• Earlier this week, we wished Flannery O'Connor a Happy Birthday. Then Writers' Houses allowed us to take a tour of the stately Savannah, Georgia, townhouse where she grew up. The best part? The picture (right) of her intently reading as a child.
• Speaking of houses, the folks at Book Riot have imagined some of our favorite literary characters—Elizabeth and Darcy, James Bond, and Ron and Hermione—appearing on HGTV's "House Hunters" (one of our guilty pleasures).
• How do you drum up buzz for yet another dating advice self-help book? Create a thoroughly charming book trailer starring some of the most adorable kids around!
• Flavorwire posted two treats for book lovers this week: a photo collection of famous authors (yes, including Flannery O'Connor) as teenagers and a bunch of pics of staff picks shelves in indie bookstores across the country.
• We lapped up this Huffington Post article, which gives a fascinating—albeit brief—history of book vending machines.
• In case you missed it, here's Junot Díaz on The Colbert Report.
• Women's History Month is winding down. Don't let it end without checking out The Big Read's list of favorite women writers. Are there any women you would add to the list?
• And, finally, on Wednesday, Flavorwire posted a list of 12 of the coolest librarians alive. People responded in droves, nominating their favorite librarians. Ten made the cut for a special readers' choice list.
I had from earliest childhood a sense that there was no skin between me and the world. I saw things other people didn't see.
• Elizabeth Hand •
(Check out Elizabeth Hand on BookPage.com.)
Writers are the exorcists of their own demons.
• Mario Vargas Llosa •
Librarians have always been cool in our book, but that opinion seems to be going mainstream. This afternoon, Flavorwire posted a fabulous list of "10 of the Coolest Librarians Alive." Right on! We just think the list needs to be a lot longer.
There's also been a lot of buzz around the May release of The World's Strongest Librarian, a memoir based on Salt Lake City librarian Josh Hanagarne's popular blog about books and weightlifting. Stay tuned because we'll be reviewing the book in our May issue.
What say you, readers? Who do you think needs to be added to the list, and what makes him or her cool in your book?
Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World
by Matthew Goodman
Ballantine • $28.00 • ISBN 9780345527264
Published February 26, 2013
I must admit that I had never heard of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's race around the globe before picking up Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days—which amazes me because it's the kind of fascinating true-story adventure that novelists wish they could dream up: Two young female journalists departing New York within hours of each other on November 14, 1889, traveling in opposite directions, each alone and attempting to make her way around the world (28,000 miles!) in less than eighty days, a timeframe established in Jules Verne's 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. How could this have been left out of my history textbooks, and why hadn't I ever played with a Nellie Bly doll—complete with her infamous checked overcoat and wool ghillie cap—instead of Barbie? Thank you, Mr. Goodman, for introducing me to these amazing trailblazers.
Trains, ferries, steamboats; Ceylon, London, Hong Kong, the Sierra Nevada; monsoons, 20-feet-deep snowdrifts, the humid tropics of the South China Sea—Eighty Days brims with details that plant readers right in the thick of the action, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining page-turner. I can't wait to see who wins, but I'm certainly going to enjoy the ride in the meantime.
Be sure to check out our review of the book, and here's an excerpt describing Nellie's departure from New York aboard the Augusta Victoria:
November 14, 1889
New York Harbor
There was a blast from a horn. At 9:40 a.m., with a sudden shiver of movement, the Augusta Victoria pulled away from the Hoboken pier. Nellie Bly stood at the port rail with the other passengers and waved her cap to those she was leaving behind; she could not help but wonder if she would ever see them again. Seventy-five days, which had seemed so short in the planning, now seemed an age. Smoke poured from the ship's three funnels in thick black columns, then turned an irresolute gray and dissipated into the sky. The timbers of the deck thrummed softly beneath her feet. Behind her, just beyond the greenery of the Battery, the Tribune’s brick clock tower, seeming part schoolhouse, part church steeple, rose over the city's newspaper district; before the day was out, Bly knew, her name would be repeated a thousand times there, in every newsroom and beanery and oyster saloon, wherever the men of the press congregated.
What are you reading this week? Will you be adding Eighty Days to your reading list?
The reason that I write about small towns is that I love them so much. That's where all human experience is, on a very small canvas.
• Patrick McCabe •
. . . F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published. Bolstered by his newfound fame and fortune, he promptly marched down to Montgomery, Alabama, to marry his love, Zelda.
The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
• Flannery O'Connor •
• The literary world lost one of its greats today. Chinua Achebe has passed away, but no doubt his masterpiece Things Fall Apart will continue to be read by students around the world.
• The Los Angeles Times shares an adorably spunky job inquiry letter that Eudora Welty sent to the New Yorker back in 1933. We would have hired her!
• BuzzFeed has compiled a fun collection of bookplates from 35 famous folks, from Henry Houdini and Walt Disney to Charles Dickens and Sigmund Freud.
• Can you imagine having David Foster Wallace or Vladimir Nabokov as a professor? Flavorwire has assembled recollections of super-lucky students who were in classes taught by literary superstars.
• It's always interesting to hear recordings of writers who are long-gone. Brain Pickings has posted an excerpt of Ernest Hemingway's 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature acceptance speech, along with the story behind why he didn't attend the ceremony.
• A fascinating article from The Atlantic examines how feminism has finally seeped into the romance book genre.
• Of course, we know that books aren't going anywhere, but Fine Books & Collections has posted a list of 10 reassuring signs that should sway even pessimists.
• We can always count on McSweeney's for a chuckle or two and weren't let down by An Open Letter to Canonical Authors.
• Move over tattoos—Buzzfeed has assembled a fun photo collection of literary graffiti from around the world.
• The New York Times has us on pins and needles waiting for next month's release of The Selected Letters of Willa Cather.
Knowledge is valuable, but imagination is invaluable.
• James Patterson •