Today in books and publishing: Malcolm Gladwell takes on the underdog; what really happened with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year; Zadie Smith's first book in seven years; Fifty Shades in the air.
Hang in there, everyone: Malcolm Gladwell has a new book. This time the bestselling author and New Yorker staff writer will provide us with an analysis of underdogs versus "overdogs," to be titled David and Goliath. Partly inspired by Gladwell's 2009 article about a girls basketball team that succeeded despite the odds, it's expected out from Little Brown and Company in 2013. We hope for an answer to the age-old question of why we insist on rooting for the little guy, as well an explanation for why no one says "overdog." [AP]
Why was there no Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2012? Following the announcement in April that the award would not be given this year for fiction, many people were not happy—least of all the three fiction jurors, Maureen Corrigan, Susan Larson, and Michael Cunningham (author), who writes the piece addressing this question in The New Yorker. All three had done the work of reading more than 300 novels and submitted their three finalists: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, and Karen Russell's Swamplandia!. So what went awry? "The board’s deliberations are sealed. No one outside the board will ever know why they decided to withhold the prize," writes Cunningham, who seems to indicate that the board was just not happy with their choices.
The mystery remains unresolved, alas. But we do get some insight into how this complicated, labor-intensive judging process goes down. And this piece is a must-read for book lovers, as it delves into the many ways in which readers judge the qualities of books. "Literature ... is a tough business," writes Cunningham. So is judging literature, apparently. A second installment in this two-part piece will appear today. [The New Yorker]
A first look at Zadie Smith's new novel. Her first in 7 years, titled NW, has this as a first sentence: "The fat sun stalls by the phone masts." Per The Millions book blog, it “follows a group of people from Caldwell–a fictional council estate in northwest London whose buildings are named for English philosophers–and documents the lives they build in adulthood." The book is out in September, as is another much-anticipated work, J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. [The Millions]
Fifty Shades of Grey in the air. Nowhere is safe. Nowhere. There's a Fifty Shades audiobook, obviously, and it is being offered on Virgin Atlantic flights to, per the airline's statement, "give our female passengers the chance to enjoy the book in an intimate way, without prying eyes." Dear Virgin Atlantic, men have ears, too. [Huffington Post]
Again with the talk of age-ratings for kids books. There should be a warning label placed on any utterers of the statement "It's gone too far." But as children's author Patrick Ness wisely put it, “If it's got an 18 certificate for adults, then younger children will look it out when their parents are not around… Children are great self-censors. They know what they can read and they know what they want to read, and if you don't give it to them, they'll find it somehow." [Christian Science Monitor]
Archie meets Glee. Yes. Archie meets Glee: "[T]hey’re both set in high schools, they’re both optimistic, they both involve singing.” It's, like, a no-brainer, Veronica. [The New York Times]