Friday, September 28, 2007

Book News, In Brief

Via "Author Douglas Brinkley says he's giving back the $100,000 advance he received from Penguin, for failing to promptly deliver a biography on writer Jack Kerouac. Penguin had sued Brinkley because he failed to finish the book in time to publish it on the 50th anniversary Kerouac's autobiographical novel On the Road."
Does anyone know if Brinkley tried to use the ol' 'Happy Belated Birthday Biography' line before returning the cash?

Via newest installment in the Halo video game series was released this week, breaking all entertainment industry records (video games, music, movies and, yes, books) with a take of $170 million on the opening day alone. What does this have to do with bookstores, you ask? The next book in the spin-off/tie-in/cash-in series Halo: Contact Harvest hits stores on October 30th. This is the perfect book to push on lazy grandparents whose only knowledge of their kin is, 'Well, I know he/she likes video games.'

Via GuardianUK: "The mobile phone has changed the way Japanese teens read. Our media will be morphing soon, too. The latest of a new best-selling type of story, the keitai shosetsu, literally 'portable (phone) novel,' is read not on a page but on your phone screen. Of Japan's top 10 bestselling fiction works in the first half of this year, five began life as keitai shosetsu. Moved from pixel to page, their average sale is 400,000."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Book Review: Songs In The Key Of My Life
by Ferentz Lafargue

Much like Nick Hornby's Songbook, Songs In The Key Of My Life is a song by song, chapter by chapter examination of various pop songs and their effects upon the author. But unlike Hornby's book, Songs In The Key Of My Life is intended as a memoir, rather than just a collection of personality-driven record reviews.

The book's format is established in the introduction: Lafargue details the recurring presence of Stevie Wonder's 1976 record, Songs In The Key Of Life, during his relationship with his one-time fiancee/current ex, and examines the way in which certain songs gained and lost significance depending on the state of their union. From there, the book jumps back and forth through time, chronicling the personal tragedies and comic moments that served as hallmarks in Lafargue's life, as well as a few of the highs and los in the last twenty years of pop music. Chapter two, for example, is a funny story about how a nine year old Lafargue used his mom's love of Billy Ocean to woo, and then lose, and then slightly re-woo the affections and attentions of a female classmate. Chapter three is an interesting look at how a "big, black Haitian kid who idolized hairy white boys" suddenly found himself feeling like less of an outsider due to the release of RUN DMC and Aerosmith's Walk This Way video.

An excerpt:
"Dancing to Walk This Way I felt less like a chubby Haitian kid rambling across his parents' room, and more like a man exuding the same swagger shown by the men performing on the TV screen. These perceived changes were affirmed that Monday in school. Everyone was talking about the Walk This Way video; and not only was everyone talking about it, but they were talking about it to me. They presumed that since I liked heavy metal I knew everything about each and every rock band. I remember being peppered with questions about Aerosmith: 'Who are they?' 'Do they like black people?' 'Do they have any other songs like this?'"

And on it goes, detailing Lafargue's thoughts on politics (via 2 Live Crew's Me So Horny, Destiny's Child's Bills, Bills, Bills and Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA), spirituality (Kanye West's Jesus Walks), the loss of a loved one (Bone Thugs' Tha Crossroads) and the loss of innocence (Micheal Jackson's Thriller).

Songs In The Key Of My Life is a quick read. I read the whole thing in one afternoon -- while at work. This is largely due to the author's conversational and unpretentious style of writing. Lafargue's prose possesses the same pared down, easy-flowing quality that many of his favorite songwriters employ.

Click here to visit the author's website.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Book News, In Brief

Still golden, forty years on: The New York Times reassess S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Charges of plagiarism are addressed and dismissed -- not because they're unfounded, but because the final novel turned out so unmistakably original.

The New Yorker magazine has hired Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon as their new poetry editor. The GuardianUK finds this to be a refreshing, albeit ironic selection. "In 1990, Muldoon published a mischievous poem called Capercaillies, in which the first letters of each line spelt out, in acrostic, Is This a New Yorker Poem Or What? (The New Yorker maintains that it rejected the poem.)"

Borders has already drastically downsized their stock of cds and dvds, and it appears that ink & paper books are next. From ReadersRead: "Borders has renewed its agreement with Sony regarding the sale and promotion of the Sony Ebook reader. Under the new deal, Borders will continue to sell the Sony Readers, but will expand the number of stores where it is sold to 500 nationwide." Devoted Borders 'customers' are apparently okay with this, as it doesn't in any way threaten their freeloading, layabout habits. My advice to the company, though: don't f**k with your scone selection!

Tim Lucas' definitive Mario Bava biography, All The Colors Of The Dark, has finally been released. It's $260 (US), but that's why I asked for it for my birthday...two years ago. Delighted recipients have been posting pictures of themselves with their new, prized possession on the blog that Lucas set up specifically for the book. To the left is my personal favorite.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

News Bits, In Brief
(saving your souls, one News Bit at a time)

Via AP: Norman Mailer will release On God: An Uncommon Conversation on Oct. 16. The book is to be "a series of 'Platonic dialogues' between the author and literary executor Michael Lennon." Judging from that picture, a conversation with God is soon to follow.

Via AP: "A rare first edition of the Book of Mormon found in a home near Palmyra, the birthplace of the Mormon religion, fetched $105,600 at auction Wednesday. Mormons consider the Book of Mormon to be scripture on par with the Bible." This reminds me of the tale of Mark Hofmann, a lapsed Mormon and professional forger who took the Mormon church for thousands of dollars in the 1980s. He sold the church fake letters supposedly written by the church's founders, letters that could have proved damaging to the reputation of the organization. At one point, Hofmann also sold the church a couple of faked pages of sacred Mormon scripture.

Via AP: "Codex Gigas, also known as The Devil's Bible — a medieval manuscript said to have been written 800 years ago with the devil's help — has returned to Prague after an absence of 359 years. The priceless piece, considered the biggest medieval book, was taken from the Prague Castle by Swedish troops at the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648. It is in Prague on loan from Sweden's Royal Library in Stockholm. According to myth, a Benedictine monk promised to write the book overnight to atone for his sins. When he realized the task was impossible, he asked the devil for help. The page with the illustration of the devil is the one visitors see. The manuscript was likely written by one monk from the Benedictine monastery in Podlazice located some 65 miles east of Prague sometime at the beginning of the 13th century, said Zdenek Uhlir, a specialist on medieval manuscripts at the National Library. It contains 'a sum of the Benedictine order's knowledge' of the time, including the Old and New Testament, 'The War of the Jews' by the first-century historian Josephus Flavius, a list of saints, or a guideline how to determine the date of Easter, Uhlir said. 'I would estimate it took him between 10 and 12 years to write,' he said about the piece, which weighs 165 pounds. Originally, it had 640 pages, of which 624 survived in relatively good condition, he said."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Du Jour: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

From the publisher's website:
This is a book about shock, and the way it's applied to countries and people. It is the unofficial story of how the 'free market' came to dominate the world from Chile to Russia, China to Iraq, South Africa to Britain.

It is a story radically different from the one usually told. Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that 'free markets' lead to 'free people'. She reveals that our world is increasingly in thrall to a little understood yet hugely influential ideology: the shock doctrine. This is a doctrine that sees moments of collective crisis as a 'window of opportunity'. With societies too terrified or disoriented to protect their own interests, the free market advances, using the trademark tactic of rapid-fire economic shock therapy. Often, a refusal to comply results in distinctly more corporeal shocks: the shock of the Taser gun, or the electric cattle prod. Our history is littered with events that have provided opportunities for the shock doctrine. From the 1970s dictatorships of South America, through the Falklands War, Tiananmen Square and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Naomi Klein reinterprets our past to trace the rise of disaster capitalism, a program of social and economic engineering advanced through shock. Playing out today around the world in Israel, Iraq, New Orleans and South-East Asia, The Shock Doctrine reveals the true beliefs that lie behind global policy and in doing so reframes our history and our present.

To hear a podcast interview with the author, click here.

Don't trust self-promotion? Here are a handful of reviews from GuardianUK, NYTimes,, BlogCritics, Third Estate Sunday Review

And lastly, a brief commercial (artfully disguised as a documentary/sound bite pastiche) for the book by Klein and 'Children of Men' director Alfonso CuarĂ³n:

NYTimes Bestsellers: Fiction
(now with excerpts!)

To read the first chapters (or, in the case of stingier authors and/or publishers, brief excerpts), simply click the titles.

1. You've Been Warned by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

3. Pontoon by Garrison Keillor

4. The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

3. Bones To Ashes by Kathy Reichs

4. Dark Possession by Christine Feehan

5. Bones To Ashes by Kathy Reichs

6. Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

7. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

8. The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

9. Dark Possession by Christine Feehan

10. The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks