Like we did last year, we’re going to have a little fun comparing the U.S. and U.K. book cover designs of this year’s Rooster contenders. Book cover design is a strange exercise in which one attempts to distill iconic imagery from hundreds of pages of text. Engaging the audience is the name of the game here. and it’s interesting to see how the different audiences and sensibilities on either side of the Atlantic can result in very different looks. The American covers are on the left, and clicking through takes you to a larger image. Your equally inexpert analysis is encouraged in the comments.
Thanks to some friendly advice from LanguageHat, and seeing competing pronunciations flying around in the comments of the previous pronunciation post, especially for that pesky Goethe, I decided to go to the library and to do a little more Internet research to try to get some definitive pronunciations for these names, specifically printed references where available.At the library I took a look at Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature (EoL) - pronunciations aside, a very cool reference book - which was very helpful in giving me pronunciations for most of the names on our list. The problem is that the pronunciations are given using symbols that are not easily expressed in HTML, and thus are impossible to convey on this blog. Another problem is that the book was published in 1995, and thus leaves out some of the contemporary authors on this list.However, with some further digging online, I was able to find some sources, including Merriam-Webster Online (M-W), which uses simplified, Internet friendly notation. You can refer to the M-W pronunciation guide for help if you need it. I also looked at the online version of the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (AH), whose pronunciations I've only linked to rather than copied because it uses images to convey pronunciation symbols, and I can't easily replicate them here on the blog. Best of all, these two sources include audio pronunciations, as well. Very helpful. Finally I also looked at Pronouncing Dictionary of Proper Names (PD), some names from which somebody has posted here.When none of those sufficed I used references from newspaper and magazine articles, hoping that their writers did the research and found out the correct pronunciations, ideally from the authors themselves.J.M. Coetzee - kut-'sE, -'si& (audio via M-W)Paul Theroux - both PD and EoL have it as thuh-ROOHenry David Thoreau - th&-'rO, tho-; 'thor-(")O, 'th&r-(")O (audio via M-W, via AH). The "Pronouncing Thoreau" sidebar on this NPR story goes into some further detail.John Le Carre - l&-kä-'rA (audio via M-W, via AH)Dan Chaon - I'm going to stick with my friend Edan's pronunciation - "Shawn" - since she had him as a teacher.Pulitzer - 'PULL it sir' (see #19 in the Pulitzer FAQ, audio via M-W and via AH, which also offers the "PEW" pronunciation as an alternative.)Donald Barthelme - There seems to be some disagreement on this one. AH has it with a "th" sound - see pronunciation and audio - while the EoL has it with a hard "t" sound. Not sure which is right.Michael Chabon - "Pronounced, as he says, 'Shea as in Stadium, Bon as in Jovi,'" according to this profile, though other news sources pronounce the last syllable ranging from "bun" to "bawn" to "bin"Thomas Pynchon - 'pin-ch&n (audio via M-W, via AH)Rainer Maria Rilke - 'rI-n&r Maria 'ril-k&, -kE (audio via M-W, via AH. AH does not offer the "long e" at the end as an alternative pronunciation, nor does EoL.)Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Unfortunately not much of a definitive answer here. M-W prefers saying it with more of an "r" sound 'g&(r)-t& (audio), but offers 'g[oe]-t& as an alternative. AH prefers the latter, note the the subtly different audio. EoL has both of those but it calls the "r" sound "Anglicized." It also has a "long a" sound in the first syllable listed as Anglicized.Ngugi wa Thiong'o - His first name is pronounced "Googy," according to UC Irvine, where he teaches, while his last name is presumably pronounced phonetically. Eoin Colfer - The Seattle PI and Guardian both say the first name is pronounced "Owen." The last name is phonetic.Seamus Heaney - 'shA-m&s 'hE-nE (audio via M-W, via AH)Jorge Luis Borges - 'bor-"hAs (audio via M-W, via AH)Vladimir Nabokov - n&-'bo-k&f (audio via M-W, via AH. Both AH and EoL offer alternative pronunciations with a stress on the first syllable.)P.G. Wodehouse - 'wud-"haus (audio via M-W, via AH)Chuck Palahniuk - Lots of sources, including USA Today, say "Paula-nik."Michel Houellebecq - LA Weekly and many other sources say "Wellbeck."Jeffrey Eugenides - "yu-GIN-e-dees" according to the Houston Chronicle.Jack Kerouac - 'ker-&-"wak (audio via M-W, via AH)Colm Toibin - most sources, like the SF Chron have it as "toe-bean," but the Boston Globe says "Column to-BEAN."Bonus Links:The BBC Pronunciation Blog.Voice of America's guide to pronouncing challenging names in the news, and a Washington Post story about that guide.The really cool kids, however, prefer these pronunciations.
A while back, I put together a post called "The Prizewinners," which asked what books had been decreed by the major book awards to be the "best" books over that period. These awards are arbitrary but just as a certain number of batting titles and MVPs might qualify a baseball player for consideration by the Hall of Fame, so too do awards nudge an author towards the "canon" and secure places on literature class reading lists in perpetuity.With two and a half years passed since I last performed this exercise, I thought it time to revisit it to see who is now climbing the list of prizewinners.Here is the methodology I laid out back in 2005:I wanted to include both American books and British books, as well as the English-language books from other countries that are eligible to win some of these awards. I started with the National Book Award and the Pulitzer from the American side and the Booker and Whitbread from the British side. Because I wanted the British books to "compete" with the American books, I also looked at a couple of awards that recognize books from both sides of the ocean, the National Book Critics Circle Awards and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The IMPAC is probably the weakest of all these, but since it is both more international and more populist than the other awards, I thought it added something. The glaring omission is the PEN/Faulkner, but it would have skewed everything too much in favor of the American books, so I left it out.I looked at these six awards from 1995 to the present awarding three points for winning an award and two points for an appearance on a shortlist or as a finalist. Here's the key that goes with the list: B=Booker Prize, C=National Book Critics Circle Award, I=International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, N=National Book Award, P=Pulitzer Prize, W=Costa Book Award [formerly the Whitbread]bold=winner, **=New to the list since the original "Prizewinners" post11, 2003, The Known World by Edward P. Jones - C, I, N, P9, 2001, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen - C, I, N, P8, 1997, Underworld by Don DeLillio - C, I, N, P7, 2005, The March by E.L. Doctorow - C, N, P **7, 2004, Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst - B, C, W7, 2002, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - I, N, P7, 2001, Atonement by Ian McEwan - B, N, W7, 1998, The Hours by Michael Cunningham - C, I, P7, 1997, Last Orders by Graham Swift - B, I, W7, 1997, Quarantine by Jim Crace - B, I, W6, 2007, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz - C, P **6, 2005, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - B, C **6, 2004, Gilead by Marilynn Robinson - B, P5, 2007, Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson - N, P **5, 2006, The Road by Cormac McCarthy - C, P **5, 2006, The Echo Maker by Richard Powers - N, P **5, 2005, Europe Central by William T. Vollmann - C, N **5, 2005, The Accidental by Ali Smith - B, W **5, 2004, The Master by Colm Toibin - B, I **5, 2003, The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard - I, N5, 2001, True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey - B, I5, 2000, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - C, P5, 2000, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood - B, I5, 1999, Waiting by Ha Jin - N, P5, 1999, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee - B, C5, 1999, Being Dead by Jim Crace - C, W5, 1998, Charming Billy by Alice McDermott - I, N5, 1997, American Pastoral by Philip Roth - C, P5, 1996, Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge - B, W5, 1996, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser - N, P5, 1995, The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie - B, W5, 1995, The Ghost Road by Pat Barker - B, W5, 1995, Independence Day by Richard Ford - C, P5, 1995, Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth - N, P4, 2005, Veronica by Mary Gaitskill - C, N **4, 2005, Arthur and George by Julian Barnes - B, I **4, 2005, A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry - B, I **4, 2005, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - B, C **4, 2005, Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie - I, W **4, 2004, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - B, C4, 2003, Brick Lane by Monica Ali - B, C4, 2003, Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor - B, I4, 2003, The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut - B, I4, 2003, Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins - N, P4, 2002, Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry - B, I4, 2002, The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor - B, W4, 2001, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry - B, I4, 2001, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - I, N4, 2001, John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead - N, P4, 2001, Oxygen by Andrew Miller - B, W4, 2000, The Keepers of Truth by Michael Collins - B, I4, 2000, When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro - B, W4, 2000, Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates - N, P4, 1999, Our Fathers by Andrew O'Hagan - B, I4, 1999, Headlong by Michael Frayn - B, W4, 1999, The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin - B, I4, 1997, Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid - C, I4, 1997, Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty - B, W4, 1997, Enduring Love by Ian McEwan - I, W4, 1997, The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick - I, N4, 1996, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - B, I4, 1995, In Every Face I Meet by Justin Cartwright - B, W
I'm seriously digging these new cover designs for the British editions of John O'Hara classics BUtterfield 8 and Appointment in Samarra. They were done by illustrator Tomer Tanuka, and he shares his inspirations for the covers at his blog Tropical Toxic (where you'll also find posts from his twin brother Asaf, who is also an illustrator).
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I created my reading queue about a year and half ago because I decided I needed a system to help me work through my big to be read pile. The main problem, as I wrote at the time, was that there were a number of books in my TBR pile that I was interested in reading but never seemed to get around to. A newer, more exciting book would come along and it would vault to the top of the pile and other books would languish, unread.Part of the problem is how I read. I read fairly quickly, but I don't spend a lot of my day reading books. I spend a lot of time on this here computer, for one thing. Plus, every day I read the newspaper and every week I read the New Yorker from cover to cover. I'll probably read about 30 books this year, not a lot when you consider my TBR pile is more than 40 books tall. Though I'd love to be able to read two or three books a week, I don't really mind my slower pace. Still, I didn't like the idea of books staring at me year after year unread, so I created the reading queue.As you can see if you check out the queue near the bottom of the right hand column, I alphabetize my TBR pile by author and then assign each book a number. When the time comes to pick my next book to read, I use a random number generator to decide for me. I know, it's impossibly nerdy, but I've decided I like handling my reading decisions this way.For one thing, it is in keeping with certain compulsive tendencies I have about organizing things (although, sadly, those tendencies don't cause me to clean off my desk with any regularity, for example), and each new book I pick to read is a little surprise rather than an agonizing decision (well, maybe it's not that bad). The only time I read a book out of order is if a publisher or author has sent me an advance copy and I want to make sure I read and review it when it comes out. Those I bump right to the top of the list. But if I go buy a book or get one as a gift, it goes into the queue. Maybe I'll read it next week, maybe I'll read it in five years; the reading queue will decide.I'm probably the only odd bird out there who feels a need to organize their reading this way, but if anyone else has a reading queue of their own, I'd love to hear about it.