That’s the scoop, according to paleontologists studying a 47-million-year-old complete fossil unearthed around 25 years ago in an unused quarry near Frankfurt, Germany.
The lemur-like primate—scientific name Darwinius masillae, nickname “Ida”—is being hailed as the missing link; not necessarily our direct ancestor, but a member perched on a neighboring branch of the family tree. Or, as one oft-quoted scientist, Jens Franzen, put it to the BBC and others, not our “grand, grand, grandmother,” but our “grand, grand, grand, grand aunt.”
But, wait, Ida was found 25 years ago? Where's the breaking news?
Ida was in a private collection for most of that time, until being purchased (in secret) by the University of Oslo. Now, after years of clandestine research, the fossil is suddenly a star, subject of a book pubbing today—The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor (Little, Brown) by biologist/writer Colin Tudge—an audiobook version also published by Hachette and a film. Find out about all these on the Ida website, where you can read about the discovery of the fossil, download the first chapter of the book or listen to a clip from the audiobook.
BTW, have you been to Google’s homepage today? Cool.
The words “famously reclusive” are paired with the name Cormac McCarthy like white on rice. Despite his televised interview with Oprah in 2007, McCarthy is still considered one of the least talkative, most private authors around. No book tours for this man! No website, no blog and definitely no Twitter. Nonetheless, this acclaimed writer generates plenty of press coverage, as we see in three recent developments:
NEWS ITEM #1: McCarthy has been chosen as the recipient of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, to be presented at a ceremony Tuesday tonight in New York. Will McCarthy accept the award in person? A PEN spokesman didn’t respond to that question, so your guess is as good as ours. This is a career achievement award, and in describing the honoree’s body of work, PEN notes that “McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West.” McCarthy’s first four novels are set in Tennessee, where he grew up and attended Knoxville Catholic High School. (Through a classmate, we’ve seen charming school newspaper clippings from the late 1940s in which the author, then known as the more pedestrian “Charlie McCarthy,” showed scant signs of future greatness.) McCarthy later moved to Texas, and eventually to Santa Fe, where he currently makes his home.
NEWS ITEM #2: An archive of McCarthy’s papers opened to researchers today as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos. Access is by appointment only, so forget about dropping by to thumb through the original manuscript of All the Pretty Horses.
NEWS ITEM #3: The film version of McCarthy’s devastating apocalyptic novel, The Road, now has a firm release date (October 16) and an official trailer. Only two and a half minutes long, but still extremely unsettling:
This morning's email brought news of a book deal for the passengers of US Air Flight 1549. Ballantine will publish their story on November 3.
From the press release:
A unique collaboration between many of the passengers themselves and two expert story-tellers, William Prochnau , MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON will provide the first and the only full account, minute-by-minute, of that fateful day, in the survivors’ own words. . . . The survivors' stories about their ordeal are moving and unforgettable. We see passengers watching as birds enter one engine. We relive the eerie silence in the cabin, save for fervently whispered prayers after both engines fail. We feel the impact as the plane violently hits the river, water pouring into the fuselage. We meet the passenger who opened the first door to safety, and another who stripped to his underwear in readiness for an impossible swim to shore. Then we see an incredible rescue take place from the viewpoint of the people caught in the middle of a frigid metropolitan river.
ETA: Perhaps more newsworthy than the passengers' book deal is the New York Times' report that some of them will actually be getting their luggage back. This may be a bigger miracle than their survival. [Via]
Tomorrow, BookPageXTRA subscribers will get a look at what's coming up in the next issue of BookPage (are you one of them?). Until then, we're serving up a few tantalizing quotes from some June BookPage reviews to you Book Case readers. Leave a comment by Tuesday, May 19, saying which book you most want to read, and why, for a chance to win all four novels.* Ready, set, read! [We have a winner! Congrats to April Hawkins.]
"Satisfying on so many levels, See's latest is above all a confirmation of unbreakable family bonds, as two Shanghai girls survive seemingly insurmountable setbacks, both at home and abroad." —Deborah Donovan
"The City & the City is a murder mystery, old-fashioned in its way, narrated by a tough-talking police investigator and layered with all the shadow and menace of a film noir. . . . a tightly plotted, thoroughly engaging read, at turns beguiling and revelatory." —Jedediah Berry
"Pelecanos has once again crafted a genre-transcending novel of rage and redemption guaranteed to appeal to a broad-spectrum audience." —Bruce Tierney
"By the time we meet Molly Divine Marx in the opening pages of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, she is dead. But that by no means detracts from the many charms of Sally Koslow's wonderful new novel." —Amy Scribner
* Since we're sending out four hardcovers, this contest is limited to North American residents. But readers around the world are still welcome to comment!
One of the best parts of my day is going through the mail here at BookPage. That might sound strange, but it gives me a chance to get up from my desk, clear my head and see what goodies the mailman has brought for us. I love paging through copies of recently published books and eyeing the galleys I’ve been eagerly anticipating; I don’t love it when mailers made from recycled material explode all over me (usually when I’m wearing black), but I’m proud to say I’ve gone several days without a mail mishap.
The most exciting thing that landed in our mail on this cloudy Wednesday was a package from HarperPerennial introducing their new HarperPerennial ClassicStories line. HarperPerennial is publishing collections of short stories from greats like Leo Tolstoy, Willa Cather, Oscar Wilde, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Herman Melville and Stephen Crane this month, and they were nice enough to send along a set for us. The compact paperback editions are beautifully designed and reasonably priced at just $10 a pop.
Whether you are a classics fanatic or just a collector of important works, be sure to check out these new paperbacks from HarperPerennial. And as for me, well, as the saying goes: finder's keepers!
The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association has chosen Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan's Wanting as their very first NAIBA Notable title. The novel, which goes on sale today, is a haunting story set in 1841 that features two titans of Victorian England, Charles Dickens and John Franklin (whose ill-fated Northern expedition was the subject of a recent Dan Simmons novel) while drawing parallels to modern society.
Flanagan is known for complex, thematic works like Gould's Book of Fish, but he's not afraid to go commercial—he also co-wrote the screenplay for the Baz Luhrmann film Australia. Grove Publisher Morgan Entrekin says Wanting has the same intellectual depth as his earlier novels "yet may be more approachable for many readers."
Wanting goes on sale today, but the book has already received a rave review from novelist Jon Fasman in the Los Angeles Times. As a fan of historical and Victorian fiction, I'm looking forward to digging into our copy.
Yesterday Minotaur announced that mystery writer Nevada Barr was leaving her longtime publisher, Putnam, and signing on with them for her next three books in the Anna Pigeon series. The first book will appear in 2010.
In the official press release, Minotaur VP and Publisher Andrew Martin called Barr "a star author," saying that he was "absolutely delighted to be welcoming her onto our list.”
Barr's final novel with Putnam, Borderline, was just released last month, and she has a stand-alone thriller, 13 1/2, coming from Vanguard Press on September 29.
Having read about Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books in Bruce Tierney’s Whodunit? column—Mankell has even won the “coveted” BookPage Tip of the Ice Pick Award—and being a longtime fan of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery! series, I’m pretty excited about the premiere of Wallander this Sunday, with two more episodes airing May 17 and 31. Read on for a mini review—and a chance to win three of the Wallander books.
I started watching the first, “Sidetracked,” last night and, so far, I’m really enjoying it. With a couple of days’ stubble, a bit of paunch and a generally disheveled appearance, Kenneth Branagh fits the description of the somewhat obsessive, sleep-deprived and often impatient police detective.
Wallander is stylish and modern and moves at a restrained pace—peppered with bursts of action and some really incredible edits—mirroring the title character’s methodical progress. OK, so you might have a hard time determining that you’re watching something set in Sweden (as opposed to somewhere in the British Isles), but the occasional splash of Swedish on a newspaper, a reference to the assassinated prime minister, shots of vodka bottles, and lots clean Scandinavian design help remind you.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you how Wallander the series compares to the books, because though I love relaxing with a good mystery, I prefer watching mysteries to reading them (hey, I read all day; my eyes deserve a break in the evening). But I did enjoy watching “Sidetracked”—for the story, the suspense, and the familiar faces.
Anyway, I’ll leave comparisons to you. For a chance to win copies of Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Beyond (the three books behind the three episodes), leave a comment by May 13 mentioning your favorite fictional sleuth/detective who’s been adapted for the big or small screen or who’d you’d like to see adapted.
On my recent trip to St. Petersburg, I balanced out the vodka and caviar with some slightly more edifying museum visits. Given Russia's rich literary heritage, you could hardly walk a block without coming across a sign or historical marker that had a connection to some famous novelist or other.
There's something about seeing an author's home, though, that seems especially significant. I'm no Dostoyevsky expert—that title belongs to the friend with the Russian lit degree whom I was traveling with—but of the writer's homes we visited in St. Petersburg, my favorite was the Dostoyevsky Memorial Museum. Located in a corner flat (which Dostoyevsky reportedly preferred) not far from the Vladimirskaya metro station, this was Dostoyevsky's home from 1878 to 1881. He wrote The Brothers Karamozov here, and it was where he died on January 28, 1881.
Since it cost 200 rubles (about $7) to take pictures inside (a common practice at Russian tourist sites), I thought I'd get my money's worth by sharing them here—so after the jump, pictures and notes on the Dostoyevsky Museum.
According to my Walkman audio guide, Dostoyevsky was a real family man and ate supper with his wife and children every night at 6 o'clock. The apartment's most touching relics were the handwritten notes from his children (who were all quite young when he died) asking for sweets and telling him they loved him.
Accounts of Dostoyevsky's death vary, but the story told here is that during a late-night writing session, the author dropped his pen, which rolled under the bookcase behind the desk. He tried to move the bookcase and suffered a pulmonary embolism. Two days later, he was dead. The clock on the right is set for the date and time of his death.
Which writers' homes have you visted and especially enjoyed, and what made them special?
While the Internet has been abuzz with news about Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, for weeks, we thought our Book Case readers might want a bit more on Brown. Years (and several title incarnations) in the making, the long-awaited follow-up to The Da Vinci Code will be released from Doubleday on September 15th, 2009.
When the news of this momentous publication hit the web, The Lost Symbol shot to #1 on Amazon.com almost immediately. And B&N.com is offering pre-order customers a whopping 40% discount. With an unprecedented first printing of five million copies, we’re sure the folks at Doubleday are hoping to break all kinds of pre-order—and overall—sales records.
About The Lost Symbol, Brown’s longtime editor, Jason Kaufman, says, “Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel. This book’s narrative takes place in a 12-hour period, and from the first page, Dan’s readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. The Lost Symbol is full of surprises.”
While you’re waiting for publication of The Lost Symbol, you can check out Ron Howard’s big screen adaptation of Angels & Demons, the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, which hits theaters nationwide on May 15th. Fan favorite Tom Hanks stars again as Robert Langdon, and this time we’ll watch Landgon track a legendary secret society, the Illuminati, and their connection with the recent murder of renowned physicist.
So which Dan Brown event are you more excited about—the movie of the summer or the bestseller of the fall?