It seems like every time I walk into a bookstore or library, there is a new flavor-of-the-month political book or memoir on display (like David Plouffe’s The Audacity to Win or Sarah From Alaska, both out today). Although I enjoyed Dreams From My Father (and this behind-the-book blog post about how it got published), I’ll admit that books by or about politicians are usually not my thing.
Since today is Election Day, however, I thought I’d post about a couple political books from our archives that have caught my interest. Please add your own suggestions in the comments. (Anyone pre-ordered Going Rogue. . . or Going Rouge?)
Clinton and Me by Mark Katz
“Humor in political discourse is a more potent weapon than spite. Mark Katz, who held the unusual position of presidential joke writer in the Clinton administration, proves this point decisively and with great fun in Clinton and Me: A Real Life Political Comedy. Katz begins his story in early 1995, when he tried to convince an unamused President Clinton to use an egg timer as the centerpiece of his speech before a group of Washington insiders known as the Alfalfa Club. The egg timer would serve as a comic device, allowing the president to make fun of himself for delivering an overly long State of the Union address. Clinton rejected the idea and went on to give a speech filled with spiteful, personal invectives; the evening was judged a disaster for the president.”
The Conviction of Richard Nixon by James Reston Jr.
“Three years after his resignation, Nixon negotiated a large fee to do a series of interviews with British TV personality David Frost. In preparing for the encounter, Frost hired a team of researchers to supply him questions and background facts. One of that team was James Reston Jr. He chronicles the event in The Conviction of Richard Nixon.”
John Updike once said in an interview that he wrote every day because “the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.”
In the spirit of diving into creative output (and not indulging the pleasures of procrastination), over 100,00 people will spend November pounding out nearly 2,000 words a day in order to complete their own 50,000-word (175-page) novels.
Chris Baty, a freelance writer from San Francisco, named November National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 1999. There were 21 participants. Since then, NaNoWriMo has exploded. Last year, over 119,000 people signed up, and 21,720 writers completed 50,000 words by 11:59:59 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2008.
In 2004, Baty published a book called No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. The first chapter explains the reasoning behind marathon writing:
What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline. . . Deadlines bring focus, forcing us to make time for the achievement we would otherwise postpone, encouraging us to reach beyond our conservative estimates of what we think possible, helping us to wrench victory from the jaws of sleep.
Since Nov. 1, I have enjoyed reading Twitter updates from hundreds of frenzied writers (search #NaNo for by-the-second tweets). As you might expect, some of them are flying (one woman posted that she’s finished 6,672 out of 50,000 words). Others are suffering from pesky distractions (one participant tweeted: “I have to stop getting distracted by facebook and twitter! If you see me, tell me to get back to writing!”). In the Stanford Department of English, students are writing for a grade; this school year, National Novel Writing Month is an official seminar.
Are any of you in the midst of writing a novel for NaNoWriMo? If so, will you share plot details? To play devil's advocate: Anyone wary of the month’s mission, which emphasizes quantity of prose over quality?
The publication earlier this month of The Red Book, Carl Jung's famous, near-mythic journal that has, until now, been seen by only a few dozen people, is a publishing coup, an incredibly valuable revelation for Jung's followers and a hugely important addition to the history of modern psychology and psychoanalysis. The book itself is remarkable, big (12" x 15 ¾"), heavy (8.8 lbs!) and printed on thick, ivory coated stock. It's an exact facsimile of the original that Jung worked on for 16 years, between 1914 and 1930. (The book is also expensive, with a suggested retail price of $195.)
A uniquely created, modern illuminated manuscript, each of the 205 pages is covered in exquisite calligraphy, with ornaments and drawings in the margins and borders and elaborately adorned initials. Full-page, tempura paintings of dreamscapes, mystical figures and creatures are interspersed throughout the text, featuring amazing detail and stylized graphic designs and mandalas in lush colors. The complete text was scanned one-tenth of a millimeter at a time with a 10,200-pixel scanner by technicians from DigitalFusion.
The journal describes his intense interior journey to refind his soul by breaking down the barriers between the conscious and unconscious that started in 1913 when Jung was visited by disturbing visions and inner voices. What began as a life-crisis (Jung himself said that he worried that he might be "doing a schizophrenia"), became a way for Jung to know and understand his spirit and to renew it. He went on to induce these hallucinations or "active imaginations," as he called them, for years (just think what a little LSD might have done). The Red Book was never published, though there's reason to think that Jung wanted it to be. It was kept in a closet in his Zurich home and ultimately, years after his death in 1961, secreted in an underground bank vault.
It took years of persuading to get the Jung family to agree to share The Red Book with the world. Now, edited and introduced by Sonu Shamdasani and translated from the German by Mark Kyburz, John Peck and Sonu Shamdasani, it can seen and studied by all. It has been called "possibly the most influential hitherto unpublished work in the history of psychology" and will surely shed new light on Jung's life and work for his followers and his critics.
—Sukey Howard, Contributing Editor
Variety announced recently that Philipp Meyer's critically acclaimed fiction debut, American Rust, will be adapted for film by Walter Salles and Jose Rivera. That's the same writer/director duo who worked on The Motorcycle Diaries and are just finishing up work on the film version of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (read our review of Oscar Wao here).
Scott Stuber, whose most recent project was the Vince Vaughn movie Couples Retreat (about the furthest thing from American Rust we can imagine!) bought the rights and will produce.
Book-to-film is always a risky transition, but the quiet, compelling American Rust, which follos two friends who both long to escape their dying Pennsylvania mining town, might make the jump better than most. If you've read the book, what do you think?
Halloween is tomorrow. In an attempt to forget that I still do not have my costume ready (might have to take our winning, and brilliant, "Charlotte's Web" idea!), I'm posting some of my favorite spooky reading selections.
Mo Hayder's The Devil of Nanking is more about the horrors that people do to one another rather than anything supernatural—but that just makes it all the more terrifying. The story of a troubled British woman who goes to Japan in pursuit of a rare film clip from the 1937 Nanking massacre finds herself on the wrong side of the Japanese yazuka. In his review, Bruce Tierney warned readers that "this is a disturbing book . . . that resonates long after the last page has been turned" and we couldn't agree more.
If it's a ghost story you're looking for, look no further than Australian writer John Harwood's The Ghost Writer. Unsettling, sleep-with-the-lights-on suspense is combined with a nod to the Victorian ghost story as a young Australian man goes to England to investigate his mother's mysterious past. I reviewed this book for BookPage back in 2004 and said it was "more than a literary thriller," if you read it, let me know if you agree!
It was hard to choose one Stephen King book, but for me, Skeleton Crew is the most nightmare-inducing of his works. Possibly because of the terrifying cannibalism story, possibly because of the creepy monkey on the cover, drawn from one of the collection's most frightening tales, possibly because I read it first at the tender age of 12 and couldn't go to sleep while the book was in the room with me...I could go on, but read it yourself and you'll find plenty of reasons to shiver (it also contains the novella "The Mist").
Scott Smith's The Ruins is another spooky Halloween selection. Smith is a master at creating an atmosphere of dread—you just know nothing good is going to happen to the characters, but you can't stop reading. As he told us in an interview about the book, "When it came to choices, I would always opt to push it further, because I have an instinct that if I'm uncomfortable with it, I should do it."
But books that keep you up at night don't have to be thrillers—our editor, Lynn Green, says when she first read the galleys of The Lovely Bones, the description of Susie's murder was so chilling she had second thoughts about assigning it for review . . . though we did end up covering it.
Do you have a favorite Halloween read? Tell us in the comments. And don't forget to check out our haunting Halloween selections on BookPage.com.
The verdict's in after our literary-themed costume contest. . .
Fans of Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié’s New York Times bestselling Wicked series got a huge surprise on Monday. DreamWorks Studios (known for other book adaptations such as The Kite Runner and forthcoming The Lovely Bones ) bought the movie rights to the five-book saga, which tells the story of Holly Cathers, a descendent of a coven of witches (who falls for a guy from their rival House).
Since we know that a call from DreamWorks is a dream-come-true for an author hoping for a movie deal, we had to contact Holder and Viguié for their reactions to the news.
“Once we hit the New York Times bestseller list, the nibbles we'd had on our books became more serious,” said Holder in an e-mail interview. “Then about three months ago, our literary agent, Howard Morhaim, and our film agent, Michael Prevett of Gotham Group, started preparing us that serious negotiations were about to begin, but I kept a lid on my hopes. Once we were in negotiations with DreamWorks, it dawned on me that we’d been writing about the reality of magic for seven years, and something magical was happening to us. I really took a look at the name of the studio...dream/works. A place that creates dreams. And makes them come true. I think every writer daydreams about selling a novel to a place like DreamWorks, but in our case, we stand to sell them five.”
What Wicked scene do you most want to see on the big screen?
Nancy Holder: Well, avoiding any spoilers, I would love to see one of the big battles. I want to see Holly face down Michael Deveraux. And I would really love to see the scene with the birds in the skies of London. A certain song based on a ballad that we used would be lovely to hear on the soundtrack.
Debbie Viguié: Is it cheating if I say “all of them”? Seriously, from the second book, I’d love to see the scene where Nicole meets up with the Spanish coven in Europe.
Are there any actresses you envision as Holly, Amanda or Nicole?
NH: There have been some great fan YouTubes suggesting various actresses. I loved talking to the casting director(s) at “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” about how the show was cast. So much more goes into it than simply figuring out who would make a great Holly or a wonderful Nicole. The actors have to have chemistry with each other as well. Here are some actresses I would hope could have some sort of role in Wicked: Danielle Panabaker, Emily Browning, Zoe Saldana, Bryce Dallas Howard, Eva Green, Emily Blunt, Evan Rachel Wood, Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. I would love it if Adrien Brody could have a part. BTW, Richard Dean Anderson is my guilty pleasure. I usually watch between five and ten episodes of “Stargate SG-1” a week.
DV: “Who would you cast?” is one of the favorite games my husband and I play. I’ve got ideas for several of the older parts, and I also love all the fan suggestions. I’d love to see Molly C. Quinn as either Nicole or Amanda, Jensen Ackles as Eli and Jackie Earle Haley as Uncle Richard.
What project are you working on right now?
NH: I’m so happy that Debbie and I are still working together! We’re just about to turn in Crusade: Converted, the first book in a new series for Simon and Schuster. It’s similiar in style and tone to Wicked, but it concerns a band of vampire hunters based in Salamanca, Spain, after the “Cursed Ones” have declared war on the human race. I’m in love with it.
It’s that time of year when my weekly TV consumption increases by about 200% and the first newspaper section I read in the morning is sports. . . The World Series!
I’m not a huge baseball fanatic during the regular season, but when the post-season rolls around, I can’t help but get caught in the fever. In the spirit of this year’s Phillies v. Yankees showdown, I asked our Twitter followers for baseball book suggestions. We got a great variety of answers: from Wait Til Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir about bonding with her family through their love of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to Sliding into Home, Joanne Rock’s new Harlequin anthology of baseball-themed steamy short stories.
At the start of the season in April, sports blogger Martin Brady wrote a baseball roundup for BookPage. He recommended Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, a memoir of a minor league player in Provo, Utah; Straw: Finding My Way, about former Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry; and others. If you’re intrigued by the lives of umpires (I am – do they ever get hate mail?), you’ll love Bruce Weber’s As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires, in which the author “charts umpiring history, profiles some of the legendary practitioners, explains recent labor disputes and attempts to clarify some famous on-the-field incidents.”
So, in honor of the World Series, here’s a question to think about as you wait for tonight’s first pitch: What book best captures baseball?
The title that immediately comes to my mind is Bette Bao Lord’s now classic In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. My teacher read it to our class in the third grade, and I believe I got scolded for sneaking peeks at the book under my desk during math time (then went out an slugged a homer at my softball game after school.)
In this new weekly series, we’ll excerpt a memorable passage from a book we’re currently reading.
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
January 2010 from Random House
She looked at him as if he were a little mad, but then she caught something exciting in his eyes and threw up her hands and said, “Why not?” That was it: everything was open to them. What was life’s object if not that?
When I sat down to interview Jessica Verday at Davis-Kidd bookstore in Nashville, I hoped to hear juicy details about how she came to write a paranormal teen romance inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Well, I got that info (which you can read about here), plus an unexpected gift: perfume inspired by her book.
Abbey Browning, the main character in Verday’s novel, The Hollow, loves to create scents with various herbs and oils. (Perfume-making provides a distraction while she’s falling in love with Caspian, a mysterious guy she met at the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. . . )
Now, there are now real-life perfumes based on Abbey, Caspian and Kristen, Abbey’s best friend.
Product description from Verday’s blog:
Abbey: Clove, blood orange, honey, and red apples dance among a base of sandalwood and incense. Intoxicating. Lovely. Layered. Just like our heroine.
Kristen: Grapefruit, ginger, vanilla, and myrrh swirl together to create a sweetheart of a scent. What else could be a better fit for a best friend?
Caspian: Pumpkin pie, fall leaves, vanilla, and bonfire smoke make up this mysterious and luscious blend. Careful, too much will only leave you wanting more.
To win the perfume, read the profile and answer this question: What is the tentative title of book two in Verday's trilogy? The first person to e-mail me (eliza at bookpage dot com) with the correct answer gets the perfume (which, from the box, smells great!).