It’s a Whore’s Market

October 31st, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Christopher Paolini’s best selling young reader “Inheritance” series will be four books instead of the originally planned trilogy.

Paolini explained that, “When I finally delved into Book Three, it soon became obvious that the
remainder of the story was far too big to fit in one volume. … In
order to be true to my characters and to address all of the plot points
and unanswered questions Eragon and Eldest raised, I needed to split
the end of the series into two books.”

Right. That or publisher Mr. Knopf very plainly and politely explained how much more money would be made with four books instead of three given the movie rights, trinket tie-ins, and vacuum left now that Harry Potter is done. I anxiously await the fifth.

And the Frank Warren PostSecret phenomenon continues as well. When the first one burst on the scene it was haunting and poignant and we couldn’t tear our eyes away from it, like a car crash. The second one was lame. The third one was okay. Now there’s a fourth.

Put a fork in it. Quick. Before there’s a movie adaptation.



MySpace to Author Book

October 26th, 2007 at 5:21 pm

MySpace is collaborating with a children’s imprint of HarperCollins to publish an environmental handbook due to come out on Earth Day next year.

So MySpace is publishing a book. A book. A paper, words, bound, and read book book.

That’s their answer to the increasingly more popular and fiscally significant Facebook? Your direct rival in the social utility industry, Facebook, gets valued at 15 Billion Dollars and you publish a book? Why not write a volume of poems? Or a five act play in iambic pentameter? Can you be any more irrelevant? And I of course love books. But what is MySpace doing mucking about with them?

Tom Anderson, co-founder and president of MySpace, said in a statement that,
“The first MySpace book is just one more way we are working to engage
the MySpace community in environmental issues and encourage people to
take action.”

You get that? This is only the first MySpace book. There will be more! And it’s all to get people to take action. Yes, us. It’s we that need to do something. If only there were a MySpace book to tell us what to do, exactly. Al Gore doesn’t know what I should do. Bill Clinton doesn’t know what I should do. Oprah doesn’t know what I should do. But I bet MySpace will straighten everything out in their (it’s?) book.

And!:

The book will feature ideas from MySpace users, who through Nov. 7 can post environmental tips on http://www.myspace.com/ourplanet.

Oh, goodie! Just continue to exploit our vanity. As if giving us a platform to share with the world our pictures, favorite movies, and half-witty, drunken quotes was not enough, now my lame ideas get to be published in a real live book too!

What is with this tactic? Doritos gets you to make commercials for them promising you the winners’ will be shown during the Super Bowl. Coca-Cola does the same thing with those mediocre spots before movies at the theater. Every week there’s another “contest” from some huge corporate conglomerate hyping “interaction” and “user-generated content.”

Isn’t “user-generated content” just laziness? No wonder the Writers Guild is going to strike.



High School English Teacher on Paid Leave for McCarthy Book

October 23rd, 2007 at 5:26 pm

There’s some interesting book news coming out of the state I spent 14 years in.

A supposedly popular and well-liked 25-year-old third year high school English teacher and assistant football coach in the 700-strong town of Tuscola, Texas has been placed on paid leave after a student picked Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God” off a reading list. Evidently the book is about a murderer who has sex with his victim’s bodies. Evidently this constitutes distributing harmful material to a minor.

And evidently 120 people packed into a meeting last week where the school board voted to keep the teacher, Kaleb Tierce, on paid leave. Of those who are upset and want to see the teacher disciplined, I wonder how many are like me and have not even read the book in question?

Tuscola is south of Abilene and so Tierce has a few things against him. The area is deeply religious, conservative, and generally right of the dial. Though many similar themes, if not ones more harsh and disturbing, can be found in the bible than necrophilia, I doubt it’s the kind of community that puts up with such things as tolerance, liberalism, and pursuit of knowledge.

But Kaleb has one great thing going for him beside the fact that he’s very well liked: he’s a football coach. In Texas, that’s the trump card. He’s not a sissy, liberal, hoity-toity, English teacher from the East Coast. He can throw a spiral and explain nickel defense. He can get the line backers pumped up.

And he can teach kick ass books. So I’m sure he’ll be back in the classroom by the next Friday night football game.



Man Dies Trying to Save Author

October 23rd, 2007 at 5:06 pm

A man has died while trying to save Canadian novelist, Maureen Jennings, from drowning.

A man drowns attempting to save a female writer from drowning?

This is soooooooooooo Virginia Woolf!



In The News

October 22nd, 2007 at 4:49 pm

In case you missed it:

Anne Enright won the Man Booker prize for her book “The Gathering” about a dysfunctional family. Is there any other kind?

James Watson, author and Nobel Prize winner for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, caused a furore while making racist comments on a recent book tour.

And Dumbledore is gay. Who new?



Bowl of Cherries by Millard Kaufman

October 19th, 2007 at 3:58 pm

I have just finished reading Bowl of Cherries, the debut novel from nonagenarian, Oscar-nominee, and Mr. Magoo co-creator Millard Kaufman.

Kaufman is a precocious writer, unabashedly using phrases like “wee beasties,” and this particular tale is indeed cut from the same cloth as Catcher in the Rye. In fact, given all the secrecy and reclusive nature surrounding J.D. Salinger, I’m going to go ahead and spin the rumor mill: Millard Kaufman IS J.D. Salinger.

Millard also displays a mighty vocabulary in Bowl of Cherries, rivaling that of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Have dictionaries at your side for both.

Supposedly, Kaufman is at work on his second novel and I could not be looking forward to more phrases like, “He had a hard grin on his face, the Plexiglass fixity of a TV hero about to kick calamitous ass.” Plexiglass fixity? Kick calamitous ass? Yes and yes.

The most bestest and my favorite part of the book comes when the protagonist asks his love interest if she is having a nice day and she answers, “I didn’t get fucked. But I sneezed twice.” From now on, if anybody asks how my day is going, that is how I shall answer. Unless of course I’ve gotten laid.



Nobel Prize for Literature Announced

October 11th, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Doris Lessing has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and I could not be more in love.

I mean, look at her!

Lessing, who’s 87-years-young, remarked “I’ve won it. I’m very pleased and now we’re going to have a lot of speeches and flowers and it will be very nice.”

What about candies and parades?

Seriously, I’m in love with this woman. She reminds me of that weird, eccentric lady at the end of the street with all the plants and bungalow-style house who is somehow now very appealing. Because my tastes have moved beyond building forts and into great literature? Plus I’m more tolerant of strange smells.

The Swedish Academy described
Lessing as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism,
fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to
scrutiny”.

Scepticism and Scrutiny. I like it. I love Doris more.

And the news of course thrilled her publisher Harpercollins because everyone of us will go out and buy at least one of dear Doris’ books to see what this quirky, frumpy, sweet old elder is all about.

Now if only there were some way we could hook her up with Millard Kaufman.



Award Season

October 10th, 2007 at 6:22 pm

What a great time of year! The The Nobel Prize in Literature. The National Book Awards. And the Man Booker Prize.

With this kind of excitement and anticipation it’s like combining Christmas with the Oscars!

One of the shortlisted works, Ian McEwan’s “On Chesil Beach” is stirring up a bit of controversy due to its short length. It’s over 200 pages, which seems like an adequate length, but for anyone who’s had the actual book in their hand knows, the diminutive size must also be taken into consideration. Had the book been expanded into the normal size of a typical hardcover, the book would probably be a lot fewer pages.

So how do you define the “length” of a book? Number of pages seems inadequate as that can easily be manipulated by the publisher by tweaking spacing, font, and page size. And if you use a thicker stock of paper, the book will also seem longer and more formidable due to its increased girth.

So number of words? Just like an assignment in school: Real classy.

But good for Mr. McEwan who stoically commented that “That’s their problem, not mine, I think,” referring to the very obvious fact that the Man Booker Prize judges can and should give their award to whoever they damn well please. Ultimately these very abstract, artistic decisions must be made by the knowledgeable, deliberate individuals chosen to do so. Just as the rules of the Man Booker Prize state, the prize will be awarded to the “author of the best, eligible full-length novel in the opinion of the judges.”

But I do fault McEwan for off-handedly commenting that, “You allow yourself the possibility of writing in real time…It could never be a long novel.”

I disagree.

Virginia Woolf gave herself very similar temporal restrictions in books like “Mrs. Dalloway” and “The Waves” and achieved great, very successful works of more traditional, “acceptable” length.



National Book Award Finalists Announced

October 10th, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Thankfully mollifying the deep anxiety I feel as I await in great anticipation for the Nobel Prize announcements tomorrow, the National Book Award Finalists have been announced.

I’m a bit embarassed however as I have only read one of the cited titles, Christopher Hitchens’ rabble-rousing “God is Not Great.” (It’s good. Not great.)

But if you liked it and/or Hitchens then you really, really need to read his expose on Mother Teresa, The Missionary Position. (Great book. Great title.)

And if you want to read from one of the Super-Genres on bookshelves today (Bush Books, Dog Books, God Books), and decide on God Books, then you would be better off reading Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith.” Or if you’re too cheap or suffer from commitment issues with longer books, then grab a copy of his slender follow-up, “Letter to a Christian Nation.” It’s also very good, encapsulates and summarizes many of the same themes, and you’ll be done with it in a mere 45 minutes on a couch in Barnes & Noble.

As a fan of his, I’m happy to see Robert Hass again recognized for his first new poetry in a decade. But do not confuse the also-nominated Mischa Berlinski’s “Fieldwork” with Hass’ 1973 collection “Field Guide.”



Fingers Crossed for Nobel Laureate in Literature

October 5th, 2007 at 5:20 pm

The Swedish Academy will announce its Nobel Laureate in Literature on October 11th.

Italian Claudio Magris is the frontrunner (who? I don’t know, I’m on my way to the library), followed by Australian “bush” poet Les Murray, and American novelist Philip Roth.

How badly do I want to be a “bush” poet? Really bad. It’s like a combination of Crocodile Dundy and Allen Ginsberg. I would do drugs, go fishing with dynamite, and write a poem about it. Sign me up!

Can’t you just imagine Les at some literary gathering, insisting with his Down Under Drawl, “That’s not a poem. This is a poem.”

But really I’m rooting for Philip Roth in the most bombastic, nationalistic way possible. And he’s supposedly done with Nathan Zuckerman, so it seems appropriate.