Congrats to Neil Gaiman, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Graveyard Book. Guess the judges were "astounded by Gaiman's sharp, spine-tingling storytelling," as BookPage reviewer Angela Leeper promised readers would be in our October 2008 review of the book. The Hugo is the most prestigious award in science fiction and fantasy, and past winners include Robert A. Heinlein, Lois McMasters Bujold, Susanna Clarke, Michael Chabon and Isaac Asimov. This is Gaiman's second "Best Novel" win (American Gods received the 2002 Best Novel Hugo).
The full list of 2009 winners can be found here.
Last week, I spent eight blissful days in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the very tip of Cape Cod and home to many talented writers and artists. Thousands of fascinating people have traveled through P-town over the years, but my family always took particular delight in one of our most notable neighbors—Norman Mailer.
Mailer lived just a few houses down from my family and someone always had a “Mailer spotting” story to tell. But walking by the Mailer house this summer, you can’t help but notice that things are different. Of course the great literary legend is no longer with us (he died in November 2007), but his house has been transformed into The Norman Mailer Writers Colony.
Opening its doors this spring, The Norman Mailer Writers Colony is a non-profit organization established to honor Mailer and his commitment to Provincetown and its artistic community. Mailer’s gorgeous bay-front estate is now a meeting place and residence for “promising writers, educators, editors, scholars and distinguished writers” and offers fellowships and weeklong workshops. Mailer’s third floor study, where he wrote many of his major works since 1975, remains as he left it—with books, notes and research materials that he was using as he worked on his final projects.
In addition to a number of programs and workshops on site, the Colony has established a series of national writing awards open to all high school, college and university students, encouraging the passion, skill and commitment Mailer exhibited during his 60-year writing career. I can’t think of a better way to honor the great writer—and to celebrate our great town of Provincetown. For more information on this remarkable Writers Colony, visit: www.nmwcolony.org.
The Book Case is proud to welcome author (and handwriting analyst!) Sheila Lowe. Here, she examines several handwriting samples from famous authors and demonstrates that telling a person's profession by their handwriting is easier said than done.
As part of my work as a forensic handwriting expert, I've studied more than 10,000 handwriting samples from people who work in a wide spectrum of professions and industries, including publishing. Authors like Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Anne Perry, and Dominick Dunne are part of my collection. So when BookPage asked me what commonalities there might be in the handwriting of authors, I had plenty of samples to look at.
The fact is, everyone's handwriting reveals a great deal about their personality, social skills, thinking style, ego strengths, and much more. But it's not a matter of merely looking at how a person forms their loops or dots their i's. Handwriting contains thousands of variables, and the experiences the writer has accumulated throughout a lifetime and their response to them creates a distinct pattern in the spatial arrangement of the writing on the page, the way the letters are formed, and the rhythm and movement of the writing.
Emily Dickinson had handwriting that is unusual in its excessive simplification, which reveals a problem with her ego. The extremely wide spaces between letters and words indicate her sense of, and need for, isolation.
Oscar Wilde's writing pattern is similar to Dickinson's in that the spacing, though not as extreme. So, we see these two authors had a strong need for personal space that dominated all aspects of their lives.
One of my favorite handwriting samples came in a letter from Dean Koontz, who kindly replied to a letter of mine. In his sample, the letters, words, and lines are quite close together, but not so close that the lower loops fall down and interfere with the next line (which would mean that he had trouble keeping things in their proper place). The writing looks warm and friendly but self-disciplined (the writer whose books have sold more than a half-billion copies would need to be self-disciplined!).
Dominick Dunne's handwriting is highly stylized, indicating someone who is concerned with image. It also has a left slant, which says he doesn't easily get close to people.
So we can see that despite some common characteristics, these authors have real differences, personality-wise, which makes sense. There is one thing they all have in common, though: their handwritings look nothing like the copybook model they were taught in school, and that means they each possess the characteristics of creativity, artistry, originality.
So coming back to the question, how do you tell who is an author by their handwriting? The answer is, you can't. Because each person is an individual with their own set of experiences and responses, like fingerprints, every handwriting is unique. There isn't just one type of author, so there isn't one type of author handwriting. But if the handwriting is creative, original, and expressive, it might have been done by an author. Or an artist. Or a photographer. Or...well, you get the picture.
Sheila Lowe is the author of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous. Her latest Claudia Rose mystery, Dead Write, is on sale this week.
Today’s publication of Nick McDonell’s third novel, An Expensive Education, probably has more than a few would-be writers twitching with jealousy—McDonell’s first novel, Twelve, was published when the author was just 18 years old.
On Sunday, the New York Times profiled the now 25-year-old writer. McDonell comes from a literary background—his father edits Sports Illustrated, and Hunter S. Thompson was a family friend. Although these connections no doubt helped McDonell get his first book deal, critic Michiko Kakutani validated the writer’s talent by calling Twelve “as fast as speed, as relentless as acid.” In BookPage, the novel was praised as being “energetic and episodic, brimming with tension. . . . McDonell, who is only 18, writes with a worldliness and wisdom that exceed his years.” Currently, Twelve is being turned into a movie by director Joel Schumacher, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Chace Crawford and 50 Cent.
Does anyone have other favorite authors who were discovered at a young age? A few immediately come to mind: Michael Chabon (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was Chabon’s honors thesis and published when he was 25); Marisha Pessl (Special Topics in Calamity Physics debuted when Pessl was 28; Night Film is forthcoming in 2010); and Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated was drawn from Foer’s senior thesis and published when he was 25). Young writer Kaleb Nation (age 20) is starting to get some buzz. His YA novel Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse will be published on Sept. 1.
Over the past year, novelist Ian McEwan (Atonement, Enduring Love) has dropped several tantalizing tidbits about his work-in-progress, an 11th novel—his first since 2007's On Chesil Beach. It's about global warming. It features a physicist whom McEwan has described as “an intellectual thief. He’s sexually predatory. He’s a compulsive eater, a round and tubby fellow who has profound self-belief.” It's not a comedy—but has "extended comic stretches." And just yesterday he revealed a title, Solar, in a long interview with the Eastern Daily Press.
Where's the controversy, you ask? In the new novel, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist suggests that "men outnumber women at the top of his profession because of inherent differences in their brains, rather than any gender discrimination," according to The Guardian.
This plotline revelation has made major headlines since McEwan himself has faced criticism for giving his opinion on such things as radical Islam and Christianity. (Everyone loves an autobiographical angle!) The twist here is that after transforming himself into something of a media scapegoat, Beard makes a discovery that might help save the planet—if only anyone would listen to him. As McEwan explained to the New Yorker in February, “It isn’t angels necessarily who are going to save us."
Doubleday, McEwan's publisher in the U.S., hasn't announced a release date for the novel yet, and it's unlikely to appear before next year. Between now and then, we can probably expect a few more of those revelations . . .
Summer isn't over yet; there's plenty of time left for a fantastic trip to foreign lands and faraway places. If you're planning one and you'd like to meet and greet the locals in their own lingo, you can learn just enough to earn broad smiles, approving compliments and even order a beer.
To this noble end, the fine folks who have made the Pimsleur Method available on audio for many years, now offer goPimsleur. This fast, friendly series, which is officially released today, lets you get your head and your tongue around a foreign language in just four hours—with one 30-minute lesson per day. Half an hour, while you're driving, working out, cooking or taking a break, is doable, fun and instantly rewarding. You can hear yourself improve with every lesson, from saying "danke schoen," or "merci" to asking a new friend to share a meal.
You won't be discussing Sartre or Cervantes in their native tongues, but with goPimsleur you'll have a base and a beginning whether you're headed for Madrid, Moscow or Marseilles, Rio, Rome or the Rhineland.
Author Joyce Maynard heard about my earlier post on the striking cover design of her new novel, Labor Day, and was nice enough to email over the weekend with some reflections of her own about the cover. "First off," Joyce writes, "I WAS consulted and came up with a number of very bad ideas. This is why I'm a writer, not a designer, I guess." She says she was immediately taken with designer Mary Schuck's vision for the cover, which includes an image in matte gloss of a heart shape traced on a window pane. The idea appealed to her "because I am one of those people who draw on misted-up windows (also one of those people whose own car gets so dirty that I've been known to find the message 'Wash Me' written on the back windshield. But that's another story)."
Here's an interesting coincidence about the cover: "Mary did not know this at the time she came up with this design," Joyce tells us, "but three of my novels, before this one (Baby Love, Where Love Goes, and To Die For) all feature some form of heart-shaped image on the jacket. I'm sure this has something to say about my obsessions, and I freely admit to this: I am interested in love, and all the things it makes us do, and in broken hearts, and their occasional mending."This revelation prompted a flurry of emails about other heart-shaped objects, including the heart-shaped rock collection of a favorite blogger of mine. Another coincidence! "It's so interesting that you mention heart-shaped rocks," Joyce replied. "Until you said this I had totally forgotten this, but here is a surprising story:
"Labor Day was written in a little cabin at The MacDowell Colony, deep in the woods in New Hampshire, last September. This cabin was a full mile away from the main lodge where I would walk in every evening for dinner. Evidently the previous resident of my cabin had taken to collecting stones on her walk to the lodge every day—but only heart-shaped stones. So when I moved in, there was a row of heart-shaped stones around the front porch.
I loved seeing that row of stones every day, and added a few over the weeks I was writing there. When I left at the end of September (having finished Labor Day) I left them for the next person."
Our discussion of broken hearts, book covers, found objects and faded love began last week with a post and a chance to win a copy of Labor Day. There's only one day left to enter the contest by joining the discussion on book covers you love or loathe. Here are some of the jackets that have gotten the thumbs-up so far from Book Case readers:
And here are a couple that have gotten thumbs-down:
Which cover sets your heart a-flutter?
On July 7, Lynn blogged about New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof’s controversial column on must-read children’s books. Also on July 7, Kristof posted an acknowledgement of the huge reader response he received; more than 2,350 people commented on his list.
(For those who weren’t following the debate, Kristof posted a list of the “best kids’ books ever” and neglected to mention many wonderful authors. Personally, I was aghast that Laura Ingalls Wilder got the shaft.)
In his apologetic response, Kristof wrote, “As many readers pointed out, Roald Dahl really should have had a place on the list. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a pinnacle of literature, a bit ahead of Proust.”
Ah, Roald Dahl. How many of us have worn copies of Matilda, or James and the Giant Peach, or The BFG on our bookshelves?
As a huge Dahl fan, I was interested to read Wednesday’s headline from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper: “Roald Dahl proves a man of a great many letters for his biographer.” Apparently Donald Sturrock, a British documentary filmmaker and friend of the Dahl family, was set to finalize an authorized biography of the beloved author when he found an unexpected source: over 300 letters between Roald Dahl and his best friend, Charles Marsh. In order for Sturrock to have time to factor in the new information (“everything from politics and illness to sex, marriage and why he started writing,” says the Telegraph), the biography’s publication date has been delayed until September 2010. Sturrock won’t reveal how he got the letters.
There is, however, something to look forward to in the near future: Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release More About Boy: Roald Dahl’s Tales from Childhood in September, just days before what would have been the author's 93rd birthday (September 13). The publisher promises that this addendum to Dahl’s classic autobiography, Boy, is a “special keepsake hardcover edition” with “some of the secrets that were left out” from the original. Can’t wait!
Simon & Schuster’s The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington comes out in paperback on September 8. (Read BookPage's review here.)
And of course, the movie version of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, featuring the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep, is coming November 13. Click here to watch the trailer.
If you could discover a secret collection of letters from an author, who would it be?
To continue the reminiscing . . . does anyone have a favorite character, book or film adaptation from Dahl’s wacky universe?
Today’s a big day in Harry Potter-land. J.K. Rowling has said in interviews that Harry’s birthday is July 31, and the author’s own birthday is today, too. (She was born July 31, 1965.)
Harry’s birth year is a bit more mysterious. Lifted from FactMonster.com:
“Near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone it says that ‘tomorrow, Tuesday, was Harry’s eleventh birthday.’ July 31 doesn't fall on a Tuesday very often. Most readers of that first book assumed that, because it was published in 1997, Harry attended Hogwarts during the 1990s. In 1990, July 31 fell on a Tuesday. This would mean that Harry was born in 1979. . . . But wait—this theory is contradicted by evidence in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which Harry helped celebrate Nearly Headless Nick’s deathday anniversary on October 31, 1992. Harry was 12 at that time. So this would mean that Harry was born in 1980.”
BookPage has featured quite a bit of Potter coverage through the years. Here is an interview with actor Jim Dale, the voice of the Harry Potter audio books, a review of Chamber of Secrets (from 1999!), and a feature about Half-Blood Prince.
And just for fun, let’s revisit some of Rowling’s best birthday-themed prose.
From Goblet of Fire:
“Aunt Petunia didn’t know what was hidden under the loose floorboard upstairs. She had no idea that Harry was not following the diet at all… on Harry’s birthday (which the Dursleys had completely ignored) he had received four superb birthday cakes, one each from Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, and Sirius.”
And Chamber of Secrets:
“Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant, sunny day. He crossed the lawn, slumped down on the garden bench, and sang under his breath: ‘Happy birthday to me… happy birthday to me…’ No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist.”
Anyone have a favorite Harry Potter scene they’d like to share? Or thoughts on the new movie?
It’s a fair proposition. Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (reviewed here in BookPage) was born from a popular blog. The blog-turned-book will garner an even bigger audience next week, when the movie Julie & Julia hits theaters.
The distance Powell’s blog has traveled got me thinking . . . is it really possible to turn a daily blog into a full-fledged book?
Research says yes—although success like Powell’s is unlikely. In October, Hachette Book Group will publish Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy, by Mary Tomer. Tomer—or “Mrs. T,” as she is known online—is the author of “Mrs. O.”, a popular blog that chronicles the fashion of Michelle Obama. A few years ago, The Feminist Press published Baghdad Burning and Baghdad Burning II, both compilations based on Iraqi blogger Riverbend’s site. The first book went on to win third place for the Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. (Disclosure: I once interned at The FP.) Lighter blogs like Stuff White People Like, This is why you're fat, and Bike Snob NYC, have also landed book deals.
Anyone out there know of other successful blogs-to-books? How about ideas for clever blogs (or blog concepts) that might encourage Random House, Penguin, etc. to come knocking?