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Book News Wednesday: Obama’s Book Wars, Present-Tense Tension Not a Thing of the Past, and More

  • We have a winner for the Michele Norris ticket giveaway! Click here to read the winning entry.
  • Obama Bomb: The Huffington Post tracks the controversy surrounding celebrated journalist Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars, which hits stores on September 27th.

    According to a New York Times piece:

    Some of the critical players in President Obama’s national security team doubt his strategy in Afghanistan will succeed and have spent much of the last 20 months quarreling with one another over policy, personalities and turf...

    Time magazine's Joe Klein worries that spreading this kind of story, especially right before an election, represents "an effort to portray the President as an indecisive, non-military wimp."

    Salon.com judges the book by its design and wonders, "Will it be as bad as its cover?"

    And today, Vanity Fair muses that Woodward "may have missed the mark."

    This Just In: The Daily Beast's Bryan Curtis procured an advanced copy and lists the Juicy Bits. He writes, "You might expect Woodward's narrative to zip from the White House to the Tora Bora, but just about the entire book takes place in D.C. meeting rooms." Read on for more details.

  • Present Tense Tension Not in the Past (Yet): The recent kerfuffle about the "overuse" of present-tense in this year's Man Booker Prize nominees seemed like the sort of thing that gets a bunch of remarks and some heated collars on Facebook and blogs, then disappears from memory by the time we all wake up the next morning.

    But, according to Salon, the debate continues apace — at least, in Britain. You'll recall (or perhaps you won't) that the brouhaha began with Philips Hensher and Pullman complaining that modern writers are relying on present-tense narrative to provide a false sense of urgency in their work.

    There's overstatement in all of these protests. No one could accuse "Wolf Hall" of lacking authority, and one of the books on this year's short list, Emma Donoghue's "Room," is narrated by a 5-year-old -- practically the definition of a present-tense mentality; it's an artistically justifiable and successful choice. Furthermore, it's unlikely, for example, that Suzanne Collins wrote her "Hunger Games" trilogy in the present tense in a bid to jump on some artsy, MFA-program bandwagon. The breathless, life-or-death action in her young-adult novels would lose much of its suspense if the first-person narrator, Katniss, was apparently relating the events at a later date.

    For what it's worth, while present-tense doesn't bother me, I felt like the Hunger Games books lost a little urgency by using a first-person narrator. Much as I liked Katniss's voice and attitude, was there ever any question that she would survive the Games when she's the one narrating?

  • Burning Man: Jon Stewart says you can burn his new book, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book).

    The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    Moment of Zen - Earth (The Book) Excitement
    Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Book News Bits:

  • Last night's guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross was David Rakoff, author of the new book Half Empty.

    Click here to read Rakoff's recent interview with Powell's own Chris Farley.

  • Author Isabel Allende The Bookseller examines UK sales for the Man Booker nominees. (It's worth noting that The Room has been sitting on Powell's bestseller list for at least the past week. Take that as you will.)
  • The Wilding author Benjamin Percy confides his guilty pleasure to NPR: Beth Scott and Michael Norman's Haunted Wisconsin.

    When I was a kid, I used to voraciously read their book Haunted America and scare myself stupid.

÷ ÷ ÷

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 $7.95
  2. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)
    Used Trade Paper $4.50
  3. Wolf Hall
    Used Trade Paper $7.95

  4. Room
    Used Hardcover $4.95
  5. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart...
    Used Hardcover $5.50
  6. Obama's Wars
    Used Hardcover $2.98

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