Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wena POON to read at the Frank O'Connor Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland

WENA POON’s Lions In Winter (MPH Publishing, 2008) was recently longlisted for the 2008 International Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. This year’s prize was of course awarded to Jhumpha Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies, for her second collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).

As a result of the longlist, the Frank O’Connor committee has invited Wena Poon to read from her work at the 2008 Frank O’Connor Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland, on September 17-21, 2008. Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li, Clare Wigfall (The Loudest Sound and Nothing) and ZZ Packer (Drinking Coffee Elsewhere) are also slated to read.

Heartiest congratulations, Wena and Clare!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction Longlist

FIVE FIRST-TIME NOVELISTS have made it into the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction longlist this year: Aravind Adiga, Gaynor Arnold, Mohammed Hanif, Tom Rob Smith and Steve Toltz. There are two Australians: Christina Stead Prize-winner Michelle de Kretser and Steve Toltz. A.S. Byatt called The Lost Dog “the best novel I have read for a long time.” Will both the Australian books be on the shortlist this year? There are a couple of literary heavyweights: former Booker Prize-shortlisted Sebastian Barry and former Booker Prize-winners John Berger and Salman Rushdie. And a couple of strong contenders: Amitav Ghosh, Orange Prize-winner Linda Grant, Philip Hensher and Joseph O’Neill. John Berger won the Booker Prize 36 years ago, in 1972, for G., while Salman Rushdie won the Booker of the Bookers for Midnight’s Children just only recently. Both Jonathan Cape and Fourth Estate have two books on the longlist. This year’s longlist was selected from 112 entries: 103 novels were submitted by publishers and nine called in by the judges. I wonder what the other 99 novels were?

1. The White Tiger (Atlantic, 2008) / Aravind Adiga
2. Girl In a Blue Dress (Tindal Street, 2008) / Gaynor Arnold
3. The Secret Scripture (Faber & Faber, 2008) / Sebastian Barry
4. From A to X: A Story in Letters (Verso, 2008) / John Berger
5. The Lost Dog (Chatto & Windus, 2008) / Michelle de Kretser
6. Sea of Poppies (John Murray, 2008) / Amitav Ghosh
7. The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago, 2008) / Linda Grant
8. A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Mohammed Hanif
9. The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate, 2008) / Philip Hensher
10. Netherland (Fourth Estate, 2008) / Joseph O’Neill
11. The Enchantress of Florence (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Salman Rushdie
12. Child 44 (Simon & Schuster, 2008) / Tom Rob Smith
13. A Fraction of the Whole (Hamish Hamilton, 2008) / Steve Toltz

Chair of judges Michael Portillo commented that “With a notable degree of consensus, the five Man Booker judges decided on their longlist of 13 books. The judges are pleased with the geographical balance of the longlist with writers from Pakistan, India, Australia, Ireland and the U.K. We also are happy with the interesting mix of books, five first novels and two novels by former winners. The list covers an extraordinary variety of writing. Still, two qualities emerge this year: large-scale narrative and the striking use of humour.”

A six-book shortlist will be announced on September 9, 2008, while the winner of one of the world’s greatest literary accolades will be announced on October 14, 2008


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Believe it or not, it's the Booker Prize season ... AGAIN!

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the Booker Prize season is upon us again! It’s the season that celebrates excellence in contemporary literary fiction. The publishing world awaits the longlist with bated breath and much eagerness. The longlist will be announced on July 29, 2008, while the shortlist will be announced on September 9, 2008. The winner will be announced on October 14, 2008, the day the 2008 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival begins in Bali.

There are many new novels from former Booker Prize-winners (John Berger, James Kelman, Salman Rushdie and Peter Carey) as well as several new ones from past nominees (Peter Ackroyd, Sebastian Barry, Damon Galgut, Doris Lessing, David Lodge, Clare Morrall and Tim Winton). And, of course, let’s not forget such novelists as Nadeem Aslam, Louis de Bernières, Carol Birch, Melvyn Bragg, Geraldine Brooks, John Burnside, Louise Dean, Anne Donovan, Stella Duffy, Helen Dunmore, Robert Edric, Eva Figes, Helen Garner, Howard Jacobson, Derek Johns, Amitav Ghosh, Linda Grant, Hugo Hamilton, James Hamilton-Paterson, John Harwood, Zoë Heller, Philip Hensher, James Kelman, Michelle de Kretser, Hanif Kureishi, Margot Livesey, Joan London, Richard Mason, James Meek, Alex Miller, Andrew Miller, Julie Myerson, Joseph O’Neill, David Park, Manil Suri, Adam Thorpe, Roma Tearne, James Wilson and Alexis Wright. And several first-time authors like Aravind Adiga, Isabel Fonseca, Edward Hogan, Mohammed Hanif, Sadie Jones, Ross Raisin, Preeta Samarasan, Tom Rob Smith, Steve Toltz and Robin Yassin-Kassab were especially impressive. Looks like a very bountiful harvest for Australian fiction this year, I might add: Peter Carey, Helen Garner, John Harwood, Michelle de Kretser, Joan London, Alex Miller, Steve Toltz, Tim Winton and Alexis Wright.

A longlist of 13 novels will be announced on July 29, 2008

So, who do you think should or will be longlisted?
The following are just some of my favourites this year:

1. The White Tiger (Atlantic, 2008) / Aravind Adiga
2. The Wasted Vigil (Faber & Faber, 2008) / Nadeem Aslam
3. The Secret Scripture (Faber & Faber, 2008) / Sebastian Barry
4. From A to X (Verso, 2008) / John Berger
5. A Partisan’s Daughter (Harvill Secker, 2008) / Louis de Bernières
6. Scapegallows (Virago, 2007) / Carol Birch
7. Remember Me (Sceptre, 2008) / Melvyn Bragg
8. People of the Book (Viking/Fourth Estate, 2008) / Geraldine Brooks
9. Glister (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / John Burnside
10. His Illegal Self (Faber & Faber, 2008) / Peter Carey
11. The Idea of Love (Fig Tree/Penguin, 2008) / Louise Dean
12. The Room of Lost Things (Virago, 2008) / Stella Duffy
13. Counting the Stars (Penguin/Fig Tree, 2008) / Helen Dunmore
14. In Zodiac Light (Doubleday, 2008) / Robert Edric
15. Journey to Nowhere (Granta, 2008) / Eva Figes
16. Attachments (Chatto & Windus, 2008) / Isabel Fonseca
17. The Impostor (Atlantic Books, 2008) / Damon Galgut
18. The Spare Room (Text Publishing, 2008) / Helen Garner
19. Sea of Poppies (John Murray, 2008) / Amitav Ghosh
20. The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago, 2008) / Linda Grant
21. Disguise (Fourth Estate, 2008) / Hugo Hamilton
22. Rancid Pansies (Faber & Faber, 2008) / James Hamilton-Paterson
23. A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Mohammed Hanif
24. The Seance (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / John Harwood
25. The Believers (Fig Tree/Penguin, 2008) / Zoë Heller
26. The Northern Clemency (HarperCollins/Fourth Estate, 2008) / Philip Hensher

27. Blackmoor (Simon & Schuster, 2008) / Edward Hogan
28. The Act of Love (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Howard Jacobson
29. Wakening (Portobello, 2008) / Derek Johns
30. The Outcast (Chatto & Windus, 2008) / Sadie Jones
31. Kieron Smith, Boy (Hamish Hamilton, 2008) / James Kelman
32. The Lost Dog (Allen & Unwin, 2007; Chatto & Windus, 2008) / Michelle de Kretser
33. Something to Tell You (Faber & Faber, 2008) / Hanif Kureishi
34. Alfred and Emily (Fourth Estate, 2008) / Doris Lessing
35. The House on Fortune Street (HarperCollins, 2008) / Margot Livesey
36. Deaf Sentence (Harvill Secker, 2008) / David Lodge
37. The Good Parents (Vintage, 2008) / Joan London
38. The Lighted Rooms (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008) / Richard Mason
39. We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (Canongate, 2008) / James Meek
40. Landscape of Farewell (Allen & Unwin, 2007) / Alex Miller
41. One Morning Like a Bird (Sceptre, 2008) / Andrew Miller
42. The Language of Others (Sceptre, 2008) / Clare Morrall
43. Out of Breath (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Julie Myerson
44. Netherland (Fourth Estate/Pantheon, 2008) / Joseph O’Neill
45. The Truth Commissioner (Bloomsbury, 2008) / David Park
46. Dreams of Rivers and Seas (Harvill Secker, 2008) / Tim Parks
47. God’s Own Country (Viking, 2008) / Ross Raisin
48. The Enchantress of Florence (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Salman Rushdie
49. Evening Is the Whole Day (Fourth Estate/Houghton Mifflin, 2008) / Preeta Samarasan

50. Child 44 (Simon & Schuster, 2008) / Tom Rob Smith
51. The Age of Shiva (Bloomsbury, 2008) / Manil Suri
52. Bone China (Harper Press, 2008) / Roma Tearne
53. The Standing Pool (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Adam Thorpe
54. A Fraction of the Whole (Hamish Hamilton, 2008) / Steve Toltz
55. Consolation (Faber & Faber, 2008) / James Wilson
56. Breath (Picador, 2008) / Tim Winton
57. Carpentaria (Giramondo, 2007/Constable, 2008) / Alexis Wright
58. The Road From Damascus (Hamish Hamilton, 2008) / Robin Yassin-Kassab

Who are the judges for 2008?

From left to right: Michael Portillo, Alex Clark, Louise Doughty, James Heneage and Hardeep Singh Kohli

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Preeta SAMARASAN Gets Reviewed in the New York Times!

ALLEGRA GOODMAN, the author of Intuition and Kaaterskill Falls, reviews Preeta Samarasan’s Evening Is the Whole Day (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) in the New York Times Book Review of July 27, 2008.

“… the long slow banquet of a fine novel. Preeta Samarasan’s delicious first novel, set in Malaysia in 1980, provides such a feast. ... Her ambitious spiraling plot, her richly embroidered prose, her sense of place, and her psychological acuity are stunning. Readers, responding to the setting, will immediately compare her to Kiran Desai. I think Samarasan’s dialogue and description are reminiscent of Eudora Welty, another woman who knew how to write about family and race and class and secrets and heat,” Goodman concludes in her review.

Preeta Samarasan will be making an appearance at the MPH Breakfast Club and readings@seksan on Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

QUILL The Ubud 2008 Issue

I AM AT THE MOMENT editing and putting the final touches to the Ubud issue of Quill magazine, a special 52-page issue of the quarterly for the 2008 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival on October 14-19, 2008, in Bali, Indonesia. There are interviews, features, essays and a short story by Linda Christanty, an Indonesian journalist who also dabbles in short stories. I’m afraid there just aren’t enough pages to put in all that I want to put in.

There are interesting interviews with Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger: longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction), Camilla Gibb (Sweetness in the Belly: 2006 Trillium Book Award), Janet De Neefe (Fragrant Rice); Preeta Samarasan (Evening Is the Whole Day: winner of the Hopwood First Novel Award), Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy: 1994 Commonwealth Writers Prize), Deepika Shetty, Chiew-Siah Tei (Little Hut of Leaping Fishes: longlisted for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize), Alexis Wright (Carpentaria: 2007 Miles Franklin Literary Award), and more. There are essays by Matthew Condon (The Trout Opera: shortlisted for the 2008 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction), Tishani Doshi (Countries of the Body: 2006 Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection), Camilla Gibb, Jamie James (The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge), Dyah Merta, Preeta Samarasan and Lijia Zhang (“Socialism Is Great!”: A Worker’s Memoir of the New China).

Lots of features, too. Zafar Anjum explores the highways and byways of the Indian publishing world, while Janet Tay looks at what it is like when editors become authors? Do they find difficulty in adjusting when the shoe is on the other foot? She explores the pros and cons of editors-turned-authors being familiar with the publishing industry before publishing their first books with three publishing heavyweights: David Davidar (Penguin Canada), Marie Arana (The Washington Post) and Erica Wagner (The Times). Another highlight is Sharon Bakar’s interview with Preeta Samarasan, the latest Malaysian writer to make it in the international publishing world with her début novel, Evening Is the Whole Day, which has been hailed as “a magical, exuberant tragic-comic vision of postcolonial Malaysia reminiscent of Rushdie and Roy.” I also managed to ask a few writers appearing at the 2008 festival (Matthew Condon, Tishani Doshi, Jamie James, Moni Mohsin and Lijia Zhang) what they read when they are not writing. You will be amazed by their revelations.

This special issue of Quill magazine will only be distributed at the 2008 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

Acknowledgments: Thank you to all authors for their gracious contributions. Thank you to Janet De Neefe, Kadek Krishna Adidharma and Andy Ewing of the 2008 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival for their help in putting the issue together
Photographs from top to bottom: Tishani Doshi, Alexis Wright, Matthew Condon, Preeta Samarasan, Camilla Gibb, Janet De Neefe and Lijia Zhang
Editorial: Eric Forbes, Janet Tay and Tan May Lee
Appreciation: Zafar Anjum, Sharon Bakar and Deepika Shetty