Briefly, Beatrice and Virgil is about Henry, a novelist whose life parallels Martel’s. Henry comes to know a taxidermist—also named Henry—who is writing a play. The play stars Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey, and Henry (the novelist) comes to see their story as an allegory for the Holocaust.
Warning: There are spoilers in the podcast, so listen at your own risk!
Should we interpret Beatrice and Virgil as an allegory—and if so, what does it mean? How should we react to the "Games for Gustav" in the final section?
Will Life of Pi fans be disappointed with this novel? Why has critical response from major review outlets and book blogs been so varied? Will Beatrice and Virgil become a favorite for book clubs?
Why has the famous pear scene so captured the hearts of readers? Does Martel manage to represent the Holocaust in an innovative way? What does Beatrice and Virgil teach us about content vs. sales potential, in the eyes of a publisher?
Is Beatrice and Virgil a "successful" novel?
How did you react to Beatrice and Virgil? Tell us in the comments.
The Last Child by John Hart took top honors for best novel. No surprise there. Who wouldn't want to read about the "lineal descendant and spiritual soul mate of Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield"?
Dave Cullen's Columbine—which has "the immediacy and starkness of a documentary"—won an Edgar for Best Fact Crime.
Several BookPage editors were pleased that Mary Downing Hahn won for Closed for the Season ("Best Juvenile"). Hahn wrote Tallassee Higgins, one of my childhood favorites, and many others. In September, watch for Hahn's new book The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall.
Click here to view the complete list of Edgar winners. For an interesting analysis on why Edgar winners don't typically win more than once, read this article in the Wall Street Journal.
What's the best mystery you read in 2009?
This expanded version of the popular feature from the print edition of BookPage shares the release dates for some of the guaranteed blockbusters hitting shelves in May. Which May release are you most looking forward to? Tell us in the comments.
Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
The highly anticipated memoir from the notoriously
private former first lady. It will also be available as a signed collector's edition.
Tell-All by Chuck Palaniuk
Knopf Doubleday, $24.95
The always edgy author gives his unique take on old Hollywood in a subversive new novel.
Blue-Eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker
Parker's posthumous Western brings back Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch for some vigilante justice.
Executive Intent by Dale Brown
Morrow, $26.99, ISBN 9780061560859
It’s president against vice president in Brown’s near-future political thriller.
Miracle on the 17th Green by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge
Little, Brown, $19.99
Patterson and de Jonge pair up for the inspiring story of a man who, at 50, suddenly achieves his life's dream of becoming a professional golfer.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
The final novel in the Millennium Trilogy brings back Lisbeth Salander for more adventure, danger and suspense.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger
Simon & Schuster, $25.99
What happens when normal girls are left behind when their boyfriends hit the big time? They get revenge.
This morning I was psyched to see an unexpected deal on Publisher's Marketplace—Colin Meloy, the lead singer/songwriter for Portland-based indie rock band The Decemberists, has signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins. He's writing a middle-grade series called "Wildwood," and according to a press release it's "a classic tale of adventure, magic, and danger, set in an alternate version of modern-day Portland, Oregon." Meloy said the books will be his "humble paean to that grand tradition of epic adventure stories" by the likes of Lloyd Alexander, Roald Dahl and Tolkien.
The first book will come out in Fall 2011. Donna Bray, who in the past has worked on Newbery winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi and National Book Award Finalist The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, among many others, bought the book.
The Decemberists are one of my favorite contemporary bands—and they put on an incredible live show. At first I thought it was odd that Meloy is writing novels, but when I think about the storytelling nature of his songs, it makes perfect sense ("The Mariner's Revenge Song" in itself could be a book!)
Carson Ellis—Meloy's wife, and the artist behind The Decemberists' memorable album covers—will illustrate the books. You may also be familiar with her work on Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society; she designed the cover and the interior illustrations in book one of the series.
Do you listen to The Decemberists? Will you check out the Wildwood books? The Decemberists have such a dedicated fan base that I suspect these books might reach beyond the typical middle-grade audience and become collector's items for music fans!
The 2010 Time 100 list was released online today, and I was thrilled to see Suzanne Collins show up in the Artists category. Lizzie Skurnick, author of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, wrote an ode to Collins and her Hunger Games books. (If you've been living under a rock*, The Hunger Games is book one in a dystopian YA trilogy. A group of 24 teens must battle to the death—only one can be left standing—in a reality-TV-show-meets-the-Olympics-type spectacle. Katniss Everdeen is the female representative from the underdog "District 12".)
Like Katniss, she's a natural, lighting from thriller to bodice ripper to fantasy in the space of a few chapters, churning out a powerful, innovative oeuvre without making a big deal about it . . . She's a literary fusioneer, that rare writer who is all things to all readers. Today's would-be revolutionaries should be so lucky.
The Time 100 list recognizes "the people who most affect our world." Which other authors should be on that list?
*Like me, until this past weekend, when I ditched all invitations and responsibilities to read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. And yes, I would love to attend a Mockingjay midnight release party on August 24.
As a new feature on The Book Case, we'll be sharing select recipes from the cookbooks reviewed in our monthly cooking column. First up is a delicious cookie recipe from David Lebovitz, whose Ready for Dessert is "inspired and inspiring," according to our reviewer Sybil Pratt. Give this recipe a try and see for yourself—and share your results in the comments!
Complete recipe after the jump:
2 1/4 cups (315 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons plus a big pinch ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (215 g) packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mild molasses
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup (50 g) finely chopped Candied Ginger
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, the ginger, cloves, and pepper.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar, applesauce, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the egg whites and beat 1 minute. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and continue mixing for 1 minute more. Stir in the candied ginger. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 1 hour.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and big pinch of cinnamon.
Using two spoons or a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop, drop heaping tablespoons of dough (about the size of an unshelled walnut) a few at a time into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Use your hands to form the dough into balls and coat them heavily with the cinnamon sugar. They’ll be sticky, which is normal, and don’t worry if they’re not perfectly round. Place the balls at least 3 inches (8 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until the cookies feel just barely set in the centers, about 13 minutes. If they puff a lot during baking, flatten the tops very gently with a spatula, just enough so they’re no longer rounded.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.
Storage: The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for 2 months. The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Variation: If you like extra chewy cookies, midway during baking, press each cookie firmly with a flat spatula so they are about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) high, then continue baking.Reprinted with permission from Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: Maren Caruso © 2010
Yesterday was Harper Lee's 84th birthday. It's a special year for the author of the "best novel of the century"—it's the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Although I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird since ninth grade, I've had the book on my mind after recently watching Gregory Peck perform as Atticus Finch in one of the best movie adaptations ever. I've also had Charles J. Shields' Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee on my nightstand. This biography of Lee—written without any interviews with the intensely private author—is most interesting for its depiction of Lee's move from Alabama to New York City, her path to publication and her famous friendship with Truman Capote.
TKAM fans will likely ask the same question as BookPage reviewer Alison Hood when reading this book—Do we really need to know Ms. Lee's innermost thoughts; isn't it enough that she wrote a worthy book that continues to inspire?—but Mockingbird is certainly worthwhile for a glimpse at the mysterious author's life.
Most of us were probably introduced to Lee's classic novel in high school English class. Do you still think about the book? Have you re-read it or listened to it on audio?
You didn't think we were finished posting about National Poetry Month, did you?! (If you missed earlier posts, click here to read about poem-a-day e-mails, and here to read about the Favorite Poem Project.)
Today we're highlighting Poem in Your Pocket Day, which has been celebrated on April 29 since 2002. Poets.org has some suggestions for how to celebrate:
· Start a "poems for pockets" give-a-way in your school or workplace
· Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those carrying poems
· Post pocket-sized verses in public places
· Handwrite some lines on the back of your business cards
· Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
· Distribute bookmarks with your favorite immortal lines
· Add a poem to your email footer
· Post a poem on your blog or social networking page
· Project a poem on a wall, inside or out
· Text a poem to friends
How will you celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day? (I, for one, intend to ask for a discount at my local bookstore for carrying a poem!) Feel free to post a favorite poem in the comments section.
Last month I posted about the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie, and I could tell from the comments that readers are really excited about this adaptation—not to mention The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, book three in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (out May 25).
So I know you'll be happy to hear this news from Hollywood, too. Rumors are swirling about the American version of the movie, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and produced by Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood). Word is that Carey Mulligan (An Education) will play Lisbeth Salander and Brad Pitt will star opposite as Mikael Blomqvist.
Casting has not been confirmed, although this IMDb message board suggests Mulligan and Pitt are a "strong bet." Do you agree with these picks? Is there anyone you'd rather see as Lisbeth and Mikael?
Related in BookPage: Reviews of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire. We'll be covering The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in our June issue, along with info on how the books came to be published in the United States. Stay tuned!
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity by Sam Miller
St. Martin's, July 20, 2010
And I'm so glad I did. Delhi is an engrossing book, by turns romantic and down-to-earth. It takes the form of a travelogue: Miller sets out to walk through Delhi in a spiral, slowly moving out from the city's center at Connaught Place, and recording his impressions and encounters along the way. Miller is an appealing travel guide; a white Englishman married to an Indian woman from Mumbai, he's lived in India long enough to take the country's eccentricities in stride, but he's still enough of an outsider that he makes the reader feel they are discovering the city along with him. Delhi is a fascinating city with a long history and a rapidly approaching future, and Miller's many asides, footnotes and "intermissions" are as enlightening (and entertaining) as the journey itself.
Hidden away behind the construction site . . . is Agarsen's Baoli, central Delhi's oldest building. Six thousand years old, and built by the uncle of the Hindu god, Lord Krishna, according to its watchman. A mere seven hundred years old, according to historians. Agarsen was probably a thirteenth-century chieftain and a baoli is a rectangular step-well. Through a padlocked gate opened by a taciturn, bidi-smoking watchman, I climb up onto a large plinth from where one hundred stone steps lead down to the bottom of the well.
Although this is only my second visit, it is a view I have seen many times before, thanks to a Delhi photographer called Raghu Rai, with a Cartier-Bresson-like instinct for the decisive moment. In a photograph taken in 1976, a young boy is caught at the moment of launching himself from a wall into the waters of the baoli, a dive of at least twelve feet. Above loom some of the newly constructed high-rises of Tolstoy Marg and Barakhamba Road, but beneath is the ancient step-well. I ask the watchman if he has seen the photograph, and he stuns me by saying that he, Bagh Singh, grizzled and grey-haired, was that diving boy. He sends a young girl off to get a copy of the picture he has cut from a magazine and gets me to photograph him holding it. In the thirty years in which Bagh Singh has aged so rapidly, the water level at Agarsen's Baoli has fallen by twenty feet. A shortage of water is one of the biggest problems facing Delhi today.