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Tag: Philip Pullman (1-3 of 3)

On the Books: Philip Pullman's new short story revisits an old character

A new short story by Philip Pullman returns readers to the world of the classic His Dark Materials trilogy for the first time in six years. Pullman wrote “The Collectors,” out today, for exclusive digital distribution by audiobook publisher Audible. Set at his alternate version of Oxford, the story follows the early life of Pullman’s villain Mrs. Coulter. The author last visited the fictional world in his novella Once Upon a Time in the North.

Pullman may be using old characters, but writing “The Collectors” was a new experience for him. “I find it very difficult as a form,” the author said of short story writing. “With a novel you can sprawl out, go down blind alleys—it’s a much bigger, looser thing. With a short story, you have to be tight.” [The Guardian]

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On the Books: British judge defends inmates' right to read

- A British judge has declared unlawful the partial ban on books in prisons issued last year by the nation’s justice secretary. In November 2013, Secretary Chris Grayling introduced new guidelines for an “incentives and earned privileges” system where inmates gradually earn the freedom and money to buy items as they move up from “basic status.” Those items included books, and the rules prevented people from sending them into prisons.

Enter 56-year-old Barbara Gordon-Jones, who has a doctorate in English literature and is currently serving time for arson. Prisons minister Jeremy Wright has said characterizing the rules as a complete ban amounts to “complete nonsense” because “all prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any one time, and all prisoners have access to the prison library.” But that didn’t cut it for Gordon-Jones, who said the literary options provided by the prison system were insufficient.

Justice Andrew Collins sided with Gordon-Jones. “A book may not only be one which a prisoner may want to read but may be very useful or indeed necessary as part of a rehabilitation process,” he said. The ruling pleased prominent authors like Salman Rushdie and Philip Pullman, who have fought the rules since their creation. “I’m very glad that the courts have seen through it, and stated that reading is a right and not a privilege,” Pullman said. [The Guardian]

- Amazon doesn’t only antagonize customers stateside. On Thursday, Indian president Pranab Mukherjee will release a blockbuster history book, The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years—and for three weeks it’ll be exclusively available though Amazon. That’s frustrating many Indians excited about Mukherjee’s book, which recounts his role in the 1970s administration of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “It is the biggest book of the year,” said one Indian brick-and-mortar bookseller. “People come to us to browse, and say, ‘Oh it’s a damn good book, I’ll buy it online.’ We can’t give the 40% discounts that online retailers give. And a bookstore is a bookstore. What does it matter if its online or offline?” [The Times of India]

- Back in the U.S., print book sales for this Thanksgiving week improved from the same period last year. Unit sales rose five percent over Thanksgiving week 2013, according to Nielsen BookScan. The top-selling book was The Long Haul, the latest installment of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The popular children’s book sold 221,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]

On The Books: F. Scott Fitzgerald's racy and racist uncensored short stories

An uncut edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fourth short story collection, “Taps at Reveille,” was published this week in the U.K. by the Cambridge University Press. A Penn State English professor discovered that the original editors had deleted or replaced many words in Fitzgerald’s stories to make the book more acceptable to the public. “They excised or inserted substitutions for profanity and certain slang words, cut out references to sex and drugs and drunkenness, masked specific locations and names, and either deleted or softened several anti-Semitic slurs uttered by some of the author’s less pleasant characters,” writes the New York Times. Some changes completely altered the characters and plot of the stories, and other changes merely took the spice out of his tone. We can expect the uncensored collection to be published in the U.S. in June.

The Mystery Writers of America announced the Edgar Awards winners last night. You can check their website for a complete list of winners, but the category of Best Novel went to William Kent Krueger for Ordinary Grace. Krueger’s website gives this synopsis:

Minnesota, 1961. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, “Ordinary Grace” is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Since March, people have been protesting the British prison system’s new rules that effectively prevent prisoners from accepting books in the mail. The protests have garnered the support of high-profile authors like Salman Rushdie, but apparently things are still pretty hairy because Philip Pullman, current president of the Society of Authors, has sent a snarly letter to justice minister Chris Grayling denouncing the law. No one wants to draw the wrath of Pullman’s sharp tongue (just ask the Catholic Church.) [Guardian]

Have you ever gone to a book reading by your favorite author and agonized over what question to ask. You want to ask something smart, but deferential; something that reveals you are a true fan, but not truly creepy. Well, keep agonizing. According to this article, writers really do notice the questions you ask and judge the heck out of you for it. [NY Books]

To close, let’s appreciate this photo of Pablo Picasso dressed as Popeye. Happy Friday, folks!

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