Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

Nancy Pearl Interviews Elizabeth Strout

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Librarian Nancy Pearl sits down with Elizabeth Strout to talk about writing and reading in the latest episode of herr Book Lust author interview show for the local Seattle channel.

9781400067695_a388eStrout, whose newest book is My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), says that writing for her is a long and messy process.

She begins by sketching out pieces of scenes, by hand, on paper, and moves them around on her desk until some shape starts to form.

She always searches for the voice of the character, never writes from beginning to end, and focuses on characterization always.

In fact, she says that, for her,  everything starts and ends with character, and that even a description of a setting makes her think about how a character would respond to seeing it.

9780143120490Pearl and Strout end the conversation with a lovefest about Stewart O’Nan and his books they have both treasured, including West of Sunset (PRH/Viking, 2015) and Emily, Alone (PRH/Viking, 2011).

9780375705199Of Strout’s books, Pearl urged readers especially to pick up Amy and Isabelle (Random House, 1998) as well as Olive Kitteridge (Random House, 2008).

New #1 Best Sellers

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

There’s no surer sign of the beginning of a new season than movement on the best seller list.

Two new titles land at #1 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction and Nonfiction best seller lists, breaking through titles that have dominated the top spot for weeks.

AIR  lucy-barton

At #1 in nonfiction is one of our crystal ball titlesWhen Breath Becomes Air, (PRH/Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample).

A young neurosurgeon’s account of facing his own death, it is followed at #2 by another new best seller, Pope Francis’s The Name of God Is Mercy (PRH/Random House).

In fiction, Elizabeth Stout’s latest, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) breaks through to number one, moving The Girl on the Train down to #3, which has just completed over a year on the list, most of that time in the top five. At #4 is an even greater phenomenon, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, on the list for 89 weeks.

Holds Alert: THE PAST

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

9780062270412_df6afRave reviews and a storm of attention are helping Tessa Hadley’s newest novel wrack up impressive holds queues.

The Past (Harper; OverDrive Sample), is a character-centered novel about families.

Entertainment Weekly gives it an A-, saying:

“Hadley is so perceptive about the tiny ways we find ourselves performing for one another, and so skilled at fluidly dipping in and out of the minds of her characters—whether they’re 6 and wishing to spy on the grown-ups or 76 and considering the comforts of decades-long marriage—that it can feel like she’s revealing little secrets about life that it would have taken you years to notice on your own.”

Ron Charles writes in The Washington Post:

“… for anyone who cherishes Anne Tyler and Alice Munro, the book offers similar deep pleasures. Like those North American masters of the domestic realm, Hadley crystallizes the atmosphere of ordinary life in prose somehow miraculous and natural.”

The Guardian flat out raves:

“In her patient, unobtrusive, almost self-effacing way, Tessa Hadley has become one of this country’s great contemporary novelists. She is equipped with an armoury of techniques and skills that may yet secure her a position as the greatest of them. Consider all the things she can do. She writes brilliantly about families and their capacity for splintering. She is a remarkable and sensuous noticer of the natural world. She handles the passing of time with a magician’s finesse. She is possessed of a psychological subtlety reminiscent of Henry James, and an ironic beadiness worthy of Jane Austen. To cap it all, she is dryly, deftly humorous. Is that enough to be going on with?”

It has made The Millions “Most Anticipated: The Great 2016 Book Preview,” The NY Magazine list of the “7 Books You Need to Read This January,” and The Huffpost Arts & Culture’s “32 New Books To Add to Your Shelf in 2016,” which says:

“Hadley’s popular reputation, especially in the U.S., hasn’t caught up with her critical one. But this novel, which uses her much-praised perceptiveness and her fine-brushed prose to tell a story of familial secrets and tensions, may help her break through.”

Indeed. Holds are exceeding a 3:1 ratio by wide margins at many libraries we checked.

To catch up with the book, listen to this interview with Hadley, which aired earlier in the month on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Found in Translation

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

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In 2014 few Americans knew Italian author Elena Ferrante’s name, let alone the name of her English-language translator Ann Goldstein.

In a profile yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reports that Goldstein, who by day is chief of the New Yorker magazine’s copy department, often draws packed audiences at events where she stands in for the author, who does not make appearances.

Goldstein tells the WSJ that she became attracted to writing translations in typical copy editor fashion, because it focused her attention. “I liked it as a way of reading,” she said, “If you have to copy down every word of something, you become very close to it.”

Describing her take on translation, Goldstein says,

“Sometimes, I think, it’s puzzle-solving. I want to make good English sentences but without losing the particular voice of the Italian writer. I can’t explain how that happens. I think it has to do with staying pretty close to the original.”

“Her name on a book now is gold,” says Robert Weil, editor in chief of Norton’s Liveright imprint (she translated the imprint’s enormous Complete Works of Primo Levi). Her upcoming projects include Jhumpa Lahiri’s new memoir In Other Words (PRH/Knopf; BOT), which was composed in Italian when Lahiri moved to Italy and decided to write in that language, and Frantumaglia: Bits and Pieces of Uncertain Origin (Europa Editions) Ferrante’s upcoming collection of interviews, letters, and other writing.

Her fame will only grow if circulation is any measure. Libraries still have active holds queues on all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, (Europa Editions).

Goldstein discusses them in this New Yorker “Out Loud” podcast.

FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING
to NetFlix

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

9781616200398_151f4Called one of the “hottest titles” heading to this week’s Sundance Film Festival, rights to The Fundamentals of Caring may be nabbed by Netflix, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with theatrical rights still up for grabs (which can be tricky, since the major theatre chains refuse to book films that will be streamed simultaneously).

Based on the novel by Jonathan Evison, the movie title is shortened from the book’s, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Workman/Algonquin, 2012).

Starring Paul Rudd with Selena Gomez and Craig Roberts, the movie will be featured as the Closing Night Film.

The movie’s female star, Selena Gomez, has a separate Netflix deal in the works. She is set to executive produce a series based on Jay Asher’s 2007 YA novel, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY (Penguin/RazorBill).

Slate Takes on PURITY

Monday, January 18th, 2016

9780374239213_454c1The Slate Audio Book Club is back, this time discussing Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Calling it a big, sweeping, Dickensian novel, the Slate critics, Meghan O’Rourke, Parul Sehgal, and Katy Waldman, jump into a conversation about the core of the novel and its message.

While the central character, a woman named Pip, should serve as the novel’s heart, all the participants agree that it is the mothers in the story that power its interest, saying that those characters offer a creepy sensibility that provides “a range of tones from horror to simmer” and become the most fascinating part of the story.

The group also discusses the portrayal of women and the ways the men operate in the novel, accusing  Franzen of failing the Bechdel;Wallace test.

Each ends up recommending the novel, despite clear flaws, saying they admire Franzen’s ambition and his ability to identify questions readers need to address. However, they say that this is not the book to start reading Franzen – for that they suggest The Corrections.

Next month the book club will explore Lucia Berlin’s short-story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women, which was featured on a number of the year-end best books lists.

Hitting Screens, Jan. 18 thru 24

Friday, January 15th, 2016

MV5BMTUxNzY5MzgwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM0NDgxNzE@._V1_SX214_AL_After stealing key scenes in Downton Abbey and wowing small girls in Cinderella, Lily James stars in one of the great epics of all time, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. She takes up the role along side another familiar PBS face, James Norton from Grantchester.

The two help lead the newest BBC historical drama (in partnership with the US based Weinstein company), which is set to air in the US on January 18th on no less than three channels, A&E, Lifetime, and the History Channel.

Reaction to the sexy, violent, and lush drama has been mixed at best.

Here is The Guardian’s drooling take:

“This is proper, proper costume drama at its most lavish and its most dreamily, romantically Russian. This is how you do it, people. This is how you do it. Stop all period dramas being made now because nothing is going to match up to this. Sunday-night TV has been rescued. It’s hard to imagine how the BBC could have done a better job. It makes Downton Abbey look like am dram. It’s tonally perfect, striking exactly the right balance between drama and wit, action and emotion, passion and humour.”

On the other hand, in their preview, Flavorwire says:

“It’s hard to say whether American audiences will take to a literary miniseries comprising six one-and-a-half-hour episodes, but any low ratings won’t be for lack of celebrity or sex or war or incest … it’s Downton Abbey with war scenes, which should be enough to draw and retain an American viewership … Still, based on a single episode, it seems unlikely that this production of War and Peace will reach the heights of the 1966-67 Sergei Bondarchuk version, or the 1956 King Vidor adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn … Anyway, shouldn’t you be reading the book?”

51GF8ik4yoL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Oddly, War and Peace: Tie-In Edition to Major New BBC Dramatisation, Leo Tolstoy, (BBC Books) is not due to be released until Feb. 23.

Hitting a completely different note, MV5BMjQwOTc0Mzg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTg3NjI2NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_The 5th Wave is coming out on Jan. 22nd.

An alien invasion movie based on the novel by Rick Yancey, it stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, and Gabriela Lopez.

9781101996515_7d7c3As we reported earlier, tie-ins came out in November. In addition, another book the series has been released, The Infinite Sea (Penguin YR/Putnam, 2014). A third book The Last Star (Penguin YR/Putnam) is due in late May.

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Strout on FRESH AIR

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

9781400067695_a388eTerry Gross interviews Elizabeth Strout about her newest book, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), which was published yesterday.

As we noted earlier, Robert Redford is set to produce a series for HBO based on Strout’s previous book, The Burgess Boys.

Bringing Lit to LATE NIGHT

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

9780316386524_298a2Seth Meyers added a new episode to his “Late Night Literary Salon” by interviewing Sunil Yapa, the author of the just-released debut novel, Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Hachette/Lee Boudreaux Books; OverDrive Sample) last night. Meyers, who has a personal interest in literature, hand picks the authors he wants to interview. Earlier, he’s featured novelists Hanya Yanagihara, Marlon James (before he won the Booker) and Lauren Groff.

Meyers and Yapa briefly discuss the novel’s story – one chaotic day during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle – and then turn to Yapa’s childhood growing up with a father who is a “Marxist professor of geography.” A native of Sri Lanka, Yapa’s father first arrived in the U.S. in 1964 and was amazed by the crowds that greeted his plane. It turned out that the Beatles also happened to be on the same flight.

NOTE: if the video doesn’t play, link to it here.

In part two of the interview, Yapa reveals the heartbreak of losing his only draft of Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist and having to completely rewrite it.

Yapa’s appearance has yet to boost sales or holds of the book, which is getting largely positive reviews.

The Washington Post‘s Ron Charles says it is a “taut …fantastic debut” that “arrives like a punch in the chest” and goes on to compare it Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night.

The Rumpus says that “Yapa does a heroic job of journeying into the heart of this complex set of events, illustrating how they grow out of and impact the character’s lives. And while the heart may be the size of a fist, here it paradoxically seems to encompass the whole world and all of its citizens, who pulse with its every beat.”

Flavorwire offers “Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist is the rare contemporary novel about protest that has the courage to side with the protester — but does so skillfully enough to maintain its literary authority.”

As we reported earlier it is an IndieNext pick as well.

NPR’s reviewer Michael Schaub offers a very different take, however. In a pull-no-punches review, he says “Yapa isn’t an untalented writer, but he lets his writing get away from him way too often … After a while, it begins to feel like you’re getting lectured by a hippie professor who writes messages for fortune cookies on the side.”

THE BURGESS BOYS Heading to HBO

Monday, January 11th, 2016

9781400067688_ec1ddRobert Redford is planning to adapt Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys (Random House; RH Audio; BOT) for an HBO miniseries according to Deadline Hollywood.

MV5BMjIzOTk4NzMzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTczMzY4MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_This is the second of Strout’s books to make it to the cable network, following the Emmy winning Olive Kitteridge.

Frances McDormand, who worked for years to get Olive made, produced that hit pavinf the way for Redford.

9781400067695_a388eStrout’s newest book, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), will be published on Tuesday.

See our Titles to Know and Recommend, Week of January 11, 2016 for more. Strout is scheduled to appear on NPR’s Fresh Air on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

No word yet on an air date for Burgess.

THE DINNER, The Movie

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

The DinnerLaura Linney is in talks to star in an adaptation of The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch (RH/Hogarth), reports Deadline.

It was once reported that Cate Blanchett would direct, but it that chair will now be occupied by Oren Moverman.

A hit in Europe, the novel arrived in the U.S. in 2013 to predictions that it would be the next Gone Girl. Although it didn’t achieve that level, it sold well and was on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list for seven weeks, reaching a high of #7.

+-+971582089_140Linney has completed work on another book adaptation, Sully, based on Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger (HarperCollins/Morrow, 2009), who piloted an airplane to safety after its engines were  disabled by a bird strike.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks will play Sully and Linney his wife. It is set for release some time in 2016.

Holds Alert: THE MARE

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

9780307379740_83832Mary Gaitskill’s latest novel, The Mare (PRH/Pantheon; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), is gaining traction in libraries where holds are soaring as high as 7:1 on light ordering.

As we noted earlier this month, The Mare has been widely reviewed. Maureen Corrigan added yet another glowing review on yesterday’s Fresh Air,

“Mary Gaitskill writes tough … You have to write tough — and brilliantly — to pull off a novel like The Mare … a raw, beautiful story about love and mutual delusion, in which the fierce erotics of mother love and romantic love and even horse fever are swirled together.”

The Future of The Book:
Using Pickles

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Pickle Index9780996260800_f2d38

An app-based novel that aspires to be the most bonkers book ever written.”

That is how BuzzFeed begins a very long profile about the newest project by Eli Horowitz, one of the driving forces behind the indie publishing house McSweeney’s.

Horowitz wants to change how books and reading are understood. His newest effort in that undertaking is The Pickle Index.

Unlike most books that might be described with a plot summary what really matters here is what The Pickle Index is.

As reviewer Carmen Machado describes it for NPR’s Arts & Life review, it is three books and an app.

One is a paperback illustrated with small black and white images: The Pickle Index (Macmillan/FSG Originals; OverDrive Sample).

There is also a hardcover two-book slipcase set edition with illustrations by Ian Huebert, that a la Brian Selznick, have strong story-telling power: The Pickle Index (Sudden Oak Books).

As Machado puts it,

“the illustrations in each [of the hardback volumes] encourage the reader to read the books back and forth, or at the very least turn and twirl the illustrations to see how they connect with, compliment, or contradict each other.”

If that were not enough, the hardcover books are not, as Machado describes, “simply the paperback with color” but are structured differently than the paperback.

Then there is the app, of which Machado says,

“is [a] different thing entirely, while still being more of the same … Once the reader has read the necessarily elements, they can progress through the story in real time, or with the narrative accelerated. Additionally, the app has one-off jokes and minor side plots — including two soldiers trapped in a submarine together, squabbling in the Q&A section. You, the reader, are also integrated into this frustrating world, and have to (among other things) manipulate the Index’s deliberately clunky interface.”

Lost? Horowitz describes it this way to Anne Helen Petersen of BuzzFeed:

“There are all these different ways that you can read that are valid, so I wanted to fully imagine all of those formats. So: the book-iest book I could do, and the app-iest app. Even the paperback, and the Kindle version. They’ll have their own sort of thing, with different reaches and different audiences.”

It might sound overly elaborate and precious, but Horowitz knows his stuff. He has worked with big-named authors including Dave Eggers, Miranda July, Michael Chabon, and Joyce Carol Oates and, says Petersen, “every book he’s written has been optioned for film or television: The New World, published in May, was optioned by Olivia Wilde; The Silent History, a digital app turned paperback from 2012, is slated to become AMC’s new prestige drama.”

There are plenty of people thinking about the future of the book. Horowitz is one of the most creative, telling BuzzFeed, “That’s why I made The Pickle Index in so many forms … To say there’s not a future; there are futures.”

Still wondering what the book is about? Petersen describes it as featuring “a delightfully unskilled circus troupe against the backdrop of a fascist dystopia, united by a forced devotion to fermented items.”

 

Colbert Gets Another Bedtime Story

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

This is becoming a thing. Last night on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert had John Irving read him a bedtime story (last week, Jonathan Franzen did the honors). The source of the story is not identified, but it contains some familiar Irving themes, including bears, circuses, blood and endangered children.

Irving also got the opportunity to talk about his writing. He says his books play out worst case scenarios that are not  happily, based on his own life.

Irving’s 14th novel, Avenue of Mysteries (S&S) published yesterday, came under fire from New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner for just those pre-occupations, saying, “The things that for a while were magical in Mr. Irving’s writing long ago came to seem, instead, like tricks.”

Irving was also interviewed on NPR’s Morning Editon yesterday. Avenue of Mysteries rose overnight to #33 on Amazon’s sales ranking.

Tonight, Elizabeth Gilbert is scheduled to appear on The Late Show. She will be followed the next night by Norwegian memoirist Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of the 3,600-page, six-part autobiographical novel, My Struggle. We’re hoping the “modern-day Proust” gets the bed time story challenge.

Gaitskill Gathers Press

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Gaitskill  9780307379740_83832

The New York Times Magazine features Mary Gaitskill in a lengthy profile written by Parul Sehgal, an editor at The New York Times Book Review. It is online now and set for the Nov. 8 print edition.

Gaitskill just published a new novel, The Mare (PRH/Pantheon; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), and Sehgal says “she seemed jittery about its reception.”

Perhaps, as Sehgal goes on to point out, that is because:

“at first glance [the novel] feels out of place in her oeuvre … [it] doesn’t have the usual feel of Gaitskill’s fiction, the prickly wit and enveloping sanctuary, the lure of a dark bar on a hot day. It’s earnest and violently of the daylight, stuffed with squalling schoolchildren and focused less on missing connections than surviving them.”

Sehgal says that instead the novel:

“is a more expansive, more elaborately plotted story than we’ve come to expect from Gaitskill, and it’s not a book she ever wanted to write … What, after all, does she know of motherhood or writing from the point of view of a poor child of another race — let alone horses? But Gaitskill has always written from the margins, peering in: Feelings of exclusion and confusion powerfully motor her imagination. And in The Mare, in writing about race, poverty and family life, she has traveled to some of the farthest vistas of her career.”

The novel centers on Velvet, an 11-year-old Dominican-American girl from Crown Heights Brooklyn who is sent to the countryside to spend the summer with a childless white couple. It traces the complications and connections between her family, a horse, and the couple she stays with.

Reviewing for the NYT Dwight Garner was not blown away, saying “The Mare gallops, but on a closed track, not out there in the wild.”

Reviewing for the LA Times, author Elissa Schappell completely disagreed, writing:

“This is a coming-of-age story in the way we are always coming of age, whether we are 13 or 47. What elevates it is the way Gaitskill rides herd on sentimentality, which isn’t to suggest that the work isn’t emotional — it is. It’s just that there are no false notes, no stumbles in the rare moments of tenderness. It’s brave and bold to publish a book like this. Make no mistake: The women in this book, like Gaitskill herself, are mares.”

And booksellers like it, making it an Indie Next Pick for November:

The Mare is the heart-wrenching story of a young inner-city girl in the Fresh Air Fund program who travels to a host family in upstate New York, where she befriends a frightened and abused racehorse at a nearby stable. Gaitskill navigates the ugly realities of both human and equine abuse, but, ultimately, this is a triumphant novel shaped by authentic characters and in which trust and determination win. Readers will be reminded of how our real-life connections with animals can both guide and heal.” —Nancy Scheemaker, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Gaitskill gets even more attention in Alexandra Schwartz’s profile for The New Yorker, “Uneasy Rider,”  online now and in print in the Nov.9 issue.