by Lewis, August 4, 2006 2:42 PM
We are faced with very slim pickings for book news today, so rather than report news about books I am going to relate other stories and then attempt some really awkward segues to some books I particularly like.
- All right, well this first one is sort of book related. It is an eerie, creepy story about bookbinding and the old practice of binding medical books in human skin. This is a tenuous stretch, I grant you, but it reminds me of the weird and wonderful world of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, which is brilliantly documented by Lawrence Weschler in his book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder. The last time I visited the museum it had a new tea room and some excellent mugs with bees on them.
- Magicians share their secrets at the World Championship of Magic and keep the rest of us in the dark, as usual. Wouldn't you love to sneak in and discover what they were saying in there? Well, perhaps you'll discover the odd magic trick in the new novel by one of my favorite authors, Louise Welsh. It is called The Bullet Trick and is about a magician. Welsh writes very dark prose, with very slippery plots.
- We all have our guilty pleasure song (well, mine makes up about 2 gigs of my iPod if truth be told) but when Q magazine polled its readers, the band ELO topped the list of uncool records it is okay to love. I won't admit to having ELO on my iPod, but I used to have the fourth-place holder, 10cc's "I'm Not In Love." The unreliable narration, the whispered denials, the unrequited love ? it all puts me in mind of the The House of Sleep, one of the most unconventional love stories ever written, and one which can make me tear up just by thinking of the last page. (But Jesus ? how did "Manic Monday" make it on the list? That song makes me want to kill myself.)
- Witness the embarrassment for Microsoft when Windows Vista, their proposed voice recognition software, was demonstrated to the press and the words just don't come out right. Har har ? we get to laugh at Microsoft occasionally. But seriously now, witness the ongoing technological advances; all so future-tense, so sci-fi, and all so reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. This novel takes a tiny step into the future with a dazzling, horrifying result.
All right, I really eeked that one out. I'm sure I have horrified more than one fan of Ishiguro's here by placing his masterpiece alongside a YouTube video. I shall apologize now and thank you for bearing with me, and wish you all a happy
by Lewis, August 3, 2006 12:56 PM
Orange Prize-winning author Lionel Shriver writes an article for the Guardian about how difficult it is to get a good cover design. She takes umbrage at computer generated design as opposed to original art like a drawing or painting and writes "I fear that, like so many recent art school graduates, most of these technologically nimble professionals do not know how to draw." I'd say Shriver's award-wining We Need To Talk about Kevin's jacket art illustrates her point beautifully.
- The LA Times reports that Stephen King and John Irving have made a plea to J.K. Rowling not to kill off Harry Potter. Rowling wasn't making any promises but pointed out that the two of them had killed off many more characters that she has ever done. (By the way ? aren't these French Sorciers just adorable!)
- And I feel compelled to point you to this fascinating story about a scientific imaging team that has found hidden writings of Archimedes within an ancient palimpsest. Tomorrow Stanford University will be running a live webcast which will feature scientists and scholars discussing their findings and what they reveal.
- Today the New York Times provides a riveting review of the biography of Alice B. Sheldon, otherwise known as the science-fiction author James Tiptree, Jr. The quotes that Janet Maslin uses here are classic. "Anyone who shoots a real gun at you when drunk and angry is simply not husband material, regardless of his taste in literature," Sheldon said of her first husband. Just a glimpse of Sheldon's life provided here makes me anxious to read more.
- And while this is news for literary scholars apparently, any Black Adder fan can quite easily picture Dr. Johnson secretly abandoning his dictionary for a while there.
by Lewis, August 1, 2006 3:48 PM
- Slate has been airing a podcast featuring conversations about books. I have been led to it from Edward Champion's blog who cites Tayari Jones's posting on the discussion about Toni Morrison's novel Beloved. Tayani asks: "Will somebody go listen to the rest of the broadcast (I just can't!) and see if they realise how racist it is to assume that a work by an African American woman author must suck? It's a crazy paradox, I must say. The panelists seemed to take her success as further proof that her writing must be terrible."
Edward Champion listened for just a little longer: "Metcalf?s chief objection to the book is that 'the sense of history felt so abstract.' And at this point, I Alt-F4ed the player, realizing that listening to any more of this nonsense would dull my mind. And if I wanted to lose brain cells, I preferred to do it through heavy drinking."
I listened for an extra seven or so minutes further, and I can reassure Tayari and Edward it does not get any better ? well, actually it becomes a little less brutal, but not at all less irritating or smug. The discussion about allegory and magical realism was where I dropped off (about 13 minutes in). Anyone care to listen any further? Please feel free to comment below if you do!
- However, for all my vexation with their podcast, you have to commend Slate for their homepage today. Mighty Mel showing his true colors for a photographer along with lots of juicy articles to hammer the point home further.
- Filming of the Monica Ali novel Brick Lane has been suspended because residents of the London neighborhood Brick Lane complained about how the book represented their Bangladshi inhabitants. And two extremely opionated authors, Salman Rushdie and Germaine Greer, have taken two different opinions about the decision, escalating the affair, and reviving a long-standing grudge between the two. Rushdie says Greer's "support of the attack on this film project is philistine, sanctimonious and disgraceful." The Guardian and The Scotsman both have stories. I like the Guardian report myself. Especially the little round-up of famous literary spats at the end.
- The Romance Writers of America?s RITA awards were celebrated last Sunday. The list of the thirteen winners along with the shortlisted titles can be found here. Many miles away from the RITA convention in Atlanta, in Ballarat, a southern town in Australia a couple of hours away from Melbourne, author Marion Lennox was making herself a pastie for lunch when her friend texted her the news that she had won her second RITA for Princess of Convenience. Cheers
by Lewis, July 31, 2006 11:47 AM
Armistead Maupin's riveting novel The Night-Listener has been turned into a movie starring Robin Williams and the divine Toni Collete. The movie will open this Friday. The Night Listener is about a late-night radio host who befriends a young listener whose horrific past has granted him wisdom beyond his years. The book actually bears resemblance to a particular literary hoax that was exposed a while ago. However, I worry in even saying that I'm giving too much away. Maupin will be on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight actually. I wonder if the hoax topic will come up?
- More authors on the telly ? tonight Peter Beinart, author of The Good Fight: Why Liberals ? And Only Liberals ? Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, is on the dazzling Colbert Report this evening as well. Beinart is also editor at large of the New Republic, the fabulous magazine which hosts our Thursday reviews, and which receives both the most negative and positive reactions from our subscribers.
- And then of course, there is Roger Mellie, The Man on the Telly. Oh... except he isn't an author. And he is not on the telly tonight. Sorry.
- Am I a sounding a tad English here? It might be that I've been infected by J. K. Rowling's birthday celebrations, for it is in fact her 41st birthday today. As we all know, Rowling is currently at work on the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series. Gobble down that cake and get back to your desk, J.K.!
- And wow ? while spending a little time on the BBC website I did happen to notice that many Brits share my intense antipathy towards James Blunt ? Brilliant!
- However, sadly, in my final Brit (and yes, book) news, last Friday brought tragic news for fantasy readers everywhere. David Gemmell, the English author of more than 30 fantasy novels including Waylander and Legend, passed away. On the BBC website there is a lovely reminiscence about Gemmell by agent and editor John
by Lewis, July 28, 2006 11:27 AM
- One of Powell's favorite authors, Gary Shteyngart, writes of his summers in Russia as a small boy in today's New York Times. While his reminiscences are fascinating and seem so different to how many of us recall our childhood holidays, it is worth bearing in mind his opinion expressed in his interview with Dave for Powells.com:
Growing up, I always thought Russia would become more like America ? more democracy, some kind of functioning market system ? but I think America is becoming more like Russia. That's the sense I got when I was writing Absurdistan. Look, you have a country that spies on its own citizens ? it's straight out of Brezhnev.
- This has to be one of the television highlights of the week, the month, the season ? for me, anyhow: two of my favorite authors, Martin Amis and Margaret Atwood, speaking about religion on Bill Moyer's PBS program Faith and Reason. I'm picturing some sort of boxing match between Faith and Reason. I'm on Reason's side personally, although living in America you're a fool if you didn't put your money on Faith.
- Utne Reader shares its literate picks of the week and includes a nice plug for our upcoming (the month of August) Review a Day host Bitch magazine, and their divine new compendium, Bitchfest. And lookee there, an advertisement for Bill Moyer's television show! Am I living in some sort of cultural vacuum? Har Har ? what a silly question.
- Another favorite author of ours is Anthony Bourdain. Here he writes a truly tragic piece for Salon about watching Beirut burning from his hotel window. Bourdain went to Beirut to film a story about the thriving cultural capital city and, to paraphrase, he watched it die. Another round goes to Faith I guess...
I've been told that Brockman is making a good recovery, and should be back next week, perhaps on Tuesday. I hope my little political asides haven't made anyone too uncomfortable. Alright, be honest, it was the Hollywood Squares jokes that really made you squirm, didn't they?
No? They didn't? well, just one more then.
Peter Marshall: You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.
by Lewis, July 27, 2006 2:36 PM
- July 29th not only marks Farley's 30th birthday it also is the 25th anniversary of Lady Di's wedding to Prince Charles. On that day, when the whole world watched, she wore an enourmous, poufy dress, with ribbons and bows and sleeves bigger than her head. Oddly enough, Harper Design has chosen to celebrate the dress in a book called A Dress for Diana. (More about the dress here at USA Today)
- Leora Skolkin-Smith, author of Edges: O Israel, O Palestine, is organizing a book reading for Seeds of Peace, to be held in September at the McNally-Robinson Booksellers in New York. Authors so far slated are Robb Forman Dew, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Katharine Weber, Leora Skolkin-Smith, and Masha Hamilton.
- This is an interesting article about the fading of Da Vinci Code fever, a phenomenon that has persisted for over three years!
- Funnily enough, Shelf Awareness mentions that Sony's eReader's launch, which was supposed to occur last spring, is now scheduled for fall, "just in time for the holidays." The first books available at the launch are listed as The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, At Risk by Patricia Cornwell, and Digging to America by Anne Tyler. Gosh ? do you think Sony is unaware that everyone in the world has now read The Da Vinci Code?
- And because it is a slow book news day again (I wonder what Bookdwarf is up to today?) and it is Farley's birthday on Saturday, I shall leave you with some more precious moments from Hollywood Squares, this time courtesy of Paul Lynde.
Peter Marshall: When Richard Nixon was Vice-President, he went someplace on a "good will mission," but instead wound up being stoned and shouted at. Where did this take place?
Paul Lynde: Pat's room.
Peter Marshall: If the right part comes along, will George C. Scott do a nude scene?
Paul Lynde: You mean he doesn't have the right part?
Peter Marshall: In Alice in Wonderland, who kept crying "I'm late, I'm late?"
Paul Lynde: Alice, and her mother is sick about it.
by Lewis, July 26, 2006 2:54 PM
admits it is a quiet day in the book world today. Bookdwarf is taking her mother to an art gallery. I, on the other hand, am waiting for Dave
to return from lunch with some new flavor of Gatorade he is keen on. He is determinded to prove that Gatorade is not only drinkable, but indeed tasty. We'll see about that...
- Well, yet another romance publisher is getting into the reader particpation game. An imprint of Harper Collins, Avon Romance is introducing a contest encouraging readers to create an original story online (I'm dying to see how "original" a romance plot is going to be). Although this doesn't start until August 23rd, you can sign up and be notified when the games begin.
- The Australian Federal Attorney General wants broader powers to ban books that "urge or provide instruction or praise for acts of terrorism." While Turkey continues to prosecute writers who insult "Turkishness."
- The New Statesman features an article by John Gray called The Battle of the Books, and which asks, "What works can be said to have altered history?"
On a side note, the author of this article is not the Men Are from Mars author named John Gray, but in fact a gentlemen whom a Publishers Weekly review describes as "a philosopher and professor at the London School of Economics" who "sounds like the quintessential grumpy, world-weary intellectual: he disagrees with almost everyone and is pessimistic about almost everything." But let's get back to the Mars/Venus Gray for a sec. Did you know that a half an hour in his NASA designed "O-Sauna" burns more calories than a one-hour jog? Hard to believe isn't it? Really. Hard to believe.
- And, well, because book news is short, people news will have to suffice. From Harper's Weekly: "A taxidermist from Lake County, Florida, was arrested after urinating on $500 worth of frozen food, and thieves stole a 14-foot inflatable sheep from a store in Rochester, Minnesota. Wolf-dogs attacked and killed a woman in Greensburg, Pennsylvania."
by Lewis, July 25, 2006 12:22 PM
As for me, I'm still pondering the "Love" question for Harlequin, and in my misty consciousness my memory harkens back to that masterpiece of television history that is Hollywood Squares...
Peter Marshall: In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say "I love you"?
Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a
by Lewis, July 24, 2006 4:13 PM
I start today's book news with a piece of sad news. Our intrepid blogger Brockman has been involved in what can only be described as a ruinous
encounter with some greenery whilst on vacation down in Cancun or Belize, or someplace like that. It was hard to understand much of what he said, but we're afraid he might be gone for a while. Please be patient as I attempt to keep PowellsBooks.blog timely and at least somewhat entertaining.
So, on with the news:
- Poo-poo to all those thinking newly-crowned Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza, had it tough. Property developer Chris Storm "has credited business acumen, his looks, and a take-off on the Johnny Cash song 'Folsom Prison Blues' " with winning the Ernest Hemingway look-a-like contest. Not only did he sing and arm-wrestle, but he even addressed the crowd in Swahili.
- Salon has just introduced its Literary Guide to the World. So far the map is a tad sparsely populated, but it does already include John Banville writing on Ireland, Alexandra Fuller on Zimbabwe, and a well-deserved, lovely tribute to the wonderful state of Nebraska by Meghan Daum. Hey ? I'm not kidding. Lovely. Wonderful. Take me seriously here, people ? I love this state!
- I continue with my agenda to make best-selling authors of all my favorite Scotsmen and women by pointing you to Saturday's New York Times interview with the divine Denise Mina, whose newest novel The Dead Hour has a few of us (including the odd C.E.O...) getting extremely impatient for part three of the Paddy Meehan trilogy. (And if you haven't read her yet, get Field of Blood right now!)
- And finally, on a serious note, over the weekend award-winning (and frequently controversial) journalist Robert Fisk, author of The Great War for Civilization, posted an extremely moving Elegy for Beirut on CounterPunch.com. This isn't a controversial essay. Just a very, very sad one.