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On Novels and Novelists

7 Book Franchises We Really Need To Say Goodbye To

Claire Fallon writes in the Huffington Post:

Let’s be honest: Too many series and franchises are reworked and rebooted until there’s simply no life left in them. As much as fans may clamor to spend more money on another Dune book, for example, they’re more likely than not going to be disappointed by the lackluster result, which only serves to taint the otherwise acclaimed series. We need to learn to say goodbye before we’re entirely ready, instead of waiting until a brand has fully worn out its welcome.

Here are the seven series she lists:

  1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  3. The James Bond series by Ian Fleming
  4. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  5. The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson
  6. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  7. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A quick reading of the comments suggests that many people misunderstood the point of this article. Several commenters list books and series that they say are awful. Some of the authors mentioned are Tom Clancy, Robert B. Parker, and Lee Child.

But I don’t think Fallon is writing about books that shouldn’t have been written in the first place. I think she’s concerned about books and series that have become so beloved by readers that it’s painful to watch someone else—some lesser writer—keep on writing inferior additions to the set. At least that’s how I feel about franchises such as Harry Potter, the Millennium trilogy, Little House, and Hitchhiker’s Guide.

How about you?

The Wachowskis’ Sense8 Is the Philip K. Dick Adaptation We Always Wanted

Here’s another long read, and I have to admit that much of it is way over my head for now. Bram E. Gieben looks at the Netflix Original series Sense8 in relation to the work of author Philip K. Dick and series creators the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski:

The ‘mind-melds’ (lets just call them that) which the characters experience begin to fracture their reality. This is in itself a Phildickian trope, but this ‘reality breakdown’—often the principle focus of a PKD novel—is not a key focus here. Rather, the series is full of scenes where characters listen to each other, and share their stories. This is the way in which the show deals with empathy—and yet, this is where Sense8 is at its most Phildickian. This also accounts for the erratic pacing. The Wachowskis have chosen to show empathy at work, rather than just divesting the story of these ‘emotional’ tropes, and focusing on the game of cat-and-mouse the protagonists are forced to play with a shadowy, quasi-governmental agency (as they would in most flawed Dick movie adaptations, from Total Recall to Minority Report).

I include this piece because it prompted me to add Sense8 to my Netflix list. The next long weekend that comes up I hope to spend watching several episodes of the series to see if I can make sense of them.

Care to join me?

13 Children’s Book Authors Who Would Have Written Beautiful Fiction For Adults Too

Riffing on Judy Blume’s new novel for adults, In the Unlikely Event, Katherine Brooks lists 13 authors she thinks would have written good fiction for adults:

After all, according to a 2012 study conducted by Bowker Market Research, 55 percent of the people buying fiction geared toward young adults are, actually, just adults. And they’re, actually, reading the books for themselves.

See why Brooks wishes these 13 authors had written fiction for adults:

  1. Beverly Cleary
  2. Walter Dean Myers
  3. Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  4. Katherine Paterson
  5. Mary Pope Osborne
  6. Gail Carson Levine
  7. Maurice Sendak
  8. Madeleine L’Engle
  9. Ellen Raskin
  10. Chris Van Allsburg
  11. and 12. Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
  12. Lois Lowry

Brooks also lists as runners-up S. E. Hinton and E. L. Konigsburg.

How To Read A Bad Book By A Great Author

“What do we make of a bad book, written late-career, by an acclaimed author?” asks Colton Valentine, who moves on to discuss Milan Kundera’s recent novel, The Festival of Insignificance. According to Valentine, critics almost universally have described this novel as “out-of-touch, sexist, and, worst of all, banal.”

But, Valentine argues, late-career novels such as this must be approached not in isolation, but in the context of everything the author has written before. In particular, Valentine makes sense of Festival of Insignificance by comparing it with what Kundera had to say in his best known novel, 1984’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

And this is the approach we should take to the upcoming publication of Harper Lee’s second novel:

In a few weeks, Harper Lee will release Go Set a Watchman, a book that will inevitably fail to live up to its predecessor but that need not be written off. Broadening our mindset – fitting the novel into a larger textual legacy – may not redeem it. But that mindset can, at least, provide a stimulating exercise, a more productive and respectful way to think about the late works of the greats.

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Author News Book Recommendations Monday Miscellany Writing

Monday Miscellany

Yes, there were stories in the news this past week other than the U. S. election.

Author Philip Roth says he is done with writing

Philip Roth
(ERIC THAYER, REUTERS / October 5, 2010)

An icon—or iconoclast, depending on your point of view—of American literature casually announced that he won’t be writing any more books. He admitted to a French magazine that he hasn’t written for 3 years.

Philip Roth won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel American Pastoral. He won the National Book Award in 1960 for the novella”Goodbye, Columbus,” which was published along with several other novellas, and again in 1995 for Sabbath’s Theater.

James Bond: Four writers carry forward Ian Fleming’s spy legacy

“You Only Live Twice” isn’t just the name of one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels (and the movie it spawned). It’s also turned out to be a fitting description of Fleming’s legacy. Not only does Fleming’s most famous creation live on nearly 50 years after his death — the latest Bond flick, “Skyfall,” hit theaters Friday — but Fleming’s unique brand of international intrigue continues to influence today’s thriller writers.

In Hero Complex the Los Angeles Times describes 4 writers who “acknowledge their debt to Fleming and his sexy, high-stakes take on the thriller”:

  • Jeremy Duns
  • Barry Eisler
  • Gayle Lynds
  • Brett Battles

Everything Comes to an End

On November 9th of 2004, Stieg Larsson — journalist and author of the posthumously published Millennium series of novels, the first of which was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 50-years-old. The next month, Stieg’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, found the following letter amongst his belongings, marked “To be opened only after my death,” and written prior to a trip to Africa in 1977 when he was just 22.

Letters of Note reproduces the letter from Gabrielsson’s book “There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me.

Five Winter Reads

Summer reading lists get all the attention, but with the days getting shorter and the nights getting colder you’ll need something to crack open fireside, that cozy Afghan wrapped around your legs, the warmth of your hot toddy working your bloodstream like a magician working a Vegas showroom.

Read why Brandon Bye recommends these 5 books:

  • “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol
  • “To Build a Fire” by Jack London
  • “Snow” by Ann Beattie
  • Canada by Richard Ford
  • Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

The United States of YA

Read your way across the United States with this list of young adults novels, one for each of the 50 states.

Over It: Bookish Conversations We Never Want to Have Again

 We usually keep things pretty positive here at the Riot, but after many years of life in the bookish interweb, we’ve identified some conversations that just keep coming back up. And we’re ready to put an end to them. So pull on your crankypants, kids, and join editors Rebecca and Jeff for a good old-fashioned Airing of Grievances.

If you follow the literary world at all (and I assume you do if you’re here right now), you’ll probably find some of your own pet peeves here on Book Riot’s list.