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Celebrating humanity, the surprise Impac Dublin winner and more literary news

June 11, 2009 |  2:00 pm


Our blog Hero Complex talks to Dean Hanspiel about Next Door Neighbor, the Web comics series he's editing for Smith Magazine. "We are celebrating humanity, from the kid next door to the raging alcoholic upstairs with the night terrors," he says. Tara Seibel's "The Vestibule" is the 29th in the series.

American Michael Thomas has won the Impac Dublin Prize for his first novel "Man Gone Down," beating out serious competition from the likes of Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates. The 100,000 euro (about $141,000)  prize is one of the largest literary awards in the world. The Guardian reports that Thomas, in Dublin for the announcement, admitted to being stunned. "I had a hard time believing I'd made the shortlist -- or the longlist, for that matter -- so I'm still waiting for the punch line." The book was rejected by more than one publisher before finding a home at Grove Atlantic-- and in the hearts of the Impac Dublin prize committee.

Matt Bucher, an editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and publisher of the critical anthology "Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's 'Infinite Jest,' " admits to the Infinite Summer blog that he first picked up Wallace's iconic work because it had been marked down to $8.99: "They were stacked in a large square, three or four feet high, each book a brick in tower, near the cash registers. How could I resist?"

And in case you missed it, the New Yorker Book Bench blog talked to Aleksander Hemon last week. When asked how autobiographical the stories are in his new collection, "Love and Obstacles," he's got an awfully good explanation.

Here’s how it works: Last night, on my way to give a reading, I hurt a ligament in my right hand while putting my shoe on. As I was driving this morning and talking on the phone with my sister in London, I lost my grip and sideswept my neighbor’s car. Being honest, I went to their house to tell them what I had done. When I rang the bell nobody answered. I knocked and went in anyway, thinking they might be in the backyard. The house was empty, and as I walked through I noticed a vase in the shape of a monkey head. The light angle made it somehow seem that the monkey was winking at me, so I picked the head up to examine it, but then, dropped it, what with the weak hand ligament, and it shattered in a thousand pieces. For a moment, I considered cleaning up or waiting for my neighbors to show up, but then decided to sneak out. Now I dread hearing the door bell.

I could go on and turn this into a story. I did hurt my hand last night and I did get into the car this morning, but I did not cause any damage, nor did I trespass. I did not talk to my sister yesterday, but she does live in London. And I’ve never seen a monkey head like that. So, how much of this putative story is autobiographical?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Illustration credit: Tara Seibel's "The Vestibule" / Next Door Neighbor