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Prize-winning Dominican author in war of words over migrant court ruling
By Ezra Fieser SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz said a letter from Dominican authors and intellectuals questioning his loyalty to his country of birth was "a ham-fisted attempt to silence" his criticism of a controversial court ruling on birthright citizenship. Diaz and three other authors have come under attack in the Dominican Republic after they published a letter in the New York Times that criticized a September decision by the country's constitutional court that stripped Dominican citizenship from children of illegal immigrants, most of whom are descendants of Haitians. The letter drew a response from eight Dominican cultural figures, who, in an open letter published by media outlets in the country, suggested Diaz was adding to a "disinformation campaign aimed at curtailing our sovereignty." They went on to criticize Diaz's literary style, saying he had "little capacity for reflection and a disrespectful and mediocre use of the written word." Diaz, who in early December returned from a trip to the Caribbean country, told Reuters in emails that "sectors of the society in favor of this ruling seem convinced that dissension is not a healthy part of a democratic society." The dustup comes amid continued international pressure for the Dominican government to walk back the court ruling, which will remove Dominican citizenship from tens of thousands of people born in the country dating back to 1929.
Author Suri wins Britain's bad sex award for 'quarks' and 'superheroes' scene
Manil Suri has won the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award for a scene in his novel "The City of Devi" describing a sexual encounter in terms of exploding supernovas and streaking superheroes, Britain's Literary Review said on Tuesday. Suri, a dual American and Indian citizen, joins an illustrious list of past winners including John Updike, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and Sebastian Faulks. "We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei.
Bookworms get unlimited access to books through apps
By Natasha Baker AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Film and television fans use apps to view their favorite movies and shows and now readers can have similar access to an unlimited digital library. For a monthly fee of about $10, Oyster and Scribd will allow bookworms to instantly browse and read ebooks through smartphone and tablet apps and to download them for offline reading. "We see ourselves as the world's digital library. You can read whatever you want without having to make a payment every time you read," said Trip Adler, the co-founder and CEO of Scribd, based in San Francisco.
Vatican, British libraries put ancient bibles online
A treasure trove of ancient bibles and rare Greek and Hebrew texts are being made available to the public through a website set up by the Vatican and Oxford University. A priceless 1455 copy of the Gutenberg Bible -- the first major book to be printed with movable type in the West and one of fewer than 50 surviving copies -- went online Tuesday in the first stage of the project between the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV) and Oxford's Bodleian library. The four-year project, funded by the Polonsky Foundation, will eventually create an online archive of 1.5 million pages, the Vatican said in a statement. The website, http://bav.bodleian.ox.ac.uk, includes video presentations by Vatican archivist Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Haruki Murakami novel Japan's 2013 best-seller
The new novel by literary superstar Haruki Murakami was Japan's biggest-selling book of 2013, the nation's largest distributer said. The novel, about a man struggling to come to terms with events in his past, beat off competition from the flood of self-help books and how-to manuals published in Japan every year to come top of the list released Monday by Nippon Shuppan Hanbai. Murakami's "Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi (Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage)" was released in Japanese in April. The distributor does not disclose the number of copies it sold but Bungei Shunju, the publisher of the Murakami book, says it has printed 1.05 million copies.
Obama and daughters go big on books on Small Business Saturday
By Elvina Nawaguna WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and his daughters, Sasha and Malia, went on what has become an annual book shopping spree on Saturday, stopping at a bookstore to promote an event called Small Business Saturday. They purchased about two dozen books, including "The Lowland," by Jhumpa Lahiri, "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: Other stories" by Carson McCullers, "Red Sparrow" by Jason Matthews, and "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. "It's a long list," Obama said while paying, his daughters, aged 12 and 15, standing behind him.
Three unpublished J.D. Salinger stories leaked online: reports
Three unpublished stories from reclusive U.S. author J.D. Salinger have been leaked online, with the source apparently an unauthorized book that sold on eBay, Internet news source BuzzFeed reported on Thursday. It was difficult to trace the origin of the collection called "Three Stories," with the only known copies of the stories existing in research libraries at the University of Texas and Princeton University, it said. The stories are "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls," "Paula," and "Birthday Boy." The book appears to be one of those in a 25-copy compilation of the stories privately printed without Salinger's permission in London in 1999. BuzzFeed quoted Salinger scholar Kenneth Slawenski as saying the works posted online in a collection called "Three Stories" are from the author, best known for his 1951 novel "Catcher in the Rye." Social media site Reddit said scans of the stories taken from the unauthorized book first appeared on an invitation-only file-sharing site.
World's most expensive printed book sells for $14.2mn
The first book written in what is today the United States of America fetched $14.2 million in New York on Tuesday, becoming the world's most expensive printed book sold at auction. The translation of Biblical psalms "The Bay Psalm Book" was printed by Puritan settlers in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1640 and sold at a one-lot auction in just minutes by Sotheby's. The settlers, who came to America to seek religious freedom, had set about making their own preferred translation from the Hebrew original of the Old Testament book after arriving from Europe. Sotheby's named the buyer as David Rubenstein, the billionaire American financier and philanthropist.
First book printed in America sells for record $14.2 million
The Bay Psalm Book, one of 11 surviving copies of the first book printed in America, sold for $14.2 million on Tuesday evening at Sotheby's in New York, setting a new world auction record for any printed book. Although it had been estimated to fetch up to $30 million, it easily surpassed the previous mark of $11.5 million, paid in December 2010 for John James Audubon's "Birds of America." American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein purchased the book. "We are thrilled that this book, which is so important to our history and culture, is destined to be widely seen by Americans who can appreciate its singular significance," said David Redden, chairman of Sotheby's books department. "We are of course also thrilled to have achieved a new world auction record price for any printed book, which affirms that books remain a vital part of our culture," he added in a statement.
Cleveland woman held captive 11 years to write memoir
By Kim Palmer CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Cleveland kidnapper's longest-held survivor will write a memoir recounting her 11 years in captivity, a publishing company announced on Monday. Michelle Knight, 32, the first of the three woman kidnapped and held prisoner by Ariel Castro "will tell the full story of her ordeal for the first time" in a book co-written with Michelle Burford, who worked on the memoir by Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, according to Weinstein Books. The other two Castro kidnap victims, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, previously announced they are working on a book with Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.
Authors James McBride, George Packer win National Book Awards
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - Writers James McBride and George Packer won National Book Awards, among the most prestigious literary prizes in U.S. publishing, at a gala dinner on Wednesday that also honored authors E.L. Doctorow and Maya Angelou. McBride took home the 2013 National Book Foundation fiction prize for "The Good Lord Bird," an exploration of identity and survival during slavery. It was chosen from a short list of books by authors including Rachel Kushner, previous National Book Award winner Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri and George Saunders.
Comic slave tale 'The Good Lord Bird' wins at the National Book Awards
James McBride's humorous and historical examination of abolitionist John Brown, "The Good Lord Bird," was declared fiction category winner at the 2013 National Book Awards ceremony in New York on November 20. After its success, his work became the subject of film director Spike Lee on two occassions, first with 2002 historical novel "Miracle at St. Anna" and then in 2012 with the film he co-wrote, "Red Hook Summer." Fellow finalists for the National Book Award in fiction were Rachel Kushner with "The Flamethrowers," Jhumpa Lahiri for "The Lowland," Thomas Pynchon for "Bleeding Edge," and George Sanders with "Tenth of December."
Random House picks Pinterest for extra coverage
Book publisher Random House is among the raft of websites making use of a new wave of Pinterest integration, as trending titles help readers pick their next piece of reading material. A Pinterest Favorites section highlights users' most popular Pins from various time periods, while an endlessly scrolling page of Pins is hosted on the Random House website itself. Due to Pinterest's functionality as an online wishlist, shopping list, or collection of desirables, there are obvious perks for publishers and authors as well as readers. Each title on the Random House Pinterest subsection comes with a synopsis, details of available formats, and a link to the publisher's store page with purchasing options.
What's lurking in that 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?
A pair of Belgian researchers found traces of herpes virus and cocaine lurking in library copies of E. L. James's popular erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey." The professors decided to run the ten most popular books at the Antwerp library through bacteriology and toxicology tests to discover how germy those loaners really are. The novel "Tango" -- a romance by Pieter Aspe -- also tested positive for herpes. Still, Jan Tytgat, a professor of toxicology at the Catholic University of Leuven, told the Flanders News website that the traces of both herpes and cocaine were too small to be harmful to readers of the book.
Children's author, Barbara Park, dies of cancer
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - Barbara Park, the author of the best-selling Junie B. Jones series for children, has died at age 66 after a long battle against of ovarian cancer, her publisher said on Monday. She was at home in Scottsdale, Arizona," said Nicole Banholzer, an associate publicist for Random House children's books. The Junie B. Jones stories, although big sellers, also drew criticism from parents for Junie's struggles with grammar and troublemaking.
Prolific writer Maya Angelou shows little sign of slowing down
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - American author Maya Angelou has written more than 30 books, won numerous awards, released her latest work, "Mom & Me & Mom," earlier this year, and at the age of 85 shows little sign of slowing down. Best known for her groundbreaking autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Angelou is already working on her next book and will be honored at the National Book Awards ceremony on Wednesday, along with "Ragtime" author E. L. Doctorow, for her service to the literary community. Angelou believes reading is particularly important in a technological age filled with audio books, social media and smartphones. But it was her latest autobiography, "Mom & Me & Mom," about her mother and grandmother and what they taught her, that she said was probably the hardest book to write.
Putin accused of Soviet tactics in drafting new history book
By Gabriela Baczynska MOSCOW (Reuters) - A call by President Vladimir Putin for a new textbook that reconciles differences over Russia's past has left him facing accusations of copying Soviet leaders by rewriting history for political ends. The former Soviet spy asked historians in February to come up with guidelines for new school history books that would provide a unified version of the many difficult events in Russian and Soviet history. It was always going to be a tough task in a country where Communist leaders such as Josef Stalin airbrushed enemies out of photographs and saw history as a political weapon. The guidelines, drawn up by historians of Putin's choice, contain no criticism of the president, no reference to protests against him in 2011 and 2012 and no mention of the jailed former tycoon and Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Nobel Prize-winning British author Doris Lessing dies aged 94
British author Doris Lessing, whose powerful feminist and anti-colonial writing won her the Nobel Literature Prize, died on Sunday at the age of 94. The author's longtime agent and friend Jonathan Clowes said Lessing had died peacefully at her London home in the early hours of the morning. Best known for the 1962 novel "The Golden Notebook" which is today considered a landmark feminist work, Lessing became the oldest winner of the Nobel Literature Prize in 2007. She penned more than 50 novels ranging from political critiques to science fiction -- many of them inspired by her own experiences of a lonely childhood in Africa and involvement in radical leftist politics.
Stephen King returns with sequel to 'The Shining'
Don't ask horror writer Stephen King where he gets his ideas from. But the American author who has written over 50 novels and sold 350 million copies worldwide does remember how he came up with the plot for his 1977 book "The Shining". King and his wife, who were living in Colorado at the time, had gone to the mountains for a weekend at the end of the holiday season and were the only guests in their hotel. After dinner, King's wife went up to their room at the Stanley Hotel leaving the writer in the deserted dining hall where he "soaked up the atmosphere".
Google defeats authors in U.S. book-scanning lawsuit
By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc on Thursday won dismissal of a long-running lawsuit by authors who accused the Internet search company of digitally copying millions of books for an online library without permission. U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan accepted Google's argument that its scanning of more than 20 million books, and making "snippets" of text available online, constituted "fair use" under U.S. copyright law. The decision, if it survives an expected appeal, would let Google continue expanding the library, which it said helps readers find books they might not otherwise locate. Google has estimated it could owe more than $3 billion if the Authors Guild, an advocacy group that demanded $750 for each scanned book, prevailed.
Take a book, leave a book: tiny libraries thrive in US
The informal lending libraries work under a simple principle: "take a book, return a book." "Last week, 11 new books came in," said Kevin Sullivan, who launched his "little library" in Bethesda, a northern suburb of the US capital, in May 2011 on Mother's Day. The concept first started in a small city in the midwestern state of Wisconsin, in 2009, as Todd Bol searched for a way to honor the generosity of his mother, a teacher, who had just died.
TV pitchman Trudeau found guilty of criminal contempt
By Adam Kirby CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal jury found pitchman Kevin Trudeau guilty of criminal contempt on Tuesday for exaggerating the contents of his weight-loss book in infomercials, and he was taken into custody, prosecutors said. Jurors took less than an hour to find Trudeau, 50, guilty of violating a 2004 federal court settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred him from misrepresenting the contents of his books in advertisements, said Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago. Prosecutors had argued Trudeau knowingly violated the 2004 agreement while marketing his book, "The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You To Know About," in infomercials made in 2006 and 2007 that aired about 32,000 times. In part, Trudeau told viewers in the infomercials that the "cure" to obesity was not a diet and did not require exercise, but the book instructed readers to walk an hour each day and to limit intake to 500 calories.
Amazon picks Donna Tartt's 'The Goldfinch' as book of the year
By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - Author Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch," a novel about a 14-year-old boy surviving in Manhattan after the death of his mother, topped Amazon.com Inc's list of 100 best books of 2013. The top choices include fiction and non-fiction works, a collection of short stories, a young adult novel and an account of being held captive in Somalia. "The Goldfinch" is Tartt's first book since "The Little Friend" in 2002, which followed her 1992 debut novel "The Secret History." "Our top choice, 'The Goldfinch,' is an emotionally trenchant masterpiece and was hands down our team's favorite book of the year," said Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle at Amazon. "And the Mountains Echoed," by Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns," came in second.
'Hellgoing' awarded Giller Prize for Fiction
Canadian author Lynn Coady is to benefit from the Scotiabank Giller Prize's $50,000 award for short story collection "Hellgoing." The eight stories range from religious extremism and eating disorders to unusual teacher-pupil dynamics and a strange case of self-mutilation. Coady had been a Giller finalist in 2011 with "The Antagonist," though in that year Esi Edugyan was the judges' favorite with his Franco-German slice of wartime jazz fiction "Half-Blood Blues." Esi was on the judge's panel this time around, alongside Margaret Atwood (who had won in 1996) and National Book Critics Circle awardee Jonathan Lethem.
Rock biographer readies new Lou Reed book