We at BookPage seem to be slightly obsessed with PBS's literary programming. (OK, maybe it's just me.) Another great miniseries is up to bat starting this Sunday: "Return to Cranford." It's a sequel to the 2008 series based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novel of the same name, "Cranford," which won two Emmys and three BAFTAs (until January 10, the original "Cranford" is online). "Return to Cranford" will air in two installments on January 10 and January 17.
Starring some of the U.K.'s most talented actors of a certain age, including Dame Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton, the Cranford episodes are as charming as Gaskell's novel, and full of compassion and humor. Based on Gaskell's hometown of Knutford, in Cheshire, Cranford is a village peopled mostly by women. Above the usual small-town conflicts, the larger specter of modernization—factories and railroads, which were just starting to transform the landscape in the early 1840s—looms, a fact that some in the series adjust to better than others. Imagine Lake Wobegone crossed with "The Golden Girls," and you'll have some idea of the appeal of this warm and welcoming series, which is full of delightfully eccentric characters. But the book (and series) is not all warm fuzzies; the women of Cranford face real difficulties and losses.
Gaskell wrote Cranford to capture the foibles and customs of the generation preceding hers, since social mores and structures were rapidly changing. Her work combines the social satire of Austen with the social conscience of Dickens, and in recent years her novels have made a resurgence in popularity. The opening paragraph of Cranford is as memorable, if not as well known, as the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice or A Tale of Two Cities:
In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women. If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. What could they do if they were there? . . . the ladies of Cranford are quite sufficient. "A man," as one of them observed to me once, "is SO in the way in the house!"
Anyone else a fan of Gaskell or the adaptations of her books? I hear the North & South miniseries that came out a few years ago was equally wonderful.
The book—which is told in the form of an affidavit—is from the point-of-view of Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky, the ex-wife of the heir to Zip’s Candies. The candy company was founded by her (ex) father-in-law, Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky, who named his candies “Little Sammies,” “Tigermelts” and “Mumbo Jumbos” in reference to characters from Little Black Sambo. (You'll have to read True Confections to find out why.)
I don’t want to give away too much more information about the book, other than to say that it hilariously, and even tenderly, depicts kooky family dynamics.
The Zip’s Candies website includes a video of a (faux) vintage Zip's Candies television jingle—and sheet music!
Have you seen any good book trailers/websites lately? Please share in the comments.
Earlier this week, Meghan McCain shared the title of her upcoming book on Twitter. (Read from the bottom up.)
I don't care how un-politically correct it is, I love walmart.
really sad to hear that @tyrabanks show is going off the air in 2010 but she says there are more projects in the works. she is such an icon
my dad made us pancakes and then took us to see a movie - I feel like I'm 14 again. we saw Sherlock Holmes, we all loved it but Dad LOVED IT
The date January 8 probably doesn’t have much significance to many readers. . . unless you happen to be the kind of person who makes Graceland pilgrimages and sings “Jailhouse Rock” in your sleep. Yep, you guessed it: Today is Elvis’s 75th birthday!
If you love The King, you’re in luck; there are many, many books out that chronicle his life, music, girlfriends. . .
Peter Guralnick’s two-volume biography of Elvis, Last Train to Memphis followed by Careless Love, is one of the most definitive texts. (Guralnick’s Dream Boogie, about Sam Cooke, is also excellent.) BookPage reviewer Alden Mudge called Careless Love an “excellent and exhaustive” account. The biography’s most important contribution, writes Mudge, is to document “what a truly extraordinary—and wide-ranging—musical sensibility Elvis possessed.”
Also look out for Adam Victor’s The Elvis Encyclopedia, an A to Z reference that “covers seemingly every person, place and thing that touched Elvis' eventful life.”
Photographer Alfred Wertheimer has a new book out called Elvis 1956, which will serve as the catalogue for a nationally traveling Smithsonian Show, “Elvis at 21,” which opens today at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The book documents Elvis’s early career, and the transition of America from the post-war 1950s to the 1960s. In BookPage, reviewer Ron Wynn called the book "a showcase for. . . dazzling, frequently surprising photos."
In honor of Elvis’s birthday, what’s your favorite Elvis book? (I’ll vote for Guralnick.) Song? (“Suspicious Minds”!)
This just in: Louis Sachar has signed with Delacorte to publish his first YA novel since 2006's Small Steps. The new book, which will be out on May 11, 2010, is called The Cardturner and was inspired by Sachar's own love of bridge. In the novel, 17-year-old Alton is forced to accompany his uncle to a weekly bridge game and discovers a love of cards and a neighborhood girl. He also realizes his wealthy uncle has a secret.
I loved Sachar's Wayside School series as a preteen. Somehow it is reassuring to know that another generation of kids are getting their own dose of Sachar's inimitable imagination.
Related in BookPage: our 2006 interview with Louis Sachar on Small Steps
Many of you may have heard by now that Sam’s Club is launching a book club this Saturday in Marietta, Georgia. The first pick will be BookPage favorite Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, which hits shelves on Jan. 12. The book will be featured in 600 Sam’s Club stores around the U.S.
Because we can only guess how exciting it is for a debut author to get such widespread recognition, we asked Hoffman to comment on the buzz for her book:
“It just keeps going on and on, and now [it's sold in] seven countries. Bookspan picked it up and they're making it their Main Street selection. Sam's Club picked it up to be their first book club pick. It's surprising to me that this is happening. I can't wait to see CeeCee in German, and Italian!”
In other book club news, Ronlyn Domingue’s The Mercy of Thin Air has been chosen as Costco’s pick of the month for January. BookPage reviewer Iris Blasi writes that The Mercy of Thin Air, about a girl trapped in the "between" level that exists between life and the world that follows, tracks “an extraordinary love affair over nearly three-quarters of a century.”
Will you pick up a book based on recommendations from Sam’s Club or Costco (or Oprah or, of course, BookPage)?
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?