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Book News for Friday, March 9, 2007

  • Knock Him Out the Box, Brockman: In the second match of the first round of this year's Tournament of Books, author Marcus Sakey (The Blade Itself) turns the face-off between The Echo Maker by Richard Powers and The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud into a boxing match.

    The crowd howls with anticipation, the two bump gloves and the bout begins.

    But here’s the problem with boxing: Sometimes, even when you’re dealing with a couple of veterans, a fight doesn’t live up to expectations. It may be balanced, bloody, and sincere, and yet somehow not have that spark, that indefinable thing that makes it magic.

    Which is how I felt about both books.

    Who emerges victorious? I leave it to you to find out — but let me just take this moment to officially apologize to Michelle from San Francisco, CA, who was picked as my partner in the TOB brackets. It doesn't look good for my predictions this year.

    But NEXT year... hoo baby, watch out!

  • The Inheritance of Awards: Yeah, the Man Booker Prize is real fancy and all, but why settle for just that when you can also take home the National Book Critics Circle Award? Ask Kiran Desai, whose novel The Inheritance of Loss took the NBCC award for fiction last night.

    The other big winners were:

    Congratulations to one and all!

  • O Captain, My Captain: By now the whole, wide world knows that Marvel Comics has killed off Captain America, a hero who was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby to help fight the Nazis in World War II. (Whether the good captain stays dead or manages to rise from the grave like his forebears, Superman and Jesus, is a matter of speculation.)

    The Marvel publicity machine managed to get this story all over the media, including a bizarrely serious-sounding piece in the New York Times that reads like a real obituary.

    The assassin is alleged to be Sharon Carter, an intelligence agent romantically involved with Captain America. She was apparently under the control of Dr. Faustus, a supervillain.

    That sentence is a bit strange in any context (even if you're a comics fan), but it's especially surreal to read it in the Times. Makes me wonder if Dr. Faustus got his hooks into the Times editors, too.

  • What's In a Name: Filmiholic interviews Jhumpa Lahiri on the film version of her novel The Namesake. Lahiri, who has a small role in the film, shares her reaction to seeing it for the first time:

    I didn’t feel anxiety in the making of the film. I felt relaxed and curious. I was burning with curiosity as we were going to see the movie. I had no idea what to expect. I had seen shots and stills so I had a sense. But to see it, I was just overwhelmed and had a very emotional reaction. I didn’t cry when I watched it. I cried afterward. It was the totality of the movie.

    The Namesake opens today in limited release.

  • All Used Up: Powell's small-press maverick Kevin Sampsell has a new piece up at ASAP, exploring the "mysterious world of used book scouts and dealers."

    Included are some photos from Powell's, including the chalkboard behind the book buying counter, Used Books Manager Chris Hagen (who's also interviewed in the piece), and a Rare Book Room first edition of Charlotte's Web that goes for more than $1,000 (that's a lot of bacon, Wilbur).

  • I Love the Smell of Self-Promotion in the Morning: Of course you know, Dear Reader, that I would never use the Powells.com blog as a shameless vehicle for pushing Powells.com press releases. This is Book News, not Book Shilling for the Master, and I refuse to ever bow down!

    However, since Authorlink.com wrote about it, I guess I can report on their report of our new project, Out of the Book, a promotion that "will show short movies of frontlist titles, each up to 23 minutes in length."

    The films will be promotional and entertaining pieces rather than ads, including interviews with authors, clips of the authors' hometowns and settings for the books, plus critics' remarks and comments from fans. The films also will be distributed free to other booksellers around the US to help build exciting events. At this date, nearly 40 booksellers across America have signed up to use the clips in events for an entire inaugural week of Out of the Book. Each store will tailor events to suit their needs and will have some territorial exclusivity, but Powell's plans to include as many booksellers as will use the promotional tool. The price of admission to some book events will be a copy of the book being promoted or a gift card for the title.

    The company will launch the far-reaching new marketing strategy in June 2007 at the New Yorker's Book Expo America party with a big-name author, according to the blog, Shelf Awareness. The inaugural week will take place two weeks after BookExpo....The company sees the filmmaking idea as a "proactive way" of boosting book awareness and creating real excitement.

    There, I've earned my paycheck. And no, since you asked, I don't feel a bit unclean. Not in the least. Okay, a little. But I got paid, so I can shower in money... as long as I use lots of small change and no bills.

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.


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