• The 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists were announced earlier this week: Threats by Amelia Gray, Kind One by Laird Hunt, Hold It ’Til It Hurts by T. Geronimo Johnson, Watergate by Thomas Mallon, and Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The winner will be named on May 4. Which one will you be rooting for?
• GalleyCat has given us a peek inside the just-published children's picture book Flying Henry, a collection of whimsical images of photographer/artist Rachel Hulin's son.
• Did you know that Moby-Dick was inspired by real-life events? A ship attacked and sunk by an enormous whale, three months drifting at sea, cannibalism—and even a crew member actually named Owen Coffin! A fascinating Smithsonian blog post details the entire gruesome story.
• Dutch artist Frank Halmans' architectural book sculptures look so cozy that we wish we could pack our bags and move right into one.
• The Paris Review notes the passing of Barnaby Conrad, writer, boxer, matador, and one of the coolest guys you've probably never heard of.
• Who knew so many writers were gifted in the visual arts, as well? Flavorwire has compiled a collection of 20 self-portraits by famous authors. Flannery O'Connor, Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood—which one is your favorite?
• The Baltimore home where F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived (with their daughter, Scottie) from 1933 to '35 is up for sale, which means we get to peek inside. Also posted this week is Scott's 1921 passport application, which features a crossed-out description of his chin as "prominent" replaced with "round." And apparently, his mouth was "medium"—whatever that means.
• Finally, Book Riot has collected photos of some very impressive literarily themed Lego projects. It sounds silly, yes, but we dare you not to be impressed by the Harry Potter one, which was built with 400,000 Legos!
• If you love dogs like we do, you'll agree that this book trailer is just adorable. We have our fingers crossed that Nashville will be a stop on Maddie and Theron's tour!
• Speaking of tours, we are intrigued by Brit poet Simon Armitage's empty-pocket plans to walk a 260-mile stretch of the English coast this summer, giving poetry readings in exchange for food and shelter.
• We could hardly believe that the topic of Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten's next book, due in 2015, was actually pulled out of a hat. It sounds interesting to us!
• McSweeney's clever piece on Banned Performance Enhancing Substances in Literary Competitions had us laughing 'til our sides hurt.
• We were delighted to discover Hi Butterfly, the perfect place to shop for our bibliophile friends.
• Hearing about this poem handwritten by a 13-year-old Charlotte Brontë going up for auction has us wishing we had a spare $75,000 lying around.
• And seeing these literarily themed window displays at Bergdorf Goodman has us wishing we could hop the next flight to NYC to see them in person.
• Finally, try not to drool while taking in this visual feast of yummy-looking—well, most of them, anyway—cakes inspired by famous book covers.
• One reviewer of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear shares 10 of the wackiest, most hilarious tidbits from the Scientology exposé. Warning for those of you at work: may cause guffawing, so try to control yourself. (You can check out our review of the book here.)
• The Academy Awards are on Sunday night! Gear up for it by testing your Oscar knowledge with this fun literary pop quiz.
• The six nominees for the 2013 Diagram Prize—awarded for the weirdest book title—have been posted on We Love This Book. Will Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop or How Tea Cosies Changed the World get your vote?
• It's a magical thing when the book and art worlds collide. Enjoy this visual feast of book murals from all around the world.
• And, finally, the Fifty Shades of Grey (one of our Readers' Choice Best Books of 2012) phenomenon continues. We're not sure whether this book trailer is officially NSFW, but it certainly had us blushing!
• BookPage is a selection guide, which means we only review books that merit recommendation. Still, we can appreciate a good hatchet job as much as the rest of you, especially one that describes a book with terms like "bizarre," "hifaultin," "moany" and "crazed."
• Fox is planning a TV series adaptation of Reamde, the acclaimed 2011 thriller by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Deadline reports that brothers Chris and Paul Weitz, the Oscar-winning team behind About a Boy, will direct the Reamde series for Fox. (In a side note, there's also a TV adaptation in the works for About a Boy, which, like the 2002 movie of the same title, is based on Nick Hornby's novel. Minnie Driver is reportedly starring in the NBC pilot.)
• February 11 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of poet Sylvia Plath. Surprised that she could find no contemporaneous accounts of Plath's 1963 suicide, Atlantic writer Ashley Fetters decided to investigate.
• The 2012 Cybils Awards were announced Thursday, honoring children's and teen books that combine "literary merit and kid appeal." Those sound like just the right standards to us, so not surprisingly we love many of the winners, which include:
Fiction Picture Book: A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead
Nonfiction Picture Book: Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Fantasy & Science Fiction: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Check out the full list of winners, which are chosen by children's and YA bloggers.
• And last but not least, the NYT spotlights the good, the bad and the ugly in 200 years of Pride and Prejudice covers.
An opinion piece on Slate suggests that schools replace Catcher in the Rye in the curriculum with David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. Two thumbs up from this reader, who never could finish Catcher.
Young readers need a new coming-of-age classic, a book that has yet to be discovered and co-opted by the culture, a book that shares Salinger’s sense for adolescent heartbreak and anger while refreshing its midcentury references and voice, a jewel of a book that could feel like new. Happily, such a book has already been written.
Think you read a lot? Me too, until I heard this story.
I am behind in my New Yorker reading, but Shouts & Murmurs really hit it out of the ballpark a couple of weeks back with Le Blog de Jean-Paul Sartre.
Happy Friday! What links have you discovered this week?
Happy Friday, readers! I am normally thrilled for the weekend because it means lazy Saturdays and Sundays spent with a good book. Due to some mid-week travel a few days ago, though, I've squeezed in even more weekday reading than usual. After a two-day binge, yesterday I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Can't wait to tell you more about why I loved this book! What are you looking forward to reading this weekend?
Here are a few links, for your entertainment:
Jennifer Weiner was the keynote speaker at this year's BookExpo America Blogger Convention. Her address gives good advice about blogging and some insight into this popular author's relationship with the media. Worth a read—especially if you love her books!
We lost a literary luminary on June 5; Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91. (Read the New York Times obituary here.) How many of us read and pondered Fahrenheit 451 as young readers? On The New Yorker's book blog, Junot Diaz writes about Loving Ray Bradbury. NPR has re-posted an interview with the author from 1988. An excerpt: "It's not going to do any good to land on Mars if we're stupid. And I want to save the future generation, I want to teach them to read when they're 5 and 6 and 7 years old."
Finally, we've given you plenty of summer reading suggestions here on The Book Case, but here's another fun resource. Teach.com has put together a Summer Reading Flowchart, featuring 101 picks in a variety of genres, from dark fiction, to poetry to biography and more.
What links have you been sharing this week?
This may not count as literature, per se, but Victorian lit fans can now peruse Queen Victoria's diaries online, thanks to the current Queen Elizabeth. In a statement, Queen Elizabeth says, "It seems fitting that the subject of the first major public release of material from the Royal Archives is Queen Victoria, who was the first Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee." (Elizabeth is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee today.)
Though the journals are hardly confessionals—they were written knowing they might someday be made public—there are some personal comments about the monarch's joy in her family and love for her consort, Prince Albert. And of course, we can all take a turn analyzing the Queen's handwriting.
The Awl adds to the reader ruminations on Joan Didion with an intriguing piece on her early work—and the not-entirely positive reaction to it.
A Kirkus reviewer noted that though she was a “talented scene surveyor,” “Miss Didion is no female Tom Wolfe.” (One can only admire the restraint that must have prevented some editor along the way from adding a comma and “thank god.”)
Yesterday was Walt Whitman's 193rd birthday, and Melville House has a nice tribute post to the American poet—including an 1890-ish wax recording of Whitman reading four lines from "America."
What links have you discovered this week?
Running short of discussion topics at your book club meetings? Julieanne Smolinski, whose Fifty Shades of Grey takedown tickled my funnybone a few weeks back, has 15 hilarious ideas over at Jezebel. A few highlights:
4. This book has sold several million copies and has been translated into 26 languages. A lot of us are kind of resentful about this. Do you think you could have written this book or something? Do you think writing a book is easy?
10. What foods or beverages did you spill on the book during the course of reading it? Anything good?
Last Wednesday, a Paris auction house sold two newly discovered pages from Antoine St. Exupery's beloved classic, Le Petit Prince. The pages were omitted from the final version, and show the prince visiting Earth. As the NY Daily News' Page Views reports,
Here he sees a man on the road and says to himself, “I am going to find out what they think about life on this planet. That may be an ambassador of the human spirit…” The Little Prince approaches, but the man is preoccupied. He has been stumped for three days by a crossword puzzle and is looking for “a six-letter word that starts with G that means ‘gargling’.”
Should we expect a Shades of Grey baby boom next year? The popular—and, in some libraries and bookstores, controversial—erotic trilogy has sold more than 10,000,000 (yes, that's 10 MILLION) copies worldwide in all formats. What's even more shocking: the sales show no signs of slacking, with bookstore chains selling tens of thousands per week and some libraries reporting thousands of holds from patrons. Have you succumbed yet?
Novelist Jennifer Egan—the last winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction—is telling a story through Twitter. The first installment of "Black Box" was released on the New Yorker's Twitter feed (@NYerFiction) between 8 and 9 p.m. EDT last night, and will continue at the same time for the next 10 nights until all 8,500 words have been published (the whole story will be collated as it is posted here). Very, very cool. [Via]
What links have you discovered this week?
The big story in literature this week was the death of Maurice Sendak, which has inspired dozens of touching remembrances. On our Facebook page, we recommended his recent interview with Terri Gross, but a lesser known—and just as moving—interview is this 2004 talk with PBS host Bill Moyers. "I'm not Hans Christian Anderson," he says. "I picked a modest form which was very modest back in the 50s, 40s; children's books were the bottom of the totem pole. . . . I hid inside this modest form called the children's book and expressed myself entirely."
There's a new blog in town for literature fans. Talking Covers interviews authors and designers about their book jackets. It's a fun look behind the scenes of the book business.
Flavorwire has put together a slideshow of serious writers in "extremely silly poses." If you've ever wanted to see Susan Sontag in a bear costume, or Marcel Proust playing air guitar, or Nabokov hunting butterflies . . . this is your chance!
What links have you discovered this week? Share in the comments!
This week on BookPage.com, Roger Bishop praises Robert Caro's The Passage of Power (which I squealed about in November) by writing, "Political biography doesn’t get any better than what Caro does." This installment of Caro's incredible Lydon Johnson biography covers the years 1958 to 1964 and is surely a must-read for people who are interested in American history, politics or how a person longs for and acquires power. As a Bill Clinton devotee since birth (what can I say? I'm from Arkansas!) and someone who has devoted roughly 25 hours of her life (so far) listening to his autobiography on audio, I thought I was going to die and go to heaven when I learned that Clinton was reviewing Caro's book in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review. The glowing review is online now.
John Irving's In One Person is our Top Pick in Fiction this month; reviewer Matthew Jackson calls it "among the most challenging, dense novels Irving has ever produced," providing readers who are willing to take the journey with "immense rewards." If you've ever wondered about the day-to-day life of the best-selling novelist, read the profile "John Irving: the hitman" in The Telegraph, in which journalist Ariel Leve writes an intimate portrait of the author.
Speaking of mega-successful novelists, Stephen King (whose latest Dark Tower novel went on sale last week) has written a passionate, explicit and—yes—amusing scolding of the superrich in America. An example: According to King, those guys "float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills."
The Wall Street Journal seems to be the go-to publication for hot-button commentary, whether Amy Chua is telling us why Tiger Moms are superior or Meghan Cox Gurden is taking on the "violence and depravity" in contemporary YA literature. The latest book piece that caught my eye was Book Lover columnist Cynthia Crossen's column about "heavy heroes."
A reader asked: "Considering that more than a third of Americans are considered to be obese, why are there so few modern novels with overweight heroes or heroines?" Crossen gives a brief history of overweight characters in literature, including now-classic books with "heavy heroines" like Good in Bed and She's Come Undone. She also introduces a term that was new to me: "chunk lit."
In the past our readers have asked for a "best" list highlighting books with an overweight main character, which is maybe something we should revisit. For the time being, I recommend Heft by Liz Moore.
Happy weekend, readers! Have any links to share? What are you reading this weekend?