Thursday, 30 June 2011

Bookworm News: June 2011

Summer reading
It's that time of year again - the time when broadsheet newspapers publish long and delightful lists of recommended books to read over the summer, which we can go through and circle with a blotchy biro to our hearts' content. Doesn't have quite the same effect on a screen, does it? Nevertheless, Online Degrees Hub's list of the 20 Best Books About Suburbia is certainly worth a peek (as perhaps evidenced by the fact that my Amazon wishlist now runs to 231 items for books alone. Nuts.). Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler's autobiography, Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?, could also be one to check out for music fans. For next summer, Carole King's autobiography is due out in the first half of 2012.

Awards news
I often feel that in Britain particularly we don't always pay enough attention to foreign literature - perhaps because our own country's output is so good. That's why prizes like the Caine Prize for African Writing are important for allowing us to be exposed to texts from across the world. Sometimes known as the African Booker, the finalists for this year's £10,000 prize for a short story are as follows:
  • Hitting Budapest (NoViolet Bulawayo)
  • Butterfly Dreams (Beatrice Lamwaka)
  • What Molly Knew (Tim Keegan)
  • In The Spirit of McPhineas Lata (Lauri Kubuitsile)
  • The Mistress' Dog (David Medalie)
I for one look forward to the announcement of the winner on July 11th :) In a similar vein, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize went to a writer from Peru - Santiago Roncagliolo - for his novel, Red April.
Another £10,000 prize up for grabs each year is the Ondaatje Prize, which was this year awarded to Edmund de Waal for his book The Hare With Amber Eyes. Honoured under the prize criterion of 'evoking the spirit of a place', it was judged the winner by such luminaries as Ali Smith, Don Paterson and Sarah Waters.
John Le Carré
The famous abstainer from literary awards, John Le Carré, did, however, accept the Goethe Medal this year. In sadder news, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, which honours the best work by a writer under 35, has been suspended for 2011 due to lack of funding. Past winners have included Angela Carter and VS Naipaul.

Share the magic of Disney's Winnie The Pooh with your little one - for free
Until September 30th, Fairy Non Bio and Fabric Softener have partnered with Winnie The Pooh to offer three free audiobooks for all the family to enjoy. Purchase any marked pack of Fairy, send off the receipt, choose your book, and have it sent to you. You can find out more here. 

Movies of Books
Coming out this year is the film version of Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin - surely a challenging and ambitious project, as anyone who has read the book will know. How to balance its heart and its gruesomeness? How to get across the confusion the reader feels at the book's beginning due to the clever and somewhat bewildering way in which Shriver sets us up? In any case, the film-makers have tried, casting Ezra Miller in the title role and with Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly as support. Out on October 21st this year in the UK.
Furthermore, having recently seen the frankly crappy version of The Great Gatsby on the big screen - the one starring Mia Farrow - I wait with interest for the newest version, starring...LEONARDO DI CAPRIO as Gatsby. Think I might just die of happiness (even though, somewhat confusingly, it's coming out in 3D). Out in June 2012.

For sale...
An extremely rare, unfinished manuscript by Jane Austen will be going on sale at Sotheby's on July 14. Entitled "The Watsons", it is believed to have been written around 1804, and is even more significant due to the fact that no other original Austen manuscripts survive. It is today believed to sell for anything up to nearly half a million dollars...get your wallet out, then...

And speaking of ancient texts...
A dictionary detailing the minutiae of the 'dead' language of Akkadian has finally been completed after ninety years' work.  Started in 1921 at the University of Chicago, many researchers dedicated their entire working lives to the project, and still did not live to see its completion. But it is indeed now complete: the 21-volume Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is now available as a window into this world, through every conceivable type of text from recipe to prescription. More can be read about the project here - and, with the full dictionary retailing at around $150, your interest need not stop there; for a work of this magnitude, 150 big ones is surprisingly cheap. 
A 500-year-old book also went on sale in Utah for $35,000, making the Assyrian Dictionary's price tag seem like small change in comparison. The partial copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, a history book originally published in Germany in the fifteenth century, is now open to offers; I'll be interested to see if it makes its asking price.

Done with stalking Stephen Fry and having precisely no followers? For your entertainment, has compiled a list of 50 Impressive Literary Figures You Should Follow On Twitter. So if you've ever wanted to find out what the Fight Club author eats for breakfast or hang onto Neil Gaiman's every word - now you can. (Or, of course, follow me at @biancasbookblog ...don't know why I'm not on that list :p ).
And considering the increasingly digital future of literature, it's probably worth knowing about Google's deal with the British Library to digitize books, which will allow readers to search a quarter of a million texts that were originally published between 1700 and 1870. The plan is also to digitize 40 million pages of newspapers dating back 350 years - bringing knowledge just that little bit closer to everyone's fingertips.

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