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Today in books and literature: Julian Barnes is the favorite to win the Man Booker Prize, the Vladimir Putin biography that had the Frankfurt Book Fair buzzing, and the "safety precaution" that led to the National Book Award nomination mix-up.

  • The winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize will be announced at exactly 3:48 p.m. EDT after the finalists are feted at London's Guildhall. Four-time Man Booker short list finalist Julian Barnes remains the favorite among bettors (as of this afternoon, the odds of him winning outright are 5-to-4) and the press to walk away with the prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending. In the United Kingdom, the hand-wringing continues about the judges' edict to nominate books based on their "readability," but that's hardly a new concern according to The Guardian's carefully curated archival history of the 42 year-old award. In 1980, Anthony Burgess refused to attend the ceremony unless organizers guaranteed he would win and in 1984, a Guardian editorial called on judges to cast their votes for the U.K.'s top literary prize based on "pure enjoyment," not the artistry of the writing. [The Guardian]
  • At last week's Frankfurt Book Fair, publishers interested in acquiring the rights to Sasha Gessen’s Vladimir Putin biography The Man Without a Face had to sign non-disclosure agreements and "go into a closet and secretly read," according to one attendee. Gessen's agent and U.S. publisher are worried that the author, who is still in Russia, won't be safe it too many of the book's details leak out. (It's scheduled to be released in the U.S. in March.) Based on Gessen's October 2008 Vanity Fair article "Dead Soul" about how Putin consolidated power after the fall of the Soviet Union, the concern may very well be justified. [Publishers Weekly]
  • Could the entire Shine/Chime National Book Award nomination snafu been avoided if the judges emailed their selections to the National Book Foundation, rather than phoning them in? Probably. More importantly: why forces judges to call in their selections in the first place? NBF executive director Harold Augenbraum described the practice as a "security measure" to prevent against this exact situation. "We do it on the phone," he explains, "because it’s too easy for an e-mail to go astray. It never even occurred to me that this could happen.” [The Reliable Source]
  • Amy Winehouse's boyfriend Reg Traviss supposedly turned down a "turned down a £1million deal" from an unspecified publisher to write a book about the late singer, according to the Daily Star. The British tabloid says he wants to "keep private" his memories of Winehouse. That may be the case, but this disclosure places a floor on any future book offers, and makes it seem like there's no shortage of publishers interested in his memoir. Winehouse's father Mitch signed a deal with HarperCollins last week to write a book about his daughter. [The Daily Star]

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