Every week, there are many smart, funny and fascinating posts in the book blog community. With that in mind, we’re starting a Friday series: Best of the week in book blogs. Below are a few choice posts we’ve stumbled upon throughout the past few days. Feel free to add YOUR favorite book blog posts in the comments.
“I dare you not to sing along ...”
Posted by She is Too Fond of Books
How much do you love this video, from Ocoee Middle School in Florida? Oprah did, and now she’s partnering with Target to give the school a library makeover. Okay everyone: Sing it with me: “This book's going to be a good, good book to read.”
“Great Building of Books Friday”
Posted by Entomology of a Bookworm
This post is awesome because, well, who doesn’t want to learn about a building made of books? I visited the Modern Art Center in Lisbon a couple years ago, and there was a minimal, conceptual light installation in the hall where the book structure was on display. If only I could have seen a "symmetrical, enclosed room of stacked literature”!
“Some Bookish Events that are Local (to me)”
Posted by Book Chatter
I love getting out from behind my computer screen and interacting with booklovers in person—hence my fondness for book festivals and readings. On Book Chatter, Ti highlights two such events in the Los Angeles area, the L.A. Times Festival of Books and the Impatient with Desire book party. Wish I could be there!
“Spotted on the subway: Vladimir Nabokov edition”
Posted by Wormbook
Browse Wormbook for many “Spotted on the subway” entries. How fun is it to spot a stranger reading one of your favorite books? Or spy on a reader who totally doesn’t match up with the book he’s reading?
What book blog posts did you enjoy this week?
Finally, a celebrity memoir that has a chance of being interesting! On Wednesday St. Martin's Press announced the acquisition of a memoir from Judi Dench, And Furthermore. As the press release puts it, "For the first time, Dench writes about her life, both on-stage and off, in a book that takes the measure of both her astonishing career and her private life. " The book will be published in October.
Dench made her acting debut in 1957 and has amassed a string of impressive credits in the years since. Seeing her name on a cast list feels like a guarantee of quality to me -- her turn as Lady Catherine de Bourg made the sub-par 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice worth watching (OK, Matthew MacFadyen helped with that too!). It's hard to say what role of hers is my favorite, but right now I'm going to go with Miss Matty Jenkyns in the Cranford adaptations. (I blogged about the series here.)
I'm also looking forward to her turn as Mrs. Fairfax in the upcoming version of Jane Eyre. (More on that here.)
Do you have a favorite Dench film? Has anyone seen her on stage? And will you read her memoir?
The iPad went on sale today (if you order now you’ll receive the device on April 3), and I wondered how many e-reader users following The Book Case are tempted by Apple’s sleek new toy.
Forbes has some information on how browsing the iBookstore will work:
Apple has designated about 20 "top-level" categories for books, including "Fiction & Literature", "Reference," "Romance," "Cookbooks" and "Comics & Graphic Novels." Below those categories lie more than 150 sub-categories, including some very specific genres, such as "Manga" under "Comics & Graphic Novels," "Special Ingredients" under "Cookbooks," and "Etiquette" under "Reference." Some sub-categories, such as "Fantasy" and "Science Fiction & Literature," even have sub-sub-categories ("Historical" and "Paranormal," for example.) There are also two sections for "Erotica" books; one under "Fiction & Literature" and one under "Romance."
Rumor has it we’re getting an iPad at BookPage, so when that happens we’ll be sure share the experience of reading on the gadget.
Are you going to buy an iPad?
Some of you may look forward to college basketball in the spring. As for me, I get my March Madness fix every year (well, since 2005, anyway) with the Morning News Tournament of Books, which puts the year's best fiction in head-to-head competition.
The race for the Rooster started this week, and so far the commentary and matchups have been epic. Where else would you find John Wray's Lowboy facing off against Kathryn Stockett's The Help? (I won't give the winner away, but judge Andrew Womack concludes, "Were the two books somehow collated into a single work, the result would be more formidable: a cooler, more memorable, disarming contender. Something with teeth of its own.")
And don't miss the commentary on each round from returning hosts Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. A sample from the discussion of the aforementioned Help/Lowboy matchup:
Take the following one question quiz—If a black person were in your house, where would you send her if she asked to use your restroom? If your answer is not “the driveway,” The Help will make you feel good about yourself.
If you're interested in military history and loved Band of Brothers, mark your calendar for this Sunday at 9 pm EST—it's the premiere of HBO’s miniseries The Pacific, based on memoirs by two U.S. Marines: With the Old Breed by Eugene B. Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie. The series is produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman, the team behind Band of Brothers.
On an HBO message board for the series, a commenter wrote, “Without a doubt Sledge's account is the greatest WWII story ever told.” If you’ve read With the Old Breed, do you agree?
Watch a trailer for the miniseries:
The book’s been compared to Small Island and Sophie’s Choice (tall order, huh?), and Annan calls it "a powerful novel of acceptance, survival and love.”
Just two days after I blogged about Starcrossed, the high school Greek tragedy billed as “a Percy Jackson for teenage girls,” another huge YA deal goes through. Dutton Children’s Books (a Penguin imprint) has paid six figures to publish The Catastrophic History of You and Me, by debut novelist Jessica Rothenberg. Rothenberg is an editor at Razorbill, another Penguin imprint. Here’s more on the plot:
In the book, a 15-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart must pass through five stages of grief before she can move on to the afterlife...and restore her faith in love.
When I was a pre-teen, I had a fascination with tragic stories—for a while there, anything by Lurlene McDaniel was a must-buy from the book fair. Sounds like heartbreak and mortality still haven't gone out of style.
Will you (or your teen) pick up The Catastrophic History of You and Me (out fall 2011)?
Earlier today, we posted a short excerpt from our April interview with Sue Miller about her forthcoming book The Lake Shore Limited. Now, we offer you a little bit more—some excerpts from the conversation that won't be in the print edition of BookPage. The interview was conducted and transcribed by BookPage Production Designer Karen Elley.
Tell us in the comments: What's your favorite book by Sue Miller?
Have you always wanted to write?
As a little girl, I won a high school writing prize, a National Scholastic Award, and I’ve always felt it was something I would do. I didn’t know if I would publish ever, but I always imagined writing being in my life.
What’s your writing schedule like?
I tend to try to work in the morning, the way most writers do, before the business of the day starts to intrude. I have to confess that email has changed that a bit. I’m kind of an addict so I check that first thing before I start to write.
[Editor’s note: Miller writes the old-fashioned way, in longhand, and has a particular kind of pen she likes to use that she purchases by the dozens.]
Your latest novel, The Lake Shore Limited, revolves around 9/11, a web of intricate relationships and a play—a story within the story—written by a young woman, Billy, who is one of the main characters in the novel. What form did your research take?
I’ve read a number of novels about 9/11, including Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, a novel that focused on the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on one New York family. There’s one called A Day at the Beach by Helen Schulman, an intriguing tale of 24 hours in a troubled marriage that uses 9/11 as a backdrop. Then there’s a wonderful graphic novel, American Widow, written by a woman who lost her husband on 9/11 and is pregnant at the time. The couple was going through some struggles—it was all very revealing and helpful to me.
I also read some plays. I think it was useful for me to see the shape of a play on the page. I randomly chose plays that were on Broadway in production, anything I thought sounded interesting. I also sat in on the production of a play from the early days of casting, where they were talking about the parts, to the actual performance.
When you were researching plays were you in any way tempted to become a playwright?
The nice thing about writing the play in The Lake Shore Limited was that I didn’t have to deal with the parts I’m not so sure about. In another book I wrote a sermon and the same thing was true, I could summarize.
I found it compelling and interesting to be reading a number of plays and to be thinking about that as a form and the way in which the writer of a play leaves so much more up to other people than a writer of a piece of fiction does. The gestures, the looks on their faces, these are all things you write about and think you’re controlling, whereas a playwright leaves so much more up to the actors and director and so forth. It’s more of a collaborative effort. They must have a much greater trust in other people. And Billy, the playwright in the book, enjoys that. I’m not so sure I would.
Do you think that the stress and strain of contemporary life has made the family bond stronger or has it driven us farther apart?
I don’t know. The Golden Age of the Family was rather brief. It seems to me that the idea of the family that got created sort of post-World War II lasted about a decade. I had a great-grandfather who married three times. His wives simply died so his children were as scattered and confused as any product of divorce might be today, and they had as much strain in their lives and as much difficulty. Disruption, sorrow and pain have always been a part of family life, although they may happen for different reasons. We have more choice and freedom at this point, but I think that the sorrow and difficulty we experience are not so different from those that came in other times for other reasons.
If you could go back in time, what year, era or event would you visit?
For me, it would be the period in America during the early part of the 20th century, the first couple of decades before World War I. My grandmother was a great storyteller and that was the period of her youth. She grew up in rural Maine, and her childhood sounded very appealing, although there was no modern medicine as we know it and lots of other issues at the time.
What are you reading and working on now?
I’ve started on another book that involves some arson, so I’m reading about that; it’s an interesting subject. There are several things I’m interested in reading. One of them is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, the true story of the African American woman who unknowingly contributed HeLa cells, one of the most important tools in modern medicine, to science. It sounds like a fantastic book, wonderfully written.
If you had to do something other than writing or teaching, what would it be?
If I had the gift, I would certainly love to make music with other people. It would be one of the most pleasurable things I can imagine, but I’m quite mediocre at singing and pretty bad at the piano so that’s not going to be possible for me. But I’ve always thought that musicians have the happy life. I’m sure there are great complications in making a livelihood, arranging and scheduling things and all that, but the process of making music seems to be one of the most joyous in the world.
Is there anything more to say? We'll just cut to the chase and post the video.
Related content: Stephenie Meyer on BookPage.com
In the years since 9/11, there have been no shortage of novelists willing to take on the subject. Some of the best examples were published about 4 or 5 years ago: Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Don DeLillo's Falling Man; S.J. Rozan's Absent Friends; Jess Walter's The Zero; Jay McInerney's The Good Life.
In recent months, another round of novelists has taken on the topic. One of the most recent, and most notable, is James Hynes' Next, which our reviewer Lauren Bufferd says is his best book yet. Other reviewers agree; Next has had a lot of buzz, including a rave review in the New York Times.
And on April 6, Sue Miller's take on the tragedy, The Lake Shore Limited, hits shelves. Watch for an interview in our April print edition. A sneak preview of the piece:
The fictional what-ifs of her new novel were sparked by a real-life connection to the events of that tragic day. “I had a friend who was staying with someone whose sister was killed on 9/11. Due to the circumstances, my friend felt it was necessary to stay longer than she would have otherwise, and to enact a role, something my main character ends up doing in the novel.”