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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Tuesday, November 28, 2006

  • Bebe Moore Campbell, author of such novels as Brothers and Sisters and 72 Hour Hold, died on Monday at the age of 56.
  • William Diehl, author of such bestselling thrillers as Sharky's Machine and Primal Fear, died on Friday in Atlanta at the age of 81.
  • In his Introduction to the tenth anniversary edition, Dave Eggers had some perfectly lovely things to say about David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Things like:

    [Infinite Jest] is more about David Foster Wallace than anything else. It's an extravagantly self-indulgent novel, and, page-by-page, it's often difficult to navigate....Besides frequently losing itself in superfluous and wildly tangential flights of lexical diarrhea, the book suffers under the sheer burden of its incredible length. (That includes the 96 pages of only sporadically worthwhile endnotes, including one that clocks in at 17 pages.) At almost 1,100 pages, it feels more like 3,000.


    [T]he book seems like an exercise in what one gifted artist can produce without the hindrance of an editor. Subsequently, it's also an exercise in whether or not such a work can sustain a reader's interest for more than 1,000 pages and thus find an audience outside academia. Wallace's take on that can be found in the book's apt title. It's an endless joke on somebody.

    Whoops, sorry — I got my wires crossed. Those are things Eggers wrote in a review of Infinite Jest from 1996! Guess he's had a change of heart since then. (Via Rake's Progress.)

  • Meanwhile, Time's Lev Grossman observes the anniversary by comparing Wallace to Dickens before exalting all readers to join hands and sing out loud:

    Those 1,079 discursive, hilarious, occasionally infuriating pages stand as the output of a writer's compulsion to communicate, although they can be addictive for readers as well.

    Not terribly sing-able, I know, but it kind of works if somebody does a "hambone" body-slapping thing to an arrhythmic beat. Try it!

  • Here's the headline we've all been longing to read:

    A Scottish publisher is poised to claim a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the youngest author to get a novel into print.

    In case you're curious, the author is all of six years old.

    The novel in question (the author's second) is a 1,895-page satire of the mentality that pervades playgrounds and schoolrooms where children are sadly unwilling to share their toys. The actual novel is only about 1,500 words long, while the rest of the book comprises one very long (and "devastatingly hilarious," according to Time's Lev Grossman) footnote about building blocks.

  • Jonathan Safran Foer loves his dog, George. Loves, loves, loves her. Loves her so much, he writes oodles and oodles about his love for her in the New York Times.

    She mounts guests, eats my son’s toys (and occasionally tries to eat my son), is obsessed with squirrels, lunges at skateboarders and Hasids, has the savant-like ability to find her way between the camera lens and subject of every photo taken in her vicinity, backs her tush into the least interested person in the room, digs up the freshly planted, scratches the newly bought, licks the about-to-be served and occasionally relieves herself on the wrong side of the front door. Her head is resting on my foot as I type this. I love her.

    Can JSF's own Marley and Me be far behind? Expect a future novel about a young, precocious writer who loves, loves, loves his dog — told by an unreliable narrator with a penchant for wacky and hilarious misnomers.

  • Margaret Atwood hearts Richard Powers.

    So if he's so good, why isn't he better known? Let me put it another way — why haven't his books won more medals? It's as if juries have recognized the prodigious talent, the impressive achievement, and have put him onto short lists, but then have drawn back, as if they've suddenly felt that they might be giving an award to somebody not quite human — to Mr. Spock of Star Trek, for instance. He's got a Vulcan mind-meld on the critics, all right, but could it be that he's just not cozy enough at the core — that he's too challenging, or daunting, or — dread word — too bleak.

    She goes on to compare Powers to Herman Melville and raves:

    The Echo Maker is a grand novel — grand in its reach, grand in its themes, grand in its patterning. That it might sometimes stray over the line into the grandiose is perhaps unavoidable: Powers is not a painter of miniatures. Of the two extremes of American mannerist style, the minimalist or Shaker chair (Dickinson, Hemingway, Carver) and the maximalist or Gilded Age (Whitman, James, Jonathan Safran Foer), Powers inclines toward the latter. He gets his effects by repetition, by a Goldberg Variation–like elaboration of motifs, by cranking up the volume and pulling out all the stops.

    Someday I will read The Echo Maker — or any book by Powers, for that matter. But first, someone will have to explain to me what Powers says in Jill's interview... and then, very likely, sit next to me and explain every paragraph of the book.

  • As his latest play, The Coast of Utopia, opens to rapturous reviews ("pulses with the dizzying, spring-green arrogance and anxiety of a new generation moving as fast as it can"), the New York Times Magazine profiles Tom Stoppard.

÷ ÷ ÷

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. Brothers and Sisters Used Mass Market $3.95
  2. 72 Hour Hold Used Trade Paper $5.95

  3. Infinite Jest: A Novel
    New Trade Paper $18.00

  4. Marley and Me: Life and Love with...
    Used Hardcover $1.95

  5. The Echo Maker: A Novel
    Used Hardcover $6.95

One Response to "Book News for Tuesday, November 28, 2006"

    ed November 28th, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    I assure you, Brockman. THE ECHO MAKER is very user friendly and not a bad start for those dipping into his oeuvre. Another good one to start with is GALATEA 2.2.

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