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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Tuesday, July 15, 2008

  • A Big Little Battle: Aside from a New Yorker cover that is either (depending on your perspective) a cunning satire of right-wing paranoia or a horrendously off-color joke that only helps to fuel right-wing paranoia, I can't really find much in the way of worthy book news today.

    Which is why this New Yorker story about the controversy behind E. B. White's children's classic Stuart Little gets to run amok for a bit.

    Wait... controversy? Stuart Little???

    Today, children's book publishing — an industry richly described in Leonard S. Marcus's excellent new book, Minders of Make-Believe — is one of the most profitable parts of the book business. But that industry exists only because, in much the same way that the nineteenth-century middle class invented childhood as we know it, early-twentieth-century writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers — and, most of all, Anne Carroll Moore — invented children's literature. It would be convenient if White and Moore stood on either side of a divide between antimodernist and modernist writing. But things don't really sort out along those lines. A better way of thinking about it might be to say that Anne Carroll Moore did not like fangs. She loved what was precious, innocent, and sentimental. White found the same stuff mawkish, prudish, and daffy. "There are too many coy books full of talking animals, whimsical children, and condescending adults," White complained.

    The story turns into a battle over the very nature of children's literature. From our post-Harry Potter angle, it's possibly inconceivable to imagine a time when kids' books were given short shrift — but here you go.

  • The Big Screen Not My Destination: David Hughes, author of The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, offers ten of his faves to the Times Online.

    Several are based on books that never made it to the screen. Like this one:

    7: The Stars My Destination

    Alfred Bester's 1956 novel The Stars My Destination, which appears on virtually every list of the best science fiction novels, is a kind of "The Count of Monte Cristo in space" described by sci-fi author William Gibson as "the perfect cyberpunk novel." Despite numerous attempts to film the story — including one with Richard Gere as the book's vengeful, tattooed anti-hero Gulliver Foyle, and another with Event Horizon director Paul W.S. Anderson at the helm — the project remained in limbo until Variety announced, in March 2006, that Universal had acquired the rights for Lorenzo di Bonaventura, producer of last year's smash hit Transformers.

    Also, check out the early screen tests for animator Bob Clampett's never-made 1930s film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars.

÷ ÷ ÷

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. Stuart Little Used Hardcover $5.50

  2. The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made New Trade Paper $14.95
  3. The Stars My Destination
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo (Bantam...
    Used Mass Market $3.50

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