According to last week's article in the New York Times, "Discreetly Digital, Erotic Novel Sets American Women Abuzz," thousands of suburban moms have become obsessed with Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James' erotic novel. The numbers speak for themselves: So far, the trilogy has sold more than 250,000 copies, in both paperbacks and eBooks.
Starting this week, Vintage Books has made the three titles in the trilogy—Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed—available in eBook. In April, Vintage will publish trade paperback editions with a print run of 750,000 copies. (The series was initially published by Australia's Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House.)
The buzz surrounding this series may seem like reason for the publishing industry to rejoice, but NPR blogger (and GalleyCat editor) Jason Boog writes that the books, which were born as Twilight fan-fiction—open up a whole other can of worms:
Does the book owe more than just character names to Twilight? Even though the names and relationships have changed, Fifty Shades of Grey reproduced the mad thrill of reading Twilight, the moody relationship at its core and the endless emotional analysis.
[University of Utah English professor Anne] Jamison argues that the story and the success of the book pose a unique ethical and legal problem for the publishing industry: "Whether the explicit, conscious use of another writer's fan base, via creation of characters known and experienced as 'versions' of the writer's characters, for commercial purposes, constitutes any kind of damage or infringement."
It's a question the publishing industry must reckon with.
Yesterday was the Ides of March (a.k.a. the 2056th anniversary of Julius Caesar's death), and The Awl has created a playlist in honor of the date. Blogger Dave Bly writes, "If Caesar had had access to Youtube and its trove of music videos, instead of some creepy old soothsayer, maybe he would have heeded the warning and avoided being stabbed to death by his friends in the Senate." Check it out here.
Algonquin Books publicist and BookPage reviewer Megan Fishmann has written a post for The Hairpin called "The Writer-Groupie Experiment." Fishmann writes about meeting famous authors—and how easy it is now for a fan to contact a favorite writer.
Her experiment involves contacting 10 famous authors via Facebook and asking what they ate for lunch. Read her funny (and oh-so-relatable!) essay here to see how it worked out.
Found any good links this week? Share in the comments!
The NY Daily News addressed one of the lesser-discussed points of eReader ownership: What does it mean when a thief can make off with your entire book collection? Writes Lindsay Goldwert:
I can’t lie, I felt a bit of comeuppance, although I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps one was supposed to suffer the weight of Wallace’s work. Perhaps readers were supposed to have bulging neck discs.
The Guardian reports that 500 long-lost fairy tales, collected in the mid-19th century by German folklorist Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, have been rediscovered. Von Schönwerth was so well-regarded in his day that even Grimm acknowledged to King Maximillian II that Schönwerth was the only person whose work could compare with his own. Apparently the Von Schönwerth made "no attempt to put a literary gloss" on the folk tales he collected, which is what sets him apart from Grimm and Anderson. We're thinking the folks at Disney are pretty psyched right now: most of these fairy tales are not collected elsewhere. Should we expect "The Turnip Princess" in theaters in 2014?
Found any good links this week? Share in the comments!
Journalist, novelist and artist Brian Joseph Davis has started a new tumblr with a terrific hook: he's using forensic software program Faces ID to compile composite images of literary characters based on their descriptions. As he explained to The Atlantic, "it's a combination of literary criticism -- which I know well -- and forensics -- of which I'm an utter amateur." Visit The Composites for more creepy sketches.
Over the years at BookPage I continue to be astounded by the number of presidential biographies published each year. Still, I always feel slightly guilty for groaning when I hear about yet another one (hey, I'm the fiction editor). But no longer, because it appears there are enough books about JUST ONE PRESIDENT to create a 34-foot tower in the lobby of Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington, D.C. Yes, some 6,800 books about Lincoln were used to build that tower. Pretty incredible.
What links have you discovered this week?
It's no secret that we're fans of both Stephen King and Lauren Grodstein, so we were especially excited to hear that the two are doing a live webcast for the Algonquin Books Blog on March 3. King is a great champion of lesser-known artists, both musical and literary, and he's definitely picked a winner here. Can't wait to see how this conversation unfolds.
As if you needed another reason to want an iPad: Book critics—and buddies—Laura Miller and Maud Newton have created The Chimerist, a new site that explores "the intersection of art, stories, and technology" by highlighting iPad functions and apps with a literary or artistic angle. Just a few posts in and I'm hooked: the Strange Rain app sounds totally crazy, in a good way, and I've been inspired to look for an Escher wallpaper for my iPhone.
We were delighted to find out a couple of weeks back that author Kate Christensen has started a blog. As you might expect, it's not the typical
"come to my author signings" kind of blog. It's more of a memoir-cum-diary, and it's anything but chronological. The two things you're guaranteed are excellent writing and a recipe at the end. I will absolutely be making the "Bachelor's Supper" from one of last week's posts.
Ever wondered where the printer's marks (aka colophons) on the spines of books came from? Publishers from Penguin to Pocket to Knopf addressed that question this week on Publishing Trendsetter, and their answers might surprise you. My favorite is the story behind Overlook Press' winged elephant.
What links have you discovered this week? Tell us in the comments!
I was delighted to see an article in this weekend's NYT Sunday Book Review titled "‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and Its Sci-Fi Heroine," about Meg Murray, the wonderful girl who has made such a large impact on so many readers. Beyond an analysis of Meg's character, there are some interesting facts in the article regarding women and science fiction. For example:
Thirty-two percent of adult male book buyers are science-fiction fans compared with only 12 percent of women. When Joanna Russ, one of the few successful female science-fiction writers, died last year, her obituary in The New York Times referred to her as a writer who helped “deliver science fiction into the hands of the most alien creatures the genre had yet seen — women.”
Another reason this article made me a little bit giddy was that it mentioned a forthcoming biography of Madeleine L'Engle by children's literature historian Leonard Marcus. You can go ahead and add that to my personal most-anticipated books of 2012 list!
The Academy Award nominations were announced this week, and you'd have to be living under a rock to miss the fact that many of the movies were based on books. Or, as this blog post from The Guardian puts it: "Oscars' big winners will be books: Literary adaptations look set to sweep the board in Hollywood this year." We'll post more about the year's biggest books-to-film closer to the Academy Awards, but for now tell us: Which was your favorite adaptation?
The final major news item of the week was that the Youth Media Awards were announced, including winners and honorees for the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz Awards. (We interviewed two of the authors here.) Popular children's lit blogger (and librarian) Betsy Bird posted a wonderful "post-game recap" of the awards announcement on her blog, A Fuse #8 Production. One excellent point she makes is that the Newbery win for Jack Gantos was somewhat surprising because it's such a funny book, when previous winners have been much more on the earnest side of things. Read more about Gantos' Dead End in Norvelt on BookPage.com, and continue reading Bird's post here.
Happy Friday, readers! What are you reading this weekend? Do you have any links to share?
Novelist Beth Hoffman, whose debut, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, was a reader favorite of 2010, has shared an excerpt from her second novel on her website. We hear that Looking for Me will be published in early 2013.
Upon the publication of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, BookPage reader favorite Jennifer Weiner suggested that the New York Times reviews male authors more often than female authors (and takes them more seriously, overall). This week, more than a year after Freedom, Weiner published a blog post that analyzes the Times' review record. Find the numbers here—her main conclusion is that, yes, the Times is doing better . . . but they still have a long way to go.
Yesterday was Edgar Allen Poe's birthday, but it seems the "Poe toaster"—the unidentified individual who, for more than 50 years, left a bottle of cognac and 3 roses on the poets grave—has given up the ghost. After the mysterious toaster failed to appear for the third year in a row on Wednesday night, the curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum has pronounced the tradition over. "What I'll miss most is the excitement of waiting to see if he's going to show up," he told the Baltimore Sun.
You would have had to be living under a rock for the past few days to have missed the news about SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy act) and PIPA (the PROTECT IP Act)—the controversial bills that would fight online piracy. Given the many millions of dollars of profit that are lost when books, movies and music are stolen online, a bill to stop that sounds like great idea . . . but many tech companies (like Wikipedia and Google) believe that these particular laws are too broad and that enforcing them would constitute Internet censorship and violate the First Amendment. Wikipedia was among the many sites that went black on Wednesday to protest the bills.
Literary agent Kristin Nelson has published a helpful blog post that rounds up a links from experts explaining the issues. She writes: "Despite the backing of almost every major publisher, I do believe that both Acts overreach in their scope and there will be serious ramifications if passed."
Happy Friday, readers! It's Friday the 13th and a three-day weekend for many of you . . . must be an extra lucky day.
The link that's had our office buzzing the loudest in the past few days is the New York Times' reading list roundup for fans of Downton Abbey. GalleyCat followed the paper's lead with a list of poetry for Downton fans and a writer at the Hairpin noted her disappointment that she'd gotten scooped by the NYT! (We may have been thinking something similar—but I say: You can never have too long a reading list if you love Downton!)
It is time to announce the contestants, judges, and brackets for the original, one-and-only, full-combat, oddly-predictive-of-the-Pulitzer-Prize, eighth annual TMN Tournament of Books, coming March 2012, presented by Field Notes.
One of my favorite YA authors is Sara Zarr (she was a National Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl, and I interviewed her on video about How to Save a Life). She's done a nice blog series this week in honor of the five-year anniversary of her debut novel. Any aspiring writers—or those curious about how a book (that a writer has written) becomes a BOOK (that you can buy)—ought to check it out here.
Got any links to share? What are you reading this week? Let us know in the comments.
io9.com shared Lizzie Stark's answers that age-old question: What if great literary writers of the last 200 years had penned Twilight instead? For example:
Flannery O'Connor: When Native American werewolf Jacob threatens her with death, Bella reconsiders her hardcore racism, and just for one milisecond, the audience finds her sympathetic.
Tim O'Brien: It's all about the memories these vampires have carried with them for the past couple hundred years. Just think how much that would have deepened their characters. "Bella looked into Edward's smoldering eyes and knew all the pain he carried with him, the cross burned into the cleft of his muscular chest, 1 oz., the dash of his hair across his forehead, dangling ever-so, 5.oz, etc… etc… "
Issue 16 of The Thing Quarterly comes from Dave Eggers. Each issue of The Thing is an object that is connected to literature. So Issue 16? It's a short story on a shower curtain -- or, according to The Thing, "a monologue told to Dave Eggers by his shower curtain."
There's an interesting (and amusing) article in this week's New York Times Book Review about authors who tweet: why some tweet, why some don't tweet, why publishers want them to tweet.
There are quotes from several of my personal favorite author-tweeters, Salman Rushdie, Jennifer Weiner, Margaret Atwood and Gary Shteyngart. @EmperorFranzen even gets a shout-out, and Jeffrey Eugenides comes across as a bit stuffy because he won't interact with readers on his publisher-created Facebook page.
Take a look, have a laugh and let us know: Who is your favorite author who tweets?
Happy weekend, readers! Believe it or not, it's currently 64° and sunny in Nashville. I can't believe I'm saying this on January 6, but I sure wish I were reading a book in the park right now. Do any of you have big reading plans this weekend?
Hi, everyone! BookPage is closed today and Monday to make way for poppers and champagne -- or curling up with some dogs and the Alexander McQueen book (ahem).
But there were a few things I've been soaking up this week I just had to share in our weekly links...
One of my favorite art & culture blogs, Colossal, completely knocked my socks off last week with these carved book landscapes by Guy Laramee. (HuffPost also took note.) Colossal quoted Laramee: "So I carve landscapes out of books and I paint Romantic landscapes. Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains."
We got the scoop from GalleyCat about songs from a forthcoming companion album to The Hunger Games movie (the soundtrack will be released separately). It will include Arcade Fire with a song titled "Horn of Plenty" and The Decemberists with "One Engine."
Below is the track for "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars:
Read more to get info about Jennifer Lawrence's contributions to the album!
After a banner year for YA movies (War Horse, HP 7.2, Tintin, Hugo and Twilight) and 2012 looking strong as well (of course, Hunger Games), Salon asked a number of authors -- including Sherman Alexie, Gregory Maguire and Sara Zarr -- to name their best and worst picks in teen book-to-movie adaptations and to name the titles they favor for future features on the silver screen.
For example, here's what Kathryn Lasky (the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series) had to say:
Which book would I like to see adapted? “The Giver.” Why that book has not been turned into a movie I don’t know. I suppose right now, everybody’s into … vampires and very flashy, brutal dystopias; “The Giver” is so quiet, compared to that — no vampires. But that is the one movie that I feel absolutely should be made.
Have a wonderful weekend! We'll see you next year! (har har)
Happy holidays! BookPage is closed tomorrow, but we couldn't end the workweek without our weekly link roundup.
Last week, the Internet was atwitter about Farhad Manjoo's Slate article about the pros of ordering from Amazon vs. your local bookstore that stood in stark contrast to conventional bookish wisdom. Some excerpts:
"As much as I despise some of its recent tactics, no company in recent years has done more than Amazon to ignite a national passion for buying, reading, and even writing new books."
"Sure, every local bookstore promotes local authors, but its bread and butter is the same stuff that Amazon sells—mass-manufactured goods whose intellectual property was produced by one of the major publishing houses in Manhattan.")
William Faulkner no doubt had more than one favorite drink recipe—but yesterday Maud Newton shared his formula for a hot toddy (and a few other author libations).
According to Faulkner's niece, who shared the recipe in The Great American Writers Cookbook, "Pappy alone decided when a Hot Toddy was needed, and he administered it to his patient with the best bedside manner of a country doctor."
Writer and critic Christopher Hitchens died on December 15, and there have been many thoughtful tributes published in the past week. A couple of the best, I think, have been
"Christopher Hitchens: 'the consummate writer, the brilliant friend'" by Ian McEwan (published in The Guardian), and "Regarding Christopher," by feminist critic Katha Pollitt (published in The Nation).
McEwan's piece describes Hitchens' final weeks at the medical center in Houston—a time during which Hitchens continued to read, write and engage with authors and ideas until the very end. Pollitt's is more of a critical essay, but certainly helps to provide the "bigger picture" surrounding Hitchens' outsized personality. She writes about both the good and the bad.
Have you come across any click-worthy links this week? Please share in the comments.
Happy weekend, readers! All of us from BookPage hope you have a wonderful week with family, friends and lots of books.