Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize-winning author, has passed away at age 90. Brilliant, prolific and unafraid of controversy, Gordimer was a champion of civil rights during the South African era of apartheid. With a deep and empathetic understanding of South African culture and politics, Gordimer fought tirelessly for the persecuted and oppressed.
In an interview with BookPage’s Alden Mudge in 2007, Gordimer spoke of the deep influence reading had on her life. "I began to write very, very young in the small gold-mining town in South Africa where I was born…. By the time I was 12, the librarian at this local library, who was also a friend of my mother's, allowed me the freedom of the library. I wasn't confined to the children's section. I read everything from D.H. Lawrence to Thucydides. Nobody was guiding me. I was like a pig in clover and I found what I wanted and what was nourishing to me. The local library was unbelievably important to me. It was my real education."
A literary giant and champion of equality, Gordimer will be keenly missed. You can read our full interview with Gordimer here.
A very sad day indeed: Walter Dean Myers died yesterday at the age of 76 following a brief illness, according to the Children's Book Council.
Myers was and will continue to be an icon in children's literature. He received two Newbery Honors, six Coretta Scott King Awards and Honors, the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award and the first Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and served for two years. Over the course of his 45-year career, he authored more than 100 books, both fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose.
Richard Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, shared some kind words:
“Walter Dean Myers changed the face of children’s literature by representing the diversity of the children of our nation in his award-winning books. He was a deeply authentic person and writer who urged other authors, editors and publishers not only to make sure every child could find him or herself in a book, but also to tell compelling and challenging stories that would inspire children to reach their full potential. My favorite quote from Walter is a clarion call to embrace the power of books to inform and transform our lives – he said, ‘Once I began to read, I began to exist.’ He will be missed by us all.”
Look back through our coverage of some of our favorites. Myers will certainly be missed.
Readers who came to Michel Faber via The Crimson Petal and the White (which was adapted as a miniseries) might find his first novel in nearly 10 years to be, well, full of strange new things. But true Faber fans know that one of the major themes of his work is giving an outsider's view of humankind. And while sometimes that means Victorian prostitutes, it more often means adding in a bit of the fantastical (did you see Scarlett Johannsen in Under the Skin? Yep, based on Faber's book).
Whether you're a longtime fan or a Crimson Petal aficionado, Faber is returning on October 28 with a long-awaited novel that is both epic and magical, and should satisfy both crowds of readers.
The hero of The Book of Strange New Things is a missionary ministering to his flock and facing the normal, everyday struggles that entails—that is, if you live in the future and your ministry has taken you not to China, South America or Africa, but to a distant planet that is light years away from your true home and family. Still, Peter is reconciled to his fate and becoming fond of his welcoming alien flock, until the news from Earth turns more horrifying than usual. Natural disasters are striking the planet, and on a more personal note, Peter's wife is facing a crisis of faith.
Check out the opening passage:
FORTY MINUTES LATER, HE WAS UP IN THE SKY
"I was going to say something," he said.
"So say it," she said.
He was quiet, keeping his eyes on the road. In the darkness of the city's outskirts, there was nothing to see except the tail-lights of other cars in the distance, the endless unfurling roll of tarmac, the giant utilitarian fixtures of the motorway.
"God may be disappointed in me for even thinking it," he said.
"Well," she sighed, "He knows already, so you may as well tell me."
He glanced at her face, to judge what mood she was in as she said this, but the top half of her head, including her eyes, was veiled in a shadow cast by the edge of the windscreen. The bottom half of her face was lunar bright. The sight of her cheek, lips and chin—so intimately familiar to him, so much a part of life as he had known it—made him feel a sharp grief at the thought of losing her.
Will you read it?
In the market for a piece of literary and cinematic history? Looking for a memento for the 75th anniversary of the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind? You're in luck. The RR Auction is offering a collection of correspondence between Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and a fan for bidding. At the moment, the next bid for the set of letters is holding steady at $5900, so crack open the piggy bank!
The letters offer some fascinating insight into Mitchell's process of character and plot development, as well as her thoughts on the film adaptation of her book. Sadly, if you've ever wondered about the fate of the South's most volatile couple, Mitchell offers no guidance. After Rhett declares that he just does not give a damn what Scarlett does with her life, Mitchell quite literally closed the book on them. She writes, "About the ending of the book and whether or not Rhett came back to his wife—well, you have me out on a limb. You see, I do not know myself. I honestly never thought about what happened to the characters after the book ended." Sigh.
Mitchell's pen pal was obviously hoping that the saga of Tara would continue, but despite Gone with the Wind being one of the most successful American novels ever published and winning the Pulitzer Prize, Mitchell had no desire to write a sequel. She tells her admirer, "I do not plan to write a sequel, nor have I any plans for future writing, as I do not like to write.” For someone who didn't like to write, she certainly wrote one long novel (1,037 pages!). But true to her word, she never published another book during her life.
However, Mitchell's estate authorized a sequel written by Donald McCaig in 2007 (Rhett Butler's People), and he has been commissioned to write a prequel as well, this time from the perspective of Scarlett's house slave, Mammy. Despite being undeniably powerful and important, Gone with the Wind has been criticized for its depiction of slavery and black people, which is at best lacking in nuance and at worst, offensive. McCaig's novel attempts to flesh out the character of Mammy, giving her a backstory and a name—Ruth. Entitled Ruth's Journey, the book will focus on Mammy's story before Gone with the Wind: Ruth's youth spent in the Carribean, her marriage and her relationship with Scarlett's mother. Peter Borland, the editorial director of the book's publisher, Atria, says, “What’s really remarkable about what Donald has done is that it’s a book that respects and honors its source material, but it also provides a necessary correction to what is one of the more troubling aspects of the book, which is how the black characters are portrayed.” However, many have questioned whether a 73-year-old white man would be able—or should even attempt—to give voice to a black, enslaved woman. Ruth's Journey will be released in October.
What do you think, readers? Will you be picking up Ruth's Journey? Or is this Gone with the Wind reboot a bridge too far?
This morning, the PEN/American Center released the shortlist for their annual awards, which are some of the most lucrative (and therefore most coveted!) in the United States. The 18 awards cover categories from debut fiction to science writing to essays, and this year the various judging panels included the likes of Cheryl Strayed, Jonathan Dee, Terry McMillan, Ariel Levy, E.L. Doctorow and Zadie Smith.
Here are the shortlists for some of the bigger prizes; for the full list of finalists visit PEN's site. Which books are you rooting for?
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize ($25,000 to the author of a debut work of fiction)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Brief Encounters With the Enemy by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
Everybody’s Irish by Ian Stansel
Godforsaken Idaho by Shawn Vestal
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000 award)
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5000 award)
Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore by Linda Leavell
Margaret Fuller by Megan Marshall
American Mirror by Deborah Solomon
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck (Volume 1) by Victoria Wilson.
America's new Poet Laureate is Charles Wright. He's not only talented, he's capable of telling a joke in poem form. From "Ancient of Days," in his collection entitled Caribou:This is an old man’s poetry, written by someone who’s spent his life