Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
May 2001, Pocket
I recently devoured Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed (which I would highly recommend) and have just started on Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed. Weiner didn’t become one of the queens of women’s fiction (In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, this summer’s Best Friends Forever) for nothing, and Good in Bed is just plain good so far.
In the first chapter, we meet Cannie Shapiro, a twentysomething reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper, who has just parted ways with her boyfriend, Bruce. A normal work day becomes anything but when Cannie’s best friend calls her to suggest she check out the latest issue of Moxie, a women’s magazine, and turn to page 132:
I sat, opened the M & M’s, eased a few into my mouth, and flipped to page 132, which turned out to be "Good in Bed," Moxie’s regular male-written feature designed to help the average reader understand what her boyfriend was up to . . . or wasn’t up to, as the case might be. At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. “Loving a Larger Woman,” said the headline, “By Bruce Guberman.” Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over two years, until we’d mutually decided to take a break three months ago. And the Larger Woman, I could only assume, was me.
You know how in scary books a character will say, “I felt my heart stop?” Well, I did. Really. Then I felt it start to pound again, in my ears, my throat, my fingertips. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. My hands felt icy. I could hear the blood roaring in my ears, as I read the first line of the article: “I’ll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did.
Good news for Weiner fans: Best Friends Forever comes out in paperback in May, and Weiner's latest novel, Fly Away Home goes on sale in July. What's your favorite book by Jennifer Weiner?
British author Andrew Grant hit the thriller scene in a big way with his 2009 debut, Even. Starring rogue spy David Trevellyan, the novel was a favorite of Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, among others, and marked the launch of a series that will continue in May with Die Twice. Recently Grant traveled from his home in Birmingham, England, to participate in a conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Here, he gives a behind-the-scenes look at the weekend's events.
Half an hour from the airport, bogged down in heavy traffic, threading our way through the lattice of raised, sweeping concrete highways towards Birmingham city centre. I was starting to feel right at home. But this wasn’t spaghetti junction, and we weren’t in the heartland of England. We were in Birmingham, Alabama, on our way to the Murder in the Magic City writing conference—followed by the annual Murder on the Menu dinner in nearby Wetumpka—over the weekend of February 6 and 7. The first included talks by authors, featuring best-selling writers S.J. Rozan and C.J. Box on Saturday, and the second was a ‘moving feast’ with the same 16 crime fiction authors on Sunday.
Both days offered a wonderful opportunity to meet enthusiastic readers, talk to other writers and listen to a wide variety of stimulating and informative panels. I’d be hard pressed to say which I enjoyed more, but was delighted to part of two evenings that were not only enjoyable, but which raised funds for two very worthwhile causes—the national Crime Lab project, and the Wetumpka Public Library.
I am apparently a rare creature—a beer-drinking book club member. While my fellow book clubbers are sipping Chardonnay, I'm happily chugging down a cold beer, preferably a Bud Light (my beer of choice).
So imagine my surprise at the outcry that's greeted the Super Bowl commercial in which a Bud-loving guy crashes an all-female book club meeting. Who can blame the guy, after all? He spots a bowl of ice-cold Bud on a table and decides to join the group with scintillating discussion questions like this one: "So, what's the story?"
Ed Champion, among others, is outraged, describing the spot as "Madison Avenue Misogyny." He finds the ad sexist, anti-reading and way too sexually suggestive. To which I can only reply: c'mon, lighten up! The commercial was meant to be funny, and to me at least, it was. Also, as some commentators have pointed out, the ladies at the book club were the ones who set out the bottles of Bud (go girls!). They were ready to kick back with a beer and a good book and enjoy a conversation with friends. Not a bad idea from my perspective, and a not a bad way to portray books and reading. It's the guy who comes off as an dim-witted lout who can't follow the discussion.
Now if I could just get my own book club to change its name from "Wine, Women & Words" to something that's more inclusive for beer drinkers like me.
Her YA art caper novel, Heist Society, hits stores today, and you can read all about it in an interview on BookPage.com. I talked to Carter (also the author of the bestselling Gallagher Girls series) about the book in December and am excited that teens can finally read the book for themselves. (Imagine if Julia Roberts' and George Clooney's characters in Ocean's 11 had a daughter. Who staged a huge heist as a teenager. That would be Kat, the star of Heist Society.)
Carter was a lot of fun to talk to (In response to “How to you feel about Valentine’s Day?” she answered: “Valentine’s Day is the day before all the chocolates go on sale”), so yesterday I was happy to see that Publisher’s Lunch reported a major film rights deal concerning Heist Society. The film rights were optioned to Warner Brothers for seven figures. Denise Di Novi (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) is slated to produce.
On her blog, Carter wrote: “The whole time I was writing Heist I always thought of it as a movie. More than once I've said that it's far more cinematic than anything I've ever done. But what do I know, right? I also think cake is a well-balanced breakfast, so I'm wrong. A lot. . . At the end of the day we ended up signing with Warner Brothers and the talented Denise DiNovi as the producer. The screenplay will be written by the fabulous Shauna Cross (who wrote Whip It and the screenplay for If I Stay).” She also reminded readers that a film option is not a guarantee that a movie will get made—but it’s a step in the right direction.
So commenters: Who would you pick to play Kat, the daughter of notorious art thieves, or her love interest Hale? What’s your favorite heist book?
HCI Books, the company that publishes the Chicken Soup books, announced today that they have created a “new subgenre” of romance novels: fantasy meets reality. (When I read about this, I’ll admit that the first thing that popped into my head is a line from David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice: “It’s these real-life dramas that tend to draw a larger audience. Why? I chalk it up to five simple words we use in every print or televised promotion. Five words: ‘Based Upon a True Story.’”)
The idea is that real-life couples can share a “sexy, steamy, bigger-than-life, or just plain worthwhile love story” and romance authors will write a novel based on the truth. The line of books will be called "Vows," and book one, Hard to Hold, comes out in October 2010.
Written by Julie Leto, Hard to Hold is about a woman who falls in love with a man with Tourette’s Syndrome. The pub copy also alludes to a second hurdle in the relationship. My curiosity got the best of me, and I searched the couple’s names online. Turns out they had the lead wedding story in the Sunday New York Times in August, so you can get the juicy details now, if you’d like.
The cheesy factor is certainly amped in the Vows books. (“When fantasy meets reality anything can happen. Believe it. It’s true.”) And as someone who spends hours a week engrossed in fiction, I take issue with the line from HCI’s promotional copy asserting that “the best things in life—and in romance—are real.” (Father Ralph and Meggie are real, too... to me!)
But I can still recognize that this is a very clever concept that’s perfectly suited for the age of Facebook and Google stalking and The Bachelor. When I finish a book, I love to find out everything I possibly can about the author. With the Vows books you’ll be able to do the same with the main characters. Plus, their story will keep on going when you finish the novel, which is an interesting idea.
What do you think, readers? Are you more interested in a romance novel that’s Based Upon a True Story—is truth stranger (or rather, steamier) than fiction? Or are romance plots best developed in a writer’s imagination?
For some traditional romance, check out Christie Ridgway’s February column in BookPage.
Young adult author Barry Lyga recently signed a deal with Little, Brown for a book that Publisher's Marketplace described as "'Dexter' meets 'The Silence of the Lambs' for teens, about a teen boy who uses his killer instinct, inherited from his serial killer father, to help solve a series of gruesome murders." The book, I HUNT KILLERS, will be published in spring 2012.
Lyga is a rising star in the field of teen fiction, with four YA novels under his belt, all set in the town of South Brook, Maryland. I wonder if I HUNT KILLERS will take place in South Brook as well — and if so, should fans of his earlier books fear for the lives of their favorite characters? But even if the place and people are all new, Lyga's ability to create fully realized and believable characters will no doubt have me hiding under the covers with a flashlight, frantically turning the pages to find out who survives.
Related in BookPage: A Q&A with Lyga about his most recent book, Goth Girl Rising.
And a question for readers: What was the scariest book you read as a teenager?
We were happy to hear that Libba Bray has signed a contract with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to write a new YA series for major bucks—$2 million, rumor has it. Editor Megan Tingley (who also publishes Stephenie Meyer) will be working with Bray on The Diviners, a trilogy set in the 1920s. Bray describes the series as "a wild new ride full of dames and dapper dons, jazz babies and Prohibition-defying parties, conspiracy and prophecy—and all manner of things that go bump in the neon-drenched night.”
Bray's success comes on the heels of winning the Printz Medal for Going Bovine, a picaresque tale of a teenage boy searching for a cure for mad cow disease, but she is also known for her atmospheric Victorian-era series that started with A Great and Terrible Beauty and contains supernatural elements.
One mystery: in our interview with Bray, she told us her work-in-progress was something quite different, “a satire about a group of teen beauty queens whose plane crashes on a deserted island. Sort of Lord of the Flies as channeled by P.J. O’Rourke and [National Lampoon writer] Doug Kenney.” Though we're eager to see what she makes of the 1920s, we're hoping this intriguing project will also see the light of day!
Keep your eyes on The Book Case for more giveaways!
All you have to do is look at our February cover to know we’re excited about Valentine’s Day here at BookPage. To celebrate even more, we’re giving away a box of beautiful picture books—a perfect gift for any child. The collection features both board books for babies and picture books for young readers, including:
Related in BookPage: See our Valentine’s Day coverage (relationship guides and memoirs, romance column and more) in the February print edition.
Here’s another question for you. Does popular fiction translate on the stage?
If you loved Lee Smith’s The Last Girls or Jill McCorkle’s Going Away Shoes, you may want to make a trip to NYC: Paul Fergusen has adapted their stories into a play called Good Ol’ Girls, which seeks to celebrate "childhood through old age with big hair and bigger hearts.” Music is by Marshall Chapman and Matraca Berg, and previews start Feb. 8.
BookPage columnist Julie Hale dubbed Smith “the mistress of modern Southern literature” and The Last Girls a “sassy classic.” McCorkle has been called an “acute observer of the foibles of domestic life.” What do you think—will their stories be a hit in an Off-Broadway production?
Related in BookPage: Read an interview with Smith.