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PEN American Center's 2011 award winners

PEN American Center, the largest branch of the international literary and human rights organization, announced the winners of its 2011 awards Wednesday. The awards, which honor writing, translation and editing, total almost $150,000 and will be presented at a ceremony in New York City on Oct. 12. "PEN's literary awards program is at the heart of what we do," President Anthony Appiah said in a statement. 

The list of the 2011 PEN award winners follows; runners-up are after the jump.

Two authors will share the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for fiction: Susanna Daniel for "Stiltsville" and Danielle Evans for "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self"

The first PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award goes to Siddhartha Mukherjee for "The Emperor of All Maladies," a biography of cancer.

The PEN/W.G. Sebald Award for a fiction writer who has published at least three significant works of literary fiction, with an award of $10,000, will be given to Aleksander Hemon.

The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith award for nonfiction $10,000, awarded biennially, goes to Robert Perkinson for "Texas Tough: the Rise of America's Prison Empire."

The PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Awards are $7,500 each. One for Master American Dramatist will go to David Henry Hwang; the award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career will go to Marcus Gardley. 

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay was revived after a five-year hiatus. Mark Slouka will receive $5,000 for "Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations."

The PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing, with a $5,000 award, goes to Roger Angell. The PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, also $5,000, will go to George Dohrmann for "Play Their Hearts Out."

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, with a $5,000 prize, goes to Stacy Schiff for "Cleopatra: A Life."

The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, a prize of $5,000, to Ishion Hutchinson for "Far District."

The PEN/Nora Magid Award is presented to a magazine editor, a prize of $5,000, for literary excellence; it will go to Brigid Hughes, founding editor of A Public Space.

The PEN Open Book Award, $5,000 for an exceptional work of literature by an author of color, will go to Manu Joseph for "Serious Men."

The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship presents $5,000 to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction who has published at least two books and is in need of monetary support to complete a manuscript. It goes to Lucy Frank for her novel in verse, "Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling."

The PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, an award of $3,000, goes to Khaled Mattawa for "Adonis: Selected Poems."

The PEN Translation Prize, an award of $3,000, goes to Ibrahim Muhawi for "Journal of an Ordinary Grief" by Mahmoud Darwish.

The PEN Translation Fund will make 11 grants of $3,000 each to support the translation of book-length works into English: Amiri Ayanna for "The St. Katharinental Sister Book: Lives of the Sisters of the Dominican Convent at Diessenhofen" (from middle high German); Neil Blackadder for "The Test (Good Simon Korach)," a play by Swiss dramatist and novelist Lukas Bärfuss (from German); Clarissa Botsford for "Sworn Virgin," a novel by Albanian writer and filmmaker Elvira Dones (from Italian); Steve Bradbury for "Salsa," a collection of poems by Taiwanese poet Hsia Yü (from Chinese); Annmarie S. Drury for a collection of poems by Tanzanian poet Euphrase Kezilahabi (from Swahili); Diane Nemec Ignashev for "Paranoia," a novel by Belarusian author Viktor Martinovich (from Russian); Chenxin Jiang for "Memories of the Cowshed," a memoir by Chinese author Ji Xianlin (from Chinese); Hilary B. Kaplan for "Rilke Shake," a collection of poetry by Brazilian writer Angélica Freitas (from Portuguese); Catherine Schelbert for "Flametti, or the Dandyism of the Poor," a novel by German writer Hugo Ball (from German); Joel Streicker for "Birds in the Mouth," a collection of short stories by Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin (from Spanish); and Sarah L. Thomas for "Turnaround," a literary thriller by Spanish writer Mar Goméz Glez (from Spanish).

The inaugural PEN Emerging Writers Awards will present $1,660 each to upcoming writers who have been published in literary journals and have not yet published a book: in fiction, Smith Henderson; nonfiction, David Stuart MacLean; and in poetry, Adam Day.

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Christopher Hitchens on Osama bin Laden

Christopherhitchens_2010 On Monday, Amazon.com unveiled an essay by Christopher Hitchens on Osama bin Laden, "The Enemy." The essay is available as a Kindle single.

In it, Hitchens reflects on his thoughts on 9/11 through the news of Osama bin Laden's death in Pakistan. In classic Hitchens form, the essay is both thought-provoking and contradictory.

I thought then, and I think now, that Osama bin Laden was a near-flawless personification of the mentality of a real force: the force of Islamic jihad. And I also thought, and think now, that this force absolutely deserves to be called evil, and that the recent decaptition of its most notorious demagogue and organizer is to be welcomed without reserve....

I always argued that the threat from bin Ladenism was actually greater than was often alleged, since the mass indoctrination of uneducated young men with such ideas is in itself a lethal danger to society and to international order. However, I also wanted to argue that the menace of bin Ladenism was simultaneously being overrated. This was because, in common with fascism, it was also delusional and self-defeating ....

Although his references -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Susan Sontag, Bertolt Brecht -- may be more refined, Hitchens finds himself agreeing with the crowds who rallied in enthusiastic support after Bin Laden's death shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Amazon's Kindle singles combine short-form nonfiction and fiction into a single bestseller list. As of this writing, the list is topped by David Baldacci's short story "No Time Left," followed by Jon Krakauer's research-heavy article on Greg Mortenson's work, "Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way." Hitchens' essay "The Enemy," currently at No. 54, is $1.99.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Christopher Hitchens in 2010. Credit: Twelve Books

Work and motherhood: Can you really not do it all?

Torn_bookcover Are you sick of books on the stress and inadequacy most women feel around the work/mothering issue?

If the answer is yes, you are probably not a mom.

For those of us who live in a constant state of anxiety about how we've compromised our careers for our kids or the other way around, books about the the work/life balance and how other women have dealt with it remain perennially  interesting.

Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood” is a welcome addition to this body of work. The book’s editor, Samantha Parent Walravens, assembled 47 essays by women of different ages, income brackets and in various stages of their careers. What binds the writers together is that they are all mothers, and (almost) all of them struggle with the choices they’ve made.

In an essay titled “A Letter to the Next Generation,” Karen Sibert writes: “It’s an unpopular view, but no, young ladies, you really can’t do it all.” Sibert, an anesthesiologist, has a successful career but admits she made sacrifices at home to achieve it. “Luckily I never set my sights on the award for “Mother of the Year,’” she writes.

In “Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom” (also published in Salon), former journalist Katy Read is refreshingly candid about how her decision to leave journalism when her sons were little led to a personal financial crisis after she and her husband divorced.

Although it doesn't sound like it, the book also contains some happy tales. In “From Harvard to Homemaking,” Bracha Goetz champions her decision to drop out of medical school and stay home to raise her six children instead. “We live simply, but with a much higher quality of life than most harried families, who are always rushing about with no time to enjoy what they’re hurrying after,” she writes.

And in “High Heels and Highlights,” Kathryn Beaumont, a lawyer, writes that while she occasionally fantasizes about spending her days in yoga pants, hanging out with her young daughter, “by the time I get to work, high-heels on, Starbucks in hand, gazing out past my computer screen at the sweep of the harbor thirty-three floors below me, I’m feeling pretty good.”

However, most of the essays underscore what modern moms already know --  achieving a balance between career goals and parenting goals is generally impossible, and all you can do is your best. It’s not a new thought, and Walravens admits she had trouble selling the book. “The big publishers were like, motherhood’s been done and anthologies don’t sell,” she said. But the point that nobody actually has it all is made all the more compelling when it is made by a choir of voices.


Ninth edition of 'Baby Bargains': Essential reading for new Moms and Dads

'Tiger Mother' hits Chinese bookshelves

 -- Deborah Netburn


Festival of Books: Patton Oswalt reads from 'Wasteland' and zings goth girls attacked by bee

Comedian, actor and author Patton Oswalt was the first author to take the Los Angeles Times stage at the Festival of Books on Sunday morning, his 15-minute tardiness for the 11 a.m. start time explained away (by the two women sitting behind me) as "he was probably partying with zombies last night."

The reference was to Oswalt's book "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland," in which he explains his Gen X teenage world view that divides the world into three types of people: the Zombies, the Spaceships and the Wastelands. It's something that takes a little explaining, which he does to hilarious affect on the printed page, but it's not the kind of thing that lends itself to the zingy delivery of a live audience sitting in the hot sun.

So, instead of tackling the title, Oswalt began with two short readings, the first from a chapter in which he riffs on ridiculous descriptions of wines, including: an "Obscura Chenin Blanc, $14: A finger tracing a friend's demise in a pile of spilled sugar on a mahogany table. Cherries. Black pepper winking at a werewolf who just took the wrong contract. An idea hiding in a shoe. The swordsman! A winter morning! No percentage in kittens."

The second reading was from a chapter about meaningless gifts from his Grandmother Runfola, "all of which I actually received" he assured the audience.

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Festival of Books: Jonathan Lethem talks about the unknown and his fiction being fact-checked


Kicking off the Festival of Books' banquet of panels at USC's Bing Theater on Sunday, novelist Jonathan Lethem spoke about the occupational hazards that come with melding contemporary cultural references with richly drawn fiction.

In a reply to a question from moderator and L.A. Times staff writer Carolyn Kellogg on the Internet's impact on readers' investigation of his work, Lethem described the curious situation that resulted when the notoriously detailed fact-checkers from the New Yorker magazine called him with a concern about an excerpt from his 2009 novel, "Chronic City."

Referencing made-up band Zeroville (which itself is a reference to Steve Erickson's novel of the same name), the piece referred to the band having never played the iconic New York CIty punk club CBGB.

Citing a Zeroville record review available online, the fact-checker advised Lethem that Zeroville had in fact played CBGB. Of course, the review was written by Lethem and was just as fictional as the band in this case, but the novelist relished the idea of his fictional worlds colliding.

"In this case I don't mind being wrong," Lethem playfully replied to the fact-checker. "In my book they didn't play CBGB, but I know they did, it's OK."

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2011 Hugo Award nominees announced


Nominations for 2011 Hugo Awards, which are among the highest honors bestowed in science fiction and fantasy writing, were announced at a conference held during Easter weekend. Finalists will be announced at a ceremony in August.

More than 1,000 nominating ballots were counted, for finalists in diverse categories that include  novella, short form editor, fan writer and related work (which includes the fantastic title, "Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It," edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea). Members of Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, will vote on the winners.

2011 Hugo Award finalists in the major category of novel are Connie Willis' "Blackout/All Clear," Lois McMaster Bujold's "Cryoburn," Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House," Mira Grant's "Feed" and N.K. Jemisin's "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms." Films that were honored with dramatic presentation, long form nominations are "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1," "How to Train your Dragon," "Inception," "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and "Toy Story 3."

 The complete list of finalists is after the jump.

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Tina Fey and Steve Martin, mano a mano in Los Angeles!


On your left -- that's house left, not stage left, but we'll come back to that -- Tina Fey, writer, comedian, star, producer and newly minted bestselling author of "Bossypants." On your right, Steve Martin, a man who is also a writer, comedian, star, producer and bestselling author -- plus he's won a Grammy for playing bluegrass banjo. "Why no banjo?" Martin asked.


"Not many people know this, but my parents were brutally murdered by Earl Scruggs," Fey replied.

More laughter.

The meeting of the comic minds happened onstage at the Nokia Theatre on Tuesday night in front of about 5,000 people. "I want to thank Steve for agreeing to do this," Fey said as the event neared its conclusion; it is the only appearance Fey is making on her "Bossypants" book tour that includes Steve Martin.

Martin, who has his own book out -- the novel "An Object of Beauty," set in the art world -- played the role not of comic genius but of low-key interlocutor, flipping through Fey's book, taking out a sheet with a list of questions. Admittedly, the perfectly timed question he asked about working with Alec Baldwin brought big laughs (too Mamet-esque to repeat here), but for the most part Martin pointed the metaphorical spotlight at Fey. He even read excerpts of "Bossypants" aloud partway into the event to show the audience how funny her book can be. It worked: The passages he read built the night's laughter to new peaks.

Fey took the stage in a black dress that revealed her baby bump and high leopard-patterned heels. Martin asked if she was pregnant. "I've been told," Fey answered, smoothing her hand over her belly, "that this is a hysterical pregnancy that comes from a desperate need to sell books."

"Do the breasts go down?" Martin asked.

"I hope not," Fey replied.

The breasts, however, became something of an issue with ambient noise and her microphone -- eventually Fey decided it would be easier to hold the mike in her hand. It was one of a handful of moments -- another was when Martin suggested adjustments to their onstage monitor -- that showed that Fey and Martin, although performing roles for us on stage Tuesday night, are also working entertainers who understand not just how to get laughs but also the complexities of live performance, including issues of sound quality, lighting and stage direction.

And offstage direction, like how to distinguish left from right, particularly during the audience question-and-answer session: Stage left = performers' left, house left = audience's left. OK, everybody knows that -- at least one questioner did. But Fey, who talked extensively about her improv years in Chicago, which are covered in her book, certainly is used to taking audience questions.

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Exclusive audio excerpt: Tina Fey reads 'Bossypants'


Near the end of Tina Fey’s audio recording of her book “Bossypants,” the actress, writer and comedian discusses the last six weeks of the 2008 election when she regularly portrayed Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.” The second time she appeared as Palin on the show, she was slated to do the scene "in one," which means by herself, talking straight into the camera. Instead, she requested that her friend Amy Poehler be included in the scene as Katie Couric.

 "...my background is improvisation not stand-up," Fey explains. "I really prefer the buddy system on stage."

And this is why listening to Fey read her memoir might not be as hilarious as one expects. The ability to humorously, incisively spill your guts into a microphone, the quality that unites the greatest stand-ups, is not her strength, and she never pretends it is.

Still, there are reasons to hear Fey rather than read her -- especially for what it's like to be a normal looking person at a fashion magazine photoshoot (listen to our exclusive clip, below) or for her Palin impression.

Audio clip: Click here to hear Fey on being photographed for fancy magazines

Fey includes the whole audio of the first sketch she ever did as Palin, when she stood alongside Poehler who portrayed Hillary Rodham Clinton. As she talks about this time in her life she switches back and forth between her own voice and Palin's distinctive accent.

This audio book also includes a moment when Fey makes a pretend phone call away from the microphone, and another when her voice is altered to sound like it’s coming over a loudspeaker. Aside from these, however, Fey makes little use of the audio format, which is too bad. Instead, imagine Liz Lemon reading from a memoir: It's funny, sure, but probably not as funny as one might hope.

Audio clip: Click here to hear Tina Fey on meeting Lorne Michaels


-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: Tina Fey at a book signing of "Bossypants" earlier this month in New York. Credit: Jim Spellman / Getty Images



Poll: What's your favorite book about Los Angeles?


It's the top 12, the final dozen, your 12 favorite books about Los Angeles! Which will emerge as the favorite among them all? Vote now, below: Choose among Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy, Bret Easton Ellis and Joan Didion, John Fante and Nathanael West, Mike Davis and Thomas Pynchon. 

A week ago, we asked you to tell us your favorite books about Los Angeles; the answers came pouring in on Twitter and Facebook, so many that we had a runoff. A few who performed well -- Dawn Schiller, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and Terrill Lee Lankford -- also made our top 12, after rallying votes in their favor.

Now, vote for your favorite Los Angeles book: Your 12 finalists are listed alphabetically by title below. The polls will close Thursday morning.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Raymond Chandler, left, from the book "The Long Embrace" by Judith Freeman. Credit: Knopf. Right, James Ellroy in 2009 on the grounds of Arroyo High School in El Monte, where his mother's body was found in 1957. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Tina Fey's 'Bossypants': 'Precise, professional, hilarious'

Tina Fey's book of personal essays, "Bossypants," officially hits shelves Tuesday. The actress, comedian and award-winning television writer and producer not only managed to find the time to write a book -- but apparently also wrote a good one.

In the pages of the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara has our "Bossypants" review. She writes:

[A]ny concern that Fey, like so many before her, has been ruined by fame is quickly dispelled by "Bossypants," a book that reminds you why Fey has succeeded where so many have failed — because she is precise, professional and hilarious....

People will buy ["Bossypants"] in hopes that it is funny, and that it is, my friends, that it is. Amazingly, absurdly, deliriously funny. Everything you would hope for from this book — it's impossible to put down, you will laugh until you cry, you will wish it were longer, you can't wait to hand it to every friend you have — is true. Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of encountering the real deal. Because even with the stupid cover girl shots, the wearisome I'm-just-the-coat-rack-to-Alec-Baldwin's-Astaire attitude, even with predictable airing of midlife mommy issues, Tina Fey remains, finally, inarguably and mercifully All That.

Fey brings her book tour to Los Angeles with LiveTalks L.A. at the Nokia Theatre, where she will be interviewed on stage by another multi-talented author: Steve Martin.


On sale today: Tickets for Steve Martin and Tina Fey

Mark Twain Prize will go to Tina Fey

Steve Martin's art talk pleases Angelenos

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Left, Tina Fey wins an Emmy in 2009. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times. Right: the unsettling man hands cover of "Bossypants."



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