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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Tuesday, August 4, 2009

  • Vice, Vice, Baby: Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Inherent Vice, hits stores (and eBooks, I guess) today.

    To say reviews are mixed is an understatement. While Publishers Weekly says Pynchon's fans "will know it for the throwaway masterwork it is" and Booklist gives it a starred review — "a bawdy, hilarious, and compassionate electric-acid-noir satire spiked with passages of startling beauty" — Kirkus offers some back-handed praise: "For better and worse, this is the closest Pynchon is likely to come to a beach book."

    Other critics are equally divided. In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani calls it "a big, clunky time machine of a novel" and condemns it as "Pynchon Lite." The Los Angeles Times counters, "With Pynchon's brilliance comes readability."

    The Boston Globe maintains that Pynchon "writes with a rich mastery of the era's detail," but the Miami Herald draws comparisons (unfavorable for Pynchon) to The Big Lebowski, and calls it "overplotted, overpopulated, and, ultimately, flabby."

    Meanwhile, here's what I'm sure is a first — a book trailer for a Pynchon novel:

  • That Old Russo Magic: NPR chats with Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo about his new novel, That Old Cape Magic, which also goes on sale today.

    Though the novel presents a dim view of relationships, Russo tells Steve Inskeep that readers shouldn't presume the sentiment expressed in his fiction is a reflection on his own marriage, which is in its 37th year.

    "I'll tell you this much," Russo says. "[My wife] really wanted to go on this particular book tour to reassure people that I was not writing about our marriage."

    Watch for a Powell's Q&A from Russo, coming to the blog later this week.

    (In the meantime, here's an original essay Russo write for Powells.com when Bridge of Sighs came out, and here's Dave interviewing Russo about Empire Falls.)

  • Stitches in Time: Publishers Weekly Comics Week interviews David Small, the writer/artist of the new graphic memoir Stitches (as in "graphic novel memoir," not as in "really gross and violent memoir").

    PWCW: As I read about your difficult childhood, I found myself wondering how you had managed to distance yourself from the rage and the hurt that must have gone along with the events you portray. Was there something about the writing of the book that allowed you to take a step back and look at your life from a more detached place?

    DS: I never took a class in creative writing but I think one of the major things they say is to get rid of adjectives, in other words don’t try to twist your readers’ arm into one particular interpretation, and I did that with the drawings. Of course, there’s an inherent propagandistic thing with any picture because it uses a certain angle and lighting, etc., all of which gives it atmosphere. For the most part, though, I tried to be non-judgmental and objective, and just portray it the way I saw it. I had read some memoirs about the Holocaust which had impressed me with their objective tone. It was a shock that someone who grew up in Auschwitz could be objective. Not that my experience was equivalent to that, but this seemed to me to be the best way to approach the recounting of a difficult experience. I wanted to let the facts speak for themselves.

    Plus, PW has a preview of Small's stunning artwork from the book.

    The advanced reader's copy of Stitches has been floating around our office and has many, many fans — definitely an indispensable addition to any book-lover's collection!

  • High as a Kite: And now, because everyone loves more video, here's Christopher Steiner, Forbes Magazine senior staff reporter and author of $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better, discussing his book on WNYC's
    The Brian Lehrer Show.

    In its starred review, Publishers Weekly praised the book: "the surprising snapshots of the future (where rising gas prices might revitalize Detroit) make for vivid and compelling reading."

    (I love seeing radio shows videotaped. When I listen, I always wonder what the host and guest are thinking of the crazy-ass callers who are looking for a platform to rant rather than ask a question. And now we get to actually see the head-shaking eye rolls you just know they're exchanging.)

Book News Round-up:

÷ ÷ ÷

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. Inherent Vice
    Used Hardcover $12.95
  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland... Used Trade Paper $3.50
  3. I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other... Used Trade Paper $4.95
  4. Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking...
    Used Mass Market $3.50
  5. That Old Cape Magic
    Used Hardcover $5.95
  6. Bridge of Sighs (Vintage Contemporaries)
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  7. Empire Falls: A Novel
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  8. Stitches
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  9. $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable...
    Used Hardcover $6.95

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