Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

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after the announcement that Go Set A Watchman, (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015) Harper Lee’s first, unpublished book, had been discovered and will be published in July, media excitement subsided into dark questions.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

“Unexpected” Best Seller Continues

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

9781476746586_95d5dThe Jan. 25 New York Times best seller lists are studded with new titles, but the real surprise is a book that has already been on the hardcover fiction list for 36 weeks. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (S&S/Scribner; Thorndike; S&S Audio), remarkable for its tenure on the list, but also for its gradual rise to number one.

In December, the New York Times examined the factors that went in to making this “unexpected breakout bestseller.” At that point, it had just climbed from #6 to #2. As S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy observed, “An awful lot of titles drop off the best-seller list after four months, and it’s a miracle if it lasts more than four months,” but even more surprising, this one, “not only kept going, but the longer it went, the bigger it got.”

The book emerged last February as a favorite among librarians on GalleyChat, and went on to become a May LibraryReads pick and a LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites.

Many libraries continue to show heavy holds (we issued a holds alert for it back in April last year). One large system expects interest to continue, having just entered a substantial reorder. The trade paperback is currently scheduled to release in June, but don’t count on that if the hardcover continues selling.

Next week, we’ll see if it continues at number one, or whether The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, (Penguin/Riverhead) takes that spot.

Novelist Robert Stone Dies

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

9780679737629  9780060957773  0395860288

National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, Robert Stone died on Saturday at his home in Key West. He was 77.

The New York Times, in addition to an obituary, publishes an appreciation of his work by Michiko Kakutani, who says he was “one of the few writers to capture the apocalyptic madness of America in the 1960s and ‘70s.”

The books she finds particularly noteworthy are:

A Hall of Mirrors, (HMH, 1966)

Dog Soldiers, (HMH, 1974) — National Book Award winner

A Flag for Sunrise, (RH/Knopf, 1981) — finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize

Damascus Gate, (HMH, 1998)

Children of Light, (RH/Knopf, 1986)

Bay of Souls (HMH, 2003)

Prime Green, memoir, (HarperPerennial, 2007)

Death of the Black-Haired Girl, (HMH, 2013)

Gotta-Read-It Review: OUTLINE

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

9780374228347_44d65If anyone can make you want to read an unconventional literary novel, Dwight Garner can. His review of Rachel Cusk’s Outline,(Macmillan/FSG; Ebook; Blackstone Audio;1/13/15) in today’s New York Times makes you ready to throw caution aside and dive into a “a poised and cerebral novel that has little in the way of straightforward plot.”

The review alone is worth reading, if only for the quote from W. H. Auden, “Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation,” which is apt for a book that is described by the publisher as “a novel in ten conversations.”

If Garner’s review doesn’t convince you, consider the three starred prepub reviews (Kirkus is the holdout, but the review reads like someone just forgot to add the star).

Colbert’s Final Guest

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

9781594204999_a7f67Appropriately, since he has  featured so authors on his show,  now that The Colbert Report is ending, Stephen Colbert’s final guest was the winner of National Book Award in fiction, Phil Klay (The Report‘s  final episode  is actually tonight, but it does not feature a human guest).

Klay’s book Redeployment, (Penguin Press; Penguin Audio; Thorndike, OverDrive Sample) is a series of short stories about serving in Iraq. He chose to portray the war through fiction, he told Colbert,  because it made him feel less constrainted than nonfiction would have, “I don’t think I could be, in a weird way, as truthful as I wanted to be in trying to chase down the experiences I was trying to articulate on the page.” To that, the master of “Truthiness” lit up and deadpanned, “You can be more truthful by making things up?”

THE SLAP TV Series To Debut

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

NBC’s 8-part adaptation of the controversial award-winning novel, The Slap by Australian Christos Tsiolkas, (Penguin, 2010) has been scheduled to begin airing on Feb. 12.

The SlapStarring Uma Thurman (shown in some recent photos from the Brooklyn set), it is directed by Lisa Cholodenko, (HBO’s Olive Kitteridge and the movie The Kids are All Right).

About the repercussions of a man slapping an obnoxious four-year-old boy at a barbecue, the book was a hit in both Australia and the U.K., where it became a reading group staple. It was made into a popular Australian TV series in 2011 (as a result, some reports cite the new adaptation as a remake of that series, without noting the original source material).

Released in the U.S. as an original trade paperback, it  received a strong endorsement from the Washington Post. The reviewer praised it for giving American readers a sense of life in Australia, while exploring subjects that resonate here,

In The Slap we live for a few short weeks in suburban Australia, learning the language, becoming intimate with the characters and experiencing their customs. But finally the novel transcends both suburban Melbourne and the Australian continent, leaving us exhausted but gasping with admiration.

The “Venality” of the Nobel Prize

Monday, December 15th, 2014

When French author Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize this year, only a handful of his 30 books were averrable in the U.S. in English.

In a press release, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced today that they have acquired the rights to the author’s latest novel, So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood, (French title, Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier). They did not announce an anticipated release date.

1567922813   9780520218789_0bb98  9780300198058

As the Washington Post reports, this is not happy news for the founder of one of Modiano’s long-time U.S. publishers, David Godine, who tells the Post, “Money is what this business is all about, There is no venality that exists more than the venality that exists after the Nobel Prize is awarded.” He also notes that the company has done well with Missing Persons, one of the few books available in the U.S. at the time of the Nobel announcement, adding, “if you’re going to read a Modiano, that’s the one to read.”

Last month, the University of California Press, reprinted Dora Bruder, one of Modiano’s more well-known books. In addition, Yale University Press released Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas, (reviewed recently in the Washington Post).

Small Press Book, Big Press Attention

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

9780988518339_d5dccIn today’s New York Times, Dwight Garner opens his review of Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish (Tyrant Books, original trade pbk., Nov. 11) with this attention-getting phrase, “Unlike any American fiction I’ve read recently in its intricate comprehension of, and deep feeling for, life at the margins” and goes on to describe it in increasingly glowing terms, winding up with, “The final chapters of this indelible book pulled my heart up under my ears.”

The publisher is the indie press Tyrant Books, which was profiled in The Los Angeles Review of Books last year.

Preparation for the Next Life was one of 35 titles on Publishers Weekly‘s list of “The Big Indie Books of Fall 2014,” also receiving a stellar review in that publication, as a “stunning debut novel that plumbs the underbelly of New York City … Lish’s prose is at once raw and disciplined, and every word feels necessary. “

After OLIVE KITTERIDGE

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Good news for those who enjoyed HBO’s adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge. The director, Lisa Cholodenko, is gearing up for another TV adaptation, this one for NBC, of a complex, award-winning novel, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, (Penguin, 2010).

It was just announced that Uma Thurman will star, replacing Mary Louise Parker, who recently had to drop out to recover from pneumonia.

The SlapThe controversial Australian novel, about the shock waves set off after a man, having had it with an obnoxious four-year-old boy at a barbecue, ends up slapping him. It was a hit in both Australia and the U.K., where it became a reading group staple.

When it was released here as an original trade paperback, it received a strong endorsement in the Washington Post.  Noting that the book switches back and forth among various characters and their reactions to the events, the reviewer says,

It’s a potentially confusing structure, but Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas is a master of seamless joints … He gets so close to his characters that the reader almost pleads with him to treat them more kindly.

While it gives American readers a sense of life in Australia, it also resonates here,

In The Slap we live for a few short weeks in suburban Australia, learning the language, becoming intimate with the characters and experiencing their customs. But finally the novel transcends both suburban Melbourne and the Australian continent, leaving us exhausted but gasping with admiration.

It was made into a popular Australian TV series in 2011 (as a result, some reports cite the new adaptation as a remake of that series, without noting the original source material).

Below is a trailer for the Australian version:

WOLF HALL Series, U.S. Debut

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

9780312429980   Bring Up the Bodies (Booker Winner)

Hilary Mantel, author of the Wolf Hall series, recently told an audience that she will not appreciate it if the BBC indulges in the kind of “nonsense” that the Americans brought to history in The Tudors TV series on Showtime.

American audiences will be able to judge for themselves this spring. PBS just announced that they will air the series as part of  “Masterpiece,” beginning April 5. The six-part series stars Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis, known to many American primarily as Brody in the first three seasons of Showtime’s Homeland, as Henry VIII.

In an odd bit of timing, the TV series begins after the Broadway opening on March 20th of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatrical adaptation, which has been a hit in London (view Act 1, Scene 1). The text of the play will be published in two versions:

9780007549894_4b1c7  9781250064172_e247a

Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies: (stage version)
Hilary Mantel, Mike Poulton
Theatre Communications Group; December 16, 2014
Ship Date: November 24, 2014
9780007549894, 000754989X
Trade Paperback, $22.95 USD

Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies: The Stage Adaptation
Hilary Mantel, Mike Poulton
Picador: February 24, 2015
9781250064172, 1250064171
Trade Paperback, $16.00 USD

As to when the third book in the trilogy, The Mirror and The Light will appear, Mantel said it is “unlikely to be ready until 2016.

Readers Advisory: THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH

Monday, October 27th, 2014

9780385352857_cd8abThe winner of the Booker, announced Oct 14, The Narrow Road To The Deep North, by Richard Flanagan (RH/Knopf), arrives on the 11/2/14 NYT Hardcover Fiction list at #10.

It’s the ninth Booker winner in a row to hit the list, as the NYT BR‘s “Inside the List” column notes (the most successful of those, of course is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, followed by Anne Enright’s The Gathering).

The award has had a major impact on the author’s life. Flanagan recently told the Telegraph that the prize money saved him from turning to a “life down the mines,” adding, “I’m not a wealthy man. This means I can continue to write.”

Based on reviews, it may be difficult to find a way to recommend the book. Even fan Ron Charles warned in the Washington Post that this “story about a group of Australian POWs during World War II will cast a shadow over your summer and draw you away from friends and family into dark contemplation the way only the most extraordinary books can,” hardly a way to encourage potential readers.

Wendy Bartlett, head of collection development at Cuyahoga P.L, Ohio, offers another way to look at it:

If your readers engaged with Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, or are fans of the timeless love story in Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, they will absolutely love The Narrow Road To The Deep North, one of the most readable and emotionally available Booker winners in years.

It follows the story of an Australian doctor, Dorrigo Evans, who served in WWII and was captured, surviving several years in a POW camp. Through flashbacks, we learn about Evans’ long marriage as well as his true love. The latter part of the book reveals the fates of the various people from the POW camp — the story of which is the crux of the narrative.

It’s amazing and wonderful, and your customers will thank you. Book groups who don’t mind the shifting time periods will find much to talk about here, particularly if they’ve read Unbroken.