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In books: Haruki Murakami in Israel and more

February 21, 2009 |  3:22 pm

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Haruki Murakami was at the International Book Fair in Israel this week to accept the Jerusalem Prize. "In Japan a fair number of people advised me not to come here," he said in his speech. "Some even warned me they would instigate a boycott of my books if I came. The reason for this, of course, was the fierce battle that was raging in Gaza." His entire speech is up at Salon. In it, he explains his reasons for attending, and also why he writes.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on the System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories — stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.

In San Francisco, Armistead Maupin is at work on his eighth "Tales of the City" book, but he also makes time to catch a film once in a while. "I've seen 'Milk' twice," he tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "I thought it was brilliantly handled. Sean Penn channeled Harvey."

From New York, author Jesse Ball talks to The Elegant Variation; he describes his book "The Way Through Doors" as a "book of delight — a love song of the imagination sung by a young man for a young woman who has lost her memory."

And in New York, the Best Translated Book of 2008 awards were announced Thursday night. The poetry award went to "For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut" by Japan's Takahashi Hiraide; Atilla Bartis' "Tranquility," from Hungary, took the fiction honor.

In rural New Hampshire, writer Matthew Cheney explains why, despite his love for independent bookstores, he  appreciates the oft-maligned Amazon.com

In California, Chuck Crayne, the founder of both science fiction and mystery conventions, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 71.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

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