Donald Trump unwittingly sent a book of poetry rocketing up Amazon’s sales rankings.
Claudia Rankine’s award-winning poetry collection, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample), soared to #21 (from #646) after footage went viral of twenty-three year-old Johari Osayi Idusuyi prominently reading a copy of Citizen in the background as Trump spoke at a campaign rally on Monday.
The story is also showing up on news shows. Idusuyi told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that she had been to a Rankine reading recently and brought the book along to pass the time before the rally began. She decided to start reading rather than listening after Trump and his supporters expelled a protester, knocking off her Obama hat and flinging it into the crowd.
Trump supporters sitting near by tried to get Idusuyi to stop reading. She did not and, at the end of the rally, she held up the book as others held up Trump signs.
Citizen, which was a finalist for the National Book Award last year and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry in 2014, explores racism in the U.S. It is now higher on Amazon’s sales rankings than Trump’s campaign book Crippled America, currently at #99.
His most recent book, Slade House, published last month (Random House; Random House Audio and BOT; OverDrive Sample), is a blend of genres.
Few authors are in such a strong position to call out the war on genre. In Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast he does so in no uncertain terms, calling it a “bizarre act of self-mutilation” for readers to avoid certain genres, such as SF or Fantasy, or only read certain kinds of fiction.
“The book doesn’t care if it’s science fiction,” he says. “The book doesn’t give a damn about genre, it just is what it is.”
In a wide-ranging interview Mitchell also talks Dungeons & Dragons and its relation to Slade House, defends and praises Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and extols Andy Weir’s The Martian. He is a big fan of Susan Cooper as well and discusses how Ursula K. Le Guin sparked his desire to be a writer:
“I have clear memories from way back of finishing A Wizard of Earthsea on a rainy Saturday morning, and just having this incandescent urge inside me, like a magnesium ribbon, that I badly wanted to do that as well. I wanted to make those worlds and people—those imaginary worlds—and send them on journeys, and give them quests, and make other people feel what she had made me feel.”
The first preview of Miracles from Heaven, a new movie starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah has been just been released
Based on the book Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing by Christy Wilson Beam (Hachette; OverDrive Sample), the film is highlighted in a People magazine online spread. It tells the story of a young girl who “survived a 30-ft. fall from a tree and told her parents she had visited heaven – then was inexplicably cured from her terminal digestive disorder.”
The new issue of People magazine, on newsstands this Friday, features the story in full and includes “additional photos from set and more from Jennifer Garner.”
The film’s release date is March 18, 2016. The Sony producing team behind the 2014 movie Heaven Is for Real is also heading this one.
Although the book title sounds like a several bestsellers, this one did not hit any of the lists and was not reviewed pre-pub. It was written by the girl’s mother, played by Garner in the film, and is her first book.
At least one person thinks so. Ten years after the New York Times looked into whether listening to audiobooks was “real” reading, or just “oral CliffsNotes for reading lightweights,” Claire Armistead asks a similar question in the Guardian, “Reading with your ears: do audiobooks harm or help literature?” She quotes American literary critic Harold Bloom, who told the NYT that reading text is superior, “Deep reading really demands the inner ear as well as the outer ear. You need the whole cognitive process, that part of you which is open to wisdom. You need the text in front of you.”
She also quotes Neil Gaiman, a brilliant reader of his own work, who said that same year (via his blog) that Bloom’s comments are,
“just snobbery and foolishness … I don’t believe there are books I’ve never ‘read’ because I have only heard them, or poems I’ve not experienced because I’ve only heard the poets read them. Actually, I believe that if the writer is someone who can communicate well aloud (some writers can’t), you often get much more insight into a story or poem by hearing it.”
Armistead explores the issue for herself by comparing the experience of reading and then listening to Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster, (S&S Audio, 2014). The novel left her flat in print but thrilled her in audio (listen to an excerpt here, read by the brilliant Fiona Shaw, who also talks about reading the book here).
You have to wonder if Bloom, now 85 and at an age when many discover new appreciation for audiobooks, still feels the way he did ten years ago.
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.”
The book portrays history through the making of a single dessert, blackberry fool, in four different centuries, 1710, 1810, 1910, and 2010. The section from 1810 portrays an enslaved woman and her daughter making the dessert for a white family, then licking the remains from the bowl while hidden in a closet. Many objected that the mother and daughter appear to be enjoying the process of creating the fool, feeding the myth of the “happy slave” and that the closet scene, while stark in contrast, needs more context (see the NYT story for images of the pages).
The reactions have caused a soul-searching on the part of the books’ creators as well as at least one reviewer.
As the NYT notes, author Emily Jenkin has posted an apology online, saying that she will donate her writing fee to the campaign We Need Diverse Books.
Illustrator Sophie Blacknall, however, defends the book, as she did on Tuesday, responding to direct criticisms from author Daniel José Older at the Fall Conference of the New York City School Library System (section begins at time stamp 21:15).
The book received four starred reviews (the only holdout and the only prepub reviewer to raise a flag about the issue was Publishers Weekly). The Book Review Editor for School Library Journal, Kiera Parrott, wrote that publication’s starred review. She has posted comments on Twitter, and published them on Storify as “Reflecting on A Fine Dessert,” saying that at first she first felt the book’s depiction offered “a great opportunity to talk to [children] about America’s dark and painful history.” After reading what others have had to say, she says that she now realizes she was wrong and that, “It may feel odd for those of us who want to see more diversity to realize that sometimes NO representation is better than bad representation.”
For those who want to dive deeper into the issue, SLJ, has published a bibliography of discussion.
Hall, former US Poet Laureate, is one of the most beloved and respected poets writing today. This collection spans over seven decades of writing.
Katharine Nevins, of MainStreet BookEnds of Warner, Warner, NH says:
“This is a gift of honesty, intimacy, and the pure genius that is Donald Hall, as he hand-picks what he considers to be the best of his poetry from more than 70 years of published works. From this former U.S. Poet Laureate comes one essential volume of his works, where ‘Ox-Cart Man’ sits alongside ‘Kicking the Leaves’ and ‘Without.’ As he is no longer writing poetry, this ‘concise gathering of my life’s work’ is the perfect introduction to Hall’s literary contributions, as well as closure for his many ardent followers.”
December is traditionally a slow time for publishing as booksellers are up to their ears managing holiday sales. Perhaps as a consequence, just over half of the Indie Next December list features November titles including Umberto Eco’s Numero Zero, Mitch Albom’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Carly Simon’s memoir Boys in the Trees, and Michael Cunningham and Yuko Shimizu’s A Wild Swan: And Other Tales.
Sandi Torkildson, of A Room of One’s Own bookstore in Madison, WI says:
“An intimate look at the devastating effect of the bombing of Nagasaki on one family, this is a story of love — parental and sexual, selfless and selfish, and, in the end, healing. Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her home in the U.S. to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, who supposedly perished along with her daughter during the bombing nearly 40 years earlier. The man carries a cache of letters that forces Ama to confront her past and the love affair that tore her apart from her daughter.”
There is not a LibraryReads list in December. Instead librarians will celebrate the full year of reading with a “Favorite of Favorites” list to be issued on Dec. 1.
Librarian picks published in December 2015 will appear together with the January 2016 picks on the January LibraryReads list.
Laura Bennett, Andrew Kahn, Dan Kois, and Katy Waldman, all of Slate, gathered to talk about Hanya Yanagihara’s novel just a few weeks before she discovers if the book wins the National Book Award (to be announced Nov.18).
In what might be the best expression of the group’s reaction, one of the panelists said she has never had as complicated a relationship with a novel, finding it both riveting and deeply unpleasant, a book she could not stop reading even as she found herself emotionally manipulated at every turn.
Another National Book Award finalist, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, will be the subject of the December discussion.
Leading in holds next week is The Promise by Robert Crais (PRH/Putnam), featuring series characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. On the other hand, Mitch Albom’s new title, a novel, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (Harper), is showing light holds in comparison to copies ordered. Anne Perry adds the thirteenth title to her list of Christmas-themed mysteries, this one set in Stromboli, near Sicily, A Christmas Escape (PRH/Ballantine). Based on holds ratios, this series is growing in popularity.
While Booklist and PW found this modern fable by the actor heartwarming, LJ and Kirkus seemed to have read a different book. The latter sums it up its negative review saying, “By all appearances, Hawke aspires to write a modern Siddhartha, but what we wind up with is more along the lines of watered-down Mitch Albom- and that’s a very weak cup of tea indeed. Just the thing for those who want their New Age nostrums wrapped in medieval kit.”
It will get media attention next week, including an interview with Stephen Colbert on the Late Show and an appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael.
Year Of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, Shonda Rhimes (Simon & Schuster)
You wouldn’t suspect that the producer of several major TV shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder) fears appearing in public so much that she suffers panic attacks. She discovered a way to overcome her fears by simply saying “Yes” to things that terrified her. Her new resolve will be tested this week as she is scheduled for appearances on a dizzying number of shows, including Good Morning America, Nightline, and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert as well as NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air.
The book is excerpted in this week’s People magazine.
Dear Mr. You, Mary-Louise Parker (S&S/Scribner; Simon & Schuster Audio)
“Parker has created a unique and poetic memoir through a series of letters–some of appreciation, some of apology, some simply of acknowledgement–to the men in her life. Ranging from a taxi driver to a grandfather she never knew, each man has left an imprint and shaped her into the person she has become. Full of feeling, growth, and self-discovery, Parker’s book has left me longing to write my own letters.”
PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC.
Parker, who spoke to librarians this year at BEA’s AAP/LibraryReads Lunch, will appear on NPR’s Weekend Edition tomorrow.
“In the latest installment in the Special Agent Pendergast series, Pendergast and Constance Greene investigate a theft of a wine cellar in an ancient village on the coast north of Salem, only to discover during their investigation the entombed remains of a tortured man. “I always thoroughly enjoy the Pendergast novels, and the interaction between Pendergast and Constance in this book was very intriguing.” Shari Brophy, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA.
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales, Michael Cunningham with illustrations by Yuko Shimizu (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio)
“These are fairy tales that have slightly more insight, for the discerning adult. The Wild Swans was actually my favorite when I was young, next to The Little Mermaid. These are a continuation of what happens after those stories end and are set, in some instances, in the modern world. Packed with humor, this is an easy gift for those who like to be read to at night or feel too old for idealistic fairy tales.” Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA.
A new Bond movie hits theaters this weekend, Spectre, but 007 is now so far from his book origins that the Ian Fleming name is buried in the credits. Like the previous Bond movie, Skyfall, this one has no tie-in, but libraries can capitalize on the movie by displaying books that featured S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), which Fleming introduced in his 1961 novel, Thunderball and continued in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice. John Gardner brought S.P.E.C.T.R.E. back in his Bond novel, For Special Services, continuing in Role of Honor, and Nobody Lives Forever. The Atlantic offers background on “The Messy, Improbable History of SPECTRE.”
Plenty of other movies open this week that do give credit to their origins. All have tie-ins, listed in our Movie Tie-ins:
Brooklyn — 11/4, limited — Based on the 2009 novel by Colm Toibin, starring Saoirse Ronan and directed by John Crowley, it is considered an Oscar contender.
Spotlight — 11/6 — People lists it as their #1 pick for the week, saying “All the President’s Men gets new competition for the best film ever about journalism.” It is based on reporting by Boston Globe journalists into child sexual abuse in Boston’s Catholic church and subsequent coverup. By comparison, the expected blockbuster, The Peanuts Movie trails at #9 on People‘s list, which is not to say they don’t like it, they DO, very much.
Trumbo — 11/6, limited — stars Bryan Cranston as the screenwriter who fought against the Hollywood blacklist in the 1940’s. People lists it as the #5 pick for the week, noting Helen Mirren’s role as a “deliciously vile” red-hater columnist Hedda Hopper. Trumbo wrote the screenplays for many well-known movies, including Spartacus, Roman Holiday, Papilion, and The Way We Were. He also wrote and directed Johnny Got His Gun, based on his own novel.
A thriller baed on the Argentine novel, La pregunta de sus ojos. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, and Michael Kelly, it opens Nov. 20. It was previously adapted into an Argentine film which won the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The book was originally released in an English translation in 2011.
I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams by Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen (Back Bay Books).
The biopic of the country music legend stars Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams and Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams, also a country music star and his first wife. The movie release date has recently changed to March 2016, but the tie-in publication date is still listed as this week.
“Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) has spent the past few years following in her father’s footsteps and sailing the high seas. Upon her return to London, she comes across a magical looking glass and returns to the fantastical realm of Underland … The Hatter has lost his Muchness, so Mirana (Hathaway) sends Alice on a quest to borrow the Chronosphere, a metallic globe inside the chamber of the Grand Clock which powers all time. Returning to the past, she comes across friends – and enemies – at different points in their lives, and embarks on a perilous race to save the Hatter before time runs out.”
Tim Burton produces the film but does not direct this time, leaving that to James Bobin, known for his work on the recent Muppets movies.
Alvarez spent over a decade behind bars and explains that those cheap packs of dehydrated noodles are everything to prisoners seeking some control over their meals, “maybe a guy has a bag of chips — that’s all he has to his name. And this other guy is blessed to have a couple of soups. Well, they get together, they make an interesting meal.”
His book is a mix of recipes and stories. It begins with the basic instructions for cooking the noodles without a pot or open flame. It goes on to offer advice for surviving hard time.
When asked who might use his book, Alvarez replies:
“I know some college kids might attempt to cook some of these. And quite frankly, I’ve had a few of them direct message me and say that they were awesome. They’ll go, ‘Man, these are great. I saved some money. It only cost me a couple dollars.’ Cool. And then I’d like others to read it and be humbled by the stories. And maybe, you know, they’ll have a friend of a friend or a family member — somebody that’s made a mistake and is doing some time. And they can probably share the stories with them, and hope it can teach them something. Maybe learn from my mistakes and others not to make these stupid decisions.”
A TV adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is in the works by the BBC with New Line cinema producing. Pre-production and casting will not begin until next year and no date has been set for the series debut.
The first book in the series, The Golden Compass, was made into a movie in 2007, starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, with plans for it to become a franchise.
The Guardian, sees it differently, ” It was a success, taking £230m around the world, but some fans were upset about departures from the original storyline and planned sequels never materialised.” They also dismiss claims from cast member Sam Elliot that New Line was scared off by opposition from the Catholic church to themes of atheism.
This is not the first time a movie franchise has switched to TV. The 2013 movie City Of Bones based on Cassandra Clare’s popular YA series made a similar move and will debut on Jan. 12 as a TV series titled Shadowhunters.