Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

David Gilbert on FRESH AIR

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

And Sons And Sons, (RH/Hogarth), is only David Gilbert’s second novel, but it arrives with great anticipation, from Entertainment Weekly’s “Shelf Life” blog, which calls it potentially “the literary novel of the summer” to the NPR reviewer who calls it “seductive and ripe with both comedy and heartbreak” and an instant classic because it “feels deeply familiar, as though it existed for decades and I was just slow to find it.”

In his interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air today, Gilbert gives a sense of what all the fuss is about.

Women’s Prize in Fiction Winner To Movies

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

May We Be ForgivenFilm rights have just been acquired for A.M. Homes’s novel, May We Be Forgiven, (Penguin/Viking) winner of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize), reports Deadline.

About a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving and its aftermath, this darkly humorous story, said the L.A. Times critic, “is so fast-moving and pushes its characters to such extremes that it quickly moves into a zone that’s a farcical hyper-realism.”

A few of the earlier  prize winners have been made into movies, most notably Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, which starred Tilda Swinton. It was a sensation at the 2011 Cannes film festival but did not get the expected Oscar nominations. Filming for the 2007 Prize winner, Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been completed. Some footage has appeared online, but  no release date has been set.

Holds Alert: LOVE, DISHONOR, MARRY, DIE, CHERISH, PERISH

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Love, DishonorGood going, Sarah Vowell. She managed to make the American public fall in love with a debut novel, written entirely in rhyming couplets (you gotta love a writer who rhymes “bourgeois” with “Christian Lacroix“), during her appearance on Comedy Central’s Daily Show Thursday night. As an indicator of how well she did, the book is now at #9 on Amazon sales rankings and rising and holds are mounting quickly in libraries. The book was also reviewed the NPR book site last week.

Vowell was on the show to promote her friend, David Rakoff’s novel, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish(RH/Doubleday; RH Audio), which was published last week. The author died of cancer last year, just weeks after completing the book.

Libraries are showing 10:1 holds ratios on light ordering.

Below is the first part of the interview — part 2 is on the site.

Holds Alert: THE SON

Monday, June 10th, 2013

The SonThe book “positioned to be the big literary read of the summer,” according to the Wall Street Journal, Philipp Meyer’s second novel, The Son (HarperCollins/Ecco; HarperAudio; HarperLuxe) has been a big success with critics and now arrives at #10 on the 6/16 NYT hardcover best seller list during its first week on sale. Some libraries are showing heavy holds on modest orders.

The book has been praised by national newspaper critics Ron Charles at The Washington Post and Bob Minzesheimer USA Today (the NYT hasn’t weighed in yet) as well as by many of their colleagues at local newspapers:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Kansas City Star

The author was profiled in Texas Monthly recently (the Baltimore native now lives in Texas, the setting for The Son), in a story with an attention-getting headline, “Hog Hunting With Texas’s Next Literary Giant” (Meyer tells the article’s author that hunting and writing are the two most important activities in his life). The article quotes “one of the foremost scholars of Texas literature,” calling The Son, “the most ambitious Texas novel in thirty years—since at least Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.”

Range of Views On The Debut of the Season

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

A Constellation of Vital PhenomenonLikely to be the most-reviewed debut of the year, Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (RH/Hogarth) is also the only English-language novel about the conflicts in Chechnya. It happens to arrive just as the American public has become more aware of that troubled history.

It also happens to arrive with a good deal of fanfare. One of the first consumer reviews, Dwight Garner’s appears in the print edition of the NYT tomorrow. Noting that, since it is based on true stories of torture during the Chechen wars, it “can be sickening reading,” but he says it is leavened by the “human warmth and comedy [Marra] smuggles, like samizdat, into his busy story.” The review is only intermittently laudatory, however. Garner admits, “I admired this novel more than I warmed to it.”

There were no negatives in the review on NPR’s All Things Considered last night from a surprising source. Meg Wolitzer, who has written that men’s fiction gets more serious literary attention than does women’s, delivered a rave for this book by a male novelist, calling it “an absorbing novel about unspeakable things” that is “highly, deeply readable.”

UPDATE: Washington Post’s Ron Charles is also a fan, calling it “a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles … At the risk of raising your expectations too high, I have to say you simply must read this book.” If you’re going to read just one review of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, this the one. It is the most thoughtful and literate.

Expect many more reviews in the next couple of weeks. Library holds are still light at this point, but growing.

Eye On: EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Every Contact Leaves A Trace“Full of sex, intrigue and clues based on Victorian poetry, Elanor Dymott’s Every Contact Leaves a Trace [Norton; Brilliance Audio] is a literary mystery about a murder at Oxford University,” writes Maureen Corrigan on NPR’s Web site in reviewing this debut novel.

Arriving here this week from the UK, where it garnered strong reviews and was voted on to the long list for the Author’s Club’s Best First Novel Award, it did not do so well with prepub reviewers here. As a result, libraries ordered it very lightly. All four reviews complained that it is overlong (Booklist, “this novel would have been twice as good at half the length”), with chilly protagonists (Kirkus, “Readers will have difficulty embracing Alex and Rachel, since neither exhibits any warmth or even a quirkiness that might make them interesting”), while sprinkling in a few bland kudos (LJ, “should satisfy readers who hang in until the end;” Booklist, “the author’s deft evocation of mood and place marks her as a writer to watch;” PW, “patient and forgiving readers of Gone Girl and The Secret History will be drawn in by its contemplation”).

Donna Tartt’s best selling first novel The Secret History, (RH/Knopf, 1992) has become reviewers’ shorthand for books that feature a murder among a close-knit group of students in a rarefied university setting. The UK’s Guardian also made the comparison, but to Dymott’s advantage, “Outwardly, her novel bears all the hallmarks of the Tartt school of academic intrigue. Yet past the atmospheric cover and the cordon of epigraphs lies a quite exceptional novel… [showing] a thoroughgoing confidence and ease with the rules of its genre, an appealing way of wearing its learning lightly, and a melancholy perceptiveness.”

Such strong opposing reactions make this a book to watch.

GOLEM AND THE JINNI: Off to a Strong Start

Monday, May 6th, 2013

The Golem and the JinniHelene Wecker was already off to a good start with her first novel, The Golem and the Jinniwith a 3.5 star review in USA Today that invites readers to “dive in and happily immerse yourself, forgetting the troubles of daily life for a while.” The Huffington Post calls it “The Book We’re Talking About,” and similar to The Night Circus, “a stirring, magical debut. Its intertwining of mythology and historical fiction is very engagingly written.”

The New York Times puts the icing on the cake in a review that will appear in print tomorrow,

… this impressive first novel manages to combine the narrative magic of The Arabian Nights with the kind of emotional depth, philosophical seriousness and good, old-fashioned storytelling found in the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The book debuted on the May 12 NYT Hardcover Fiction extended list at #30 during its first week on sale.

HBO’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE Picks Up Steam

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Olive KitteridgeAnother project announced in 2010, an HBO series based on Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge (Random House) is now gearing up. Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) has been signed to direct with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins starring. Tom Hanks’ Playtone Partners is co-producing with McDormand’s company. According to Deadline, “Getting this cast, director and a four-hour commitment from HBO is a real testament for McDormand … [who] fell in love with the book before it won the Pulitzer…[and] bought it with her own money.”

Strout’s The Burgess Boys (Random House), her first novel since Kitteridge, was published in March. McDormand’s first production effort, an adaptation of Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing, is currently filming.

Hotly Anticipated Debut

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

A Constellation of Vital PhenomenonQuick! Grab your galleys for Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (RH/ Hogarth). If you don’t have a print copy, digital ARC’s are available on Edelweiss and on NetGalley.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this debut novel set in Chechnya and arriving next week, is the hot new accessory. Sarah Jessica Parker is a huge supporter and has been working to help get the word out it.

The WSJ sits in on a book discussion, organized by the publisher and featuring the actress with a group of women in New York’s Tribeca nieghborhood,

…the conversation moved from the surprise that despite the lucidity with which Mr. Marra describes the environment in the novel, he had actually never visited Chechnya; to how people responded to the book’s leaps back and forth in time; to the pockets of humor, warmth and charm in this seemingly bleak fictional canvas; to whether the recent events in Boston would bring more people to the novel.

There’s more enthusiasm, it’s

THE FLAMETHROWERS Gaining Fans

Monday, April 1st, 2013

The FlamethrowersThe New Yorker‘s august literary critic James Wood gives Rachel Kushner a rave for her new book, The Flamethrowers, (S&S/Scribner; Brilliance Audio), just don’t be put off by the opeining paragraph which begins “Put aside, for the moment, the long postwar argument between the rival claims of realistic and anti-realistic fiction.”

He calls the book, “scintillatingly alive. It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures: Kushner is never not telling a story.”

Equally enthusiastic, but without the academic trappings, is Sherryl Connelly in the New York Daily News; “The Flamethrowers slowly and seductively becomes a novel you just can’t quit.”

NOT Based on Real-Life

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Double featureIn the current issue of USA Today, a debut novelist answers the question that plagues many first-timers; “Is your book based on your own life?”

In this case, the answer takes on extra interest. Double Feature (S&S/Scribner, releasing today) is about a famous father and his estranged son. The author happens to be the son of a famous father, Stephen King (a connection that is not mentioned in the publisher’s promo material, although that fact has not been kept a secret).

Owen King acknowledges that readers will want to know if the character “is based on my dad. But two people couldn’t be more different.”

As signaled by the fact that the cover blurb is from Larry McMurtry, Owen King’s style is quite different from his father’s.

All four prepub reviews are enthusiastic:

Booklist –” Entertaining and thought-provoking, this captivating look at the ongoing process of becoming an adult will especially appeal to fans of the indie film industry.”

Kirkus — “…an often weirdly funny book… King’s novel is winning. Superbly imagined lit-fic about family, fathers and film.”

LJ — “Fans of John Irving, Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Tropper, and Nick Hornby will appreciate this urban family tale liberally dosed with humor.”

PW — “King’s prose is artful, perceptive about people and their ‘warrens of self that go beyond understanding,’ and sometimes very funny.”

Owen King comes from a writing family. His brother, who writes under the pen name Joe Hill, is publishing his third supernatural thriller, NOS4A2 at the end of April. And, of course, his their next, Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, is coming in September.

Michiko Likes It!

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The NYT‘s formidable book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, can’t hold back her enthusiasm for Mohsin Hamid’s new book, How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia (Penguin/Riverhead; Dreamscape Audio; March 5), publishing a glowing review well over a week before the book is released.

She describes it is both “a deeply moving and highly specific tale of love and ambition, and as a larger, metaphorical look at the mind-boggling social and economic changes sweeping ‘rising Asia’.” She ends by saying that this, Hamid’s third novel, “reaffirms his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.”

His second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (HMH, 2007) has been adapted for the screen by director Mira Nair and is scheduled for limited release in the US on April 26. It stars Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber.

Tie-in:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Movie Tie-In)
Mohsin Hamid
Retail Price: $14.00
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: HMH/Mariner Books – (2013-03-26)
ISBN / EAN: 0544139453 / 9780544139459

THE DINNER Is Now a Best Seller

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Dinner  Gone Girl

We can cease speculating; Americans have embraced the European best seller, The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch (RH/Hogarth; AudioGo; Thorndike Large Print). It arrives at #36 on the new USA Today Best Seller list.

In terms of popularity, it’s not another Gone Girl, (RH/Crown), which entered the same list at #7 during its first week on sale, topped only by the Fifty Shades of Grey and the Hunger Games trilogies. That same week, it hit the NYT list at #1.

Even if it doesn’t live up to the comparison to Gone Girl (and what can?), it’s still doing very well and is likely to hit the NYT list in the top ten.

People magazine catches up with it in the latest issue (March 4th), giving it 3 of 4 stars, but the review reads more like a 5; “Koch’s skewering of elitism and self-serving morality is a wickedly delicious feast.” The many other reviews have also been positive. The only holdout has been Janet Maslin in the NYT, who dismissed it as “an extended stunt.”

Mantel’s Book Sales Rise Due to Controversy

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Bring Up the BodiesThey say news travels fast and bad news even faster, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in the UK, where it took the press nearly a week to respond to comments made by Hilary Mantel about Kate Middleton as part of her London Review of Books lecture.

The British tabloid, the Daily Mail accused Mantel yesterday of using the lecture to make a “venomous attack on Kate Middleton.” Since then, controversy has been raging, with some saying that the response to Mantel’s comments simply proves her point that royal women are unfairly treated by the public. She even urged the public to “lay off” the royal couple, saying “Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago.”

But what won the headlines were her comments that the Duchess fills her role so well that she seems to have been “designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile … without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character.”

The actual lecture is wickedly funny and much more interesting than the controversy it’s engendered.

Who will have the last laugh? The Telegraph reports today that sales of Mantel’s books have “rocketed” since her name is back in the news.

Holds Alert: THE DINNER

Monday, February 18th, 2013

The DinnerThe literary water cooler question of the moment is whether Americans will respond to the European best seller, The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch (RH/Hogarth; AudioGo; Thorndike Large Print). Looks like they are at least curious; holds are rising quickly and outstripping the number of copies by 10:1 in several libraries.

Laura Miller is dubious that readers will embrace it, writing in Salon yesterday, that Americans  may be easily confused by  the “brilliantly engineered and (for the thoughtful reader) chastening” novel, also noting that Americans are less self-critical than Europeans.

Steve Inskeep, interviewing the author on NPR’s Morning Edition today, makes no bones about his reaction. He tells the Koch that the book made him sick (in “the best possible way”), because it raises scary issues about how well parents know their own children.

To get a sense of the tone of the book, listen to a sample of the audio from AudioGo (holds are growing on it as well).