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Book News for Monday, February 23, 2009

  • Slumdog Oscar Winner: Last night's big winner at the 81st annual Academy Awards ceremony was Slumdog Millionaire, which won Best Picture and a slew of other awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay.

    Lest we forget, the film was adapted from Vikas Swarup's debut novel Q & A, which has also been repackaged as, um, Slumdog Millionaire.

    According to India's Sunday Tribune, "Vikas Swarup weaves a delightful yarn. With an easy style, Q & A is sweet, sorrowful and funny. An enchanting tale."

    So you can read either one (different name, same book) — and you can read Simon Beaufoy's Oscar-winning script courtesy of the Newmarket Shooting Script series.

  • I Want These Motherf***ing Zombies Off This Motherf***ing Regal Country Estate! It's official: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the Snakes on a Plane of the book world. Book folks just can't get enough of that zany title with the so-dumb-you-can't-believe-somebody-actually-took-the-time-to-write-it-down premise.

    The New York Times explores the roots of the possible-phenom-in-the-making.

    According to Mr. [Seth] Grahame-Smith, who confessed to being "bored to tears" by Pride and Prejudice in high school, the idea was mostly to sell resistant readers on the joys of Jane while having a bit of fun. The book, probably the first Austen/horror mashup to make it into print, is roughly 85 percent Austen's original text, with references to monsters, putrefying flesh and ninja swordplay added on just about every page.

    "I think Austen would have a sense of humor about it," said Mr. Grahame-Smith, whose previous books include How to Survive a Horror Movie. (Rule No. 1 in a zombie attack: "Stop Being So Pathetic.") "Or maybe she's rolling in her grave. Or climbing out of it."

    Here's the big question, Dear Reader: As with that ill-fated, Samuel L. Jackson-starring cinematic epic, which had a huge fanboy build-up to a huger box-office fizzle, will the book ultimately rack up sales... or merely shrugs?

  • Dawn of the Literary Dead: Joyce Carol Oates is not jumping on the zombie bandwagon with her novella Zombie, which has been turned into a one-man Off-Broadway show adapted by and starring Bill Connington.

    There are no lurching, undead, flesh-eating reanimated corpses in either the book or play — just an admitted sex offender alone in his basement.

    The New York Times praises, "Mr. Connington commits totally to this haunting characterization and leaves us wondering exactly what kind of people are walking the streets alongside us."

    The Times also has an interactive slide show with pictures from the play and Oates discussing the collaboration, which she considered more fun than writing a novel.

    The play is currently running in New York through March 29th.

  • A Good Bio Is Hard to Find: Reviewing Brad Gooch's new biography of Flannery O'Connor, titled Flannery, the Times' Janet Maslin wonders, "Where is the flood of other biographical material about this mystical, ornery, ardently admired Southern writer?"

    Apparently, any other contenders can back off, because Maslin says Gooch has nailed it:

    O'Connor has been long overdue for the major biography that Mr. Gooch has written. "Flannery" reveals not only why its brilliantly persnickety subject warrants such attention but also why it has been so slow in coming....[T]he tart O'Connor voice, witty and flippant, immune to vanity, is very much in evidence.

    Other critics agree. Booklist's starred review calls it "the definitive biography as well as providing the impetus forgeneral readers to return to O'Connor's timeless fiction." Library Journal says, "If a library is to have only one book on Flannery O'Connor, this should be it."

Book News Round-up:

  • Twilight the board game? Hell to the yeah!

    (Twenty-sided die included. Dreamy, blank-eyed, pale lead actor sold separately.)

  • On the publication of his 49th book, A Mad Desire to Dance, Elie Wiesel is interviewed by the L.A. Times.
  • Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signed a three-book deal with Crown for $2.5 million.
  • Salman Rushdie didn't care much for the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Slumdog Millionaire, grousing that it "piles impossibility on impossibility." Nor did he appreciate the other book-to-film nominees.

    It would seem he's looking for a second job as a film critic.

  • The Boston Globe calls Peter Hart's The Somme: The Darkest Hour on the Western Front "an insightful and viscerally detailed account of the horrific battle...interweaving his historical narrative with personal stories from hundreds of ordinary soldiers."
  • If "a history of the Great Depression that centers on the era's four most important central bankers" sounds like just the book you want to read right now, NPR recommends Liaquat Ahamed's Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times reviews Me Cheeta: My Life in Hollywood: "This parody of movie star tell-alls somehow comes across as more convincing than most 'true' autobiographies. The author writes with authority about the studio system and the movie stars' lifestyle of the 1930s and '40s. With Cheeta as its mute witness, the era comes alive."
  • Simon & Schuster has launched a crossword iPhone app that "allows users to play crossword puzzles without a subscription or need for a daily download."

    For when you get tired of constantly twirling your iPhone around using that app where you try to make the little silver ball roll into a hole.

÷ ÷ ÷

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.

Books mentioned in this post

3 Responses to "Book News for Monday, February 23, 2009"

    Miss Gretchen February 23rd, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Brockman, I've been telling everyone I know about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies since you blogged about it. I certainly plan to buy it -- hoping that I get a chance to read about someone pulling a blow torch on a zombie Wickham -- how dare he trifle with Elizabeth Bennet's affections! My 15 year old Jane Austen and fantasy/horror loving niece responded favorably to this news as well. Here's hoping that there are as many funny YouTube videos made for this as for Snakes on a Plane!

    Brockman (Post Author) February 24th, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Well, you know, Miss Gretchen, if an advanced copy should come our way, we might just have to see if a lucky reader can take their very own copy home...

    Miss Gretchen February 24th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    A contest! A ZOMBIE contest! Yay! Fingers crossed! crumbling, rotting fingers. . .

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