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Book News: Catton, McBride Featured On Dylan Thomas Prize Shortlist

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

  • The shortlist for the £30,000 Dylan Thomas Prize, which "is awarded to the best published or produced literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under," is out. Critical favorites such as Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, Joshua Ferris' To Rise Again at a Decent Hour and Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing share space with less well-known works: Kseniya Melnik's Snow in May, Kei Miller's The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, Owen Sheers' play Mametz and Naomi Wood's Mrs. Hemingway. This is the first year the age limit was raised to 39 – the age at which Dylan Thomas died – rather than 30, as in previous years. "Every work on the shortlist had a champion," chair of judges Peter Florence told The Guardian."I think there are several really challenging pieces of writing here that would have won in any of the other years I've been judging, and that bear comparison with Thomas's best work."
  • For The Atlantic,Kate Newman says readers tend to assume nonfiction books are thoroughly fact-checked, but "[w]hat many readers don't realize is that fact-checking has never been standard practice in the book-publishing world at all."
  • For The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman looks at the history of the concept of creativity: "The language surrounding it, of unleashing, unlocking, awakening, developing, flowing, and so on, makes it sound like an organic and primordial part of ourselves which we must set free — something with which it's natural to be preoccupied. But it wasn't always so; people didn't always care so much about, or even think in terms of, creativity."
  • Margaret Atwood will be the first contributor to the Future Library Project, which asks writers to submit works that won't be published until the year 2114. The project's founder, the artist Katie Paterson, told the Guardian, "For some writers I think it could be an incredible freedom — they can write whatever they like." Atwood told the paper, "I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, 'How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'" Each year for the next century, another writer will be chosen to submit a piece of work to the project.
  • Finalists for the $10,000 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, which celebrates "the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding," include, in the fiction category, Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and, in nonfiction, Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped: A Memoir.
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    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.