In books by soldiers and reporters about Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s the details that slam home a sense of what the wars were like on the front lines: a suicide bomber’s head pulled from the rubble of the mosque he’d bombed; the sonogram of an unborn child found among a soldier’s remains; a bomb technician writing NKA (No Known Allergies) and his blood type on his boots in permanent marker “because feet survive detonations.”
War cracks people’s lives apart, unmasks the most extreme emotions, fuels the deepest existential questions. Even as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan morph into shapeless struggles with no clear ends in sight, they have given birth to an extraordinary outpouring of writing that tries to make sense of it all: journalism that has unraveled the back story of how and why America went to war, and also a profusion of stories, novels, memoirs and poems that testify to the day-to-day realities and to the wars’ ever-unspooling human costs.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. AP – The bestselling book “The Fault in Our Stars,” narrated by a 16-year-old cancer patient, has been banned from Riverside Unified School District middle schools over sexual content, but it is still allowed in high schools.
Some news appropriate for Banned Books Week.
Ever wondered how long it takes to read The Great Gatsby (2.62 hours) compared to Atlas Shrugged (31.22 hours)? If so, you’ll like this infographic by Personal Creations.
It’s 60 years this month since the publication of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. To mark the anniversary his family are giving his literary archive on loan to the University of Exeter – including the very different original version of his famous tale of boys fending for themselves on a tropical island.
The BBC looks back at the significance of Lord of the Flies, originally published in September 1954 after rejections from 10 publishers and one literary agent. Golding’s daughter says that her father’s original title for the novel was “Strangers from Within.” An editor at Faber, the house that agreed to publish the novel, had Golding remove much material explicitly about the atomic war the children had survived. The editor also cut material about Simon to make him less a religious figure than in Golding’s manuscript.
Ms Carver [Golding’s daughter] believes the book has remained in demand for six decades for two main reasons.
”Firstly of course it’s so well written. But also it deals with moral questions which were current after World War Two and which I’m afraid are still relevant today.
A sad story about the demise of the Utah Sorosis women’s group:
The literary group, whose unusual name means aggregation, has been meeting since 1897, a year before the Provo Tabernacle (soon to be City Center Temple) was finished. After 117 years this was the farewell meeting of Utah Sorosis. The nearly 20 women who RSVP’d to Van Orman for the weekday luncheon at Provo’s La Jolla Groves did so with “sadness in your voices,” said Van Orman, age 65.
Group members who attended the luncheon that marked the group’s final meeting ranged in age from 60 to more than 90. Several of them said that they couldn’t get younger women to join to keep the group going.
The “serious intent” of the 18 charter members in 1897, all wives of university professors, was to work toward the highest development of its members through study and work.
Perhaps the group is a victim of changing times, now that women no longer need to join a special group in order to study and work.
The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Penguin Random House imprints Vintage Books and Vintage Espanol have announced the ebook publication on October 15 of English translations of several of Marquez’s works:
Besides “Love in the Time of Cholera,” the releases include the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” and the memoir “Living to Tell the Tale.” Marquez’s classic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is published in the U.S. by HarperCollins and remains unavailable as an English-language e-book.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982, died in April at age 87.
The big literary news of the past week was the death of Gabriel García Márquez and the announcement of Pulitzer Prize winners. But there is other news as well, particularly about upcoming publications:
Mary Ann Gwinn, book editor for the Seattle Times, lists both fiction and nonfiction titles to be published in May and June. Her list includes books by Stephen King, David Guterson, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Publishers Weekly chooses some books worth looking out for this summer, both fiction and nonfiction.
The Bookseller has some distressing news: the results of a survey conducted by the Reading Agency:
Researchers found that being too busy, not enjoying reading and preferring to spend their spare time on the internet means men read fewer books, read more slowly and are less likely to finish them than women.
Here’s one finding I find particularly interesting: “Nearly three quarters of the men surveyed said they would opt for the film or television adaptation of a book, whereas the same percentage of women were as likely to go for the book itself.”
The research was conducted in Britain.
American writer Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances, and many sources attribute his death to chronic alcoholism. But this post on The Medical Bag offers a different explanation, posited in 1996 by Dr. Michael Benitez, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center who practices a block from Poe’s grave.
On the Publishers Weekly blog Gabe Habash describes what can be an elusive concept, narrative voice:
Books that are voice-driven are, of course, dependent on the strength of the voice. Think about the best character-narrators you’ve read: maybe it’s Scout or Holden Caulfield or Humbert Humbert. Our favorite narrators have voices that we, as readers, have a desire to keep consuming; their words are as addictive as M&Ms. There’s a powerlessness, a relinquishing, involved when you read a great first-person book, when you fall head over heels–simply through the hypnotic rhythm of the narrator’s words, you choose to give up your own agency in untangling events for yourself and sort-of smittenly accept the narrator’s. The narrator, simply by virtue of his/her voice, gets you to listen.
A new wave of bestselling novels depict the dark side of marriage with secretive husbands and betrayed couples. Lucy Scholes on what they reveal about matrimony today—and their literary ancestors.
A look at the popular appeal of novels like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. Scholes’s discussion of the literary history of this theme is informative. And, if you are as intrigued as I am by these psychological narratives, you’ll appreciate her list of forthcoming books in the same vein.
The [U. K.] Guardian has news of another current literary trend:
With their descriptions of nights out gone wrong and no-holds-barred sexual encounters, a clutch of newly released novels are full of women behaving badly. From Zoe Pilger’s raucous debut, Eat My Heart Out, published this month, to Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical How to Build a Girl, which aims to capture that “moment when you try to discover exactly who it is you’re trying to be”. In February Helen Walsh, whose 2005 novel Brass shocked reviewers with its frank depiction of twentysomething female sexuality, brings out her fourth novel, The Lemon Grove, an atmospheric story of middle-aged female sexuality. In May, Emma Jane Unsworth’s second novel, Animals, memorably described as “Withnail for Girls”, hits the shelves.
But what’s driving this new crop of female antiheroes? Unsworth, 35, who drew on her own friendships for Animals, a gloriously over-the-top account of female friendship, says it’s partially a desire for something new.
But all the literary news isn’t about the women, although this discussion is more about the persona writers create for themselves than about the characters they create on the page.
James Parker argues that all the great literary bad boys are in the past:
In 2014 we have bad-boy chefs (Bourdain, Ramsay), bad-boy priest-comedians (Russell Brand), bad-boy athletes (the demonic Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suárez). Inspiration and transgression are still tangled up for us, at some level. And it’s possible, I suppose, that some young wordslinger could come along and wring a new twist from the tired repertoire of writerly naughtiness — be a postmodern literary bad boy. But in the end, who cares?
Although these New York Times pieces are set up in the point-counterpoint format, Rivka Galchen’s argument doesn’t seem all that different from Parker’s:
And I would argue that certain traits we associate with the “literary bad boy” . . . have little to do with the genuinely countercultural thinking or the intelligently transgressive prose. Instead they are, upon inspection, just the fairly straightforward qualities of persons with more financial or cultural or physical power who exercise that power over people with less. There’s nothing “counter” about that, of course; overpowering in that way implicitly validates things as they are, and implies that this is how they ought to be. So I presume that when we value literary-bad-boy-ness — and there is a lot to value there — those traits wouldn’t be, if we thought about it, the essence of bad-boy-ness; those traits aren’t even distinctive. They’re just trussed-up versions of an unfortunate norm.
Here’s another wrinkle in the printed books vs. ebooks discussion, the book as object:
The book as object is part not only of the history of communication, but also of art and design.
A book can be altered, beautified or cherished in ways that produce unique objects worth preserving. Each generation leaves its marks: inscriptions, annotations, bookplates, new bindings, armorial stamps, defacements. Readers also often add useful details omitted in the texts. As such, printed books have their own histories which become part of our wider historical heritage and evidence base. Pearson argues that e-books and tablets simply won’t offer these unique, telling attributes.
You must see these 8 photos on Huffington Post. They might influence the plans for your next vacation.
Nick Hornby’s novel “About a Boy” keeps finding new lives. It inspired a well-received movie of the same name starring Hugh Grant, and now NBC has adapted and Americanized a series version.
. . .
It’s worth a look. More farcical than its print and big-screen predecessors, the series version nonetheless has its charms. Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) is producer and series creator, Jon Favreau directed the pilot and, in the three episodes I have seen, the cast is as endearing as the characters are offbeat. And there’s a really good soundtrack.
A recommendation from the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Rich Heldenfels.
Publishers Weekly has gathered some interesting statistics about last year’s book sales. Among their findings: “fiction is the genre of choice for customers who read e-books” and movie adaptations created demand for several titles, including Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
See the books included on these lists:
- Nielsen BookScan Top 20
- Amazon Kindle Top 20
- Amazon Print Top 20
Laura Miller, book critic for Salon, reads a lot of books and usually writes about the ones she recommends. Here she summarizes 8 books she didn’t finish last year, cautioning “what follows are my responses to books you might possibly have heard of, rather than the absolute worst things I read.”
See why she bailed on these books:
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
- Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
- The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
- Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime by Adrian Raine
- At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon
- Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas
- Truth in Advertising by John Kenney
- Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes discuss how technology affects the way we read.
Television, music, and video games all compete with books for children’s attention. For this reason the Library of Congress in 2008 created the national ambassador for young people’s literature, a new position dedicated to promoting literature for children. A new ambassador is named every two years.
The next ambassador for young people’s literature will be Newberry Medal winner Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux:
With a warm, lively personality and a boisterous laugh, Ms. DiCamillo would appear a natural fit for the post of ambassador, which asks for an ability to relate to children and an overall contribution to children’s literature. She is the fourth person appointed to the position, following Jon Scieszka (2008), Katherine Paterson (2010) and Walter Dean Myers (2012).
For libraries, 2013 was an eventful year. PW takes a look back at the top 10 library stories of the year, and a look ahead to what might be on the horizon in 2014.
Read what Publishers Weekly has to say about these news stories from last year:
- An E-Book Breakthrough?
- Google, GSU and Fair Use
- The Common Core’s Rough Debut
- What Happened to Copyright Reform?
- Pew Finds Americans Love Their Libraries, But Use Is Declining
- A Bookless Library?
- The NYPL [New York Public Library] Goes Back to the Drawing Board
- The Digital Public Library of America Launches
- Congress, White House Push for Public Access to Research
- The Death of Aaron Swartz
Born in 1914 in Hamilton, Ohio, Robert McCloskey came to Boston to attend the now-defunct Vesper George Art School. He left to live in New York for a time and established a career as an author and illustrator in the late 1930s. Over the years, he became the force behind beloved tales like Homer Price, Blueberries for Sal, and Time of Wonder. His most famous work is Make Way for Ducklings, which tells the story of a pair of mallards in Boston who take their eight ducklings from the Charles River to Boston’s Public Garden. The Boston Public Library has digitized over 100 of McCloskey’s studies for this wonderful work for consideration by the general public. Visitors can zoom in and look around and some of these great works. Visitors can also create their own curated collections for use at a later date.
From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2013. https://www.scout.wisc.edu/
The New York Times offers a good sampling of the materials now available online through The Emily Dickinson Archive. There’s also a link to the archive itself.
How has your reading changed in the past 20 years? From readers shopping in brick-and-mortar bookstores, to the dominance of game-changing online sellers, to a digital era of e-reading and instant delivery, the book industry has gone through monumental change. And USA TODAY has been there all along. Look through 20 years of best-selling books.
This feature by USA TODAY offers an informative look at how reading and books have changed over the last 20 years. Includes lists of the best-selling books for each year.
The Internet has changed (and keeps changing) how we live today — how we find love, make money, communicate with and mislead one another. Writers in a variety of genres tell us what these new technologies mean for storytelling.
The New York Times rounds up comments on technology from the following authors:
- Margaret Atwood
- Charles Yu
- Marisha Pessl
- Tom McCarthy
- Rainbow Rowell
- Dana Spiotta
- Frederick Forsyth
- Douglas Coupland
- Tracy K. Smith
- Emily Giffin
- Ander Monson
- Elliott Holt
- Victor LaValle
- Lee Child
- Meg Cabot
- Tao Lin
- A.M. Homes
Thomas H. Cook, one of the best at what he does, has done it again with 2013’s Sandrine’s Case, which is just as intricate and surprising as you’d expect from the Edgar winner. A veteran thriller and mystery writer of over 20 books, Cook shared his favorite mystery novels.
I love mysteries, but I’ve only read two of the books on Cook’s list for Publishers Weekly. But the two that I have read, A Crime in the Neighborhood and A Simple Plan, are very good.
The Randolph County school board in North Carolina has rescinded its ban on Ralph Ellison’s highly revered Invisible Man following a little over a week of intense criticism from free speech and literary advocates. The 5-2 decision, initially sparked by a parent’s complaint that the book was not appropriate for teenagers, was reversed in a 6-1 vote on Wednesday night. The ban had been widely criticized and ridiculed since it went into effect on September 16, and was highly protested, even including a giveaway of the book at a local store.
Here’s a little bit of good news for the end of Banned Books Week: Sometimes the good guys win.