Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Munro wins International Man Booker Prize

Alice Munro is today, 27 May 2009, announced as the winner of the third Man Booker International Prize.

Worth £60,000 to the winner, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stross completes Merchants' War series

My oldest son, Brandon, met British sci-fi author Charles Stross about a week ago. Stross was a speaker at LOGIN 2009, a conference for game developers. I could be wrong about this, but I think my son was instrumental in arranging Charlie's appearance.

Brandon reports that Stross "is an awesome guy. Pretty much a geek like anyone else." Well, not anyone. I sent along about a dozen first editions of Stross' books and he signed them all. I don't read much science fiction these days, but I don't miss a new book by Charles Stross.

Brandon also furnished an update on Stross' current work: "He finished the 6th book in the Merchants' War series and says he's done with that stuff for now, but wants to write a second series down the road. He says he wants to do a sequel for Glasshouse and has one in the works for Halting State. His latest book is the 5th in the merchant's war: The Revolution Business."

While on the subject of science fiction, Robert Sawyer's book, Flash Forward, has been turned into a 13-hour long series and picked up by ABC. It's schedule to appear this fall. The trailers are airing now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

April-May reading include new works by Robert Sawyer and Denis Johnson

Here's the list of my reading for the end of April and first of May:

55. Scat, Carl Hiaasen. Fiction

56. The First Person, Ali Smith. Stories

57. Life Sentences, Laura Lippman. Fiction

58. The Believers, Zoe Heller. Fiction

59. Wake, Robert J. Sawyer. Science Fiction

60. Taft, Ann Patchett. Fiction

61. The Northern Clemency, Philip Hensher. Fiction

62. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower. Stories

63. Nobody Move, Denis Johnson. Fiction

64. A Jury of Her Peers, American Women Writers from Anne

Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, Elaine Showalter. Non-Fiction

65. Bloodbrothers, Richard Price. Fiction

66. Alphabet Juice, Roy Blount Jr. Words

Let's start with thegood stuff.

I loved Carl Hiaasen's Scat, his third young adult novel. Many of the ingredients that make his grown-up novels so much fun appear in these books, including his wicked sense of humor. I especially appreciate Hiassen's young adult novels

because he doesn't back away from difficult issues, like father's returning from the war in the Middle East missing their right arm. Forget the young adult category and do yourself favor and pick up all three titles -- Hoot, Flush and Scat.

I don't read much science fiction any longer, but I don't let a new book by Robert Sawyer or Charles Stross pass by. Wake is Sawyer's newest effort and the first in a trilogy on the Internet's emerging consciousness. Let me throw this to the American Idol judges. Yep, Randy says it's "Da Bomb." And i

t is. I won't say this is Sawyer's best work -- that covers to much ground -- but it is one of his finest. A thoroughly intriguing, thoroughly captivating read.

What is it about Ann Patchett's early novels? I love them. Taft is wonderful.

There is an underlying suggestion of menace is every short story by Wells Tower in his terrific collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. I can't think of anyone writing stories quite like these. They are edgy and brilliant, and leave me wanting more.

I didn't much like Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. I can make it up to you now Denis, I thought your new work, Nobody Move, was fantastic. It's a pulp yarn, a bit of noir, that is best read in a single day.

Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency was long-listed for the Booker Prize. It took me a while to warm up to this tale of English surburbia. Hensher's prose can be dense at times, but he tells a powerful story. Ultimately, it is the narrative that secures this novel's status as a fine read.

The only non-fiction in the lot is Elaine Showalter's A Jury of Her Peers, American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx. Bravo, Elaine. This long overdue survey of women writers in America is as thorough as it is engrossing.

Modest disappointments: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (it was a Peggy Lee); The First Person, a collection of short stories by Ali Smith; The Believers by Zoe Heller (I know Heller specializes in unappetizing people, but is it too much to ask for one person -- just one -- that you could care about?); Bloodbrothers, Richard Price's second novel showed glimpses of the talent on full display in Clockers, but glimpses aren't enough; and, finally, Alphabet Juice, Roy Blount Jr.'s glossographia (I expected to like it more than I did, but . . . I just didn't).

Friday, May 01, 2009

Final post on The New Yorker cover contest

To complete my account of the Cover Contest here's yesterday's post The Book Bench with the complete covers:

April 30, 2009

Grand Prize Winner

A big day yesterday for Joba Chamberlain, Dwight Howard, J. J. Putz, and John Reinhart, of Alexandria, Virginia, though only the last of these won this week’s Covers Contest, divining correctly that the small images corresponded to books about sports. TrĂ©s sportif, Jean!

Below are the full book covers, which remind us that it’s how you play the game. The game resumes next Wednesday.



The top two books took a matter of seconds. First editions of both books -- Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike and Jim Bouton's baseball classic Ball Four -- are on my shelves.

Book three is clearly about fly fishing and that quickly led me to Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It.

Finally, the fourth book was obviously devoted to golf. The little bit of cover available made it clear it wasn't Tiger Woods; that left Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus. I checked covers for Hogan first and there it was -- Five Lessons.

From the time I saw the contest to the time to emailed in my entry was a matter of minutes. I was confident I had won and received confirmation of the same Thursday morning. It made my day. I emailed my daughter, called friends and posted the results to Facebook.