Black Juice, Lanagan's first collection of short fantasy tales, was widely admired and awarded in the author’s native Australia. Bursztynski thinks this new collection is every bit as good.
The review is here.
Labels: children's books
Labels: children's books
A cunning 33 per cent of adults have confessed to reading challenging literature to appear well-read, when in fact they haven’t a clue what the book is about.Now, I can certainly see that last part being true. (If a beautiful woman walks up to me and asks whether I’ve read her favorite book--be it Anna Karenina, The Kite Runner, or Best Lesbian Erotica 2007--I am likely to say “yes,” if only to prevent her from scurrying off to the company of another bewildered bloke.) But I find it humorous to see the MLA’s list of 10 books Brits are most prone to lie about reading:
But 40 per cent of people said they lied about reading certain books just so they could join in with conversation.
One in ten men said they would fib about reading a certain book to impress the opposite sex ...
1. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R TolkienIf necessary, I’d have to lie about having read four of those. But I’d never lie about reading The Da Vinci Code: I couldn’t make it past that novel’s first 100 pages, so bored was I with the shallow characters and so disinterested was I in the religious basis of the plot. And, personally, I would be more prone to fib about having read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, or James Joyce’s Ulysses, or Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood (I only ever saw the movie), or a dozen other novels on The Modern Library’s “100 Best” list before I’d spout off about having poured over Men Are from Mars … etc.
2. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
4. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Gray
5. 1984, by George Orwell
6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K Rowling
7. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
8. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
9. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
10. Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank
Haven’t we all been white-veined at some point in our lives? Parker knows the majority of us have gone through life staring at silent telephones, awkwardly shifting from foot to foot at the edge of a half-empty dance floor, grinding our teeth as we lie sweaty-headed on the pillow thinking about all the Lovely Desirable Ones we let slip away. This collection is full of rootless, longing characters who walk around with holes in their hearts looking for the right person to fill that shape.
[I]n this serial novel, “Gardner becomes Perry Marcus, Farrell turns into Saul Cooperman, Argosy transforms itself into Viking,” and his editor-detective protagonist from [his previous novel] The Mozart Code, Ivan Davis, “joins a cast which includes such other real-life people as Harvey Matusow (one of the strangest figures of the Joe McCarthy witch hunt) and writers like Mario Puzo, who wrote The Godfather while he was churning out stories for the world of pulp magazines.” At the same time as Men’s Adventure introduces readers into the colorful and arcane realm of New York-based pulp publications, it will explore the damage done to so many lives by Senator McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) in his obsessive pursuit of alleged Communists both inside the federal government and without.You can read the first installment of Men’s Adventure here.
If her goal was to erase the memory of the disgraced James Frey, then Oprah Winfrey couldn’t have made a better pick for her book club than a memoir by Sidney Poitier.
Labels: art and culture
The course will consist of lectures, group discussions, writing exercises, collaborative efforts, and workshopping of material. A comprehensive overview of the marketplace for those considering publication will be provided. Designed for those interested in writing erotica for either personal or professional exploration. Open to all levels of writers.Szereto is the author of Erotic Fairy Tales: A Romp Through the Classics and has edited several anthologies with an erotic focus.
I have said that when I open a book I feel the shape of another human being’s brain. To me, Nabokov’s brain is shaped like a helter-skelter. George Eliot’s is like one of those pans for sifting gold. Austen’s resembles one of the glass flowers you find in Harvard’s Natural History Museum.
In his first case since he left the LAPD’s Open Unsolved Unit for the prestigious Homicide Special squad, Harry Bosch is called out to investigate a murder that may have chilling consequences for national security.Currently, all 16 installments of “The Overlook” are available through the New York Times Magazine Web site, together with a page where Connelly answers questions put to him by readers. However, this story will soon be published in book form, with “new, never-before published material,” as the author promises. It’s scheduled for release in the States at the end of May, and in the UK in June.
A doctor with access to a dangerous radioactive substance is found murdered on the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Retracing his steps, Harry learns that a large quantity of radioactive cesium was stolen shortly before the doctor’s death. With the cesium in unknown hands, Harry fears the murder could be part of a terrorist plot to poison a major American city.
Soon, Bosch is in a race against time, not only against the culprits, but also against the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI (in the form of Harry’s one-time lover Rachel Walling), who are convinced that this case is too important for the likes of the LAPD. It is Bosch’s job to prove them all wrong.
Appropriately, the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) chose today -- the 98th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth -- to announce its nominees for the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Awards. Poe essentially invented the detective story as we know it, and these prizes named in his honor celebrate what the MWA believes are “the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2006.”The 2007 Edgar Awards list is here.
Most of what I know about the world has been learnt through fiction. Stuff that people made up. Further, the novels that gave me the greatest insights were those that were the most deliberately difficult and obtuse, often experimental, always introspective and most consciously “literary”; those novels where truly important world events provided nothing more than background hum, like static crackling on an old radio, which impinged on the central characters only elliptically. This seems a paradox, and the sort of thing that might lead one to a flawed, haphazard understanding of the world. But when I say these books enabled me to “know about the world”, I mean that they gave me a deeper understanding than the mere nuts and bolts of historical events; that is, how undemocratically the government behaves, who invaded whom, when and where, what the labour camp was like, which calibre of bullet was used by the execution squad, and so on.I might suggest that Liddle venture more toward the genre side of fiction, as opposed to the literary middle-ground where, in my opinion, less-interesting work is now being published. I guess my own reading has moved with each passing year more to the genres, as opposed to general fiction; however, I do agree with some of Liddle’s selections of what are the most interesting works, in terms of contemporary literary fiction:
I realised all this the other day when, finally, exasperated, I threw aside my copy of John Updike’s latest novel, Terrorist, and decided instead to watch Deal or No Deal on Channel 4. I had read just 64 pages, and it had been a struggle to get that far. Not because of its “difficulty”, but because of its bovine stupidity, its desperation to explore a burning issue at the expense of its hopeless, one-dimensional characters. Believe me--and please excuse the language--Terrorist is a f***ing awful book. I can think of no better description for it. And it dawned on me, as Noel Edmonds asked some halfwit which box he wanted to open, that it wasn’t just Updike--I hadn’t actually finished a novel, any novel, for some considerable time. I couldn’t even remember the name of the last new novel I’d finished. Somehow, fiction had lost its power to enthrall or inform.
The French have remained stubbornly immune to the global dumbing-down. Michel Houellebecq, by a country mile, is the most exciting European writer of the past decade, but the god of literature might have a soft spot, too, for unadorned Gallic porno filth, rather than extraordinarily warped Gallic porno filth, and allow room for Catherine Millet and Marie Darrieussecq.To follow my theory that literary fiction is losing ground to genre works, you need only check out the most recent list of UK hardback fiction bestsellers. It sure looks like thrillers and crime fiction are making bookstore cash registers sing.
Since the disturbing brilliance of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, the Yanks seem to have fallen for the Franzen argument--even Jay McInerney and Donna Tartt have begun to write middle-market novels. Easton Ellis is still capable of frightening the horses, as he did with Lunar Park. But mostly, you need to search on the margins. Lives of the Monster Dogs, by Kirsten Bakis, was as good a novel as I have read in 20 years; and there is also Ben Marcus, with two wholly wacko and disturbing novels, The Age of Wire and String, and Notable American Women. Dennis Cooper, unless you hate homosexuals, and Daniel Evans Weiss, unless you hate cockroaches, have also delivered stuff that makes you marvel that the written word can still disturb and enlighten. And Douglas Coupland, from Canada, is treasurable, especially All Families Are Psychotic.
In Britain? Nothing much. The late W.G. Sebald, for Austerlitz, certainly; Liz Jensen, for The Paper Eater; Michel Faber, for The Crimson Petal and the White; Toby Litt, for Deadkidsongs; Iain Sinclair, for Radon Daughters; J.G. Ballard, for Super-Cannes; Matt Thorne, for Cherry; and, whisper it quietly, Martin Amis, for Yellow Dog. All, at least, made you happy the novel still exists.
One point Smith makes excellently is that readers have a big role to play in “writing,” and that is often why readers differ in their opinions of the same book, because they bring their own baggage to the work--certain books strike a specific resonance in me, while others leave me cold. Smith concurs in the conclusion of her newspaper essay:
It’s my experience that when a writer meets other writers and the conversation turns to the fault lines of their various prose styles, then you hear a slightly different language than the critic’s language. Writers do not say, “My research wasn’t sufficiently thorough” or “I thought Casablanca was in Tunisia” or “I seem to reify the idea of femininity”--at least, they don’t consider problems like these to be central. They are concerned with the ways in which what they have written reveals or betrays their best or worst selves. Writers feel, for example, that what appear to be bad aesthetic choices very often have an ethical dimension. Writers know that between the platonic ideal of the novel and the actual novel there is always the pesky self--vain, deluded, myopic, cowardly, compromised. That’s why writing is the craft that defies craftsmanship: craftsmanship alone will not make a novel great.
A novel is a two-way street, in which the labour required on either side is, in the end, equal. Reading, done properly, is every bit as tough as writing--I really believe that. As for those people who align reading with the essentially passive experience of watching television, they only wish to debase reading and readers. The more accurate analogy is that of the amateur musician placing her sheet music on the stand and preparing to play. She must use her own, hard-won, skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift she gives the composer and the composer gives her.Those of us who review fiction for a living are in the position of trying to weed out what we consider the publishing dross, and serve up to thoughtful buyers those books we believe are worthy of their attention--without overselling those fewer works. It’s a harder task than the uninitiated might presume, and it often means that we don’t have the pleasure of reading only what we want to read. On our behalf, Sarah Burnett of The Guardian makes this modest proposal:
This is a conception of “reading” we rarely hear now. And yet, when you practise reading, when you spend time with a book, the old moral of effort and reward is undeniable. Reading is a skill and an art and readers should take pride in their abilities and have no shame in cultivating them if for no other reason than the fact that writers need you. To respond to the ideal writer takes an ideal reader, the type of reader who is open enough to allow into their own mind a picture of human consciousness so radically different from their own as to be almost offensive to reason. The ideal reader steps up to the plate of the writer’s style so that together writer and reader might hit the ball out of the park.
What I’m saying is, a reader must have talent. Quite a lot of talent, actually, because even the most talented reader will find much of the land of literature tricky terrain. For how many of us feel the world to be as Kafka felt it, too impossibly foreshortened to ride from one village to the next? Or can imagine a world without nouns, as Borges did? How many are willing to be as emotionally generous as Dickens, or to take religious faith as seriously as did Graham Greene? Who among us have Zora Neale Hurston’s capacity for joy or Douglas Coupland’s strong stomach for the future? Who has the delicacy to tease out Flaubert’s faintest nuance, or the patience and the will to follow David Foster Wallace down his intricate recursive spirals of thought? The skills that it takes to write it are required to read it. Readers fail writers just as often as writers fail readers. Readers fail when they allow themselves to believe the old mantra that fiction is the thing you relate to and writers the amenable people you seek out when you want to have your own version of the world confirmed and reinforced. That is certainly one of the many things fiction can do, but it’s a conjurer’s trick within a far deeper magic. To become better readers and writers we have to ask of each other a little bit more.
There’s a theoretical day each year called Tax Freedom Day. It marks the day when the average UK taxpayer stops working for the government and begins earning money for him or herself. It usually falls in late May or early June.Read the whole of Burnett’s short piece here.
I’m thinking of introducing a similar day in my own diary this year. Its working title--until I come up with something more inventive--is Book Freedom Day. It will mark the day in the year when I start reading books for myself, rather than for other people.
Evelyn Waugh once said that the golden rule of book reviewing is that you should never give a bad review to a book you have not read. This is now seen as rather old-fashioned and romantic. No book reviewer ever has time to read the whole book, not for the money they are paying you. The vital thing is to give the impression that you HAVE read the whole book.Kington plays it for dry laughs, but those hoping to actually learn anything will be disappointed. Those with more than a passing interest in this topic could do worse than reading Martin Amis’ 2001 book, The War Against Cliché.
Bye-bye, ReganBooks. The HarperCollins imprint of Judith Regan, the publisher who nearly brought us O.J. Simpson’s imaginary “confession” to murder, has been temporarily renamed “HC” and in the fall will be sent throughout the company.’Nuff said.
January magazine is one of the best outlets for bookchat that isn’t stuck in the NYTBR rut.Since we’re talking about the Blowhards, here’s what they say about themselves:
In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.Updates are frequent, touch on a wide variety of topics and usually consist of the sort of thing that provokes some thought. You can find them here.
Labels: children's books
The five successful authors who will now contest for the Costa Book of the Year are:With 500 shops in the UK and 150 overseas, Costa is the “fastest growing coffee shop chain in the UK.” This is the first year Costa has sponsored the former Whitbreads, which recognize “the most enjoyable books of the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.”
William Boyd who, after winning the First Novel Award in 1981 for A Good Man in Africa, returns 25 years later to claim the Novel Award for Restless
Former film-maker Stef Penney wins the First Novel Award for The Tenderness of Wolves, a murder mystery set in the snowy peaks of Canada, a country she has never visited
Brian Thompson wins the Biography Award for Keeping Mum, a witty account of his own childhood which the judges called the perfect antidote to the "'misery memoir'"
John Haynes beats Seamus Heaney to take the 2006 Poetry Award for Letter to Patience, set in a small mud-walled bar in northern Nigeria at a time of political unrest
Linda Newbery, a former Whitbread Book of the Year judge, triumphs in the Childrens Book Award category with Set in Stone
“I figured I'd better get it in before we waited another 10 years,” he said after turning it in Friday with the $171.32 check. “Fifty-seven years would be embarrassing.”The ABC News piece is here.
Between them [Serpent’s Tail and Profile] have been responsible for some of the most popular and successful books over the last few years, providing everything from grammatical polemics to Christmas bestsellers.This merger is also reported excitedly by Publishing News, in which Ayrton and Franklin reveal something of their future plans:
But even this stellar success cannot stand in the way of a fiercely competitive industry which has led to two of Britain’s best known independent publishers merging in a bid to protect themselves from book industry pressure. ...
Franklin said the deal gave Profile a ready-made fiction list and would push turnover above £10m. Crucially, the deal enables Serpent’s Tail to join the Independent Alliance, a collective sales force for some of the UK’s most distinguished houses including Faber & Faber, Canongate, Atlantic, and Short Books.
The alliance has attempted to extend its reach to independent bookshops by offering them special deals. But Ayrton said that while there were similarities between small publishers and bookshops, Serpent’s Tail relied on the wide stockholding of Waterstone’s, Borders and Amazon.
Andrew Franklin, Managing Director of Profile, said, that Serpent’s Tail will remain a “self-contained imprint” under the new arrangement. “Pete Ayrton is a great friend of long standing. In fact, when I was thinking of setting up Profile he was the first person I went to see. He is one of the most admired publishers in London with a list of breath-taking quality. His commitment to the imagination, to international fiction, to reading beyond the mainstream, is unwavering. This is one of the great international lists of the world and taking it on is both thrilling and daunting. We are very excited to be publishing fiction--and of such exceptional quality--but we are doing this only because Pete is staying on and will continue editing and publishing his authors exactly as before.”To give you more insight into the world of British book publishing, check out a list of the 50 movers-and-shakers in the industry, as chosen last March by The Guardian’s Robert McCrum. Ayrton appears on that list at No. 15.
Pete Ayrton, publisher of Serpent’s Tail, added: “The concentration in the retail sector is making the survival of small publishers more and more precarious. The acquisition of Serpent’s Tail by Profile, a publishing house known for its idiosyncratic brilliance and consistent profitability, guarantees that Serpent’s Tail remains within the independent sector. It also means I can devote myself to publishing and editing--a dream come true. Twenty years is long enough to be on your own: I look forward to working with everyone at Profile.”
Anyone seeking advice on how to shed the pounds in 2007 may be suffering from information indigestion with new diet books offering a feast of tips ranging from more exercise, to more wine, to more sleep.Publishers “traditionally target the post-holiday period in early January to release diet and fitness books,” and 2007 is no exception. Especially, says Reuters, in a society where people are becoming increasingly aware of the health dangers of overweight and obesity.
85% of those surveyed admitted to having an author they turn to for sheer gratification, but whom they might not admit to reading in pubic.The survey contends that while something appropriately literary might be placed proudly on the desk at work, say, or read on the bus or subway, readers are likely to enjoy the “literary guilty pleasure” of a novel by Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Danielle Steel, Catherine Cookson or Terry Pratchett, pretty much in that order.
There are some readers who might think that things have come to a pretty pass when comic strips, as Hergé’s work might simply be called, get shown at the Pompidou. There was some fuss, you may recall, when an exhibition of the art of Walt Disney, Il était une fois Walt Disney, opened at the Grand Palais in Paris in September ... Never mind the French casting away their usual scorn for American “culture”, what was on display were cartoons. Is this art? We may refer to the Leonardo cartoon, but we don’t mean it that way. We don’t mean talking mice. This kind of thing can only show that the end times, artistically speaking, are nigh.Not to be outdone, London’s Independent on Sunday delivered a special feature titled “Father of Tintin: Hip Hip Hergé!” in which writer Michael Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White, The Apple), among others, pays tribute to the Belgian cartoonist:
So some might say, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that what’s now increasingly called graphic art (though not necessarily by the artists who practise it; they generally prefer to call them comics) has an increasingly respectable profile. For many non-specialist readers, Art Spiegelman’s Maus led the way. A depiction of Spiegelman’s father’s experience of the Holocaust, and the author’s own troubled relationship with his father, this was a memoir like no other. Published as a book in 1986, its second volume won its author a Pulitzer Prize six years later. It was Spiegelman, surely, who led the way for artist-writers such as Marjane Satrapi and Alison Bechdel, whose illustrated memoirs transcend any genres.
But where does that all leave Tintin, quiff-headed boy journalist? He was not, it must be said, Hergé’s first creation, and the Pompidou exhibition covers the artist’s entire career. So fans of Totor (who appeared in the Belgian magazine Le Boy-Scout in the 1920s) will not be disappointed, nor those of Quick and Flupke, two troublemaking boys who also graced the pages of the journal that was the first home of Tintin, Le Petit Vingtième. But the Tintinophiles are probably the most numerous among the Hergélogues, those, such as I, who discovered as children the world of Moulinsart. I read Red Rackham’s Treasure, The Seven Crystal Balls, The Castafiore Emerald first in English and then in French, because it was good practice. Mille milliards de mille sabords! And while I never thought of it as “art”, why should anyone think of anything they enjoy as fitting into any particular category? Recently, it’s true, Tintin has been the subject of an amusingly arcane treatise, Tom McCarthy’s Tintin and the Secret of Literature (Granta), which looks at the books from a literary standpoint and finds comparisons with Austen, James and Dickens. Yes, really. ...
Georges Remi died in 1983; his second wife, Fanny, survives him. When asked recently if her husband was aware of the importance of his work, she said: “I don’t think so. He rarely spoke about his work. He was punctilious and ultra-professional, but he was more of an admirer of the talents of other people. He even collected the works of artists he admired. At one time he was interested in abstract painting and wanted to emulate it. He soon realised that this was not for him. He was very lucid about himself. He had the good sense to stop. He simply concluded: I’m a cartoonist. That’s all.”
I first read Hergé’s Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon in a state of deep historical and personal confusion. I was nine; the year was 1969. I’d recently emigrated to Australia from my native Holland. As well as leaving my brother behind, I’d been parted from all my familiar comic book characters. Sjors and Sjimmie, Ollie B. Bommel, Agent 327 ... these names meant nothing to my Antipodean playmates. Still, at least there was Kuifje. Even Australians knew Kuifje: the intrepid teenage explorer with his dog Bobbie and his dear friend Kapitein Haddock. Except they didn’t call him Kuifje (a Dutch nickname denoting a duck-tail hairstyle), they called him Tintin.To find more information about the Hergé centennial celebrations, click here. If you’d like to learn more about the Centre Pompidou’s exhibition, visit the center’s Web site, or call 0033-14478 1233. Again, that exhibit runs through February 19, 2007.
My first encounters with The-Adventurer-Formerly-Known-As-Kuifje were those two extraordinary, prophetic spaceflight books that Hergé produced in 1953 and 1954, 15 years before the real moon landing. Except I didn’t know that, either. The books were brand new when my parents bought them for me in 1969. I thought Hergé had just written them to capitalise on the Apollo mission. The Americans struck me as a solemn bunch, but Tintin was sprightly as ever. His moon mission was an action-packed ballet of pratfalls and fisticuffs.
As a child, I never noticed how vacant a personality Tintin was. Unfailingly practical, coolly plucky, and 100 per cent free of vices, he tackled his adventures as though they were bicycle repairs. Hergé understood the narrative shortcomings of his hero, of course, and surrounded him with wonderfully dysfunctional grotesques. On the moon mission, not only did the dipsomaniac Captain Haddock and the dippy Professor Calculus come along, but there were bonus stowaways: the imbecilic detectives Thomson & Thompson, and a dastardly Syldavian spy. Hergé even added a touch of psychedelia, as the stress of space travel triggered a relapse of a syndrome from which the Thom(p)sons periodically suffered -- the sprouting of thick, multicoloured hair growing at several metres per minute, thus needing constant barbering.
For all the knockabout fun in Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon, Hergé constructed them with obsessive care, researching space travel as diligently as he researched the different countries to which he sent Tintin over the decades. But that’s not what makes the books undiminishedly enjoyable even for an adult re-reader. Prose like Enid Blyton’s loses its appeal because the mental pictures we supplied as children vanish when we grow older. The pictures in Hergé’s books continue to exist outside of us. His clear, deft style, perfectly balanced between kinetic cartoon and realistic detail, retains its allure as the years fly by.
“I think the days of libraries saying, ‘We must have that, because it’s good for people,’ are beyond us,” said Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association and director of Princeton Public Library. “There is a sense in many public libraries that popular materials are what most of our communities desire. Everybody’s got a favorite book they're trying to promote.”Back in Fairfax, a lot of perennial favorites are currently on the chopping block of some of the branches in the system, including Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway and many, many others. The complete list -- and the Post’s piece -- are here.