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Book News: Asteroid Named For Iain Banks, Author Of Cosmic Fiction

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Iain Banks, the Scottish author who wrote literary fiction under the name Iain Banks and science fiction as Iain M. Banks (causing The Telegraph to name him "two of our finest writers"), now has an asteroid named after him. Banks was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer earlier this year and died June 9. In tribute, Jose Luis Galache, an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, successfully petitioned the IAU's Committee for Small Body Nomenclature to rename Asteroid 5099 "Iainbanks." Galache wrote on the MPC's blog: "When I heard of [Banks'] sickness I immediately asked myself what I could do for Mr Banks, and the answer was obvious: Give him an asteroid!"
  • You can now walk down Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books on Google Maps' Streetview! (Or, at least, down the Warner Brothers' set...)
  • The New York Times looks at how Amazon, now that its main competitors are dead or moribund, is raising prices on books: "Now, with Borders dead, Barnes & Noble struggling and independent booksellers greatly diminished, for many consumers there is simply no other way to get many books than through Amazon. And for some books, Amazon is, in effect, beginning to raise prices." The Times tactfully avoids the phrase "predatory pricing," instead calling it price "experimentation."
  • We recently saw what happened when the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its photo staff: what look like blurry phone photos dominate the front page. Now, the struggling newspaper has announced that it will discontinue its books coverage as of July 14, folding entertainment writing into its "Splash" section, which covers "style, society and celebrity."
  • Terry Tempest Williams spoke to Roxane Gay in an interview for The Rumpus: "One of the ironies of writing memoir is in using the 'I' it becomes an alchemical 'we.' This is the sorcery of literature."
  • In The Guardian, the author Jane Smiley says goodbye to Alice Munro, who recently announced her intention to retire from writing: "Munro is the only author whose writings are so vivid to me that I have occasionally mistaken incidents in her stories for memories of my own past."
  • For the literary magazine McSweeney's, Megan Amram "reviews" America: "Few countries that debuted in the 1700s have been as controversial or long running (it's into its 237th season now) as America. It may not have the staying power of perennial favorites such as China or the credibility of indie darlings such as Finland, but America has proven that it can at least make some cultural impact."
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