On Nov. 10, Kanye West’s graphic memoir Through the Wire will hit shelves. Billed as “a one-of-a-kind book that initially grabs you and stays with you forever,” West’s book
illustrates the lyrics of twelve Kanye West songs to tell his story, from his decision to drop out of college to pursue his dreams in music, through his days spent folding chinos at the Gap while struggling at night to make a name as a producer, through the pivotal car accident that eventually set him on the course to stardom. . .
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (Josh Neufeld’s nonfiction graphic book about Katrina) was riveting – “a fully emotional, multi-dimensional experience,” as I wrote on The Book Case a couple months ago. Both the graphics and the text were powerful illustrations of the experiences of seven New Orleans residents during the hurricane. Honestly, I couldn’t put the book down. And I don’t think the story would have held my attention as closely had it not been illustrated.
I’m skeptical that a book of illustrated lyrics will hold the same power, although I’ll reserve judgment until I see the memoir in person. (Perhaps I’ve been negatively swayed because West has admitted that he doesn’t read books – just writes them.) I think the best graphic novels – like A.D. – are deliberate and restrained with their text, which is supported by stunning visuals. I’m curious to see how lyrics (presumably written without illustrations in mind) will translate in this medium.
For more on graphic memoirs, read Becky Ohlson's fascinating interview with David Small, whose illustrations in Stitches are "both roomy and precise, with lots of open space in and around the panels but an intensity of focus."
And for readers: What do you think makes a successful graphic novel? Are there any subjects you’d like to see depicted in this form? Are any West fans looking forward to Through the Wire?
I am envious of New Yorkers after reading of Steve Wolfe’s exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art: Steve Wolfe on Paper. Through Nov. 29, thirty paintings and drawings of books, album covers and records will be on view.
On the surface, the concept may not sound very interesting. But just look at the images below, from Steve Wolfe’s website:
Wolfe works in the trompe l’oeil style, and his creations appear to be real, 3D books. The exhibit copy from the Whitney states that
Wolfe's objects are, in real life, ones that must be used and physically manipulated in some detailed way—books have every page turned, records every groove worn. . . Thus the tears, creases, and basic wear points to human contact. . .
New York Times art critic Ken Johnson wrote that
the painter and sculptor Steve Wolfe has taken his bibliophilia to unrivaled extremes. . . you sense in his art a kind of monkish devotion that turns feats of technique into icons of a deeply personal religion.
Anyone in NYC plan on seeing the exhibit?
As all of us know, there are two kinds of people: dog people and cat people. I see the divide every day, both at my office (Trisha: cat person / Abby: dog person) and at home (husband: cat person / me: dog person). Sometimes the two sides are nasty toward one another (woof, hiss), sometimes they co-exist uneasily.
Bradley Trevor Greive attempts to wrestle cat people into submission with his gracefully argued and beautifully illustrated new book, Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats, published today by Andrews McMeel. Dog people: we love this book title, don't we? Why beat around the bush when the point you are trying to make is crystal clear: dogs are better than cats, and Greive (author of the bestseller The Blue Day Book) proves it repeatedly.
Here's a sample:
To dogs, you are the leader of the pack, their savior and guiding light. You are the beautiful, warm, nurturing star around which their world revolves, the emotional center of their universe.
To cats, a human being is basically a vertical speed bump, a fabric-wrapped monolith, or a fleshy tree simulator.
Two paws-up for Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats -- sure to be a favorite gift for dog-lovers this holiday season. To win a free copy, leave a comment and tell us which side you're on!
UPDATE: We've selected a winner, but you're still welcome to take sides in the cats-vs-dogs debate.
From the what's-the-world-coming-to-department comes news that Simon & Schuster has signed a deal for a series of three books based on an iPhone app. Is this a first? I think so (but I could be wrong -- leave a comment if you know of other iPhone apps that have spawned book deals).
The iPhone app store describes Soul Trapper as "a supernatural tale that unfolds over 23 chapters, each ranging from 5 to 15 minutes in length." Buyers are promised that this "richly-produced audio drama" is "seamlessly interwoven with interactivity, navigation, and audio puzzles." Players follow 27-year-old drifter Kane Pryce, who owns a mysterious device (the Soul Trap) that lets him capture ghosts and exile them from Earth.
To see what all the fuss was about, I attempted to download Soul Trapper on my iPhone, but I got an annoying message indicating that the app was too large for obtaining by phone and should be downloaded through a computer instead. So I'll probably never know whether the app lives up to its billing as "triple-A entertainment" in the "audio spectrum" (hmmm).
Soul Trapper was created by F.J. Lennon, whom, we were heartened to learn, has previously written at least one book, a 2001 title from HarperBusiness called Every Mistake in the Book: A Business How-NOT-To -- apparently a lively account of his computer game business that flopped. Maybe Lennon's next business title will advise readers on how to turn iPhone games into publishing gold.
As many of you already know, this Saturday is Dewey’s Read-a-thon. Starting at 7 a.m. CST (that means 2 a.m. if you live in Hawaii – yikes!), hundreds of readers will be devouring books and blogging for 24 hours straight. The event was founded in October 2007 by Dewey from book blog The Hidden Side of a Leaf. Dewey passed away in 2008, but her event continues to gather many followers under the leadership of bloggers Hannah, Trish and Ana.
Trisha and I are both hosting out-of-town guests this weekend, so – alas – we can’t commit to reading for 24 hours straight. We are, however, pleased to announce The Book Case’s first-ever Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge!
This Saturday, Oct. 24, visit The Book Case from 6-10 p.m. CST. We will post a book-themed question and spiffy prize (hint: Good design crosses the pond: Penguin Classics). For four hours, Read-a-thon participants can take a break from their reading to post answers in our comments section. We’ll choose a commenter at random for our winner, and, voilà!. . . one lucky reader will receive brand-new books.
Book blogs will be hosting mini-challenges throughout all of Saturday, so check the Read-a-thon blog frequently for an update on where challenges are hosted at specific times.
For Read-a-thon participants: What’s in your Read-a-thon stack of books?
If you don’t usually spend a portion of your day blogging, journaling, creating stories – or otherwise putting words on paper (or screen) – then today is a great day to start. A couple weeks ago, the U.S. Senate declared Oct. 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing. The official Resolution is quite long, but it’s worth it to give it a read. I was pleased to see the Senate embrace digital media in their document:
Whereas the National Day on Writing honors the use of the full range of media for composing, from traditional tools like print, audio, and video, to Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, and podcasts
One of the best ways to get involved in the day’s festivities is to post to the National Gallery of Writing, a website where anybody can post writing that is “important to them. . . from letters to lists, memoirs to memos.” The Gallery was unveiled today, and it looks like there has already been wide participation. So far there are 21 records from the state of Tennessee alone.
How will you celebrate the National Day on Writing?
I’d like to give a shout out to my 11th grade English teacher for giving me a copy of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. (“Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly… Simplify, simplify.”) And perhaps I’ll celebrate, also, by reading other people's great writing. I would love to dig into a novel I haven’t yet found the time to start (A Gate at the Stairs? Her Fearful Symmetry?).
This week brought news of a new project from Neil Gaiman. After the success of The Graveyard Book and Coraline, he's continuing to write for a younger audience with Instructions. Described as "a charming guide through fairy and folk tales, as well as life" the book will be illustrated by Charles Vess (who worked with Gaiman on the Sandman series) and published by Harper Children's in May 2010.
While there's no news on the content of the book, our guess is it's a picture book adaptation of the poem "Instructions" that Gaiman published in A Wolf at the Door. According to his blog, he's currently in China, working on a project called Journey to the West.
ETA: According to Charles Vess, our guess was right! He kindly pointed me to more detailed information on his blog. Head over to check out the beautiful illustrations and get a peek into Vess' creative process.
2010 is looking like a great year—for fiction, at least. I’ve been busy sorting through the January stacks, trying to decide between big names (Elizabeth Kostova, J.M. Coetzee, Tracy Chevalier and Amy Bloom among them) and outstanding debuts (remember the names Leila Meacham, Ali Shaw, and Matthew Flaming). But it turns out January is just the tip of the great fiction iceberg.
Reader favorites Chris Bohjalian (Midwives), Lori Lansens (The Girls) and Louise Erdrich (The Painted Drum) all have new novels set to publish in February 2010. Bohjalian’s Secrets of Eden is set in contemporary New England and examines a family plagued by domestic violence; Lansens’ The Wife’s Tale follows a middle aged woman around the country as she searches for her missing husband;
Erdrich’s Shadow Tag is being pitched as entirely different from her other novels, “a heart stopping story with the tension and suspense of a psychological thriller, an anatomy of a marriage that leads its characters, as well as the reader, to a stunning and utterly unexpected ending.” I can’t wait to dig into all three—just as soon as I wrap up January.
What 2010 fiction are you most excited about?
Speaking of John Grisham’s Ford County – the author’s first collection of short stories – I was excited to see Amazon’s exclusive blurb of the book by Pat Conroy.
Conroy raves about the collection, writing:
"Ford County is the best writing that John Grisham has ever done. . . His short stories were a surprise to me. All of them are very good; three of them, I believe, are great. Grisham has always had a rare gift for breaking hearts when he invokes unforgettable images of the broken, hopeless South. Some of the stories are hilarious, and Grisham’s gift of humor has never found a showcase like this."
The collection includes seven stories. Grisham’s website gives us titillating summaries of each, such as:
Three good ol' boys from rural Ford County begin a journey to the big city of Memphis to give blood to a grievously injured friend. However, they are unable to drive past a beer store as the trip takes longer and longer. The journey comes to an abrupt end when they make a fateful stop at a Memphis strip club.
Reviewer Edward Morris called Grisham’s A Painted House, the 2001 coming-of-age novel, “engrossing.” He wrote: “Unlike many Southern novels, A Painted House is mercifully free of grotesque characters, grown men with baby names, dysfunctional families and racial politics. Grisham's holiday novel Skipping Christmas is “ultimately a story that warms the heart.”
Doubleday, Grisham’s publisher, offers a “Storyteller” video about Grisham and Ford County:
Depending on how you look at it, last week was a great week for bargain-hunting book buyers or a disheartening one for authors, booksellers and publishers.
Wal-Mart and Amazon have engaged in a price war for the holiday season’s hardcover bestsellers.
On Thursday, Wal-Mart announced that it would pre-sell 10 hardcovers for $10. Amazon matched the price on the same day, then Friday Wal-Mart lowered to $9 – then again to $8.99 (where the price currently stands).
The price of Stephen King’s Under the Dome is a whopping 74% off the $35 cover price. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna can be bought for a 67% discount. Wal-Mart also offers free shipping for the 10 titles on their list.
If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s Ford County for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer’s attention away from emerging writers.
What do The Book Case readers think of the price war? Will you be ordering multiple copies of The Lacuna to give away as gifts, or do you plan on sticking to your local bookseller for a more memorable book-buying experience? Do price cuts like the ones offered by Wal-Mart and Amazon encourage you to buy more books? Would you rather buy a $9 hardcover or a $9.99 e-book?