Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

Chabon’s Glowing Reception

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

9780062225559_e399cMoon glow byMichael Chabon (HC/Harper; Harper Audio; OverDrive Sample) is a critical and library darling and has the holds figures to prove it. In the majority of library systems we checked hold ratios are well over 3:1, with some reaching 5:1. Even where holds are within acceptable ratios, all copies are in circulation and have active hold lists. It is a LibraryReads November selection with the following annotation:

“A grandson sits by his dying grandfather’s bedside as his grandfather slowly reveals the light and shadows of a marriage and of a family that kept secrets as a way of life. He learns of his grandmother’s life growing up during World War II; her coming to America and living with a man who kept to himself, even lying to her about his short time in prison. Chabon’s signature style includes carefully observed characters that are both new and familiar and shimmering prose that reflects and refracts light much as moonlight does.” — Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ

The critical community is just as impressed. The Washington Post says “Chabon aims for the moon and successfully touches down on the lunar surface [offering] an emotional tale of love and loss; fabulous, at times magical, writing; and a story rooted in real-world events told from a unique perspective.” Michiko Kakutani reviews it for the NYT, saying Chabon “writes with both lovely lyricism and highly caffeinated fervor.” BuzzFeed offers an in-depth profile complete with photos and “day in the life of” coverage. Entertainment Weekly features the title, and the photos that inspired it.

It is on the Carnegie Medal shortlist (winners to be announced at MidWinter) as well as multiple end of the year best lists. It is also the #1 Indie Next pick for December.

Slate Book Club Reads UNDERGROUND

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

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Slate critics Jamelle Bouie, Laura Miller, and Katy Waldman return with the newest Audio Book Club. They “discuss two novels that reimagine our racist past and present,” The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (PRH/Doubleday; RH Audio; BOTOverDrive Sample) and Underground Airlines by Ben Winters (Hachette/Mulholland Books; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample).

The panel discuses each book on its own and then compares them in a wide ranging conversation that dips into the roots of hard-boiled genre fiction, the history of slavery, and segments of the history of the abolitionist movement.

Whitehead recently won the National Book Award for his novel, which is also on most of the year-end best of books of the year lists. PW picked Underground Airlines as one of the best Mystery/Thriller books of 2016.

The next discussion will be about the winner of the Nobel Prize, Bob Dylan, focusing on The Lyrics: 1961-2012 (S&S).

SILENCE Gets A Trailer

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Director Martin Scorsese has adapted a book he has “reread countless times,” one that has given him “a kind of sustenance” that he has “found in only a very few works of art.”

The novel is Shusaku Endo’s Silence: With an Introduction by Martin Scorsese (Peter Owen Publishers, Dec. 1; trade paperback, Macmillan/Picador Modern Classics), first published in 1966 and winner of the Tanizaki Prize, one of Japan’s highest literary honors.

Entertainment Weekly writes that the film is about “a Portuguese Jesuit priest who is persecuted along with other Christians in 17th-century Japan … the hardship inflicted upon them [the priest and two others], and especially on their fellow Christians, puts their faith to the test.” It stars Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver.

9780720614480_052afIn  addition to the quotes above, Scorsese also writes in his introduction to the tie-in, that the priest in the novel, played by Neeson, “begins on the path of Christ and … ends replaying the role of Christianity’s greatest villain, Judas.” Endo “looks at the problem of Judas more directly than any other artist I know. He understood that, in order for Christianity to live, to adapt itself to other cultures and historical moments, it needs not just the figure of Christ but the figure of Judas as well.”

This is not Scorsese’s first film about religious subjects. He directed The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988 and Kundun in 1997 (about the Dalai Lama).

At a press conference in May, held to promote the first look at the film, Scorsese told reporters that he’d been trying to adapt the book for over 25 years and that “The subject matter presented by Shusaku Endo was in my life since I was very, very young … I was very much involved in religion, I was raised in a strong Catholic family. … Further reflection is how [we] want to lead our life in the Christian faith … so ultimately this book drew my attention when it was given to me in 1988.”

Silence will open Dec. 23 in a limited Oscar-qualifying run before opening in wide release in January.

The Appeal of Nell Zink

Monday, October 31st, 2016

9780062441706_c4837The author of Mislaid (HC/Ecco, 2015), which made the National Book Award Longlist in 2015, as well as many best books lists, and most recently Nicotine (HC/Ecco; Harper Audio; OverDrive Sample), an Indie Next pick, is a reviewer favorite.

Laura Miller, the books and culture columnist for Slate, tries to understand why Zink is so beloved, while reviewing her newest novel as well.

She is a fearless writer, not worried about a backlash in the form of a “moral, political, or artistic reproach” says Miller. Perhaps this is because she was already mature, 51 years old, when she broke big in writing circles, and the fact that she is far from a product of the “MFA approach/”

Miller says that while reading her work she seems “to be the only novelist who truly does not give a fuck what you think of her.”

Second, she writes as she wishes, without regards to accepted rules. “Her willingness to simply tell you a story without adopting all the elaborate pretenses of dramatic realism, with its carefully constructed, allusive snapshots” is a big draw Miller contends.

Third is her style.  She has a “fundamentally comic sensibility” and excels at “Romantic farce.” She is also “remarkably subtle—too sympathetic, perhaps, to qualify as satire, but uninclined to let anyone off the hook.”

Finally, and most of all says Miller, she is willing to simply let her stories be, “the most transgressive thing of all about Zink’s work [is] that it has nothing it wants to teach us.”

As for Nicotine, Miller concludes “It spills out like the endlessly unfolding events of life itself, in discernible patterns of the wholesome and the toxic but refusing to stay still long enough to resolve into some kind of life lesson.”

Man Booker Announced Tomorrow

Monday, October 24th, 2016

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Literary history may be made when the winner of the UK’s Man Booker award is announced at a ceremony in London tomorrow night beginning at 8 p. (3 pm, Eastern). For the first time, two US authors are on the shortlist, Paul Beatty for The Sellout (Macmillan/FSG,  OverDrive Sample), which received awards and was on many best books lists when it was published here last year, and Ottessa Moshfegh for her debut, Eileen (PRH/Penguin; OverDrive Sample).

Most consider the field wide open, but in the UK, where it’s legal to do such things, bets are on Canadian Medeleine Thien for  Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Norton; OverDrive Sample). Recently published here, the daily NYT reviewed it warmly this week, calling it “a beautiful, sorrowful work.”  That followed an equally warm review earlier in the NYT Sunday Review. 

Second in odds is  the UK’s Deborah Levy for Hot Milk (Macmillan/Bloomsbury; OverDrive Sample), reviewed when it came out this summer in the daily NYT, the Washington Post and the NYT Book Review

Coming is third is His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae, by Scotsman Graeme MaCrae Burnet (Skyhorse; OverDrive Sample). As we wrote earlier, its selection for the longlist was a major surprise, both because it is a crime novel, a genre that has not received recognition from the Booker judges before, and because it is from the tiny two-person Scottish press, Saraband. In the US, it was recently released by a much larger small press, Skyhorse.

Beatty comes in fourth and Ottessa Mosfeght is last, but the punters rarely predict winners for literary awards. The only thing that can be said for certain is that someone’s literary reputation will be made tomorrow.

Zadie Smith: The Interview

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

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One of the most heavily anticipated literary events of this fall is Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time (PRH/Penguin; Penguin Audio/BOT), set for release on Nov. 15. Previewed on the majority of the fall reading lists, it a Carnegie Medal Longlist title, and a LibraryReads selection for November, with the following annotation:

“Spanning over twenty years and two continents, Smith’s new novel is a charming account of one woman’s coming-of-age. Smith’s unnamed narrator, a mixed-race child lives in one of London’s many low-end housing units.  She meets Tracey and the two are bonded over the shared experience of being poor and ‘brown’ in a class that is predominantly white. As the two stumble towards womanhood, the differences become more stark and divisive, and their friendship is fractured by Tracey’s final, unforgivable act. This book will appeal to lovers of character-driven fiction.” — Jennifer Wilson, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

This week’s NYT‘s Style Magazine T, gets a jump on the more literary media, featuring an interview with the author by fellow novelist Jeffrey Eugenides. The two have clearly been friends for some time, resulting in an interview that comes across as an intimate, personal, somewhat confessional conversation.

Some highlights:

Smith says that therapy which has helped her write more confidently and in new ways, allowing her to use the first person voice in Swing Time, “I’ve always felt very cringe-y about myself … It did seem to me, when I was a kid and also now that I’m a grown-up writer, that a lot of male writers have a certainty that I have never been able to have. I kept on thinking I would grow into it, but I’m never sure I’m doing the right thing.”

About Swing Time Eugenides says “Like the black-and-white musicals that feature in its pages, the book is a play of light and dark — at once an assertion of physicality and an illusion … The novel cloaks existential dread beneath the brightest of intensities.”

Much of the profile is about her search for and expressions of identity. Of her own self, Smith says she aspires to be more like Darryl Pinckney, who “claims the freedom” of just being himself “in all his extreme particularity.” Eugenides responds that she “already seems that way” to him. After a pause she replies, “Oh” and the interview ends.

Accompanying the article is a video of Smith in the first person.

Heading to Screen: WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS

Friday, October 14th, 2016

jmcoetzee_waitingforthebarbariansIn what might be some consolation for not making it to the Booker shortlist this year, J.M. Coetzee’s award-winning novel, Waiting For The Barbarians (PRH/Penguin) is being adapted as a feature film.

Coetzee won the Booker Prize in 1983 for Life & Times of Michael K and in 1999 for Disgrace. He also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. This year,  The Schooldays of Jesus (PRH/Viking; Feb. 2017) was on the longlist, but did not make the cut to the shortlist.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Coetzee adapted his novel for the film. Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) will star and Oscar nominated director Ciro Guerra, who earned praise for Embrace of the Serpent, will helm the project says the trade source.

In their review of the book, the NYT wrote “Mr. Coetzee tells the story of an imaginary Empire, set in an unspecified place and time, yet recognizable as a ‘universalized’ version of South Africa. This allows Mr. Coetzee some esthetic distance from his subject, for even while remaining locked with the history of his moment, he isn’t completely at the mercy of its local chaos and ugliness. The result is a realistic fable, at once stark, exciting and economical.”

NPR brought new focus on the novel in 2014 when they named it “This Week’s Must Read” after the Senate Intelligence Committee issued its report about the “brutal interrogation techniques used by the CIA after Sept 11.”

Finally, the Final Finalists

Monday, October 10th, 2016

news-world All That Man Is 9780393609882_59ec7

The final three of the finalists for major book awards in fiction have just been released and are getting media attention.

Selected as the number one LibraryReads pick for October, News of the World by Paulette Jiles (HarperCollins/Morrow; Brilliance Audio) is one of five finalists for the National Book Awards in fiction. Entertainment Weekly hails it this week on their “Must List,” saying, “Jiles’ gorgeously written novel … follows a retired soldier in 1870 tasked with bringing a kidnapped 10-year-old girl to her faraway relatives after her rescue.”

Just released in the US., the Man Booker finalist, David Szalay’s All That Man Is (Graywolf; OverDrive Sample) gets double coverage from the New York Times. Dwight Garner in the daily paper uses an arresting analogy, “you climb into … All That Man Is, as if into an understated luxury car. The book has a large, hammerlike engine, yet it is content to purr. There’s a sense of enormous power held in reserve.” He notes the book is not actually a novel, but “closer to a collection of linked short stories,” In the Sunday Book Review, author Garth Greenwell, whose debut novel What Belongs to You (Macmillan/FSG; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) is a National Book Award finalists, writes, “there’s very little explicitly interlinking its separate narratives. The stories cohere instead through their single project: an investigation of European manhood. ” The New Yorker ‘s esteemed critic James Wood goes further, saying that Szalay is “The latest novelist to give voice to what he has called a ‘disaffection with the novel form,’ ”and that the result “takes the novel form and shakes out of it a few essential seeds.”

Tthe last of the Booker finalists to be published in the US arrives this week, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, (Norton; OverDrive Sample; Recorded Books audio coming in April).  Publishers Weekly gave it a star, but it has not yet been reviewed in the US consumer press [Update: The Wall Street Journal reviews it, calling it “elegant”]. Earlier this summer, Canada’s The Globe and Mail wrote that the book “cements Madeleine Thien as one of Canada’s most talented novelists” with a “gorgeous intergenerational saga, stretching as far back at the 1940s and traversing China” told from the perspective of a woman living in present-day Vancouver, who begins the book with the story of her father’s suicide.

The winner of the Man Booker will be announced on Oct. 25, the National Book Awards on Nov. 16.

Ferrante Unmasking Backlash

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

9781609452926_4d4f4The backlash to the uproar over the purported unmasking of the true identity of the author behind the pseudonym Elena Ferrante, is best and most amusingly summarized by NPR’s “The Two Way.

The controversy brings new attention to a collection of essays, interviews and letters by the author that will be released in the U.S. in November, Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey, Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein, (Europa Editions). The title is a Neapolitan word that, as Ferrante explained in an interview in the Paris Review, means “bits and pieces of uncertain origin which rattle around in your head, not always comfortably.”

Will the Real Elena Ferrante
Stand Up, PLEASE?

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

9781609450786_26fdc9781609451349_a246f9781609452339_1c4a0The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante, Europa Editions

We don’t get the obsession with finding out who the real Elena Ferrante is, but the news media is currently atwitter because The New York Review of Books published an article on Sunday that purports to have uncovered the identity of the true author of the internationally best selling Neapolitan Novels.

The story is by an Italian business journalist who did what business journalist do, he followed the money, noting a dramatic increase in royalties to Italian translator Anita Raja. Based on style, she has been one of the leading contenders for the Ferrante mantle. The increase began about the same time that the Ferrante books started taking off. Bingo.

Many news sources are covering the story, including the New York Times. An opinion piece in the Guardian offers wise advice, “if you want to know who Elena Ferrante is, there is a very simple way to find out. Read her books.”

Best Sellers: Patchett Hits New Highs

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

9780062491794_46ce0Ann Patchett lands at #4 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list, making Commonwealth (Harper; HarperAudio) her highest ever debut.

According to the paper, Bel Canto reached #8 in 2003 but debuted at #70 and State of Wonder hit, and peaked, at #12.

Commonwealth is #1 on the PW Fiction list, making it likely to land on the NYT‘s list at #1 as well when the Oct 2 list comes out later this afternoon.

Library patrons are echoing the sales figures. Holds are strong on all formats at libraries we checked.

It looks like Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins’s Harper imprint, was correct when he told The Wall Street Journal “It’s probably the most commercial novel Ann has written yet.”

As we noted earlier, it is a darling of critics. It made most, if not all the fall reading previews. It is also the Indie Next #1 pick for September; Entertainment Weekly gave it a solid A review; The Guardian says it is “outstanding;” and Jennifer Senior reviewed it early for the daily NYT, calling it “exquisite.

The Flavor of Grief: UMAMI

Monday, September 19th, 2016

9781780748917_edecdNPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday features an under-the-radar debut novel by a Mexican author, published in English by an indie British press, Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated by Sophie Hughes (Perseus/Oneworld Publications, dist. in the U.S. by Perseus/PGW; OverDrive Sample).

Host Scott Simon lyrically introduces the book as set in a Mexico City neighborhood where “The residents … each have their own stories told in different times, different stories that, in time, reveal common threads of love, loss, regret, recovery, mystery, loneliness and an undefinable richness.”

All the characters are struggling with some level of loss and Jufresa says she wanted to write a book about “grief during a [specific] period of time because I also wanted to write about the end of grief … this kind of grief where you’re already coming out.”

About the process of translation Jufresa says that “It’s such a treat to have someone translating your work because no one ever will read your work as closely as a translator does … you have the fantasy that you will have readers like this, I think, that pick up all the details.”

Jufreza was named as one of the most outstanding young writers in Mexico as part of the 2015 project México20. Her novel was listed as one of the titles on The MillionsMost Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview” and The Rumpus called it “Dynamic and delicate.”

 

Late Night Literati

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

9780385542364_b2a61Last night, Seth Meyers turned his attention from celebrities to an author he’s been a “fan of for a long time,” Colson Whitehead and his book The Underground Railroad (PRH/Doubleday; RH Audio; BOT).

Although he features authors on his show relatively rarely, Meyers is known for reading widely and for personally selecting the books he features.

The book is currently at #2 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction best seller list, after 5 weeks.

First segment:

Click here for the second segment.

THE NIX To TV

Monday, September 12th, 2016

The NixThe glittering era of cinematic TV adaptations continues with the news that movie star maven Meryl Streep and Star Wars director J.J. Abrams are teaming up to produce a small screen limited series of The Nix by Nathan Hill (PRH/Knopf; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample).

Deadline Hollywood reports the deal is with Warner Bros Television which will be able to auction the finished project to the highest bidder.

New York Magazine has already called the debut novel “One of This Fall’s Buzziest.

As we noted, it racked up accolades when it hit the shelves with People magazine making it a pick for the week, calling it  “as good as the best Michael Chabon or Jonathan Franzen.”

Entertainment Weekly was also impressed, giving it an A- and calling it “a big fat cinder block of a book brainy enough to wipe away the last SPF-smeared vestiges of a lazy summer but so immediately engaging, too, that it makes the transition feel like a reward.”

Early days yet and no word on who will star opposite Streep in the role of her on-screen son, Samuel Andresen-Anderson.

Taking Odds

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

9780307593313_66750 9780679743460_9b3f7Betting is underway on who will win the Nobel Prize in Literature with Japan’s Haruki Murakami topping the list.

He may be the Susan Lucci of authors, having led the betting for the last three years, only to see Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and oral historian take the prize last year, French novelist Patrick Modiano win in 2014 and Canadian Alice Munro in 2013.

He is not alone. Americans Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates and Irish writer John Banville annually get bandied about as the bookies make odds and this year is no different. Roth is the third favorite to win with Oates right behind him. Banville’s odds have, oddly enough, fallen out of the top 10. Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, another frequent pick for several years, is still in the top five.

There is a new name in the top three, Adunis, the pen name for a Syrian poet and essayist, has risen through the ranks and is now holding the #2 spot on the oddsmakers list.

Predictably unpredictable, the Nobel Prize in Literature has baffled odds makers for years and is just as likely to go to a  dark horse this year.

The exact announcement date has yet to be set but is most often awarded in early to mid October.