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2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN & L.L. Winship/PEN New England Awards

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The 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award  finalists and winners were honored yesterday afternoon in a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

Patrick Hemingway, grandson of Ernest Hemingway, representing the Hemingway Foundation, read a piece by Ernest Hemingway about a Japanese earthquake. Brigid Pasulka read from her novel A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True, winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award for a first work of fiction, and the winner of the L.L. Winship/PEN Award for nonfiction, Elyssa East, read from her book, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town.

The keynote speaker and one of this year’s judges, Dorothy Allison, author of seven books of fiction, essays and poetry, including Bastard Out of Carolina, a National Book Award finalist, gave a rousing talk to all the writers and potential writers in the audience to close out the event.

2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award Winner:
Brigid Pasulka, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Finalists:
C.E. Morgan, All the Living (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone (Knopf)
Honorable Mention:
Mary Beth Keane, The Walking People
Lydia Peelle, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing 

2010 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award Winners
Fiction:
Anne Sanow, Triple Time (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Nonfiction:
Elyssa East, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town (Free Press/Simon & Schuster)
Poetry:
Meg Kearney, Home by Now (Four Way Books)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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Scandinavian authors are still in vogue with U.S. crime fiction readers, especially Stieg Larsson, whose bestselling first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is also a movie, newly released in the U.S., garnering good reviews everywhere. Translated from the Swedish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is as dark and grim about society’s failures as fellow Swedish author Henning Mankell’s, but are long, sprawling novels, unlike Mankell’s sparer stories about police detective Kurt Wallander.
The title character, Lisbeth Salander, a pierced, tattooed, world-class computer hacker, trusts no one — for good reasons, which are hinted at in this book, but explained more fully in the second, The Girl Who Played with Fire.
Intrigued by her prickly persona and talent for finding out secrets, Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced journalist, hires her to help him solve an old, unsolved disappearance that he has been drawn into researching. Digging into this prominent family’s past becomes dangerous for them both.
Scenes of sadism, rape, torture, abuse, and revenge make parts of this novel painful to read, but, like many others, I was hooked by the deeply troubled character of the motorcyle-riding, kick-boxing 24-year-old, Lisbeth Salander, scrawny as a fourteen-year-old but tough as nails.  She was an at-risk youth who grew up trying to protect herself from male predators in one form or another. Most learn quickly not to mess with Lisbeth Salander.
Check the availability of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire from home through our Old Colony Library Network catalog.
The third book of the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, won’t be released in the U.S. until May 25. Sadly, Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at the age of 50, before the books were published in Sweden.

The City & The City by China Mieville

Imagine a drab, Eastern-bloc type of city side by side with a brighter, more prosperous city, with the border between them so undemarcated that people on one side of a street can be in Beszel and, on the other, in Ul Qoma, but where — in both places — it is a crime, a Breach, of unimaginable proportions to consciously notice people, shops, and restaurants in the street with you that belong to the other city. If you accidentally see them, you must immediately “unsee”. Travel from one city to the other is allowed only through the official border crossing checkpoint.

In this blend of crime fiction and speculative fiction by English author China Mieville, Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad in Beszel investigates the murder of a woman whose body was dumped in a rundown skate park along the border with Ul Qoma. While he follows leads to shadowy political organizations and academic archeologists rumored to have discovered proof of a legendary, original third city, Borlu is watched closely by the mysterious agents of Breach to see that none of the arcane laws and established protocols of the two cities are broken.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of alternative history, enjoy philosophical speculation about human behavior and government, or if you liked The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon, you should try this novel, which is a fascinating exploration into national and cultural differences and what, in our common humanity, transcends them.

China Mieville is known more for writing fantasy and s/f, but don’t let that scare you off from trying this book, which is very realistic in style once you accept the basic premise. Check out the author’s comments on writing crime fiction at author John Scalzi’s Web site here.

Check for availability of The City & The City in the Old Colony Library Network here.

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