After five years of silence, acclaimed American writer Ann Beattie will return to fiction this June. Her upcoming release, Walks With Men (Scribner) is described as an “intense” novella that captures New York in the early 1980s (when Beattie came to NYC). It follows a young woman’s infatuation and disillusionment with a writer 20 years her senior. Perhaps the most innovative thing about the book is that it will be published simultaneously in two formats, as is often done in the U.K. The trade paper will be $10, and the hardcover edition, $15.
One of the many reasons I like going to London is that I can often find books from my favorite authors a.) sooner and b.) cheaper, even with the crazy exchange rate, since new releases are published in paperback. If things were done similarly here, would you buy more books?
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
Reagan Arthur / Little Brown, on sale January 18
Three years after a debut that dazzled the literary world (Then We Came to the End) Joshua Ferris returns with a second novel that is both difficult to describe and hard to forget. In The Unnamed, successful corporate lawyer Tim Farnsworth succumbs to a mysterious compulsion—he can't stop walking. At times, the urge strikes so suddenly that Tim darts out of his Manhattan office or his suburban home and pounds the pavement until his feet are bloody and his body collapses in an exhausted heap. As his marathon walks continue, the blinding urge has a devastating effect on Tim's career, his family and his health. The Unnamed challenges readers with its unlikely premise and lures them with writing that is intense, compelling and relentless in its narrative power.
He walked past neighbors' houses, he walked barefoot down Route 22. He walked past the supermarket: empty parking lot and an eerie glow. He walked past the Korean Baptist church and the Saks-anchored mall into the dreams of the late-night drivers who took home the image of some addled derelict in a cotton robe menacing the soft shoulder. He looked down at his legs. It was like watching footage of legs walking from the point of view of the walker. That was the helplessness, this was the terror: the brakes are gone, the steering wheel has locked, I am at the mercy of this wayward machine. It circled him around to the south entrance of the forest preserve. Five, six miles on foot after a fourteen-hour day, he came to a clearing and crashed. The sleep went as quickly as a cut in a film. Now he was standing again, in the cricket racket, forehead moist with sweat, knees rickety, feet cramped, legs aching with lactic acid. And how do you walk home in a robe with any dignity?
Watch for a Meet the Author Q&A with Ferris in the February issue of BookPage and read an interview with Ferris from 2007.
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But in 2010, when it comes to anticipated fiction releases from literary heavyweights, the authors everyone is buzzing about are almost all male. The action starts next month, when Don DeLillo releases Point Omega (Doubleday), his first novel since 2007's Falling Man.
Then on February 23, John Banville will publish The Infinities (Knopf), billed as a literary gem with a playful side that finds immortals vying over the soul of a dying mathematician.
March 29 brings the release of Ian McEwan's Solar (Doubleday), which promises to be as topical as his last novel, 2005's Saturday—it's the story of a physicist who just might have hit on a way to save the planet. (Read our earlier post about this book.)
In April, Australian Peter Carey returns with his first book since His Illegal Self, Parrot and Olivier in America (Knopf). Described as a comic novel, the book is set in the 19th-century United States and is inspired by the real-life experiences of Alex de Tocqueville.
May features a new release from Martin Amis, another major British writer. Will The Pregnant Widow (Knopf), rumored to be his most autobiographical novel yet, be a hit like The House of Meetings, or a flop like the infamous Yellow Dog? We'll find out May 11. And of course on May 25, readers everywhere will be flocking to bookstores to pick up a copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Knopf), the last of Steig Larsson's Lisbeth Salander books.
And finally, June 29 brings the long-awaited fifth novel from David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (Random House). They're dubbing this epic tale, set in 1799 Japan, Mitchell's most ambitious work yet, which is saying something when you're talking about the author of Cloud Atlas.
What 2010 release are you waiting to read?
Since we seem to be on a children’s/YA lit roll, I’ve got another news item to pile on the list. (Don’t worry: We haven’t forgotten about the grownup stuff!)
Beloved YA novelist and Newbery Medalist Katherine Paterson, the author of Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved and many others, has today been named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. She succeeds Jon Scieszka.
According to the Library of Congress, “The position of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” Paterson will serve a two-year term. The focus of her tenure will be “read for your life." (We can get behind that mission!)
In reviewing the book The Same Stuff as Stars, Dean Schneider gives us a glimpse at Paterson’s ability to use books to stretch children’s imaginations and boost their spirits: “[Main character Angel] feels part of the grander scheme of the universe. Just as adults became her guides, so do the stars, and she feels that maybe she, too, might take her lead from those beaming celestial bodies. No matter what other people did or failed to do, you could try yourself to be something like Polaris, shining strong and bright and fixed in a swirling world of darkness.”
Why do you think Paterson will make a great Ambassador for Yong People’s Literature?
On New Year’s Eve, BSC publisher Scholastic distributed a press release with information about The Summer Before. The book will be about, well, the summer before the Baby-Sitter’s Club was founded, detailing a time when four tweens are “on the edge of something big—not just the club that will change their lives, but also the joys and tribulations of being a girl.”
Scholastic hopes the prequel will renew interest in the whole series, and they will also re-release paperbacks of some of the original books, starting with Kristy’s Great Idea. So kids raised on Wii and Webkinz can relate to the books, certain anachronisms (“cassette player”; “perm”) will be updated.
In a recent article from the New York Times, the words “rabid passion” are used to describe the relationship between The BSC and its fans, and I understand. Although I didn’t read all 213 titles of Ann M. Martin’s series, I probably read 100—and I modeled aspects of my life after Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey. (I wanted Kristy’s athletic ability; Mary Anne’s boyfriend/organizational skills; Claudia’s jewelry; and Stacey’s clothes.) Not only were the girls in the series fun, entrepreneurial and relatable. They also dealt with issues like not fitting in at school, arguing with friends, divorce and diabetes. And they resonated with a lot of kids. Baby-Sitters Club books have sold 176 million copies.
What do readers think? Will The Summer Before be a hit? Will passionate fans jump to revisit Kristy and the gang, or is it better not to tamper with a series that’s already great?
What’s your favorite book from the series? I was always partial to the “Super Specials,” especially Super Special #5: California Girls! ("Who would believe it—the Baby-sitters have won the lottery! And with their winning money, the girls are all going with Dawn to... California!") Which girl were you? (I was a Mary Anne/Claudia hybrid, if that's possible.)
Related in BookPage: Read a review of Everything for a Dog, Ann M. Martin’s recent children’s book.
With the announcement of the American Library Association's children's and teen book awards coming up soon (on January 18), it's prediction season in the children's book world. English teacher and children’s book reviewer extraordinaire Dean Schneider, a member of the 2008 Newbery Committee, shares some of his predictions, a number of which he reviewed for BookPage:
Newbery Medal: When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
Newbery Honors: Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary (Elizabeth Partridge); Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Philip M. Hoose); The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly)
Caldecott Medal: The Lion & The Mouse (Jerry Pinkney)
Caldecott Honors: All the World (Elizabeth Garton Scanlon)
Printz Medal: Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco X. Stork)
Printz Honors: Lips Touch by Laini Taylor; Fire (Kristin Cashore)
Sibert Medal: Charles & Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Deborah Heiligman)
Sibert Honors: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Philip M. Hoose); Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary (Elizabeth Partridge); Truce (Jim Murphy); A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom (Jim Murphy)
Do you have any other predictions? Also, be sure to bookmark the Children's Page on BookPage.com. In the bottom left corner, we highlight award winners from the past. This week we're featuring 2006 Caldecott Honor Book Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier.
This morning I came across a book trailer for Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s debut YA novel, A Whole Nother Story (the book came out a couple weeks ago). The trailer cracked me up, and I thought you might enjoy something silly to kick off your week:
If you're a Lemony Snicket fan, I think Dr. Cuthbert Soup, who has a similar mysterious persona, will hit the spot. Here’s a preview of his writing, from a behind-the-book essay in BookPage:
I had my motivation but did I have a story to tell and, more importantly, would my story be worthy of that coveted slot between War and Peace and Wart Removal For Dummies? After all, the last thing I wanted was to write a book that would find itself lying on a table beneath a sign reading, “Books for under three dollars” or” Books: twelve cents a pound” or “Free kindling.” Actually the last thing I wanted was to be eaten alive by a swarm of larger-than-average ants. Still, authoring an uninteresting book was fairly high on the list of things I did not want to happen.
Happy New Year!
To set the tone for 2010, we're giving away the paperback version of one of 2009's hottest mystery debuts. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in a new series starring precocious preteen sleuth Flavia de Luce, who solves mysteries in 1950s England between bouts with her two older sisters.
In our review, BookPage contributor Arlene McKanic said that "Readers will want more, much more, of Flavia de Luce!" If you want to find out what all the fuss is about before the sequel, The Weed that Strings the Handman's Bag, comes out in March, leave a comment telling us about the best mystery YOU read last year. We'll pick a winner from among the entries received before 10 am CST on January 4. Good luck!
I’m always interested in discovering new authors, and a couple weeks ago I was intrigued by an obituary for Milorad Pavic, a Serbian novelist who died on Nov. 30, at age 80. I haven't read any of Pavic’s books, but it seems that readers who love language and nonlinear narratives would find a gold mine in his novels.
Dictionary of the Khazars, from 1988, is organized (you guessed it) like a dictionary. According to the New York Times, the novel, “which purports to be the republication of a late-17th-century dictionary printed in poison ink, opens encouragingly:
The author assures the reader that he will not have to die if he reads this book, as did the user of the 1691 edition, when ‘The Khazar Dictionary’ still had its first scribe.” Ha!
Landscape Painted With Tea, another of Pavic’s novels, is organized as a crossword puzzle: “Readers may approach the book chronologically by reading only the “Across” sections, or less chronologically and with more digressions by reading the “Down” sections. Either strategy gradually reveals the story of a soul-searching architect who roams a labyrinth of meditation and memory.”
That description reminded me of a novel I’ve been working at reading for a couple of years now. (I know you all have one: the book you keep picking up and putting down again—but dang it you will finish it!) Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch is structured in an equally unusual fashion as Pavic’s books; you can either read it in direct sequence, from beginning to end. . . or you can “hopscotch” through the book’s chapters by following a table provided by Cortázar. (I think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for grownups.)
Since I’m compiling my reading list for 2010, I wondered if readers had suggestions for other wackily-structured novels, or authors who employ an unusual device in their writing.
As 2010 rolls around, I know many of you will be making picks for a book club you’ve been a part of for years, or you’ll be joining a new group. (Or, maybe you’ve got your picks lined up months in advance. If so, please share the titles in the comments!)
My mom recently joined a book club in Arkansas, and I know she’s excited about January and February: Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo and Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage are on the docket.
If you’re just starting a club, BookPage has many resources: We have a book club column in the print edition of BookPage (click here for December’s highlighted books); and we’ve got an entire page dedicated to all things book club on BookPage.com, where you can learn about new books out in paperback, write a profile about your club or review books your group enjoyed.
What books will your club be reading in 2010?