Between the Covers 24/03/2013

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

Generally, when a prize is announced that rewards authors from a particular region, social class or gender, it is customary for lots of people to complain: "Ah, but where is the prize for ginger-haired people/ men/ middle-class literary novelists who live in north London …?" And yet, the shortlist for the New Angle Prize – for books set in or inspired by East Anglia (see the Blagger's Guide on page 70) – has so far failed to produce outraged articles from the good authors of the East Midlands or thereabouts. Are they keeping their powder dry for a full-scale assault in next week's New York Review of Books?

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Another significant event in the East Anglian literary calendar was announced last week: the line-up for the Latitude Festival, which takes place from 18-21 July at Henham Park, Suffolk. The launch event, last Tuesday, proved that modern festivals really are about more than just the music, as the announcement of Germaine Greer's appearance got the biggest cheers of the night. The festival's founder and creator, Melvin Benn, said: "Believe me the cutting edge bill of the year is this year's poetry tent at Latitude, don't worry about anywhere else." Alluding to the appearance of the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and Scotland's makar, Liz Lochhead, he added: "It is so royal, I half expect the Queen to drop in and read Skyfall."

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News from the Academic, Professional and Specialist Bookselling Group conference, organised by The Booksellers Association last week: students who are au fait with downloading information digitally left right and centre do not do so with textbooks, the conference found. According to the student panel there, e-readers are only suitable for "holiday novels" and "trashy novels bought on impulse", and university students are less likely to download free textbooks online because they don't trust the content. Alan Staton, head of marketing at The Booksellers Association, said: "The imperative in downloading the latest Foals track is simply whether or not it plays. Academic content on the other hand, which is treated as source material to be referenced or quoted in course work, is something else again."

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The sad news of the death of 82-year-old Chinua Achebe on Friday came as a shock to some people, who thought he was already dead. Indeed, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who grew up in Achebe's old house, was once asked: "If Achebe were alive, what would you say to him?" They had met, and he was a fan. Read her new novel, Americanah (out on 11 April) in honour of both of them.

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Philip Roth, who turned 80 on Tuesday, admits in an interview that when Portnoy's Complaint was published he was worried that his parents would be offended – so he sent them away on a cruise. "I don't know what suffering they suffered, they may well have been hurt by things in the book," he says. But his father spent most of the cruise autographing copies of the new novel, so they were probably OK.

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