Mourning the recent end of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries"? Rereading Death Comes to Pemberley for the 10th time? Not to worry; in today's modern world, it's impossible to go too long without a new take on the enduring classic Pride and Prejudice.
This October, Knopf will publish Longbourn, by Jo Baker, a British author whose first novel to be published in the U.S., The Undertow, came out last spring. Baker's twist? She's telling the story from the point of view of the Bennett family's servants. Film rights have, of course, already been snapped up.
“Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature,” Baker explains. “But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Just a few generations back, my family were in service. Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently.”
Other subjects omitted in P&P that Baker plans to take on include race, servants' inner lives and the Napoleonic wars. The Undertow, which moved backward and forward in time to tell the stories of four generations of a British family, proved that Baker is an ambitious writer with the ability to create characters with genuine emotional depth. Signs point to P&P being in good hands this time around.
Will you look for this one in October?
The literati can't get enough of the short stories of Alice Munro, one of Canada's most celebrated author. This fall, she returns with a new collection Dear Life (Knopf).
"Suffused with Munro's clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, these stories (set in the world Munro has made her own: the countryside and towns around Lake Huron) about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and homecomings both virtual and real, paint a vivid and lasting portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be," says the publisher description.
Will you be looking for this one on November 13?
Here's yet another novel to get excited about for 2012: Nell Freudenberger's The Newlyweds will be published by Knopf on May 1. Freudenberger, who hit the literary scene in a big way with her short story collection, Lucky Girls, hasn't published a book since her debut novel, The Dissident, came out in 2006. Judging from an excerpt that ran in the New Yorker last year, the novel will be worth the wait.
Freudenberger told the New Yorker that the book was loosely based on a chance encounter on an airplane:
Four years ago, I met a young woman on an airplane. She had just come to the United States from Bangladesh to marry an American man she’d met on the Internet. The little I learned about her on that flight suggested that she had come from an ordinary, middle-class Muslim family—a family in which a decision like hers would be almost unthinkable. I was curious to know what in a person’s makeup might lead her to change her life in such a radically unconventional way. We stayed in touch, and I eventually travelled to Bangladesh with her to meet her family.
The works of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison go beyond thought-provoking to what could better be called thought-demanding, with their lush prose, deep themes and occasional touches of magic or mysticism. But that's just what readers and critics appreciate about Morrison, who is one of America's most treasured writers. Her next novel, Home, will be published by Knopf on May 8. It's the story of a Korean War veteran who returns to small-town Georgia, disappointed in its racist culture and trying to help his emotionally unstable sister while still recovering from the physical and emotional aftereffects of war.
What books are you looking forward to in 2012?
Ever opened a magazine and seen an ad for a sweepstakes . . . only to think: What's the point? I'll never win. I am here to tell you to forget that thought.
In the June 2010 issue of BookPage—the one with Justin Cronin on the cover—Knopf ran a full-page ad promoting The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which came out in May of 2010. The ad looked something like this:
In November, we were thrilled to learn that the winner of the contest, Laura, entered thanks to an ad in BookPage! Then we were especially thrilled when we heard that Laura is a big BookPage fan; she even persuaded her local Friends of the Library group to hand out copies of BookPage at her branch.
My co-workers and I were so happy about (and quite jealous of) Laura's trip—and that was before she sent us pictures. Just a couple weeks ago, Laura and her husband spent four nights exploring the Sweden of Lisbeth Salander. They visited both Stockholm and the outer archipelago of the city.
Laura wrote after the trip to say how beautiful Stockholm is—and her pictures don't disappoint. It is always an incredible experience to visit a new country, but when the sites you're seeing are also described in a favorite novel? Priceless.
Thank you for sharing your experience in Sweden, Laura! Have any other readers been on a fantastic vacation this summer? What about a trip with a literary bent?
After my discussion with Geraldine Brooks about Caleb's Crossing and the women of colonial America, I read Jill Lepore's opinion piece in the New York Times last week with special attention. Called "Poor Jane's Almanac," it compared (in brief) the lives of Benjamin Franklin and his sister Jane.
Now it seems the article was based on a book of the same title, to be published by Knopf. It's described as "an account of 18th-century America from the point of view of Benjamin Franklin's sister, Jane Mecom, as revealed through their correspondence, contrasting Franklin's philosophical, political and scientific career with Mecom's life of drudgery, poverty and heartbreak, to portray what the American Revolution accomplished, and what it did not."
Lepore is a fascinating observer of history and contemporary life—recently she's written about everything from Paul Revere's ride to the politics of breastfeeding—and she's also the author of a historical novel (with Jane Kamensky) that we said was "full of beautiful narrative and wonderfully quotable lines" back in 2008. We'll await this one with interest.
Readers, it's about to be Poetry Month, and you know what that means—time to sign up for poem-a-day e-mails, read some verse and generally appreciate "the best words in their best order." (That's what Coleridge called poetry, and it's also the name of FSG's fine poetry blog.)
Every April, Knopf sends out a poem each day. (Click here to sign up.) Their video promotion for this service is too cute not to share:
Add FSG's poetry blog to your Google Reader, as it will soon be buzzing with interviews, poetry discussions and more.
Finally, check out Diann Blakely's latest poetry roundup for BookPage, featuring dazzling new collections from Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky and Major Jackson. For the younger set, Robin Smith has written about "sweet words for little readers." (Funny aside: Jack Prelutsky's A Pizza the Size of the Sun is perpetually in the Top 10 of BookPage.com's most-viewed list. So I know a lot of people out there love children's poetry!)
How will you celebrate Poetry Month? Do you have a favorite poem?
Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, announced today that Knopf will publish the memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Here's more from the press release:
The book, as yet untitled, will be a coming-of-age memoir by an American daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants. Sotomayor will write about growing up in the South Bronx; her relationship with her mother and the loss of her father when she was nine years old; her inspiration as a young girl to become a lawyer; her journey to Princeton University (on a full scholarship) and later to Yale Law School; and finally, to a life in the law, culminating with her appointment to the federal bench. . . The book will be published simultaneously in a Spanish-language edition by Vintage Espanol.
In November 2009, Atheneum published a bilingual picture book about Sotomayor titled A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx, by Jonah Winter.
Are you interested in Sotomayor's memoir? What's your favorite memoir by a public figure? (I'll stick with Dreams From My Father.)
We've written about blurbs here on The Book Case before, most recently when our editor Lynn Green admitted that in spite of some skepticism, they led to her discover of A Mountain of Crumbs.
Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. To the End of the Land is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I’ve ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. To the End of the Land is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.
Whoa. Not only is this a bit . . . intense, one has to wonder if it caused any tension in the Krauss-Foer literary household. The Guardian notes that Grossman's story—"of an Israeli mother, Ora, who sets out for a hike in Galilee with her former lover in order to avoid the 'notifiers' who might tell her of her son's death in the army"—sounds interesting in its own right, and he's received many accolades for his past works for fiction and nonfiction. Still, as someone who's looking forward to Krauss' own October release, Great House, this recommendation, however effusive, does make me more inclined to pick up this 592-pager.
What about you? Does a blurb like this make you more or less likely to read the book?
One of the most promising short-story collections in recent years hit bookstores in September 2006. Karen Russell's St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves was as creepy and magical as the title implies, collecting 10 eerie tales set in South Florida swampland. Russell, who is 29, was included in the New Yorker's Top Writers Under 40 list, and her debut novel, Swamplandia!, will be published by Knopf in February 2011.
According to Russell, the novel picks up where the story "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" left off and follows the Bigtree Family Wrestling Dynasty, who have fallen on hard times. There's a new alligator wrestling theme park in town, and Ava's brother has started working there; Ava's big sister is having an affair with a ghost; and no one knows where to find Ava's father.
You can read an excerpt of "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" from St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves here.