Buzzworthy Literary Events of 2013

Looking back at the significant literary stories of the year a few registered on my radar screen:

*The 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice
firthWhen Colin Firth emerged from a pond in a wet shirt in the BBC’s 1995 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice , Jane Austen became an instant pop culture celebrity. According to The Guardian, this scene was one of the most unforgettable in British television and spawned dozens of Austen mashups, tote bags, board games and bumper stickers.

Longbourn by Jo Baker, the most recent spinoff, takes a peak longbournat the “below stairs” world which mirrors the romance and heartbreak of the upstairs Bennet household.

madboyBridget Jones is another rogue Austen descendant. In the latest installment Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Bridget, now 51 and (spoiler alert) a widow, struggles in her inimitable style with aging, single parenthood, and Internet dating.

plath*50 years ago Sylvia Plath wrote one of the classics of American literature.  The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical account of a young woman’s descent into depression.  An anniversary edition was reissued this year featuring a cover that generated a storm of controversy.
A lurid photograph of a woman applying makeup from a compact smacked of “ chick lit” to some. Despite ( or because of ) this controversial cover the new edition has sold well.

*Canadians were jubilant when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Fiction. If you haven’t read any of her story collections here is a primer to “Getting Started with Alice Munro” from “BookRiot”.

North End*Winnipeg poet Katherine Vermette won the Governor General’s Award for poetry for North End Love Songs. Duncan Mercredi calls it “a story that winds its way through the north end (Nor-tend) of Winnipeg. … a story of death, birth, survival, beauty and ugliness; through it all there are glimmers of hope, strength, and a will to survive whatever this city throws at you.”

atwood*Margaret Atwood was the cover girl of the fall issue of Costco magazine . ( I can picture her signing copies of Maddaddam perched between the $1.99 hotdog special and the giant jars of ketchup!)  She also appeared at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale. And did you know she has over 400,000 twitter followers?

yousafzai*In September Europe’s largest public library was opened in Birmingham by Malala Yousafzai. She was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ rights to education in Pakistan. At the opening Malala proclaimed  “I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge.” Read her biography – I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.

Now I look forward to all the “Best of 2013” lists that appear in newspapers and magazines at this time of year. One of the first out of the gate is The Globe 100 compiled by Globe and Mail book editors. And I eagerly anticipate the launch of the emagazine database at Winnipeg Public Library. Watch for this game changing event in January!

What good, bad or ugly story caught your attention this year?


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