Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

Finally, THE FAMILY FANG

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

family-fang

If you had a tough time imagining Kevin Wilson’s quirky novel The Family Fang (HarperCollins/Ecco, 2011) as a movie, the trailer released this week gives hope that the adaptation might actually work.

Early reviews, based on a showing at the Toronto Internation Film Festival, are mostly positive, with an 80% positive rating from critics tracked on Rotten Tomatoes.

A GalleyChat favorite, the book was acquired by Nicole Kidman’s production company, Kidman stars, along with Jason Bateman, who also directs the project.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it has nothing to do with vampires, but with a quirky family of performance artists.

The film was acquired for distribution by Stars Digital. It will be shown in a limited number of  theaters on April 29, followed by a national rollout and simultaneous VOD release on May 6.

A tie-in has not been announced, but the paperback edition carries a “Now major motion picture” sticker,

Honoring International Authors and Their Translators

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

The shortlist of six finalists for the 2016 Booker International Prize has been announced. A younger sibling to the more well-known Booker Prize for Fiction (that longlist will be announced in July), it has been given every two years since 2005 to authors who are not citizens of the Commonwealth, for an entire body of work in any language (past winners have included Canadian Alice Munro and US citizens Philip Roth and Lydia Davis).

Now that the main Booker Award is open to all writers in English, regardless of citizenship, the International Award has been changed to one for individual novels in English translation, recognizing not only the authors, but also the translators, a change that the Guardian notes, “should help raise the profile of translated books.”

The judges call this shortlist “exhilarating,” praising its diversity.

9781609452865_92e01The finalist best-known in the US is Elena Ferrante for The Story of the Lost Child: Neapolitan Novels, Book Four, translated by Ann Goldstein (PRH/Europa Editions, Sept. 1, 2015; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample). All the titles in the author’s series have been best sellers here, with even the translator achieving celebrity status.

9780553448184_795d0Also having received attention here is The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (PRH/Hogarth; Feb. 2, 2016; OverDrive Sample)

A profile of the author in the daily NYT Books section calls the novel, which was published ten years ago in South Korea,  a “mesmerizing mix of sex and violence.” The review in the NYT “Sunday Book Review” comes with the warning that nothing can “prepare a reader for the traumas of this Korean author’s translated debut in the Anglophone world.”

9780307700292_5f8d2The winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature is also among the finalists, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for A Strangeness in My Mind, translated by Ekin Oklap (PRH/Knopf, Oct. 20, 2015; BOT; OverDrive Sample)

Daily NYT reviewer Dwight Garner calls this a minor work, lacking the “the visceral and cerebral impact of Mr. Pamuk’s best novels.”

The other titles on the list are:
9780374289867_84b40A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler, translated by Charlotte Collins (Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 13, 2016) — “Like John Williams’ Stoner or Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, A Whole Life is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. It looks at the moments, big and small, that make us what we are.” — from the description on the Booker site

9780802124692_3795aThe Four BooksYan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas (Perseus/PGW/Legato/Grove Press, March 8, 2016; OverDrive Sample)– ” No other writer in today’s China has so consistently explored, dissected and mocked the past six and a half decades of Chinese communist rule.” — the Guardian

9780914671312_c2bb4A General Theory of Oblivion, Jose Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn (PRH/Archipelago, Dec. 15, 2015; OverDrive Sample) — “a wild patchwork of a novel that tells the story of Angola through Ludo, a woman who bricks herself into her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence. For the next 30 years she lives off vegetables and pigeons, and burns her furniture to stay warm. ” — from the description on the Booker site..

The winner of the Prize will be announced on May 16th.

DELICIOUS FOODS Wins PEN/Faulkner

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

9780316284943_96ec5James Hannaham has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his novel Delicious Foods (Hachette/Little, Brown, March 2015). It is his second novel, after God Says No.

An associate professor of writing at the Pratt Institute in New York, Hannaham told The Washington Post that winning one of the most literary of awards is a surprise for a book he terms as “visceral … It’s also nasty, and it’s not at all genteel.”

Indeed not, as the paper summarizes, it tells the story “of an African American boy who, despite losing his hands, tries to rescue his mother from a Southern produce farm where she’s kept in virtual slavery. It’s a harrowing depiction of drug addiction and the plight of migrant workers. Among the novel’s most radical qualities is that parts of it are narrated by the voice of crack cocaine itself.”

As we reported earlier, the short list included literary darling The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, April 2015), Luis Alberto Urrea’s short story collection The Water Museum (Hachette/Little, Brown, April 2015), and two under the radar titles, Elizabeth Tallent’s short story collection, Mendocino Fire (Harper, Sept. 2015) and Julie Iromuanya’s debut novel, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press, May 2015).

WHAT IS NOT YOURS
IS NOT YOURS
On an NPR Roll

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Author Helen Oyeyemi is in the NPR spotlight.

9781594634635_4748dYesterday Maureen Corrigan reviewed her newest collection of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (PRH/Riverhead; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample), on NPR’s Fresh Air, praising the author’s “nouveau Gothic stories” as so memorable that they “leave a deep impression — like a scar that stubbornly refuses to fade.”

NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed Oyeyemi earlier in the week for Morning Edition. He asks her about her use of fairy tales and the way her imagination works.

Of fairy tales she says:

“I am trying to find out what endures — because these stories are so old, and have been retold by so many tellers, in so many different forms. There’s a way in which, when you retell a story, you’re testing what in it is relevant to all times and places. Bits of it hold up, and bits of it crumble and then new perspectives come through, and I like that the fairy tale is one of the only stories that can bear the weight of all that.”

When asked if books are more real than the actual world she replies:

“I think everything is equally real. … It’s just a question of different categories of reality, I guess, and not giving one greater precedence than the other.”

Earlier in the month reviewer Michael Schaub offered his take on the collection for NPR book reviews (web only). In his glowing appraisal he says:

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is a lot of things: dreamy, spellbinding, and unlike just about anything you can imagine. It’s a book that resists comparisons; Oyeyemi’s talent is as unique as it is formidable. It’s another masterpiece from an author who seems incapable of writing anything that’s less than brilliant.”

Holds are high at several libraries we checked and even where systems have gotten on top of holds, circulation is brisk.

Dateline Berlin

Monday, March 21st, 2016

9781935554271_f620cThe Berlin International Film Festival does not get as much attention in the U.S. as does Cannes, but one of this year’s featured films, adapted from a book, is getting a bevy of press coverage.

Alone In Berlin stars Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson and is directed by Vincent Perez. For all accounts, it is a somber, quiet film with deft acting, not the kind of film that creates buzz.

But buzzy it is and one of the reasons it has become such a juicy topic is the book story behind it.

Alone in Berlin is an adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel Every Man Dies Alone (Melville House, 2010; OverDrive Sample). Depicting the domestic resistance in Germany to Hitler, it was written just after the end of WWII and was based on Gestapo files kept on the real-life couple Otto and Elise Hampel. Deeply affected by the death of their son during the war, the Hampel’s began handwriting postcards with subversive messages such as “Mothers, Hitler Will Kill Your Son Too” and leaving them in public places around Berlin.

As NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday reports, Fallada was a best selling author between WWI and II, with his books picked as book-of-the-month-club selections and adapted into Hollywood films (which got him blacklisted by the Nazis).

However, Every Man Dies Alone wasn’t published in English until 2009, after Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson heard about the book from the fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg and tracked it down.

When it finally did come out here, it was a best seller and became a NYT‘s Notable Book and one of The New Yorker‘s Favorite Fiction Books of the year.

The film version does not yet have a U.S. distributor but check your copies. Circulation in strong in libraries we checked, with holds lists at many locations.

Charlie Rose featured the book previously:

MOCKINGBIRD Killed in
Mass Market Pbk

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

9780446310789_f2298The familiar mass market paperback edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird will no longer be available, as a result of what the New Republic calls a “baffling decision” by Lee’s estate.

The mass market edition is published by Hachette’s Grand Central imprint. The trade paperback, published by HarperCollins is not affected. The New Republic notes that “the more accessible mass-market paperback, particularly favored by students,  sells significantly more copies than the trade paperback.”

In an email to booksellers Hachette states that the paperback will no longer be available after April 25th.

That decisions  does not affect the $10.99 HarperCollins eBook edition, finally made available in 2014, after Lee reversed her opposition to it, saying she was “old-fashioned.”

The New Republic story, confirmed by the New York Times, is being reported widely. The NYT adds that “It is possible, though, that the estate may relicense the mass market rights for a new advance, most likely with HarperCollins.”

Secret Author

Monday, March 14th, 2016

9781609452865_92e01The interest in the hidden identity of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neapolitan novels that have swept through the best seller lists, hit a boil this weekend, sending her titles soaring again on Amazon.

The real author behind the Ferrante pseudonym has rigorously kept her (or his) true identity private. She grants email interviews only and those exchanges pass through her publisher.

That only fuels speculation, and the latest, reports The New York Times, comes from an Italian author and professor who has conducted an historical and literary study of the books. He sets his eyes on a fellow professor from Naples named Marcella Marmo. Both Ms. Marmo and Ferrante’s publishers flatly deny it.

“It’s nonsense,” said the publishers and “I’m not Elena Ferrante,” said Ms. Marmo. Those predictable responses have not quelled speculation.

Holds and circulation remain high across the series that includes My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child (all published by Europa Editions)

Just last week, it was announced that Ferrante is on the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize, adding even more interest to this long-running literary parlor game.

Literary Fave: Dana Spiotta

Friday, March 11th, 2016

9781501122729_8f332Called one of the “most anticipated” novels of this season, with that status further cemented by an author profile in the NYT‘s Sunday Magazine, Dana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others (S&S/Scribner; Simon & Schuster Audio; OverDrive Sample) is the book that all the critics want to weigh in on.

The Washington Post ‘s influential critic Ron Charles is a fan, calling it a “quiet miracle,”

“If you enter the theater of this novel, get set to weather some disorientation as soon as the lights dim … but stay in your seat and pay attention. Soon enough, all [Spiotta’s] literary chicanery comes into focus, creating a brilliant split-screen view of women working within and without the world of Hollywood.”

But the daily NYT‘s formidable Michiko Kakutani couldn’t disagree more:

“Unfortunately, Innocents does not deliver on its ambitions … [it] turns out to be a lumpy, unpersuasive novel — enlivened by some arresting moments and thoughtful riffs, but ultimately a sort of hodgepodge of derivative scenes and ideas that have been cut together into a meaning-heavy montage.”

Few are on Kakutani’s side. This week’s NYT Book Review devotes an entire page to an  appreciative review saying, “Highbrow and lowbrow have cohabitated before, of course, but rarely with this ease or this empathy.” Also strongly positive are the Los Angeles Times, New York magazine, and Vogue.

Entertainment Weekly, however, having listed it as one of “25 books we can’t wait to read in 2016,” follows with a review that gives it just a “B,”  saying the “taught modernist” writing is ultimately “chilly emotionally.”

So far, all the attention isn’t grabbing reader interest. Holds queues are modest, but since libraries ordered very few copies, the ratios are high.

PURITY TV Series

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

9780374239213_454c1A bidding war is on to pick up the Scott Rudin production of Jonathan Franzen’s novel Purity (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample), reports Variety. Daniel Craig is attached as the male lead Andreas Wolf, a charismatic trader of the world’s secrets à la Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

Showtime, Netflix, FX, and at least three others are each reportedly interested. Deadline, in a gossipy piece, says Hulu and Amazon are both in as well, but gives the early odds to Showtime.

The adaption is thought to be a 20-episode deal and will be written by both Franzen and the director of the project.

It is early days yet, and, as Variety notes, Rudin tried to get Franzen’s The Corrections on air with HBO but the project failed to move forward after the pilot was shot.

Purity, which is not widely considered Franzen’s best book (signature reviews in both the NYT and NPR were tepid), is timely however, touching on the seismic changes social media and the Internet have wrought.

Nelle Changes Her Mind (Again)

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

MockingbirdAfter years of refusal, Nelle Harper Lee has agreed to a Broadway adaptation of her iconic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. That decision comes on the heels of her reversing an earlier stance that she would never publish another book and agreeing to last year’s publication of Go Set A Watchman.

Rights to Mockingbird have been acquired by well-known Hollywood producer Scott Rudin. He has hired Aaron Sorkin to write the screenplay, with plans for it to debut in the 2017-18 season. The two have worked together on many projects in the past, including the films Steve Jobs and The Social Network.

Lee’s literary agent Andrew Nurnberg, quoted in the New York Times story says, “While [Lee] had always had misgivings about anyone who might want to bring To Kill a Mockingbird to Broadway — and there have been many approaches over the years — she finally decided that [Ridley] Scott would be the right person to embrace this,” Nurnberg said.

This is not the first stage adaptation of the book. A 1991 play by Christopher Sergel has been produced by regional theaters, annually in Lee’s hometown and recently in London. Although it is true to the book, critics have accused that version of being plodding and static.

Horton Foote’s adaptation for the screen won an Oscar and was embraced by Lee. According to an interview with Foote. “The studio asked Harper Lee to do the script, and she didn’t feel she knew enough about dramatic form. I was her choice.”

How might Sorkin handle the material differently? Sorkin has a distinctive style, characterized by the NYT as “machine-gun spray of dialogue.”

While he tells the NYT that he feels resposibility to the many fans of the book, he adds, “You can’t just wrap the original in Bubble Wrap and move it as gently as you can to the stage. It’s blasphemous to say it, but at some point, I have to take over.”

LATE NIGHT Lit

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

9780618663026_49632Seth Meyers continues his Late Night literary salon on Wednesday, featuring Alexander Chee.

The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Blackstone Audio) is Chee’s second novel (coming out over a decade after the Whiting Award–winning Edinburgh). It is set during the Second Empire and Belle Epoque Paris and features historic and fictional characters.

As Slate summarizes it, the novel’s main character is:

“Lilliet Berne, a clever, glamorous opera superstar … she sweeps into balls singing show-stopping arias to thunderous applause, yet never speaks a word in public. Lilliet is offered a role written specifically for her by an anonymous composer—an enormous compliment, until she realizes that the opera is based on her own shadowy past … Only four people know her true story, and it must have been one of them who betrayed her. As she hunts for each of the four in turn, she recounts the picaresque sequence of transformations that brought her to the pinnacle of Paris.”

Chee’s appearance follows a round of advance publicity. As we reported earlier, it is an IndieNext pick this month. It has also been selected as one of the year’s “most anticipated” novels by Bustle, Entertainment Weekly, FlavorWire, HuffPost, and The Millions.

NPR calls it “sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery,” and featured Chee on a recent Weekend Edition Saturday show.

Even Vogue has gotten in on the praise and featured Chee in an interview that highlights, in part, the novel’s lavish detail to the fashion of the era.

All the attention aside, in libraries we checked holds developing but few locales are topping a 3:1 ratio. Meyers may give the book the nudge it seems it still needs to break through.

 

 

 

Nancy Pearl Interviews Elizabeth Strout

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Librarian Nancy Pearl sits down with Elizabeth Strout to talk about writing and reading in the latest episode of herr Book Lust author interview show for the local Seattle channel.

9781400067695_a388eStrout, whose newest book is My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), says that writing for her is a long and messy process.

She begins by sketching out pieces of scenes, by hand, on paper, and moves them around on her desk until some shape starts to form.

She always searches for the voice of the character, never writes from beginning to end, and focuses on characterization always.

In fact, she says that, for her,  everything starts and ends with character, and that even a description of a setting makes her think about how a character would respond to seeing it.

9780143120490Pearl and Strout end the conversation with a lovefest about Stewart O’Nan and his books they have both treasured, including West of Sunset (PRH/Viking, 2015) and Emily, Alone (PRH/Viking, 2011).

9780375705199Of Strout’s books, Pearl urged readers especially to pick up Amy and Isabelle (Random House, 1998) as well as Olive Kitteridge (Random House, 2008).

New #1 Best Sellers

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

There’s no surer sign of the beginning of a new season than movement on the best seller list.

Two new titles land at #1 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction and Nonfiction best seller lists, breaking through titles that have dominated the top spot for weeks.

AIR  lucy-barton

At #1 in nonfiction is one of our crystal ball titlesWhen Breath Becomes Air, (PRH/Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample).

A young neurosurgeon’s account of facing his own death, it is followed at #2 by another new best seller, Pope Francis’s The Name of God Is Mercy (PRH/Random House).

In fiction, Elizabeth Stout’s latest, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) breaks through to number one, moving The Girl on the Train down to #3, which has just completed over a year on the list, most of that time in the top five. At #4 is an even greater phenomenon, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, on the list for 89 weeks.

Holds Alert: THE PAST

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

9780062270412_df6afRave reviews and a storm of attention are helping Tessa Hadley’s newest novel wrack up impressive holds queues.

The Past (Harper; OverDrive Sample), is a character-centered novel about families.

Entertainment Weekly gives it an A-, saying:

“Hadley is so perceptive about the tiny ways we find ourselves performing for one another, and so skilled at fluidly dipping in and out of the minds of her characters—whether they’re 6 and wishing to spy on the grown-ups or 76 and considering the comforts of decades-long marriage—that it can feel like she’s revealing little secrets about life that it would have taken you years to notice on your own.”

Ron Charles writes in The Washington Post:

“… for anyone who cherishes Anne Tyler and Alice Munro, the book offers similar deep pleasures. Like those North American masters of the domestic realm, Hadley crystallizes the atmosphere of ordinary life in prose somehow miraculous and natural.”

The Guardian flat out raves:

“In her patient, unobtrusive, almost self-effacing way, Tessa Hadley has become one of this country’s great contemporary novelists. She is equipped with an armoury of techniques and skills that may yet secure her a position as the greatest of them. Consider all the things she can do. She writes brilliantly about families and their capacity for splintering. She is a remarkable and sensuous noticer of the natural world. She handles the passing of time with a magician’s finesse. She is possessed of a psychological subtlety reminiscent of Henry James, and an ironic beadiness worthy of Jane Austen. To cap it all, she is dryly, deftly humorous. Is that enough to be going on with?”

It has made The Millions “Most Anticipated: The Great 2016 Book Preview,” The NY Magazine list of the “7 Books You Need to Read This January,” and The Huffpost Arts & Culture’s “32 New Books To Add to Your Shelf in 2016,” which says:

“Hadley’s popular reputation, especially in the U.S., hasn’t caught up with her critical one. But this novel, which uses her much-praised perceptiveness and her fine-brushed prose to tell a story of familial secrets and tensions, may help her break through.”

Indeed. Holds are exceeding a 3:1 ratio by wide margins at many libraries we checked.

To catch up with the book, listen to this interview with Hadley, which aired earlier in the month on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Found in Translation

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

9781609452865_92e01  9781101875551_92053  9781609452926_cb5cd

In 2014 few Americans knew Italian author Elena Ferrante’s name, let alone the name of her English-language translator Ann Goldstein.

In a profile yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reports that Goldstein, who by day is chief of the New Yorker magazine’s copy department, often draws packed audiences at events where she stands in for the author, who does not make appearances.

Goldstein tells the WSJ that she became attracted to writing translations in typical copy editor fashion, because it focused her attention. “I liked it as a way of reading,” she said, “If you have to copy down every word of something, you become very close to it.”

Describing her take on translation, Goldstein says,

“Sometimes, I think, it’s puzzle-solving. I want to make good English sentences but without losing the particular voice of the Italian writer. I can’t explain how that happens. I think it has to do with staying pretty close to the original.”

“Her name on a book now is gold,” says Robert Weil, editor in chief of Norton’s Liveright imprint (she translated the imprint’s enormous Complete Works of Primo Levi). Her upcoming projects include Jhumpa Lahiri’s new memoir In Other Words (PRH/Knopf; BOT), which was composed in Italian when Lahiri moved to Italy and decided to write in that language, and Frantumaglia: Bits and Pieces of Uncertain Origin (Europa Editions) Ferrante’s upcoming collection of interviews, letters, and other writing.

Her fame will only grow if circulation is any measure. Libraries still have active holds queues on all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, (Europa Editions).

Goldstein discusses them in this New Yorker “Out Loud” podcast.