PEN New England and the JFK Presidential Library have just announced that Brigid Pasulka won the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. Pasulka joins the ranks of many BookPage favorites, such as Joshua Ferris and Chang-rae Lee. She'll also receive $8,000 and a one-week residency at the University of Idaho—not to mention a fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.
According to the announcement, Mary Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s wife, founded the Award in 1976 to “honor her late husband and draw attention to first books of fiction.” This year, the Awards were judged by Julia Glass, Michael Lowenthal and Gail Tsukiyama.
At BookPage we’re especially thrilled about this news because we covered A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True in our August Well Read column—an extended review that recognizes the best fiction in a given month, written by Robert Weibezahl.
In her novel, Pasulka tells the love story of Pigeon and Anielica before and after World War II, in Kraków, Poland. Their journey is “consistently magical,” writes Weibezahl, and Pasulka “has an indisputable talent for a tale well-told.”
The two Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award finalists are C.E. Morgan for All the Living and Abraham Verghese for Cutting for Stone. Two honorable mentions go to Mary Beth Keane for The Walking People and Lydia Peelle for Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing.
Abby noted last week that among a field of literary big shots in the finalist pool for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Lorraine M. López stuck out as a pleasant surprise. Since the PEN/Hemingway Award recognizes a debut work of fiction, there are understandably no names with the star power of Barbara Kingsolver or Lorrie Moore—although each of the novels comes from a major publishing house. (López’s book was published by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.) Are you pleased with the winner, finalists and honorable mentions? What’s the best debut novel you read last year?
We’ve noticed that books (with the exception of political books) get little coverage on network TV, so we were happy to see that Katie Couric covers many authors on her web show @katiecouric.
Just Tuesday, her conversation with Kathryn Stockett, best-selling author of The Help, was posted. During the hour-long interview, Stockett also took questions from book clubs in Ohio and Washington D.C. via Skype, and in a separate segment (without Stockett) Couric interviewed three women from Jackson, Mississippi—the setting of the novel.
If you loved The Help—and I know many of you do, since it was the #1 book in our Best Books of 2009 reader survey—then you’ll be interested to hear about Stockett’s relationship with Demetrie, her own family’s help, and why the author wanted to tell this story.
Watch the interview here:
I was especially excited to hear Stockett mention the movie version of The Help—news to me. A quick online search shows that Tate Taylor (Pretty Ugly People) will direct. According to Variety, “Taylor grew up with Stockett in Mississippi—his mother inspired one of the Mississippi matriarchs in the novel—and was so helpful to the author that she gave him an early peek; an option was made well before the book came out.”
On the @katiecouric website, find interviews with Sapphire, the author of Push (the movie-version, Precious, is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture); Malcolm Gladwell; and other authors.
What authors would you like to see Couric interview? Did you learn anything surprising in the Stockett segment?
By the way, in my Stockett research for this post, I learned on the PenguinUK website that the author is at work on a second novel: “It also takes place in Mississippi, during the 1930’s and the Great Depression. It’s about a family of women who learn to get around the rules, rules created by men, in order to survive.” I can’t wait for this one! What about you?
Related in BookPage: Read our interview with Kathryn Stockett about The Help.
After the huge success of Going Rogue—the memoir has sold more than 2 million copies—Sarah Palin and HarperCollins are partnering again to publish another book. The publisher released a statement announcing that the book will "include selections from classic and contemporary readings that have inspired [Palin], as well as portraits of some of the extraordinary men and women she admires and who embody her love of country, faith, and family.”
I admit that I haven’t read Going Rogue, although I did get a kick out of Slate’s Going Rogue index (the memoir didn’t include one). Apparently Palin drops references to Animal Farm, The Wonderful World of Oz, Pearl S. Buck and C.S. Lewis. Wonder what other books and authors will make book two.
Have you heard enough from Palin, or will you line up to buy her new book? HarperCollins has not yet announced a publication date or title.
Related on The Book Case: See a recent post about new political books, including David Remnick's biography of Barack Obama and Laura Bush's memoir.
I’m a day late on this news item, but it still deserves a mention. Yesterday would have been Dr. Seuss’s 106th birthday—reason for celebration in itself. Since 1998, though, March 2 has also been designated by the National Education Association as Read Across America Day.
Michelle Obama helped kick off the festivities in an event at the Library of Congress, and all week there are events planned throughout the country to celebrate reading. It’s definitely worth checking out the Read Across America website; there are free digital copies of Dr. Seuss books, tips for encouraging your child to read and information about reading events.
If you’re looking for good books for kids, don’t miss the children’s page on BookPage.com, filled with recommendations for books appropriate for toddlers all the way up to teens.
What’s your favorite book to read aloud to a child? A Dr. Seuss book, perhaps? Tell us in the comments.
Roses by Leila Meacham
Grand Central, January 2010
At 600 pages, Roses is the kind of story that you’ll read under your desk, at the dinner table and through the middle of the night until you get to the end. We learn in the opening scene that cotton plantation matriarch Mary Toliver has unexpectedly changed her will at the end of her life. Meacham hooks us by offering no real explanation for this drastic move, and then shifts to the beginning of the 20th century, when Mary first inherits the plantation. The entire saga—filled with heartbreak, betrayal, power struggles and love—spans nearly 70 years. Looking for a good old-fashioned page-turner to gobble up this weekend? Roses fits the bill.
What are you reading today?
He gaped at her, truly shocked. “But, Mary, why?” You’ve had a marvelous life—a life that I thought you wished to bequeath to Rachel to perpetuate your family’s heritage. This codicil is so...” he swept the back of his hand over the document, “adverse to everything I thought you’d hoped for her—that you led her to believe you wanted for her.”
She slackened in her chair, a proud schooner with the wind suddenly sucked from her sails. She laid the cane across her lap. “Oh, Amos, it’s such a long story, far too long to go into here. Percy will have to explain it all to you someday.”
“Explain what, Mary? What’s there to explain?” And why someday, and why Percy? He would not be put off by a stab of concern for her. The lines about her eyes and mouth had deepened, and her flawless complexion had paled beneath its olive skin tone. Insistently, he leaned father over the desk. “What story don’t I know, Mary? I’ve read everything ever printed about the Tolivers and Warwicks and DuMonts, not to mention having lived among you for forty years. I’ve been privy to everything affecting each of you since I came to Howbutker. Whatever secrets you may have harbored would have come out. I know you.”
She lowered her lids briefly, fatigue clearly evident in their sepia-tinged folds. When she raised them again, her gaze was soft with affection. “Amos, dear, you came into our lives when our stories were done. You have known us at our best, when all our sad and tragic deeds were behind us and we were living with their consequences. Well, I want to spare Rachel from making the same mistakes I made and suffering the same, inevitable consequences. I don’t intend to leave her under the Toliver curse.”
Anne Rice has become the latest author to release a "Vook" (see an earlier post about Vooks here). She's chosen an out-of-print short story, set in 1888 London, to republish in the new digital format. "The Master of Rampling Gate" is selling for just 99 cents right now (regular price $4.99), and I have to admit the preview, which includes one of the accompanying videos, is pretty interesting (not least for the revelation that such a thing as a "Gothic historian" exists).
You can choose among three views: just the text, just the videos, or a mix of both.
Throughout the text you can click on words and be taken to Wikipedia links explaining them, just in case you don't have a visual reference for "mullioned windows" or "Victoria Station."
I'm curious to see what kind of a response you readers have to something like this. Interested, or not a chance? At 99 cents I am tempted to give it a try, although Vooks don't seem quite as impressive after Penguin's announcement yesterday of their ebook vision for the iPad (I want that travel guide!).
After the jump, the YouTube trailer for "The Master of Rampling Gate" and an embed of the Penguin UK presentation (via).
The Associated Press reported this morning that Barry Hannah, Southern author extraordinaire and creative writing professor at the University of Mississippi, died Monday. He was 67. Hannah's death came just a few days before the 17th Oxford Conference for the Book; his work is the subject of the conference.
Hannah’s first novel, Geronimo Rex, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1972. It received the William Faulkner prize for writing. Short story collection High Lonesome was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.
Richard Ford, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Independence Day, was a friend of Hannah’s. He said, ''Barry could somehow make the English sentence generous and unpredictable, yet still make wonderful sense, which for readers is thrilling. . . You never knew the source of the next word. But he seemed to command the short story form and the novel form and make those forms up newly for himself.”
In a 2001 interview with BookPage, Hannah talked with Ellen Kanner about his book Yonder Stands Your Orphan—and about writing sober and Southern:
"All my idols were alcoholics—Joyce, Hemingway. I bought into the notion you had to have some drinking and a bit of pain if you had anything to say," says Hannah. "Much of it was phony." He hasn't had a drink in a decade and Yonder Stands Your Orphan is the first novel he wrote sober.
Hannah misses nothing of his boozy self. It's his younger self he thinks of with a bit of nostalgia. "The young are privy to truths that become blurred for older people. I had no history when I started writing in the 1960s, when I was writing as well as I ever did. You don't need to know everything, thank God. I knew nothing of publishing, didn't know I was going to make a dime. I miss that freedom in relative poverty," he says. . .
Writing about the South and living in Oxford, home of William Faulkner, Hannah has been called that dirty name, a Southern writer. "I don't like it used in the connotations of local color—I despise that—or somebody making hay out of weird relatives or funny names," he says. "No really good writer could be merely Southern. A fiction writer isn't provincial, ever. He should be sending back news from the front, news somebody else might not know about and it should be interesting and entertaining."
Related in BookPage: An interview with Richard Ford.
Earlier this month my book club read Jayne Anne Phillips' Lark and Termite, which drew quite a range of reactions. Though everyone in the group agreed that Phillips is a terrific writer, some felt that this critically acclaimed novel (a finalist for the National Book Award) was a difficult reading experience. Readers questioned the supernatural elements, the use of symbolism (yes, Lola IS the cat) and a few plot points that strained belief. Despite all this, I can tell you that we had a wonderful discussion of Lark and Termite and that I came away from the meeting with a clearer understanding of this remarkable novel and a stronger appreciation for Phillips' talents.
All of which serves as proof of The First Law of Book Clubs: It isn't necessarily the books that everyone loves that spark the best discussions. In fact, my reading group has had some of its very best talks about books that most of us hated (I won't mention any titles but a certain talking gorilla comes painfully to mind). Don't get me wrong -- we've also had wonderful conversations about books that each and every book club member thoroughly enjoyed. But in the end, it's not only the quality of a book, but the experience of reading and sharing your reaction to it, that makes or breaks a book club.
What about it, book club members? What book has sparked the best discussion in your reading group? Tell us in the comments by March 14 and you'll be entered to win copies of a recent reading group title for everyone in your club (up to 10 copies). The prize is being provided by the fine folks at Vintage/Anchor Books, and the winner can choose one of these recent Vintage/Anchor paperback releases:
The winner and five runners-up will also receive a copy of The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club, in which the beloved Irish author offers advice and encouragement for aspiring writers.
It's always a treat to hear that David Sedaris has a new project in the works. Even more exciting? Finding out he's going off the beaten path. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a collection of fables being published by Little, Brown in October 2010, will be illustrated by celebrated picture book author and artist Ian Falconer, reports Publisher's Weekly.
Though fables might first seem an odd choice for an accomplished essayist, I think the form could be the perfect showcase for Sedaris' humor and imagination. What say you?
You might remember that in 2005, a woman paid $25,100 for the privilege of having a Stephen King character—a zombie, in fact—named after her brother. (The book was Cell, and the zombie's name was "Huizenga.") The proceeds, earned in an auction, went to the First Amendment Project, which has also allowed bidding for characters in John Grisham, Dave Eggers and Neil Gaiman books.
A news item in yesterday’s New York Times reminded me of this odd concept of reader participation: Tony Award-winning actress Patti LuPone is holding a contest for readers to name her forthcoming autobiography. She explains: “Dolls, I've been busy writing the story of my theatrical life and need your help to find a suitable and fabulous title.”
Romance novelist Robyn Carr is holding a similar contest (which you may have seen advertised on our site): Readers can enter for a chance to have a character named after them in one of her 2011 books, specifically, a kitchen colleague in the restaurant where we'll first meet the story's heroine. (Granted, the difference here is that Carr’s and King's contests are all luck or money, whereas Lupone’s takes creativity. The NYT suggests “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”)
In October I blogged about The Amanda Project, a YA mystery series by Stella Lennon. The series is innovative because social media plays a role in the books’ editorial content; readers can interact on The Amanda Project website, and their comments could be incorporated into characters or subplots.
Commenters: What do you think about this marketing/fundraising technique? Would YOU like to have a character named for you in a book? Or your title splashed across a new hardcover? Or is editorial content best left to the experts—the authors themselves?