28 March 2014

The Tournament of Books meets the NBA

THE GOOD LORD BIRD triumphed over LIFE AFTER LIFE this morning in the 2014 Tournament of Books.

I had grand plans to read as many of these books as I could, plans which lasted through about 3 books (I'm still in the middle of A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING -- it's great, by the way) due to other events making it impossible to do more. But despite not having read THE GOOD LORD BIRD, I feel confident about the judges' decision. I just couldn't shake the ridiculous conclusion of LIFE AFTER LIFE though some of the writing is really spectacular and all of it is very good. (I recommend Atkinson's BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM instead.) 

27 March 2014

"I sold my first novel, SLEEPWALKING, back when I was a senior in college, for five thousand dollars. I thought that money would last a very long time, which naturally it didn’t. The book got very good reviews but didn’t sell well, and as a result the paperback was published to look like a kind of cheesy novel meant for teenagers. So, happily, the novel is now being reissued for the first time since then, in a new edition. I’m quite proud of it; it’s about a group of college girls who are knows as 'the death girls' on the Swarthmore campus, because they are really into the work and lives of certain women writers (Plath, Sexton, and a third writer I invented) who committed suicide. It’s about the romanticization of despair, and I guess it’s about growing up." -- Meg Wolitzer with happy news (The Daily Beast)

26 March 2014

It's Expensive To Live In Manhattan, Even If You Are A Bookstore

Seriously, they distracted Robert Caro from the next LBJ book so he could tell us that not having bookstores around is bad? That dude will use anything to procrastinate! But congratulations to Williamsburg for getting a McNally Jackson soon. I suggest the name McNalliam Jacksonburg. 

25 March 2014

We are all Sherlocks, we are all Watsons

A federal judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes and his universe are now in the public domain, clearing the way for the adaptations we hope, but more likely the ones we deserve. (NPR)

The movie adaptation of Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT topped the box office this past weekend. The Hollywood Reporter referred to its breaking the "YA curse," but what I think that means is that nobody wanted to see "The Mortal Instruments" or "Vampire Academy" but they wanted to see this movie. (We opted for "Grand Budapest Hotel" instead, an homage to the work of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. It was just OK.) 

I didn't see DIVERGENT, one in several ways I failed the quiz, "Can You Tell These YA Stories Apart?" I staunchly maintain that Harry Potter does too get drawn into a love triangle. (Vulture)

13 March 2014

It's Fantod's Day

To be the Merriam-Webster word of the day. I thought it was a David Foster Wallace invention, but I was wrong: 

"You have got strong symptoms of the fantods; your skin is so tight you can't shut your eyes without opening your mouth." Thus, American author Charles Frederick Briggs provides us with the oldest recorded use of "fantods" in 1839... The exact origin of "fantod" remains a mystery, but it may have arisen from English dialectal "fantigue"—a word (once used by Dickens) that refers to a state of great tension or excitement and may be a blend of "fantastic" and "fatigue."

06 March 2014

Believer Fiction Award nominees include Rebecca Lee, Fiona Maazel

The winner of my "Best Book Award To Routinely Feature Great Reads I Have Never Heard Of Before" is the annual Believer Book Award, and this year's slate is no exception. With just one book I've read (Fiona Maazel's WOKE UP LONELY, great) and two I've never even heard of, I anticipate some high-quality new discoveries.