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From the Constant Ticker Tape of Prize News

When the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing first launched in 2002, it aimed to “join the ranks of other notable literary awards/prizes such as the [...] PEN/Faulkner Prize for Fiction, PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction, National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.” Now, after announcing its 2005 prize winners, the Prize’s public presence is about as kept and looked-after as this page on the Prize’s website: that is to say, not very.

Stll, despite the Prize’s surprisingly budget publicity, two winners — now each $12,500 richer — and five finalists have been named. They are:

Fiction: The Laments by George Hagen
Non-fiction: The King of California by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman

Fiction Finalists:
The Calligrapher by Edward Docx
Bloodvine by Aris Janigian
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

Non-fiction Finalists:
Chasing the Sea by Tom Bissell
The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

The Goodbye Guys‘s gambit for publicity pays off: The Book Standard turns its attention to Lulu’s “new study” predicting the upcoming extinction of male-written bestsellers.

From’s press release:

July 20, 2005 (Raleigh, N.C.) — Bestselling novels by male authors like Dan Brown and Stephen King are heading for extinction, according to a new study which reveals that writers like J.K. Rowling and Danielle Steel have helped women double their share of #1 bestsellers over the last 20 years.

The study of the 354 novels to have topped the hardback fiction section of the world-famous New York Times Bestseller List during the 50 years from 1955-2004 was conducted by Lulu ( [ed's note -- even taking into account the rhetorical customs of press releases, this moment of talking-about-myself-in-the-third-person feels particularly icky], a website that lets anyone publish their own book and sell it on the Net.

The female share of #1 bestsellers over the first decade of the study (1955-1964) was 17.8%, and still just 23.8% as recently as the 1980s — compared to 46% over the last decade (1995-2004); and 50% so far this year.

The press release, unlike The Book Standard‘s summary, also includes this helpful tampax-ad-or-rebirth-of-the-messiah? timeline:


Read more

Mad Maxed Out

As reported in Publishers Lunch, Mad Max Perkins will be moving on from blogging:

I’m off to work the program, the 12 steps of Narcissists Anonymous. And to apply myself, whole-cloth, to the business of being an editor. I’m not quitting a sinking ship; I’m just stepping down from the quarter deck (I was never officer material in the first place), and resuming my duties as deck-swabber first class. I return–refreshed and rejuvenated–to “fighting my corner” in the way that suits me best: one book, one author, at a time.

Potter Numbers, A Retrospective

Via the Guardian:

  • The new Harry Potter’s print run is “10m in the United States,” “the biggest first printing of any book, ever.”

  • “The previous volume, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was the fastest-selling book in history, shifting more than 5m copies in a single day.”
  • “Rowling already earns more than any other woman in Britain, bringing in something close to £100m a year.”

More numbers and pics — forgive the time lag, but I’ve lost my digital camera — later today.

Keeping Potter from the Muggles

dailyshow.jpgThe Daily Show‘s website has a clip from last night’s Harry Potter segment. Watch as Rob Corddry impersonates, with varying degrees of badness, billionare-times-four-as-of-tomorrow J.K. Rowling.

Related: View the Potter countdown at

What Books Aren’t We Reading This Summer?

Cut and pasted from the Onion:


Agent Blonde

martha.jpgMartha Stewart, everyone’s favorite Kitchen Nazi, has just scored a $2 million book deal with Rodale, the publisher morally culpable for the South Beach Diet series. Billed as a how-to business book and already scheduled for an October release, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s press release describes the book as an “outline [for how to] identify one’s own entrepreneurial voice and channel one’s skills and passions into a successful business venture.” According to the NY Post, even less clear than the meaning of “entrepreneurial voice” is “how Stewart will deal in the book with the long federal investigation into ImClone stock sales that nearly wrecked [Omnimedia].”


Online playthings for the bookish set:

Less Fun with Numbers

beauty.jpgWhat are the odds of making a living off your writing?

According to author and engineer Greg Slominski, 1 in 380. “Or, if you tweak the numbers to allow for a range of error, 1 in 200 to 1 in 500″ — worse than the odds for “Division 1 college football players vying for slots in the pros,” and “way worse” than the odds for a Miss America contestant.

(Slominksi “has those calculations, too,” writes columnist Patti Thorn of his Miss America statistics. “But don’t ask me to double-check his work,” she adds — confirming, once again, that our schools need to teach girls better self-esteem in math class. Last we checked, the odds were simply 1 in 51 — as in, the number of states plus Washington D.C.)

“Lynn Freed, you are a piece of shit.”

gulag.jpgThat’s the title — as well as an effective summary — of “Iowa mafia” blog Babies are Fireproof‘s response to Lynn Freed’s “Doing Time: My years in the creative-writing gulag,” an essay on teaching vs. writing that appears in this month’s Harper’s. Its “gist,” according to Babies, is this: “Ms. Freed hates teaching, doesn’t think it’s worth her time, makes fun of her students … and can’t wait to get out of the gig altogether.” The blog continues: “K and I read it aloud [... and ... ] I nearly puked right there on the kitchen floor.” Culture blog Long Sunday posts a similar reaction, made more block-quotable by its lack of vomit(-as-literary-device):

[Freed's essay] is the usual diatribe against creative-writing programs–these [diatribes] are of course entirely justifiable, but it’s getting old as a topic–and also participates in a genre I don’t like, which is the one where the teacher complains about the stupidity of his or her students. What’s remarkable about the essay is that it too languishes in the captivity of the creative-writing gulag [...] It’s the product of creative-writing hegemony and sounds like the texts produced by the very students Freed complains about, sixth-generation renderings of Chekhov.

Other responses to Freed’s piece range from the triumphantly humorless

First off: gulag?!? Are you that self-absorbed, are you that oblivious to this and this and this, that you can seriously apply the term “gulag” to your life as a creative-writing instructor? I hate you, Lynn Freed…

–to the fatigued and dispirited:

My plan was to post the letter I sent to Harper’s in response to Lynn Freed’s essay on spending, excuse me, “doing time” in the creative writing gulag. But posting that letter is pointless. Writing it was pointless. Lynn Freed’s writing is pointless as well. All writing is pointless…

Most memorable, however, is the response that exceeds a post to become a blog — incidentally, the best blog I’ve read in weeks.

From The Secret Diary of a Prisoner in the Creative Writing Gulag:

September 6, 1983

Beginning of the first week of torture sessions, also known as grading my students’ papers. One writes a science fiction fantasy obviously lifted from American television; another a ridiculous romance more suited for a scandalous tabloid, and a third a thinly-veiled tale of his first sexual experiences.

Red liquid runs off the table where I am being tortured. I suppose it was a mistake to actually use red ink in a fountain pen. Note to self: get red pencil.

November 14, 1983

The grounds are a sea of orange, less from any autumn foliage — there seems to be no real autumn in this accursed place — than from supporters of the University’s American football team. Football, as it is practiced here, seems not merely an athletic contest, but a collection of crypto-fascist symbols and roles that recall preparations for war. I thought the United States got itself into enough wars without having to re-enact them, but apparently they do it to keep in fighting psychological trim.

Even my cellmates are caught up in the excitement. One of them — a callow blonde girl who appeared today in an orange-and-white sweater set, orange trousers, and cowgirl boots — took it upon herself to explain the rivalry between the University of T____ and their arch-enemies, called “Aggies.” Later, a marching band trooped past our window, but I could only hear, not see, them. The window is high up to discourage escape attempts.

May 20, 1984

Exams are over. I toss them all, ungraded, in the trash outside the Mathematics Building and go back to my cell to compose grades. Long ago I decided these would be strictly based on attendance. Perfect attendance gets a C.

August 8, 1984

If the University of T____ was a concentration camp, and Yaddo a minimum security facility, what do I call the Napa Valley Writers Workshop? A sort of temporary jail. Every morning, a two-hour session with the would-be writers: housewives, delivery truck drivers, high school teachers, pesticide salesmen, insurance agents, all under the false impression that they can write.

What do they know of Talent? (I’ve taken to capitalizing it when speaking of my own gift, the better to distinguish it from other so-called talents such as juggling or putting on makeup — the latter being something one girl at the University of T____ claimed was her great gift. Perhaps — if she were about to go on camera to read the weather.) They know how to cook a roast, or how to amortize a mortgage, but they know nothing of writing, literature, and great art.

I know about all those things. But I can’t teach them. It’s unthinkable.