Book News: Lydia Davis Wins Man Booker International Prize

May 23, 2013

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • American author Lydia Davis was awarded the Man Booker International Prize, worth about $90,000, at a ceremony Wednesday in London. Davis is renowned for her works of (very) short fiction. One story, "Samuel Johnson Is Indignant," reads in its entirety: "that Scotland has so few trees." Another, called "Certain Knowledge from Herodotus" says, "These are the facts about the fish in the Nile:" Sir Christopher Ricks, chairman of the judges, is quoted in the official announcement: "Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?" (In any case, Samuel Johnson was indignant about the lack of trees in Scotland, and Herodotus had some odd conceptions about the breeding habits of Nile fish.) Other finalists included American writer Marilynne Robinson, who was considered the frontrunner (her novel Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005), and the French novelist Marie NDiaye, whose Three Strong Women made a splash in 2012.
  • Keith Richards, the wraith-like Rolling Stones guitarist, told The Sun tabloid that he owes 50 years' worth of library fines. The Sun said "experts" (economists? librarians? other irresponsible library patrons?) estimate that means about $30,000 in fines.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts will write a book about "fighting for the middle class," according to a press release sent out by her publisher, Henry Holt. Although parts will be autobiographical, it adds, "the main focus of the book ... will be the conflict America now faces between giant institutions and the needs of everyday citizens." The Democratic lawmaker's book, not yet titled, will be published in 2014.
  • It's rumored that Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin also is coming out with a book. A report in the National Review cites "a source close to Ryan" who stressed that the book won't be a "tell-all" about the failed Romney-Ryan presidential campaign, but a combination of policy and autobiography.
  • Amazon announced Wednesday that it will let writers of fan fiction sell their work through its site, though authors will share profits with the original copyright holder and with Amazon. Long a staple of Internet subculture, fan fiction has slowly begun to receive more serious academic consideration. (Check out Katherine Arcement's great essay about it for the London Review of Books.) But until now, it was illegal to sell fiction based on copyrighted works — books such as Fifty Shades of Grey, which began as Twilight fan fiction, needed to be substantially altered before they could be sold for profit.
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