The B.O.M.M. blog looked at our recent item Best American Short Stories: By the Numbers, in which we crunched some numbers behind the Best American Short Stories series, and created a nifty word map of the short story titles that appeared in the series from 1978 to 2008. “The most frequent word for a title (not including articles and such)? Life. It has appeared 9 times.” If anyone else decides to mine some interesting discoveries from the B.A.S.S. data, let us know.
Elmore Leonard was a very cinematic writer, yet why are most adaptations of his work so bad? Christopher Orr explores what he calls the “Elmore Leonard paradox” in The Atlantic. “Most of the early adaptations of Leonard’s crime work missed his light authorial touch, opting instead for somber noir.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris’s essay on why Leonard was such a good writer.
Kirkus Reviews is launching a new literary prize this year with a hefty purse and an even more eye-catching process. Instead of relying on publishers or judges for a longlist, they’ll automatically nominate any book that wins a Kirkus Star—about 10 percent of those reviewed—and award three annual prizes of $50,000 to the best fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature. But the big news is that self-published books will also be eligible.
Adding to a review by Pamela Erens for The Millions, Zoë Heller reads Janet Malcolm’s Forty One False Starts for the New York Review of Books. Among other things, she concludes that the writer’s job, at least in Malcolm’s estimation, is “to vanquish mess.” (You could also read a review in The Nation I wrote about a few weeks ago.)
The New York Times dives into why prisons fear the New Jim Crow certain states have gone to great efforts to allow their prisons to ban it and in other states it’s fairly difficult to obtain if you’re a prisoner. We’re big fans of the New Jim Crow here; it was a Millions staff pick and extremely popular on Year in Reading lists back in 2013.
New this week: Island of the Mad by Laurie Sheck; Moshi-Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto; One Man’s Dark by Maurice Manning; Kill the Next One by Federico Axat; and Loveland by Graham Norton. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest fiction and nonfiction book previews.