30 November 2012

The New York Times has released its list of the 10 best books of the year. I have read 3 of 10 (ironically, I did read a biography of Joseph P. Kennedy this year, just not this one) and agree with 2 of those 3. How did you do? 

Winston Churchill

is believed to be the recipient of the first piece of correspondence using the abbreviation "OMG." I'm sure you can imagine my reaction to this piece of history.

29 November 2012

Feels like capitulation: Film publication admits "authors were behind some of 2012’s biggest stories"

The Hollywood Reporter hasn't done this before, but its list of "Hollywood's Most Powerful Authors" gives a lot to chew on. First of all, that bestselling authors can and do power movies, and may no longer be content to just hand off the rights and retreat. (Well, if they aren't already public figures.) 

Conveniently, #1 Stephen King just announced that he is developing a project based on his recent and well-regarded novel UNDER THE DOME. Despite all the hubbub around HBO's adaptation frenzy, only one of these has a currently running series on the channel (#14).  #20 can lay claim to having the only balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and if this list had been done a decade ago #24 would be in the top 10, no question. (It's okay John -- you can get it back!) 

In comments that have nothing to do with power: 
  • I would like the dress Gillian Flynn is wearing in the shot taken with Reese Witherspoon. 
  • Michael Lewis is married to former VJ Tabitha Soren -- insert thinkpiece about how they are the ultimate 80s couple here! 
  • EL James looks just like a neighbor in Wisconsin whose kids I used to babysit.

Let's go buy furniture

I don't want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need... (via exp.lore.com, information regarding purchase available on atelier010.nl)

28 November 2012

Stereotypes save time

Spotted on the shelf at my local New York Public Library. I realize this cover's supposed to shock, but even to this Northerner I feel that it's a little needlessly inflammatory. (Not to mention, we also have Christians up here. And hot ladies. Heck, and sawed-off shotguns and elephants also.)

27 November 2012

Libraries and the kids these days

Library of the Chathams, Chatham, NJ

26 November 2012

Loot and New Jersey

I Black Friday-ed this year, I pray you pardon me. The scene of the crime was the Chatham Bookseller in Madison, New Jersey, a really stellar crammed shop with a $3 paperback fiction shelf that's better than yours. From there I picked up a copy of Richard Russo's BRIDGE OF SIGHS and Iris Murdoch's THE SEA, THE SEA. I almost bit the bullet on a John Updike collection of criticism just because of its amazing cover (holy shorts tan!) but then remembered I was supposed to be buying presents for other people.

There were a lot of Richard Ford books around, which didn't strike me as weird the more I thought about it.

Later we went to a nearby comics store where I didn't buy anything but ogled Arne Bellsdorf's graphic novel BABY'S IN BLACK about the early years of the Beatles, and the giant box containing Chris Ware's BUILDING STORIES. What I hear about Comics These Days is that nobody particularly likes The New 52 and Green Lantern has been unfairly maligned by its terrible 2011 adaptation.

On the train back to New York I read part of Daniel Wolff's THE FIGHT FOR HOME, about rebuilding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I picked this up at the library after reading an op-ed the author wrote about Hurricane Sandy and Asbury Park, and was originally looking for his book about that city, but now there's some common ground (sadly) between them.

22 November 2012

Reading on the Road: I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden

I'm off to New Jersey for the day Thanksgiving and a few more days after. I never thought I would be relieved not to be flying for this holiday, but I should have less trouble getting this pie I'm bringing onto the train. (Chocolate bourbon pecan, from Sweet Melissa in Brooklyn.)

I'm taking Daniel J. Wolff's THE FIGHT FOR HOME: HOW (PARTS OF) NEW ORLEANS CAME BACK, a shameless pander to the interests of my hosts -- but I may just binge on back issues of the New Yorker for the rest of the week. Thankful for those.

21 November 2012


USA Today pop culture blogger* Whitney Matheson lives in New York somewhere**, and today the adaptation of Mark Helprin's WINTER'S TALE is shooting outside her house. Look, fake snow! (credit: Matheson on Twitter)

The film stars Colin Farrell as the criminal Peter Lake (LOLOLOL), Jessica Brown Findlay (from that abbey show) as Beverly with whom he falls in love, and Russell Crowe as Javert the gangster chasing Peter.

*and credit to her parent organization 
**I would guess the Village, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens. They had been shooting in downtown Manhattan but were delayed or had to reschedule because of the hurricane. 

20 November 2012

The Four-Hour Tiny Violin Symphony

Movement 1: Allegretto, "Help! My book isn't doing as well as it should because the stores that compete with my publisher are acting competitively and refusing to sell it!"
Movement 2: Andante to Scherzo, "Sure, people could special-order the book, or buy it and return it. But I should get more attention that I'm not getting! Me! I have a new book!"
Movement 3: Waltz, "It's not fair, I am being banned just like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and ANIMAL FARM. Also, I have never used hyperbole before and we have always been at war with Eastasia. See, that's a reference you won't get if you refuse to sell my book!"
Movement 4: Allegro, "It's going to be totally awesome anyway and I'm going to sell a ton of books! I will not be ignored! Wait till you get my rabbit stew recipe, which is only in my book! Did I mention I have a book out?"

Secret Proust

Last night I found out my volunteer co-coordinator (who I see practically every week, September-May) is in a Proust book club. And they're almost done! They started IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME about two years ago and they're going to finish by the end of the year. I think he's the first non-professor I know who will have read the whole thing. And! When he mentioned it, it was like "Oh, my book club," not "Have you read Proust? Because I've practically read the whole monkey-fighting thing."

I wanted to take this opportunity to invite you to tell me if you have also been in a secret Proust book club. Just because it would make me happy.

19 November 2012

I left the house: Bill Roorbach at KGB

Last night I went to see Bill Roorbach read from his new novel LIFE AMONG GIANTS.

If John Irving rewrote THE ART OF FIELDING, you'd get something like LIFE AMONG GIANTS -- a coming-of-age story backed with extremely messed-up rich people into whose problems the comer-of-age is drawn. In the novel that part is played by David "Lizard" Hochmeyer, an uncannily tall 17-year-old who becomes obsessed with his famous neighbors in tony Westport, Connecticut in the year that his parents are murdered in front of him. The murders derail Lizard, bound for Princeton on a football scholarship and striving to be the dutiful son in his older sister's absence, and change the course of his life.

Roorbach read part of the book's opening, in which Lizard goes over to his neighbor's after the man of the house has been killed (under murky circumstances, of course), ostensibly to help out with chores but really out of curiosity. He joked that he was censoring it on the fly for the benefit of his daughters, who were manning the sales table at the front of the room next to him and whom he had sent to "Annie" while he was having meetings in the city. Unfortunately, this meant the reading was somewhat start-and-stop as the author skipped around in the opening chapter.

LIFE AMONG GIANTS is Roorbach's eighth book but has already gotten more attention that the author said he was used to. He described a meeting with a TV agent who asked him, perplexingly, what the "takeaway" for viewers would be at the end of the first season. I doubt I could answer this question for shows I watch, let alone a series that doesn't exist yet. (For what it's worth: Because the book takes place in 3 different eras -- Lizard's high school years, everything that happened before, and decades later when he moves back to Westport as an adult -- I would do 3 seasons, present, past and present-narrative, which wraps up the unanswered questions of both. But I don't have HBO, so what do I know?)

A poet opened for him doing Americana-style works (the open road! Gettysburg! Hot ladies in the desert!) accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Less said the better about that.

18 November 2012

There has been a terrible mistake

"Nearby was an iPhone he had bought recently. 'Why?' he said. 'Because I’m free. Every morning I study a chapter in IPHONE FOR DUMMIES, and now I’m proficient. I haven’t read a word for two months. I pull this thing out and play with it.'

"Then he corrected himself: 'I haven’t read during the day. At night I read. I read for two hours. I just finished a marvelous book by Louise Erdrich, THE ROUND HOUSE. But mostly I read 20th-century history and biography. I lived then. I was either a child or at school or at work. It’s time I caught up.'"

16 November 2012

Now who is "The Nominee"?

The Wall Street Journal managed to coax "Marina," the ex-wife of Benjamin Anastas in his memoir TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, to respond after publishing a Q&A with Anastas. Not surprisingly, she takes issue with the way she is presented. EDIT: Not to be outdone, someone on Goodreads has a theory about The Nominee, the man who (spoiler?) "Marina" left Anastas to be with in the memoir.

If you've read the memoir, here is an essay she wrote about the divorce and here is another that you might like to read.

15 November 2012

What was your first job in New York?  
Cutting out pages of David Mamet's Oleanna from a book and scotch-taping them to blank printer paper for St. Martin's.  

-John Hodgman in NY Magazine

Congratulations to the 2012 National Book Award winners

In a slight upset, Louise Erdrich took this year's fiction prize for her novel THE ROUND HOUSE, while the New Yorker's Katherine Boo pulled off a well-deserved win in nonfiction for her tale of poverty in Mumbai BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS. William Alexander received the YA prize for his book GOBLIN SECRETS (YA books have the coolest titles) and David Ferry's book BEWILDERMENT was honored in the poetry category.

Did any of you actually go to the ceremony? I was surprised to see several of my Twitter friends were attending; I thought it was the kind of event you couldn't just go to. Well, there's always next year.

14 November 2012

The more things change...

P.J. O'Rourke is the honored author of one of the few books my parents would not allow us to read as kids, MODERN MANNERS. Now I'm a putative adult and I do what I want, which is why I read this book in a flurry the weekend before the 2012 presidential election. It was worth it, and I don't think I got any more corrupted from it.

The book is a loose collection of essays examining different aspects of the federal government, from the president to military spending, written and published around the time of the 1988 election. (Yes, there is a random Joe Biden mention, thank goodness.) O'Rourke re-balances the federal budget, sits in on a session of Congress and analyzes the workload of the Supreme Court, as well as joining the reporter "pool" during the 1988 election to cover the people covering the candidates. (O'Rourke's biography in the back of my edition, which bears this cover at left, lists him at the time as a correspondent for Rolling Stone -- still a surprisingly rich source of political reporting and analysis -- so I'm assuming some of this book began life in its pages.)

I knew from his odd appearances on Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me that O'Rourke leans conservative, so he naturally approaches the government with suspicion, even the parts that conservatives have traditionally held up. In the last essay, he moves from national to local level and describes sitting through a city function in his New England hometown and feeling himself bubbling over with rage as the deliberations stretched on without end or point. But he doesn't hate it completely; he shows a lot of respect to the congressperson who lets O'Rourke shadow him for a day (and some restraint in withholding his name), and stands duly impressed in front of a military installation.

His anger at government as an organism is one I think even people on my side of the political spectrum might have felt at one time. To paraphrase Avril Lavigne: why did our nation, framers and elected representatives have to go and make things so complicated? One layer below the eighth-grade-U.S.-history "three branches"  explanation of government and the head swims. (This week, for instance, we learned about the part of the CIA that might read your emails in case you are highly classified, yet suspected of a security breach, and guess from that what kind of breach you have committed, of which there are many. Did I make that explanation dry enough? Cool.) I thought most of O'Rourke's non-governmental vitriol was misplaced, but there were moments when I agreed with him -- a good frame of mind to enter at the end of the election cycle after all.

13 November 2012

Polling the audience

Does anyone really believe Philip Roth is quitting writing, as he is quoted as telling a French magazine last month? Maybe I'm just overly optimistic or suspicious of a translation error (here's the original article, for you French speakers), but I'm not prepared to accept his resignation yet.

He also says in that interview that he hasn't wanted to write in 10 years, and look how that turned out.

12 November 2012

Book makes peace; news at 10

After writing about his feud with John LeCarre in his memoir JOSEPH ANTON, Salman Rushdie and the TINKER TAILOR author have finally made up.
all this time
The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe


11 November 2012

A book blogger was fired from the magazine Commentary after writing a post arguing the conservative case for gay marriage. (My favorite part of that post is its title, "GOP Can't Be The Party Of Old White Men," proving that at least that old white man is self-aware.) Yet his editor says the timing was just a coincidence. Hmmm...

09 November 2012

Instead, I choose vodka and Chaka Khan

2013 will see the publication of the first Bridget Jones novel in 13 years, author Helen Fielding confirmed yesterday. There is also a 3rd movie and a musical in the works around the fictional godmother of chick lit (for better or for worse).

Who can find an insane conspiracy theory tying this to the 2012 U.S. presidential election? Wait, I can! Just as the success of the big-screen "Sex and the City" and "Bridesmaids" made marketers mysteriously wake up and discover that women watch movies, so this election was a watershed moment for political analysts who discovered that not only do women vote, but that they are a bloc not to be ignored as incumbent Barack Obama enjoyed an 11 percent advantage among women over opponent Mitt Romney. (This edge also showed up in more local elections, such as the Missouri Senate race in which women helped Claire McCaskill shut that whole Todd Akin thing down.)

The Obama-Romney gap was even more pronounced among unmarried women in which the President held down a 67-31 margin and close to it in key swing states Ohio and Wisconsin, an advantage Rolling Stone linked to the GOP "agenda to limit access to not only abortion but birth control." It's not only single women using birth control, but the Affordable Care Act's provision forcing insurers to cover contraception at no cost went into effect in August and may have been a decisive factor in these women's votes. Keep in mind, it's only been 40 years since the Supreme Court made it illegal to prohibit birth control sale to single Americans. Her preoccupation with her weight and endless fumbling may make her a bit of a caricature, but the single Bridget Jones is more relevant than ever to American women.

 ((mic drop))

08 November 2012

On children

Last night I read from this book to my 3rd roommate, who moved in in September directly from the hospital where she was born.

Chalk it up to the combination of New York real estate craziness and ex-roommate PTSD that when my current roommates told me they were going to have a baby, I didn't immediately start making plans to move out. We don't belong to a commune or anything, and they told me they understood whatever I chose. My reasons for staying were complex, and I looked into breaking my lease; but I think the tipping point occurred with a desperate email to my dad about what-if-the-crying-never-stops-and-I-go-crazy. He wrote back: "Babies are not like that!"

It's true. The baby in question is 6 weeks old now, born with extraordinary timeliness exactly on due date. (The night before, I came home to an empty house and my first thought was, "They must have gone out to dinner." Nope.) I bought a 20-pack of earplugs and got used to the hushed astronaut feeling they give me. In general, having a baby around that you aren't the primary caregiver for is pretty great if you like kids but don't plan to have your own for a while. It has been instructive, but not that much of an interruption -- for me. (Her parents feel quite differently.)

I'll keep an eye on her sometimes so her parents can take a shower or do some dishes. After Hurricane Sandy, when my office lost power for a week, I worked from the couch with her sleeping on the Boppy pillow next to me. She can't really smile yet but she looks around with a very adult-looking furrowed brow, as if taking stock of all of us.

One night I was attempting to entertain her in her swing and thought I would read her a book, but none of her books were out, so I gave her about a page and a half of James Wood's essay about Richard Yates from his new book THE FUN STUFF -- editing around the cursing veteran from the short story he was quoting. (Not that I haven't sworn in front of her before; I have plenty, but I'm hoping she'll forget.) I thought she seemed absorbed, because you can more or less project any emotion you want on a non-crying baby. 

Last night's choice, a slow and moving novel about an Ohio teenager who disappears on her way to her summer job, was perhaps not the most appropriate. I was on edge in case the teen in question would turn up in those few pages and something grisly would come up (more to her parents' point than hers I suppose). But as I read a passage to her about the girl's friends reuniting at a high school football game over Thanksgiving, I speculated about what she would be like when she grew up, how she would learn about that time when she was born and there was a hurricane and an election in the span of two weeks. How she slept and how she woke up again. I stopped reading when her mother came back in and said, "She's looking right at you."

07 November 2012

He's got 538 problems, but...

Nate Silver took some time off scoring the election tonight to mention that he has a new book out. I wanted to read it any way, but I feel additionally incentivized.

Via Peter W. Knox

06 November 2012

Happy Election Day!

What's your favorite voting-related Constitutional amendment? I'm going with lucky #19 as I exercise the franchise this morning at the school around the corner from my apartment.

05 November 2012

"I... am... a writer."

Michael Chabon's WONDER BOYS is on sale for Kindle for $1.99 today in case you like academic satire, capers, Old Hollywood or stories about really long books.

Word of the day: loins

a : the upper and lower abdominal regions and the region about the hips
b (1) : the pubic region (2) : the reproductive organs 
(source: Merriam-Webster

From a CNN pool report, Friday

David Axelrod described the message coming from President Barack Obama days before Election Day as "coming from his loins."
"I've never seen him more exhilarated than he is right now. He believes in what he's doing. He believes in what he's fighting for," Axelrod told reporters Friday after the president's event in Lima, Ohio. "You can see in the speech that he's delivering that this is coming from his loins."
"I just wanted to say loins," the president's senior adviser added with a smirk. "I wanted to see if I can get loins in the story."
Axelrod forever.

03 November 2012

This was the book I was going to take to Staten Island to read in the hours before the New York City marathon. (I got it for free with some other galleys... don't judge.) I thought something light with the potential for name-dropping would work a good spell on my nerves surrounding this event, my first marathon, after a nerve-rattling week.

I think it's jinxed now that the marathon has been canceled so I've buried it in the back of the closet.

02 November 2012

PW's Best Books of the Year 2012

Too soon. (Kidding, but I swear, this list comes earlier and earlier every year.) See the slideshow here, or just creep on the full list:

Chris Ware, BUILDING STORIES (graphic novel/ collection)
Hilary Mantel, BRING UP THE BODIES (fiction)
Louise Erdrich, THE ROUND HOUSE (fiction)
Lucia Perillo, HAPPINESS IS A CHEMICAL IN THE BRAIN (short fiction collection)
Victor LaValle, THE DEVIL IN SILVER (fiction, respectfully disagree)
Mark Binelli, DETROIT CITY IS THE PLACE TO BE (nonfiction)
Lisa Cohen, ALL WE KNOW: THREE LIVES (biography, now regretting not buying this when I saw it at the Strand the other day)
Richard Lloyd Parry, THE PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS (nonfiction)
Bernard Bailyn, THE BARBAROUS YEARS (nonfiction)

Lot of unfamiliar titles on this list -- which doesn't mean it's wrong, simply that I have to get cracking on my end-of-year reading. What do you think? Have you read any of these?
I'm a huge fan of whoever created this Eli Cash listing on Goodreads.

01 November 2012

Hurricane Sandy damage to Powerhouse Books (Brooklyn, NY)

Powerhouse sits in a low-lying area of Brooklyn near the water, but thousands of its books were destroyed when the flooding went above the predicted line.

They're holding a book fair on Nov. 17 outside the store (37 Main St.) to raise money to rebuild. Hope you can make it.

Source: mrmullin

October Unbookening

Received 10 for review
Checked out 5 from the library
Bought 4 (2 Kindle, 2 from After-words in Chicago)

Returned 8 to library
Donated 11 

For further reading: 

I enjoyed Kristopher Jansma's Literary Artifacts: The Bibliophiles Move, but think he's slightly underestimating on how many books he has or moved. Jansma claims 900 volumes fitting into 50.5 feet of shelf space through "five overstuffed IKEA bookshelves" and some piles. I would guess I have 17.5 feet of books in my personal collection, one double bookshelf and stacks on stacks on stacks. But if I had to guess how many volumes, I would say 700. Anyone want to come over and count?

This is all giving me a wicked flashback to the time my parents made me count the number of books I had in my room with the goal of getting down to 150. I didn't make it, but children's paperbacks take up a lot less space than the trade paperbacks and hardcovers of adulthood. Also, where did my parents believe these books to be coming from? Space?