Review: 'Indignation' by Philip Roth

Philip Roth's Indignation describes the short unhappy life of Marcus Messner, a college student in the early '50s who is paranoid about getting kicked out of school and drafted to serve in the Korean War, in spite of the fact that his grades are so strong he could become valedictorian. Messner, the dutiful son of a kosher butcher in Newark, transfers from a local school to Winesburg College in Ohio, trying to escape an overprotective father who has become overwhelmed by fear that his son will ... (read more)

Debate Moderator Writing 'Age of Obama' Book

A lot's being made today of the fact that Gwen Ifill, the moderator of Thursday night's vice presidential debate, has a new book coming out on Inauguration Day titled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. The story's drawn hundreds of comments on the Drudge Retort. Ifill has made no secret of the book, which has been mentioned for months in media reports. On Aug. 21, she wrote an essay for Time magazine that describes her motivation for writing it: ... Obama is just one ... (read more)

George Orwell's Road to Morocco

The organizers of the Orwell Prize recently began running George Orwell's diary as a blog, 70 years to the day after he wrote each entry. Most of the entries thus far have been mundane -- Orwell was obsessed with observing animals, appropriately enough -- but his Sept. 27 diary contains a particularly vivid description of poverty in Marrakesh, Morocco: People sleep in the streets by hundreds and thousands, and beggars, especially children, swarm everywhere. It is noticeable that this is so not ... (read more)

Review: 'The Secret Scripture' by Sebastian Barry

So many awful things happen to Roseanne McNulty, the protagonist of Sebastian Barry's Booker-shortlisted novel The Secret Scripture, that at a certain point I couldn't help but look forward to more of them. McNulty's a century-old Irish woman who has been living at a mental hospital for so long that nobody can remember why she was sent there in the first place. A staff psychiatrist, Dr. Grene, undertakes an investigation to determine whether she had genuine mental problems or was ... (read more)

Booker Shortlist Omits Salman Rushdie, Joseph O'Neill

There were some surprises in today's announcement of the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize -- the books by betting favorites Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence, and Joseph O'Neill, Netherland, didn't make the cut. Literary critic Joseph Sutherland was so sure Rushdie would win the Booker that he wrote, "If The Enchantress of Florence doesn't win this year’s Man Booker I'll curry my proof copy and eat it." (He backed off the promise today.) The nominees for the prize, which will be ... (read more)

Review: 'Netherland' by Joseph O'Neill

Over the years I've become an obsessive Anglophile, following British football and literature with the kind of unvarnished joy that can only come from being completely ill-informed on a subject. I don't know enough about either one to become jaded, though my adoption of Tottenham Hotspur as favorite team is beginning to change that. My love of British books is exercised by following each year's Man Booker Prize, the most prestigious literary award for fiction in the U.K. The prize goes through ... (read more)

Locus Awards Change Rules, Foil Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow's short story collection Overclocked was nominated this year for a Locus Award, a science fiction honor voted on by the public and tabulated by Locus magazine. Votes were accepted online, and several links during the balloting on Doctorow's ginormously popular Boing Boing blog helped his book receive the most votes in that category. But if you check out the award winners, you won't find Doctorow's book on the list. Locus changed the rules after voting was over, deciding to give ... (read more)

Voting Ends for This Year's Hugo Awards

Today's the last day to vote on the 2008 Hugo Awards, which will be given out at the World Science Fiction Convention next month in Denver. I joined the convention as a supporting member last fall to vote for the first time on the awards, which began in 1955 and have become the most coveted prize in science fiction. In April, the Hugo nominees were announced. All of the nominees in several categories can be read for free online, including short stories, novellas, novelettes and fanzines. Four ... (read more)

Everybody Hates Scott McClellan

Robin D. Laws has a great take on Scott McClellan's tell-all book: Even in the depths of his tenure as Bush press secretary, Scott McClellan always seemed to me like the most likely administration official to write a scathing tell-all. His divided consciousness was always visible as a series of tells that would have led him to the slaughter at any poker table. McClellan's deer-meets-headlights demeanor at tough press conferences signaled a lack of belief in his own statements—a fear that he ... (read more)

Et Tu, Scott McClellan?

I'm currently reading What Happened, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's 323-page stab in the back to the Bush administration. The book wasn't supposed to be out until June 1, but the publisher lifted the embargo yesterday and I grabbed a copy at Barnes & Noble. Current and former Bush administration officials are playing dumb on McClellan's motive for writing the book, but he makes it crystal clear in the preface: Valerie Plame leakers in the White House used him to pass along ... (read more)