Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations


My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)

by Caryn Thurman on Wednesday, June 8, 2005 08:25 am

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.

Printers Row Book Fair

by Caryn Thurman on Wednesday, June 8, 2005 07:22 am

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.

No Purchase Necessary

by Caryn Thurman on Monday, June 6, 2005 08:40 am

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 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.

Douglas Coupland: ‘I Love Lego!’

by Caryn Thurman on Sunday, June 5, 2005 11:11 am

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.

The Big O for Faulkner

by Caryn Thurman on Friday, June 3, 2005 04:05 pm

(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?

Ismail Kadare Takes 1st International Man Booker Prize

by Caryn Thurman on Thursday, June 2, 2005 09:16 pm

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.

Minnesota Draws the Line at Poet Laureate

by Caryn Thurman on Wednesday, June 1, 2005 07:36 am

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.

Google Gets Into Books

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 09:17 am

Google's much-talked-about 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?

Two Literary Landmarks in the News

by Caryn Thurman on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 07:35 am

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.

In Memoriam … A Vietnam Poet

by Caryn Thurman on Monday, May 30, 2005 08:43 pm

Today was Memorial Day in the U.S. and we would be remiss if we didn't mention the passing of Steve Mason. His name may not be familiar to many fans of contemporary poetry, but his dedication to giving a voice to those who survived the Vietnam War -- and preserving the legacy of the those who did not -- remains an inspiring example of the power of the written word. Considered the "poet laureate of Vietnam veterans" Mason often put the unimaginable into words -- forming a bridge of communication for families trying to heal and understand. One of Mason's poems was read at the Vietnam Wall dedication in 1984. Although he may not have been a prize-winning poet in more traditional circles, Mason's writing offered a glimpse into a world many are still desperately trying to understand and reminds us all that the efforts of a "lay poet" can be a powerful force. Steve Mason was 65. You can read more here.


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