Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stephen King's top ten of 2009

Mr. King's judgment has to cover some weight in the world of popular fiction. Check out his list in Entertainment Weekly.

An original Sherlock for Christmas

One-Minute Book Reviews points us to "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," a classic for the holidays:

Arthur Conan Doyle begins this Sherlock Holmes tale on the second morning after Christmas. It’s a holiday story without the freight it would carry if it took place two days earlier. And it has a plot perfectly attuned to the season. More...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

L. M. Alcott was all wrong for Little Women

Maud Newton points us to an article in Humanities on this classic author.

Alcott considered herself wholly unqualified for the task. An irrepressible tomboy in her youth, Louisa had “never liked girls or [known] many” other than her three siblings: her older sister, Anna, and her younger sisters, Lizzie and May. She saw only a faint possibility that the “queer plays and experiences” that the four of them had shared would interest a popular audience. More...

Powells interview with Eoin Colfer

We referred to an earlier interview with the author of the latest Hitchhiker's Guide, but so it goes. There's just something irresistible about Colfer and his project. For instance, "It was a strange project to get involved in. It was something that came completely out of the blue, out of left field. I wasn't expecting it. I don't think it's something you could ever expect to prepare for. I actually think if you went looking for this project, then you're probably not the person to do it." More...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Two thriller writers on e-readers

Would Jack Reacher use a Kindle? The New York Times provides the answer.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Un-Christmas books?

Had enough holiday spirit yet? Try these from Laurence Hughes on HuffingtonPost.com.

LH: If you're looking to escape from this holly jolly overkill, a good book might be just the thing. But this time of year, your options are limited to various uplifting tales of the season, all called The Christmas Something [just insert a random noun: Box, List, Sweater, Dog, Bus], each one brimming with heartwarming sentiment. There's nothing I like better on a wintry evening than settling down by a cozy fire with one of those books and then throwing it into the fire. More...

NY Times 10 best books of 2009

Check them out: Link.

Great conversations

The BookMine specializes in old and rare books. And they've just posted a collection of real conversations with customers that is, in a word, hilarious. Enjoy.

BookMine: "I am looking for a certain autobiography, but I don't know who the author is. Can you help me?" More...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dickens edits Dickens

I'll make no bones about it: I'm an enormous Dickens fan. I've read just about everything he's written, often more than once. So when the master's edit of A Christmas Carol is available, I want to see it. Thanks to the NY Times, we all can. Make sure to click in on the close reading box. Link.

La's Orchestra Saves the World

This is an upcoming SE selection. Amazon has a nice review here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neil Gaiman on audiobooks

When you listen to Gaiman speak in this piece from NPR, you know you wouldn't mind hearing him narrate one of his own books, or any books. We're big fans of audiobooks, mainly because we commute and can imagine no better way to pass time in an automobile. And when it's a good audiobook, we do it while cooking, exercising, everything, to hear what will happen next.

NG: I would read to my children, and began to supplement that with cassette audiobooks. They made car journeys pass faster, more interestingly. And you knew you had a good one when nobody wanted to get out of the car at the end of the journey. I began to buy, or rent, classics and new books and old favorites. A drive from Florida to Minneapolis became Stephen King reading his book Bag of Bones; a journey from Wisconsin to New York was Tom Parker reading an unabridged Huckleberry Finn. I realized I was experiencing the stories differently, word by word. Listening. More...

Interview with Sandra Brown

The Big Thrill interviews Sandra Brown. (Select Editions will be featuring Rainwater in a future volume.)

SB: "Every novel should have suspense. It's the element that keeps the reader turning the pages. I try and pose a question, subliminally, to my reader on the first page if possible, and I withhold the answer to that question until the very final pages. New questions arise along the way, and they're gradually answered as the story unfolds. But that main, overriding question, the one that makes a story out of a mere idea, is the last one to be answered." More...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell interview

The Huffington Post points us to a fun interview of Malcolm Gladwell by Stephen Colbert. And there is a real interview in there! Link.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Computers versus writers

Churchill's writing? Below average. Hemingway? Needs more care and detail. A Clockwork Orange? Simple bizarre. That's what a computer program for analyzing student writing reported in the UK. At least, according to the article, American students facing the same program are good at “schmoozing the computer."

They are some of the most memorable and stirring words of the 20th century, but Churchill’s speech exhorting the British to “fight on the beaches” would fail if submitted as a school essay and subjected to a proposed computerised marking system. The wartime leader had a style that was too repetitive, according to the computer being tested for the online marking of school qualifications. It rated Churchill as below average... More.

Monday, November 9, 2009

How to co-write with a dead author

Ben H. Winters chose a Ms. Jane Austen for a collaboration. He writes for the Huffington Post on how this is done.

BHW: Writing with the deceased is not as easy as it sounds. For one thing, you're really on your own when it comes to publicity; our book came out two months ago, and Jane Austen has yet to turn up for a book signing or radio interview. More...

Portrait of Sir Richard Francis Burton

Powells goes into great detail about one of the most over-the-top literary characters of all time.

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton was a completely crazy nutjob who had more adventures on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night than most lesser humans manage to cram into a two-week vacation inside the stomach of a still-breathing whale. This author, soldier, adventurer, explorer, geographer, translator, linguist, fencer, duelist, anthropologist, and pretty much anything else you can ever think of –ist spoke a mind-crushing 29 different languages and dialects fluently, wrote 50+ books ranging in content and sanity from travelogues to erotic fiction, explored uncharted lands in India, Africa, and the Middle East, and was the first person to translate the borderline-pornographic content of The Kama Sutra and The Arabian Nights into English. He also had a gnarly attitude, a glorious beard, and a hot temper that drove him to kill more people than a Dirty Harry movie. More...

Crime novels

Jason Pinter in the Huffington Post rounds up and interesting panel to discuss the state of the crime novel today. As Pinter says, "crime novels have been responsible for some of the most beloved (and loathed) characters of our time, while telling some of the most important stories and peeling back society's flesh to reveal its bare bones. Crime novels can keep us entertained during a long plane ride, or comment on the most relevant issues of the day. Sometimes they do both." More...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Interview with John Updike

The Second Pass blog points us to an interview from a Croatian magazine in 1979, recently republished in the New Yorker. (Sorry to put in all these connections, but it seems to make sense to me that I should point out how I found things, given the nature of this blog.) Second Pass offers a wonderful take-out quote:

Updike on Moby-Dick: “The wish to say all there is about whales is certainly very much there, and one puts the book down convinced that Melville has said a great deal about whales.” Via.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Narratives at length

Even though we're in the business of editing down novels, we are firm believers in the long form of narrative. We love books, and we believe in books. That we create a shorter version of books is as much as anything a reflection of that love of books, an attempt to put them in another format for another sort of reader who might not see these books otherwise. So it's nice to read a piece, like this one in the Washington Post, that agrees with our own thought that the need for narrative is part of what it means to be human. And that the whole everything-is-getting-shorter brigade may not exactly be right.

WP: It's not simply the appreciation of fiction that's adaptive. It's the appreciation of any kind of narrative. Kids at bedtime don't specify true or false: They just say "tell me a story."... Kids today have no attention span, we are told -- and then devour all seven of the Harry Potter books multiple times. More...

Interview with Malcolm Gladwell

Meet the author of Blink and The Tipping Point.

The Guardian: In the boardrooms of publishing houses in New York and London, editors regularly deploy the phrase. As in (spoken with faint hysteria in voice): "Will someone please tell me where our next Gladwellian book is coming from?" More...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cheap books = fewer books

Sure, you can grab a bestseller cheap at the local megastore. But that aggressive pricing has consequences because it's only the bestsellers that come cheap, and if this keeps up, maybe it will be only the bestsellers that get published. But that doesn't make sense, either as a business or as a way to develop new authors. This piece by William Petrocelli laids it all out.

WP: Predatory pricing is a means of driving other booksellers out of business. When this happens, the choice of books is one of the first things to suffer. Some readers think that if their favorite store closes they can always buy the book they want somewhere else. But that's a dangerous delusion -- the books they want may not be there at all. In fact, these types of disruptions in how books are sold or distributed has a profound effect on what publishers decide to publish in the first place. More...

Behind Peter Pan

The story in the Johnny Depp movie Neverland was all peaches and cream, but this review of a new biography of J. M. Barrie suggests that the cream was, to say the least, curdled. But then again, maybe it's just the biography itself that's suspect. Janet Maslin of the Times explains.

JM: In a book with chapter titles that include the words “secret,” “corruption,” “predator,” “victim” and “suicide,” not to mention the phrases “demon boy” and “slipping into madness,” Mr. Dudgeon might seem to be in danger of false advertising. But no: his story messily incorporates all of the above. More...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Twitter and publishing

In response to a posting on Mashable of 15 Twitter users influential in publishing, The Book Oven offers 15 more. If you've gotten here via Twitter, then these lists are for you: link. I'll be checking them out myself!

Sample a John Grisham short story

Grisham has a new collection of short stories coming out, his first according to the Daily Beast. Try a sample!

The Haunting of Hill House

A paean to one of our favorite books, from Amazon. (And the movie—the original with Julie Harris—wasn't half-bad either!)

Amazon: The story is superbly crafted and unnerving as hell, a classic of the genre and a perfect read for Halloween week, a book best read alone. More...

Monday, October 26, 2009

F. Scott Fitzgerald and money

John Scalzi writes on FSF's annual income, and annual expenditures. He earned a pretty decent living, all things considered, but he had some seriously high expenses to go along with it.

JS: Fitzgerald more or less consistently clocked $24,000 in writing income, which the author of the article, employing a 20:1 ratio of money values then to money values now, offers as the equivalent of making $500,000 a year in today’s dollars. This is a nice income if you can get it, and Fitzgerald got it in an era in which his tax rate was something on the order of 8%. More...

Book pricing

There's a war going on among the big retailers, each trying to see how much they can undersell each other on big bestsellers. Whether this is related to the pricing of e-books is anybody's guess, but now Stephen King's publisher has announced that his new book, being released electronically Christmas Eve, will sell for the same price as in hardcover ($35).

If you know where all of this is heading, you know more than anybody else.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why every book seems to look like every other book

Ever wonder why all the books on the bestseller list, and sometimes in the bookstores, all look and sound the same? Robert McCrum is writing about the British scene, but his thoughts are applicable to the US. It's the bean-counters who are making it all one big rerun. Originality and the editors who seek it don't have a chance.

Such is the climate in which new fiction is often published today. At the public end, there's the razzmatazz. Off-the-radar, new fiction by unknown writers, the lifeblood of the business, is being scrutinised by people who have neither appetite for, nor understanding of, originality. More...

Site for science fiction fans

We were just alerted to Tor Books' website, which is loaded with material to read, both complete short stories and longer works in serial form. And, of course, there's plenty of information on their in-print books and authors. If you're a fan, you need to check it out. Link.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thinking about ebooks

Nice think piece from Walt Shiel on the state of ebooks at the moment. Very timely, given the introduction of Barnes & Noble's new reader.

WS: Having monitored the genesis and the recent explosion of e-book readers and sales, I can’t help but wonder whether such explosive growth is, in any way, sustainable... More and more, I have stumbled upon online comments, blog posts, articles, etc. in which people who have tried one or more of the reading devices and software resort to complaining about all the things that even the best of the devices and software just can’t do. Things that we take for granted when reading an actual physical book. More...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Books for busting ghosts

Entertainer Dan Aykroyd posts on some ghost stories. Allegedly real ones, that is.

DA: Doctor Hans Holzer, probably the world's most credible and respected ghostbuster, writes in his Travel Guide to Haunted Houses (Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers): "A ghost appears to be a surviving emotional memory of someone who died traumatically... but is unaware of his or her death." Wait! So ghosts are just our memories of those who have lived before? More...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Meet the vooks

We're fine with new forms of entertainment, or mixing and matching media, but we also believe that books are fine the way they are as a reading experience (on paper or electronically). David Finkle, from a similar perspective, examines the "vook."

DF: Vooks, in case you don't know, are books that come with supplementary videos to liven up dull old printed text. The idea is that reading is tiresome -- is, in the words of Times reporter Motoko Rich, "an archaic form of entertainment." This, from a journalist for one of our prime newspapers of record who doesn't indicate she's quoting anyone. She's speaking... I refuse to be a beetle-browed, archaic curmudgeon but intend to remain cheerful in the face of the inexorable march of time that throws up innovations like vooks and asks us to be serious about them. Truth is, we must be serious about them. More...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The modern bookstore

From the Huffington Post, a piece on the place of independent bookstores in community life.

HP: In October of 2008, as the financial world was crumbling, my wife and I bought a bookstore. This might strike some as slightly crazier than buying up the world's supply of phone booths or carbon paper, and at the worst possible time at that. But it wasn't insanity that made us take the plunge. It was our confidence that the physical book will continue as a medium for long-form text...that local bookstores are central to the life of their communities; and that technological developments are, in fact, shifting the economic advantage back to the local bookstore. I'll focus on this last point for now. More...

How not to write a query letter

A message to aspiring authors: do your homework. Walt Shiel explains why.

WS: If an author can’t (or won’t) take the time to do a few minutes of research and follow the simple, straightforward directions we provide, why would I expect that author to follow any subsequent instructions or to handle himself in a businesslike manner? More...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reevaluation of E. A. Poe

This interesting article via Critial Mass talks about the decline in Poe's readership, and raises serious questions about his writing.

CM: As we approach the 160th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death on October 7 – and it seems more fitting to talk about Poe on the anniversary of his death than of his birth – it might be time for a revaluation of sorts. In How To Read and Why, Harold Bloom commented that Edgar Allan Poe’s poems and stories, “despite their permanent worldwide popularity, are atrociously written ... and benefit by translation, even into English.” Ouch! Bloom is right about Poe’s stories and poems being atrociously written; they are often prolix and florid and most of them seem to have been written in a tone of near hysteria – though, considering most of Poe’s subject matter, one could argue that the tone was appropriate. More...

Woolf vs. Hemingway

Virginia Woolf reviews Ernest Hemingway, from the Tin House Books blog.

TNB: Of Mr. Hemingway, we know that he is an American living in France, an ‘advanced’ writer, we suspect, connected with what is called a movement, though which of the many we own that we do not know. It will be well to make a little more certain of these matters by reading first Mr. Hemingway’s earlier book, The Sun Also Rises, and it soon becomes clear from this that, if Mr. Hemingway is ‘advanced’ it is not in the way that is to us most interesting. More...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Check out the latest Big Thrill

The Big Thrill website is updated for October with tons of reviews and features.

BT: The autumn colors are spreading across the landscape and cooler weather is moving in, but there's still heat radiating off the pages of this month's Big Thrill selections. The October list includes 28 exciting new thrillers from some of your favorite authors and features the debut of 4 brand-new writers... More.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Books that changed your life

Open Culture points us to NPR Radio's "This American Life" and their recent episode on life-changing books, then offers their own list. (What is it that is so compelling about lists?)

OC: It’s a good program for book lovers, but don’t expect to hear about Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, or Salinger. This American Life doesn’t quite do things that way. They have their own unique take on things. More...

How to get a job in publishing

When I started out, there were probably ten times as many jobs in publishing as there are today. I do not envy today's job hunter, like Marian Schembari, writing on Publishing Trends.

MS: I really wanted to get into publishing. Like, a lot. Never mind that the industry is slowly dying, the economy sucks, I had zero experience and the pay is (and always will be) crap. No, I’m a book lover, and in my naïve—but enthusiastic—mindset, I thought that was all I needed. More...


From the NY Times, an announcement of Disney's latest foray into books, this time online.

NYT: The Walt Disney Company hopes an ambitious new digital service it plans to unveil on Tuesday will transform how children read its storybooks. In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!” More...

The Best Southern Novels of All Time

From Oxford American, a diverse list of important (and good) novels. And the page links to the raw data, and plenty of other material worth arguing about. (via)

Incorporating nonfiction into fiction

From Electric Literature, a musing from Jim Shepard on fiction writers working nonfiction into their stories.

JS: The first worry writers have when they consider working with something like historical events has to do with the issue of authority: as in, where do I get off writing about that? Well, here’s the good and the bad news: where do you get off writing about anything? More...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beast Books

We certainly follow The Daily Beast, a source of very interesting online journalism. Now the site is expanding into books, and fast books at that.

From the NY Times: In a joint venture with Perseus Books Group, The Daily Beast is forming a new imprint, Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books. On a typical publishing schedule, a writer may take a year or more to deliver a manuscript, after which the publisher takes another nine months to a year to put finished books in stores. At Beast Books, writers would be expected to spend one to three months writing a book, and the publisher would take another month to produce an e-book edition. More...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned books

We love to find out what the schools are up to at any given time. The range of allowed and challenged is extraordinary. This is the week we get to see exactly who's doing what, from an article in the L.A. Times.

LAT: We're smack in the middle of Banned Books Week, an event sponsored by the American Library Assn., the American Publishers Assn. and others. This year, they've launched an interactive map that shows which books were officially banned or challenged, and where, in 2008. More...

The unquotable Mark Twain

(Via) Mark Twain. We quote him all the time. And a lot of other people, too. And quite often, these people we're quoting didn't say what we're crediting them with. How does this happen?

From good.is/blogs: That Mark Twain was something else, wasn’t he? He said so many memorable things, like “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes” and “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” What a writer, what a guy. Unfortunately—even though Twain is the great American humorist—he didn’t say either of those things... More.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The most influential book of our time?

It's Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, according to a recent survey reported in the Guardian.

Guardian: Gabriel García Márquez's seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is the piece of writing that has most shaped world literature over the past 25 years, according to a survey of international writers... "[It] taught the west how to read a reality alternative to their own, which in turn opened the gates for other non-western writers... from Africa and Asia. Apart from the fact that it's an amazing book, it taught western readers tolerance for other perspectives." More...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Interview with author of Hitchhiker's Guide

The continuation of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that is. Eoin Colfer is interviewed on Amazon pre-publication of And Another Thing, his extension of the late Douglas Adam's series.

EC: The story wrote itself nice and sweetly- but I was plagued by all sorts of doubts as soon as I finished it and re-entered the real world. This is not the sort of decision where you just say yes and are 100% confident that you have made the right life changing decision. It's not like will I accept the lottery cheque or not... More.

Free podcast of Iain Banks novel

Cory Doctorow, on Boing Boing, points us to the free audio serialization of Iain M. Banks's novel, Transition. Says Doctorow: "I'm a huge fan of Banks's thrillers; I like them even better than his science fiction." Check it out for yourself. Link.

Ellroy's Favorite Crime Reads

The Daily Beast posts author James Ellroy's favorite crime stories. Here's what he says about John Gregory Dunne's True Confessions:

JE: The most raucous and profane humor ever expressed in a major work of American fiction. A time machine back to an L.A. that never—but should have—existed. More..

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

L. Frank Baum biographies

A profile of the creator of Oz, derived from some recently published biographies, over at Slate. This strikes a chord with me personally. When my daughter was young, I read every single Oz book aloud to her (including Oz books not by Baum, and a lot of other non-Oz Baum books as well). I enjoyed every minute of that experience.

Slate: The story of the orphaned Dorothy Gale, whisked by a tornado away from gray, impoverished Kansas to the magical land of Oz, captured the hearts of children and adults who had lived through an economic crisis but saw all around them the thrum of invention and change. As a young country abuzz with "progress," the United States needed a different kind of fairy tale. A truly American myth could not merely invoke Celtic wraiths or Bavarian dark forest goblins. It would have to include the drive to innovate that launched the Gilded Age and made America the archetypal modern industrial nation during the very decades when Baum's imagination was formed.... More.

The return of a newspaper book section

This has to be good news, from the Greensboro, NC, News & Record. More journals reporting similar news would be better still.

NR: One week from today, the News & Record's book page will be back in its rightful place, as part of the Sunday Ideas section. When we eliminated the section more than a year ago, you told us you missed it -- and you kept on telling us until ... well, what time is it right now? You told us we are a community of readers. You told us you not only like to read but you like reading about reading. And you were right. More...

David Foster Wallace on YouTube

There are a number of YouTube videos of the late author, including this one on wordiness. (Via)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Podcast of Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut reads from Breakfast of Champions. (Via—the source link worked better for us). As the 92nd Street Y reports, this was "his very first public reading of the classic Breakfast of Champions, three years before it was published, on May 4, 1970..." More.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The news from Lake Wobegon

Garrison Keillor suffered a mild stroke recently. The good news is that he is now back hard at work on the Prairie Home Companion radio show, among other things. But he is looking forward, and Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune (via ArtsJournal) reports that things may change.

ST: The news from Lake Wobegon: In "a couple more years," there probably will be no more news from Lake Wobegon. "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor said Wednesday that he is "not counting on doing it [hosting the show] more than a couple more years." He added that he would like to see the show continue with more of a musical focus, and that he would love to serve as that show's producer... More.


Publishers Weekly reports that Barnes and Noble has relaunched its SparkNotes study guide site. We took a quick look and found, among the expected book material, a blog that looks interesting for teens. You might find it worth checking out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joyce Carol Oates on Shirley Jackson

Oates is interviewed for The New York Review of Books in this podcast. They talk about the author of, of course, the story "The Lottery," and the novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yeats exhibit online

Open Culture points us to an online exhibition of the work of William Butler Yeats, from the National Library of Ireland.

OC: When you enter the tour, you can scan through 200 artifacts & manuscripts and “attend” three in-depth tutorials exploring the evolution of three major poems (‘Sailing to Byzantium’, ‘Leda and the Swan’ and ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’). You can also listen to Yeats, one of Ireland’s towering poets, reciting his famous poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree.’ More...

Use the internet to help write your novel

Putting one word after the other isn't easy, and making it good is even harder. Still, in this day and age, there is some help out there. The tech site Mashable has some hints for writers.

Mashable: Writing a novel is an ambitious endeavor, but one that the web is making a lot easier to accomplish. Though you’ll still have to do your writing using the old fashioned method — one word at a time — web applications and social media have made the process of writing a novel considerably easier and arguably more enjoyable. Here is a toolkit for using the web to write a book. More...

Dan Brown

This isn't a link to somewhere else, just a simple observation. We have seen a number of reviews now of Brown's new blockbuster, The Lost Symbol, which, I will point out, we will not be using in Select Editions, so we have no business interest in it. The thing is, what makes us happy is that the reviews have been positive. Sometimes it is so easy for people to smugly attack something everybody else likes simply because everybody else likes it. Dan Brown is that kind of target. He doesn't need us to congratulate him on having done a good job—his accountant will do that for him for some time to come—but we'll do it anyhow. We would not want to have written one of the biggest selling novels of all time and then have to follow it up somehow. But Brown has done it, and it seems that he has done it well. Kudos.

Kid's stuff

If you're interested in kid's books, you should probably follow Amazon's blogs directly to get their Kid-Lit Roundup. If you're not already familiar with it, here's a link.

If book fans were baseball fans...

They would wear these literary-themed shirts, profiled in the NY TImes.

NYT: The shirts, created by David Bukszpan and Michael Kravetsky, are advertised as a way to “wear your read” and support the real heroes of American culture. Each one features a vaguely symbolic number on the back and an insignia on the front — a tell-tale heart or raven for Edgar Allan Poe, a patch of grass for Walt Whitman, a circle with a slash through it for Bartleby the Scrivener, who would prefer not to. More...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fictional politics

I mean, a lot of what politicians say is fiction, but they're often pretending it isn't. Then again, sometimes they tell stories and it's clear that they're making it up. The Daily Beast offers a quiz matching the politico—or politico relative—with the prose. Try your luck!

TDB: The political novelist set is a surprisingly large clique, a caucus that knows no partisan standard—nor any real literary one. Look at it this way: their shared membership gives Dick Cheney’s wife, Al Gore’s daughter, Jimmy Carter, Newt Gingrich, and now Ralph Nader something else to argue about. In honor of Nader’s newest venture, The Daily Beast challenges you to match the following excerpts with their authors. More...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Backpacker classics

I like this list from Bookride. What are the books you bring with you when you're going to hike from, say, Beijing to Dublin?

Bookride: A backpacker classic should have an element of profundity, preferably mystical—if not it should have cult status or be a statement about who you really are. There is an element of self discovery in setting off—the path to enlightenment, the journey inwards... More.

Q&A with Diana Gabaldon

The ever-reliable Powells has a fun piece to mark publication of Gabaldon's latest.

DG: There are people like the woman who stood in line for four hours in order to be first in line at a booksigning — for the express purpose of whipping off her shoe and sock in order to show me the tattoo of the running-stag brooch (from the cover of one of my books) she'd had done on top of her foot. [ow!] She then presented me with a photograph of said foot — why, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps so I could prove it to people when telling them this story... More.

Friday, September 11, 2009

E. A. Poe collection

Open Culture pointed us to this Edgar Allan Poe collection. If you're a fan, you'll want to check it out.

The digital collection incorporates images of all Poe manuscripts and letters at the Ransom Center with a selection of related archival materials, two books by Poe annotated by the author, sheet music based on his poems, and portraits from the Ransom Center collections.... More.

Other author's characters

Mostly we have mixed feelings on the subject of one author taking up another author's characters. I mean, it does happen all the time, but there's no way that the follow-ups are the original. They could be better, they could be worse, but they are unquestionably different. The Guardian reports on some big name sequels in the works.

Guardian: This autumn, eight years after Douglas Adams died, Arthur Dent and friends will be hitching across the galaxy once again, Bram Stoker's Dracula will be stalking the pages of a book for the first time in more than a century, and Winnie the Pooh will be returning to the Hundred Acre Wood in the first official sequel to AA Milne's much-loved children's books. Such continuations of the work of popular authors, who have inconveniently interrupted their output by dying, are big business for the literary world these days. Authors are being roped in left, right and centre to continue or complete legacies... More.


The internet never ceases to amaze. We came upon Shelfari via a link to Neil Gaiman's library. Shelfari is a book-lover's site; you might want to check it out. And the link to Gaiman's library? Well, if you want to see a load of books, this is the place to go.

Shelfari: We thought it would be fun to take a look at what’s on the bookshelves of some of our favorite authors. What books do they love, or consider to have been particularly enlightening, informative or just plain fun? What books do they keep? So we asked one of our all-time favorites, Neil Gaiman, if he’d be willing to give us a peek into his personal library, and he graciously agreed... More.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The library without books

This school is replacing the old with the new. We'll reserve judgment; you can decide for yourself what it all means. From the Boston Globe.

BG: Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception. This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital... More.

"Bonnet books"

Romances are popular. We know that. And here's a new sub-genre of clean and very special tales within that genre, described by the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Rachel Esh, owner of an Amish dry-goods store here, was giddy as customers kept arriving. Cars spilled out of the dirt parking lot onto the hay and potato fields, crushing a few of her neighbor's potatoes. She ushered the crowd of 40 people swarming in front of her cash register into a line that snaked out the door of Rachel's Country Store. The cause of the commotion: novelist Cindy Woodsmall, who had stopped by to autograph books. The plot of 'When the Heart Cries,' revolves around Hannah, a young Amish woman who falls in love with a Mennonite and hides her plans to marry him from her strict parents. The lovers kiss a couple of times in 326 pages. Ms. Woodsmall writes "bonnet books," or Amish love stories, which are a booming new subcategory of the romance genre... More.

On E. L. Doctorow

We've made no secret of our love of Doctorow; we recently posted a piece on Ragtime. Now Eric Alterman at the Daily Beast lets us in on his creative process and his new book, Homer & Langley.

EA: [Doctorow asks,] Didn’t your mother demand that you clean your room, lest it “turned into the Collyer brothers in there?”... The book is inspired by their incredibly odd lives, but quickly loses sight of the facts of the case and goes on a journey of, um, boundless imagination. As Edgar [Doctorow] explains over coffee and a shared muffin at the bright new cafe outside Alice Tully Hall—that’ll be $10, Tina—he did no research. “This is an American myth, and a myth has to be interpreted, not researched.” More...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Readers' Guides Jump the Shark (almost literally)

The New York Times Arts Beat reports on the readers' discussion guides for...Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters?????

NYT: Is Monsieur Pierre a symbol for something? Name three other well-known works of Western literature that feature orangutan valets. Are those characters also slain by pirates? More...

James Patterson is amazing

Well, we publish Patterson often at Select Editions, but still, we marvel at his output, even with co-writers. Publishers Weekly reports.

PW: While sales of titles by some brand name authors have slowed in recent years, that hasn’t been the case with James Patterson and the prolific author has just inked a new 17-book deal that will keep him with publisher Hachette through 2012... More.

Reading in the subway

As a former NYC person myself, I'm glad to see that this is still true: New York's subways are for reading!

NY Times: Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper...as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.... More.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

James M. McPherson on Lincoln

Author McPherson is one of our favorite historians. In this podcast at the New York Review of Books, he discusses Abraham Lincoln.

Where the Wild Things Are: The movie

The NY Times profiles director Spike Jonze this coming Sunday. We've seen the coming attractions of this film of Sendak's classic, and we were intrigued. Reading this piece, we're even more intrigued.

NYT: Most kids’ movies are brightly, mouthwateringly colorful; Jonze favored a mushy-vegetable palate of greens and browns. Most kids’ movies have a clearly defined plot and an unambiguous moral lesson; Jonze’s film has about as much plot as an episode of “Jackass.” Most kids’ movies crackle with one-liners; in “Where the Wild Things Are,” the characters talk over one another and spend a lot of time stumbling over their own words as they try to articulate their feelings. Jonze told me that one of his models for the dialogue was the work of John Cassavetes... More.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Profile of Sheila Lukins

To those of us for whom The Silver Palate Cookbook was nothing less than the kitchen bible, the passing of Sheila Lukins is a sad moment. Sara Nelson profiles her friend over at The Daily Beast.

SN: When you went out to dinner with Sheila, you could count on getting the star treatment. Chefs, owners, waitstaff–everybody knew the sprite with the springy hair. One after another, a guy in white would slip into a booth or squat down by our table, and pay homage to Sheila. And while she didn’t lack for self-regard about her knowledge of food, she wasn’t a snob... More.

Kerouac—the quintessential Beat writer—is Canadian?

From the you-learn-something-new-every-day file, ArtsJournal points us to an article in the Canadian magazine The Walrus. It turns out that Jack Kerouac is, well, not exactly the sort of all-American I thought he was.

Kerouac’s given name wasn’t Jack; it was Jean-Louis. His mother tongue wasn’t English; it was French. He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of immigrants from Quebec; on his mother’s side, he was related to René Lévesque. ... Kerouac grew up speaking the burly, colloquial idiom of a hardscrabble people... a bilingual identity that for much of his life Kerouac chose to hide. More...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Essential rock reads

L. A. Times posts this list of classic books about rock music. I admit that I read exactly one of them, when I was in college, which is about the end of my personal interest, but then again, if you asked me if I owned music by any of these people, I'd have to say a goodly precent of them. Which means, I guess, that reading about rock and listening to it are two different things. To each his own...

LAT: Do rock and books go together? That's a question we asked in August, and after a month's worth of posts on books and music, we think, hells yeah. Here's our list of 46 essential rock reads, in alpha order by author. They'll rock your books off... More.

Isak Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales

Dinesen is, as Powells blogger Joanna Scott says, on the wane these days. Yet at one time, she was an international star. An interesting piece.

JS: Seven Gothic Tales established Dinesen as a literary giant, a reputation that would be sustained throughout her life. Eudora Welty said Dinesen's fiction embodies "the last outreach of magic." Carson McCullers reported that she would reread Dinesen's memoir Out of Africa for comfort. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954, Ernest Hemingway said with uncharacteristic humility that it might have gone to "that beautiful writer Karen Blixen." More...

The latest thrillers

Need a thriller fix? The latest edition of The Big Thrill is just the ticket. News, articles, interviews, and a great list of new titles (including Heaven's Gate by William Kent Krueger, an SE selection coming soon).

The September Big Thrill showcases over 38 brand new thrillers from some of your favorite authors as well as 4 new names. Our debut authors for September include Sharon Potts, John J. Le Beau, Gaylon Greer and Norb Vonnegut. And like old friends coming for a visit, there's Rick Mofina, William Bernhardt, Clive Cussler, Kathy Reichs and many more. So as you say goodbye to summer, say hello to an exciting batch of new thrillers for September... More.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Plot is back

Author Lev Grossman talks about plot. Literary novels often turned away from the straightforward concerns of storytelling; writing became what was good for you, rather than what you enjoyed. Maybe things are changing?

LG: It's not easy to put your finger on what exactly is so disgraceful about our attachment to storyline. Sure, it's something to do with high and low and genres and the canon and such. But what exactly? Part of the problem is that to find the reason you have to dig down a ways, down into the murky history of the novel. There was once a reason for turning away from plot, but that rationale has outlived its usefulness. If there's a key to what the 21st-century novel is going to look like, this is it: the ongoing exoneration and rehabilitation of plot... More.

Kids reading, a different perspective

This is an interesting follow-up, also from the NY Times, to our last post. What's wrong with teachers just getting kids to read? Beats kids not reading, right? Whether or not kids should read the classics (or maybe we should say "classics") is an interesting point, but just having kids read has to, at some point, be the priority.

NYT: The approach Ms. McNeill uses, in which students choose their own books, discuss them individually with their teacher and one another, and keep detailed journals about their reading, is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools... Starting this fall, the school district in Chappaqua, N.Y., is setting aside 40 minutes every other day for all sixth, seventh and eighth graders to read books of their own choosing... More.

Reading for points

This is a rather disturbing article in the NY Times, about how kids get points for reading books. Nothing wrong with kids reading books, but the question is raised about the quantification of the process. Gossip Girl = 8 points, Hamlet = 7 points?

NYT: Accelerated Reader, introduced in 1986, is currently used in more than 75,000 schools, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The Web site for Renaissance Learning, which owns the program, describes it as a way to build “a lifelong love of reading and learning.” As a novelist and mother of three passionate readers, I’m all for that. But when I looked closer at how the program helps “guide students to the right books,” as the Web site puts it, I was disheartened... More.

Ragtime revisited

E. L. Doctorow has a new novel out. The L. A. Times was not enthusiastic about it (which won't stop me from reading it anyhow, given the ELD is one of my favorite writers), but they then went back and looked at Ragtime, their praise for which was ebullient. Makes you definitely want to read that one, anyhow. (By the way, I hear they're reviving the Broadway play, which was not bad, but it wasn't the book.)

LAT: Freud and Jung travel together through Coney Island's Tunnel of Love. Pierpont Morgan causes himself to be locked one night in the Great Pyramid at Giza, where he is attacked by bedbugs...To make something never made before, yet comfortable and familiar, strange yet not estranging: there's a death-defying trick, the kind of escape from mortality the long-gone Houdini will relish... More.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The American McGirl

The American Girl book series seems to have a girl for everyone. We love any series that gets kids reading, so even though the following story may not be to our personal taste (I haven't had a McDonald's meal since 2008, and then there was the one before that in 2007...), it's fine with us.

Amazon Daily: With so many great restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries in Seattle, my family rarely visits fast-food chains. But there I was, yesterday, in the McDonald's drive-thru, ordering a Happy Meal. Not for the Chicken McNuggets, mind you, though it was lunchtime. The real reason we were in line was for the American Girl toy... More.

The kids are all writing

We worry so much about kids today. We hear all sorts of things (much of it absolute nonsense) about the death of literacy. This article in Wired may change your thinking.

Wired: As the school year begins, be ready to hear pundits fretting once again about how kids today can't write—and technology is to blame... An age of illiteracy is at hand, right? Andrea Lunsford isn't so sure. Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose... Her conclusions are stirring. "I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization," she says... More.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Domenick Dunne by Tina Brown

Probably the absolute perfect person to write a remembrance of writer Dunne is editor Brown of The Daily Beast.

TB: What does it take to be a great social chronicler? Perhaps one of the key attributes is an understanding of what it feels like to fall from grace. Dominick Dunne, the best-selling novelist and defining voice for so many years of Vanity Fair magazine who died of cancer Wednesday at 83, was living proof that the best qualification for a writer’s life is a checkered past... More.

A Human Rights anthology

We learned about this book via ArtsJournal. A group of important authors are celebrating the Declaration of Human Rights by contributing their work to it.

From the Guardian: Top authors around the world, from Joyce Carol Oates to Henning Mankell and David Mitchell, have come together to mark 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, penning short stories inspired by each of the declaration's 30 articles. Some of the writers taking part, including Dorfman and Paulo Coelho, have experienced human rights violations first hand: all have written their stories for free, with all royalties to go to Amnesty International... More.

National Reading Group Month

Got a reading group? Want to start one? National Reading Group Month is coming up, and there's an org site coordinating it.

NRGM: Reading groups are proving that good books bring people together. National Reading Group Month salutes reading groups. It fosters their growth and promotes the love of literature. It's an opportunity for reading groups to reflect on their accomplishments and plan for the future — the perfect time to join or start a group... More.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Books on EMK

Amazon has a nice roundup of books (including the forthcoming memoir) on Senator Kennedy.

Amazon reviews the classics

Humorist Joe Queenan in WSJ provides a take on the Amazon reader reviews, some of which are not so reliable.

JQ: Here ordinary people get to voice their opinions, acting as cultural watchdogs to shield their fellow book lovers from duds...Beholden to no man, cloaked in anonymity, they do not hesitate to take even the brightest stars —Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Auster, Dan Brown—to task. This is what makes citizen reviewers such a welcome addition to the body politic: Their courageous sniping from behind the bushes... More.

Another meditation on e-books

Forbes.com publishes an article by illustrated book publisher Mark Batty on the future of e-books. Given that Sony has just announced their updated machine, we consider this article both timely and smart. In essence, Batty tells us not to throw our printing presses away just yet.

MB: There is no doubt that the Kindle, and its competitors, have caused a minor revolution in consumer access, purchase, distribution and how books are read. But e-books still represent a very small, though growing, portion of all the books out there. (Sales may grow this year to 1% of the total.) That e-books are so small is not surprising. Books on paper have been sold for 550 years. That's a long time to grow, even in the most sluggish categories, and it's a long time to get the product right and consumers comfortable with it... More.

Author Tracy Kidder interviewed

Kidder has a new book entitled Strength in What Remains. PowellsBooks has an in-depth interview with the prize-winning author.

Powells describes the book: Kidder's incredibly moving and vivid new book, Strength in What Remains, follows and accompanies Deo, survivor of the genocide in Burundi who came to America in the '90s to make a new life for himself. Though Deo had little money and no English language when he landed in New York, he eventually found his way to Columbia University and medical school. Through his account of Deo's remarkable journey, Kidder makes the abstract achingly personal and showcases a genuine hero. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring, Strength in What Remains is some of Kidder's finest work yet... More.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remembering Elmer Kelton

An old friend has passed. I met Elmer when I was fresh out of college, working on Western novels at Doubleday. He was smart and fun and a hell of a writer. I was happy when I arrived at RD to learn that we were using a lot of his work here, and he was very popular with our readers. The Washington Post has an excellent obituary.

WP: Unlike many writers of formula westerns over the years, Elmer Kelton avoided the lure of sagebrush nostalgia and the easy indulgence of Old West cliche. Nobody gets shot in a Kelton novel -- which are often set in the modern West -- and his cowboys and ranchers are not mythic heroes on horseback. "I can't write about heroes 7 feet tall and invincible," Mr. Kelton liked to say. "I write about people 5-foot-8 and nervous." More...

Finishing your novel

Writers might be interested in this site (via Publishing Perspectives). Writer and teacher Timothy Hallinan gives a most useful (and comprehensive) guide to getting the job done.

TH: I’ve been writing novels (and teaching about writing novels) for twenty years, and one thing I’ve learned is how to finish. I’d estimate that 98% of all the novels people begin are never completed. Every person who abandons a book feels that he or she has a good reason, but my experience suggests that most of those books could have been finished – the writer just came up against something he or she couldn’t handle. This section is about how to handle those things. It’s about starting with a good idea, developing it, and moving your story ahead until you reach the end... More.

Jeannette Walls profile

The author of The Glass Castle, and the soon-to-be-published Half Broke Horses (which will appear in Select Editions) is profiled by Publishers Weekly.

PW: Jeannette Walls says the first time she read the finished version of her bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle (Scribner, 2006), “I was like, 'Dang, I got a weird life! Nobody's going to be able to relate to this! Everybody's going to think I'm just a poor white trash loser.' But the shocking—and gratifying—thing was how many people have understood what I was trying to say.” More...

Monday, August 24, 2009

David Sedaris as DJ

Essayist Sedaris was guest host on KCRW, talking about and playing some of his favorite music. The link, via Open Culture, also connects to some other Sedaris readings.

Jerry Pinkney interview

Artist Jerry Pinkney has won numerous prizes for his wonderful work. His latest book is The Lion & the Mouse. Publisher's Weekly has an interview discussing that book, among others.

JP: When I decided that the Serengeti was the right place for this story, I was able to go into my library and find many books about that part of the world. The setting helped me give a back story to this fable and opened the book to other possibilities. I took little steps, added giraffes and elephants, and eventually the pictures revealed nature in its full-blown beauty.... More.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking returns!

An old book from one of our favorite people in the universe is now at the top of the bestseller lists!

NY Times:
Almost 48 years after it was first published, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child is finally topping the best-seller list, bringing with it all the butter, salt and goose fat that home chefs had largely abandoned in the age of Lipitor.... More.

B&N Rediscovers series

We saw posts on this a couple of places, so we'll just send you to the source. Barnes and Noble has announced a new series of books that it calls B&N Rediscovers. We're all in favor of it, although our personal business is new discoveries. But we like older books too, especially older books that may have undeservedly fallen off the radar.

Here's the page link.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Love the book, love the movie

Amazon's blogs provide us with a fun list of the best 15 movies made from classic books.

Amazon: Given that 2009 opened with a thrilling Masterpiece Classic line-up including a highly vaunted new production of Little Dorrit, and given that the year is slated to close with Guy Ritchie's highly anticipated new Sherlock Holmes (not to mention looking ahead to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 2010), I thought I’d take stock of those nineteenth-century stories that have been brought to film over the past century or so.... More.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The process of writing

Author Jonathan Tropper, via PowellsBooks, discusses his writing process. A fun piece.

JT: I can't work in my house because I'm devoid of any semblance of discipline and I'll end up changing light bulbs or watching television or playing the piano, or cleaning out my desk. I don't have a typical day, because of said lack of discipline. Without structure, I'm worthless, so I try to treat it like a regular job, get to my desk by nine and put in a full day. But the muse won't always cooperate and she will never be coerced. Sometimes she'd rather take a nap, or see a mid-afternoon movie... More.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Textbook buyer's app

We were just speaking of textbooks as e-books. Here's an iPhone app that helps students find the cheapest version of the textbooks they need, new, used or electronic. It's called Bigwords, and we learned about it via Brave New World.

BNW: The app collects the details of all the books the student needs and then searches against some 30 sources and identifies the best deal, factoring in shipping costs and discounts etc. The purchase can be then completed through the app or on the student can email their selection and complete the purchase on a PC via a link in an e-mail sent by the app... More.


We all seem to have bought into the idea that textbooks will be the first overall win on the e-book front. They sound like the perfect cheap solution for the exactly right market. But maybe that win isn't as close as we assume. Mashable posts a fine, thorough article on the subject.

Josh Catone: For higher education students who spend an average of $702 per year on course materials, mostly textbooks, the prospect of going digital is an appealing one. Among the theoretical benefits of digital textbooks is the possibility of significant cost savings due to lower overhead costs — bits are cheaper than printed pages, after all. Unfortunately, students shouldn’t chuck their backpacks any time soon; there still exist some major hurdles that digital textbooks must overcome before they widely replace traditional, printed textbooks on college (and high school) campuses... More.

Rock music books for young adults

Experience demonstrates that one of the hardest groups of people to get into a book are teens. And I fear that once we lose them, they're gone forever. Maybe this list from the L.A. Times might help.

L.A.T.: A rock and roll soundtrack gets teenagers through their ups, their downs and their angsts. It may evolve from classic rock to grunge to emo to pop to punk and beyond, but it's a lasting, rebellious fixture. So it should come as no surprise that novels for young adults are as steeped in rock 'n' roll as teenagers themselves. Cecil Castellucci, author of five books including the rock novel "Beige," picks eight novels with characters whose lives are changed by (turn that down!) music... More.

The Magicians

Here's a book you won't find in Select Editions, because it's just not our kind of book. But that doesn't mean it's not my kind of book. I've already started pushing it to friends, and you probably will too. It's a hoot.

Lev Grossman, via John Scalzi: What if, as a high school senior, you discovered that there was a secret college for magic, serving only the most brilliant kids in North America? This is in the real world, our world, the one with cell phones and the Internet and Dancing with the Stars and all the rest of it. A lot of things would be different... More.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Mad Men Book Club

Samuel P. Jacobs has a hoot of a post over at The Daily Beast, which he calls advice on reading like a Mad Man. It is a list of the quintessential books of the period of that TV show by the quintessential authors of the day. It will make you feel either very old or very young, and definitely very out of it.

A classic book on a classy team

This article was too good not to share, although its connection to books is a little weak. Still, it does review a couple of new books, and refers back to Arlene Croce's masterpiece. And it gives us a chance to relive in print, for a moment, the glory of Fred and Ginger.

New York Times; Only in the 1960s did the Astaire-Rogers duets first receive serious critical attention as great choreography. In 1965 Arlene Croce, who until then had been best known as a film critic, founded Ballet Review magazine (which flourishes still), and one of her two remarkable contributions to the first issue was the essay “Notes on La Belle, La Perfectly Swell, Romance.” (It was republished in 2008 in Robert Gottlieb’s “Reading Dance” anthology.) In 1972 Ms. Croce followed this with one of the best-loved works in dance literature, “The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book.” In prose that perfectly rises to the thrill of these classics, she herself produced a classic... More.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wikipedia facts

I have a night job coaching a high school debate team. For us, a couple of years ago Wikipedia was a suspect source of dubious information. Today, it is anything but, and the old-fashioned print encyclopedias have had their day. The Brave New World blog posts an appreciation.

BNW: In 8 years the people’s encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, has changed collective reference and how we collaboratively edit and manage complex works such as encyclopaedias. Gone are the large sets of tomes bought by parents in the hope that their children may benefit. Now Wikipedia is one click away, free and with over 10 million registered members, 17 million pages, a network of over 13 million articles in hundreds of different languages, it truly is the people’s reference work... More.

Sequels by somebody else

The recent case about the "sequel" to The Catcher in the Rye started a lot of talk about intellectual property at a lot of different levels. Charles McGrath's NY Times article is a good summary of what happens when, and why we sometimes do want to see our favorite characters brought to new life.

CM: The urge to write sequels and prequels is almost always an homage of sorts. We don’t want more of books we hate. The books that get re-written and re-imagined are beloved. We don’t want them ever to be over. We pay them the great compliment of imagining that they’re almost real: that there must be more to the story, and that characters we know so well — Elizabeth Bennet, for one, or Sherlock Holmes, who has probably inspired more sequels than any other fictional being — must have more to their lives... More.

Thoreau and Walden

Walden has to be one of the most unread books ever assigned in high school (despite being probably the book most often assigned in high school). PowellsBooks has a short, insightful appreciation.

Powells: As many critics have pointed out, Thoreau didn't really go off into the wilderness. The land on the banks of Walden Pond on which he squatted and built a crude cabin was within walking distance of Concord, and train tracks were only half a kilometer away. He wasn't much of a woodsman; one reason he wasn't too welcome in Concord proper is the previous year he and a friend had inadvertently started a forest fire that burned 300 acres (they were trying to cook fish they had caught).... More.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shakespeare (?) for kids

This is either a really good idea or a really bad idea. We'll have to wait and see. A British film group is going to produce six adaptations of Shakespeare plays, as musicals, for kids. Judging from the article in Variety, they will all be in 3-D. This is, I hate to say it, eye-popping news.

Variety.com: "Hamlet" lends itself to a 3-D treatment. The producers hope to include a ghost that hovers in front of the aud's eyes, cannon fire that flies into the auditorium and a sword fight that appears to happen all around viewers... More.

Textbooks for rent

Textbooks have always been incredibly expensive. In my day you simply bought them (new or used), then sold them back (used). A lot of money changed hands, but the college bookstore seemed to come out best in the transaction. Now publishers are looking to rent directly to students, according to the NY Times.

NYT: With college textbooks often costing more than $100 apiece...many students try to save by buying used books or ordering books from overseas, where they can often cost half the domestic price. Many students also resell textbooks at the end of the academic year, feeding the used-book market. Besides giving students a new option, rentals give both publishers and textbook authors a way to continue earning money from their books after the first sale, something they do not get from the sale of used textbooks... More.

Photos of writers' writing spaces

Via Boing Boing we learned of WhereIWrite.org, a project devoted to photographs of fantasy and science fiction writers. Some of these places are too messy to even think about writing. Some of them are pristine beyond imagining. All of them are fun to look at. Check 'em out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Godfather, 40 years later

WSJ.com profiles the, uh, godfather of Mafia books. As they say, don't expect it to be the same as the movies.

WSJ: In 1969, an obscure middle-aged novelist and pulp magazine journalist named Mario Gianluigi Puzo hit the literary jackpot. He wrote "The Godfather," he later told Larry King, "to make money." By his own admission, it wasn't well written. "If I'd known so many people were going to read it," he famously said, "I'd have written it better." More...

Free audiobooks

We just heard about this site, LibriVox, offering free audio of public domain books. You might want to check it out.

Making books look good

Walt Shiel in View from the Publishing Trenches explains what goes into making a book. It's a great explanation demonstrating that it's more than just printing up a manuscript.

WS: Book design requires an analysis of the manuscript, its tone, and its intended audience. And a review of many other factors...Some self-publishers cringe at the prices quoted for book design and typesetting. That’s usually because they don’t understand the amount of knowledge and craftsmanship that makes the difference between an acceptable book and a beautifully designed and typeset book...More.

Travis McGee revisited

There was a short period where the National Book Awards covered genre writing. In 1980, the mystery award went to John D. MacDonald's latest Travis McGee novel. Author Glen David Gold writes a wonderful appreciation of MacDonald on the book awards website.

GDG: The plots are happily serpentine, the attitude engagingly hardboiled, but what brings the reader back is McGee's increasingly involved -- and heartbroken -- asides about the state of humanity. These books aren't just mysteries, they're investigations into the soul... More.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books are not music

From Open Culture, "Top Ten Reasons Why the Kindle Won't be an iPod for Books."

For instance:
4) Holding 100 albums in your hand is great. Holding 100 books? Not as much. More...

Thomas Pynchon, video and music (and book)

The notoriously reclusive Pynchon has been outed as the narrator of the video trailer for his new novel, Inherent Vice. You may have already seen it, as it's gone viral pretty quickly. Amazon has posted a nice summary of the situation, and additionally, a playlist of 60s and 70s songs inspired by the novel. Very entertaining. Here's the link.

The Hugo Awards

There's a lot of talk about the Hugos, which were awarded last night. Some of the nominees are bloggers, needless to say, and have had their own concerns leading up to the event. The best novel award went to Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Meanwhile, Amazon has published a list of all the winners going back to 1953. Very obliging of them!

Coetzee reads his own work

The New York Review of Books has published a podcast with J. M. Coetzee reading from his novel Summertime. Take a listen.

When do you find time to read?

This article from Booksquare focuses nicely on a big issue. The biggest competition for our book-reading time is not other reading, but life in general. And sometimes one wonders if publishers are doing the right things in making it easy for those of us who want to read books to actually do it. The world is changing. Are publishers on board with the changes?

Booksquare: The competition for books isn’t necessarily other books as much as everything else in life. Given all the demands readers face, I am amused by publishing people who insist on “preserving the value” of what they publish. I’d be more sympathetic to this argument if publishers could make it less patently obvious that “value” often means “supporting our pricey, risky business decisions”, such as paying million dollar advances for books about cats…More.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Scams aimed at writers

Writer Beware is a site hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (and recently joined by the Mystery Writers of America, as noted in Publisher's Weekly). The headline on the site page explains: Warnings About Literary Fraud and Other Schemes, Scams, and Pitfalls That Target Writers.

We would say that anyone trying to break into publishing should check out the underside of the industry. There are people out there who want nothing other than to take your money. Don't let them do it. And kudos to these writers' groups for supporting this site.

The World According to Garp

The series from the National Book Awards folks on previous winners has been continuing apace. This one stopped us because it was such a book seemingly of the moment. I mean, at some point everyone was not only reading Garp, but claiming it was the best thing they'd ever read. This was back in 1980. It does bring one back.

Fiction judge Craig Nova writes: The test of whether a book is any good, at least as far as Matthew Arnold was concerned, is how it stands up to the withering assaults of time. The current moment, as we seem to have to learn again and again, while seeming real, is often the essence of distortion. Need I say more about this then to mention bell bottom pants or Grunge? ... I am happy to report that not only has The World According to Garp stood up to the horrifying evaluation of Matthew Arnold's test, it has gotten better. The book has genius... More.

Monday, August 10, 2009

An author comes to town

Via Maud Newton, an article in Harper's collecting journalist reports of an author tour. The tour took place in 1882. The author was Oscar Wilde. (You need to be a Harper's subscriber to read the whole article.)

As MN quotes, here's what Ambrose Bierce had to say about the English man of letters: The ineffable dunce has nothing to say and says it — says it with a liberal embellishment of bad delivery, embroidering it with reasonless vulgarities of attitude, gesture and attire. There never was an impostor so hateful, a blockhead so stupid, a crank so variously and offensively daft. More...

Powell's books

This time I'm not pointing to some other post. I was just out in Portland and went to Powell's for the first time. And second time. And third time. Can I say that this is the best bookstore in the world? The last thing I needed to do on vacation was stuff my suitcase with books, but Powell's made me do it. I would walk along and see a shelf with books by a favorite author, with a card telling me that if I liked this author, I had to go check out this other author... Not to mention the mix of hardcover, paperback, used and new: you buy it in the version you most want to have, at the price you want to pay.

If you're anywhere in the northwest, get yourself to Powell's. And bring a suitcase.

The Man Booker Prize

We're back from vacation, thumbing through items we may have missed. It turns out that the Man Booker fiction prize longlist was announced while we were away. The Man Group is an investment management business that supports the arts. The prize starts with a longlist, goes on to a shortlist, and finally, in October, a winner. They're not the kind of books we do at Select Editions, but it's fun to track the literary side of the street.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On hiatus

We won't be posting for a couple of weeks. We will return around the middle of August. See you then.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New uses for books (other than reading)

In surfing the web for interesting book-related stories, one site just naturally leads into another. Boing Boing is the connection we got to the offbeatearth.com site, and their illustrated guide to uses for books (other than reading).

Traffic jam in big Fall books

There are books coming out this autumn from Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, Audrey Niffnegger, to name just a few. Things will be jumping—maybe against each other—in the bookstores, according to the New York Observer.

NYO: “I have never seen another year like this,” said Sarah McNally, the owner of the popular Soho bookstore McNally Jackson. “I can hardly bear to think about fall’s books, it’s like looking bare-eyed into the sun.”

“I can’t really think of any time since I’ve been in the business, when I had a sense of the degree of anticipation for upcoming books, that would equal this fall,” said the Gernert Co. literary agent Chris Parris-Lamb.

With optimism, however, comes worry—particularly because shoving every major release into the same three months could very well result in a traffic jam that will benefit no one. More...

A culture of confusion on the e-book front

The booksquare blog sums up the situation with e-books, with B&N announcing its entry into the fray. The thinking here makes sense to us. Things are going to be, for a while, really complicated.

Booksquare: What is happening — to the surprise of very few — is an ever-increasing Landscape of Confusion. This doesn’t, actually, help publishers achieve their apparent goal of creating a competitive marketplace. Now if the goal were chaos, we have a winner! All these devices, all these formats, all these stores…and readers are reeling because they simply don’t know what formats work with what device (or, heck, operating system). More...

Wrap-up of the Romance Writers of America meeting

Publishers Weekly sums up the whole thing, which we've been touching on over the last few days.

PW: RWA is three days of hard work. Authors attend tense rapid-fire pitch sessions with agents and editors (one called it "speed dating for writers") and countless workshops on the writing craft and the ins and outs of publishing. Hallways, lobbies, and the nearby bars and restaurants are crowded with people—mostly women—clutching piles of free books, handing out glossy promotional cards and pamphlets, and sharing valuable insider gossip. Fans mob the daily autograph sessions and get dressed to the nines for the Golden Heart Award and RITA Award ceremony, the Oscars of the romance world. More...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Conundrum: E-readers need real bookstores

Jason Young of PCMag.com discusses an interesting problem. He's a committed e-book reader, but he finds his next book to read by wandering brick-and-mortar stores. With e-books killing brick-and-mortar, where's the future in that?

JY: A good bookstore brings an incredible wealth of inventory to bear. The ability to "sample" in person is far better than in digital format. Great bookstores are also strong gathering points for discussion and guidance from experts and actual authors.

Here's the problem. The culmination of my bookstore experience is the process of taking my Kindle out and downloading the book(s) I've discovered through the wonders of the retail experience. That's financial ruin for the bookstore. More...

Classic children's books. Not.

Normally I like to celebrate the good things in books, but some ideas are just too appealing. Like the worst children's books ever, on TheAmericanScene.com.

TAS: So while we’re making lists, how about one of the most overrated children’s books? Not really the “worst” ones, I guess – much better to put together something along the lines of Noah’s list, with the targets limited to books that are regularly described as “classics,” as “beloved,” etc. After a bit of thought about the matter, I’ve got two from my son’s bookshelf that deserve a calling-out. More...

Update from the Romance Writers conference

Romance writers apparently get no respect. Blogger Ron Charles discusses the situation in depth.

RC: Last week I received an uncomfortable honor, the kind I'm not sure I should include on my résumé. At their annual conference in Washington, the Romance Writers of America presented me with the Veritas Award. It's "given annually for the article that appears in print or in another medium that best depicts the romance genre in a positive light." Not surprisingly, there are years in which the Veritas award is not given. Positive light, it would seem, falls fairly rarely on this genre. More...

Target's Book Club Proves to be Bestseller-maker

If Oprah can do it, why not Target? Target's book club has proven to be a huge boon to small-name authors who've been fortunate enough to have their books selected for the Target book club. We love the idea of unheralded authors getting some unexpected sales.

NYT: In publishing circles Target has long been known as a place that can move many copies of discounted best sellers, as do other mass-merchant retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco. But in the last few years, much in the way it has cultivated its image as a counterintuitive purveyor of Isaac Mizrahi clothes or Michael Graves tea kettles, Target has been building itself into a tastemaker for books. Through its book club, as well as a program it calls Bookmarked Breakout, both started in 2005, the company has highlighted largely unknown writers, helping their books find their way into shopping carts filled with paper towels, cereal and shampoo. More...

More on Plastic Logic's e-book reader

We reported earlier this week that Barnes and Noble would be using this reader in their answer to Amazon's e-book store. It wasn't until I read this piece in the Times blog that I realized that I actually knew nothing about Plastic Logic. This article fills the gap.

NYT: The Plastic Logic Reader, the size of a regular piece of paper, will be slightly larger than the Kindle DX and sport a touch-screen. Plastic Logic says the device will be targeted at business users, which typically suggests a higher price and the need to lure more affluent customers.

Unlike the Kindle, the Plastic Logic Reader will also be able to access Wi-Fi hotspots. More...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

NYC Library goes Wi-Fi

pfsk.com calls this new site in Manhattan's public library "[probably] the grandest Wi-Fi hotspot in the country." It's hard to disagree with them.

pfsk: The Beaux-Arts room is decorated in the classical style with 4,500 square foot of rectangular space and boasts dark maple wood floors. It has seating for 128 people on brown leather chairs and custom-made black walnut tables, according to the library.

You can bring your own laptop or borrow one for free starting July 28. More...

Summer chick lit

From Marisa Meltzer at The Daily Beast comes an exploration of some of the big chick lit books of the summer. These kind of tales tend to be a little less family-oriented than the fare we publish in Select Editions, so we look at these books mostly from afar...

MM: Over the past six days, I read four of this summer’s anointed beach books: Twenties Girl, Best Friends Forever, The Wedding Girl, and Hope in a Jar. I did not have the good fortune to read them in their intended setting: near a body of water, preferably accompanied by frothy cocktails and cupcakes. But they did leave me feeling fuzzy in the head nonetheless. More...

The book tour

Author Joe Queenan describes some of his favorite people, his companions on his literary tours.

JQ: I have always loved book tours. I became a writer only so I could go on book tours. I have done tours as small as four cities and as large as 16. They have taken me to places I never expected to visit — Iowa City, Coconut Grove, Hay-on-Wye — and introduced me to passionate book lovers I will remember forever. Among these book lovers, the most memorable are the “literary escorts” who ferry authors around town.

Literary escorts, by and large, are middle-aged women who make a living by picking up authors at the airport, shuttling them from one media outlet to another, filling them in on the next interviewer’s background, buying them lunch, telling them where the liquor store is, preventing them from having nervous breakdowns. Some do it as a job, some as a hobby. Escorts are always smart and invariably funny. A lot of them smoke. More...