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Book News: Are Novels Better than Memoirs? Plus: Patti Smith, Apple Tablet Rumors, and More

  • Stranger than Truth? The Daily Beast's Taylor Antrim wonders if two memoirs from recent guest bloggers — Happy by Alex Lemon and The Ticking Is the Bomb by Nick Flynn — might not have been better as novels.

    Both are by youngish men (Lemon is 31, Flynn 49), both explore masculinity and weakness, existential and physical. Both are heart-felt and affecting — Lemon's book is especially good — and yet? They leave me with a familiar, gnawing discomfort.

    Here it is: Memoir writing is cheating. I've always believed this, even before l'affaire Frey, before fact-checking purportedly true tales of lives lived became a contact sport. And, anyway, by cheating I don't mean exaggerating the truth. Of course memoirs contain misrepresentations, even outright lies. Has anyone ever told a story about themselves without fibbing a little? (A good story, that is.)

    Of course you realize... this means war!

    Click here to read Lemon's guest blog posts, and click here to read Flynn's.

    Added: Interestingly, there's a lengthy post in the comments thread from Tim Barrus, who may be more familiar as his alter ego, disgraced hoaxoirist (to borrow a term from Brockman) Nasdiij. Barrus faked being Native American in three hoaxoirs (scroll down a ways and read the whole story here), and his comment offers lots of reasons for his ruse.

  • Read Out Loud: Last week, OPB's call-in radio show "Think Out Loud" had an episode featuring author Cynthia Rylant and illustrator Nikki McClure, who collaborated on the children's book All in a Day.

    If you missed the live show, you can listen to it online here. Plus: click here for the Powell's Kids' Q&A with Rylant and McClure.

  • How We Do It: John Eklund, the very friendly rep for Harvard University Press, the MIT Press, and Yale University Press, wrote a blog post about Powell's that has all of us feeling a little bashful and beaming at the same time.

    Since "How does Powell's do it?" is a longstanding and burning question among all the other independent booksellers I see, I would offer a couple theories.

    Read on for his theories, which make us warm and fuzzy all over.

  • Apple Seeds: Tomorrow is the expected unveiling of the new Apple tablet! There has been tons of speculation over the past weeks and months (as much of it collected in Book News as we could locate) that the iSlate, iBook, iWhatever-it-will-be will revolutionize the ebook industry. However, the New York Times thinks it may also give "the media industry a kind of time machine — a chance to undo mistakes of the past."

    There's a rumor going around that the tablet may come with a built-in Barnes & Noble bookstore. Oh, Apple, don't do us like that!

    This NPR piece suggests the tablet had better be much more than an e-reader if it hopes to survive in this market.

    Meanwhile, the Huffington Post wonders if any of these e-readers will manage to survive in a post-Apple tablet world.

Book News Round-up:

  • The Washington Post reviews Patti Smith's new book: "More than a 1970s bohemian rhapsody, Just Kids is one of the best books ever written on becoming an artist..."
  • The Digital Book World conference is underway even as I write these words. Follow along with the excitement, speculation, and — yes, it's true — the explosive controversies on Twitter, with the hash-tag #dbw.
  • Beloved Portland author Ursula K. Le Guin strikes a blow against the Google settlement:

    American fantasy fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin is to submit a petition to a US judge on Tuesday signed by 365 other writers opposing the legal settlement that would allow Google to scan and sell millions of books online.

  • Do you need to read Anne Tyler's latest novel, Noah's Compass? William Boot says yes.

÷ ÷ ÷

Chris Bolton co-created the all-ages webcomic Smash, which will soon be published by Candlewick Press, and created the comedy series Wage Slaves. His short story "The Red Room" was published in Portland Noir from Akashic Books.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Portland Noir (Akashic Noir)
    Used Trade Paper $8.50
  2. All in a Day
    Used Hardcover $7.95

  3. The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir Used Hardcover $9.95
  4. Noah's Compass
    Used Hardcover $4.95
  5. Just Kids
    Used Hardcover $23.00
  6. Return to the Little Kingdom: Steve... Used Hardcover $9.95

One Response to "Book News: Are Novels Better than Memoirs? Plus: Patti Smith, Apple Tablet Rumors, and More"

    Patsy Whyte April 1st, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Chris, couldn't agree with you more...about the "this means war" declaration. I get sick and tired of reading all about so called 'fake memoirs', or authors bending the truth for the sake of creating a stir.

    Yes, some do. Given most people's innate honesty, the vast majority, I would think, do not. Some authors also have great memories. I am one. That's why I can declare the memoir I've written, No Easy Road, is as truthful and honest as it's possible to be, given the fallibility of the human memory.

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