for the prize specify that it should go to a writer whose work has an “idealistic tendency” or promotes the good of humanity. And that standard might not favor Updike’s novels about the lascivious Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. But that test also wouldn’t favor a lot of the work of Philip Roth and Don De Lillo, whose names appear often on lists of bookies’ favorites. And Updike is much more elegant writer than Joyce Carol Oates, though she has given so much support to other writers – especially female writers – that she may come closer to meeting the test of idealism.

Updike’s novels vary tremendously in quality. But he is the best all-around writer in America – not just one of our leading novelists but a great story story writer, a good poet and an elegant critic. Do bettors discount him because his short stories are perhaps his best work and he wrote many of them decades ago? Or because they don’t count his criticism and poetry? What role does the unofficial geographic distribution requirement — and that the U.S. has more novelists than most countries – play in all of this? If Updike lived in Greenland, he would have had the Nobel Prize decades ago.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

London Bookies’ Favorites for the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature — Odds-Makers Give Edge to Magris and Oz But Also Rate Chances of Roth, Oates, McEwan, and DeLillo

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:20 pm
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Ladbrokes calls Italy’s Claudio Magris the favorite to win, but Unibet gives the edge to Israel’s Amos Oz

Italy’s Claudio Magris is the favorite to get the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature when the Swedish Academy names the recipient tomorrow, the Man Booker Prize site reports. Magris has 3–1 odds at the Ladbrokes betting agency. Just behind him are Syrian poet Adonis, Israel’s Amos Oz, and American novelist Joyce Carol Oates. The Man Booker site added:

“Booker Prize winners Margaret Atwood, John Banville, A.S. Byatt, Peter Carey, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje and Salman Rushdie have also been given odds” www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1141.

The English novelist Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel in literature, so McEwan probably has no chance. But the appearance of his name on the Ladbrokes list raises the tantalizing possibility that the Nobel could go to the novelist whose On Chesil Beach was longlisted for the 2007 Bad Sex Award.

Earth Times reports that Ladbrokes’ odds differ from those of Unibet, which has named Israeli author Amos Oz as the frontrunner with 4-1 odds to win the Nobel Prize nobelprize.org/:

“Both online bettings sites had Syrian-born poet Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said Asbar) in second place ….

“Ladbrokes had US authors Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth in third place this year along with Oz at 6 to 1, while American writer Don DeLillo was on 8 to 1”
www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/235985,bets-are-on-for-nobel-literature-prize–feature.html.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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