Showing all posts tagged: literature

Rowan Heath wins 2023 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize

18 August 2023

Melbourne based Australian author Rowan Heath was named winner of the 2023 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize at an online ceremony held last night, with a fiction work titled The Mannequin. The prize was created in 2010 to honour the memory of late British born Australian writer Elizabeth Jolley, and is presented annually by the Australian Book Review (ABR).

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Ghosted World: An Uncanceled Asian American Literature Festival

31 July 2023

Partners and participants of this year’s abruptly cancelled Asian American Literature Festival (AALF) are staging a smaller version of the event from Friday 4 August 2023, through to Sunday 6 August. Like the original event, which was meant to take place in August, Ghosted World will be held in Washington D.C., the United States capital.

AALF partners and participants, some of whom have banded together as the Asian American LitFest Collective (AALC), remain upset by the sudden decision of the Smithsonian, producers and hosts of the biennial AALF festival, to cancel the 2023 event. Although the institution later apologised, AALC members say the apology failed to answer questions they had about the decision, while still suggesting it was their alleged lack of planning that resulted in the festival’s cancellation.

Ghosted World is clearly a scaled back form of the original AALF, but hopefully will be of some consolation to those who had been looking forward to attending the event. A program for Ghosted World can be seen here.

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The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, with her handwritten notes, found in Sydney

24 July 2023

In 2021, Simon Cooper, a University of Sydney worker, rediscovered a first edition copy of The Voyage Out, the 1915 debut novel of British author Virginia Woolf, lurking amongst a collection of science books, where it had been misfiled years ago.

What makes the find so remarkable are the notations throughout the book, written in hand by Woolf herself, when she was considering revising the novel. A veritable boon for anyone interested in studying Woolf’s work. The book has since been digitised, and can be viewed online.

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Announcing the winner of the 2023 Lyttle Lytton Contest

24 July 2023

Last month the winners of the Lyttle Lytton Contest were announced. The Lyttle Lytton is a literary prize, but not of the usual variety. Instead of celebrating the good or excellent, Lyttle Lytton honours the worst of the worst. In this case bad, or terrible, would-be opening sentences from novels that will likewise turn out to be awful. The lines are not taken from actual published works though, instead they are devised by contest participants vying to write the best bad sentence they can think of.

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2023 Asian American Literature Festival abruptly cancelled

19 July 2023

A biennial event, the Asian American Literature Festival (AALF) was first held in Washington D. C., capital city of the United States, in 2017, and then again in 2019. After Covid lockdowns put paid to the 2021 event, organisers and participants were keenly anticipating the 2023 festival, scheduled to take place in August.

But two weeks ago, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), producers of the AALF, abruptly cancelled the 2023 event, citing “unforeseen circumstances”, says Sophia Nguyen, writing for The Washington Post:

The event, produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), was relatively new. But it had already gained a loyal following for its intimate feel and experimental bent, hosting themed escape rooms and calligraphy tutorials alongside the more standard literary fare of readings by best-selling authors. The 2023 iteration was expected to draw thousands of attendees to Washington in early August. But just weeks before writers from across the world were due to land, the Smithsonian abruptly canceled the event, citing “unforeseen circumstances.”

Unforeseen circumstances.

It defies belief an event of this scale, with many people travelling a distance to attend — including a number from Australia and New Zealand — were offered, at least initially, such a feeble line. I can’t imagine anyone not expecting better of an institution such as the Smithsonian.

When contacted for further clarification by WTOP News about the “unforeseen circumstances” resulting in the festival’s cancellation, an APAC spokesperson appeared to imply preparations for the festival were behind schedule:

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said the event planning process “did not meet Smithsonian expectations” and the institution’s “goals for an in-person event.”

But AALF partners and participants rejected the suggestions, in an open letter sent to the Smithsonian, written on Monday 17 July 2023:

On July 14, The Washington Post reported on the cancellation, including an official statement from the Smithsonian alleging that the festival was canceled due to failures in preparation by the planning team. We must rebut this immediately: from the partners’ perspective, everything was on track; we had no concerns with putting on our programs in a month’s time. In fact, many of us have participated in AALF in years past and have returned due to our confidence in working with this planning team. The article itself confirms that the allegations are false.

The letter goes on identify what AALF partners and participants see as the actual cause of the 2023 event being cancelled: concerns the Smithsonian have with what they see as “potentially sensitive or controversial content”. In particular, a program exploring the work of trans and nonbinary authors:

Additionally, we are deeply troubled to discover that a driving factor behind the festival’s cancellation might have been the Smithsonian’s desire to censor trans and nonbinary programming. A program intended to celebrate trans and nonbinary authors, as they face unprecedented levels of violence, book bans, and anti-trans legislation, was set to take place at the festival. The Washington Post article reported that the Acting Director instructed the planning team to submit a report under Smithsonian Directive 603 to identify potentially sensitive or controversial content, which she received on July 5.

If correct, this is a disturbing development, at a time when civil liberties are increasingly being questioned, and some minority groups are experiencing elevated levels of vilification. While it is unlikely the cancellation of the 2023 festival can be overturned at this stage, if you feel strongly about the Smithsonian’s decision, you can add your signature to the open letter here.

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First edition of The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien sells for £10000

14 July 2023

News articles mentioning first edition publications of well-known books have been featuring in the news feeds I read recently, and here’s another one.

This time, a first edition copy of The Hobbit, the 1937 novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien, sold for ten-thousand British pounds on eBay last year, after being donated to a charity shop in Dundee, a city in Scotland. The book had been sitting in a back room at the shop, and despite being well looked after, the store manager was at first doubtful it could be offered for sale.

The price realised is not the highest figure a first edition copy of The Hobbit has fetched in an auction sale before, but it says a lot about what might be quietly lurking on the shelves of charity shops.

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Books owned by Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones to be auctioned

14 July 2023

Some of the books belonging to Charlie Watts, the late drummer of British rock act the Rolling Stones, will be auctioned later this year. Watts was no casual book reader though. Some of the items in his book collection include first edition publications of titles including The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Christie’s describes the cache, which includes rare editions of books by George Orwell, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, among others, as “an unparalleled library of modern first edition books, the finest and highest value collection of its kind to come to auction in over twenty years.”

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The Literature Map, find an author’s literary neighbours

14 June 2023

The Literature Map charts the literary connection between writers. The closer writers are in literary style, the more likely a reader will have read the work of other authors in a writer’s “neighbourhood”. For instance, literary neighbours of Irish author Sally Rooney include Margaret Atwood, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Elena Ferrante, and Dolly Alderton. These are all writers whose books I have read.

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Not once a writer, always a writer, not for Ocean Vuong

7 June 2023

In ten years’ time Vietnamese born American author Ocean Vuong may not be a writer anymore. For all anyone knows, including possibly Vuong himself, he might be a software engineer by then. Speaking to British journalist, and writer for The Guardian, Kadish Morris, Vuong says he might reach a point where he’s happy with what he has written, and decide to stop:

I may be alone in thinking this, but I truly don’t believe that a writer should just keep writing as long as they’re alive. I see my career not by how much I can produce but by how the work can get me to where I can meaningfully stop and be satisfied with what I’ve done. I’m more interested in stopping well rather than endlessly creating.

Vuong’s titles to date are On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, a novel he wrote in 2019, and Time is a Mother, a collection of poetry published in 2022.

Aside from perhaps being intrinsic to their nature, people possibly remain lifelong writers on account of the difficulty in becoming one in the first place.

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Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp wins 2023 Dublin Literary Award

26 May 2023

German author Katja Oskamp has won the 2023 Dublin Literary Award with her 2019 book Marzahn, Mon Amour. The Dublin Literary Award is an international literary award that has been recognising excellence in global literature since 1994. Books written in, or translated into, English are eligible, but must be nominated by one of the award’s participating libraries.

After Story by Larissa Behrendt, Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down, and Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, were some of the Australian authors to be longlisted for this year’s award.

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