Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

Nancy Pearl Recommends
IMAGINE ME GONE

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

9780316261357_38751On her weekly radio appearance on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW, librarian Nancy Pearl recommends Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample), calling it a “wonderful, albeit, painful reading experience.”

The novel, told in alternating points of view, explores how depression runs through a family. Nancy says it is centered on the oldest son and progresses forward in time as each character tells their part of the story.

She particularly praised the acuity with which Haslett explores depression, saying she does not think she has ever read another novel that has explored the disease so well. She was also impressed with Haslett’s “amazingly wonderful writing.”

Nancy suggests the novel to readers who like books that explore the human condition and those readers who wish to partake of a character’s life and crises.

She’s not alone in her praise. The novel, Haslett’s second after Union Atlantic and the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here, which was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, is getting attention.

Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, saying Haslett “illuminates not just madness but what it means to witness it, too.”

NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed Haslett on Weekend Edition Saturday and NPR posted a review as well, in which Heller McAlpin offers, “Haslett’s new novel forcefully demonstrates that he is unrivaled at capturing the lasting reverberations of suicide and the draining tedium and despair — along with the occasionally fabulous flights of fancy — that accompany intransigent mental illness. And he achieves this with an extraordinary blend of precision, beauty, and tenderness”

The NYT‘s “Sunday Book Review” assesses the novel as “ambitious and stirring” and adds, “it sneaks up on you with dark and winning humor, poignant tenderness and sentences so astute that they lift the spirit even when they’re awfully, awfully sad.”

Philip Roth’s INDIGNATION,
the Trailer

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

imagesThe film adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel, Indignation, (Houghton Mifflin) received high praise when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

The recently released trailer begins with a scene that The HollyWood Reporter describes as “Played as a thrilling match of equals between Logan Lerman in a breakout performance and playwright-actor Tracy Letts in a turn that will push his estimable reputation to greater heights, this daringly extended exchange is a dialectic pitting a secular Jewish college student, resistant to suffocating authority, against a needling faculty Dean, impressed by the young man’s presentation while deploring his content. It’s characteristic of a film that is simultaneously erudite and emotional, literary and alive, that so much talk could be so enthralling.”

Variety and Vanity Fair were also impressed.

The movie opens on July 29th. No tie-ins have been announced. It was published in trade paperback by PRH/Vintage in 2009 and is part of the collection Philip Roth: Nemeses: Everyman / Indignation / The Humbling / Nemesis (Library of America #237).

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK, Trailer

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Headlines warn, “Watch Out Oscars! The First Trailer for Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Is Here.”

It is adapted from the 2012 debut novel by Ben Fountain, winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Awards. TheWashington Post called the book  “a masterful gut-punch of a debut novel … a razor-sharp, darkly comic novel — a worthy neighbor to Catch-22on the bookshelf of war fiction.”

When the movie was announced  the press release promised that Lee, known for using 3D to great effect in The Life of Pi, would “explore new methods, both technological and artistic … 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.”

That technology, called by  Sony  “Immersive Digital.”  Time says that, in layperson’s terms, it is “a stunningly crisp visual experience unprecedented in feature films,” achieved by shooting in  “3D, at 4K resolution and 120 frames per second for each eye.”

Slate cautions that the trailer seems to miss the angst and dark humor of the book, while acknowledging it’s just a trailer, and perhaps “the film itself will be as wild, lacerating, and true as the book.”

The movie debuts in prime Oscar-bait season, November 11.

Tie-in,

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain, (HarperCollins/ Ecco; trade pbk.; 9/20/16)

Hitting Screens, Week of May 9

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Captain America: Civil War dominated global box office sales in advance of its opening in the U.S. this weekend, with The Wrap offering a list of why critics love it so. Meanwhile The Jungle Book continues to reign over all comers stateside. We’ll soon know if the superhero squad is a match for team Mowgli, but either way, Disney (which has a hand in both films) is set for a very good year.

MV5BMTQ3NTQ2NjMwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk3Njk0ODE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Only one film adaptation comes out next week, Love & Friendship.

It is an adaptation of an unfinished Jane Austen novella, Lady Susan, an early effort by Austen published posthumously. Writer/director Whit Stillman finished the story to his own design and adapted it very freely. Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry star.

Variety calls it “a supremely elegant and delicately filigreed adaptation” and says Stillman “knows just how to give [Austen’s] pointed social satire an extra stab of wink-wink postmodern drollery without breaking the spell.”

Critic David Edelstein, writing in New York magazine, says it is “a treat” and that “heretical as it sounds, Stillman has improved on his source.”

9780316294126_7748cA tie-in came out last week, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, Whit Stillman (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample). It is a mix of mash-up, send-up, and spoof, using Austen’s text as well as Stillman’s additions.

The film will debut in theaters on May 13 before streaming on Amazon Prime the following month.

UPDATE: We missed one. Hallmark’s adaptation of Karen Kingsbury’s A Time to Dance will premier May 15, at  9pm ET/PT.

In December, Hallmark premiered Part One of their adaptation of The Bridge by the “Queen of Christian Fiction.” The second part was set for release this coming December, but fans objected so strongly to the year-long wait that Hallmark moved the release date upto March.

Hallmark won’t have the same problem with A Time to Dance, which is told in a single movie.

There is no tie-in, but the book is available in both paperback and digital formats (Thomas Nelson) as well as audio (Recorded Books) and large type (Thorndike).

Holds Alert: EVERYBODY’S FOOL

Friday, May 6th, 2016

9780307270641_99ef4Receiving wide attention, most significantly in an NPR interview, Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool (PRH/Knopf; Random House Audio; BOT; OverDrive Sample) is rising on Amazon and holds are well past a 3:1 ratio at libraries we checked.

The Pulitzer Prizewinner (for Empire Falls, 2001) speaks to NPR’s Morning Edition Steve Inskeep about  “blue-collar guys in a blue-collar town … [at] a point in life where they are looking ahead at an uncertain future, but more importantly looking backwards and trying to, I don’t know, figure out … what has all of this added up to?”

They also discuss how Russo’s parents and grandparents, “who didn’t think of themselves as poor, but didn’t have any money,” would be mystified at the life he has created. Russo also weighs in on this year’s political season.

Not unexpectedly, the Indie Next pick is getting attention elsewhere as well.

NYT‘s reviewer Janet Maslin features it and T.C. Boyle reviews it in this coming Sunday’s NYT’s Book Review. Ron Charles adds his take in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal welcomes readers in by saying “it’s a madcap romp, weaving mystery, suspense and comedy in a race to the final pages.”

9780679753339_c105d

Entertainment Weekly gives it a strong B+, saying “Everybody’s Fool is like hopping on the last empty barstool surrounded by old friends.”

It is a sequel to Nobody’s Fool (RH, 1993) which is also rising on Amazon and is seeing strong circ. with growing holds lists.

It was made into a movie in 1994 starring Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, Jessica Tandy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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.”