Who ruined the Booker?

This week, Alex Shepard argued in The New Republic that "Americans Didn’t Ruin the Man Booker Prize. Book Publishers Did", saying that the new list proves how the prestigious award has become "corporate and daft". Shephard quotes from Stevie Marsden's (CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies) work on prize culture and the role of conglomerates. In the run-up to Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book-related event in the world, this article gives us food for thought.

The Global Novelist

At the conference, and in the forthcoming edited collection based on it, Kristian Shaw spoke of the cosmopolitan novel. Today, the New Republic had this to say about the Rise of the Global Novelist. It reviews not Kristian's book (which has been out since April 2, if Amazon is to be trusted), but Adam Kirsch's The Global Novel. We're posting this because of its parallel interest to our concerns.

Podcast Novels?

Julia Panko, when she spoke at the conference, mentioned the way that a very contemporary form of narrative fiction, the podcast, frequently acts out a claim for authenticity that makes it difficult for listeners to  distinguish fact from fiction. We’d like to take the opportunity of this site to link to some such podcasts:


The Black Tapes

Very interesting in connection to our purpose at the conference is Welcome to Night Vale:

Welcome to Night Vale

Why? Because, among other things, it also sparked a novel, though perhaps not a very good one. We hope that the conference volume / edited collection will have something more on podcasts.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2016 – phew!!

On Sunday, the whirlwind that is Frankfurt Book Fair came to an end after five busy days of books, books and more books. Interestingly, it has been awhile since there was an at least partly Anglophone country as guest of honor -  India in 2006 with the Motto "Today's India" and New Zealand in 2012 with the Motto "While You Were Sleeping". This year, Flanders and the Netherlands were guests of honor, and in 2017 it will be France - a repeat from 1989.

One of the interesting points that Ann Steiner made at the conference during her talk was that there is much more in the book industry than meets the eye, and this is true of Frankfurt Book Fair, too. 278,000 people came to the fair this year, and on the weekend, the fair is open to the public. Tens of thousands of Readers and booklovers visit the halls with the booths of the big trade publishers, hoping to see their favorite author or just browse the shelves (or they are hoping to happen upon Bruce Springsteen, since he published his autobiography this year and is on book tour). In short: People come for the novels, for the fiction. They come for the celebrities.

The halls filled with the booths belonging to printers, distributors, etc. (e.g. in hall 4.0) are largely ignored by the masses. So are the halls with the textbook publishers, for instance... These are the areas of publishing and the book industry that are often forgotten by the public, but also by us as researchers.

- CNR, 26 October, 2016

And The Man Booker Prize Goes to… America, Again.

Yesterday, LitHub speculated that Graeme Macrae Burnett’s His Bloody Project, published by small Scottish publisher Saraband, might win the Man Booker Prize. We note this here because of Melanie Ramdarshan Bold’s conference presentation on northern English (well, not quite Scottish, obviously) indie imprints and their impressive contributions to the contemporary literary marketplace, but also because natch, Burnett didn’t win. Instead, the prize went to American Paul Beatty, for the powerful satire The Sellout (which we’re reading right now!).

Beatty’s publisher, as the Guardian’s linked article notes, is also a small press (Oneworld, so small that as of this typing, about 36 hours after the announcement, they had not yet publicized the win on their website; but then, neither has the Man Booker…). For our purposes here, we make note of that... This is also now two years in a row that the venerable Booker goes to a non-Commonwealth writer. We spoke at length about a variety of literary prizes at the conference. Regarding the Man Booker, we also discussed the consequence of its opening to authors writing in English (rather than Commonwealth writers only), which also enabled Marlon James’s win with A Brief History of Seven Killings last year. One thing that does not appear to be borne out is a fear that an internationalization of the prize might also flatten the profile of books awarded it: both The Sellout and James’s novel are affirmatively tied to their local (national, historical) contexts.

- TL & CNR, October 26, 2016

Margaret Atwood on Her Shakespeare Adaptation, "Hag-Seed"

At the conference, Jeremy Rosen spoke fascinatingly about Shakespeare adaptations in Hogarth Press's Shakespeare series. At, Margaret Atwood talks about her own contribution to this series, a rewriting of The Tempest entitled Hag-Seed. We’ve not read it (though we’ll ask Jeremy to comment), but’s Constance Grady has reviewed the play-cum-novel here. Grady is quite happy with Atwood’s reworking, calling it a “a marvelous and thoughtful adaptation”:

[A] really good adaptation, like Atwood’s, can do the same thing as a really good and inventive staging of a play: It can tease out nuances and resonances from its source material, so that you begin to see the original work in an entirely new light.

Grady does raise one concern: she questions the choice of title, which seems to stress the importance of Caliban, something Atwood apparently does not manage to live up to. For us, that certainly raises the question of who comes up with these titles, and for what reasons.

- TL, October 26, 2016

Post-conference notes and thank yous

Thank you to all our speakers, session chairs and guests. Except for a minor glitch (total power outage on JGU campus on Friday afternoon), the conference went very well with excellent papers and productive discussions. Those interested can follow up on the conference using the Twitter hashtag #nsg_mainz. We will also keep you posted about the publication of the proceedings here - check back soon for more details.

We would like to reiterate our sincere thanks to our sponsors, DFG, research focus media convergence, and Förderlinie 1 of the JGU, without whom this event would not have been possible. SHARP, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, generously sponsored our wine reception on the last evening of the conference, guaranteeing a convivial ending to the event. Finally, we would like to thank our institutions, the Obama Institute and the Institute for Book Studies (soon to be known as the Gutenberg Institute for World Literature and Text-Based Media), for their moral and financial support of this conference.

- Tim Lanzendörfer & Corinna Norrick-Rühl, September 27, 2016

Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

The Man-Booker Committee announced their shortlist of potential winners this Tuesday, and while it's probably not a surprise to read this when the prize is awarded only to novels anyway, but Amanda Foreman (the historian, and head of the committee) has this to say:

"The final six reflect the centrality of the novel in modern culture – in its ability to champion the unconventional, to explore the unfamiliar, and to tackle difficult subjects."

Which is precisely our topic next week!

First Blog Post; Conference By The Book in Florence

We will use this blog feature to keep you updated on conference-related developments and other interesting things as we count down to our September conference.

So, what's new in June? Well, this website, for one - thanks in particular to Tim for putting this together. We alson just received the program flyer proofs. While I am certainly happy to report that the venue for the conference dinner is now sorted (and there will be sooo many wines to choose from - welcome to Mainz, the great wine capital), I also wanted to take this opportunity to look back at a conference which took place in Florence last week, called "By the Book. Audience Building for the Book in an Age of Media Proliferation".

"By the Book" has taken place annually at the Villa Finaly in Florence since 2014, and this year its focus was on "Audience Building". Two of our speakers (Melanie Ramdarshan Bold and Ann Steiner) were also on the Florence program, and I look forward to welcoming them to Mainz along with our other speakers in September. Several of the talks at "By the Book" dealt with topics which we will pick up on in September such as (independent) publishing, the role of the author ("authorpreneur") and the reader ("co-authoring", fan fiction), branding, merchandising, paratexts and so forth. There were also a lot of papers about the academic book market (open access etc.). Our conference will be narrower in focus, since we are looking at the Anglophone novel in particular, so I hope our discussions will be able to go into a bit more depth, especially since we don't have parallel streams, but will all be working and thinking along the same lines for two full days. If you would like to get an impression of some of the discussions and questions dealt with in Florence, you're welcome to check out the Twitter hashtag #bythebook2016.

Signing off for now, we'll be in touch. In the meantime, in case of questions, please feel free to contact us at

- Corinna Norrick-Rühl, June 29, 2016