New releases this week include The Signature of All Things by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, which you can learn more about in Steve Almond’s review for the Times. Also out: The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna; The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble; Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal; The Night Guest by Fiona MacFarlane; The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson; Personae by Hall of Famer Sergio de la Pava; and The Karl Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen.
South Florida readers! Assuming you’re done voting by now, you should make next week’s Miami Book Fair International a priority. Afterward, you can go celebrate thirty years of Books & Books, the jewel of Coral Gables. (And perhaps to warm up for it all, you can read my review of Tom Wolfe’s Back to Blood.)
Discovery of the Week: Fairy tales are older than previously thought. Researchers have traced stories back to prehistoric and bronze age times. For example, Beauty and the Beast and Rumplestiltskin “can be securely traced back to the emergence of the major western Indo-European subfamilies as distinct lineages between 2,500 and 6,000 years ago.” Kirsty Logan writes about the problem with fairy tales.
Elvis Costello is calling the hefty price tag on his new box set “either a misprint or a satire” and advising fans to buy a Louis Armstrong box set or to wait until the discs included in his own box set are availble at a cheaper price “assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.”
For close to two decades now, the Rona Jaffe Foundation has honored “women writers of exceptional talent in the early stages of their careers” with annual Writers’ Awards worth $30,000 each. This year, the winners are Tiffany Briere (fiction/nonfiction); Ashlee Crews (fiction); Kristen Dombek (nonfiction); Margaree Little (poetry); Kirsten Valdez Quade (fiction); and Jill Sisson Quinn (nonfiction). The winners accepted their awards in a private ceremony on the 19th.
If you’re a professor or mentor, it’s the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. “He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends.” Even if the government didn’t like Whitman’s work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne’s essay on the power of Whitman’s poetry.