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Book News for Tuesday, September 22, 2009

  • Should Be Called the "Wile E. Coyote Grant": Among the recipients of this year's MacArthur "Genius" grants are writers Deborah Eisenberg, Edwidge Danticat, and Heather McHugh.

    Did I mention the grantees all get "$100,000 a year for five years, no strings attached"?

    "It felt incredibly, wonderfully surreal," Ms. Danticat said in a telephone interview from Miami. "What artists crave and need most is time. It will definitely buy some time. It's wonderful to have a sense of security, especially in these economic times."

    I know what you're thinking. No, I didn't win a grant for "most inspirational blogging."

    But I did receive an "Evil Genius" grant from something called the Luther Foundation, which "seeks to reward individuals who help in the campaign to destroy all that's good and pure and innocent in the world." It would be a lot cooler if it were more than a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for TCBY.

  • Bernie's Wacky Mad-Offs: Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff (who earned several Evil Genius TCBY coupon-grants of his own) is headed to prison to begin his 150-year sentence — though, with time off for good behavior, he expects to get out in only 135.

    Meanwhile, NPR takes a gander at the half-dozen books about his schemes and scheminess and above all, his schemish schemitude.

    NPR's Jim Zarroli says the most provocative of the bunch is Madoff's Other Secret, by Sheryl Weinstein. In it, the former chief financial officer of the Hadassah charitable foundation claims to have had a lingering affair with Madoff.

    Zarroli recently spoke to Weinstein. And he tells NPR's Renee Montagne that he doesn't think Weinstein would have written the book if her family hadn't lost all their money by investing in Madoff's company.

    Don't worry about crafty ol' Bernie. I suspect he's got a few cigarette-swapping schemes already brewing in the joint. And I've been seeing prospectuses floating around the Internet for some very interesting, potentially lucrative investment opportunities in prison cafeterias.

  • Move Over, Rover, and Let Jimmy Take Over: James Ellroy was interviewed by Steve Inskeep for today's Morning Edition, in which the author of (most recently) Blood's a Rover spoke about his inspiration and discussed his style:

    Ellroy typically begins his novels by creating a dense outline; in the case of Blood's a Rover, the outline ran 397 pages long, which, the author says, allows for "the densest possible reading experience."

    Yes, it's true that Ellroy kind of looks like he's trying to sell us on the idea of starting a boys' bookstore (We've got trouble, trouble with a capital "T," and that rhymes with "B," and that stands for books!). And yes, he reads his own work like he's hosting an infomercial. It's also true that in the interview, Ellroy admits to being a former peeping tom, says he writes for God and Beethoven, admits he has "a wonderful, wonderful gift" (if he says so himself), and describes his own novel as "flawlessly structured" (modesty, thy name isn't Ellroy).

    And it's also true that Ellroy recently wrote an original essay for Powell's in which he refers to our readers as "f*ckers." (So far, the first and only author to claim that honor — but, perhaps, not the last...)

    And yet... if you think ELLROY is a little bit batshit crazy, you should check out some of the comments on the NPR page. My favorite: "This is a universal trait. I know, because I know how women think." Ladies, lock up your minds!

Book News Round-up:

  • Vote for your favorite National Book Award-winning work of fiction. Go! Now! Vote! HURRY!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Ah, so it's a book deal you're looking for, is it? Here's what you do: move back in with your parents, write down all the crazy/weird things your dad says, and then post them on Twitter. And watch the book deals roll in!

    Even though you aren't actually writing anything.

  • This makes me want to make a joke about twenty-sided dice and casting a thirst spell... but the entire rest of the world beat me to it.

÷ ÷ ÷

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.

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