April 23 was World Book Night, and over 500,000 memoirs, novels and non-fiction titles were given away in the U.S. and over 1 million in the U.K. We'd call that one hell of a success for the book. Huffington Post covered the day of zealous bookworms handing out free copies of excellent literature. The photo slideshow is just great:
And I have a feeling that Ernest Hemingway would be cool with Marcel Schindler's stop-motion animation of The Old Man and the Sea:
Happy weekend, everyone!
This cool article from WIRED blog Underwire goes beyond the standard "technology is scary for the publishing world" and delves into the next level of eBooks: interactive apps. One of the interviewed authors, Nashville writer and transmedia entrepreneur Amanda Havard, has created an app that integrates her YA book, The Survivors, with links to character Twitter accounts, original songs and more. She shares her experiences of forging the technology path:
“Our tagline is ‘reinventing storytelling’ and it’s the idea that we’re at this place where that’s really what we’re capable of doing. . . [I]f you use the technology in the right way—so that it isn’t doing it just because you can—and it’s thoughtful and it’s high-quality content and it’s an approach that’s truly about creating a better story experience, then that’s totally what we should do.”
Speaking of the next generation of books, big news from the Bologna Children's book fair: fart books. Yep. Children's books that smell like farts. There will be other smells, too (berries and bubblegum), but most importantly, there will be a book that smells like farts. Like moms didn't have it tough enough. Read all about it over at the Guardian.
New York Times magazine did a (very long) feature on Robert Caro, which seems fitting, as Caro has spent 40 years writing 3,388 pages on Lyndon Johnson. We recommend checking out the photos. (Did you know he writes the first four or five drafts by hand?)
Happy weekend! What are you reading?
The literary community is mourning the deaths of poet Adrienne Rich, 82, and novelist Harry Crews, 76, this week. Slate's Meghan O'Roark posted a moving tribute to Rich, and the NYT has a good overview of Crews' work in their obituary.
The Morning News crowned a winner of the 2012 Tournament of Books this morning. The final bout was between The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and Open City by Teju Cole...but you'll have to click to see who the victor was. Both books were beloved by BookPage—click on the jackets to read our reviews.
And finally, a bit of levity: Did you know that people were thinking about electronic readers in 1935? We didn't either. Let's just say even the clunky Kindle 1 design beats this setup that Boing Boing dug up.
What links have you discovered this week?
I recently read Gone With the Wind for the first time, after years of being a fan of the movie, and it was something of a revelation. Fans of the book shouldn't miss this transcript of a 1936 interview with Margaret Mitchell that has just been published online for the first time by PBS (they're airing a Margaret Mitchell biopic in April). It's funny to see a reporter refer to the 1860s and 70s as "the Sixties and Seventies," and then realizing that most of Mitchell's "research" for the book was listening to stories from people who actually remembered those days.
I heard about fighting and wounds and the primitive way they were treated, how ladies nursed in hospitals, the way gangrene smelled, what substitutes were used for drugs and food and clothing when the blockade got too tight for these necessities to be brought in from abroad. I heard about the burning and looting of Atlanta and the way the refugees from the town crowded the roads and trains to Macon, and I heard about Reconstruction, too. In fact, I heard everything in the world except that the Confederates lost the war. When I was ten years old, it was a violent shock to learn that General Lee had been defeated. I didn’t believe it when I first heard it and I was indignant. I still find it hard to believe, so strong are childhood impressions.
The LA Review of Books published an article on self-published books that mentioned some of the reasons most review outlets don't cover them. They're so honest that I'm considering posting a link on our submissions page. Here's just one of the answers:
The Washington Post does not review self-published books. The Post’s fiction editor Ron Charles admits, “We simply don’t have the staff to wade through the torrent of submissions that would come in.” Charles doesn’t see that policy changing, even though more and more professional and traditionally published writers migrate to self-publishing. “It’s impossible for me to imagine a future in which a book section adds staff members.”
Woven into all that is an interesting story about how acclaimed but midlist author Richard Bauch took the self-publishing route after a break with his agent and publisher. Check it out!
The weird publishing story of the week goes to The Smoking Gun, who revealed on Wednesday that a mysterious package destined for "Karen Wright" at St. Martin's Press contained 5 kilos of marijuana. Dogs sniffed it out and it was seized by the Feds.
St. Martins says that no person by that name is employed at their offices, located in the Flatiron Building.
And for a final laugh this Friday, check out this UCB Comedy video: Cormac McCarthy Pictionary.
What links have you discovered this week?
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."