The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- The shortlist for the Diagram Prize for the year's oddest book title is out and includes Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography by Jo Packham, Working Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City by Chris Balsinger and Erin Canning, Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown, and The Origin of Feces by David Walter-Toews. Created in 1978, the prize was first awarded to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, and since then has been given to titles including Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop, Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality, Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way, and Greek Rural Postmen and their Cancellation Numbers. The winner will be determined by a public vote on The Bookseller's sister website, We Love This Book, and announced on March 21. Horace Bent, the prize's administrator, said, "I believe my fellow judges and I — after much discussion and robust debate that quite frankly often threatened to descend into fisticuffs — have come up with one of the strongest shortlists in The Diagram Prize's over three-and-a-half decade history."
- As NPR's Eyder Peralta noted yesterday, Guardian reporter Luke Harding claims someone was deleting sections of his book on Edward Snowden's NSA revelations as he wrote it. Harding writes in the newspaper, "Over the next few weeks these incidents of remote deletion happened several times. There was no fixed pattern but it tended to occur when I wrote disparagingly of the NSA. All authors expect criticism. But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel. I began to leave notes for my secret reader. I tried to be polite, but irritation crept in. Once I wrote: 'Good morning. I don't mind you reading my manuscript — you're doing so already — but I'd be grateful if you don't delete it. Thank you.' There was no reply." He adds, "In idle moments I wonder who might have been my surreptitious editor. An aggrieved analyst at the NSA's Fort Meade spy city? GCHQ? A Russian hacker? Someone else intent on mischief?"
- More than 250 books about Anne Frank, mostly copies of Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, reportedly have been vandalized across Tokyo's public library system. The Associated Press reports, "The damage was mostly in the form of dozens of ripped pages in the books. Librarians have counted at least 265 damaged books at 31 municipal libraries since the end of January." The news service adds that the motive for the vandalism isn't clear and that police are investigating.
- Kurt Vonnegut may have said the semi-colon is used only to "show you've been to college," but Claire Messud defends the much-maligned punctuation mark in Intelligent Life. She remarks: "For those of us whose thoughts digress; for whom unexpected juxtapositions are exhilarating rather than tiresome; who aim, if always inadequately, to convey life's experience in some semblance of its complexity — for such writers, the semi-colon is invaluable."
- For The Guardian, Jhumpa Lahiri remembers short story writer Mavis Gallant, who died Tuesday: "Anyone who met her in person knows that she was ferocious and delightful at the same time — always smiling and laughing and being amused by things. In addition to the calibre of her writing, there is also the example of her life: the great act of bravery to leave Canada to live in Paris alone and to survive solely by means of her writing is such an extraordinary thing to have done. She was completely on her own. I admire her so deeply for giving everything she had to her creative life. That is a very rare thing, it requires such integrity, such stamina, such blind faith. Her body of work is unique and profound; I don't think there will be another quite like her."