Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

CASUAL VACANCY, U.S. Trailer

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

9780316228534

The HBO/BBC adaptation of  J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, (Hachette/Little, Brown) debuts on HBO April 29th & 30th.

It has already aired in the U.K., where fans resented a change in the ending. As a result, many took to Twitter to urge others to read the book instead.

The trailer for U.S. audiences was just released. Harry Potter fans will recognize one of the actors.

Media Tie-in Edition (cover not yet released):

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
Hachette/Back Bay Books: April 28
Trade Paperback  $18.00 USD, $20.00 CAD

The BBC has also signed the detective series that Rowling wrote under the name Robert Galbraith (The Cukoo’s Calling, The Silkworm) for a series.

Holds Alert: A LITTLE LIFE

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

9780385539258_d6a46Heralded by many as the next Goldfinch (as in, poised to be a popular literary breakout) and an early favorite for the year of librarians on GalleyChat, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (RH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample) is becoming a holds superstar, with some libraries we checked spiking to ratios in the double digits.

Yanagihara’s second novel, after her acclaimed debut The People in the Trees, it tells the story of four friends, one of whom has lived a life of gothic trauma.

The 720-page novel is enjoying lavish attention. The LA Times’ review begins, “I’ve read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but A Little Life … is the only one I’ve read as an adult that’s left me sobbing.” Vogue says the book announces “the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.” Kirkus, in a starred review, claims “The phrase ‘tour de force’ could have been invented for this audacious novel.” John Powers, a reviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air, confesses, “As I was reading, I literally dreamed about it every night.”

Even reviews that mention shortcomings offer high praise. The Huffington Post, in its “Bottom Line” column,  useful for readers advisors because it aims to combine “plot description and analysis with fun tidbits about the book,” calls it “a flawed but impressive novel that lifts the veil on the heart-wrenching consequences of trauma and loss.” It also calls the book “wondrous” and concludes that “the triumph of A Little Life’s many pages is significant: It wraps us so thoroughly in a character’s life that his trauma, his struggles, his griefs come to seem as familiar and inescapable as our own.” Entertainment Weekly in its B+ review says the novel is a “sometimes maddening read” but goes on to assert, “flaws and all, it’s still a wonderful Life.”

Check your holds. The waiting list might be as long as the novel itself.

Harper Lee Fraud Investigation Dropped

Friday, March 13th, 2015

At least one part of the State of Alabama’s investigation into complaints of elder abuse against author Harper Lee has been closed.

Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg tells the Associated Press that they have closed their investigation and that, in their conversations with Lee, “she was able to answer questions we asked to our satisfaction,” adding, “We don’t make competency determinations. We’re not doctors, But unless someone tells us to go back in, our file is closed on it.”

The Commission, which investigates financial crimes, interviewed Lee at the request of Alabama’s Department of Human Resources. A spokesperson for the department declined the A.P.’s request for comment on whether there will be other inquiries.

All the attention is not sitting well with Lee. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lee’s close friend, historian Wayne Flynt, said in an interview on Thursday, “All the reporters, all the controversy. At 88, in bad health, she’s wondering if it’s worth it.”

Meanwhile, holds in libraries are skyrocketing for the book that is at the center of the controversy, Go Set A Watchman (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015).

Hollywood Loves
THE BURIED GIANT

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

9780307271037_b504aCalling it “ecstatically reviewed,” Deadline reports that film rights to Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (RH/Knopf; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) have been acquired by Scott Rudin, who has been called “The Godfather of the Literary Adaptation”  (Captain Philips, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, Angela’s Ashes and the upcoming Jobs, among many others).

 

Take the comment about the novel being “ecstatically reviewed” with a grain of salt. The daily NYT critic Michiko Kakutani dismissed it as an “eccentric, ham-handed fairy tale.” Neil Gaiman had trouble nailing it down in the NYT Book Review, even after several readings and regretted his “inability to fall in love with it, much as I wanted to.” On NPR, Meg Wolitzer said she anticipated the book for months but was ultimately disappointed. The headline for her review on All Things Considered this week expresses her feeling succinctly, “Ishiguro’s Buried Giant Gets Lost In Its Own Fog.”

On the more ecstatic side is former Washington Post Book World editor, Marie Arana who calls it, “a spectacular, rousing departure from anything Ishiguro has ever written, and yet a classic Ishiguro story.”

Check your holds. Some libraries have reordered to meet demand, while others are doing well with relatively modest initial orders. Based on its rise on Amazon’s sales rankings (currently at #15, the third adult fiction title on the list), we can expect to see it in the top five on the NYT Best Sellers list next week.

Several of Ishiguro’s previous novels have been adapted as films, including The Remains Of The Da(1993) starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and Never Let Me Go (2010),  Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.

Tana French, TRUE DETECTIVE?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015


9780670038602  9780143115625  9780670021871_01b1b

Likening Tana French’s novels to the successful HBO series True Detective, a production company has acquired the adaptation rights to In The WoodsThe Likeness and Faithful Place (all Penguin/Viking) with plans to turn it ino a series of its own (one of the comments notes what many librarians will second, “They’re being modest. This series is SO much better than True Detective“).

The announcement in Deadline notes that the book feature interconnecting characters. Coincidentally, The Millions explores that subject in depth, but their comparisons are more literary, from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, novels which, “generate vertiginous thrills as they dramatize the difficulties of understanding ourselves, other people, and the world at large.”

The Review Trifecta, BRAGGSVILLE

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.59.37 AMHaving already won two influential fans, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles and the LA Times’ David Ulin, Welcome to Braggsville (HaperCollins/Morrow, Feb. 17; OverDrive Sample) by T. Geronimo Johnson gets the second premiere spot (the first right, after the cover) in the upcoming March 1 NYT Book Review, with another enthusiastic, if slightly mixed, review.

It’s difficult to match the openers of the earlier reviews:

“The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year is called Welcome to Braggsville.” (Ron Charles, the Washington Post)

“When was the last time you were shocked by a turn in a novel? Not merely surprised or astonished but actually stunned? T. Geronimo Johnson makes it happen twice in his second novel, Welcome to Braggsville.” (David Ulin, the L.A. Times)

The Sunday Book Review begins more obscurely, “If you imagine a satirical The Indian Princess, James Nelson Barker’s 1808 libretto about Pocahontas, or a macabre E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, you might come close to T. Geronimo Johnson’s second novel Welcome to Braggsville.” The reviewer goes on to a requisite NYT BR quibble, complaining that the metaphors and similes weigh the story down in spots and ends, “Organic, plucky, smart, [it] is the funniest sendup of identity politics, the academy and white racial anxiety to hit the scene in years. Recent racial satires like the film Dear White People or Tom Wolfe’s novel Back to Blood fumble to light dead fuses … Johnson, by contrast knows just which dark corners to expose … and how to whirl an affecting yarn all the while.”

An Indie Next pick for February, the book is also getting review attention in local papers, several via the syndicated Associated Press review; “narrative diversions and jazzy prose riffs will frustrate some readers but thrill others, and overall Johnson deftly pokes dark fun at a wide swath of culture, high and low.”

Johnson describes the book in his own words below:

Early Reviews: THE BURIED GIANT

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

9780307271037_b504aComing next week, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (RH/Knopf; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) appeared on all the “Most Anticipated” lists for the new year and is getting a great deal of advance review attention.


The NYT Book Review features it on the cover of the upcoming issue , with a review by Neil Gaiman (whose just released collection of stories and poems Trigger Warning, is also getting attention), in a review that indicates he had trouble nailing the book down, regretting his “inability to fall in love with it, much as I wanted to, ” and even after “reading it a second and third time … still finding  its characters and events and motives easier to understand, but even so, it guards its secrets and it world close.” He can’t let it go, however, because it “does what important books do: It remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave, forcing one to turn it over and over.”

The New York Times daily critic, Michiko Kakutani, has no problem dismissing it, calling it an “eccentric, ham-handed fairy tale with a jumble of story lines lifted from Beowulf, Arthurian legend and assorted folk traditions … recounted in stilted, formalistic language that’s presumably meant to evoke a bygone era.”

Among the novel’s fans are the Washington Post‘s former Book World editor, Marie Arana and booksellers, who picked it as an Indie Next title:

Ishiguro’s new novel is a work of wonder, transport, and beauty. A recurrent theme in his earlier books, always shown with great originality, is the matter of what happens after we have lost our way. In The Buried Giant, Ishiguro explores losing direction, memory, and certainty, as the primary characters cling to remnants of codes of behavior and belief. Which is the way through the forest? Where might our son be? And where is the dragon, and who shall seek to slay her? Set in the time just after King Arthur’s reign, Ishiguro’s tale, with striking, fable-like rhythm and narrative, shows how losing and finding our way runs long, deep, and to the core of things. — Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

The Oprah Ripple Effect

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

9780804188241_p0_v1_s600These days, it takes more than an Oprah pick to make a book a sensation.

The most recent Oprah 2.0 Book Club pick, Cynthia Bond’s debut novel Ruby (RH/Hogarth; RH Audio; RH large type announced for March 17;  OverDrive Sample). announced two weeks ago, reached a high of #98 on Amazon’s sales rankings then dropped out of the Top 100 (it hit the March 1 NYT Trade Fiction list at #7).

After a feature about the author on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday, it rose again, this time to #82. The story focuses on the author’s financial struggles as a single mother while she worked to complete the book. Bond was widely compared to Toni Morrison at the time of the novel’s publication, which racked up a number of starred reviews, and received fairly wide attention for a literary debut, but sales did little to change the author’s life until Oprah came along.

opr_cvr-lgAnd more is coming. NPR notes, “Because today’s market is much more segmented now than when her original book club began, Winfrey is personally promoting Ruby in her magazine, on her cable network and in interviews.”

The upcoming March issue of O Magazine features Oprah’s interview with the author (sneak peek here). By the way, we’re a little scared by that cover. Please don’t tell us that Oprah has discovered the life-changing magic of tidying up (looking more closely, Oprah’s approach is clearly more American, with rules like, “Know What It’s Worth” before throwing anything out.)

Ruby is a first in a projected trilogy, which may be a good thing for Oprah, who bought both the movie and TV rights.

RA Alert: WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.59.37 AMIt is the rare review that begins with such exuberant praise as “the most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read,” but that is the beginning of Ron Charles’s rave in yesterday’s Washington Post for T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville (HaperCollins/Morrow, Feb. 17; OverDrive Sample), a novel Charles goes on to claim will “shock and disturb” even as Johnson’s “narration has such athleticism that you feel energized just running alongside him — or even several strides behind.”

David L. Ulin of the LA Times shares Charles’s enthusiasm, opening his review with “when was the last time you were shocked by a turn in a novel? Not merely surprised or astonished but actually stunned?” and goes on to call Johnson’s novel “audacious, unpredictable, exuberant and even tragic, in the most classic meaning of the word.”

Welcome to Braggsville is an IndieNext pick for February, with the following recommendation,

“In Welcome to Braggsville, Johnson explores cultural, social, and regional diversity in a world increasingly driven by social media. His satirical and ironic style portrays a UC Berkeley — ‘Berzerkeley’ — student from Georgia who, along with his friends, goes back to his hometown to challenge an annual Southern tradition and inadvertently sets off a chain of events resulting in tragic consequences. Johnson’s creative language play envelops the reader in the Deep South with the impact of a razor-sharp Lynyrd Skynyrd riff.”

Johnson has jumped from a literary nonprofit publisher (Coffee House Press) to HarperCollins with his second novel (after his debut Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, which was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award). For your readers willing to be challenged, lift some quotes from Charles’s review, which also makes it sound like a strong book club candidate.

RA Alert: FIND ME by
Laura van den Berg

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.47.47 AMLaura van den Berg, whose literary post-apocalyptic debut novel Find Me (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) comes out tomorrow, is being compared to Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro and getting strong reviews and sustained attention by a wide range of critics. Salon, while comparing van den Berg to Atwood and Ishiguro called her “the best young writer in America.” The LA Times “Book Jacket” says that she captures “the disturbingly elegiac qualities of 21st century life to heartbreaking effect.” The Rumpus, likening van den Berg’s novel to the best moody and lonely music (such as many songs by Bon Iver, which should be the sound track if there is a movie adaptation) says that “rarely does a bleak novel achieve the same alluring strength of sadness … Find Me is that rare novel. It has the same potency as the most melancholy music.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.54.53 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.56.28 AM

For a debut, it is getting a remarkable amount of attention, with the way paved by the author’s two collections of short stories, The Isle of Youth (an O Magazine pick for one of the best books of 2013) and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us. It is a People pick for the week, with the following annotation,

A plague has killed millions, but young Joy has made it through. Defiant and immune, she escapes the scientists monitoring her and treks across the ravaged land, searching for the mother who abandoned her, facing down terrible memories. It sounds grim, but this is a thoughtful, touching story about survival — about finding ways to heal and reasons to live.

And it has been on multiple “highly anticipated lists,”  —  BustleFlavorWireThe Millions and BuzzFeed (for more upcoming titles, Feb. through Aug., check our Catalog of Titles on “Most Anticipated” lists).

Holds are heavy at many libraries we checked.

Harper Lee’s Second Book, Continued Controversy

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Days after the announcement that Go Set A Watchman, (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015) Harper Lee’s first, unpublished book, had been discovered and will be published in July, media excitement subsided into dark questions.

Lee, now nearly blind and deaf, lives in an assisted living facility and does not speak directly to the press. All of her statements are issued by her lawyer, Tonya Carter, who is also the person who discovered the manuscript. Throughout her life, Lee was adamant that To Kill a Mockingbird would be her only book. Is it any wonder that questions are being raised?

The New York Times today outlines the arguments that Lee has been manipulated into agreeing to the book’s publication as well as those that she is “happy as hell” about the whole thing.

8ySkd  Mockingbird:Watchman

Over the weekend a purported cover appeared on Twitter, which Amazon is now shows as the cover [UPDATE: the cover has now been removed from the Amazon site. Whether it is the real cover or not, it looks similar to the U.K.’s 50th anniversary edition of Mockingbird, above. Amazon U.K. is still showing the Watchman cover above left]. As of this writing, no cover appears on HarperCollins’ site.

What does the title mean? According to a story on the Alabama Media Group web site, Lee, who grew up reading the bible and particularly loved the King James version, took it from Isaiah 21:6, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” One of her life-long friends, Monroeville, Alabama resident, Wayne Flynt tells the publication, ”

‘Go Set a Watchman’ means, ‘Somebody needs to be the moral compass of this town.’ Isaiah was a prophet. God had set him as a watchman over Israel. It’s really God speaking to the Hebrews, saying what you need to do is set a watchman, to set you straight, to keep you on the right path … Nelle [Harper Lee] saw her father as being the watchman on the metaphorical gate of Monroeville [which became Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird] … To me it’s a beautiful title that was probably wildly out of fashion in 1960 … I find it a delicious irony that this [original] biblical title … is suddenly coming back as a second novel, because the first novel made her an international literary celebrity, and now it doesn’t make it any difference what she calls it.”

Harper Lee; Here Comes the Backlash

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

UPDATE: Several more news stories now question whether Harper, who is deaf and nearly blind, knew what she was signing when she authorized the publication of Go Set A Watchman. Paste magazine concludes that Harper Lee’s lawyer, “Tonja Carter may be a rogue operator taking advantage of a less-than-capable author who never wanted this book published at all.”

——-

After great excitement over the news that a second novel by Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman (Harper; HarperLuxe; HarperAudio) has been discovered and will be released this summer, the naysayers have arrived.

In a New York Times Opinion piece, Bookslut editor in chief Jessa Crispin begs, “Don’t Do It, Harper Lee,” pointing out that today’s internet culture is unforgiving when disappointed and reminding people that the book was “rejected by Ms. Lee’s original editor in the ’50s” and therefore “may be substandard.”

Then there’s the fears that Lee was pressured into agreeing to its publication, which brought a swift rebuttal by Lee, via her attorney, that she is “happy as hell” about it and the public’s response to the news.

That lawyer, Tonja Brooks Carter, described as a “gatekeeper between the author and the outside world,” is profiled by the Wall Street Journal ‘s “Law Blog” which reports that Harper Lee got to know her through her sister Alice Lee.

This may sound eerily familiar. Last year, Marja Mills published The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, (Penguin Press, July, 2014), in which she writes lovingly about befriending the two Lee sister and moving next door to them. Lee, however, denied involvement with the book and accused the author of using her sister Alice to get to her. Shortly after Mills’ book was published, Lee reaffirmed her position and, as reported by Entertainment Weekly‘s online column, “Shelf Life,” added, “rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.”

This story is unlikely to end until the book is published in July.

RA Alert: Slipping into Slipstream with Kelly Link

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.49.30 AMKelly Link’s new collection, Get in Trouble (Random House, Feb. 2, 2015; OverDrive Sample), her first for adult readers in over a decade, is getting widespread attention, and strong reviews, in sources ranging from NPR to Salon to The LA Time’s “Jacket Copy,” which says readers will be “hopelessly engaged” in the stories. The Salon review matches that glowing tone by asking if any author has “a better, deeper instinct for the subterranean overlap between pop culture and myth?”

Link’s collection focuses attention on a genre that is as popular as it is hard to define: Slipstream.

Picking up on the swell of interest, The Wall Street Journal profiles Link while also exploring the popularity of the genre, which they define this way:

The label slipstream encompasses writing that slips in and out of conventional genres, borrowing from science fiction, fantasy and horror. The approach, sometimes also called “fantastika,” “interstitial” and “the New Weird,” often feathers the unexpected in with the ordinary, such as the hotel in Ms. Link’s new collection of stories Get in Trouble, where there are side-by-side conferences, one for dentists and another for superheroes in save-the-world costumes and regalia.

Hats off to the WSJ for offering a cogent and manageable definition (even though it is sure to continue the debate of just what Slipstream is).

The article goes on to offer even more help to readers’ advisors by supplying a list of example titles and some reasons for the genre’s popularity.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, Tenth of December by George Saunders, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach trilogy are all mentioned.

Explaining the interest, John Kessel, co-editor of the slipstream anthology Feeling Very Strange, writes, “I think one reason this kind of fiction has become more popular is that the world doesn’t make a lot of sense to a lot of people … So fiction that suggests that the world is inexplicable, but that there is some feeling of connection nonetheless, speaks to people.”

Harper Lee’s Second Novel is #1

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

No surprise, Harper Lee’s second book, Go Set a Watchman, announced yesterday, instantly shot to #1 on Amazon’s sales rankings. Many libraries have added the title to their catalogs (see Hennepin County’s listing) and holds are building.

Also in the top 100 is the HarperLuxe larger print edition, while the audio is #1 on the “Books on CD” list.

It looks like people plan to prepare by reading Lee’s first book. At #3 on Amazon’s rankings, is the mass market paperback edition of To Kill A Mockingbird. Other editions, including the 50th Anniversary hardcover, are also on the rise.

Still to come, the cover reveal of Watchman. We’re also looking forward to learning who will read the audio. Sissy Spacek is the voice of To Kill a Mockingbird, released in audio in 2007, nearly 50 years after the book.

There’s no news yet about an eBook edition. Lee famously held off signing the rights to an eBook of Mockingbird until last year.

Go Set a Watchman
Lee, Harper
Hardcover
HarperCollins/Harper; 07/14/2015; $27.99
EAN: 9780062409850
ISBN: 0062409859

Large Print, paperback
HarperLuxe; 07/14/2015; $27.99
EAN: 9780062409881
ISBN: 0062409883

Unabridged CD
HarperAudio; 07/14/2015; $34.99
EAN: 9780062409904
ISBN: 0062409905

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK Closer to Screen

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

9780060885595_f2155Casting is about to begin for Ang Lee’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel about a group of soldiers returning home from Iraq, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, (HarperCollins/Ecco, 2012), set to start production in mid-April.

Applauded for the use of 3D in his adaptation of Life of Pi, the press release promises even more for Billy Lynn, “The film will explore new methods, both technological and artistic, with the goal of further engaging the audience.  Lee … envisions creating a new way for audiences to experience drama, including the heightened sensation that soldiers really feel on the battlefield and on the home front.”

A debut novel, it was the winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Awards. The Washington Post called it, “a masterful gut-punch of a debut novel … a razor-sharp, darkly comic novel — a worthy neighbor to Catch-22 on the bookshelf of war fiction.”