Daniel Handler back with a Snicket
National Book Awards
In fiction, the finalists are:
- Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)
- Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (McSweeney's Books)
- Louise Erdrich, The Round House (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
- Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
- Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company)
Despite the star power of Díaz, Eggers and Erdich, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Ben Fountain will take home the hardware, based on nothing but intuition.
In non-fiction, the finalists are:
- Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 (Doubleday)
- Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House)
- Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 (Knopf)
- Domingo Martinez, The Boy Kings of Texas (Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press)
- Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Based on the number of gushing reviews, it's tempting to make Boo the favorite. Scholarly authors might favor Applebaum. Biographers will likely give Caro the nod. I'm going to go with Shadid, one of the greatest ever foreign correspondents.
JK Rowling starts a row in
One local, a friend of the author's father no less, was quoted: "It sounds like nonsense. I suppose she’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder. This has always been a happy area."
It will be interesting to see how locals react when they see her. And see her they might, as she has apparently purchased a house in the area recently. I'd love to read more about this.
And by way of recommendation, for a terrifically moving look at what happens when a writer trashes his hometown and then is forced to return home to face the consequences, check out The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper.
Let's celebrate Banned
The 10 most challenged titles of 2011 were:
ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy,
by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
(series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism
Michael Chabon's latest
You have to give Chabon a lot of credit for delving into the tricky terrain of race relations. Trying to give voice to characters of different races is inherently fraught with pitfalls. It would be all too easy to lapse into inauthenticity, with unintended comical results.
Perhaps it takes a writer of his stature to pull it off.
Michael Ennis' long road to
For all his novel's appeal, Ennis had trouble selling it. His agent sent it out in two distinct rounds with no luck, even after he cut the number of pages by half. So what to do? He ended up self-publishing, and sending copies directly to booksellers, many of whom were quite enthusiastic about it. He ended up with a deal for more than six figures with Doubleday.
J.K. Rowling writes a novel
The author is back, with a novel aimed at grown ups.
More than 2 million copies of her hardback Casual Vacancy will land at bookstores in the United States in late September, just as the digital version hits the Internet. The novel is a far cry from Hogwarts. Rowling's first adult novel is decidely this-worldy, an exploration of an election held after a member of a parish council dies. The publisher, Little, Brown, calls it Dickensian for "the humanity, the humor, the social concerns, the intensely real characters."
Some things never change, however. The author has always prized secrecy, and this launch was no different. There were no advanced reader copies, no review copies, nothing, which at this point probably makes sense from a marketing perspective. Interest will likely be exceedingly high. But there are no market guarantees, not even for Rowling. Now, had she written something in the realm of magical fantasy for adults, perhaps the pundits would have written that success was inevitably. But that's not what's happening, and it will be interesting to see the book fares. I would love to read the book, as my perspective would be almost unique, given that I have yet to read a Potter novel, unlike my daughters.
Molly Ringwald, now a
Gillian Flynn's novel at
Robert Goolrick's second
Gillian Flynn returns with
Apple is not going quietly
into the night
Soon enough, the generic fear of the Internet was replaced by a quite specific fear of one company, which adroitly built a monopoly in online book sales--to the detriment of the traditional industry, which argued that Amazon was literally devaluing their product. When it comes to anti-trust, the Internet no doubt changed much. Amazon was hardly a conventional monopolist, as it sought to keep prices of books at rock-bottom, and consumers generally applauded as authors sneered. Apple wanted to lose money on books--to the horror of the industry--so it could make money on Kindles.
Jeff Bezos was shrewd no doubt. But so was Steve Jobs, who presented himself as an avenging angel to the book industry. Thanks to Apple, Amazon was cowed. Jeff Bezos was humbled--and forced to accept another sales platform on equal terms, not to mention another sales model. The agency model, in which publishes set their end prices and give a cut to the distributor, now reigns. The Amazon monopoly—and its detested wholesale model--was smashed.
But at what cost?
The Justice Department waded into the war--people have long suggested that Amazon helped pave the way--and filed an anti-trust suit against Apple and the big publishers. It charged that the anti-Amazon crowd, led by Apple, colluded to raise prices. News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster and Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group settled, but Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck's Macmillan and Pearson's Penguin Group have decided to fight. The big news today was that Apple will join them. The technology giant filed a scathing rebuttal to the charges in federal court in Manhattan. "At the time Apple entered the market, Amazon sold nearly nine out of every ten eBooks, and its power over price and product selection was nearly absolute," Apple wrote, as noted by ars technica. "Apple’s entry spurred tremendous growth in eBook titles, range and variety of offerings, sales, and improved quality of the eBook reading experience." Another quote: “Without Apple’s entry, eBook distribution would essentially be ceded to a single distributor (Amazon), who would then possess virtually unlimited power in the eBook business… . Apple provided all publishers, large or small, similar opportunities to utilize Apple as an agent to sell eBooks directly to consumers through the iBookstore on non-discriminatory terms."
I hope this case makes it to court. The arguments will be fascinating. At this point, the government seems to be buying into pre-Internet notions of monopoly. Apple will mount that argument with passion. In the end, the question boils down to whether the public would have been better off with a monopoly that sells books at cut-rate prices or a duopoly that sells books at higher prices.
Rogue Island an Edgar Award and a Macavity Award for best first novel and was a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony and Barry Awards. All of which has paved the way for his second novel, Cliff Walk, recently published by Forge Books. The early reviews are strong. "Look for this one to garner more award nominations," says Publishers Weekly.
I look forward to reading it.
The best ever
opening lines in fiction
I'm happy to note that The Observer has come up with an interactive feature entitled, "The 10 best first lines in fiction." You'll probably quibble with the list a bit, but it's fun to click through.
The anointed best first line ever comes from Ulysses: "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed." I personally would have given the top spot to Pride and Prejudice, which came in second for its classic: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Most of the "winners" are classics or at least non-contemporaneous except for one: Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which opens with a line that I remember well: "The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation." Which makes me want to read the novel for a third time.
It occurs to me that someone ought to do a list of the 10 best closing lines in fiction. I immediately thought of The Dead: "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
Jonathan Tropper coming to
I've been reading for years that this-or-that novel of his had been optioned or was soon to be in production. So far, nothing has panned out. The dry spell may soon end, however. Rock of Ages director Adam Shankman is apparently negotiating with Warner Bros. to bring This Is Where I Leave You, which was released in 2009 to much ado, to the big screen.
Tropper will also be debuting on the little screen soon. Cinemax has started production in Charlotte, N.C., on "Banshee", an action series written by Tropper and fellow writer David Schickler. Tropper also co-executive produced. Scheduled for 10 episodes, the show is expected to appear next year. The series features Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con who assumes the identity of a sheriff to continue his life of crime. This doesn't sound like vintage Tropper, but you can bet that it will be well written.
A Book Offer You Can't
Interestingly, he never published sequels to The Godfather. But he wrote the screenplays for both The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III, collaborating with Francis Ford Coppola. He did continue to write about the Mob, however. He spent the last 3 years of his life writing Omerta, which was released soon after his death of heart failure in 1999. Roughly two years later, his last novel, The Family, was published; it was completed by his long-time companion Carol Gino.
Fortunately, the franchise never died. The Puzo family authorized two sequels to The Godfather. The Godfather Returns (2004) and The Godfather's Revenge (2006) were both authored to much fanfare by Mark Winegardner, director of the creative writing program at Florida State University. The next novel will be a prequel, The Family Corleone, which was written by Ed Falco, who runs the creative writing program at Virginia Tech. He's the uncle of Edie Falco, of The Sopranos fame.
The book is due May 8. One early review calls it "a worthy addition to the lurid world of the Five Families, if not quite an offer you can’t refuse."
Grand Central is doing what it can to generate some pre-release buzz. Toward that end, we offer a "trailer" (via Entertainment Weekly) that spoofs the genre. Very funny!
Harlan Coben's streak continues
The Revelations of
The Hunger Games vs.
The movie is shaping up to be quite an event. The estimates for the opening weekend box office take have risen to the $100 million to $120 million, which puts it in rare company. The all-time record of course is held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which racked up nearly $170 million last July. The Hunger Games has a realistic shot at cracking the top eight, the position held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which hauled in $125 million in November 2010. We'll keep you posted.
Whether the movie exceeds the final Harry Potter installments really doesn't matter. This is an unabashed phenomena. Book sales are going to the moon. The stars have definitely aligned.
Which means I perhaps ought to read it.
In praise of William Landay
I'm pleased to note that William Landay has indeed found an audience, a growing one. His third novel, Defending Jacob, graces the best seller lists. As of this writing, it holds the No. 9 spot on the New York Times hardcover list. It has certainly generated a buzz among reviewers and in the blogosphere. I have not yet read the novel, but the consensus seems to be that he has outdone himself, putting in the top echelon of literary suspense novelists.
According to a Seattle PI interview, "When I finished my first decent manuscript, Mission Flats, I was about to give the whole thing up. It was time to admit defeat and move on. My wife and I were about to have our first child. It was time to get a 'real' job. In fact, when the first offer for Mission Flats came in, my wife and I were at the obstetrician's office to hear the unborn baby's heartbeat. We took the call on my cell phone while we sat in the doctor's waiting room, my agent telling me we'd received a generous offer for the book. I wound up with a two-book deal, which, happily, required me to keep writing. And that is when I became a writer, finally - without ever actually deciding to be one." Interesting. The truly good writers somehow ending up being writers, in spite of themselves in some cases.
Shocker! Publishers may
face anti-trust charges, $9.99 e-books to return?
THE NEWS that the Justice Department's anti-trust division has been investigting the top publishing companies was something of a shock. But when you think about it, it was a no-brainer sort of case for investigators. It was no secret that the publishers were at the end of their rope with Amazon, which was stubborn in its application of the wholesale pricing model that left it free to sell e-books at prices well below what it paid for them. That was a huge win for the book-buying public, but a scary intimation of the future of publishing for industry executives. Apple came along at just the right time, and signed up all the big players with its publisher friendly agency model. That forced Amazon to change it ways.
The big question now is whether the solution formulated by Apple and the publishers violated anti-trust laws. Another big question of course is what role Amazon played in the investigation. No one would be surprised if Amazon played hardball in the wake of its bitter setback at the hands of Steve Jobs.
All this seems to be coming to a head. The leak to the Wall Street Journal could easiily be construed as pressure tactic. Someone wanted to send a message. I fully expect a settlement, as the litigation would be costly and distracting; civil litigation is also underway. And frankly the investigators just might have a strong case. Some think Steve Jobs left something of a smoking gun. If the two parties settle, it will be interesting to see what the remedies are. I doubt we'll see a return to the days of $9.99 Amazon e-books. But what becomes of the agency model is an open question right now.
Here's an article from the New York Times.
to our relaunched publication
AT LONG LAST, we have relaunched this site. As our work and family schedules grew crowded, we unfortunately let the site go dormant for several years. But in the back of our minds, we always knew we would bring it back for our readers, who enjoy books as much as we do. Our intention is to maintain a site for book lovers to check daily for great tips about what to read and who to read and other tidbits of information about the fascinating world of books. We'll even be devling into the wacky publishing industry as the news warrants. For the next year or so, we'll be focusing on fiction, with more attention paid to commercial fiction. But in the end, our tastes are pretty eclectic and we're hoping to once again connect with a broad audience, which made the site so much fun to operate the first time around.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be loading content. So see you soon!