Dog-Eared and Dispatched: September 7, 2014
We’ve got a very women-centered column this week, as we take a look at the Margaret Atwood story you will probably never read, Eleanor Catton’s generosity, Janet Fitch’s forward thinking, and more literary prizes than you can shake a stick at. We round it all off with footnotes, because there’s always time for a little extra reading. Are you ready? Well, then, it’s time to start reading.
Authors are pretty amazing, because in addition to juggling the demands of marketing themselves and writing long (or short) books, they also keep an eye to the future. This was a banner week for forward thinking. Looking far into the future, Margaret Atwood has become the first author to take part in the Future Library project. Future Library is an on-going art project instigated by Katie Peterson; each year from 2014 until 2114 authors will be invited to submit works that will only be published in the final year of the project. Why will it take so long? Because that is how long it will take for the trees that will provide the paper for the books to be grown in a forest in Norway. In the meantime, Booker prize winner Eleanor Catton has established a grant for authors to take time to read, because few things support great writing like great reading. Catton hopes to combat the trend of awarding grants to people who are good at writing applications, rather than those who will explore new territories through reading, because she’s”uncomfortable with the focus that it [the arts grant process] places on writing as production, with publication as the end goal, rather than on writing as enlightenment, with the reading as the first step.” Rather Catton’s “idea is that if a writer is awarded a grant, they will be given the money with no strings attached except that after three months they will be expected to write a short piece of non-fiction about their reading (what was interesting to them, what they learned) that will be posted online so that others can benefit from their reading too.” [Shatzkin Files, MobyLives!, The Guardian, James Cohan, The Guardian]
Speaking of writers with an eye to the future, Janet Fitch has written an open letter to that company which shall remain nameless (but which likes legal loopholes, if it can find them), calling said company to stop being a parasite: “I urge you to consciously accept that responsibility [for maintaining intellectual and cultural life], and respond to it by treating the small amount of your business which is represented by literature with fairness and even–understanding how important to the life of our society books are–preferential treatment. The difference between a symbiotic and a parasitic relationship is that in symbiosis, the host is not harmed in any way. The two organisms work together for mutual benefit. In a parasitic relationship, the growth of the secondary organism outstrips the ability of the host to sustain itself. Unlike symbiosis, a parasite kills its host, and eventually, itself.” [Janet Fitch Writes, MobyLives!, Publishers Weekly]
The shortlist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Award (presented by the Center for Fiction). It includes: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld, Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson, The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil, The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko, Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson, and We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. If you are looking for more women authors to read, especially ones that are in the early stages of their writing careers, you might want to check out the winners of the Rona Jaffe Foundation’s Writers Awards, which were announced this week. This week also saw the announcement of the Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist, which features authors under 39 (the age limit has been raised from 30), and which this year will pit Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries against Eimear McBride’s Baileys prize-winning A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, among other titles. If you’d rather read non-fiction, the Samuel Johnson Prize longlist has also been announced, which sees both more memoirs and more works by women than is usual. [Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Guardian, The Samuel Johnson Prize, The Guardian]
- A previously unpublished chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (info).
- Penguin Random House has restructured Penguin, just a bit.
- City of Asylum is getting some press; if you’re yearning for more, check out our Late Night Conversation with Henry Reese and Diane Samuels.
- Prisoner access to books while serving there time is being limited in Britain and Canada. Seems like a horrible idea.
- J. K. Rowling’s novels for adults cause discomfort to Harry Potter fans. Pace the linked article, but I think the problem might be with the readers: one has different expectations of young adult and literary fiction (I’m not saying that one has higher expectations of one than the other, mind), and the same authorial tics fail to please across the genre lines.
- Portland’s Literary Arts is turning 30!