The box office success of Julie & Julia has spurred sales of Julia Child’s opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Amazon sold out of copies on Aug. 10 and has yet to restock, though there are copies available from private sellers; The Associated Press reports that Knopf has rushed 75,000 copies into print.
The book of the same name by blogger Julie Powell that inspired the movie has seen sales volume pick up as well. ABC News reported that it sold 42,000 copies the week of the movie’s debut. Here’s our take on Julie & Julia. If you’re waiting for a review on all 750+ pages of Mastering, you’ll have to give us a minute on that one! Or just check out our interview with Child's grand-nephew, Alex Prud'homme, who collaborated with her on a memoir about her life with her beloved Paul and her years in France.
As a child I stole my mom's Stephen King novels from her bedside table (nothing like the lure of the forbidden!) and continued to read him through my teens. Over the last few years I've been a more sporadic King reader—skipping pretty much everything except Lisey's Story since Bag of Bones—but when I heard Under the Dome was along the lines of one of my favorites, The Stand, I was ready to dive in.
Then I opened our galley and found out it started on . . . page 73. Oops. Gives a whole new meaning to the term in media res, doesn't it?
Apparently we were the only unlucky ones, and Scribner got us a complete copy within a week. I've been working my way through the book ever since and can say that the Stand comparison is not too much of a stretch. After the jump, more on my impressions of the book so far (no real spoilers or plot details beyond those given in the published summary, but if you don't want to know anything about this one before you buy, stop here).
Since Under the Dome takes place in a small town sealed off from the world, it lacks the epic feel of The Stand. However, as in The Stand King uses his characters' predicament to address some major questions about human nature. The Stand asks if humans can avoid repeating their mistakes, and King's answer is ambiguous. In Under the Dome, the emphasis here is on compassion—or, sparing that, pity. What could force us to feel these emotions for the people we hurt, or see being hurt? What makes us stop seeing people as people, and why? The world watches as the situation in Chester's Mill goes downhill fast, and then turns away once the novelty of a town sealed off from the rest of the world fades and other news stories take top billing, recalling tragedies like Hurricane Katrina.
Under the Dome also contains signature King moments—images you'll remember, for better or for worse. And though the cast is huge, the characters manage to stand out as individuals. King fans should definitely mark November 10 on their calendar.
Congrats to Neil Gaiman, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Graveyard Book. Guess the judges were "astounded by Gaiman's sharp, spine-tingling storytelling," as BookPage reviewer Angela Leeper promised readers would be in our October 2008 review of the book. The Hugo is the most prestigious award in science fiction and fantasy, and past winners include Robert A. Heinlein, Lois McMasters Bujold, Susanna Clarke, Michael Chabon and Isaac Asimov. This is Gaiman's second "Best Novel" win (American Gods received the 2002 Best Novel Hugo).
The full list of 2009 winners can be found here.
Today’s publication of Nick McDonell’s third novel, An Expensive Education, probably has more than a few would-be writers twitching with jealousy—McDonell’s first novel, Twelve, was published when the author was just 18 years old.
On Sunday, the New York Times profiled the now 25-year-old writer. McDonell comes from a literary background—his father edits Sports Illustrated, and Hunter S. Thompson was a family friend. Although these connections no doubt helped McDonell get his first book deal, critic Michiko Kakutani validated the writer’s talent by calling Twelve “as fast as speed, as relentless as acid.” In BookPage, the novel was praised as being “energetic and episodic, brimming with tension. . . . McDonell, who is only 18, writes with a worldliness and wisdom that exceed his years.” Currently, Twelve is being turned into a movie by director Joel Schumacher, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Chace Crawford and 50 Cent.
Does anyone have other favorite authors who were discovered at a young age? A few immediately come to mind: Michael Chabon (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was Chabon’s honors thesis and published when he was 25); Marisha Pessl (Special Topics in Calamity Physics debuted when Pessl was 28; Night Film is forthcoming in 2010); and Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated was drawn from Foer’s senior thesis and published when he was 25). Young writer Kaleb Nation (age 20) is starting to get some buzz. His YA novel Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse will be published on Sept. 1.
Over the past year, novelist Ian McEwan (Atonement, Enduring Love) has dropped several tantalizing tidbits about his work-in-progress, an 11th novel—his first since 2007's On Chesil Beach. It's about global warming. It features a physicist whom McEwan has described as “an intellectual thief. He’s sexually predatory. He’s a compulsive eater, a round and tubby fellow who has profound self-belief.” It's not a comedy—but has "extended comic stretches." And just yesterday he revealed a title, Solar, in a long interview with the Eastern Daily Press.
Where's the controversy, you ask? In the new novel, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist suggests that "men outnumber women at the top of his profession because of inherent differences in their brains, rather than any gender discrimination," according to The Guardian.
This plotline revelation has made major headlines since McEwan himself has faced criticism for giving his opinion on such things as radical Islam and Christianity. (Everyone loves an autobiographical angle!) The twist here is that after transforming himself into something of a media scapegoat, Beard makes a discovery that might help save the planet—if only anyone would listen to him. As McEwan explained to the New Yorker in February, “It isn’t angels necessarily who are going to save us."
Doubleday, McEwan's publisher in the U.S., hasn't announced a release date for the novel yet, and it's unlikely to appear before next year. Between now and then, we can probably expect a few more of those revelations . . .
On July 7, Lynn blogged about New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof’s controversial column on must-read children’s books. Also on July 7, Kristof posted an acknowledgement of the huge reader response he received; more than 2,350 people commented on his list.
(For those who weren’t following the debate, Kristof posted a list of the “best kids’ books ever” and neglected to mention many wonderful authors. Personally, I was aghast that Laura Ingalls Wilder got the shaft.)
In his apologetic response, Kristof wrote, “As many readers pointed out, Roald Dahl really should have had a place on the list. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a pinnacle of literature, a bit ahead of Proust.”
Ah, Roald Dahl. How many of us have worn copies of Matilda, or James and the Giant Peach, or The BFG on our bookshelves?
As a huge Dahl fan, I was interested to read Wednesday’s headline from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper: “Roald Dahl proves a man of a great many letters for his biographer.” Apparently Donald Sturrock, a British documentary filmmaker and friend of the Dahl family, was set to finalize an authorized biography of the beloved author when he found an unexpected source: over 300 letters between Roald Dahl and his best friend, Charles Marsh. In order for Sturrock to have time to factor in the new information (“everything from politics and illness to sex, marriage and why he started writing,” says the Telegraph), the biography’s publication date has been delayed until September 2010. Sturrock won’t reveal how he got the letters.
There is, however, something to look forward to in the near future: Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release More About Boy: Roald Dahl’s Tales from Childhood in September, just days before what would have been the author's 93rd birthday (September 13). The publisher promises that this addendum to Dahl’s classic autobiography, Boy, is a “special keepsake hardcover edition” with “some of the secrets that were left out” from the original. Can’t wait!
Simon & Schuster’s The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington comes out in paperback on September 8. (Read BookPage's review here.)
And of course, the movie version of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, featuring the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep, is coming November 13. Click here to watch the trailer.
If you could discover a secret collection of letters from an author, who would it be?
To continue the reminiscing . . . does anyone have a favorite character, book or film adaptation from Dahl’s wacky universe?
It’s a fair proposition. Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (reviewed here in BookPage) was born from a popular blog. The blog-turned-book will garner an even bigger audience next week, when the movie Julie & Julia hits theaters.
The distance Powell’s blog has traveled got me thinking . . . is it really possible to turn a daily blog into a full-fledged book?
Research says yes—although success like Powell’s is unlikely. In October, Hachette Book Group will publish Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy, by Mary Tomer. Tomer—or “Mrs. T,” as she is known online—is the author of “Mrs. O.”, a popular blog that chronicles the fashion of Michelle Obama. A few years ago, The Feminist Press published Baghdad Burning and Baghdad Burning II, both compilations based on Iraqi blogger Riverbend’s site. The first book went on to win third place for the Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. (Disclosure: I once interned at The FP.) Lighter blogs like Stuff White People Like, This is why you're fat, and Bike Snob NYC, have also landed book deals.
Anyone out there know of other successful blogs-to-books? How about ideas for clever blogs (or blog concepts) that might encourage Random House, Penguin, etc. to come knocking?
Tennessee is not at the top of the list when it comes to daring culinary trends, so this may not surprise some of you. But today I learned, via press release, that there is such a thing as vegan ice cream.
On top of that (the fudge on my sundae of surprise, if you will), it has a celebrity spokesperson: "celebrity vegan" Erykah Badu, who loves the concoctions of chef Wheeler del Torro, author of The Vegan Scoop.
Now this vegan ice cream may well be delicious (the Thai Chile flavor mentioned in the press release sounds intriguing). But can you really call something ice cream if it's not, you know, made with actual cream? Or does a "soy and nut milk blend" count? Readers, your opinion is needed.
There's no reason why . . . publishers can't be planning for the holiday season. Any best-selling author worth her salt seems to have a holiday-themed book headed to shelves before the Thanksgiving turkey is carved. Many of the usual suspects are appearing—Anne Perry, Donna VanLiere, Debbie Macomber, Richard Paul Evans, Melody Carlson—but this season also brings notable new members of the holiday fiction club:
Kate Jacobs had a smash hit with her debut, The Friday Night Knitting Club -- and its sequel proved equally popular. Now she brings back some of the same characters in Knit the Season (Putnam). We predict: More than a few craft-lovers will find this yarn under their tree.
Gregory Maguire is the modern king of fractured fairy tales, which makes him a natural fit for the Christmas novel. With Matchless (Morrow), he reinvents Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" for the holidays. We predict: This classic story will now inspire more laughter than tears.
In novels like P.S. I Love You, Cecelia Ahern has managed to give a twee-sounding concepts emotional depth without veering into sentimentality. Her holiday novel, The Gift (Hyperion), was published last year in the UK and promises more of the same entertainment with an emotional pull. Plus, it's beautifully packaged. We predict: This won't be her last holiday-themed work.
Garrison Keillor's folksy voice takes on the holiday in A Christmas Blizzard (Viking). When a weathly art collector is stranded in North Dakota for Christmas instead of lounging on a Hawaiian beach as he'd planned, he's changed forever. We predict: An upswing in North Dakota holiday tourism.
I'm about to express what may be an unpopular opinion: I couldn't finish Eat, Pray, Love.
There's no question that Gilbert is a talented writer and speaker. I enjoyed Stern Men, but her path to enlightenment in Eat, Pray, Love seemed a little too self-indulgent. After following Gilbert as she ate her way through Italy and lost the gelato weight and then some at an ashram in India, I couldn't stomach the love section—especially when an affair had been a contributing factor to the divorce she was lamenting so deeply.
Next fall, Gilbert's fans and foes alike will get to hear the other side of the story in Michael Cooper's (aka the ex-Mr. Gilbert's) Displaced, which was sold to Hyperion yesterday. Apparently he set out on his own globe-trotting adventure through the Middle East to cure his heartache. Are you interested? I'm thinking I'll be too busy arranging my marriage/divorce/book proposal to catch it -- better sell while the market's hot.