The Associated Press reported this morning that Barry Hannah, Southern author extraordinaire and creative writing professor at the University of Mississippi, died Monday. He was 67. Hannah's death came just a few days before the 17th Oxford Conference for the Book; his work is the subject of the conference.
Hannah’s first novel, Geronimo Rex, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1972. It received the William Faulkner prize for writing. Short story collection High Lonesome was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.
Richard Ford, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Independence Day, was a friend of Hannah’s. He said, ''Barry could somehow make the English sentence generous and unpredictable, yet still make wonderful sense, which for readers is thrilling. . . You never knew the source of the next word. But he seemed to command the short story form and the novel form and make those forms up newly for himself.”
In a 2001 interview with BookPage, Hannah talked with Ellen Kanner about his book Yonder Stands Your Orphan—and about writing sober and Southern:
"All my idols were alcoholics—Joyce, Hemingway. I bought into the notion you had to have some drinking and a bit of pain if you had anything to say," says Hannah. "Much of it was phony." He hasn't had a drink in a decade and Yonder Stands Your Orphan is the first novel he wrote sober.
Hannah misses nothing of his boozy self. It's his younger self he thinks of with a bit of nostalgia. "The young are privy to truths that become blurred for older people. I had no history when I started writing in the 1960s, when I was writing as well as I ever did. You don't need to know everything, thank God. I knew nothing of publishing, didn't know I was going to make a dime. I miss that freedom in relative poverty," he says. . .
Writing about the South and living in Oxford, home of William Faulkner, Hannah has been called that dirty name, a Southern writer. "I don't like it used in the connotations of local color—I despise that—or somebody making hay out of weird relatives or funny names," he says. "No really good writer could be merely Southern. A fiction writer isn't provincial, ever. He should be sending back news from the front, news somebody else might not know about and it should be interesting and entertaining."
Related in BookPage: An interview with Richard Ford.
You might remember that in 2005, a woman paid $25,100 for the privilege of having a Stephen King character—a zombie, in fact—named after her brother. (The book was Cell, and the zombie's name was "Huizenga.") The proceeds, earned in an auction, went to the First Amendment Project, which has also allowed bidding for characters in John Grisham, Dave Eggers and Neil Gaiman books.
A news item in yesterday’s New York Times reminded me of this odd concept of reader participation: Tony Award-winning actress Patti LuPone is holding a contest for readers to name her forthcoming autobiography. She explains: “Dolls, I've been busy writing the story of my theatrical life and need your help to find a suitable and fabulous title.”
Romance novelist Robyn Carr is holding a similar contest (which you may have seen advertised on our site): Readers can enter for a chance to have a character named after them in one of her 2011 books, specifically, a kitchen colleague in the restaurant where we'll first meet the story's heroine. (Granted, the difference here is that Carr’s and King's contests are all luck or money, whereas Lupone’s takes creativity. The NYT suggests “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”)
In October I blogged about The Amanda Project, a YA mystery series by Stella Lennon. The series is innovative because social media plays a role in the books’ editorial content; readers can interact on The Amanda Project website, and their comments could be incorporated into characters or subplots.
Commenters: What do you think about this marketing/fundraising technique? Would YOU like to have a character named for you in a book? Or your title splashed across a new hardcover? Or is editorial content best left to the experts—the authors themselves?
There's been no shortage of major books about political figures recently—think Going Rogue and Game Change, just for starters—but a few titles coming out this spring will be sure to generate even more interest in these very public lives.
President Obama may already have two books to his name, but David Remnick's The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama is the first major biography to be published about him. Remnick, who won the Pulitzer Prize for 1993's Lenin's Tomb, will cover both Obama's personal life (such as his relationship with his mother) and his political life. Says Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at Knopf, "Remnick conducted hundreds of on-the-record interviews to write the fullest narrative possible of a sitting President. He relies on conversations with family, friends, teachers, professors, mentors, donors, and rivals of Barack Obama––as well as with the President himself." Knopf will publish The Bridge on April 6th, with a first printing of 200,000 copies.
And a mere two weeks later, on April 20th, Gotham will publish Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson's family memoir, A Game of Character: A Family Journey from Chicago's Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond (Gotham). With a first printing of 250,000, Robinson's book promises to share his insights into developing that elusive quality known as "character," with stories about his and Michelle's childhood, growing up and eventual acceptance into Princeton University.
Finally, with a first printing of a whopping 750,000 (!), Laura Bush's memoir, Spoken From the Heart, will be released by Scribner on May 4th. There's very little official information to be found about this book—they aren't even sending out advance copies—but with numbers like that, expect this one to be HUGE.
From the catalog:
In 1934 all the national publications sent their star reporters to remote Virginia to cover the trial of Erma Morton: a beautiful 21-year-old year old mountain girl with a teaching degree, accused of murdering her father--a drunken tyrant of a man.
We've said before that McCrumb "is just the author to unearth the facts, sprinkle them with a little mountain magic and bring them to life in her fiction." (from an interview for Ghost Riders). The Devil Amongst the Lawyers should bring more of the same.
I don't know yet if I'm taking a vacation this summer, but if it happens, Ayelet Waldman's latest will be tucked in my suitcase. Red Hook Road is being published in July 13. It's her first novel since 2006's Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, which interviewer Alden Mudge called "sharply observed, completely absorbing and sometimes wickedly humorous. Like Lionel Shriver and Zoe Heller, Waldman has a gift for creating flawed, and therefore human, characters. You may not always like them, but you root for them.
Red Hook Road sounds a little more dramatic than Love, which centered on the not-so-unusual dilemma of a stepmother struggling to accept her role. In an interview with Amazon, Waldman says that Red Hook Road was inspired by a newspaper story—a young couple, killed in a car crash on their way to their wedding reception. On her twitter feed, she describes it more succinctly: "Abt 2 families in Maine, connected & divided by tragedy and hope. Hey, just pulled that outa my butt. Pretty good!"
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. announced the Nebula Award Nominees today. The awards celebrate—you guessed it—the best in science fiction and fantasy writing. The Awards honor a short story, novelette, novel, YA book and movie. View the complete list of nominees here. Click the highlighted titles below to read reviews on BookPage.com.
Best Novel nominees:
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade)
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak (Bantam)
Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket)
The City & The City by China Mieville (Del Rey)
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor)
Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press)
Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker (Tachyon)
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster)
Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown and Company)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends)
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente)
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Simon)
Any one else surprised that Newbery Medal winner When You Reach Me is on that list? Time travel is certainly an important element of the plot, but I never would have placed the book in the fantasy genre. (Although Stead does repeatedly refer to A Wrinkle in Time, which is probably one of the most beloved YA fantasy books of all time.)
Do any of our Sci-Fi fans have award predictions?
I have a confession that will probably embarrass my co-workers: I loved Avatar. Yes, there were holes in the plot. And yes, I thought it was predictably annoying that a white guy had to swoop in and save the natives on Pandora. (Haven’t seen the movie and need a summary?)
Throughout the nearly-three-hour movie, though, I watched with my jaw dropped, enraptured by the vibrant colors and awesome plants and animals of Pandora. I completely bought the love story between Jake and Neytiri, and I liked the environmental parable of the story. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever been so engrossed in a movie before, and I might even have suffered from some post-Avatar blues after I returned to regular ole’ Earth.
So, I read with great interest when the news broke that director/writer James Cameron is planning to write an Avatar prequel. The book will not be a “novelization” (a.k.a. summary) of the movie, but rather a “big, epic story that fills in a lot of things,” according to producer Jon Landau. The prequel will be Cameron's first book.
Many reviewers have noted that Avatar’s weak link is the clunky/predictable dialogue (“we’ll fight terror with terror,” “you have a good heart,” etc.), and as the New York Times ArtsBeat blog points out, of the nine Academy Awards nominations Avatar has received, none is for best original screenplay. Are there enough fans out there who’ll overlook Cameron’s shortcomings as a writer, and focus on his ability to transport us to another world?
Since Avatar’s success rests largely on its incredible visuals, I wonder why Cameron’s not choosing to go the graphic novel route with the prequel. What do you think, Avatar fans? Will Cameron’s book be filled with cringe-worthy dialogue and a loose plot? Or will it be a welcome ticket back to Pandora?
If you’ve got a need for fantasy and waiting for Avatar just won’t cut it, check out our February Sci-Fi column on BookPage.com.
Last night the fiction finalists for the Best Translated Book Awards were announced at Idlewild Books in New York City. The awards are sponsored by Three Percent, a program at the University of Rochester (the name comes from the fact that only ~3% of books published in the United States are works in translation). Of the finalists, original languages range from Hebrew to Norwegian. View the complete list here.
The awards caught my attention because two of the most recent books I’ve read have been in translation. I loved the simple, lyrical language in The Solitude of Prime Numbers (originally written in Italian), and I hope future reviews note the work of English translator Shaun Whiteside. I’ve read Isabel Allende in Spanish and in English, and I’ve always been impressed by the English translations—Magda Bogin’s work in The House of the Spirits was especially notable, capturing the author’s flowing prose and mystical imagery. Island of the Sea (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden) is no exception.
If you’re unable to read a work in the original language, it’s hard to tell if a translation is great—although I think it’s clear if one is bad, based on clunky transitions, imagery and diction. What translated works would you recommend? Any you’d avoid?
set in rural West Virginia in the aftermath of WWI, about a veteran who has lost his wife and is caring for their newborn, and finds himself steered in unlikely ways by an angel who has followed him home from the trenches of France
Due first is a five-part graphic series based on Witch & Wizard, Patterson’s YA novel. (“For those who have been waiting for a series as mouthwatering and addictive as Harry Potter, this’ll do it,” said Patterson of the book in a January interview with BookPage.) In June, Patterson’s The Murder of King Tut, a “deft blend of antiquity and whodunit,” will come out as a four-part series. (Both series will be primarily written by coauthors.) We wonder if Patterson will have to re-work the ending of King Tut. According to a report from today's New York Times, the boy pharaoh died from malaria—not murder.
Patterson claims he wants to expand to the graphic novel market so his stories can “reach as many people as possible.” Ted Adams, CEO of IDW Publishing, the company producing the books, wanted to work with the prolific author because he sells a ton of books and he’s a “creative genius.” What do you think, Patterson fans? Will the books translate well to the graphic novel medium?
Also look out for a straight-to-graphic-series from Patterson: Beer Belly and the Fat Boy. (Can’t wait until we get a review copy of that one!)