One of the most talked-about books of the summer, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, has an official cover. HarperCollins unveiled the jacket of the book, with president and publisher of general books Michael Morrison noting that the design “draws on the style of the decade the book was written, but with a modern twist.”
Puget Sound seems to be a center of fandom for what’s often called speculative fiction. For one thing, Tacoma was the home of Frank Herbert, author of the 1965 science fiction classic “Dune.”
In 2015, the calendar is filled with fan functions devoted to science fiction and fantasy from Emerald City Comicon, in Seattle from Friday through Sunday, to Tacoma’s Jet City Comic Show in October
In the Tacoma newspaper The News Tribune, Craig Sailor interviews Brett Rogers, assistant professor of classics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Rogers “pursues a wide range of subjects that include Homer and classical drama, superhero narratives and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’”
Rogers and colleague Ben Stevens recently published The Once and Future Antiquity: Classical Traditions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, a book of essays about the links between the ancient classics and present day science fiction and fantasy.
This Friday and Saturday the University of Puget Sound will host a conference that focuses on “all things related to speculative fiction.”
Asked how he defines science fiction, Rogers replied that it’s not just about robots and space travel:
We’re more interested in how science fiction is not product oriented, cyborgs (for example), but process oriented — the way it gets people to think differently and imaginatively about their interaction with the world.
Rogers says he doesn’t believe in rigid definitions for terms such as science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. To Sailor’s question of what science fiction and fantasy allow us to do that regular fiction does not, Rogers replied that many people say they allow us to run thought experiments: If you have different starting premises, how might things turn out differently? Mystery and wonder, a way to explore the unknown, are other aspects of the power of speculative fiction, according to Rogers.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Tacoma writer Frank Herbert’s Dune. Rogers praised Herbert’s ability at creating a complete world: “What Tolkien does with elves and dwarves and dragons, Herbert does with prophetic powers and spice that is mined from the desert planet of Arrakis.” Rogers also says that Herbert plays with narrative structure in the novel in a way that challenges readers’ expectations. By presenting various parts of the narrative from different characters’ points of view, Herbert requires readers to put the various pieces of the story together.
In addition to this weekend’s conference at UPS in Tacoma, the Emerald City Comicon will take place Friday through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Tickets for Comicon are sold out.
Mary Ann Gwinn reports that spring used to be a quiet time for publishing, but not any more. Here she lists notable books to be published between March and June, including the following:
- Fiction by Kazuo Ishiguro, Sara Gruen, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Jane Smiley, Neal Stephenson, Judy Blume, Stephanie Kallos, and Stephen King
- Nonfiction by Robert Putnam, Tony Angell, David Brooks, David McCullough, Val McDermid, Willie Nelson, and Oliver Sacks
The finalists for the prestigious literary award the Man Booker International Prize were announced on Tuesday by the chair of judges, Marina Warner, in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. The Man Booker International Prize recognizes an author’s achievement through a body of work covering the writer’s career. Previous winners include American novelist Philip Roth, Canadian writer Alice Munro, and the late Chinua Achebe.
Here is the list of finalists:
- Mia Couto of Mozambique
- Marlene van Niekerk of South Africa
- Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya
- Alain Mabanckou of the Republic of Congo
- Cesar Aira of Argentina
- Maryse Conde of Guadeloupe
- Amitav Ghosh of India
- Fanny Howe of the United States of America
- Laszlo Krasznahorkai of Hungary
- Hoda Barakat of Lebanon
“This is a most interesting and enlightening list of finalists,” said Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation. “It brings attention to writers from far and wide, so many of whom are in translation. As a result, our reading lists will surely be hugely expanded.”
The prize is 60,000 pounds, or about $90,000. The winner will be announced in London on May 19.
Cara Buckley reports on how Julianne Moore prepared for her role in the film of Still Alice, a performance that won her an Oscar for best actress. Moore played Alice Howland, a Harvard cognifive psychologist with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (Early-onset Alzheimer’s is defined as onset before age 65.)
“Sill Alice” tells the story from Alice’s point of view. “This is very unusual,” Ms. Moore told the Bagger earlier this season in a phone interview, “because it’s from the inside out.” So, to know what having Alzheimer’s felt like, Ms. Moore said she dove into the world of people living with the disease.
With the help of Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns of the Alzheimer’s Association, Moore connected through Skype with women who had received diagnoses of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Moore also talked with a leading researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital and visited long-term-care facilities and support groups. One woman particularly affected Moore; although the woman could not speak, “she was beaming and clearly trying to connect”:
“That’s why it’s interesting that it’s called ‘Still Alice’ — this idea that your essential self does not disappear.”
Norman Mailer‘s historical fact-based novel “The Armies of the Night” has been optioned for big screen adaptation by RadicalMedia.
Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger will direct a film based on Norman Mailer’s book The Armies of the Night, about the march from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to the gates of the Pentagon in protest of the Vietnam War. Mailer’s book won both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
The film will be shot documentary style with actors performing scripted action interspersed with news footage from the event.
Producers also promise that the seminal rock and folk music from the era will play a significant role in the film.
“Today, as we find ourselves in a new time of protests on the streets, and tensions in the air, I couldn’t imagine a more relevant time to bring Mailer’s vision of civil disobedience to the big screen,” said Berlinger. “To achieve this in a style honoring the way Mailer put his story into words is an amazing opportunity for any filmmaker, and my own deep roots in the cinema-verite movement of the 1960’s makes this opportunity all the more exciting for me personally.”
As the concluding season of Mad Men approaches, the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, prepares a showing in New York City of 10 films that were required viewing for everyone who worked on the show. These films all made a deep impression on Weiner and influenced the creation of Mad Men.
Read Weiner’s own descriptions of why these movies, some of which are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, were seminal influences on Mad Men:
1. THE APARTMENT
Dir. Billy Wilder. 1960, 125 mins. 35mm print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. With Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine.
2. NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1959, 136 mins. 35mm. With Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint.
3. BLUE VELVET
Dir. David Lynch. 1987, 120 mins. 35mm. With Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper.
4. LES BONNES FEMMES
Dir. Claude Chabrol. 1960, 100 mins. 35mm. With Bernadette Lafont, Clotilde Joano, Stéphane Audran.
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 1958, 128 mins. 35mm IB Technicolor print! With James Stewart, Kim Novak.
Dir. Fielder Cook. 1956, 83 mins. 35mm. With Van Heflin, Everett Sloane, Ed Begley.
7. DEAR HEART
Dir. Delbert Mann. 1964, 114 mins. 35mm print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. With Glenn Ford, Geraldine Page, Angela Lansbury.
8. THE BACHELOR PARTY
Dir. Delbert Mann. 1957, 92 mins. Digital projection. With Don Murray, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden.
9. THE BEST OF EVERYTHING
Dir. Jean Negulesco. 1959, 121 mins. DCP. With Hope Lange, Stephen Boyd, Suzy Parker, Joan Crawford.
10. THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY
Dir. Arthur Hiller. 1964, 115 mins. 35mm. With James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas.
At the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, Joanna Trollope, age 71, advised writers:
“But I think in order to write good fiction, I think you need to have got a lot of living under your belt,” she said. “And that includes the pain as well as the joy.
”It’s a rather unkind thing to have to say, and I don’t mean it unkindly, but I always say to people you will write much better fiction after the age of 35 than before. Merely because life will have knocked you about a bit by then.
”I don’t mean it unlikely, I only mean it in terms of don’t be in a hurry.”
In this article Hannah Furness points out that some well known novelists fit Trollope’s description:
- Alexander McCall Smith, who published his first book at age 50
- Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down at age 53
However, Furness points out, many authors contradict Trollope’s description:
- Jack Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who each wrote his first novel in his early 20s
- Charles Dickens, who wrote Pickwick Papers at 26
- William Shakespeare, who is believed to have written his first play at about age 25
- Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at 20
Nonetheless, Trollope said that it is essential for writers to learn to understand other people’s motivations and to understand that “the suffering of other people is not negligible.”
“What I try to do is get inside head after head after head,” she said.
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.