Meaning of the Booker, more

Christopher Shea, for The Boston Globe, summarizes the argument of a Brussels professor that winning the Booker doesn’t mean much, in practical terms, for a writer:

Perhaps the Booker wars would end if the participants realized that, according to a recent study by one economist, very little is at stake: Judges in aesthetic competitions, according to Victor Ginsburgh, a professor at the University of Brussels, are simply not very good at identifying art works that future generations will acknowledge as great.

The professor appears to rely primarily on the fact that sales figures are no higher for Booker winners. He comes to the same conclusion about film and music awards, but uses different criteria. The analysis is too broad to be convincing. (Via Arts Journal.)

You might remember the news floating around a few months ago about a logarithm that allegedly can determine the gender of an author. A few of my friends tried it out and found that it was nearly always wrong; others said it was accurate. A recent article in the Melbourne Age considers whether any authors can write authentically from the point of view of the opposite sex.

Recently I picked up a copy of Literary Landmarks of New York: The Book Lover’s Guide to the Homes and Haunts of World Famous Writers. It was heralded during the WNYC spring fundraiser as the ultimate reference for places frequented and resided in by New York City literary figures. I guess the slim, pocket-sized volume should have alerted me to the fact that the information contained in it is, um, limited. It was sealed in plastic wrap at the bookstore, though (bastards!), so I held out hope that it would mention every bodega where my favorite authors bought cigarettes, every bar they boozed it up in, every place they lived. Not so much.

If you, like me, are a sap who wants to know where Walker Percy ate while recovering from tuberculosis or lived while teaching at Columbia, and where Grace Paley has lived and been arrested, this is not the book for you. On the bright side, you can find out where on Cornelia Street W.H. Auden once lived. Take a look at a copy of Literary Landmarks before you buy it.

“Dan Okrent has just been appointed to the worst job in journalism: public editor (that’s the pronouncable, spellable, PC synonym for ombudsman) at the NY Times. But I think I know how to turn it into the best job,” says BuzzMachine. The proposal:

So Dan should make himself into the Times’ own blogger. I don’t mean he should start a blog. I mean he should take on blog attitude: skeptical, wry, pestering.

What would happen if he wrote a column making fun of a Maureen Dowd column? You’d hear cheers! What if he made fun of dog-demograpic stories on page one of the great paper? What if he fisked an editorial?

Spanish writer Manuel Vazquez Montalban died recently. Michael Kessler did one of the most recent interviews with Montalban.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that The New York Review of Books celebrated its 40th anniversary this year and discusses the history of the publication. In an effort to explain the longevity of the review, cofounder Robert Silvers said, “‘We kept control of the review to ourselves — no benefactors, no companies…. So, we’ve been free to publish any writer who interested us. The same freedom means we have no excuses, either'”

Salon has published an excerpt from the Zoe Trope memoir.

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