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Book News: Lily King, Roz Chast And Kate Samworth Win Inaugural Kirkus Prize

Roz Chast drew on memories of her parents — and actually drew them — for her Kirkus Prize-winning memoir, <em>Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?</em>
Bill Franzen
Roz Chast drew on memories of her parents — and actually drew them — for her Kirkus Prize-winning memoir, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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

And then there were three: Lily King, Roz Chast and Kate Samworth have all taken home the inaugural Kirkus Prize. The winners in the award's three categories — fiction, nonfiction and young readers' literature — were announced Thursday night at a ceremony in Austin, Texas.

King's book Euphoriagarnered the fiction honors. The novel, her fourth, follows the entangled lives of three rival anthropologists after an early encounter. When it was published, NPR reviewer Jane Ciabattari called it "an intellectually stimulating tour de force" — a claim echoed in the judges' own citation: " Euphoria stands out for its perfect construction, its economy and originality, and its fearlessness."

For New Yorkercartoonist Chast, the Kirkus Prize for nonfiction is just the latest honor in a year thick with critical acclaim. Her illustrated memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? has also been shortlisted for this year's National Book Award. On All Things Considered, Chast explained to NPR's Melissa Block why she turned to illustration in order to depict her parents', and especially her mother's, final years. "I think drawing is what I do, and it was a way of being with her and of paying attention."

And Samworth's Aviary Wonders Inc.earned judges' recognition in the young readers' literature category. The darkly comic, vividly illustrated catalog imagines a world in which birds have died out — but can still be bought and assembled yourself for a nominal fee. In an interview for Washington City Paper, Samworth told me that the interactive nature of her book hasn't escaped the kinds of ironies it tries to poke fun at. "It's funny," she said. "A lot of people have been asking for a computer app [of the book], and my hope was that people would go outside and look at birds."

The prize, awarded by the literary journal Kirkus Reviews, comes with a purse of $50,000 for each category.

Marginalia:The Cambridge University Library is opening an exhibition Friday on the beautiful doodles, mistakes and downright profanity left in the margins of some of England's oldest books. Beside an inkblot splattered across a book some six centuries ago, for instance, the rueful owner scribbles, "I stupidly made on the first of December 1482." In case you can't make the trans-Atlantic trip for the free exhibit, which is open until April 11, here are a few of the best blotches and additions:

On Second Thought:After a flurry of media scrutiny (this column included), Barnes & Noble has decided to stay in the Bronx, N.Y., after all. Executives at the mega-bookstore announced Thursday that the chain is reversing an earlier decision that would have meant the departure of the borough's last general-interest bookstore. Barnes & Noble will keep its store in the Bronx for two more years. As The New York Times reports, borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. negotiated the compromise that enabled the reversal. "Remember, this is more than just a bookstore," Diaz said. "This is where kids read and broaden their minds and do their homework."

Safeties Off:In USA Today, Neil Gaiman debuted an excerpt from Trigger Warning, an upcoming collection due out Feb. 3. "And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead," Gaiman writes.

A Series Of Metafictional Events:Lemony Snicket — the postmodernist? Lenika Cruz makes the argument. "By complicating the relationship between author and reader, narrator and character, these methods muddy the boundary between text and reality. Young readers might feel the distinction between fact and fiction slipping away, lost in the series' story-within-a-story-within-a-story."

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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.