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Book News Monday: The Year of Oprah, Truest “Grit,” and More

HAPPY 2011!

  • O Yeah: Oprah Winfrey launched her new television network this weekend!

    I'm not sure if they have an entire show devoted to Oprah's Book Club — although that would fulfill the Christmas wish of every single publishing house in the universe — but there are programs with titles like Oprah Winfrey presents Master Class (Maya Angelou appears in the first episode), Miracle Detectives (not, alas, a Law & Order spin-off), Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love, Mystery Diagnosis (also not an L&O spin-off), and Oprah Winfrey Sucks the Sickness Right Out of Your Soul with a Straw. I detect a recurring motif.

    The Hollywood Reporter has a round-up of reviews from across the board. Caryn James of IndieWIRE, for example, wrote that the network "displays a whiff of spirituality, a huge amount of life-style fluff and a surprising layer of substance."

    The New York Times proclaims:

    Nowhere in that opening gush of feel-good highlight reels, self-improvement plans, spiritual quests, aha! moments, celebrity master classes and people finding their truths and living their own best lives was there a snicker of malice or a hint of raillery.

    Fortunately, the viewers at home can provide all of these missing ingredients themselves.

  • Truest Grit: Did you know that the Coen brothers' film of True Grit — starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin — is based on a novel by Charles Portis? I only ask because I had several conversations over the holidays along the lines of this:

    "How dare they remake a classic? No one can out-Western John Wayne!!"
    "Actually, it's not a remake so much as a more faithful adaptation of the novel."
    "True Grit was a novel?"
    "Yep. The John Wayne film took a lot of liberties, but the Coen brothers have stayed pretty faithful, from what I hear. Also... it's the COEN BROTHERS!!"
    "True Grit was a novel?"

    If you've found yourself asking that question in the recent past, now you have your answer. And since the movie was #1 at the New Year's weekend box-office and looks extremely likely to head to the altar of Oscar, you might want to read the book and claim bragging rights!

  • In Memoriam: Actress Anne Francis, who played Honey West on TV in the '60s and starred in Forbidden Planet, the classic '50s sci-fi film that was a (very loose) adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, has passed away at the age of 80.
  • Still Searching: One of the actors from the Swedish film version of Millennium trilogy may have been killed in a New Year's house fire. Police are still pulling bodies from the smoldering wreckage, but have yet to identify the body of Per Oscarsson, who played Lisbeth Salander's guardian in two of the films from the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
  • 2011's Up-and-Comers: The Book Beast offers 20 books you won't want to miss in 2011. Grab a pen and paper and start jotting!
  • The Green Zone: Environmentalists are debating about the environmental impact of the eBook explosion.

    Gadget-lovers point out that the US printed word causes 125 million trees to be felled every year. The bookish retort that the e-readers take more energy to make, consume electricity, contain more chemicals, and create a greater waste problem when thrown away.

    The next step is to make e-readers out of things like chocolate and cheese, so when you're done you can just eat them. Better for everyone!

  • Comics Aid: In case you haven't noticed, 2010 has come and gone (adjust calendars accordingly). Most best-of-the-year lists ran at the tail end of December, but here's one for comic enthusiasts that hit the internets today.
  • Borders in the Weeds: The year is off to a bad start for the Borders bookselling (former) titan! First comes news that Borders can't afford to pay publishers for books — which is a pretty big deal when you're a store that specializes in selling books that you pay publishers to provide.

    And, can the company even compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon without having its own e-reader? Right now that seems to be the corporate bookseller version of wearing white after Labor Day. Heavens!

  • Wait, That's Cheating: Manipulating the Amazon ranking of your book by buying your own copies every day is a little like... well, that one's pretty unique, actually. And probably expensive.

÷ ÷ ÷

Chris Bolton co-created the all-ages webcomic Smash, which will soon be published by Candlewick Press, and created the comedy series Wage Slaves. His short story "The Red Room" was published in Portland Noir from Akashic Books.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Portland Noir (Akashic Noir)
    Used Trade Paper $8.50

  2. True Grit
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  3. The Tempest (Modern Library Classics) New Trade Paper $8.00
  4. Oprah New Trade Paper $12.50

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