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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Monday, August 24, 2009

  • In Memoriam: Noted children's book author and illustrator Karla Kuskin died in Seattle at the age of 77. (The NY Times obit is here.)

    Also, Western writer Elmer Kelton died Saturday at the age of 83. His best-known novel was The Good Old Boys, which was made into a TV movie starring Tommy Lee Jones.

  • "I've Sold the Dickens Out of This Book": File this one under "Better Late than Never."

    Almost 48 years after it was first published, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child is finally topping the best-seller list, bringing with it all the butter, salt and goose fat that home chefs had largely abandoned in the age of Lipitor.

    The book, given a huge lift from the recently released movie "Julie and Julia," sold 22,000 copies in the most recent week tracked, according to Nielsen BookScan, which follows book sales. That is more copies than were sold in any full year since the book's appearance, according to Alfred A. Knopf, which published it.

    Interestingly, the film that is helping Julia Child could seem to use a little help at the box office. (And with many critics.)

  • Savage Garden: Portland's own writer/performer (who removes clothing during said performance — but "stripper" is such a gauche term) Viva Las Vegas has written a memoir called Magic Gardens.

    The Daily Beast's Blogs & Stories chats with Vegas about her recent cancer struggles:

    [H]er career was derailed last year, when her boyfriend found a small lump in her breast. They broke up in the early stages of her cancer treatment, an event Viva says was worse than the cancer — she had a plan for healing and doctors who would help, but no plan for getting over her heartbreak. She stopped stripping and struggled with how she'd make a living during and after the three-month treatment — a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

    "I felt like a failure for being sick," she said, deflating for a moment over her Irish coffee. "I come from a family of health nuts and athletes. Having my body attack itself from within definitely felt like a major failure, and I tended to blame myself for causing the illness."

    "Magic Gardens is no mere memoir — all snap, verve, and eloquence, it is the how-to manifesto of a Diva of the Demimonde, and a love song to life on the shady side," raved Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love.

  • Deluged: The New York Times interviews Josh Neufeld on A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, his graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina.

    The winding road leading to the New Orleans novel began when Mr. Neufeld signed up to work with the Red Cross after the hurricane hit, serving as a disaster response worker in Biloxi, Miss., for almost a month. He said the catalyst for volunteering was 9/11. "Having been in New York when the towers fell, I remember that overwhelming feeling of helplessness and displaced anger," he said. "When Katrina hit, I saw what was happening, and I realized that I, as a single person, could somehow help." Mr. Neufeld blogged about his experience and self-published a collection of his dispatches called "Katrina Came Calling." That book got into the hands of Jeff Newelt, the comics editor for Smith, an online magazine (smithmag.net) with a focus on personal narratives.

    "I met Josh for coffee, and we started talking, and it evolved from there," said Larry Smith, the magazine's editor and founder. "Panel for panel, moment by moment, there's nothing I'm more proud of on Smith. Josh stretched himself as a reporter. It's authentic. It's honest."

    And someday the Times might just write a piece about a graphic novel without having to justify it with a line like, "It is the latest example of the expansion of the graphic format to include nonfiction and reportage as well as superheroes and fantasy." I mean, as much as I was hoping for super-powered talking animals to fight the hurricane...

Book News Round-up:

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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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