In acknowledgement of the threat that the rise in popularity of e-books is to the existence of brick and mortar bookstores, Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo is refusing to allow his new book to be produced in e-book format. Interventions, comprised of four distinct volumes sharing one slipcase, is what Russo calls his “tribute to the printed book.”
The Telegraph (London) has the details and pictures of the new work:
Russo, talking to the Associated Press from his home in Maine, said that the rapid rise of e-books and online sales of printed books pose threats to bookstores, the publishing industry and the rise of new authors.He said: “I encourage the idea of buying locally. I think this particular book is part of that groundswell of people who are beginning to understand that buying all of your books through online booksellers is like buying everything from online sellers, whether it’s flat-screen TVs or flowers or whatever. I think there’s a groundswell of people who are beginning to understand the implications of that. And that’s the only justification I have for saying print books are unlikely to disappear.”
He doesn’t want to be known solely as an Amazon or e-book basher and says that he reads books on his iPad when he’s travelling. But he’s keen on promoting the idea of diversity – of how books are published, how they’re sold and how they’re read.
“I’m fine with online booksellers,” Russo added. “I just don’t want them to control the world.”
This might seem like a little thing, but those of us who share Mr. Russo’s concerns very much appreciate his effort to make people aware of how their book-buying experience could be ruined in the not-so-distant future. Book browsing online has to be one of the most frustrating and least rewarding experiences I have ever endured on such a regular basis. It seems that all the books that ever made it to a publisher’s reject pile are being published simultaneously – plus thousands that never even made it that far. Not everyone should write a damn book…it cheapens the real thing.
|Wannabe Terrorist Maurice Sendak|
Well, here’s an excellent way for a man to ruin his literary reputation just months before he dies. (I realize this strays into the political arena but I am so appalled by what this jackass had to say that I’m going to take a chance and post his comments here.)
In an October interview being previewed at a site called The Comics Journal right now, the formerly beloved children’s author had this to say about a fantasy of his, a dream he longed to turn into reality:
Yes, you were a wonderful man, Mr. Sendak. I’m sure you’re family is going to be very proud to read this insanity. The man was sick. My copy of Where the Wild Things Are is going out with the rest of the trash tonight.
Book promotion is a whole new ballgame, and almost by definition, it has become the responsibility of authors to do the bulk of it all on their own. Those lucky enough to get some help from a publisher willing to spend a few bucks on things like high quality book trailers should certainly count their blessings. What I particularly enjoy in a book trailer is a display of an author’s sense of humor – and a sense of irony. That’s what makes this one my Book Trailer of the Week.
7th Book Trailer of the week in a continuing series of unusual and memorable book trailers spotted by Book Chase
The organizers of World Book Night 2012 have prepared a video that recaps what was going on across America on the evening of April 23, 2012.
I thoroughly enjoyed participated in this first American Book Night and I look forward to doing it again next year. If this is something that looks like fun to you, watch the blog early next year – I’ll let everyone know when things start coming together for World Book Night 2013.
(I found the map with all the dots representing participants to be particularly interesting – but I’m disappointed in how participation seems to have dropped off the farther West one looks. Maybe that’s because the states are larger and have more space for dots to be placed within their borders. Short of trying to count dots, I really can’t tell.)
|University of Missouri, Columbia MO|
Some of my very favorite books were published by university presses. What other publishers produce as many books about minor historical figures, obscure Civil War battles, literary criticism, quirky memoirs, minority studies, women’s studies, poetry, regional histories, and the like? I’ve learned that when looking for a book about any relatively obscure subject or person, it is always most efficient to start the search by browsing a few university catalogs and websites.
But in the last few years, those catalogs have become harder and harder to come by. Now, I understand why. According to this June 19 article by Jeffrey R. Di Leo in Inside Higher Ed, university presses are rapidly disappearing. That bothers me as much as what is happening to bookstores around the country. Times are changing, for sure, and not for the better – absolutely not for the better.
One of the measures of a great university is the strength of its press. Press strength is determined by its catalogue, and its catalogue by the choices of its editors and the impact of its authors.
University presses are nonprofit enterprises. Though these presses may reach a level of financial self-sufficiency in their operation, they are by and large underwritten by their host universities. This is part of the investment of higher education.
Most of the monographs produced by scholars have a limited audience — and very few make their publishers any money. However, their publication is still an important aspect of scholarly activity and knowledge dissemination.
How does one compare a football season to a publishing season? Is an 8-5 season more valuable than 30 books published? Is running a press worth losing an assistant coach or two?
The reason Mr. Di Leo throws out the question just above is because it seems to take about $400,000 per year to subsidize a good-sized university press. The latest university to announce a looming shutdown of its press is the University of Missouri, one that was founded in 1958 and enjoys a reputation as one of the best university presses in this country. According to Di Leo, $400,000 is just a little more than what the University of Missouri pays to the men filling the roles of assistant head coach and defensive co-ordinator.
But we know which program is a profit center for the school, a recruiting tool that keeps all that money flowing into the school coffers to pay all those so “critically needed” university administrators, don’t we? It is a sad day (and the Houston area school I’m proudest of, Rice University, is among those having made the same decision) when our best universities forget what their purpose really is and decide to place a higher value on athletics than on the prestige to be gained from running a successful university press.
Read the rest of this article for all the disheartening details. The dumbing down of America is preceding at an ever accelerating pace, friends.
The best literary fiction (and Joshua Henkin’s latest is one of the best literary novels I have read in a while) has the power to insert the reader into worlds that seem every bit as real as the one they actually inhabit. By the time I finished The World without You, I felt as if I had just spent a rather tense Fourth of July weekend in the Berkshires with my friends, the Frankels and their spouses. Henkin’s characters, all of them, are so well developed that I would feel quite comfortable now chatting with any of them over a cup of coffee or casual lunch. I know these people.
David and Marilyn, their three daughters, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren gather at the family vacation home for what they already know will be an emotional weekend. They are there to participate in a memorial service for the youngest Frankel, Leo, a journalist who had been kidnapped and murdered in Iraq almost exactly one year earlier. Despite the passage of an entire year, it soon becomes clear that all of them are still suffering from the trauma of Leo’s sudden loss. Emotions are raw, nerves are on edge, and as old resentments and outrages are openly expressed, the family’s very survival will be tested.
A scene from the novel, in which Leo’s parents together describe an incident at a cocktail party they attended eight months after Leo’s death, is so powerful that it haunts me still. Asked by a stranger at the party how many children they have, Marilyn answers “four” at precisely the moment her husband replies with “three.” In that instant, Marilyn felt, and still feels, a surge of anger and hurt that may have forever tainted the way she looks at David and their marriage. David, for his part, still cannot understand why what he said was so terrible. This tiny moment from their lives made me understand the depth of their grief.
The beauty of The World without You and Joshua Henkin’s writing is that so many of the other characters also had moving and poignant moments in which they become utterly believable to the reader. Ultimately, this is not really a story about Leo Frankel and what happened to him in Iraq. Rather, it is a novel about the people Leo left behind to live in the world without him, and how these people have had their lives forever changed by his murder. To reconcile themselves to the grief they feel, all of them will be forced to dig deeply within themselves – a process that finally begins one Fourth of July weekend in the Berkshires.
I arrived home a little later than usual this evening only to find another great surprise in my mailbox. I’ve mentioned before how I fell in love with the cover of a little book from the U.K. that collects a bunch of flash fiction from Nik Perring and Caroline Smailes. Each of the stories is about an otherwise ordinary person who possesses a weird super power of some sort. The book, as you can see from the cover, is illustrated in comic book style by artist Darren Craske.
The cover, of course, is what first catches the eye. But now that I have a physical copy of the book in my hands, I can see how it would almost sell itself to those lucky enough to pick it up in a bookstore. It’s quirky, funny, bold…geez, you can provide as many cheesy adjectives as me. Perhaps, “fun” is the best of them all, and I’ll stop with that one.
Even the author introductions are a bit off the wall. Nick has this to say about himself:
“If Nik could choose a super power he would rather like the ability to type a little faster. Either that or be able to talk to cats. He likes cats.”
Carolyn explains herself this way:
“If Caroline could choose a super power she would rather like a combination of teleportation, time manipulation, and feet that are roller-skates. The reasons why, she feels, are obvious.”
While not “officially” available in the U.S. yet, Freaks can be purchased through The Book Depository (with free worldwide shipping) or perhaps through the Amazon U.K. website. I’m not going to be able to get to this one right away, but it is such an eye-catcher that I’m going to leave it on top my desk as a conversation starter. My thanks go to Nik for having a copy mailed to me from London; I’m looking forward to it.
This second of Lynn Shepherd’s “literary murders,” The Solitary House, makes good use of several characters readers will remember from Dickens’s Bleak House. Playing prominent roles here are the despicable lawyer, Edward Tulkinghorn, the reliable Inspector Bucket, and a character closely resembling Esther (called Hester this time around). That the novel is written in the style of classic English novels of the period is probably what first will attract most readers to it, but The Solitary House is also a very fine mystery – one with an ending reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s Sutter Island.
The novel’s central character, Charles Maddox, was a Metropolitan police officer before he was dismissed for insubordination. Now he is determined to earn his living as a self-employed detective – or as he sometimes calls himself and his famous detective uncle, a “thief taker.” Maddox, a man of great curiosity and varied interests, is a natural at the business of detecting, but he is still struggling to build a reputation of his own. For that reason, he is both surprised and flattered when Mr. Tulkinghorn, one of the most powerful lawyers in London approaches him about a job.
Someone is sending threatening letters to a wealthy London banker, and Tulkinghorn wants Maddox to identify and stop the culprit before any harm comes to his client. Tulkinghorn’s request seems to be so straightforward that Maddox eagerly accepts the charge despite not having completed his current case, the search for a young woman being sought by the father she has never met. Maddox decides he will work the two cases simultaneously, and he does – until things take a nasty turn that begins him wondering if the two cases are somehow connected. When some of his sources begin to suffer horrible deaths at the hands of a psychotic killer, Maddox realizes that his life – and those of everyone closest to him – are in jeopardy.
Readers of Dickens will feel right at home in the London so meticulously recreated here by Shepherd. But the real core of her story is the relationship between young Charles Maddox and his great uncle, the man to whom Charles turns for advice and insight as his investigation progresses. The old man, one of the pioneering detectives of his day, seems to be suffering from some type of senile dementia and is confined to his home. It is painful (particularly for those readers who have watched their own loved ones go through a similar process, I suspect) to watch the old man struggle with the awareness of what is happening to him. He is still capable of moments of brilliant insight, but is just as likely to lapse into periods of rage and paranoia. Through it all, and despite his own battles, Charles is by his side as they solve the mystery of The Solitary House together. This one is fun.
I thought I would get an early start on Fathers Day 2012 by sharing this video from the Open Roads people featuring Kaylie Jones and Andres Dubus III talking about their famous writer fathers. I am always fascinated by this kind of thing – hope you enjoy it, too. (I seem to be running into Kaylie Jones a lot lately.)
Equal of the Sun follows Anita Amirrezvani’s 2007 debut novel, The Blood of Flowers, a bestseller longlisted for that year’s Orange Prize. Both books focus on interesting periods in Iranian history, but the new one is set one century earlier than its predecessor. It is 1576 and the shah is dead under circumstances that indicate that he may have been poisoned. The political intrigue that results is every bit as bloody and complicated as anything portrayed in historical fiction based upon English history of similar periods.
Pari, the shah’s daughter has been his trusted advisor since she was fourteen years old and she is determined to retain her power and influence. Because one of her brothers is blind and the other was exiled by her father years earlier, choosing the shah’s successor is complicated. Pari knows that, if her family is to maintain control of the country, she must move quickly or the royal court will choose to someone from another tribe to succeed her father. The good news is that she succeeds in having one of her brothers named the new shah; the bad news is that he is not the kind, goodhearted man she remembers and loves from her childhood. Rather, he has become a bitter, bloodthirsty tyrant who distrusts Pari so much that he strips her of all influence. In the ensuing bloodbath, those unable to convince the new shah of their absolute loyalty are at risk – including Pari and her allies.
Pari, one of history’s “powers behind the throne,” is an interesting character. There were certainly other powerful women in that period, even in countries like Iran, but by aiming higher than most, she marked a special place for herself in Iranian history (the character is based upon the very real Princess Pari Khan Khanoom who was born in 1548). But there is, I think, an even more interesting character in Equal of the Sun. The book’s narrator is Javaher, a eunuch who has gotten himself attached to the royal court for reasons known only to him.
Even as eunuchs go, Javaher is an unusual case, a man who volunteered to become a eunuch at age seventeen in order to express and prove his loyalty to the shah. As cringe-worthy as that decision is to contemplate, Javaher saw it as a way to honor his father’s memory. His father, a royal accountant, had been murdered by someone of power, and Javaher hoped that by placing himself inside the palace he would learn enough about the murder to identify those responsible.
Equal of the Sun is a violent and sexy novel. Javaher is in a unique position to describe what goes on inside the shah’s harem and the rest of the women’s quarters – and he does so with detailed relish, including accounts of his own rather surprising sexual exploits. He also offers intriguing insight into the daily lives of those thousands of men forced to sacrifice their manhood in service to the royal family women of the day. But, at heart, this is a political novel and, as such, its real lesson is that the battle is often won before soldiers take the field. Pari Khan Khanoom and her powerful ally, Javaher, understood this better than most.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)
Great news, guys.
I just discovered that the BEA Livestream channel is still available for those of us who missed the streamed sessions. I couldn’t shake free long enough to take advantage of all the streaming when it was happening, so this is pretty cool. There’s some great stuff on the website and, at least for now, it’s all there for you to watch at your leisure.
Among others, I see sessions covering YA books, adult fiction, one called “Inside the Mystery,” a Dan Rather interview, and several covering the evolution and exploitation of e-books. The most amazing thing about the e-book-related sessions, is their paltry attendance – one session seems to have had a grand total of two people in the audience when it started. Maybe the average BEA attendee isn’t all that enthusiastic about e-books yet? Several other sessions, generally those employing several authors each, appear to have been packed.
Anyway, I hope you find one or two things here that interest you.
I was happy to find a package on my desk when I got home this afternoon – particularly, because it was so obviously the book I’ve been waiting to receive from the Barnes & Noble people. I know that I must sound like a cheerleader when it comes to the Library of America books, but my appreciation for them has only grown over the years, and I want to spread the word about them.
This volume marks my 44th Library of America title and I have only put a good-sized dent in the list of those I plan to own someday. Fans of classic (and almost classic) American literature will be hard pressed to find better editions of these works at twice the price. They are of such high quality that, short of loss to fire or flood, they can be passed on from generation to generation as far as one can imagine.
This Steinbeck edition includes all those novels and stories the author wrote about central California from 1932 to 1937. It is one of four volumes, the second I’ve acquired now, in the LOA’s Steinbeck series.
Among the 44 others I own now, I’ve managed to complete the Twains (seven titles) and have picked up five of the seven Roths, four of the fifteen Henry James volumes, two of the five Faulkners, two of the three Bellows, and both Cheevers. As you can imagine, it will take a few years to get there, but I plan to fill in the blanks as my budget allows. Also high on my LOA wish list, are more books from the LOA noir collection that include works of Raymond Chandler, David Goodis, and at least three volumes of novels from various noir and crime authors.
The recognized masters are all there, of course, but the LOA presentations actually become more and more interesting as the years go by. There are now nice anthologies representing science fiction, baseball, sports writers, food writers, movie critics, boxing, humor, and true crime writers. Poetry fans will likely find their favorites well represented in the collection, also. If you keep a shelf or two of beautifully bound classics this is a publisher you want to check out.
I remove the book jackets before shelving them and this is what that portion of my shelves looks like (the tans, blues, greens, and maroons that are all bunched together on two of the shelves – this bookcase is actually two shelves taller than I could fit into this picture):
|Editor Kaylie Jones|
Because Cop to Corpse is my first exposure to Peter Lovesey’s Peter Diamond series, I am certainly no expert on the character or its development over the course of the series’s eleven previous books. But if the other eleven are as entertaining as this one, this detective series should be investigated by all police procedural fans looking for a new detective to follow. Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond is far closer to the end of his career than to the beginning, and it shows in his attitude and how he approaches an investigation. Readers will enjoy watching him play the game his way.
PC Harry Trasker is the third policeman in the Bath area, Diamond’s home turf, to be shot dead by a sniper in just a few weeks. As were the two previous victims, Trasker was killed instantly by a clean shot to the head, indicating that the shooter is a well trained, skillful marksman. More disturbing, perhaps, is the shooter’s uncanny ability to commit the murders without ever being seen or leaving behind a trace of evidence the police can use to track him. This, however, begins to change with the murder of Harry Trasker.
This time someone calls police immediately following the shooting and they arrive on the scene within minutes, something the killer never expected to happen. When the young policeman in charge at the scene of the crime decides that capturing the killer on his own before backup arrives would be a great career move, things get interesting. That is when Peter Diamond arrives – only to learn that the investigation has already been claimed by a rather pompous rival of his from a neighboring jurisdiction, Chief Superintendent Gull.
Gull, though, will prove to be the least of Diamond’s problems because, after Diamond becomes convinced that the shooter might be a fellow cop, he will face a rebellion within the ranks that forces him to investigate that theory on his own. Despite being left on crutches after a near fatal encounter with a darkly helmeted motorcycle rider, Diamond follows the leads wherever they take him. Along the way, he suffers the abuse of grieving police widows, a loss of respect from his own investigating team, and the indignity of reporting to the fool officially in charge of the Somerset Sniper investigation.
Cop to Corpse shows that Peter Lovesey is a crime writer still very much at the top of his game despite having been awarded 2000’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for “lifetime achievement in crime writing.”
This is one of those free HBO weekends at our house that the uVerse people seem to offer twice or so a year and I’ve been exploring the channel’s current movie selection. I was happy to see that the recent movie Hemingway & Gellhorn is on offer right now, along with what turned out to be a good adaptation of Water for Elephants. I’ve watched both of them now, but it is the Hemingway movie that I found most interesting.
Hemingway & Gellhorn is an HBO film that has been airing on the pay channel since late May. It focuses on the years from 1936 to the mid-1940s primarily but, in a flashforward to the end of his life, the movie ends with Hemingway’s suicide . The pair first met in a Key West bar that Martha, in the company of her mother and brother, dropped into during their travels around the world. Martha Gellhorn, a pioneering female war correspondent of the day, managed to get herself to the Spanish Civil War before Hemingway arrived – but once he did get there, the real fireworks began. If the HBO movie is to be believed, Hemingway’s second marriage didn’t have a chance of survival from that moment on.
Gellhorn would prove to be an inspiration to Hemingway in more ways than one, thankfully, and he would credit her with inspiring him to write his now classic For Whom the Bell Tolls. For obvious reasons, readers will enjoy this movie a lot, so I am a bit shocked, though thankful, that this kind of film is still being produced amongst all the junk that Hollywood markets today. If this is an indication that the baby-boom-market is still worth catering to, there should be some great stuff yet to come as we continue to age.
Side note: One thing about the movie did bug me a little. Gellhorn, of German extract, was born in Missouri and, for the most part, Nicole Kidman nails the accent, but when it slips, it really slips, and it is distracting to hear the character speak with a British (not Australian) accent. But this is still a great movie.
Time for another Book Trailer of the Week, although this one is actually a trailer for a movie – based on a play – based on a book. Les Miserables, the stage musical, has been transformed into a British movie set for a December 2012 release. The first teasers are starting to appear in U.S. theaters now, so it appears that the movie will be getting a big push from Universal Pictures, the distribution company.
Here’s a look at the short trailer that’s been posted to YouTube – followed by an interesting take on the film trailer from EW.com that includes a “150-year-old spoiler alert.” It seems there is already a good bit of controversy about the choice of one of the lead actresses and one who was rejected earlier. Victor Hugo would be amused, I’m sure.
6th Book Trailer of the week in a continuing series of unusual and memorable book trailers spotted by Book Chase