Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

LibraryReads To Crit Pick

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

9780812989885_a1476Pete Hamill reviews Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (PRH/The Dial Press; RH Large Type; OverDrive Sample) for the forthcoming NYT Sunday Book Review, (not yet available online) calling it a “strikingly symphonic novel” and saying readers will keep turning pages “carried by Tinti’s seductive prose.”

Librarians saw it coming. It was the #1 LibraryReads pick in March:

The novel has received so much attention, that the review aggregator LitHub lists it as both one of the “Hottest Books of the Season” and the “Most Talked About Books.”

Booksellers also love it, picking it as an Indie Next selection for April 2017 and as we noted in Titles To Know, it was previewed on a number of monthly or seasonal best lists, including those by the BBC, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Elle, and InStyle. Much earlier in the year it was included in The MillionsThe Great 2017 Book Preview.”

The Rolling Stone says “Tinti has established herself as one of our great storytellers. She draws you in with this book, and it’s really difficult to get away.” Ron Charles reviews it for The Washington Post, as a “thriller with heart” and give it the “The Totally Hip Video Book Reviewer” treatment:

Tinti was interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday in late March:

Holds are generally high. A few libraries we checked bought few copies and are facing ratios approaching 10:1. Others have ordered more copies to meet demand.

 

Heading To Screen: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

9780385542364_94521Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, will write and direct the adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning novel The Underground Railroad (PRH/Doubleday) as a series for Amazon.

“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different,” Jenkins said in a statement. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way.”

The Underground Railroad is a massive job,” he told the the LA Times. “Right now, I’m thinking I want to do that over six or seven hours, and that will take a lot of time and consideration because it absolutely has to be done the right way. It’s a landmark work.”

Consequence of Sound reports “Jenkins has been working on the project since September, just one month after Colson’s book was released.”

It is early days, so there is no word on an air date or casting.

Meyers and Saunders, Redux

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

On Monday, Seth Meyers hosted George Saunders on Late Night, a return of sorts.

As a result, Saunders’ novel, Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample), having already been a #1 on the NYT best seller, is moving up Amazon’s sales rankings this morning.

The two-part interview is a remarkable contrast to usual late-night celebrity fare.

Meyers introduces the second part of the interview with a phrase that may never have been uttered by a late night network host before, “the common architecture between writer and reader.”

Meyers has had experience with the author. He interviewed Saunders in February when he served as  the substitute host on the Charlie Rose Show.

Saunders To Silver Screen

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Lincoln in the BardoMegan Mullally (Will & Grace, Infinity Baby) and husband Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, The Founder), have bought the film rights George Saunders’s NYT bestseller, Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample).

The couple will produce alongside the author. Both worked on the audiobook version with him.

I am thrilled to be in artistic cahoots with Megan and Nick, two artists I’ve long admired,” Saunders told Deadline Hollywood, “This is going to be big fun. My hope is that we can find a way to make the experience of getting this movie made as wild and enjoyable and unpredictable as the experience of writing it — I am so happy to have such fearless companions on the trip.”

The A.V. Club points to the challenges facing the adaptation, “The book has more than 150 narrators … then there’s the matter of the archival texts intercutting the musings of Willie and his new neighbors. And that’s all before you get into those neighbors’ appearances.” However, the producers have already dealt with those issues for the audiobook version.

EXIT WEST Hits NYT Bestseller List

Friday, March 17th, 2017

9780735212176_8834cAfter weeks of critical attention, Mohsin Hamid’s newest novel, Exit West (PRH/Riverhead; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) debuts on the NYT Bestseller list at #5.

Coverage is continuing. PBS Newshour and The Wall Street Journal released video interviews. The Seattle Times reviews it, saying the “penetrating, prescient new novel feels like bearing witness to events that are unfolding before us in real time.” The Guardian writes:

Exit West shifts between forms, wriggles free of the straitjackets of social realism and eyewitness reportage, and evokes contemporary refugeedom as a narrative hybrid: at once a fable about deterritorialisation, a newsreel about civil society … and a speculative fiction that fashions new maps of hell.”

Holds are strong across libraries we checked, with the majority showing holds at 5:1 or higher.

Lost and Found

Monday, March 13th, 2017

9780143107316_af1eaA novel by the influential Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay, Amiable with Big Teeth (PRH/Penguin; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample) was all but lost in the Columbia University archives. It remained unpublished for 70 years until it was discovered by a doctoral student while doing research, causing a flurry of news reports.

Published last month, it now sports an eye-catching cover and has received a series of pre-pub reviews that drove libraries to buy copies.

Consumer coverage is now catching up.

Time says the novel “lives up to McKay’s reputation. The book satirizes life in Harlem during the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia … Socialites, intellectuals and hucksters debate the conflict abroad from the parlors and churches of Harlem … McKay mocks both sides, but he knows the stakes: ‘If a native state can maintain its existence in Africa and hold its head up among the white nations,’ one character says, ‘it adds to the self-respect of the colored Americans.'”

Paste reports on the find and the authentication process. The Atlantic provides an in-depth feature.

Claude McKay was already known to the literary world. His 1922 collection of poetry, Harlem Shadows, was a landmark work “that helped usher in the Harlem Renaissance” writes The Atlantic.

At the time the novel was discovered, the NYT provided a account of McKay’s writing and influence on a “generation of black writers, including Langston Hughes. His work includes the 1919 protest poem If We Must Die, (quoted by Winston Churchill) … He also wrote the 1928 best-selling novel Home to Harlem.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard University scholar and one of experts who examined the novel, told the paper, “This is a major discovery … written in the second half of the Harlem Renaissance, it shows that the renaissance continued to be vibrant and creative and turned its focus to international issues.”

White, Black and Blue

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

9780451493699_50a6dOn NPR’s Morning Edition Sunday, author Hari Kunzru is interviewed about his new book, White Tears (PRH/Knopf; RH Audio), a story about two white hipsters from Brooklyn who become deeply involved in collecting old Blues music. NPR calls it “a mystery, a coming of age story, a history.”

The interview explores the complex historical relationship between the black creators of the Blues and the “elite white men” who collected the music, making it popular with other elite whites and, in the process, turning it into an “image that suited them.” One of the most famous collectors made recordings from Southern penitentiaries without seeming to be touched by the conditions suffered there.

Reviews are very strong. The Washington Post calls the novel “captivating” and writes “Kunzru’s graceful writing is exquisitely attuned to his material … White Tears is a profoundly darker and more complex story of a haunting that elucidates the iniquitous history of white appropriation of black culture.”

The Huffington Post calls it “The Horror Story La La Land Should Have Become.”

It is also a March Indie Next pick.

Hollywood Intersects with LibraryReads

Friday, March 10th, 2017

9780399184512_3767cAdd Kerry Washington to the list of Hollywood women seeing the possibilities in book adaptations. Variety reports she will produce the planned Warner Bros. feature based on Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers (PRH/Riverhead; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample). Bennett is on board to write the screenplay and will serve as an executive producer.

The Mothers was a LibraryReads selection for October 2016. Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO wrote the annotation:

“In a contemporary Black community in California, the story begins with a secret. Nadia is a high school senior, mourning her mother’s recent death, and smitten with the local pastor’s son, Luke. It’s not a serious romance, but it takes a turn when a pregnancy (and subsequent cover-up) happen. The impact sends ripples through the community. The Mothers asks us to contemplate how our decisions shape our lives. The collective voice of the Mothers in the community is a voice unto itself, narrating and guiding the reader through the story.”

Bennett made waves last year and was named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 authors for 2016. Her novel was a NYT bestseller for two weeks, starting in late October 2016 where it debuted at #18. It did better and stayed longer on the LA Times list, where it rose to #7 and lasted six non-consecutive weeks.

Bestseller performance aside, it was a literary hit, getting critical attention, glowing reviews, and several best book nods. It was also a Librarian Favorite of 2016, making the top 7 picks.

Kerry, known for her portrayal of the take-no-prisoners Olivia Pope in the hit TV show Scandal, is on the path to becoming “a Producing Powerhouse” wrote Vanity Fair last year, pointing out that she was the executive producer for HBO’s Confirmation. She also starred in the series, earring nominations for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe award.

The studio optioned the book just recently, so it will be a while before plans firm up, but naming the high-profile Washington to the project is a major step.

Attention Continues for EXIT WEST

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

9780735212176_8834cCritical attention continues to build for Mohsin Hamid’s newest novel, Exit West (PRH/Riverhead; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample). The book review aggregator LitHub excerpts fifteen consumer reviews and several libraries are showing high holds ratios on light ordering. UPDATE: The New Yorker adds to the reviews, calling the novel “Instantly Canonical” and Entertainment Weekly gives it a straight A.

As we noted in Titles to Know for this week, Michiko Kakutani gave it a laudatory early review in the daily NYT, saying that, like Hamid’s earlier works, the novel explores, “the convulsive changes overtaking the world, as tradition and modernity clash headlong, and as refugees — fleeing war or poverty or hopelessness — try to make their way to safer ground.”

Considered important enough for double coverage, it is also be featured on the cover of the upcoming NYT Sunday Book Review, in  another strong review by Viet Thanh Nguyen [not available online yet], whose own novel about refugees, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, April 2015) won him a Pulitzer Prize and even landed him among the celebrities on late night TV. He praises Hamid’s ability to “exploit fiction’s capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world.”

NPR does a double take as well. Steve Inskeep interviews Hamid on Morning Edition and frequent NPR reviewer Michael Schlub calls Exit West “breathtaking” and “haunting” and says it is “at once a love story, a fable, and a chilling reflection on what it means to be displaced, unable to return home and unwelcome anywhere else.”

Inskeep and Hamid talk about immigration and draw parallels between Pakistan and America, with Hamid saying:

“I think America needs to be very careful. America has built something with great difficulty over a large period of time. And for America to start to become the kind of democracy that Pakistan is would be an incredible loss for America and for the world.”

 

DOWNTON Gone Ghastly

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

97803124299669781250023902Benedict Cumberbatch will star, reports Deadline Hollywoodin a new five-episode limited series for Showtime called Melrose, based on a series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn, Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, and At Last.

David Nicholls, author of the best seller One Day and screenwriter for the subsequent film, is writing the adaptations and Cumberbatch will executive produce.

Each episode will be based on one of the novels which The Atlantic has called “short, remarkably compressed … (most take place in just 24 hours or so).” The 2014 roundup review begins with a summary that Hollywood could lift, “Imagine a family like the Downton Abbey clan gone bad.”

The novels chronicle the horribly abusive life of aristocrat Patrick Melrose, a drug addict who endured a tortuous childhood. The Atlantic says they are “both harrowing and … hilarious … St. Aubyn has a cut-glass prose style, a gift for unexpected metaphor, and a skewering eye.”

“Although reviewers liken Edward St. Aubyn to Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde,” writes The New Yorker‘s esteemed critic James Woods, “he is a colder, more savage writer than either … his fiction reads like a shriek of filial hatred; most of the posh English who people his novels are virulently repellent … [the books have] an aristocratic atmosphere of tart horror, the hideousness of the material contained by a powerfully aphoristic, lucid prose style.”

The collected volume of the first four books, The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk (Macmillan/Picador; OverDrive Sample), spent three weeks on the extended NYT paperback list. The fifth novel, At Last (Macmillan/Picador; OverDrive Sample) hit the LA Times list, peaking at #16.

Cumberbatch has long wanted to play the role according to Deadline. In 2013 he listed Melrose as the answer to an online Q&A session about the role he would most like to play.

As we noted earlier, Cumberbatch has another adaptation in the pipeline. He will also star in and serve as EP for a TV version of Ian McEwan’s The Child In Time.

Late Nite Lit, Deux

Friday, February 24th, 2017

9781250083258_90d43Just two weeks after hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen on his show, Seth Meyers continued his Late Night literary salon yesterday with Paul Beatty, calling the author’s novel The Sellout (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) “fantastic” and noting its glowing critical reception.

Beatty, the first US author ever to win the Man Booker Prize, thanks him for the praise but says he hates writing, so much sho shocked his students at Columbia when he opened his first class with that admission.

The book rose nearly 100 places on Amazon’s sales rankings today.

Saunders a Bestseller, Again

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aLincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample), George Saunders’s first novel, debuts at #9 on the USA Today list. Expect to see it in the top five on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list when it arrives tomorrow.

Saunders made the leap from well-respected short story writer to household name four years ago when the NYT Magazine declared on its cover, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year.” That book, the short story collection Tenth of December then landed at #26 on USA Today‘s list.

Glowing reviews continue to mount for Lincoln, adding to those we rounded up two weeks ago. In the Chicago Tribune, author Charles Finch says it is “profound, funny and vital, a meditation on loss and power … The work of a great writer.” It was People’s “Book of the Week. They call it “Devastatingly moving.” Tor.com writes that the book “will still be necessary in three hundred years.” The NPR reviewer says “there are moments that are almost transcendently beautiful, that will come back to you on the edge of sleep.”

Saunders continues to make the talk show rounds as well. Filling in for Charlie Rose, Saunders talks with Seth Meyers on the Charlie Rose show.

Holds are growing and there is pent-up demand for the audio. In libraries we checked, where audio copies have yet to enter into circulation, holds are running as high as 115 to 1.

Reviews Swell for
THE DARK FLOOD RISES

Monday, February 20th, 2017

9780374134952_139acThe focus of critical attention, Margaret Drabble’s newest novel, The Dark Flood Rises (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) explores death and old age, but is enlivened by humor and enriched by deeply dimensional characters. The central figure is 70-something Fran who spends her time examining retirement homes for those older and more infirmed than she. The novel follows her circle of friends and family, all suffering in their own ways.

NPR’s reviewer says the novel “is a beautiful rumination on what it means to grow old [populated by] an unforgettable character [Fran], steely but likable … This isn’t a sentimental book, but it’s a deeply emotional one [asking readers] to consider how sad, how funny, how genuinely absurd aging is.”

The Washington Post‘s Ron Charles says “Margaret Drabble has written a novel about aging and death, which for American readers should make it as popular as a colostomy bag. That’s a pity because Drabble, 77, is as clear-eyed and witty a guide to the undiscovered country as you’ll find.” He continues, “the novel’s humor vaccinates it from chronic bleakness.”

The Guardian says “With their echoes of Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett, this quiet meditation on old age seethes with apocalyptic intent” and continues, that while not much happens in terms of plot, the characters are “brilliantly drawn.”

In its front page NYT Sunday Book Review, Cynthia Ozick calls it “humane and masterly.”

Perhaps fulfilling Ron Charles’s prediction, holds are light in most of the libraries we checked, but Salon points out the grimness of the topic is not the point of the novel, “A vein of black humor pulses in Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises, which, thankfully, makes the novel’s reflections on how we age and die as entertaining as a conversation with a dear friend.”

Best Seller Debut: UNIVERSAL HARVESTER

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

9780374282103_b809eJohn Darnielle’s second novel debuts on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list at #10.

Universal Harvester (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) received strong advance publicity, including two starred prepub reviews and listed as a most anticipated novel by sources as diverse as The Millions, Tor.com, and Bustle.

The author is also known as the singer/songwriter for the cult indie rock group Mountain Goats. His debut novel, Wolf in White Van (Macmillan/FSG, 2014), was longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Set in the Midwest, his new novel opens with a horror novel premise, someone has spliced creepy footage into mainstream movies rented from the local video store. But after that, it turns into something far more subtle, filled with shifting questions, taking place over multiple time periods, and ending as the Spin reviewer puts it, “in a more tender place than I could’ve anticipated.”

Booklist says the “masterfully disturbing [novel] reads like several Twilight Zone scripts cut together by a poet.”

NPR says it is full of “knife-jab sentences” and is “a fairy tale — an old, un-Disney-fied one — filtered through the fragrant, dusty Iowan air; a ghost story that’s all too real; a detective story with no simple solution.”

More from Darnielle is on the way. Publishers Weekly reports in a profile of the author, that “FSG has already signed Darnielle for two more novels” and they plan to “release a limited vinyl edition of the Harvester audiobook, with the author narrating and providing original instrumental music.”

Colbert Loves Saunders

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aCalling him “quite possibly my favorite living author,” Stephen Colbert hosted George Saunders on The Late Show yesterday to discuss his debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample).

Colbert asks why, after a successful career writing short stories, Saunders wanted to write a novel. He decided to try his hand, he replies, because he had heard a story about president Lincoln holding the body of his dead son in a graveyard crypt and could not get it out of his mind. 

Colbert calls the novel “heartbreaking” even as he jokes about all the white space on the page, caused by the line breaks between the 166 speakers in the novel (which led to the audio with a celebrity-studded cast of an equal number of narrators. In addition, the NYT has created a virtual reality adaptation).

The two also talk about the concept of the bardo, a space of transition where. Saunders explains. all the regrets, issues, and concerns one has while living are magnified and must be worked through before a soul can move on.

The book  been racking up an impressive number of rave reviews, as tracked by Book Marks. In a NYT Book Review cover piece Colson Whitehead says:

“It’s a very pleasing thing to watch a writer you have enjoyed for years reach an even higher level of achievement … George Saunders pulled that off with The Tenth Of December, his 2013 book of short stories. How gratifying and unexpected that he has repeated the feat with Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel and a luminous feat of generosity and humanism.’’

Check your holds. After a slow start they are climbing in several systems.