• This may very well be a first. Dan Wickett has launched an Emerging Writers Network Short Fiction Contest, in which he’ll be reading all of the short stories and passing 20 finalists on to Charles D’Ambrosio. Talk about using the Internet for an innovative purpose. The prize is $500. And the rules seem more ethical than most literary fiction contests I’ve seen.
  • Robert Birnbaum talks with Alberto Manguel. Borges fans should check it out.
  • The Octavia Butler Memorial Scholarship has been announced. (Thanks, Tayari)
  • Wordstock, which has no relation to a flighty yellow bird or flighty hippies, is happening on April 21-23, 2006 in Portland. Word on the street is that Chuck Barris may challenge Dave Eggers to a fistfight, with Ira Glass as referee.
  • And speaking of literary festivals, Frances digs up this Leah Garchik item: “Books by the Bay, the 10-year-old Yerba Buena Gardens book festival sponsored by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, is kaput. The association’s Hut Landon said the festival, featuring author talks, panel discussions and displays by various vendors and publishers, had cost $20,000, and organizers felt it didn’t get enough attention to warrant the expense.” Frances opines that if Debi Echlin were still around, the NCIBA would have figured out a way to make up the shortfall. I’m inclined to agree. Last year’s Books by the Bay (interested parties can find my report here) happened to take place on a beautiful and sunny day, but I don’t recall seeing flyers or posters, much less heavy promotion, in indie bookstores to get people there. If there was any lack of attendance, I blame the NCIBA for failing to get the word out. It’s almost as if the organizers wanted Books by the Bay to die. I think enough individual donors or even a few more sponsors could have picked up the slack. I’ll be very sorry to see Books by the Bay go, but hopefully Litquake will be able to pick up the slack.
  • Over at Mark’s, a number of the smart and lovely women contributing to the forthcoming anthology, The May Queen, are guest blogging. A substantial chunk of the contributors are going to be at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place on April 3. I’m almost finished with the book and I’ll express my thoughts (less rushed this time) in a future 75 Books post.
  • Laird Hunt on “Nonrealist Fiction.”
  • The Morning News Tournament of Books continues, although Kate Schlegel is out of her mind to say no to Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica.
  • The Rake faces a dynastic contretemps just before his 30th birthday.
  • A.S. Byatt: “I shall never write an autobiography. The fairy stories are the closest I shall ever come to writing about true events in my life.”
  • More patriarchal bullshit: “the indispensible literary spouse.”
  • “The Dreamlife of Rupert Thomson.” (via Maud, who I understand has a Thomson interview of her own coming soon)
  • Gideon Lewis-Kraus on Black Swan Green: “Most recent bildungsromans stock tinseled epiphanies and fresh-baked-bread redemptions. Though they’re ostensibly about the character coming of age, the bad examples tend to be about coming-of-age itself. But Mitchell has refused the scaffolding on which he might hang a climax. By allowing Jason the stumbling progress of a novel in stories, Mitchell has given him an actual youth, not one smoothly engineered in retrospect.”

Books by the Bay Podcasts

The San Francisco Chronicle, one of the few newspapers right now offering podcasts (not even the L.A. Times can say this much), has made David Kipen’s interview with Gus Lee (from this year’s Books by the Bay) available. Of course, it’s only a mere excerpt. But it’s the closest thing to being there.

(The Crime Time panel is also available. And all this sure beats uncomfortable fangirl moments with Charo.)