President Barack Obama last week created a new position to oversee arts and culture in the Office of Public Liasion and Intergovernmental Affairs. Kareem Dale, who was previously named special assistant to the president for disability policy, will hold the new position under senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a grant worth a little more than two hundred thousand dollars to the Poetry Collection at SUNY, Buffalo, that will allow the Libraries department to digitize and catalogue its audio collection.
PEN American Center, the central U.S. outpost for the international writers organization, will welcome a new president this spring and bid farewell this summer to its longtime executive director.
The critics have spoken and, not surprisingly, Roberto Bolaño’s nearly nine-hundred-page novel 2666, published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, took top honors in the fiction category of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, which were announced last night at a ceremony in New York City.
There was a surprise for poets, however, when, for the first time in NBCC history, two awards were given in a single category. August Kleinzahler won for Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Juan Felipe Herrera won for Half of the World in Light (University of Arizona Press).
Other winners included Dexter Filkins for The Forever War (Knopf) in the category of nonfiction, Ariel Sabar for My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq (Algonquin) in autobiography, and Patrick French for The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul (Knopf) in biography.
Click here for a list of the finalists.
Last year, Mary Jo Bang won the NBCC Award in poetry for Elegy (Graywolf), Junot Díaz won in fiction for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead), and Edwidge Danticat won in autobiography for Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf).
Perugia Press announced last week that Jennifer K. Sweeney of Kalamazoo, Michigan, won the Perugia Press Prize for her second poetry collection, How to Live on Bread and Music. She received $1,000, and her book will be published in a print-run of one thousand copies in September. The award is given for a first or second collection by a woman poet.
Sweeney’s manuscript was 1 of 478 manuscripts submitted last November to the prize, which charged a $22 entry fee. The judging process involved several stages: Entries were first stripped of all identifying materials and then sent to a dozen screeners who winnowed the pool down to sixteen. Those semi-finalists were sent to eight judges, who gathered for a full day of reading and discussion, at the end of which two finalists were chosen. According to Kan, Sweeney’s manuscript stood out for the author’s "confidence with language, her willingness to let her intelligence become apparent slowly."
The two finalists were sent to three final judges, but while the manuscripts were being read, one of them was withdrawn because it was taken by another press.
"This has never happened at Perugia Press before," says Kan. "It took the wind out of our sails for a day, but ultimately, knowing that both books will be published is a win-win situation and confirms that our selection process is sound."
Perugia plans to promote the book through its mailing list and by sending out galleys to review publications. “We strongly encourage our poets to plan as many readings as possible,” says Kan. “That's the best way to share the work and sell books.” Sweeney’s book will be available on Perugia’s Web site, through Amazon.com, and in independent bookstores across the country.
The Center for Book Arts in New York City is celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the Vandercook Proof printing press with a series of events and the publication of the limited edition Vandercook Book, a collaborative artist book featuring work created using the press.
Barnes & Noble last week announced that it had acquired New Jersey-based e-book retailer Fictionwise for $15.7 million. In a press release, the bookseller said it plans to integrate Fictionwise into a digital strategy that includes the launch of an e-bookstore later this year.
The thirteenth annual Small Press Month, a nationwide celebration of the contributions of independent book publishers, is underway. Cosponsored by the New York Center for Independent Publishing, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and the Independent Book Publishers Association, the schedule of events includes readings, book launches, author appearances, and other events that shore up support for and promote unity among small presses.
The shrine and grave of Sufi poet Rahman Baba, located outside the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar, were bombed on Thursday, and according to local authorities, members of the Taliban are suspected of the attack.