The year's scariest holiday is right around the corner. If you're looking for a book to get you in the Halloween spirit, allow us to offer up a few off-the-beaten-path ideas from the BookPage Archives.
Game Control by Lionel Shriver
HarperPerennial • $13.95 • July 3, 2007 (originally published 1994)
Getting through Lionel Shriver's backlist is taking more time than it normally does when I discover an author I like (I picked up Kevin, my first Shriver, in February of 2007). Her earlier books are hard to come by in the real world (two are completely out of print), and I've resisted ordering them online—partly because I want to save/savor them, and partly because I tend to stumble on them in bookstores at just the right time to read them.
Such was the case with Game Control, which I came across just after finishing Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. The two books, though written 16 years apart, have common threads in the theme of population control and the fevered fanaticism of the characters who believe in it. Franzen's Walter Berglund wants to stop people from having children—Shriver's Calvin Piper takes things a step further, proposing that culling the human population is the only way to save the planet. We meet him through American do-gooder Eleanor Merritt, who despite herself ends up charmed by the misanthropic Englishman (if not entirely converted to his cause). Can the human race be saved without sacrificing what makes us human?
Like all Shriver's novels, the book poses more questions than answers, but it's not all about issues. Game Control is engrossing and darkly funny, as you can see in the excerpt below, in which Eleanor recalls her first meeting with Calvin 16 years earlier:
Halfway through dinner at the luxury hotel, [Eleanor] had been overcome by nausea. . . . She was gripped by anxiety that she had no personality at all, and concluded that if she had failed to concoct it by twenty-one, it was now time to make one up.
"I can't eat this," she announced, fists on the cloth. "I'm sorry. The idea of our sitting here paying hundreds of shillings for shellfish while people right outside the door starve—it makes me sick."
Calvin nimbly kept eating. "If you truly have ambitions to work in the Third World, young lady, you'll have to develop a less delicate stomach."
"How can you!" she exclaimed, exasperated as he started on another prawn. "After we've spent all day forecasting worldwide famine by the year 2000!"
"That's just the kind of talk that whets my appetite."
"Well, it kills mine."
"If you feel so strongly about it," he suggested, "go feed them your dinner."
Eleanor had picked up her plate and left the restaurant. One of the waiters came running after her, since she'd marched off with their china. Eleanor looked left and right and had to walk a couple of blocks to find a beggar, and was promptly confronted with the logistical problem of delivering her food aid and returning the plate. So she stood dumbly by the cripple with elephantiasis, whose eyes were either uncomprehending or insulted. He rattled his tin, where she could hardly muck shrimp, now could she? It struck her, as the saffron sauce dripped from the gilt-edged porcelain, that just because you could not walk did not mean you had no standards of behaviour, which parading about Nairobi with a half-eaten hotel entrée after dark clearly did not meet.
What are you reading this week?
an unknown Indian teen, Suraj Sharma, according to Variety. The 17-year-old beat out more than 3,000 other actors to play the role of a young man stuck on a life raft with a tiger in the 3D film, which has a December 2012 release date. Ang Lee is set to direct.
Read more about Life of Pi and Yann Martel's other books on BookPage.com, or listen to our podcast about Beatrice & Virgil, Martel's most recent—and most controversial!—novel.
Tomorrow's edition of Reading Corner is all about spooky books for Halloween—from a thought provoking picture book from Jon J Muth to the latest teen novel by Rick Yancey.
It was a lot of fun to put this issue together because Halloween was always my favorite holiday during childhood. Besides the obscene amount of candy and the dressing up, I also loved October 31 for the books.
I haven't lived at home for years, but I would bet my mom still puts out a basket filled with tattered copies of The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat, The Soup Bone, Little Witch and various craft books with ideas like, "peeled grapes in a bowl feel just like eyeballs!"
What are your favorite kids books for Halloween?
Sign up for Reading Corner for chilling suggestions (okay, some of them are just fun!). As usual, tomorrow's issue includes a super giveaway.
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has been making people laugh since the mid-1990s. Best known for his "you might be a redneck if" jokes, he also appeared on "Blue Collar TV" and currently hosts the popular game show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?"
Now he turns his hand to children's literature with Hide!!!, and in a Q&A he tells BookPage why it's important for children to get off the couch:
"I recently read an article that said that children that play outside develop better problem solving skills and have a stronger ability to work within a group. But my generation, as parents, has been so overprotective that we have taken away many of those opportunities. I'm not sure how you fix it."
Most of our impressions of Cleopatra come from Shakespeare or Elizabeth Taylor—and, as author Stacy Schiff says in this book trailer, "all of those fabulous paintings with all those naked breasts."
But to understand the real Queen of Egypt—"the very commanding, very clever, very quick-witted ruler"—we have to get past all that:
In her new book, writes BookPage reviewer Anne Bartlett, "Cleopatra is not the sexually voracious, treacherous poisoner who seduced Julius Caesar and destroyed Mark Antony. Rather, she is an intelligent, able ruler who did nothing that male kings didn’t do routinely."
Cleopatra: A Life comes out November 1. Will you pick it up?
What book trailers have you watched recently?
Book trailers have come a long way—as we've seen with the videos we highlight every week on Trailer Tuesday—but sometimes the simplest route is the best. In this video from Penguin, John le Carré reads an excerpt from his latest book, Our Kind of Traitor (read the BookPage review). His dramatic performance, complete with accents, is a pleasure to listen to.
Of course, book trailer diehards can always turn to the more conventional video for the book from le Carré's New Zealand publisher:
Which approach do you prefer?
Today we welcomed Rick Springfield to the BookPage offices. In a video interview (coming to our YouTube Channel on Monday!) Fiction Editor Abby Plesser asked the author—who, as a voracious reader, was very interested in the office bookcases—about his candid new memoir, his family life, his music and more. One moment that we didn't get on camera: Springfield says that more than one fan has told him that after reading Late, Late at Night, they were inspired to smell their dog's feet. "You were right: they smell good!"
Look for more Springfield on Monday. Until then, rock out on this Friday afternoon to the original "Jessie's Girl" video from 1981.
Since writing about my search for the perfect audiobook on Monday, I have discovered my new favorite toy at the Nashville Public Library: Playaway. I'd heard about the device, but I finally decided to give it a try.
Playaway is an audio player pre-loaded with an audiobook. You check out the entire player (mine even had a AAA battery included), plug in your earbuds and listen away. In other words, you don't have to check out the player and check out individual books—if you want five books, you check out five pre-loaded players.
It's convenient because you can move from the car (I listened with a tape adapter) to the gym to walking around town with ease. Whenever you press "Pause," the player remembers your spot and will start back up right where you left off. Plus, the thing can't weigh more than a few ounces—less than a book!—and fits easily in my purse. (I know this sounds like an infomercial, but folks, this thing is handy.)
According to the company's website, there are more than 10,000 book titles available in this format. So now I am obsessively checking to see which books on my TBR list are available on Playaway at my library branch . . .
My very unscientific research has caused me to wonder how many people know about this technology: Mockingjay in print has 60 holds at my library system (to be expected), and Mockingjay on CD has 13 holds. But Mockingjay on Playaway is available.
Do any readers of The Book Case check out Playaway audiobooks from the library?
Because everyone loves a good blog series (like this one!), I thought you would enjoy hearing about a couple of recurring posts I enjoy following.
Wondrous Words Wednesday
Posted by Julie on Booking Mama
This series is hosted by Kathy at Bermuda Onion, although I originally came across it on Booking Mama. Every Wednesday, bloggers share new words they have discovered in their reading. For example, in reading Jackson Taylor's The Blue Orchard, Julie learned "mansard" and "accoucheur." (Don't know what they mean? You'll have to follow the link to find out.)
I love this idea because it encourages active reading. . . I am certainly guilty of skimming over a word I've never seen before and figuring out the basic meaning through context clues—but Wondrous Words Wednesday gives me a great reason to read with a pencil in hand.
Harrowing Historicals in October!
Posted by Allie on Hist-Fic Chick
This post introduces the Harrowing Historicals series hosted by Allie of Hist-Fic Chick and Nicole of Linus’s Blanket. Here's a description of the project:
Each day of the month at witching hour (12 midnight, EST), Nicole and I will feature a different historical fiction (and a few fun non-fiction!) read that has a Halloween tie-in. Because let’s face it – history is fraught with some scary stuff! Join us for chats on the history of vampires, Queens who died in gruesome ways, what it’s like to consult psychic mediums for historical fiction research, and scary personages like Elizabeth Bathory and Jack the Ripper. It’s going to be an exciting month filled with all things spooky history!
And of course for Halloween, there has to be some treats! Leaving a comment throughout the event on any Harrowing Historical post (here or on Linus’s Blanket) will enter you for a chance to win one of several awesome Harrowing Historical prize packs.
What blog posts about books did you enjoy this week? What blog series do you follow?