The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Alice Munro, the 82-year-old short story writer who won this year's Nobel Prize in Literature, will miss the Dec. 10 Nobel awards ceremony in Stockholm for health reasons. Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund wrote in a blog post that "her health is simply not good enough." He added that "all involved — including Mrs. Munro herself — regret this." (Englund's post, in Swedish, is here). Munro said in 2009 that she has been treated for cancer in the past, and had had heart bypass surgery. She announced earlier this year that she plans to retire from writing. Munro, who the Academy called "master of the contemporary short story," is known for her spare accounts of life in small Canadian towns. As NPR's Lynn Neary said at the time of the Nobel announcement: "In a really short space of time, she can provide a fully realized story that provides remarkable insight into human beings, their shortcomings, their complexities, their loves, their lives."
- Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks about Marcel Proust and how reading fiction can engender empathy in a wide-ranging French interview in La Revue des Deux Mondes, which was translated into English and published in The New York Review of Books. Breyer says that: "Reading makes a judge capable of projecting himself into the lives of others, lives that have nothing in common with his own, even lives in completely different eras or cultures. And this empathy, this ability to envision the practical consequences on one's contemporaries of a law or a legal decision, seems to me to [be] a crucial quality in a judge."
- British publisher Granta is rush-printing an extra 100,000 copies of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton's Booker-winning mystery novel set during the New Zealand Gold Rush.
The Best Books Coming Out This Week:
- After an unforgettable first novel and a fairly forgettable second novel, Donna Tartt has returned with The Goldfinch, a massive, moving monolith of a third book. The narrator Theo Decker is 13 and on a visit to the Met when a bomb goes off, killing his mother and a man who, as he is dying, begs Theo to take a small painting out of the museum's ruins. Tartt spoke to NPR's Scott Simon about the painting at the heart of the novel: "The word priceless is only really ever used in connection with two things, with art and with human life."
- An "encyclopedia of lady things" from the editors of the popular feminist website, The Book of Jezebel covers everything from abortion and Abigail Adams to zits, zombies and Erica Jong's famous "zipless f—-." It's engaging and witty, though unquestionably guilty of the sins of that imaginary feminist website from 30 Rock: "Joan of Snark." That's the "really cool feminist website where women talk about how far we've come and which celebrities have the worst beach bodies." Editor Anna Holmes spoke to NPR's Arun Rath over the weekend.
Peter Muhly /AFP/Getty Images
Canadian author Alice Munro in June 2009.
Canadian author Alice Munro in June 2009. Peter Muhly /AFP/Getty Images