1. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing celebrated actor Alan Cumming, whose Not My Father’s Son, a wrenching memoir of rediscovering family, is a LibraryReads pick for October, and debut novelist Katy Simpson Smith, whose The Story of Land and Sea, a quietly affecting tale of love and death in the Revolutionary era, is an Indie Next pick for September. You can find both interviews at Prepub Alert: Video Interviews.

    Library Journal presents this insightful series of video interviews with Prepub Alert‘s Barbara Hoffert and a variety of notable authors.

    Fascinating conversation with Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming.

  2. From A World of New Titles: Editor’s Picks | BEA 2013, Barbara Hoffert’s picks from this year’s Book Expo America.
Four hot small-press novels
Past doors glazed with emerald advertisements for Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, under enormous banners proclaiming publication of the latest from million-copy best-selling authors, BookExpo America offered hundreds of smaller titles with big ambitions. Some were standouts, and some nicely capture the literary zeitgeist.
Take Pamela Erens’s The Virgins (Tin House, Aug.). Like two recent titles, Amber Dermont’s The Starboard Sea and Ron Irwin’s Flat Water Tuesday (and harking back to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and, inevitably, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye), Erens’s second novel uses a heightened prep school environment to examine the consequences of our sometimes painful discovery of self and sexuality. Erens’s outsiders among the posh at 1979 Auburn Academy are Jewish American Aviva Rossner and Korean American Seung Jung, and the trajectory of their passionate relationship—reported by classmate Bruce Bennett-Jones, shocked in the end by the shadow-puppet difference between perception and reality—is delivered in especially polished, urgent language.
A close associate of the late, great Chinua Achebe, Okey Ndibe adds his voice to a new generation of writers (think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, and the recently debuting NoViolet Bulawayo) who portray the African American immigrant experience. Foreign Gods, Inc. (Soho, Jan. 2014; see also Molly McArdle’s picks, p. 23) features New York–based Nigerian Ike, a cab driver despite his American college degree, who hopes to acquire some much-needed cash by stealing the statue of a war deity from his village and selling it to a New York art gallery. His picaresque journey, gently but incisively told, shows us the vagaries of both American and African culture.
Fiction can reimagine flesh-and-blood folks to stunning effect, as evidenced by works like Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Ballantine, Jan. 2014), about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, and Vivien Shotwell’s Vienna Nocturne (Ballantine, Feb. 2014), about a real-life English soprano’s affair with Mozart. (Both titles were featured at LJ’s Day of Dialog, see p. 24ff.) What a pleasure, then, to discover Melissa Pritchard’s Palmerino (Bellevue Literary Pr., Jan. 2014), which envisions the life of Vernon Lee, the pen name and male persona of Englishwoman Violet Paget. Opening with the contemporary story of Sylvia, who discovers Lee while working at Villa il Palmerino in the Italian countryside and becomes her biographer, this work is related in sun-on-raindrops prose that draws in readers.
Classic tales are often retold, much to the delight of readers who just cannot get enough, but it was still a surprise to see Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel (Other, Nov.), which imaginatively sets Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in postwar Japan. (Interestingly, award-winning Japanese author Mizumura did both undergraduate and graduate work at Yale, studying not English but French literature.) We actually meet Taro Azuma in 1960s New York but are then flashbacked to his upbringing as a poor orphan obsessed with a rich girl at a time when Japan was rapidly westernizing. In translation, the narrative is colloquial, loose-limbed, and finely detailed; it’s anything but a slavish imitation of the original.—Barbara Hoffert

    From A World of New Titles: Editor’s Picks | BEA 2013, Barbara Hoffert’s picks from this year’s Book Expo America.

    Four hot small-press novels

    Past doors glazed with emerald advertisements for Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, under enormous banners proclaiming publication of the latest from million-copy best-selling authors, BookExpo America offered hundreds of smaller titles with big ambitions. Some were standouts, and some nicely capture the literary zeitgeist.

    Take Pamela Erens’s The Virgins (Tin House, Aug.). Like two recent titles, Amber Dermont’s The Starboard Sea and Ron Irwin’s Flat Water Tuesday (and harking back to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and, inevitably, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye), Erens’s second novel uses a heightened prep school environment to examine the consequences of our sometimes painful discovery of self and sexuality. Erens’s outsiders among the posh at 1979 Auburn Academy are Jewish American Aviva Rossner and Korean American Seung Jung, and the trajectory of their passionate relationship—reported by classmate Bruce Bennett-Jones, shocked in the end by the shadow-puppet difference between perception and reality—is delivered in especially polished, urgent language.

    A close associate of the late, great Chinua Achebe, Okey Ndibe adds his voice to a new generation of writers (think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, and the recently debuting NoViolet Bulawayo) who portray the African American immigrant experience. Foreign Gods, Inc. (Soho, Jan. 2014; see also Molly McArdle’s picks, p. 23) features New York–based Nigerian Ike, a cab driver despite his American college degree, who hopes to acquire some much-needed cash by stealing the statue of a war deity from his village and selling it to a New York art gallery. His picaresque journey, gently but incisively told, shows us the vagaries of both American and African culture.

    Fiction can reimagine flesh-and-blood folks to stunning effect, as evidenced by works like Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Ballantine, Jan. 2014), about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, and Vivien Shotwell’s Vienna Nocturne (Ballantine, Feb. 2014), about a real-life English soprano’s affair with Mozart. (Both titles were featured at LJ’s Day of Dialog, see p. 24ff.) What a pleasure, then, to discover Melissa Pritchard’s Palmerino (Bellevue Literary Pr., Jan. 2014), which envisions the life of Vernon Lee, the pen name and male persona of Englishwoman Violet Paget. Opening with the contemporary story of Sylvia, who discovers Lee while working at Villa il Palmerino in the Italian countryside and becomes her biographer, this work is related in sun-on-raindrops prose that draws in readers.

    Classic tales are often retold, much to the delight of readers who just cannot get enough, but it was still a surprise to see Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel (Other, Nov.), which imaginatively sets Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in postwar Japan. (Interestingly, award-winning Japanese author Mizumura did both undergraduate and graduate work at Yale, studying not English but French literature.) We actually meet Taro Azuma in 1960s New York but are then flashbacked to his upbringing as a poor orphan obsessed with a rich girl at a time when Japan was rapidly westernizing. In translation, the narrative is colloquial, loose-limbed, and finely detailed; it’s anything but a slavish imitation of the original.—Barbara Hoffert

  3. From Barbara Hoffert’s Pulitzer Prizes 2013: Yes, There Is a Fiction Award and Much More over at LJ:

    Despite the anxiety, was there really any doubt that the Pulitzer Prize board would pick a fiction winner this year? Not after the hugely negative response to last year’s decision to forgo an award, which had people challenging the Pulitzer process itself. What really rankled was the idea that somehow contemporary fiction did not measure up. Now here comes this year’s winner, Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son (Random), to blow that idea out of the water.

  4. These were the six winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for publishing year 2012, announced last week at a festive event at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York. Of course I want to highlight these awards, having just wrapped up six years as awards vice president for the NBCC. More to the point, the NBCC awards are the only ones given anywhere that are chosen exclusively by practicing critics. They’re well-considered, well-debated awards by folks who read widely and have no axe to grind.

    — Wrapping Up the National Book Critics Circle Awards

  5. cloudunbound:

ALA Midwinter is not classically thought of as a galley gala (that would be BookExpo America). Thanks to the creative and zany marketing efforts of the Trade Libraries Joint Committee of the Association of American Publishers, however, the conference puts trade book programming front and center. See the AAP’s Family Feud, in which librarians face off with marquee writers like Jonathan Evison.
As she did for ALA Annual and BookExpo America, Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal’s editor of Prepub Alert, has produced a galley guide for ALA Midwinter. Now winter and spring titles, which tend to get overshadowed by summer and fall pubs, have a credible forum, not to mention a receptive audience.
Hoffert on the trends she’s seeing:


The trade paperback original keeps rising, literate 19th-century American saga is emergent (see Kent Wascom’s The Blood of Heaven and Philipp Meyer’s The Son), fantastical elements are appearing in nonfantasy works (see Rhonda Riley’s The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni), thrillers are becoming intensely psychological and family-centered (e.g., Kimberly McCreight’sReconstructing Amelia), Africa draws our attention in literature as in the news (see Yejide Kilanko’s Daughters Who Walk This Path and Eleanor Morse’s White Dog Fell from the Sky), and small-town dysfunction is still with us (see Holly Goddard Jones’s Next Time You See Me and Laura Lee Smith’s Heart of Palm).



Ditto! Download Barbara’s guide!

    cloudunbound:

    ALA Midwinter is not classically thought of as a galley gala (that would be BookExpo America). Thanks to the creative and zany marketing efforts of the Trade Libraries Joint Committee of the Association of American Publishers, however, the conference puts trade book programming front and center. See the AAP’s Family Feud, in which librarians face off with marquee writers like Jonathan Evison.

    As she did for ALA Annual and BookExpo America, Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal’s editor of Prepub Alert, has produced a galley guide for ALA Midwinter. Now winter and spring titles, which tend to get overshadowed by summer and fall pubs, have a credible forum, not to mention a receptive audience.

    Hoffert on the trends she’s seeing:

    The trade paperback original keeps rising, literate 19th-century American saga is emergent (see Kent Wascom’s The Blood of Heaven and Philipp Meyer’s The Son), fantastical elements are appearing in nonfantasy works (see Rhonda Riley’s The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni), thrillers are becoming intensely psychological and family-centered (e.g., Kimberly McCreight’sReconstructing Amelia), Africa draws our attention in literature as in the news (see Yejide Kilanko’s Daughters Who Walk This Path and Eleanor Morse’s White Dog Fell from the Sky), and small-town dysfunction is still with us (see Holly Goddard Jones’s Next Time You See Me and Laura Lee Smith’s Heart of Palm).

    Ditto! Download Barbara’s guide!

  6. 

The National Book Critics Circle Awards, the only awards given by working critics and book review editors, are coming your way on February 28, 2013. Finalists have just been announced. As always, this year’s finalists range from immediately recognizable titles like Robert A. Caro’s The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Alfred A. Knopf), Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House), and David Ferry’s Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press)—the last two National Book Award winners—to terrific surprises like Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books), a refreshingly different work of criticism; Laurent Binet’s HHhH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a French prize winner about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich; and Lisa Jarnot’s Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography (University of California Press), whose subject has come to have a powerful influence on the most recent generation of poets. A complete list of finalists follows; for further information, go to bookcritics.org.


From Barbara Hoffert, Boo, Ferry, Caro, Smith, Fountain, and Shadid Among Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards

    The National Book Critics Circle Awards, the only awards given by working critics and book review editors, are coming your way on February 28, 2013. Finalists have just been announced. As always, this year’s finalists range from immediately recognizable titles like Robert A. Caro’s The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Alfred A. Knopf), Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House), and David Ferry’s Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press)—the last two National Book Award winners—to terrific surprises like Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books), a refreshingly different work of criticism; Laurent Binet’s HHhH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a French prize winner about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich; and Lisa Jarnot’s Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography (University of California Press), whose subject has come to have a powerful influence on the most recent generation of poets. A complete list of finalists follows; for further information, go to bookcritics.org.

    From Barbara Hoffert, Boo, Ferry, Caro, Smith, Fountain, and Shadid Among Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards

  7. So many eye-popping short story collections, so many revelatory small-press literary novels, and such little space on those end-of-the-year Best lists.…Since I get far too much good material throughout the year to review comfortably, I take pleasure in end-of-the-year combing so that I can boost the books I could not let go, that I returned to relentlessly, that hint at authors worthy of watching that adventurous readers should investigate now.

    From Barbara Hoffert, Goodbye 2012: Terrific Story Collections and Small-Press Bests

  8. The rest of the evening was a story about stories. In accepting the 2012 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for Goblin Secrets (Margaret K. McElderry Bks: S. & S. Children’s Publishing), William Alexander first expressed his astonished delight by exclaiming, “Okay, we now have proof that alternate universes exist,” then cited Ursula Le Guin’s comment, “The literature of imagination…offers a world large enough to contain alternatives and therefore offers hope.”

    — Barbara Hoffert recaps the National Book Awards ceremony over at LJ.

  9. More pictures from LJ Prepub Editor Barbara Hoffert's panel, Who's On First? Debut Genre Fiction with Buzz, from LJ's Day of Dialog.

  10. Tomas Tranströmer Wins the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature

    From Barbara Hoffert’s post on the LJ blog In the Bookroom:

    A few good things about today’s announcement that Tomas Tranströmer has won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. First, he’s a poet, and poets remain the unacknowledged legislators of the world—with the accent on unacknowledged. This is the first time a poet has won since Wislawa Szymborska took the honors in 1996. Second, Tranströmer’s poetry is deeply accessible, in terms of both availability—he’s been translated into more than 50 or 60 languages (depending on the source) and is well represented in English—and the language itself. The poems are fresh without twisting away from common experience, meditative without being so interior that we can’t follow, visually vivid but not out-of-mind surreal, humanistic in the best and broadest sense. That Robert Bly has translated him into English speaks volumes. Finally, Tranströmer is Swedish—in fact, the first Swedish author to win since 1974, so let’s hear it for the home team!—and also a world-class author.  Hard to recommend a single volume in English, but here’s betting that New Directions is getting a run of requests for The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (ISBN 9780811216722. pap. $17.95), published in 2006.