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Books, authors and all things bookish
Elizabeth McCracken wins the Story Prize

Elizabeth McCracken is the recipient of the $20,000 Story Prize for her collection “Thunderstruck.” McCracken was awarded the short-fiction prize Wednesday night at a ceremony in New York.

Of McCracken’s work, the judges wrote: “She is the master of the small and perfectly telling detail — the mother's light tap of a hand on her child's coffin, a suitcase fallen over like ‘a shot dog,’ ‘a pair of red and white espadrilles that had run in the rain.’ She writes with such an open and compassionate heart that even the most damaged and lost of her characters thrum with life.”

All three finalists for the Story Prize were present for the event and read from their books before the awards presentation. The other  finalists – Francesca Marciano for “The Other Language” and Lorrie Moore for “Bark” will each get $5,000.

The three books emerged from a field of a record 129 submissions published in 2014.

The Story Prize was founded to celebrate short fiction and bring attention to short stories with...

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Poetry makes a difference in 'Please Excuse This Poem'

“Most poets,” Carolyn Forché writes, in the introduction to Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick’s anthology “Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation” (Viking: 290 pp., $16.99), “begin writing poetry in secret.” It’s a great line, and true as well. The 100 poems gathered here all got their start in those private moments, the intersection of the writer and the line.

There is Monica de la Torre, who begins “Letter From One Practitioner to Another” with a simple admonition: “For the love of words, stop describing!” Or Ada Limón, who tells us, in “The Unbearable”: “My grandmother only wants to tell me who died / and how. She tells me of all the traffic accidents / as if she was reading a menu to me out loud.”

In private, in secret, the succession of simple moments, the bedrock bits and pieces of reality by which we compose our days.

“Please Excuse This Poem” comes billed as a book for younger readers; hence, its low price tag. This is part of the sneaky power of the...

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Steve Martin joins 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' adaptation

The film adaptation of Ben Fountain's novel "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" has its first big star. Steve Martin will join debut actor Joe Alwyn, and possibly Garrett Hedlund, in Ang Lee's movie version of the Iraq war satire, Deadline reports.

Fountain's 2012 debut novel was a critical hit, winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, and making it to the finals of the National Book Awards. The book follows a group of soldiers who become famous after surviving a brutal firefight, which is captured on news cameras. The soldiers are brought back to the United States, temporarily, for a victory tour, including an appearance at a Thanksgiving Day football game at Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. 

There's no word yet on what role Martin will play or on a possible release date for the film, which will be directed by Lee ("Brokeback Mountain," "Life of Pi") from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire").

Possible roles for Martin include Hollywood...

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T.C. Boyle, LeVar Burton lead L.A. Times Book Prizes

The 35th annual L.A. Times Book Prizes are announced today. There are five finalists in 10 categories, and two prize winners were revealed: The Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement will be presented to author T.C. Boyle, and LeVar Burton will be honored with the Innovators Award for inspiring generations of readers with Reading Rainbow. The awards will be presented Saturday, April 18, in conjunction with the L.A. Times Festival of Books April 18-19.

Boyle, a novelist and short story writer, is one of the West’s most prominent authors. His latest novel, out this month, is “The Harder They Come”; his books include “The Women,” “Drop City,” “The Tortilla Curtain,” “East Is East” and “The Road to Wellville.” Born and raised in New York and a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, Boyle is the recipient of numerous national and international literary prizes. He was a key figure in establishing the creative writing department at USC, where he has taught since 1978.

“T.C. Boyle has...

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Maya Angelou postage stamp revealed

The U.S. Postal Service has revealed its Forever postage stamp featuring Maya Angelou, the poet and author widely known for her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

The stamp has a portrait of Angelou alongside a quote from the author: "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Obama and recited a poem at President Clinton's 1993 inauguration. She died last year at 86.

The author's long creative life included stage performances that earned her a Tony nomination, recording a calypso record, writing for the screen, directing a film, acting and teaching creative writing.

Her books include the poetry collections "Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?" (1983), "And Still I Rise" (1978), "Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well” (1975) and "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie" (1971) and the memoirs "A Song Flung Up to Heaven" (2002), "All God's Children Need...

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Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lawrence to film Lynsey Addario's story

Jennifer Lawrence, the Oscar-winning actress who stars as Katniss Everdeen in the "Hunger Games" films, will portray real-life photojournalist Lynsey Addario in a film based on her memoir "It's What I Do." Steven Spielberg will direct.

Deadline reports that Addario met with several players eager to snap up rights to her story: Reese Witherspoon/Working Title, Natalie Portman/Darren Aronofsky, actress Margot Robbie, and The Weinstein Company. In the end, the Spielberg/Lawrence combination won out.

Addario, who is not yet 40, has been embedded in Afghanistan, covered action in Iraq and the conflict in the Sudan, and documented the effects of using rape as a weapon of war in Africa. She was shooting the last days of Moammar Kaddafi's reign in Libya when she and two other journalists were taken hostage.

"It is a diary of an empathetic young woman who makes understanding the wider world around her a professional calling," Carol Williams writes in our review. Addario, who was born and raised...

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