Thursday, September 13, 2007

News Bits, In Brief

This is one of those News Bits I hate to publish, as every other book news site will already be covering it. Then again, if'n I choose to ignore it, we'll look like we never knew about it in the first place. So here goes: James Frey, the writer you love to hate, has a new novel coming out through HarperCollins in the summer of 2008. The fact that Frey has already been so thoroughly kicked to the curb over the faked authenticity of A Million Little Pieces (his Oprah appearance was especially/deliciously brutal), compounded with the fact that similar cases keep coming to light as of late (Augusten Burroughs, J.T. Leroy) makes me think that he might actually receive an underdog's welcome when he returns to the media spotlight. Sort of like Britney at this past Sunday's VMAs.

Jenna Bush's new children's book, Ana's Story, is getting rave reviews. When asked how she was able to put herself into the mind of a child, Jenna said, "I thought of how my Daddy talks. Then I made it sound a little less retarded." has a brief article about the oft-reported Death of Hardcovers. Their angle is the publishers' infrequent attempts at releasing high profile books in a variety of formats simultaneously (say, an equal number of hardcover and trade paperback, or a 75/25 trade paperback/mass market release). I like this idea, but the fact that they've been toying around with it for over twenty years now leads me to believe that it's not exactly the next big thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yawn. Awards.

Okay, I'll make this quick. I know that these things are always boring unless you're in the running, in the audience, or expecting to hear your name mentioned in someone's thank-you list.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road and an audio edition of To Kill a Mockingbird are among the winners in the third annual Quills Award. Here's the night's real surprise, though: The awards ceremony will be aired on television October 27. Not because America cares about quality literature/books on tape, but because Steven Colbert is hosting.

Mr. McMarthy's The Road has also won the 2006 James Tait Black Award for fiction. Wtf is the James Tait Black award, you ask? Only Scotland’s most prestigious and the U.K.’s oldest literary award. Note: No celebrities.

My homegirl, and the only woman over 70 I'd cheat on my girlfriend with besides Elizabeth Taylor (What? I like 'em crazy. I'm a masochist.), Joan Didion, will receive the 2007 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for her "outstanding achievements as a novelist and essayist." This is, of course, for her memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, and not for the truly great books she wrote 30 years ago that the literary community was too pussified to recognize.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thank You, Madeleine.

"L'Engle, an accomplished author whose works transcended the traditional boundaries of genre and audience, passed away at a Connecticut nursing home on September 11." She was 88 years old.

One of my favorite authors as a child and young adult, Madeleine L'Engle's books actually made my life more enjoyable. Her work nourished my imagination and made me feel as though there was something greater in this life--something beyond the monotony of each day.

Not only a brilliant author of children's books, L'Engle was a talented poet--just a marvelously talented woman. Today my heart is being squeezed by grief.

Gateway Books

My high school's D.A.R.E. program (a well-meaning, misguided, state-funded attempt to keep kids off drugs) used to use the term 'gateway drug' to describe any drug that appeared harmless (cigarettes, pot, leaning in too close to one's magic markers), but inevitably led to other, more dangerous narcotics (crack, crystal meth, permanent markers). In recent years, I've begun to pervert the 'gateway' moniker to fit the needs of my own vice of choice -- books.
Gateway Books are books that are so damned good that they make you want to read any and all the other books name dropped within. One of the first gateway books I remember coming across was S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Not only did I pick up some random Robert Frost in hopes of finding 'Stay Silver' and 'Stay Bronze' (his lesser works), I also rented the videotape of Gone With The Wind (the book looked too long and too boring to my fourteen year old self -- and still does!). A few years later, Possession by A.S. Byatt inspired me to go on a Victorian and Elizabethan poetry kick. I can't say that I was chomping at the bit to read The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser before then. The ultimate gateway book for me, though, has been Mike Davis' City of Quartz. Davis, a Los Angeles historian with a photographic memory and a gift for finding the threads that bind seemingly disparate subjects together, had me watching film noir classics like Detour and The Big Sleep, gobbling up the South Central-centered pulp fiction of Chester Himes, the dark, satiric, science fiction of Aldous Huxley, and becoming a salivating fan boy at the altar of Joan Didion's 1960s suicidal California travel lit. I'm not exaggerating, I literally spent an entire year exploring the books, movies and music mentioned in City of Quartz. If that ain't the obsessive-compulsive behavior of an addict, I don't know what is.

In the comments section below, feel free to stand up and tell us your name, your age and what books served as gateway books in your lifelong literary addiction.

Monday, September 10, 2007

News Bits, In Brief

They say 'Write what you know,' and then they go and punish you when you do. A Polish pulp fiction writer was sentenced to 25 years in jail yesterday for his role in a grisly case of abduction, torture and murder, a crime that he then used for the plot of a bestselling thriller, Amok. The dirty, no good snitches over at The Guardian UK tell all.

Two Nebraska teens were busted this past May after repeatedly breaking into their public library to download internet porn. The library responded by installing software that blocks access to adult content, only to outrage free speech advocates in the area. Here's my two step, First Amendment friendly, encourage-the-kids-to-read suggestion: 1. Reinstate the unfiltered internet access. 2. Make a bigger, brighter sign for the erotica section.

Trailing a trend that has been going strong in Japan for years, comic books are now available via cellphone in the USA. For $4.49 a month on Verizon, or $3.99 a month for AT&T and Sprint, subscribers can view nearly a dozen different traditional comic books. There's also a separate subscription service for manga.The books range from well-known names like Bone and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to up-and-coming books, such as crime noirish Umbra and Hindu folklore-inspired Devi. The comics site uClick adds new chapters and/or issues for each title every week. Click here for their catalog of available comics.

Via NPR: "A couple of years ago, British author Ian McEwan conducted an admittedly unscientific experiment. He and his son waded into the lunch-time crowds at a London park and began handing out free books. Within a few minutes, they had given away 30 novels. Nearly all of the takers were women, who were 'eager and grateful' for the freebies while the men 'frowned in suspicion, or distaste.' The inevitable conclusion, wrote McEwan in The Guardian newspaper: 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.'"
Want the rest of this article? Ick-clay Ere-hay.

This Post Has Nothing To Do With Bush Reading 'The Pet Goat'

To try and distract you from the fabulous flubs committed by our commander in chief this weekend, here are reviews to three recent George W. Bush themed tomes.

Terror Presidency
Dead Certain
Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency