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Lit Crit

Laura Miller Calls National Book Awards ‘Irrelevant’

The National Book Award finalists were unveiled yesterday and many readers instantly started drawing lists of influential authors who didn’t make the list. Over at Salon, Laura Miller took the most dramatic stance in her essay “How the National Book Awards made themselves irrelevant.”

She cited four popular novels that the judges passed over: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett and The Submission by Amy Waldman.

Here’s more from the essay: “the National Book Award in fiction, more than any other American literary prize, illustrates the ever-broadening cultural gap between the literary community and the reading public. The former believes that everyone reads as much as they do and that they still have the authority to shape readers’ tastes, while the latter increasingly suspects that it’s being served the literary equivalent of spinach. Like the Newbery Medal for children’s literature, awarded by librarians, the NBA has come to indicate a book that somebody else thinks you ought to read, whether you like it or not.”

Anton Strout Launches Once and Future Podcast

Novelist Anton Strout recently started the Once and Future Podcast, a new interview series that aims to fill a genre gap in the podcasting world.

The fourth episode of the series is a pre-New York Comic Con special, including conversations with novelist Drew Magary and Book Country’s Colleen Lindsay. What other genres need a comprehensive podcast?

Here’s more about the podcast: “I wanted a place where I could talk about all things happening within my chosen genre, all the things I love in fantasy, science fiction, even some crossover into paranormal romance, including weekly segments focused on: breaking news, upcoming titles, interviews with guest authors from every point in their various careers, upcoming book tour info, convention news, and just overall general discussion of our genre. Parts of the podcast will be reader focused, but there will also be parts coming up for those who are writers, including interviews with professionals of all walks of life from within the world of publishing itself.”

Conan the Barbarian’s Brief Tenure at Trinity College

Yesterday a pulp fiction loving hacker broke into the Trinity College Dublin website, adding a new professor to the school–Conan the Barbarian.

The post has since been removed, but the Guardian pointed us to a cached version of the page that will immortalize Conan’s brief tenure at Trinity College.

Here’s more from the fake entry: “He completed his PhD, entitled ‘To Hear The Lamentation of Their Women: Constructions of Masculinity in Contemporary Zamoran Literature’ at UCD and was appointed to the School of English in 2006, after successfully decapitating his predecessor during a bloody battle which will long be remembered in legend and song. In 2011/12, he will be teaching on the following courses: ‘The Relevance of Crom in the Modern World,’ ‘Theories of Literature,’ ‘Vengeance for Beginners,’ ‘Deciphering the Riddle of Steel’ and ‘D.H. Lawrence.’ He strongly objects to the terms of the Croke Park agreement and the current trend for remaking 1980s films that he believes were perfectly good enough in the first place.” (Image via, link via)

Nancy Franklin Steps Down as New Yorker TV Critic

Television critic Nancy Franklin will no longer serve as the TV critic at The New Yorker.

She broke the story on Twitter: “Some news: I’m leaving my job as The New Yorker’s TV critic. Happy to have had, for 13 yrs, the best job ever, and happy to be giving it up.”

Franklin had worked at the magazine since 1978. She served as an editorial assistant and fact checker before becoming the nonfiction editor in 1985. She began writing for the magazine in 1995 with the feature, “How Did I Get Here?” (Via Motoko Rich)

LA Times Eliminates Freelance Books Columnists

The Los Angeles Times has eliminated a number of freelance books columnists, including Susan Salter Reynolds, author of the weekly “Discoveries” column. Books staffers Carolyn Kellogg, Jon Thurber, David Ulin, and Nick Owchar all remain at the newspaper.

Publishers Weekly had the scoop: “Reynolds was with the Times for 23 years as both a staffer and freelancer and wrote the ‘Discoveries’ column that appeared each week in the Sunday book review. She was told that her column was cancelled and will not be replaced by another writer … Jon Thurber, editor of the book review, explained to Reynolds last Thursday that all books-related stories will now be done in-house, and that the decision to cease eliminate non-staffers was based on his freelance budget being cut.”

In addition, Paperback Writers” columnist Richard Rayner and “Word Play” columnist Sonja Bolle were also cut. Blog editor Tony Pierce has also been laid off. The newspaper would not reveal how many freelance jobs were lost. A spokesperson told Publishers Weekly “we have not changed our commitment” to writing about books.

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Granta Searching for The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists

Granta em português has just launched the search for “The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists.” The Portuguese edition of Granta is published in Brazil by Alfaguara, an imprint within Objetiva Publishing House.

Here’s more from the release: “To qualify, the writers must be under under forty and must have at least one published work or a contract to publish a novel. To apply, candidates must submit an unpublished short story or an extract of an unpublished novel. Non-fiction essays or poetry will not be considered. Submissions will be accepted from 10 July 2011 to 30 September 2011.”

The Brazilian judges include Objetiva’s publishing director Isa Pessôa, Alfaguara publisher Marcelo Ferroni, comparative literature professor Samuel Titan, literature professor Italo Moriconi, author Cristovão Tezza and writer Manuel Da Costa Pinto. The final judge will be selected by the publishers of Brazilian and British Granta.

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A. Whitney Ellsworth Has Died

Arthur Whitney Ellsworth, the first publisher of The New York Review of Books, has passed away. He was 75 years old.

Ellsworth received his undergraduate education at Harvard University. Following six months of military service, he began his career in publishing at The Atlantic Monthly. After twenty-five years at The New York Review of Books, Ellsworth went on to work for Lakeville Journal Company and Amnesty International USA.

Here’s more from The New York Times: “As publisher of The New York Review of Books, Mr. Ellsworth expanded the journal’s presence abroad by publishing a British edition, distributed by a London cabdriver with whom he struck up an acquaintance. In 1979, taking advantage of a strike that halted publication of The Times Literary Supplement, he helped create The London Review of Books, published for its first six months as an insert in The New York Review of Books.” (via Publisher’s Weekly)

How To Get Your NetGalley Request Approved

NetGalley has opened the door for bloggers, librarians, and other readers to apply for review copies from major publishers. However, not all review requests get approved.

NetGalley has assembled a a practical What Are Publishers Looking For? page to maximize your chances of getting your NetGalley request approved. The guide reveals what individual publishers expect for review requests–follow this link to explore the page.

Harper Perennial submitted these guidelines, for example: “To receive Harper Perennial e-galleys, you must have a way of distributing your review … If you are a blogger: [please provide] a link to your book blog, your email address, so that we can follow-up, a link to your blog with previous reviews, any other information that will tell us about your online reach, including Twitter and Facebook pages. Please include the URL of your blog in the company field of your public profile.”

Ayn Rand Inspires Republican Attack Ad

Ayn Rand has inspired a group of conservative Christians to attack Republican leaders for reading Rand’s books.

The American Values Network launched a campaign (including the video embedded above) criticizing Rand’s atheism and the Republican leaders who celebrate her books.

Here’s more from the group: “GOP leaders and conservative pundits have brought upon themselves a crisis of values. Many who for years have been the loudest voices invoking the language of faith and moral values are now praising the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand whose teachings stand in direct contradiction to the Bible. Rand advocates a law of selfishness over love and commands her followers to think only of themselves, not others. She said her followers had to choose between Jesus and her teachings.” (Via Swampland)

Should Literature Professors Read Twilight?

(The Customer Is) Not Always Right published a brief anecdote from a Canadian bookseller who recently sold Stephenie Meyer‘s complete Twilight series to a literature professor. The story raised a funny question.

Here’s the professor’s explanation for the purchase: “I’m really not looking forward to reading these … Every time I reference low forms of literature, I always use Twilight as the example. Today a student asked if I’ve actually read them, and I had to say no. They demanded that I do.”

What do you think about this attitude–should literature professors read Twilight? In general, should literary experts be familiar with popular forms of writing as well as the classics? The question spawned a heated debate at Reddit and is part of a larger series about booksellers coping with Twilight-mania.

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