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Margaret Atwood receives Innovator’s Award

The Los Angeles Times has announced that Margaret Atwood will be presented with the fourth annual Innovator’s Award for her efforts to push narrative form.

From the press release:

From her earliest works, in which Atwood established herself as a vanguard of feminist fiction, to such genre-blurring novels as The Handmaid’s Tale, she has always sought new ideas and forms of expression. Most recently, her engagement with and enthusiasm for social media, electronic publishing initiatives, and innovative outreach to her readers have made her a trendsetter in digital culture and inspire a new generation of fans and writers.

The award, which spotlights cutting-edge business models, technology, or applications of narrative art, will be presented April 19 at the 33rd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes held at the University of South California.



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Book links: Ondaatje nominated for L.A. Times Book Prize, DeLillo and Banks up for PEN/Faulkner, and more

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Book links roundup: David Foster Wallace, Margaret Atwood, Karen Thompson Walker, and more

Sundry links from around the Web:

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Mark Twain: dead and kicking

As willed by the author, the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography was released for the first time on Monday, 100 years after his death. Yet even before its release, the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, landed on the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists. The Globe and Mail review of the book says:

Twain hit upon a unique method for writing an autobiography: He dictated to a stenographer whatever was on his mind at the moment, sometimes responding to the morning’s paper or the morning’s mail, sometimes following seemingly random trains of thought wherever they led him, often interleaving relevant newspaper clippings along the way.

Twain’s publisher, University of California Press, planned to release 50,000 copies of the book, but has since increased the number to 75,000, reports another Globe article.


Christopher Hitchens talks cancer and religion

In the September issue of Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens discussed his cancer diagnosis in an essay called “Topic of Cancer.” In it, he gave a more intellectual than emotional account of his illness, one that still managed to be moving.

Now, The Atlantic is following Vanity Fair’s lead. Last week, the magazine posted a video of Jeff Goldberg interviewing Hitchens at the latter’s home in Washington, D.C. Martin Amis even drops in to chat for a bit. According to the Los Angeles Times book blog, Jacket Copy, the video is one in a series “on the possibility of Hitchens having a religious conversion or awakening.”

Hitchens, for his part, does not consider such a thing likely.


Bookmarks: the best book title of the year, Kim Echlin’s favourite tunes, and more

Sundry links from around the Web:

  • The Los Angeles Times calls Judy Wearing’s Edison’s Concrete Piano: Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-on-Water Shoes and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors (published this month by ECW Press) the best book title of the year
  • Former Giller contender Kim Echlin gives The New York Times a playlist to accompany The Disappeared
  • Newfoundland author Chad Pelley launches Salty Ink, a website devoted to Atlantic Canadian writing
  • The BBC is planning to adapt Martin Amis’s novel Money for TV, and the broadcaster has already decided on a male lead
  • The Australian government has rejected a proposal that would have allowed parallel importation of foreign books, MobyLives reports
  • Blogger Mark Bertils points to something on every designer and book lover’s Christmas wish list: a wall calendar that displays a different type face for every month

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Jeremy Tankard in the L.A. Times

Grumpy Bird author/illustrator Jeremy Tankard recently chatted with Sonja Bolle of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some highlights:

SB: Is Grumpy Bird based on anyone in your life?

JT: I’d probably be in trouble if I answered that honestly.


SB: What kind of a reader are you?

JT: The irony was that [as a kid] I was not a big reader at all. There were a million things I’d rather do than read a book. I still love being read to, but it wasn’t until I was 30 or 31 that I started to enjoy reading. [He's 36 now.]


SB: What are you working on now?

JT: Possibly an illustrated novel, maybe a chapter book taking advantage of my love of comic books. My editor at Scholastic did The Invention of Hugo Cabret with Brian Selznick, so she’s open to doing something unusual. I’ve got a story mostly written.

The great thing is that what I thought would be a hobby to supplement my work turns out to be a viable career.

Tankard also lays out the genesis of the Grumpy Bird character and series, something he talked about in Q&Q‘s Jan/Feb cover story on children’s illustrators.


Tintin, The Hobbit and Goosebumps: coming soon to a theatre near you: UPDATED

The imminent end of the Harry Potter film franchise – the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II is scheduled for release in 2011 – has Hollywood types scurrying to secure other family friendly literary properties to fill the looming void . Steven Spielberg is working on a film version of the popular Tintin books, and Peter Jackson Guillermo del Toro is directing an adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Other YA fare currently on Hollywood’s radar include R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series of ’tween horror stories and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reports:

All the movie studios are hunting for existing properties with tested concepts — at least as books — that can be turned into films, though none exist on the scale of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” with its more than 400 million copies in print and vast cultural footprint.

But the films must hit a sweet spot that is deceptively difficult to find: They can’t skew too young or too old. And the marketing must clearly tell parents what to expect, studio executives say.

That elusive crossover appeal is what the studios most crave according to Alan Horn of Warner Bros., also quoted in the Times article: “There’s an attraction to having global interest and appeal to as many quadrants as possible, male and female, young and old.”

Quillblog isn’t sure which is more distressing: the ongoing infantalization of our culture, or the fact that, as audiences, we’re now being slotted into “quadrants.”

There’s no word yet about an adaptation of One True Bear, which might make for an interesting property should Eli Roth ever decide to branch out into children’s movies.

UPDATE: Quillblog’s nerd-o-meter apparently failed with the above post. It has been pointed out that Guillermo del Toro is directing the film version of The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson is producing. Quillblog regrets the error.

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Serialized novel 2.0?

The return of the serialized novel has been trumpeted before (notably by this very blog), and James Patterson made headlines recently with his chain thriller, Airborne. But The Los Angeles Times has combined the two.

Yesterday, the L.A. Times published the first chapter of Money Walks, an “experiment in serial storytelling” that will grow by one chapter per day, Monday through Saturday, until April 24. The opening, written by L.A. Times reporter Mary McNamara, begins with a genuinely intriguing premise:

Although the Rev. Franco Laguna had spent years preaching the spiritual pitfalls of equating riches with value, he was strangely unprepared to learn that the money was gone.

“What money?” he said, blinking into the dusty morning light that slipped through the Venetian blind across from his desk and directly into his eyes.

“The money,” the church treasurer repeated, with a rising note of exasperation. Maureen was a perilously efficient woman of 43 who had five children; organized exasperation was her default setting. “The church money.”

“Well, which part of the church money?” the priest asked patiently.

“All of it.”

Unlike Airborne, Money Walks will be written by established members of L.A.’s fiction community. This Quillblogger wishes them luck – and looks forward to finding out what happens next.


The IMDB of publishing?

The Los Angeles Times reports on a beta website,, which aims to create Web pages (1.8 million so far) for just about every author who’s ever existed, including a bio, links, and a list of their work. The site is similar to the Internet Movie Database – except authors must pay $99 to $399 if they want to be “verified,” i.e. have the ability to add more than two links or take advantage of the site’s blogging software. Otherwise, unlike IMDB, users have no control over content.

As the L.A. Times notes:

Shakespeare is in the FiledBy army. So are Fitzgerald, Alexander Pope, Charlotte Brontë and lots of other dead authors who can’t do a thing about their pages. The pages don’t link to definitive biographical information or the public domain work made available on Project Gutenberg for free. And if there is no one charged with minding the literary heritage of an author who’s shuffled off this mortal coil, who will polish the pages of our deceased literary greats?

This Quillblogger approves of the idea of an author community site, but not one which so blatantly attempts to make money off the very people it claims to be promoting, rather than by providing a hub of information for what is already a small and central database-deprived audience.

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