Maryglenn McCombs is a local book publicist and a great friend to BookPage. Maryglenn emailed us with a great story this morning, and we just had to share:
Those of you who know me probably know that I love dogs—especially my beloved and humongous Old English Sheepdog, Garcia. Some of you have any suggested that I am obsessed with Garcia. (Note the absence of denial.) Most of you probably also know that I am, by trade, a book publicist who loves books. I am writing to share a story about the unusual collision of my love of dogs and love of books.
Please let me introduce one of my all-time favorite mystery writers, Don Bruns (www.donbrunsbooks.com) with whom I have worked for years.
When Don came to me with the idea for his ninth novel, I asked (okay, begged) that he consider including Garcia, in all his Old English Sheepdog glory, as a character in the book.
Well, he did.
And much to Don’s surprise, Garcia wound up “taking over” the plot and ultimately becoming a major character in Don’s new novel, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, which Oceanview Publishing will release in hardcover and eBook on December 6, 2010. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is a hilarious mystery about two stumbling, bumbling amateur detectives who get mixed up in investigating a crazy traveling carnival show—and nearly lose their lives in the process of contending with a cantankerous cast of carnies who don’t take kindly to the investigation.
The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt
Knopf, October 2009
Like Nesbit, Olive Wellwood belongs to the Fabian Society, a group that advocated for democratic socialism and social reforms, and the novel concerns itself with progressive social and artistic movements as well as fairy tales and folklore. It's a complex book, with many threads brought together by Byatt's typically gorgeous and atmospheric prose. I'm only on page 112, but I can't wait to dig deeper into this book and experience the scope of Byatt's story, which eventually encompasses the period leading up to World War I and the end of England's Edwardian era.
In the section below, the Wellwoods and some of their friends are watching a German marionette show:
An illusion is a complicated thing, and an audience is a complicated creature. Both need to be brought from flyaway parts to a smooth, composite whole. The world inside the box, a world made of silk, satin, china mouldings, wires, hinges, painted backcloths, moving lights and musical notes, must come alive with its own laws of movement, its own rules of story. And the watchers, wide-eyed and greedy, distracted and supercilious, preoccupied, uncomfortable, tense, must become one, as a shoal of fishes with huge eyes and flickering fins becomes one, wheeling this way and that in response to messages of hunger, fear or delight. August's flute was heard, and some were ready to listen and some were not. The curtains opened on a child's bedroom. He sat against his pillows. His nurse, in comfortable grey, bustled about him, and her shadow loomed over him on the white wall.
She told the small Nathanael about the Sandman. "He steals the eyes of naughty little children," she said, comfortably, "and feeds them to his own children, who live in a nest on the moon, and open their beaks like owlets."
There was a heavy tap-tap of slow feet ascending the stairs. The backcloth showed the shadow of the turning of the banister, and the rising head and shoulders of the shadow of the old man, hook-nosed, hump-backed, claw-handed, stump, stump, his coat-skirts swinging.
The puppet-child pulled the blankets over his head, and the stage darkened.
Yesterday we posted about a big deal for a post-apocalyptic novel—today I wanted to mention this deal for writer Benjamin Percy, whose first novel The Wilding "speaks of an author with many more tricks up his sleeve," according to BookPage reviewer Jillian Quint. Previously published with Greywolf Press, Percy has sold "a timely reinvention of the werewolf myth set in the American West" to Grand Central. The book is tentatively titled Red Moon.
In an interview with Powells, Percy says he will be turning the manuscript in next month.
It's a literary-genre-hybrid-mash-up — so no compromises with the language, but it's a horror story. . . . I had 90 polished pages by the end of the summer, and a 20-page pitch. My agent sent it off after Labor Day. And on Monday, crazily, these huge preempt offers came in. Then it went to auction on Wednesday, and a bidding war ensued for six hours.
Reading about the movie adaptation of Life of Pi, I was reminded of a deal announcement from Publisher's Marketplace (posted yesterday):
Charlotte Rogan's THE LIFEBOAT, a story set at the turn of the twentieth century, about a wealthy young woman whose life is forever altered when the ship she is honeymooning on mysteriously explodes and she is cast adrift on an overcrowded lifeboat with thirty-nine strangers, to Andrea Walker at Reagan Arthur Books.
What weird settings are you attracted to?
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?
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?
But BookPage readers already know all about Nicole Krauss' National Book Award-nominated third novel after reading the interview in our October issue—right?
If not, here's a second chance to read BookPage contributor Stephenie Harrison's chat with the author, who turned out to be friendly, candid and down-to-earth as well as talented. "If there’s such a thing as a pragmatic poet, Krauss is it," says Harrison. Read the rest of the Nicole Krauss interview about Great House—or check out our 2005 interview with her about The History of Love.
Pat Conroy announced the National Book Award Finalists today at the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home in Savannah, Georgia.
There are certainly some surprises on the list—small press representation; an absence of Jonathan Franzen; the presence of rocker Patti Smith—along with a few BookPage favorites, like Nicole Krauss, Lionel Shriver and Rita Williams-Garcia.
According to an announcement from the National Book Foundation, this year's bunch of Finalists includes 13 women—"the largest number of women Finalists in a single year in the Awards' history."
Without further ado, here is the list. Click the links to read BookPage reviews.
Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America (Knopf)
Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co.)
Nicole Krauss, Great House (Norton)
Lionel Shriver, So Much for That (Harper)
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel (Coffee House Press)
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Spiegel & Grau)
John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq
Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco)
Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (FSG)
Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War (Doubleday)
Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City (Princeton University Press)
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead (Viking Penguin)
James Richardson, By the Numbers (Copper Canyon Press)
C.D. Wright, One with Others (Copper Canyon Press)
Monica Youn, Ignatz (Four Way Books)
Young People's Literature
Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker (Little, Brown & Co.)
Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird (Philomel Books)
Laura McNeal, Dark Water (Alfred A. Knopf)
Walter Dean Myers, Lockdown (Amistad)
Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer (Amistad)
Which books do you hope will win? What books did not make the list that should have?
Winners will be announced on November 17 in New York.
Another surprise prizewinner for the 2010 season: Howard Jacobson nabs the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question, just published today in the U.S.
Betting on the prize in the U.K. had to be closed early after they got a flood of bids on Tom McCarthy's C, but apparently Jacobson's novel exploring "what it means to be Jewish today in the UK" took the prize in a 3-2 vote. Andrew Motion, Chair judge of the committee, says that "The Finkler Question is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize" of 50,000 pounds (about $79,000).
Check back on Monday for an excerpt from the book—and a chance to win your own copy.
My spring reading list keeps getting longer and longer . . . and I like it that way! One of the best short story collections of the decade, David Bezmozgis' Natasha "packs a devastating wallop as it describes what it means to be a foreigner," as BookPage reviewer Ian Schwartz put it in his glowing 2004 review. So we weren't too terribly surprised when the Latvian-born writer became one of the New Yorker's "Top 20 Under 40"
Bezmozgis' long-awaited first novel, The Free World (FSG), will be published on March 29. Set in the late 1970s, in the shadow of Brezhnev and the Cold War, the novels follows the Krasnansky family, who are trying to leave Russia but end up in Italy instead of Israel (the destination of choice for most emigrés) on their way to North America. Canadian publishing magazine The Quill & Quire reports that "according to Bezmozgis’s Canadian publisher, Iris Tupholme, the characters could be the parents and grandparents of the characters in Natasha." The New Yorker has an excerpt here.