News

When you're in grade school the "lost and found" is usually a well-worn cardboard box filled with mittens, lunchboxes and retainers carelessly left behind. But the literary lost and found is a never-ending bounty of wild discoveries. Let's take a peek and see what's in this week's collection:

A set of letters, including four written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, were recently auctioned for 45,600GBP (~$80K USD). The letters contain insight into Shelley's atheistic themes and were written while the poet was studying at Oxford University.

Speaking of watery graves ... an American Civil War-era submarine thought to have inspired Jules Verne's Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was discovered just off the coast of Panama. The unique lock-out system of the Union submersible, The Explorer is nearly identical to the one described by Verne. No word yet on if they've found the craft that inspired Roald Dahl's "Wonkavator".

Now with 50% more nougat ... Alexandre Dumas fans are in for a long overdue treat. An unfinished story by the French novelist has been pieced together from serialized chapters and published in novel form. (This process is not unlike how they make hot dogs.) Ok, so they added an ending. And a few robots. Ok, no robots, but the adventure tale is set in revolutionary France, so you never know what might happen! This work is actually the third installment of a trilogy -- no word yet on when this final piece will be widely available.

And finally ... you just never know what you'll find in a book of poetry. A Piggly Wiggly receipt, library card, a bus pass maybe -- good poems, if you're lucky. But if you're really lucky you just may find a previously unknown Bach aria. The music was said to have been written as accompaniment to poems in the book. Alas, there is not much to be said about the poetry or the poet -- and apparently the only reason the book survived a recent fire is because the librarian was intrigued by the unique binding. So, poets take heed -- the key to survival is in the binding.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 09:39 pm
Story
Caryn Thurman
More from the Midwest: The Chicago Public Library (and Chicago Public Libarary Foundation) named lovable John Updike as the winner of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. The prize is awarded "for lifetime writing achievement" -- past winners include Kurt Vonnegut and David McCullough.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 08:25 am
Story
Caryn Thurman
While most publishing industry types and book biz folks are still recovering from last week's Book Expo and the subsequent overload of chatter about it, the Windy City is gearing up for its annual Printers Row Book Fair. The event will be this Saturday and Sunday (June 10 & 11) and will feature discussion panels, writer's markets, information booths for publishers, small press outlets and booksellers. There will also be author appearances and signings by such fine folks as Nick Hornby, Umberto Eco, Meg Wolitzer -- as well as one of my faves -- poet Li-Young Lee. Best of all -- the events are free and open to the public. So if you're looking for something to do, I encourage you to check it out. Maybe pick up some free stuff, like various bookmarks, promotional flyers or, if you're lucky, an Umberto Eco beer cozy.

If you're in the Chicago area (and you know who you are) or you're planning to make the trip, we'd love to hear your report on this event.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 07:22 am
Story
Caryn Thurman
Maybe you uncovered a lonely manuscript in your spring cleaning this year, or maybe you'd like to give that novel that no one decided to pick up another try. Or maybe you'd like to fuel up on your stimulant of choice and crank something out by July 1st? Whatever the case, I wanted to throw this out for your enjoyment or consternation (I'll let you decide). Xerox has partnered with Lulu.com and the ColorCentric Corp. to launch its "Aspiring Authors Contest". The winner will receive $5K and 100 copies of their book. Another interesting twist is that all entrants will receive at least one printed copy of their book -- limited to 1,000 entries, I believe.

We're pretty interested in the print-on-demand industry and self-publishing, so this caught our eye. If you're looking to take an alternate route with a manuscript, this might be an interesting choice. As always, please read the fine print and contest rules -- LitKicks doesn't endorse or condemn this contest, we're simply throwing it out there for your information. If you do check it out, be sure to tell us your experience. Of course, if you think it's a great idea or think it's the work of the devil, we'd like to hear that as well.
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Monday, June 6, 2005 08:40 am
Story
Caryn Thurman
I guess when you're a successful novelist you can do whatever the hell you want, including building an idealized imaginary city from Legos. Coupland's latest construction project, Super City, will open June 9 at The Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. There will also be a limited edition book to accompany the exhibit.

There are only a few photos on Coupland's site relating to this story, however, my daughter was kind enough to offer this dramatization of how the exhibit might appear. If anyone makes it to the real exhibit (which will run through November), we'd love for you to tell us all about it.
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Sunday, June 5, 2005 11:11 am
Story
Caryn Thurman
(Yes, that ol' chestnut again ...)

William Faulkner is the latest pick for Oprah's Book Club -- and not just one, but three books: As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury and A Light in August. A veritable Faulkner-palooza. But wait -- there's more! As a part of her Very Faulkner Summer, Oprah's launching a cornucopia of lessons and information -- including lectures on Faulkner and Q&A sessions with professors.

Oh, that Oprah -- what a scamp! Having the audacity to ratchet up her influence to get people into Faulkner! Can you imagine?

I wonder if she knows that Faulkner once painted a friend's penis green?

So what do you think about all this Faulkner-mania? About Oprah and her book club? Or maybe you have a favorite Faulkner work ... whatever the case, check in here with your thoughts and theories. (For another perspective, you may also want to check out this recent opinion piece from the folks at Bookninja.) Whatever you think about Oprah, the commercialization of literature or Faulkner (and his penis-painting ways) -- this is a pretty big undertaking for "O" and it should be interesting to see how it goes.
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Friday, June 3, 2005 04:05 pm
Story
Caryn Thurman
Earlier today Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare was awarded the first Man Booker International Prize. In a year when translated literature is starting to get the attention it's due, it's great to see Kadare chosen over more notable characters, such as Margaret Atwood or John Updike. On being named the winner of this inaugural prize, Kadare offered the following statement:

"I am a writer from the Balkan Fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness - armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and so on.

My firm hope is that European and world opinion may henceforth realise that this region, to which my country, Albania, belongs, can also give rise to other kinds of news and be the home of other kinds of achievement, in the field of the arts, literature and civilisation."

You can find a sample of Ismail Kadare's poetry online here or read more literature from the Balkans in the January 2004 issue of Words Without Borders.
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Thursday, June 2, 2005 09:16 pm
Story
Caryn Thurman
Yesterday Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed the bill that would have created a state poet laureate. While the governor stated he was appreciative of the arts, he didn't see the need to create an official poet laurate for the state. He went on to say, "this will lead to calls for similar positions. We could see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter." If you say so.

Meanwhile in Texas, it seems fitting that the Lone Star State has selected a cowboy poet -- Red Steagall -- as its 2006 poet laureate.

And that concludes this week's edition of Poet Laureate Watch 2005.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2005 07:36 am
Story
Caryn Thurman
Google's much-talked-about print.google.com service is now available for beta testing. This free service allows you to search for keywords inside the texts of, theoretically, every book published in the world (although the reach isn't quite that broad yet). The launch of this service isn't getting big headlines anywhere, but we think it's big news. As we wrote in December when Google first announced these plans, it's controversial news as well. What do you think about this ambitious technology company and its inroads into the book biz?
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Tuesday, May 31, 2005 09:17 am
Story
Levi Asher

Developers plan to build a retail and residential complex on the seafront that inspired James Joyce's Ulysses. Historians, preservationists and Joyce fans are campaigning against the development -- which proposes shops, apartments, restaurants and even a concert venue to be constructed along Scotsman's Bay, Dun Laoghaire, outside Dublin.

Also, the Godrevy lighthouse -- made famous by Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, is slated to be decommissioned by the lighthouse authority for England and Wales. Protesters argue that the change could endanger fisherman in the area. There are no known plans to dismantle the lighthouse completely.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005 07:35 am
Story
Caryn Thurman