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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Tuesday, June 5, 2007

  • McCarthy Gets a Free Car and a Hug: Today is the day reclusive novelist Cormac McCarthy will appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss his bestseller The Road, which was Oprah's most recent book club pick.

    The literary establishment was surprised at Winfrey's choice because it views her selections as lowbrow and repeating a familiar formula....Oprah books have become a cliché, at least among the folks who think themselves her betters. The literary establishment believes that if Winfrey likes a book by a living writer, that writer must be awful. That's why Jonathan Franzen didn't want to appear on Oprah's show when she chose his novel The Corrections.

    So why on earth would a "lowbrow" like Oprah pick a "highbrow" novel like The Road? According to the L.A. Times:

    American literary authors have all but abandoned the general reading public, noses upturned. To Winfrey, though, an author's literary style, erudition or linguistic experimentation is of secondary importance: She's primarily concerned with the social aspects of literature, how literature can help our culture. If the work doesn't have a useful moral foundation that has the potential to make the world a more civil and pleasant place, it's not going to be one of her selections.

    [...] McCarthy doesn't kid himself, or his readers, for that matter: violence and power hold dominion over our natural history. But woven through that history are also our better qualities, qualities that will not be eliminated unless our species becomes extinct. This message explains why Winfrey chose The Road for her book club. Though the novel is bleak, McCarthy believes in the human capacity for goodness in a violent world. He just happens to be a great writer as well.

    Check local listings for time and channel — or just wait a few hours and hit YouTube for the inevitable clips (until they get taken down).

  • Missing Bookmarks: J. K. Rowling is considering including bookmarks in copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with the picture of missing 4-year-old girl Madeleine McCann.

    The Guardian's Zoe Williams explains why this won't help anyone find the girl.

  • Clinton vs. Clinton: The New York Times tackles the dueling Hillary Clinton biographies with dueling reviews.

    Robert Dallek (author of Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, among others) reviews
    Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr., finding it to be mandatory reading for Clinton's opponents.

    Mr. Gerth and Mr. Van Natta seem to detect no angels in Mrs. Clinton’s nature whatsoever, much less better ones, and the result is a one-sided figure who never quite springs to life or feels truly authentic.

    Dallek also reviews Carl Bernstein's book, A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling it "a more balanced and convincing picture of Mrs. Clinton."

    Meanwhile, Lady Deathstrike, a.k.a. Michiko Kakutani, gives her own assessment of Bernstein's book, and she is not pleased:

    Mr. Bernstein has written a serious, energetically researched and largely fluent book, but there is little new in this volume: its disclosures amount mainly to embroiderings on already well-known aspects of the Clintons’ lives.

    Bernstein has already announced the title of his next book, which will be Death Writes for the Times: The Bloodthirsty Reign of Michiko Kakutani.

  • BEA Closure: And finally, here is the rest of Marshall's report from BEA, this time in her own words:

    ÷ ÷ ÷

    Gossipy rag stuff about BEA...

    With all the un-mussed beds in New York City this weekend, the entire hotel housekeeping staff must have been able to put their feet up for once! Every BEA party was filled to sweaty, overflowing capacity as booksellers from around the country got their drink on at publishers' expense. Hotels were used merely as showering pit-stops between soirees, which happened several times a day, given the over 90 degree weather with absolutely stifling humidity.

    There was a run on Band-Aids in every drugstore due to the copious blisters on the feet of women who brought their well-heeled best, only to find that city blocks are long in New York. But that didn't stop anyone from dancing the rest of their feet off at the competing after-parties on Saturday night.

    After drinking too much, talking too much, and generally not sleeping enough for the entire show, you may be wondering if anything work-related got done. Well, the show floor was packed, meeting tables always full, and the general hubbub felt like a very productive beehive. Terms were agreed upon, deals were made, rights were negotiated, plans were made for future sales of the generally outstanding book lists for this coming fall. Besides, most of anything that gets done happens after that second cocktail anyway!

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the 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. The Road
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  2. The Corrections
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows...
    Used Hardcover $8.95
  4. Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power Used Hardcover $9.50
  5. A Woman in Charge: The Life of... Used Hardcover $5.50

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