Tom Spanbauer is a critically acclaimed author and the founder of Dangerous Writing. His novels include I Loved You More, Faraway Places, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, In the City of Shy Hunters, and Now Is the Hour. Tom lives, writes, and teaches in Portland, Oregon.
Shark Attack: In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani says mainly positive things about Bob Woodward's new book, Obama's Wars, about the administration's struggles with the war in Afghanistan.
Although the volume essentially retraces a narrative that will be familiar to readers from articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post and from Jonathan Alter’s recent book, "The Promise," Mr. Woodward adds lots of detail and anecdotal color to the story of how the White House's policy on Afghanistan evolved over the administration's first 18 months, and how the decision was made to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan (to try to wrest momentum away from a resurgent Taliban) with a drawdown of American forces scheduled to begin in July 2011.
Like all Woodward books, "Obama's Wars" plows relentlessly forward like a shark. It is all about narrative and scenes and relationships among its principle subjects, not policy assessments or evaluations of conditions on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast's Leslie H. Gelb discusses how the Obama
Some of the critical players in President Obama’s national security team doubt his strategy in Afghanistan will succeed and have spent much of the last 20 months quarreling with one another over policy, personalities and turf...
Time magazine's Joe Klein worries that spreading this kind of story, especially right before an election, represents "an effort to portray the President as an indecisive, non-military wimp."
Salon.com judges the book by its design and wonders, "Will it be as bad as its cover?"
And today, Vanity Fair muses that Woodward "may have missed the mark."
This Just In: The Daily Beast's Bryan Curtis procured an advanced copy and lists the Juicy Bits. He writes, "You might expect Woodward's narrative to zip from the White House to
The Grace of Norris: NPR interviews one of its own, Michele Norris, about her new memoir, The Grace of Silence, which deals with "painful family secrets — from her father's shooting by the Birmingham police within weeks of his discharge from service in World War II to her grandmother's peddling pancake mix as an itinerant Aunt Jemima."
While writing her memoir, Norris wrestled to understand why her father never told her about the shooting. She grew up surrounded by a lot of relatives, all of whom knew the story. But nobody thought to tell her about it while her father was still alive.
Norris says she has come to accept her father's decision not to burden her with what had happened to him. The title of her memoir, The Grace of Silence, is in honor of what she calls his "incredibly graceful act" of shielding her from his past.
"Our parents tell us what they think we need to know," Norris says. "And my father didn't think I needed to know [about the shooting]. He wanted to make sure
Present Imperfect: Authors Philip Pullman and Philip Hensher are complainingcomplained that the Man Booker Prize shortlist containsedtoo many novels written in present tense. Three of the six nominees used the form.
Pullman — who, since the completion of the His Dark Materials trilogy, hasd spent far more time publicly railing against stuff than writing — railsed the loudest:
This wretched fad has been spreading more and more widely. I can't see the appeal at all. To my mind it drastically narrows the options available to the writer. When a language has a range of tenses such as the perfect, the imperfect, the pluperfect, each of which makes other kinds of statement possible, why on earth not use them?
"My Kindle Loves Having Sex with Me": Amazon has actually produced a TV commercial for the new, lower-priced Kindle. Fortunately, being a bastion of online bookselling, Amazon keeps things highbrow, appealing to the refined taste and sophistication of the modern reader without descending into such cheap, sleazy, obvious advertising tactics as exploiting a woman's sexuality to hawk their... oh, wait a second. I just watched the ad. Never mind.
The moral of the story is, buy a Kindle and you can either become a hot babe in a bikini or sleep with one. Buy an iPad, and you'll be a chubby moron in a T-shirt and boxers sitting cluelessly at a pool where you can't read your eBook. Ignore this lesson at your peril, readers!
Also, some people spend way too much money on sunglasses.
Conclusion of the Cave Bear: Friday on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud, the guest was Jean Auel, whose next novel, The Land of Painted Caves (due next March), completes her saga that began thirty years ago with
Room to Move: Using Emma Donoghue's new novel Room as an example, NPR's Morning Edition follows the word-of-mouth process that builds buzz in the book industry.
Room tells the story of a woman — being held captive by a man who kidnapped and raped her — and her son, who is the child of her captor. The child narrates the story, which begins in the only world he has ever known — a backyard shed that is their prison. [Executive editor Judy] Clain was convinced that Little Brown should buy the book, but first she had to pitch it to her colleagues at an editorial meeting.
"A lot of people in the room were skeptical," she said. "Then, what started to happen — which I think has pretty much never happened to me before — is that one by one, everybody who read the book, people started to come by absolutely sort of evangelical about the book."
The piece surprised me, in part, because yesterday I spotted preorders for signed editions of Room at the
In the ten years since his classic Kitchen Confidential first alerted us to the idiosyncrasies and lurking perils of eating out, from Monday fish to the breadbasket conspiracy, much has changed for the subculture of chefs and cooks, for the restaurant business — and for Anthony Bourdain.
Medium Raw explores these changes, moving back and forth from the author’s bad old days to the present. Tracking his own strange and unexpected voyage from journeyman cook to globe-traveling professional eater and drinker, and even to fatherhood, Bourdain takes no prisoners as he dissects what he’s seen, pausing along the way for a series of confessions, rants, investigations, and interrogations of some of the most controversial figures in food.
The sweepstakes started yesterday and continues until September 19th. What do you have to
[I]n Sweden the books and their author — who died in an untimely fashion that some conspiracy theorists persist in calling an assassination — have lately become the center of another sort of story full of intense, opinionated Swedish characters entwined in a saga involving envy, resentment, a contested legacy and a mysterious manuscript. At least one skeptic has even questioned how Larsson, a middle-aged man with no history of writing crime fiction, and seemingly no flair for it, could have written the Millennium books in the first place.
Yes, you've heard this story already, probably many times, but the guy is dead and a bestselling author — there are only so many stories to tell about him, you know?
The Silva Conundrum: Hey, unemployed book lover, are you feeling down about your job prospects in a really bad market? At least you aren't alone — it looks like even
Read Watch Pray: Does a bestselling book necessarily translate into a hit movie? The Los Angeles Times expresses a bit of skepticism on this matter.
The film version of "Eat, Pray, Love" took in $24 million its opening weekend — a tally AdAge calls "satisfactory" — but it was bested by "The Expendables," the over-the-hill tough-guy action movie. In the weeks since, the [movie] "Eat, Pray, Love" has stayed in the top three — respectable but not stunning. Meanwhile, the paperback of "Eat, Pray, Love" is back at the top of our nonfiction bestseller list.
Could it be that the essence of "Eat Pray Love" was not the eating, the praying and the loving — things easy to see on screen — but Gilbert's quest for them and her discoveries along the way? Was Gilbert's writing style — witty and self-deprecating and brutally honest — essential to the pleasure of the story? Are some books too internal to translate well to film? Is "Eat, Pray, Love" one of them?
My Fine, Feathered Franzen: There's a new nursery rhyme being sung by mid-list authors to their children, who aren't yet old enough to realize what the words mean:
Jonathan Franzen and the NYT
First come reviews, a helpful assist,
Then comes the novel on the bestseller list!
With the New York Times itself featuring the Franzenfrenzy that it's been fingered for feeding, has this whole foolish Freedom fracas come full circle? (Can you say that five times fast?)
Meanwhile, Newsweek hates Franzen and his stupid ass face. But they might like the book.
I "Like" to Shut Up: What kind of book attracts almost 700,000 fans on Facebook? (Probably more by the time you read this.) Why, a memoir about life lessons picked up by career in the Israeli government, of course!
Or, perhaps, the kind with exactly the right title:
Mr. Levey, 32, quickly realized that his book, now two years old, had not catapulted to the best-seller list or landed on Oprah's Book Club. Rather,
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