What a week it’s been for indignation. The National Book Award finalists (announced last week) came under criticism from Salon’s Laura Miller for its rarefied selections (“the literary equivalent of spinach”), while the Man Booker committee attracted grumbling for the opposite reason, for dumbing down literature by privileging readability over quality. NBA judge Victor LaValle published a rejoinder to Miller on PW’s Book News Web page, and a coterie of British writers came together to support an alternative to the Booker, the imaginatively named Literature Prize. (Whew. And we haven’t even mentioned the bad week Lauren Myracle has been having.)
But so much sturm and drang, I’d argue, is wonderful for literature. Seldom do we have the chance to argue so publicly and passionately about the parameters of pleasure, what makes a book great, and what literature is for—entertainment? edification? to “expand [our] capacity to think and to feel" (in Jeanette Winterson’s words)? This week’s Tip Sheet loves the controversy and loves going behind the scenes. Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami’s longtime translator, gives us a peek at his process, and how he and co-translator Philip Gabriel brought the dystopian, cat-ridden world of IQ84 into English. Online only, we have a reading list from Debbie Nathan, whose terrific (and already controversial) Sybil Exposed reveals that the story of Sybil was a hoax. Manhattan’s beloved McNally Jackson bookstore allows us to peruse its bestselling backlist titles, and exclusively online, a Literary Cage Match for your pleasure as deputy reviews editor Mike Harvkey and news editor (and Tip Sheet contributor) Gabe Habash go head-to-head over whether Julian Barnes’s A Sense of an Ending did indeed deserve the Booker, and prove that there’s nothing quite so divisive as taste.