But is Hilary Mantel the one to beat?
British novelist Hilary Mantel is well on her way to making literary history with her second book in her historical trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, as her "Bring Up the Bodies" has just been announced as a shortlist finalist for the UK's prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction. The 2012 novel about Cromwell's rise to power during the years of Henry VIII's court follows her 2009 book on the same subject, "Wolf Hall." Both books have won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. "Bodies" also picked up the 2012 Costa Book of the Year Award, putting Mantel in the unique position of potentially winning all three of Britain's major literary prizes with just one book.
Just how big of a feat would that be? Well, big enough that no other author has ever done it.
The Prize was created in 1996 "to celebrate and promote international fiction by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible" and is "awarded annually for the best novel of the year written by a woman." Eligibility is extended to any female author who pens her work in English, no matter where she does it or what her work is about. Judging is done by "a panel of five women, all passionate readers and at the top of their respective professions." This year's judging panel includes actress Miranda Richardson, author Jojo Moyes, writer and human rights activist Natasha Walter, author and journalist Rachel Johnson, and journalist Razia Iqbal.
In speaking about the shortlist announcement, Richardson (who serves as chairperson of the panel) commented, "The shortlist for 2013 represents six tremendous writers at the top of their game...Their individual novels are flawlessly presented, they contain a heady mix of ideas and without exception take the reader on a unique and deeply satisfying journey."
For more on the Women's Prize for Fiction, including a full list of this year's longlist (which is impressive in its own right) and past winners, head on over to the Prize's official website.
The Women's Prize for Fiction award ceremony will take place on June 5 in London. [Yahoo! News]
She gave us the Kincaids and made museums enticing to children everywhere
I never looked at the Metropolitan the same way again. I never looked at any museum the same way again, and my parents dragged me to dozens upon dozens throughout my childhood. I don't think I would have been an art history major in college if it hadn't been for Claudia, who develops a burning need to know more about a new statue on display at the Met, which she believes is something very special (it is). The Mrs. Frankweiler of the title is the owner of the statue and she's one of the best crotchety old dames in literature. Konigsburg fostered my sense of all that you could discover in a museum, of what public ownership of art really means and indeed, of the value of art separate from stuff your parents like. She also made the Met seem pretty much as cool as Hogwart's does to kids today.
Bing: More on E. L. Konigsburg
These kids, the Kincaids...they couldn't have better companions to guide you through the museum. They slept in one of the beds on display. By day they blended in with school trips on tour, because Claudia insisted that they learn something while they were missing school. They cleaned themselves in the pool in the restaurant (and supplemented their cash reserves by picking up the change people tossed in it). The restaurant is no more but in my childhood, it was nothing short of magical to eat a tuna sandwich there with your art-loving mother and imagine Jamie and Claudia in there in the dark of night.
The fact that there is no longer a restaurant there...oh, don't get me started. Restoration was involved, so I should have a better attitude. But I feel like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo credit goes to them for the shot below) should have maintained it and renamed it the E. L. Konigsburg Cafe. This is how much I loved this book. On a long drive last year with my son, we listened to it on tape, read by Jill Clayburgh. Divine in every way. So then we listened another time, and Konigsburg took us all the way home. Since then we've read a few of Konigsburg's other books, starting with her other Newbery Award winner, "The View From Saturday" and then on to "Journey to an 800 Number" which is weird, but delightful and involves a pet camel. We still have more than a dozen to go, because this lady was not just gloriously imaginative, she was prolific. If your kids haven't been lucky enough to find her yet, run right out and get them a copy of "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It won't disappoint. Goodbye Elaine Lobl Konigsburg. You brought so much joy and will continue to do so for generations to come.
Bing: More on the Newbery Awards
Looks like 007 is striking out on his own with this one
On not overlooking America's greatest literary prizes
But as we walked out and made our way to the butterfly exhibit, I got one of those I'm-watching-the-news-and-are-you-okay kind of texts and entirely forgot about the Pulitzers. I was too busy thinking about vulnerable we were, in a popular Boston museum filled with families--it is Spring Break week in New England--and wondering how many other bombs might be out there. Or maybe in there, where we were.
So the American literary world's highest prize wasn't on my mind as I explained to my 9-year-old that we were going to make just a quick trip to the gift shop, no lingering over choices, and then head to the train station because something bad had happened at the Boston Marathon. I didn't think about them as I said a speedy yes to an entirely duplicative stuffed animal. Our last errand was to try to pick up the passport, but the Homeland Security vehicles parked out front of the Tip O'Neill Jr. Federal Building and the men standing guard at the doors meant we weren't going back in. Which was fine.
Bing: More on Adam Johnson
I finally thought about the Pulitzers when we got on our 5 pm train back to Maine. I even clicked on a link and saw the names. Adam Johnson for "The Orphan Master's Son." Sharon Olds, a poet I love, for poetry. But since I was attempting to be judicious about the answers I was giving to my son's questions about the Marathon explosions (like, "do they put bombs on trains Mom?") and privately wondering whether or not they sent bomb sniffing dogs through the train before letting us on, my main reaction, was I cannot care about this right now. Then I looked under my seat.
When you blog, it's not just today's news that tends to matter, it's the news of the hour that you fixate on. The cycle moves so fast. By the usual standard, if I didn't have time to think about the Pulitzers on the day they are announced and blog about them then, then most likely they'd just be skipped over. Neglected. Maybe mentioned in passing the next time one of the finalists or winners was in the news, for a new book or a movie deal or some such.
But I don't want to do that. These writers have worked their whole careers, quite likely with the hope that someday they'd get the recognition of this kind of grand prize--just as those runners have worked for years to be able to compete in the Boston Marathon. I'd rather be late to the table and not miss out on an opportunity to highlight the winners and the nominees.
The fiction prize generally translates to instant sales, and book lovers (and sellers) were dismayed when no prize was awarded last year (there was this feeling of what, nothing was good enough for you judges?) Johnson's book, which the judges described as "an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea," was a finalist for this year's National Book Critic's Circle Award as well. The Pulitzer finalists were Nathan Englander for his collection of short stories, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," and Eowyn Ivey for "The Snow Child," her first published novel, set in 1920s Alaska and about a childless homesteading couple who seem to conjure a child from the woods. (Cool trivia: Ivey's parents named her for a J. R. R. Tolkien character.)
The wonderful Sharon Olds won for Poetry, with her collection "Stag's Leap" and the late Jack Gilbert and Bruce Weigl were runners up for for "Collected Poems" and "The Abundance of Nothing," respectively. (See my colleague Kate Erbland's post on Olds.) In the History category, the winner was Fredrik Logevall for his book about the origins of the Vietnam War, "Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam. Finalists were Bernard Bailyn for his account of the British colonies, "The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675," and John Fabian Witt for "Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History."
Tom Reiss won the Biography Pulitzer for "The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo." The finalists were Michael Gorra for "Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece," and David Nasaw for "The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy."
Gilbert King won for General Nonfiction for his book about false rape accusations and racial injustice in Florida in 1949, "Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America." The finalists were David George Haskell for "The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature" a book about an old-growth forest in Tennessee and New Yorker writer Katherine Book for her fantastic "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity," an intensely immersive look at an Indian slum in the near Mumbai's airport.
Boo's book bounced to #203 on Amazon Tuesday afternoon, even in hardback, and Johnson's "The Orphan Master's Son" hit #6, a reminder of how much great books matter, even in a crisis. Or maybe especially in a crisis.
Bing: More on the Pulitzer Prize
Lauded poet earns her first Pulitzer
The other Poetry finalists were rounded out by "Collected Poems," by the late Jack Gilbert, "a half century of poems reflecting a creative author’s commitment to living fully and honestly an to producing straightforward work that illuminates everyday experience with startling clarity" and "The Abundance of Nothing," by Bruce Weigl, "a powerful collection of poems that explore the trauma of the Vietnam War and the feelings that have never left many of those who fought in the conflict."
Now that the picture book has a team of screenwriters, we imagine a dream cast.
It's a picture book. Very funny, but built around an obscenity and one simple thought: it is a drag when your child won't go to sleep. How do you make a movie out of that?
The book itself sprang from one of Mansbach's Facebook posts, a joke he made to friends that they should look out for his forthcoming children's book, "Go the F__k to Sleep." The respond there got him thinking and the whole thing snowballed. The book was a bestseller well before it was actually released. A small concept with universal appeal that led to big sales.
I interviewed Mansbach in May 2011, just as the book was coming out, and he was enthusiastic about having a chance to adapt it himself. He described it as wide open, storywise and described what Fox had done, by buying the rights, as buying a piece of the zeitgiest. I was a little skeptical then, and that was even before I endured "What to Expect When You're Expecting," another project that stemmed from optioning a bestseller with a famous title. I mean, was Fox buying a piece of the zeitgeist or a single note in a song sung by many?
Bing: More on Adam Mansbach
But as I mulled it over the weekend I softened a little because Marino is involved. Have you seen "Party Down?" A comedy built around a group of caterers in Los Angeles, it was only on Starz for two short seasons but it was charming, hilarious and one of the best and most accurate depictions of the world of food service that I've ever seen. It made me fall hard for Lizzy Caplan and harder for Adam Scott and even for Marino, who played their hapless boss Ron Donald.
Although...the brilliant writing on "Party Down" can't be attributed to Marino. He's written "Wanderlust" (half a good movie) and the forgettable "Role Models." But based on his comic timing in "Party Down," maybe those movies suffered from too many notes from producers demanding dumb revisions. Maybe he'll have more luck with this one. He and Oyama have two kids together. They know the material.
Let's hope they make it R rated. Insanely so, I hope. But it also has to be at least a little sweet, because you know, it is story in which parental love plays a part. If the unnamed father in Mansbach's book didn't love his kid so much, he'd presumably just let her drop off to sleep in a dirty diaper while he did meth and watched porn on the couch. Even if the book's title has to be obscured in posts and publications, it's still a story about family. So let's imagine a foul mouthed "Modern Family."
Who is the dad? Paul Rudd comes to mind, and he's friends with Marino, presumably, since they've worked together a bunch (in "Role Models," and in "Diggers," a little indie from 2006). But after the uneven "This is 40," maybe Rudd needs a break from being an onscreen parenting. Here's my proposal: Adam Scott. Better yet, what about Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan? Or, since "Parks and Recreation" is going off the air off this season, Scott and Amy Poehler? Maybe there's a way to keep Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope together a little longer. Okay, now I'm really coming around to this concept.
Bing: More on Adam Scott
Novak will pen two books for Knopf
Authorized bio could only be published after her death
On the heels of the passing of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher earlier this week, Penguin Books UK has announced the imminent publication of former Telegraph editor Charles Moore's brand-new, totally authorized biography of the polarizing figure via their Allen Lane imprint immediately following her funeral. While the timing of such an announcement might seem poor given the circumstances, Moore's two-book series is a special case, as it was first commissioned in 1997 with "the understanding that it would not be published during Baroness Thatcher’s lifetime." Now that Thatcher has passed, the biographies are primed to be published, per her wishes.
Penguin Books UK announced the news via press release, sharing that Moore "was given full access to Baroness Thatcher’s private papers and interviewed her extensively; she supported all his requests for interviews with others, including those who worked most closely with her and her own family. Permission was granted to former and existing civil servants to speak freely about the Thatcher years and Charles Moore was given early access to government papers held back from public view under the thirty-year rule." Moore's rare access to Baroness Thatcher also included "extensive correspondence with her sister, which Moore is the first author to draw on."
Thatcher's life and career has, of course, already been the subject of a number of biographies, most notably John Campbell and David Freeman's "The Iron Lady." However, Stuart Proffitt, Publishing Director at Allen Lane, believes that Moore's new works are the definitive collection, saying, "Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher immediately supercedes all earlier books written about her. Having worked closely with Baroness Thatcher on both volumes of her autobiography, and read all the other main books about her, I was astonished at how much Moore says which has never been public before. At the moment when she becomes a historical figure, this book also makes her into a three dimensional one for the first time. It gives unparalleled insight into her early life and formation...It recreates brilliantly the atmosphere of British politics as she was making her way, and takes her up to what was arguably the zenith of her power, victory in the Falklands...Moore is clearly an admirer of his subject, but he does not shy away from criticising her or identifying weaknesses and mistakes where he feels it is justified. It is, by any standards, an exceptionally impressive book and to be publishing it at this moment is a rare privilege.”
Baroness Thatcher did not read the final manuscript before her passing.
Baroness Thatcher's funeral will be held next Wednesday at St. Paul's Cathedral in central London.
"Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning" by Charles Moore will be published in the UK and Commonwealth on April 18. is currently completing the second book in the series, ""Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography, Volume Two: Herself Alone."