Between The Covers: 09/10/2011

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

*Before the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer was announced on Thursday as the recipient of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, there was a last-minute panic at the bookies as punters around the world placed a flurry of bets on the singer Bob Dylan being the winner.

Under the email header "The odds, they are a changin'", Ladbrokes contacted "Between the Covers" with the news that a number of bets from Sweden, Japan, Canada, and "nearly every country in Europe", had caused Dylan's odds to be slashed from 100/1 to just 5/1, making him the favourite above the Syrian poet Adonis (real name Ali Ahmad Said Asbar), the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, and Americans including Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth. Meanwhile, we thank Bloomberg.com, which revealed earlier last week that the person who puts together these odds for Ladbrokes is "a Swede named Magnus Puke, whose job title at Ladbrokes is Nordic Sports and Novelty Odds Compiler, and who writes love poetry in his spare time."

*Not unusually, the author Ian Rankin managed to sum up last week's mini-zeitgeist succinctly in words. "Off to a café," he tweeted, "to listen to Bert Jansch on my iPod." See next week's IoS books pages for an interview with Rankin about his new book, The Impossible Dead, the second in his new series of DI Malcolm Fox novels.

*Meanwhile, the [Steve] Jobses of the future will be delighted by the publication of a new book, HTML For Babies, which will "show your little ones HTML mark-up code along with letter forms to get them started on the visual patterns and symbols that make up the essential building blocks of the Web". According to the blurb: "It's never too early to be standards compliant!" This is the first of a three-volume set, but unfortunately it is currently only available in the US, and not in an e-book version. This latter problem should resolve itself, however, as soon as all the babies get to work.

*One of the surprise word-of-mouth bestsellers of 2010 was The Hare With Amber Eyes, a family memoir hung around a collection of 264 tiny wood and ivory carvings, by the British ceramicist Edmund de Waal. It won the Ondaatje Prize, the JQ Wingate Prize and the Costa Book Award for biography. Now de Waal is to return to more familiar terrain, with a book about the history of porcelain "and man's obsession with it over the past thousand years", from the same publisher, Chatto & Windus. Fans will have to wait until 2015 for The White Book: A Journey Through Porcelain, but sources at Chatto are already certain that it will be more successful than your average look at the complete global history of ceramics. "Adoring fans of The Hare with Amber Eyes will be transported into stunning new landscapes by this most miraculous of writers," says one. "I hardly dare venture to say it so soon, but I believe that The White Book will be Edmund de Waal's magnum opus."

*Congratulations to the White Mice and Manchester Slingback author Nicholas Blincoe, who is excited to have won a two-book deal in Italy with the publisher Saggiatore. This is the group that publishes Noam Chomsky, he tells us, "so western capitalism is surely quaking".

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