By now, many of you know that we lost a great lover of language (and an expert on its quirks) on Sunday. William Safire wrote the “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine from 1979 until earlier this month. Safire was also a speechwriter for President Nixon.
From 1973 until 2005, Safire wrote “his twice-weekly ‘Essay’ for the Op-Ed page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus.” In 1978, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Throughout his career, Safire gave many wonderful tips for writers and readers.
From “How to Read a Column” in 2005: “Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled ‘analysis’) without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word ‘respected’ in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read ‘According to the disrespected (whomever).’”
And of course, there were Safire’s “rules for writers”: The passive voice should never be used; Don't overuse exclamation marks!!; Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors; Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague…
Many of us will greatly miss Safire's astute and often hilarious Sunday language columns. Most recently, he wrote about the phrase "bending the curve" (as in Obama's remarks: “it’s important for us to bend the cost curve").
Any readers remember a favorite “On Language” column?
Attention Dickens fans: after an astounding performance at the Emmys last week (with 7 wins, including best miniseries and outstanding writing), the BBC's adaptation of Little Dorrit, which aired in the United States back in the spring, is now available for online viewing on PBS's website. The book was adapted by Andrew Davies, who is best known for his work on the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride & Prejudice.
Like many of Dickens' works, Little Dorrit deals with family secrets, class issues and of course, debtor's prison. That's where Amy (aka "Little Dorrit") grows up, since her father has been imprisoned at Marshalsea her whole life. She supports the family by sewing until a deathbed confession changes their social status and their fortunes.
Claire Foy, a relative unknown, is said to shine in the role of Amy, and Matthew Macfayden (who played Mr. Darcy in the Keira Knightly P&P) plays her love interest, Arthur.
As a fan of period drama, I might have to check this out over the weekend! The PBS site warns that it will be available for a limited time only, so if you want to watch, don't wait.
On the fence? Check out a preview here:
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation is asking the public to vote on the best of their fiction award-winners.
Actually, we can vote on the best of six finalists. A panel of 140 past winners, finalists and judges narrowed down the 77 winning titles since 1950. Voting starts today and runs through midnight on Oct. 21.
One voter will win two tickets to the 60th National Book Awards on Nov. 18 (and two nights in the Marriott Hotel Downtown in NYC). Vote here.
The top 6:
The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1951)
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (1953)
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1972)
Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon (1974)
The Stories of John Cheever (1981)
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1983)
Anyone have a beef with this list? What else should have been on there? You may notice that of the six short-listed titles, four are collections of stories. Also, the most recently-published book on the list came out over 25 years ago.
Like any best-of roundup, the short list will likely inspire controversy. (For example, I know more than one person who’d be happy on a desert island with nothing but Walker Percy’s 1962 winner The Moviegoer.)
Of the 77 fiction winners from 1950 to 2008, 74 are still in print. If you’re interested in some of the past winners (starting with Nelson Algren’s The Man with the Golden Arm in 1950 and running through Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country in 2008), check out the National Book Foundation’s book-a-day blog, which features in-depth info and summaries about each book.
And stay tuned, because this year’s finalists will be announced on Oct. 13. Any readers want to speculate in any of the categories (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature)?
We'll believe it when we see it, but The Washington Post is reporting that Uwem Akpan's 2008 short story collection, Say You're One of Them, will be Queen O's next book club pick. The Post says that Ingram International, a book distribution company, unintentionally leaked the information this morning. Oprah will officially announce this, her 63rd book club selection, to a live audience in New York City's Central Park tomorrow (September 18th).
Published by Little, Brown, Say You're One of Them is Nigerian-born Akpan's first book. The collection features five short stories, one of which was originally published in The New Yorker. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, saying:
"Akpan's prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror—and there is much—is seen through the eyes of children."
If the Post is right, Akpan's stories are about to gain a much wider audience. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: It's official! Oprah just announced that Say You're One of Them is indeed her latest book club selection. Congratulations to Uwem Akpan and his publishers!
An Amazon spokesman said in an email that "the big surprise" was that the edition of the book for the company's Kindle electronic-book reader outsold hardcover editions on the book's release day, excluding pre-orders.
That was just one of the questions the Wall Street Journal asked in an interview with the Lost Symbol author, which contains a few interesting tidbits about Brown's personal life and writing routine (apparently his day starts at 4 am—yikes!). He also talked to Parade earlier this week.
The New York Times and the LA Times broke the embargo with reviews yesterday, and novelist Louis Bayard covered the book today for the Washington Post. Slate has posted a "Dan Brown Plot Generator" that should entertain "Choose Your Own Adventure" or "Mad Libs" devotees. And John Crace live-blogged about reading the novel over at the Guardian's books page.
As for BookPage? Well, we took advantage of the Kindle's wireless network to get a copy of the book to reviewer Ed Morris the moment it was released (Seattle time, unfortunately). He's reading right now, and tells me that so far the book has the "same high-intensity beginning, same minute-by-minute unfolding" as The DaVinci Code. He should know: Ed interviewed Dan Brown about The Da Vinci Code before the book went on sale back in 2003. Check it out here.
As the time for Oprah to make her 63rd book club pick draws near (September 18, if you haven't heard), we're digging deeper to try to figure out what the world's most influential reader has chosen.
The audio version of #63 offers some useful clues, if online listings can be trusted. Ingram says it's a 3-CD set. Barnes and Noble goes further, saying the audio is 2 hours and 45 minutes, unabridged. If correct, this short length limits the original Pub Lunch list somewhat—only The Man's Book: The Essential Guide for the Modern Man by Thomas Fink and Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt are anywhere close to short enough to fit on 3 CDs unabridged. We also dug up two other contenders, both published at $23.99 in hardcover by Little, Brown:
Feeding Your Demons by Tsultrim Allione
The publisher's synopsis says this guide to achieving inner peace brings an "11th-century Tibetan woman's practice to the West for the first time."
Sway by Zachary Lazar
This loosely plotted novel that chronicles of some of the biggest events in the 1960s (the early days of the Rolling Stones; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and the community of Charles Manson and his followers) would certainly be a different sort of pick for Oprah. It's just 272 pages, but audio versions of novels tend to be longer so this might not be a contender after all.
Of these, my money's on The Man Book (which would be a true departure for Oprah, whose previous selections have been as female-oriented as her audience). Think the audio listing can be trusted?
In a long article, the Wall Street Journal investigates the "new" trend of Amish fiction, and the surprising popularity of romances that aren't bodice-rippers:
Publishers attribute the books' popularity to their pastoral settings and forbidden love scenarios à la Romeo and Juliet. Lately, the genre has expanded to include Amish thrillers and murder mysteries. Most of the authors are women.
Christian fiction is expanding its horizons all the time, and typical Christian fiction readers tend to be more conservative and nostalgic, so it's not that surprising that the genre has caught on. And as Sharon Marchese told us last year, perhaps readers "can imagine a 'loftier' romantic story for these people who still travel by buggy."
Any Amish fiction fans out there? Personally, the genre hasn't hooked me yet, despite my childhood love of the Little House books and the esoteric details of pioneer life they contained. Feel free to tell me what I'm missing.
News on the wire today is that James Patterson, blockbuster writer extraordinaire, has signed a multi-book deal with Hachette. How many books, you ask? An astonishing 17...and perhaps the craziest thing about that figure is that those 17 books (11 for adults, 6 for kids) will only take Patterson readers through 2012.
Patterson is one of the authors who taught publishers that putting out more than one book a year doesn't mean over-saturating the market. Writing several series in several genres helps, and I have to wonder: does anyone read everything Patterson writes? Or do you pick and choose series or genres? Patterson fans, let us know in the comments. And don't miss our Patterson reviews and interviews here!
Daniel Handler, aka "Lemony Snicket," has just signed a deal with the UK's Egmont Press to publish a new four-book, middle-grade series starting in 2012. Snicket commented to BBC News: "I can neither confirm nor deny that I have begun research into a new case, and I can neither confirm nor deny that the results are as dreadful and unnerving as A Series of Unfortunate Events. However, I can confirm that Egmont will be publishing these findings."
According to the New York Times, Snicket has not yet sold the books in the US, but his HarperCollins editor, Susan Rich, has been working with him on the series.
Snicket fans can look forward to the 2010 publication of a picture book, 13 Words, which Snicket worked on with the artist Maira Kalman.
The Series of Unfortunate Events was a publishing sensation, and the first three books inspired a 2004 film starring Jim Carrey.