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Book News: Without A Shortlist, Nobel-Watchers Turn To Bookies

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Speculation about who will win the Nobel Prize in Literature — to be announced on Thursday morning — is rife, with the British bookmaker Ladbrokes spitting out odds. The Nobel selection process is highly secretive, and the prize only announces who the finalists were 50 years after the fact, so the list from oddsmaker Ladbrokes serves as a kind of substitute shortlist. This year, Ladbrokes has given the top spot to Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who was also the favorite last year. He's followed by Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, the Belarusian writer Svetlana Aleksijevitj and then Joyce Carol Oates, prolific American novelist and much more prolific tweeter. As The New York Times notes, the oddsmakers are not actually readingthe books. Instead, they "take the temperature of the literary world" by reading blogs and media reports. And how accurate are they? According to the BostonGlobe, Ladbrokes' top pick has gone on to win the prize in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
  • At The New Yorker,Paul Collins applies "stylometry," the software used to identify J.K. Rowling as the author of The Cuckoo's Nest, to argue that Edgar Allan Poe's earliest work of fiction is the pseudonymous story "A Fragment," printed in an obscure Baltimore journal. Collins says, "At just five hundred and forty-two words, 'A Fragment' is a fevered first-person account by a despairing man about to shoot himself."
  • Atavist Books, a multiplatform publishing company with a "mix of digital, enhanced digital, and print works," has launched with an impressive list of authors such as Karen Russell, Hari Kunzru and Kamila Shamsie. Former Picador publisher Frances Coady, who is among those leading the project, told Publisher's Weekly: "We have to stop treating digital as the bastard offspring of print. Digital is its own format and should have its own resources and its own uses and purpose."
  • Paul Auster contributed a short story called "You Remember the Planes" to Granta's new issue: Granta 125: After the War: "You remember the planes, the supersonic jets roaring across the blue skies of summer, cutting through the firmament at such exalted speeds that they were scarcely visible, a flash of silver glinting briefly in the light, and then, not long after they had vanished over the horizon, the thunderous boom that would follow, resounding for miles in all directions, the great detonation of blasting air that signified the sound barrier had been broken yet again."
  • InNew Yorkmagazine, Jen Doll defends her love of reading YA novels: "Those are the books I read in a one-night rush, staying up until three in the morning to find out what happened, and when I do, sighing in pleasure because the heroine really does get the guy, the world has been saved, the parents finally understand, or there is at least the promise of things working out in the end. Adult books may be great literature, but they don't make me feel the same way."
  • Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.