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Archive for the ‘Literary News’ Category

Halloween: Spooky Reads for All Hallow’s Read

A few years back, Neil Gaiman, author of such spooky reads as Coraline, The Sandman and The Graveyard Book, decided that the world had a problem: “There aren’t enough traditions that involve giving books.”

His solution:

“I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.

I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…”
Sounds good. In honor of All Hallow’s Read (, a few Bookworms pick their favorite scary reads. Flashlight not included.
Kadi Hughes (Festival Director/ Marketing and Events Manager) The Road by Cormac McCarthy, because what’s scarier than the end of the world as we know it and roving bands of cannibals…
Anthropomorphic insects for some (my pick): James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl…
Or killer clowns (Heather Wright, BLF 2012 Migrant School Program Manager): It by Stephen King.

Speaking of spooky reads, join us this Sunday for a conversation with Julia Leigh. Leigh is the author if the darkly disturbing novels The Hunter and Disquiet and the writer/director behind Sleeping Beauty (not the Disney version).

Share your scariest reads on our Facebook page: Beijing Bookworm.
Bonus: For two more days, Gaiman is pairing up with to raise money for Booktrust and Donors Choose. Gaiman has made an audio recording of an as-yet-unpublished short story (scary, of course) avaialable free on For every download of the sotry, will make a contribution to the charities. Visit Gaiman’s blog for more info.


Mo Yan Wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

And the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature is…

Mo Yan!

The BLF 2009 alum Mo Yan, author of Red Sorghum and Big Breasts and Wide Hips, beat out early favorite Haruki Murakami to take home the field’s top honor. Announcing the decision, The Nobel Committee cited Mo’s use of “hallucinatory realism” to merge “folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

Peter Englund, head of the Swedish Academy, says of Mo’s work:

“He writes about the peasantry, about life in the countryside, about people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing. The basis for his books was laid when as a child he listened to folktales. The description magical realism has been used about him, but I think that is belittling him – this isn’t something he’s picked up from Gabriel García Márquez, but something which is very much his own. With the supernatural going in to the ordinary, he’s an extremely original narrator.”

Mo Yan in conversation with Howard Goldblatt at BLF 2009

Ian Johnson on Yu Hua and Chinese Literaure

Yu Hua at BLF 2012

In the October issue of the New York Review of Books, Ian Johnson (Wild Grass, Chinese Characters) profiles fellow Bookworm Literary Festival participant Yu Hua (Brothers, To Live, China in Ten Words). After spending some time with the author in Yu’s hometown Hangzhou, Johnson muses that “[Yu’s] bawdy books might not be purely fictional; their characters and situations seemed to follow him around in real life too.”

During a “boozy lunch where the head of the local writer’s association ogled the legs of the deputy head of propaganda, while a paunchy singer for the People’s Liberation Army showed off a ‘talented young lady’ he had taken under his wing,” Yu Hua “treated the local notables to jokes, innuendos about corruption, and the failings of the Communist Party” and reduces one official whimpering: “We’re neighbors, we’re neighbors. Ha-ha. He’s joking.”

Johnson notes that “Yu’s career shows how these political and literary issues are linked. While in Hangzhou, Yu and I had a chance to talk about literature and politics, and what struck me most was a comment he made on criticism. What China most lacked, he said, was publications that would help create great literature: the journals, reviews, and magazines where young writers can get a start and receive honest criticism. In China, literary journals are either politicized or open to bidding, with favorable reviews bought by authors or their publishers. This isn’t to say that all criticism in China is corrupted, but much of it is, stifling the honest give-and-take that might encourage the creation of genuinely superior work.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

Art, Design and Culture: the History of Penguin by Design

The Bookworm is thrilled to be co-hosting two author talks with Penguin as part of a landmark travelling exhibition. First displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the history of paperback design is in Asia for the first time, visiting Beijing, Hangzhou, and Seoul, South Korea. Featuring hundreds of original and rare book jackets and artwork, the exhibition is a celebration of British history, design, literature, and culture. Author events, designer talks and children’s sessions will take place around the central exhibition at The Temple Hotel.

The Bookworm and Penguin will be hosting two booktalks together for this event

Sunday, September 2 2:30pm
Hanging Devils – He Jiahong in conversation
Legal expert and thriller writer He Jiahong talks about his writing, miscarriages of justice, and writing what you know at the official launch event for the English edition of his novel Hanging Devils.

Saturday, September 8 2:30pm
Northern Girls and China’s Migrant Workers – Sheng Keyi in conversation
Sheng Keyi talks ‘in conversation’ on her novel Northern Girls which looks at the lives of Chinese women who make their way from small rural villages to China’s ever-expanding metropolises to play their part in the country’s insatiable economic growth.

The exhibition and events will be held at the Gallery at The Temple Hotel
23 Songzhusi, Shatan Beijie, Dongcheng, Beijing 100009 北京市东城区沙滩北街嵩祝寺23号.100009

Edinburgh World Writer’s Conference 2012 at The Bookworm

Presented by the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council.

The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference is a unique series of events that will bring writers together around the world to create an historic picture of the role of literature today. The conversation begins at the Edinburgh International Book Festival where 50 world renowned writers will join members of the public every afternoon from 17-21 August 2012 to discuss the five topics that almost brought writers to blows during the infamous Writers’ Conference of 1962. The World Writers’ Conference will go on to visit 15 different cities – including Beijing for BLF 2013 – over the following 12 months giving writers in different countries the chance to add their voice to the growing debate about writing and its relationship to contemporary life.

 We will be screening the five keynote events at The Bookworm, August 20-24,2012  . Each event is free and open to the public. You can also continue the conversation online at the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference website, which will feature live broadcasts of the events in Edinburgh and videos of the international events.

Schedule of Events

Monday, August 20 12:30pm
Should Literature be Political?
Elif Shafak & Ahdaf Soueif







The 1962 Writers’ Conference organizers stated: ‘Many believe that the novelist has the duty to further by his writing the causes in which he believes. Others think that literature must be above the problems of the day.’ 50 years on, writers remain divided about the role political events should play in novels. Ahdaf Soueif, who witnessed last year’s revolutionary events in Cairo, addresses the conference in a session chaired by leading Turkish author Elif Shafak.

Tuesday, August 21 12:30pm
Style vs. Content
Ali Smith & Nathan Englander






What is more important: the content of a novel or the style in which it is written? Ali Smith’s novels successfully marry ambitious themes with a variety of confident linguistic styles – from the deliciously playful to the crashingly simple. Smith addresses today’s Conference session about approaches to the construction of the novel today, in an event chaired by Nathan Englander – whose short pieces have been described by Michael Chabon as ‘masterpieces of short-story art’.

Wednesday, August 22 12:30pm
A National Literature?
Irvine Welsh & Ian Rankin






Since the first Edinburgh Writers’ Conference in 1962, there has been a renaissance in Scottish literature, bringing the voices of Scottish people of different backgrounds into ground-breaking novels by writers such as James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, Janice Galloway and A L Kennedy among many others. Have there been similarly powerful developments in the ‘national literatures’ of other countries? In this session chaired by Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh addresses the impact of national identity on the novel today.

Thursday, August 23 12:30pm
Censorship Today?
Patrick Ness & Chika Unigwe







Freedom of speech is not only under threat in undemocratic countries: the American Library Association received challenges to ban no fewer than 326 book titles in 2010, including And Tango Makes Three, which attracted complaints because its young penguin hero has two fathers. In this session, Carnegie Medal-winning writer of novels for adults and children, Patrick Ness, addresses the Conference about censorship and freedom of speech, chaired by Belgian-Nigerian author Chika Unigwe.

Friday, August 24 12:30pm
The Future of the Novel
China Mieville & Janne Teller







Has the dominant literary form of the 19th and 20th centuries grown stale? Is it no longer the best means of delivering stories in the 21st century? Or does the classic literary novel remain the form best placed to deliver innovative, memorable writing? Drawing on discussions about censorship, style, politics and identity, this session, bringing Edinburgh’s 2012 Conference to a close, offers an address by multi award-winning author, China Mieville with renowned author Janne Teller in the moderator’s chair.

Man Booker 2012 Long-list Announced

The Man Booker Prize Long List was announced this week with some old favorites (HIlary Mantel) and rising stars (Jeet Thayil). The winner will be announced in October.

Who do you think should win?

Nicola BarkerThe Yips (Fourth Estate)
Ned BeaumanThe Teleportation Accident (Sceptre)
André BrinkPhilida (Harvill Secker)
Tan Twan EngThe Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)
Michael FraynSkios (Faber & Faber)
Rachel JoyceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Doubleday)
Deborah LevySwimming Home (And Other Stories)
Hilary MantelBring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)
Alison MooreThe Lighthouse (Salt)
Will SelfUmbrella (Bloomsbury)
Jeet ThayilNarcopolis (Faber & Faber)
Sam ThompsonCommunion Town (Fourth Estate)

via The Man Booker Prize


Americans in China

Is being a foreigner in China no longer a big deal? Does this mean that the days of getting your photo taken at the Forbidden City as if you were a celebrity are numbered?

This American Life reports on Americans in China:

It used to be that the American expats in China were the big shots. They had the money, the status, the know-how. But that’s changed. What’s it like to be an American living in China now? And what do they understand about China that we don’t?

Evan Osnos (The New Yorker) profiles Beijing’s own Kaiser Kuo while  Michael Meyer (The Last Days of Old Beijing) reports on the small rural village he now lives in (featured in his upcoming book In Manchuria).

Full audio here.

Bi Fei Yu on ‘Massage’

BLF author Bi Fei Yu discusses the inspiration for his novel Massage (the English edition will be published by Penguin China next year) in an article for the New York Times.

Summer 2003. I suffer a serious shoulder injury. A friend suggests I go to a massage clinic that employs blind masseurs. The clinic is not far from my home, perhaps less than a hundred meters away, but I had never noticed it. Yes, I later realized that I had never paid attention to the lives of blind people — until I needed their help…I quickly realized that the blind masseurs were a happy crowd. They were happier than I was. Their happiness affected me, day by day.

Inspired by these masseurs and their way of life that seemed immune to the ills of modern society, Bi Fei set out to write his latest novel:

Writing the book was like a game of tug of war. I tried to pull the dark world out to the sun. I wanted to tell my readers that in our society, there is still a group of people who have not given up their principles. In fact, these blind people live a more normal life than we normal people do.

Read the full article here.


Sleipnir the Eight-legged horse & Reykjavík City of Literature

In celebration of its status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the city of Reykjavík is organizing a month of events – Reykjavík Reading Festival in october 2012-   to promote the joy of reading. And they have chosen an ideal mascot to launch the program – Sleipnir, who is the eight-legged horse of Odinn in Norse mythology.

(Sleipnir) can travel freely from one world to another, and is thus symbolic for the mind-travel that we experience through reading. It is safe to say that Sleipnir is no ordinary horse, as he stands for the power of imagination and poetry…In the name of Sleipnir, the Reykjavík City of Literature will take part in projects that encourage children and young people to read.

To find out more about the festival and other literary events the city has lined up (or just to learn more about Sleipnir), visit their website.

Most Anticipated Books of 2012

The Millions listed their top picks for the most anticipated upcoming releases for the latter half of 2012. Zadie Smith (NW), Michael Chabon (Telegraph Avenue), Barbara Kingsolver (Flight Behavior), Martin Amis (Lionel Asbo) and Ian McEwan (Sweet Tooth) all have new novels coming out. We are especially excited for BLF 2011 author Emma Donaghue’s latest Astray – “a story collection “which brings together fourteen fact-based fictions about travels to, within and from North America, from the 1630s to the 1960s”; and more meta-science-fiction fun from Charles Yu’s follow up to How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, a collection of stories Sorry Please Thank You.

Which books are you looking forward to the most?

Full list and article here.

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