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Munching on the pages of the book-worm's world
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Publishers staggered back to their desks this week to recover from the excesses of Frankfurt. Knopf having stumped up US$2m for Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos, the Brits agreed that buying the book at a sum that made sense was all but impossible. In the end, it came down to a straight fight between Fourth Estate, now part of HarperCollins, and Penguin. The latter won, shelling out around £250,000.

Publishers staggered back to their desks this week to recover from the excesses of Frankfurt. Knopf having stumped up US$2m for Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos, the Brits agreed that buying the book at a sum that made sense was all but impossible. In the end, it came down to a straight fight between Fourth Estate, now part of HarperCollins, and Penguin. The latter won, shelling out around £250,000.

* Melvyn Bragg's reputation as a novelist rose with the semi-autobiographical The Soldier's Return, which won favourable reviews and the

W H S Literary Award. Now Bragg has signed with Hodder for a sequel, Son of War, set in postwar Cumbria. Meanwhile, a feature film of The Soldier's Return is in development.

* Here's your chance to decide the Booker Prize 2000 winner. On 1 November, at 7pm in the British Library, Simon Jenkins will introduce a debate on the shortlist. A panel with Victoria Glendinning, Lisa Jardine and the Independent's Boyd Tonkin will argue the case for each novel, followed by an audience vote. Tickets (price £5) from 020-7412 7332.

* The Cheltenham Festival of Literature - in association with The Independent - finished 10 triumphant days on Sunday: over 45,000 tickets sold; 45 sold-out events with audiences of 600-plus. And here is the winner of the contest for a 101-word short story run by the Festival newsletter, Literally Speaking. Congrats to Sue Johnson for her miniature apocalypse, "Flood":

'Julia's house was disappearing under a layer of dust. Flies crowded the window sill beach, legs in the air. The muddy kitchen floor was patterned with paw prints of stray cats. Cobwebs hung like grey curtains. Julia did not care any more. Her mother's sampler mocked her. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." Julia turned it to face the wall.

Then the rain started. A torrent of water that was Biblical in intensity. The stream at the bottom of the garden swelled and crept until it surrounded the house like a moat. Julia stared at the rising water. Too late to repent.'

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