So, pretty much every reader in America has heard about The Passage, right? The buzz book of the summer that puts a new twist on vampires from an author better known for his literary leanings? If you're one of those jaded types who avoids reading the books everyone's talking about, take my word for it—this time around, you'd only be hurting yourself. The Passage is a big fat juicy adventure novel that deserves every ounce of attention it's getting and then some.
Will you be reading The Passage this summer?
Returning to fiction is like sitting down and having stiff drinks or strong coffee with old friends you’ve not seen in years. You miss them deeply, and are so happy to see them, and you can’t believe it’s been so long since you’ve all gotten together. I wrote my first novel, The Joy of Funerals, in 2003. This month, HarperCollins releases my new novel, Based Upon Availability. In between that time and now, I penned two nonfiction books, and so I’ve been looking forward to getting back to a place where one doesn’t need to fact-check, and I can just create the people and situations.
I’m so fascinated by human behavior and the strange, odd and outrageous things people do. And I wanted a place where all of my characters passed by each other, even bleed into each others lives that was very self contained. Based Upon Availability, centers on eight women who pass through the doors of Manhattan's signature, ultra swanky Four Seasons Hotel—either for an hour, for several days, or number of weeks—offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, and even despair. Here, they grapple with family, sex, power, love and death as they explore the basic need for human connection while seeking to understand themselves better.
Truth be told, I have a love affair with hotels, and I secretly long to live in one.
Hotels are sexy and offer a strange kind of mystery, a retreat from real life. I love the idea that you can be anyone from anywhere and that once you've check out, the rooms are stripped down, wiped clean and all traces of you are erased, as if you'd never been there. That was an intriguing concept to play with. I wanted to ask and answer the age-old question; ‘what happens behind closed doors’ while examining the walls we put up as we attempt intimacy, and inspecting the ruins when they’re knocked down.
As a travel writer, I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels—some amazing, some, sadly, not so much—and so for Based Upon Availability , I really wanted to bring some of that experience to the page. I wanted the reader to really get a feel for the inner workings of a property while showing the gritty, sometimes dirty, reality of daily life. I spent a lot of time sitting in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel and stayed in one of the suites. I pretended to be one of the characters—Unlimited Lou, the aging rock star who’s in dire need of detoxing….in fact, she’s brought to the hotel by her publicist to dry out, having failed at the rehab centers. To give it an authentic touch I dangled an unlit cigarette from my lips, slapped on some removable tattoos, brought a bottle of vodka with me—have you seen the prices for a mini bottle of booze?—and played a lot of rock songs I thought the character would like or have written herself. Of course I remained sober for the experience—though I did walk around naked, as the character does, but of course, this may be far more info than anyone wanted to know. . . . Oh, the need to be honest.
I chose the Four Seasons because I’m a fan, mostly because it’s such a signature, classic, and high-end spot for many New Yorkers and out-of-towners, with instant name recognition. It’s also incredibly large with over 350 rooms so there’s a feeling of vastness and anonymity. Hopefully readers won’t have to get on a plane to feel as though they’ve traveled to New York and stayed at the hotel. But rather Based Upon Availability will make them feel as though they have.
And they also win free books! Congrats to Janet and Kristina, winners of our Summer Reading Giveaway, our most-entered contest yet. They will each receive 5 books personally chosen for them by the BookPage editors. We're putting our heads together now . . .
Don't forget to check out this week's contest and win a copy of Anthropology of an American Girl.
From Stephenie Meyer's novella to Justin Cronin's much buzzed-about The Passage, there's a lot going on in publishing this week. As always, BookPage.com will be in on the action. You can especially look forward to the following reviews and features. (Click the book titles to take a sneak preview.)
Is The Passage worth the hype? Trisha says yes in her interview with Justin Cronin
The vampire craze sweeping literature is not unlike the virus that decimates the world in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Sure, there are isolated enclaves of holdouts, defending literature as they know it from the onslaught of supernatural beings, but most of the reading public seems to have developed an insatiable thirst for stories featuring the undead, from writers like Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer.
Read a review of Charles Wohlforth's "intellectual, philosophical" The Fate of Nature
Will present and future generations help protect our planet from neglect and abuse, or will the social and political mechanisms of the market economy win out? In The Fate of Nature, award-winning writer Charles Wohlforth (The Whale and the Supercomputer) argues that humans are inexorably linked to nature and “if we’re to imprint good will on the world, those wishes have to vie in the same arena as our selfishness.”
In the YA realm, Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red puts a modern spin on Little Red Riding Hood. The review's online now, and a Q&A will be published in Wednesday's Reading Corner.
After defending her sister Rosie from a werewolf attack—and losing her grandmother and her eye in the process—Scarlett March resolves to hunt and kill the “Fenris” until every single wolf is dead. To do so, she poses as a confused and scared teenage girl, the favorite prey of the wolves, and then she goes in for the kill. Her desire to slay the werewolves is every bit as brutal as the wolves’ desire to attack. Rosie knows that she owes Scarlett her life, and her devotion to her sister is palpable. However, Rosie finds herself falling for Silas Reynolds, a woodsman also bent on killing the Fenris, and she begins to imagine a life focused on more than just hunting and slaying werewolves.
What books are you buzzing about this week?
This morning we offered the first look at our The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner review to Book of the Day subscribers, but now you can all check it out. The review can be found at this link, and in it Trisha writes that the novella is "poignant and full of Meyer's trademark thwarted love . . . a gift for fans—exactly as Meyer intended."
If you're hooked by the review, you're in luck! From noon today until July 7 at midnight, the novella is available for free online. Note that the text is available only at BreeTanner.com; you can't download it to an e-reader or phone or print it out.
Anyone read Bree Tanner yet?
Publisher's Marketplace posted an interesting nonfiction deal this morning: Paul Tough, author of Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, will publish a book called The Success Equation, "a character-driven exploration of cutting-edge research on success and failure by economists, psychologists, neuroscientists, and animal behaviorists looking at why some children succeed while others fail—and what exactly we can do to move individual children toward their full potential for success." Looks like publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is banking on a hit; the book sold in a "major deal" (aka $500,000 and up).
You may also recognize Tough's name from the New York Times Magazine, where he writes about school reform, childhood development and other education topics. Recent articles include teaching self-control in preschool and education reform as an election issue.
I've been racing through Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I know I'll be itching for another character-driven nonfiction book—maybe The Success Equation will fit the bill? (When it's published in fall 2012, that is.)
Does The Success Equation sound like something you would read?
By the way, if you read Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, you may enjoy new education documentary Waiting for Superman, which features Geoffrey Canada and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.
Stephenie Meyer fans probably don't need a reminder, but just in case your summer reads have you distracted . . . The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner goes on sale tomorrow! The hardcover costs $13.99, and one dollar from every sale will be donated to the American Red Cross. At noon on June 7, you can read the book for free on Meyer's site.
Seth—Meyer's webmaster/little brother—posted a news item today on StephenieMeyer.com: Meyer has created a The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner Playlist, which you can check out here. (Side question: Do you all listen to music while you read? I never do—too distracting—although I can read in almost any public place.)
I'd also like to announce that on Monday morning, we'll be offering an exclusive first look at our review of Bree Tanner to Book of the Day subscribers. If you haven't already signed up for this fun and informative newsletter, you can do so now.
Anyone going to a late-night Bree Tanner release party or downloading the e-book at midnight?
My Google Reader was packed after the long weekend, but I've finally been able to catch up on some blog reading and bookmark a few posts. What posts did you enjoy this week?
Best Netflix Streaming Movies for Readers: Dramas Based on Contemporary Literature
Posted by Jason Boog on GalleyCat
So you can get your book-to-film fix without wasting a second, GalleyCat highlighted literary-themed movies from the "Watch Instantly" section of Netflix. Selections include The Basketball Diaries, Stand By Me, Iris and others. Also don't miss their ten best plays adapted into films. (My hands-down favorite? A Streetcar Named Desire.)
Maximum Consumption: The 10 Best Musical Cookbooks
Posted by Margaret Eby on Flavorpill
Proximity to Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch just might be my favorite thing about living in Nashville, so I was excited to see a blog post on cookbooks from musicians—#1 on the list being You’re Cookin’ It Country by Loretta Lynn. (Butcher Holler Possum, anyone?) Other authors range from Sinatra to Coolio. Do you have a cookbook to add to the list?
A Book Bloggers View Inside NYC’s Publishing Houses
Posted by Natasha on Maw Books Blog
5 Impressions from BookExpo America
Posted by Amy from My Friend Amy
Trisha and Abby tweeted and blogged from BEA and the Book Blogger Convention, but it's always nice to read another perspective. Amy writes about the heightened popularity of book bloggers at BEA, and Natasha takes readers on a tour inside some of New York's biggest publishing houses. Are you a book blogger who posted from BEA/BBC? Feel free to share the URL in our comments section.
Allen Ginsberg, the poet who wrote Howl and gave voice to the Beat Generation's passion and discontent, would have turned 84 today. (He died of liver cancer in 1997.) A new book celebrating Ginsberg's life and the lives of his fellow Beats was released last month: The Typewriter is Holy, by Bill Morgan. As the book's publicist says,
For the last two decades of Allen Ginsberg’s life, Bill Morgan assisted him daily as his bibliographer and archivist. As the author and editor of more than twenty books on the Beat Generation, including I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg (Viking Press, 2006), Morgan, quite simply, knows more about the Beats than anyone alive.
Helen Fielding's beloved Bridget Jones character transitioned successfully from a column in the Independent, to two hugely successful novels (Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), to the screen, earning an Academy Award nomination for Renee Zellweger.
And now, the Guardian reports that it may become a musical, with the score written by British recording artist/actress Lily Allen.
According to the Guardian, Allen "is rumoured to be working with author Helen Fielding to bring a show to London's West End next year." (Although so far she's only finished one number, "a song about poor Bridget contemplating her fridge.")
Would you see a Bridget Jones musical?
For more on books-to-musicals, see posts on Arthur Phillips' The Song is You and Lee Smith’s and Jill McCorkle’s short story stage adaptation.