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Book News for Thursday, March 26, 2009

  • In Memoriam: African-American history scholar John Hope Franklin died Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina, at the age of 94. The New York Times and NPR honor his legacy. (Weekend Edition host Scott Simon offers a personal tribute.)

    You have to be grateful and amazed that, at 94 years old, Franklin held on just long enough to see this nation inaugurate its first black president.

  • TOB TBD: Catching up with the Tournament of Books as this year's contest shifts into high gear!

    Now we're in the Semifinals, the first match of which pits Round Two giants 2666 and City of Refuge.

    What happens when Goliath squares off against another Goliath? Judge Liz Entman approaches tentatively at first:

    About four pages into Tom Piazza's City of Refuge, I began to wonder if I would have the balls to vote against Roberto Bolaño's 2666. 2666 is capital-A Art, written by a literary darling with a fiercely supportive critical and academic following. City of Refuge is written by a regional music journalist with only one other novel under his belt — and I'm not entirely sure City of Refuge even counts as a novel. Although both books use fiction to examine real-life tragedies, 2666 treats the murders of women in northern Mexico with pure imagination (even the name of the city has been changed), while City of Refuge often relies on Piazza's own reporting of Hurricane Katrina for the heavy lifting.

    So, which one gets the fatal slingshot to the forehead? I won't tell.

    Today's match finds the mammoth Shadow Country facing off against the relatively tiny A Mercy.

    The judge of the match is Junot Díaz, who (you may recall) won the Rooster (and some other little prizes) in 2008 for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And it's Díaz who draws first blood:

    This is one of those match-ups that make the whole battle-of-the-book thing look extra dumb. These are both superb mature works by masters, which are nearly impossible to square up against one another.

    He goes on to lament the arbitrary nature of judgement in general:

    I should have better criteria but that's the way these things are: You can pretend it's math or science but it's almost always gut and predilection.

    So, which book does he favor? Click here to find out. And tune in tomorrow for the start of the Zombie Round, when a previously eliminated fan-favorite rises from the grave to (possibly) take a bite out of the semi-finalist victors!

Book News Round-up:

  • Powell's own Kevin Sampsell interviews Diane Williams, author of It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature, in the New York Tyrant.
  • Don't pretend you aren't curious about a website that features "1.8 million author Web pages":

    Filedby.com host Web pages that provides a brief biography and a list of works for all American and Canadian authors. Users can login and write reviews or make comments about authors. Authors, or their publishers, can update or link to the page.

  • NPR on the latest thriller from Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell): "The Birthday Present leans heavily on psychology, but it still has the feeling of a tightly constructed thriller, rather than an exercise in therapeutic introspection..."
  • NPR's Book Notes revisits John Cheever's suburban unrest:

    The oldest of John Cheever's three children, Susan, was 8 when the family moved to Westchester. She says that since her father's death, a lot has been made of his alcoholism — which, she points out, he conquered — and his affairs with women and men. But, she adds, too much of what's been written ignores her father's lighter side.

    I dunno — I feel like Seinfeld covered that pretty well.

  • Cressida Cowell's children's fantasy How to Train Your Dragon is getting the big-screen treatment next March. DreamWorks Animation has just released the first promotional image.
  • Now that you've seen the trailer (courtesy of Tavis) for the forthcoming film version of Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are, read the inside scoop about director Spike Jonze's production difficulties.

    Is it a classic in the making — or a turkey in the oven?

  • Poet Tweets: "Man Booker-winning novelist Ben Okri is to release a new poem via Twitter to mark the publication of his new book Tales of Freedom, a combination of novella and poems."

    In related news, Thomas Pynchon is serializing his next novel in the status updates of his Facebook page. The whole thing should be finished in about 42 years.

÷ ÷ ÷

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

  1. City of Refuge: A Novel
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  2. Shadow Country (Modern Library)
    Used Hardcover $13.50
  3. 2666: A Novel
    Used Hardcover $12.95
  4. A Mercy: A Novel
    Used Hardcover $6.95
  5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
    Used Trade Paper $8.95
  6. It Was Like My Trying To Have a... Used Trade Paper $8.00
  7. The Birthday Present
    Used Hardcover $4.50
  8. How to Train Your Dragon
    Used Hardcover $6.50
  9. Where the Wild Things Are (Caldecott...
    Used Trade Paper $5.95

5 Responses to "Book News for Thursday, March 26, 2009"

    DeniseB March 26th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Still don't know what Twitter is...when I asked my daughter, I got an eye-roll and a "what-ev-er Mom"...I'm not that damn old...sigh...

    Brockman (Post Author) March 26th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    It's this:


    And this helps:


    Brockman (Post Author) March 26th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    And he even uses it:


    DeniseB March 26th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    ***blush***thanks B...you are so hip..and down with it..and phat..
    And I am, apparently, "a hot mess."

    DeniseB March 26th, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Ho-ly crap!! This has been going on right under my nose and I managed to not hear one single word about it. I got about half way thru the Wikipedia article and had to surrender..I WATCH the Daily Show but I guess, not enough. But President Obama??? Get-the-hell-out-of-here!! I thought he just wanted his Blackberry to keep up with his peeps, not to "twitter"...I am stunned. Guess I was too busy reading actual books, writing letters on paper, and talking on my landline. I would normally say, "jeez-o-pete!" at this point but I think that will make me even more pathetic. :(

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