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Book News: Listen To The First-Timers Nominated For PEN Prize


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

On Sunday night, the finalists for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize got together in an intimate Manhattan bar to read the books for which they were nominated. The winner of the annual prize, which recognizes one outstanding debut work of fiction, will be announced this evening at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony.

But in case you couldn't squeeze into a booth at the small, crowded bar, have no fear: You can listen to all of the readings here, before the audio goes live on PEN's website later today. (Update at 9:30 a.m. ET: And now it's up.) The crop of nominees include Anthony Marra, Said Sayrafiezadeh, Ian Stansel, Shawn Vestal and Hanya Yanagihara, whose writing was read by Katie Kitamura. Find all of them at the link above, and listen to Sayrafiezadeh's reading below. (Note: The audio contains language some people may find offensive.)

Pynchon Puts In A Showing: Legendary, and legendarily press-shy, novelist Thomas Pynchon might soon be making an appearance on the big screen — but good luck trying to find him. In the film adaptation of his novel Inherent Vice, the first authorized adaptation of his work, Pynchon could be making a quiet cameo. Director Paul Thomas Anderson is staying mum on the matter, but Logan Hill of The New York Times got a confirmation out of star Josh Brolin. Of course, given the fact that a photograph of Pynchon hasn't been published in some 50 years, it might be a bit tough to tell just who he is.

Flipping Ahead:

New in print (and screen)

  • Lena Dunham is bringing together a bumper crop of her personal essays, collecting them in a new book called Not That Kind of Girl. The creator and star of HBO's Girls summons some very personal stories to reflect, much as her show does, on sex, work, love and the deep well of questions awaiting many twentysomethings.
  • Marlon James' novel A Brief History of Seven Killings has already begun to garner raves from critics, including Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times: "It's epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It's also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting — a testament to Mr. James's vaulting ambition and prodigious talent."
  • Prolific writer Paul Theroux is out this week with 20 new stories in a collection that goes by Mr. Bones. This weekend, he told NPR about the challenge of keeping things short: "You know when a novel's done, but not so much with short stories. In fact, short stories [are] a venerable form, but it's diabolically hard to master."
  • Events to watch out for:

  • On Tuesday, Kirkus Reviews, that long-running industry bastion of book reviews, will be announcing the finalists for its inaugural Kirkus Prize. The award, which carries with it a startling $50,000 purse, will go to three authors — one each for fiction, nonfiction and young reader's literature.
  • As early as this week, Authors United, an anti-Amazon group of writers, plans to request that the Justice Department look into whether the online retailer has violated antitrust law in its dealings with the publisher Hachette Book Group.
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    Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.