“Mary Gaitskill writes tough … You have to write tough — and brilliantly — to pull off a novel like The Mare … a raw, beautiful story about love and mutual delusion, in which the fierce erotics of mother love and romantic love and even horse fever are swirled together.”
Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category
On Well READ TV this week Jonathan Evison discusses his newest book, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! (Workman/Algonquin, Aug.), the film version of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and his empathetic writing process.
Calling This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! a “coming of old age novel,” Evison reveals that he spent some of his teen years as the only person under 70 in an old folks trailer park, taking care of his grandmother and watching widows reinvent their lives.
That experience helped him craft Harriet and is an example of his empathetic writing process. He explains that as he writes he seeks to get out of his own way and inhabit the character in front of him, “jumping through an empathetic window” so their actions feel inevitable.
He also talks about the film version of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which is now in post-production and expected to open in 2016, with a script by Rob Burnett, the former executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman, and starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez.
A movie version of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! might also make it to the screen. Deadline reported last month that Focus Features has optioned film rights.
The conversation is followed with further book suggestions to pair with Harriet, offered by Mary Ann Gwinn, the Seattle Times book editor.
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! was a September LibraryReads pick:
“Harriet Chance receives word that her recently deceased husband, Bernard, has won an Alaskan cruise. Deciding to go on the trip, she is given a letter from her close friend Mildred, with instructions not to open it until she is on the cruise. The contents of this letter shatter Harriet and she begins to reevaluate her life and her relationships.” — Arleen Talley, Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, Annapolis, MD
It is also an Indie Next pick.
Few authors are in such a strong position to call out the war on genre. In Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast he does so in no uncertain terms, calling it a “bizarre act of self-mutilation” for readers to avoid certain genres, such as SF or Fantasy, or only read certain kinds of fiction.
“The book doesn’t care if it’s science fiction,” he says. “The book doesn’t give a damn about genre, it just is what it is.”
In a wide-ranging interview Mitchell also talks Dungeons & Dragons and its relation to Slade House, defends and praises Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and extols Andy Weir’s The Martian. He is a big fan of Susan Cooper as well and discusses how Ursula K. Le Guin sparked his desire to be a writer:
“I have clear memories from way back of finishing A Wizard of Earthsea on a rainy Saturday morning, and just having this incandescent urge inside me, like a magnesium ribbon, that I badly wanted to do that as well. I wanted to make those worlds and people—those imaginary worlds—and send them on journeys, and give them quests, and make other people feel what she had made me feel.”
The movie debuts Oct. 16, 2016, so we have a year before we find out if this prediction os accurate.
“An app-based novel that aspires to be the most bonkers book ever written.”
That is how BuzzFeed begins a very long profile about the newest project by Eli Horowitz, one of the driving forces behind the indie publishing house McSweeney’s.
Horowitz wants to change how books and reading are understood. His newest effort in that undertaking is The Pickle Index.
Unlike most books that might be described with a plot summary what really matters here is what The Pickle Index is.
As reviewer Carmen Machado describes it for NPR’s Arts & Life review, it is three books and an app.
There is also a hardcover two-book slipcase set edition with illustrations by Ian Huebert, that a la Brian Selznick, have strong story-telling power: The Pickle Index (Sudden Oak Books).
As Machado puts it,
“the illustrations in each [of the hardback volumes] encourage the reader to read the books back and forth, or at the very least turn and twirl the illustrations to see how they connect with, compliment, or contradict each other.”
If that were not enough, the hardcover books are not, as Machado describes, “simply the paperback with color” but are structured differently than the paperback.
Then there is the app, of which Machado says,
“is [a] different thing entirely, while still being more of the same … Once the reader has read the necessarily elements, they can progress through the story in real time, or with the narrative accelerated. Additionally, the app has one-off jokes and minor side plots — including two soldiers trapped in a submarine together, squabbling in the Q&A section. You, the reader, are also integrated into this frustrating world, and have to (among other things) manipulate the Index’s deliberately clunky interface.”
Lost? Horowitz describes it this way to Anne Helen Petersen of BuzzFeed:
“There are all these different ways that you can read that are valid, so I wanted to fully imagine all of those formats. So: the book-iest book I could do, and the app-iest app. Even the paperback, and the Kindle version. They’ll have their own sort of thing, with different reaches and different audiences.”
It might sound overly elaborate and precious, but Horowitz knows his stuff. He has worked with big-named authors including Dave Eggers, Miranda July, Michael Chabon, and Joyce Carol Oates and, says Petersen, “every book he’s written has been optioned for film or television: The New World, published in May, was optioned by Olivia Wilde; The Silent History, a digital app turned paperback from 2012, is slated to become AMC’s new prestige drama.”
There are plenty of people thinking about the future of the book. Horowitz is one of the most creative, telling BuzzFeed, “That’s why I made The Pickle Index in so many forms … To say there’s not a future; there are futures.”
Still wondering what the book is about? Petersen describes it as featuring “a delightfully unskilled circus troupe against the backdrop of a fascist dystopia, united by a forced devotion to fermented items.”
Laura Bennett, Andrew Kahn, Dan Kois, and Katy Waldman, all of Slate, gathered to talk about Hanya Yanagihara’s novel just a few weeks before she discovers if the book wins the National Book Award (to be announced Nov.18).
In what might be the best expression of the group’s reaction, one of the panelists said she has never had as complicated a relationship with a novel, finding it both riveting and deeply unpleasant, a book she could not stop reading even as she found herself emotionally manipulated at every turn.
Another National Book Award finalist, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, will be the subject of the December discussion.
Gillian Flynn’s “new book” The Grownup (PRH/Crown; BOT; OverDrive Sample), released this week, is actually a short story that appeared in an earlier anthology. And, as a ghost story, it’s in a different genre from her domestic thriller Gone Girl. Fans, of course, are pressuring for a new full-length novel.
She gave those fans some hope during an interview with Salon, stating “I’m starting it right now. I’m a slow writer. I kind of overwrite and then whittle it down from there. I’m hoping to be done by end of next year. My guess is a 2017 publication.”
She is also suffering the anxiety of trying to live up to expectations after a runaway bestseller,
“I so wish I had one I was working on when Gone Girl came out. It’s a little intimidating to think about sending another thing out there. You’re never, ever going to repeat that thing – it was its own weird lightning in a bottle kind of thing … I think my main battle with the next one is to just do what has served me well so far, which is just write the kind of book I would read personally.”
Whatever the book is about, it will not revisit Amy and Nick. She says, “When people ask if I’m going to do a sequel, I always say ‘never say never.’ But it definitely won’t be the next one up. I feel like I need a break from their voices in my head.”
Flynn has a few other projects in the works that might get in her way. She is working with 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen on a heist thriller and is set to produce the TV series based on her novel Sharp Objects.
This is becoming a thing. Last night on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert had John Irving read him a bedtime story (last week, Jonathan Franzen did the honors). The source of the story is not identified, but it contains some familiar Irving themes, including bears, circuses, blood and endangered children.
Irving also got the opportunity to talk about his writing. He says his books play out worst case scenarios that are not happily, based on his own life.
Irving’s 14th novel, Avenue of Mysteries (S&S) published yesterday, came under fire from New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner for just those pre-occupations, saying, “The things that for a while were magical in Mr. Irving’s writing long ago came to seem, instead, like tricks.”
Tonight, Elizabeth Gilbert is scheduled to appear on The Late Show. She will be followed the next night by Norwegian memoirist Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of the 3,600-page, six-part autobiographical novel, My Struggle. We’re hoping the “modern-day Proust” gets the bed time story challenge.
If you were charmed by Lily James in the trailer for the Weinstein/BBC adaptation of War and Peace, take a look at her in a parody of period dramas, as “Lizzy” Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
This is the first full trailer. A teaser was released last month.
The movie is scheduled to open on Feb. 5, 2016.
A tie-in is scheduled for December:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Movie Tie-in Edition)
Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Books: December 15, 2015
Trade Paperback; 9781594748899, 1594748896
$14.95 USD, $16.95 CAD
In news that might overshadow her PR push for the newest Cormoran Strike novel, JK Rowing said during an interview on BBC Radio 2 Book Club that she is going to write another children’s book:
“I’m not going to give you an absolute date because things are busy and I’ve been writing a screenplay as well. But I will definitely write more novels under JK Rowling. I’ve written part of a children’s book, which I really love. I will definitely finish that. I have ideas for other adult books.”
Let the watch begin.
UPDATE: The U.K. trade publication, The Bookseller, followed up with Rowling’s agent. You can almost hear the sigh in his voice as he replies, “J K Rowling has talked previously about writing a children’s book and, as she said to Simon Mayo in the interview, it is on-going, with no plans to publish as yet.”
She is also gamely promoting her latest adult title, Career of Evil (Hachette/Mulholland), the third in the Cormoran Strike mystery series.
She has much to say on that same BBC interview but she also talked with David Greene for NPR’s Morning Edition, discussing how her research into the feelings and motivations of killers gave her nightmares and why she chose to disguise herself as a male author.
“… there was a phenomenal amount of pressure that went with being the writer of Harry Potter, and that aspect of publishing those books I do not particularly miss. So you can probably understand the appeal of going away and creating something very different, and just letting it stand or fall on its own merits.”
The New York Times Magazine features Mary Gaitskill in a lengthy profile written by Parul Sehgal, an editor at The New York Times Book Review. It is online now and set for the Nov. 8 print edition.
Perhaps, as Sehgal goes on to point out, that is because:
“at first glance [the novel] feels out of place in her oeuvre … [it] doesn’t have the usual feel of Gaitskill’s fiction, the prickly wit and enveloping sanctuary, the lure of a dark bar on a hot day. It’s earnest and violently of the daylight, stuffed with squalling schoolchildren and focused less on missing connections than surviving them.”
Sehgal says that instead the novel:
“is a more expansive, more elaborately plotted story than we’ve come to expect from Gaitskill, and it’s not a book she ever wanted to write … What, after all, does she know of motherhood or writing from the point of view of a poor child of another race — let alone horses? But Gaitskill has always written from the margins, peering in: Feelings of exclusion and confusion powerfully motor her imagination. And in The Mare, in writing about race, poverty and family life, she has traveled to some of the farthest vistas of her career.”
The novel centers on Velvet, an 11-year-old Dominican-American girl from Crown Heights Brooklyn who is sent to the countryside to spend the summer with a childless white couple. It traces the complications and connections between her family, a horse, and the couple she stays with.
Reviewing for the NYT Dwight Garner was not blown away, saying “The Mare gallops, but on a closed track, not out there in the wild.”
Reviewing for the LA Times, author Elissa Schappell completely disagreed, writing:
“This is a coming-of-age story in the way we are always coming of age, whether we are 13 or 47. What elevates it is the way Gaitskill rides herd on sentimentality, which isn’t to suggest that the work isn’t emotional — it is. It’s just that there are no false notes, no stumbles in the rare moments of tenderness. It’s brave and bold to publish a book like this. Make no mistake: The women in this book, like Gaitskill herself, are mares.”
And booksellers like it, making it an Indie Next Pick for November:
“The Mare is the heart-wrenching story of a young inner-city girl in the Fresh Air Fund program who travels to a host family in upstate New York, where she befriends a frightened and abused racehorse at a nearby stable. Gaitskill navigates the ugly realities of both human and equine abuse, but, ultimately, this is a triumphant novel shaped by authentic characters and in which trust and determination win. Readers will be reminded of how our real-life connections with animals can both guide and heal.” —Nancy Scheemaker, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY.
Gaitskill gets even more attention in Alexandra Schwartz’s profile for The New Yorker, “Uneasy Rider,” online now and in print in the Nov.9 issue.
Just after the announcement that the film adaptation of The Girl on the Train is set for release a year from now, comes news about two other titles in the genre are taking major steps closer to screens.
Director Adrian Lyne has been selected to head up the film version of The Silent Wife, (Penguin, 2013) with Nicole Kidman starring. Lyne has had experience with stories about relationships gone spectacularly wrong, having directed both Unfaithful and Fatal Attraction.
The debut novel by A.S.A. Harrison, published as an original trade paperback, was a surprise best seller in 2013.
Another domestic thriller, also starring Kidman, this time along with Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies (PRH/Putnam, 2013) is in the works as an HBO limited series. It was just announced that Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) is in talks to make his TV directorial debut adapting the novel by Liane Moriarty. Deadline calls this “the highest-profile limited series packages to come together for HBO since True Detective.”
Kidman and Witherspoon will produce the series. The pair clearly love the domestic thriller genre. This is the second title by Morality they have acquired, having optioned the rights last year to The Husband’s Secret (Penguin/Putnam/Einhorn, 2013). In May, they optioned S.J. Watson’s Second Life (Harper, June 2015). Earlier, Kidman starred in the film version of Watson’s debut, Before I Go to Sleep (Harper, 2011). Witherspoon was a producer for the movie Gone Girl.
Amazingly, neither of them have anything to do with The Girl on the Train.
A release date of Oct. 7, 2016 has been set for the movie adaptation of the runaway best seller, The Girl on the Train, starring Emily Blunt. Also recently announced, Justin Theroux is in talks to play the lead character’s ex-husband after Chris Evans dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.
The movie will be shot in New York, but Emily Blunt will not adopt an American accent for the role. She told the BBC last month that she and director Tate Taylor have decided that she will play the main character the way she was written, as a British woman.
Last night two high profile authors got late night treatment.
Meyers is proving to be a deft interviewer of authors. That may be because, as he revealed last night in a throwaway aside he thinks of himself as a writer too, having been the head writer for Saturday Night Live.
The pair discuss Groff’s process, her stereoscopic approach to Fates and Furies, and writing sex scenes.
Jonathan Franzen starred in a skit on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and sat down for a conversation as well.
The skit mocks Amazon through a bedtime story entitled “Little Read Reading Hood.” The US Department of Justice stars as the woodsman and there is a typical Colbert twist at the end.
The conversation, in which Colbert’s snark sometimes got the better of Franzen, ranged from Twitter to reading to football. Nevertheless, n the strength of his appearance, Purity rose on Amazon’s sales rankings, from 445 to 356.
In it, Obama explains why novels are important to him, “when I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels.”