One of the best parts of my day is going through the mail here at BookPage. That might sound strange, but it gives me a chance to get up from my desk, clear my head and see what goodies the mailman has brought for us. I love paging through copies of recently published books and eyeing the galleys I’ve been eagerly anticipating; I don’t love it when mailers made from recycled material explode all over me (usually when I’m wearing black), but I’m proud to say I’ve gone several days without a mail mishap.
The most exciting thing that landed in our mail on this cloudy Wednesday was a package from HarperPerennial introducing their new HarperPerennial ClassicStories line. HarperPerennial is publishing collections of short stories from greats like Leo Tolstoy, Willa Cather, Oscar Wilde, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Herman Melville and Stephen Crane this month, and they were nice enough to send along a set for us. The compact paperback editions are beautifully designed and reasonably priced at just $10 a pop.
Whether you are a classics fanatic or just a collector of important works, be sure to check out these new paperbacks from HarperPerennial. And as for me, well, as the saying goes: finder's keepers!
The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association has chosen Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan's Wanting as their very first NAIBA Notable title. The novel, which goes on sale today, is a haunting story set in 1841 that features two titans of Victorian England, Charles Dickens and John Franklin (whose ill-fated Northern expedition was the subject of a recent Dan Simmons novel) while drawing parallels to modern society.
Flanagan is known for complex, thematic works like Gould's Book of Fish, but he's not afraid to go commercial—he also co-wrote the screenplay for the Baz Luhrmann film Australia. Grove Publisher Morgan Entrekin says Wanting has the same intellectual depth as his earlier novels "yet may be more approachable for many readers."
Wanting goes on sale today, but the book has already received a rave review from novelist Jon Fasman in the Los Angeles Times. As a fan of historical and Victorian fiction, I'm looking forward to digging into our copy.
Yesterday Minotaur announced that mystery writer Nevada Barr was leaving her longtime publisher, Putnam, and signing on with them for her next three books in the Anna Pigeon series. The first book will appear in 2010.
In the official press release, Minotaur VP and Publisher Andrew Martin called Barr "a star author," saying that he was "absolutely delighted to be welcoming her onto our list.”
Barr's final novel with Putnam, Borderline, was just released last month, and she has a stand-alone thriller, 13 1/2, coming from Vanguard Press on September 29.
Having read about Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books in Bruce Tierney’s Whodunit? column—Mankell has even won the “coveted” BookPage Tip of the Ice Pick Award—and being a longtime fan of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery! series, I’m pretty excited about the premiere of Wallander this Sunday, with two more episodes airing May 17 and 31. Read on for a mini review—and a chance to win three of the Wallander books.
I started watching the first, “Sidetracked,” last night and, so far, I’m really enjoying it. With a couple of days’ stubble, a bit of paunch and a generally disheveled appearance, Kenneth Branagh fits the description of the somewhat obsessive, sleep-deprived and often impatient police detective.
Wallander is stylish and modern and moves at a restrained pace—peppered with bursts of action and some really incredible edits—mirroring the title character’s methodical progress. OK, so you might have a hard time determining that you’re watching something set in Sweden (as opposed to somewhere in the British Isles), but the occasional splash of Swedish on a newspaper, a reference to the assassinated prime minister, shots of vodka bottles, and lots clean Scandinavian design help remind you.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you how Wallander the series compares to the books, because though I love relaxing with a good mystery, I prefer watching mysteries to reading them (hey, I read all day; my eyes deserve a break in the evening). But I did enjoy watching “Sidetracked”—for the story, the suspense, and the familiar faces.
Anyway, I’ll leave comparisons to you. For a chance to win copies of Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Beyond (the three books behind the three episodes), leave a comment by May 13 mentioning your favorite fictional sleuth/detective who’s been adapted for the big or small screen or who’d you’d like to see adapted.
On my recent trip to St. Petersburg, I balanced out the vodka and caviar with some slightly more edifying museum visits. Given Russia's rich literary heritage, you could hardly walk a block without coming across a sign or historical marker that had a connection to some famous novelist or other.
There's something about seeing an author's home, though, that seems especially significant. I'm no Dostoyevsky expert—that title belongs to the friend with the Russian lit degree whom I was traveling with—but of the writer's homes we visited in St. Petersburg, my favorite was the Dostoyevsky Memorial Museum. Located in a corner flat (which Dostoyevsky reportedly preferred) not far from the Vladimirskaya metro station, this was Dostoyevsky's home from 1878 to 1881. He wrote The Brothers Karamozov here, and it was where he died on January 28, 1881.
Since it cost 200 rubles (about $7) to take pictures inside (a common practice at Russian tourist sites), I thought I'd get my money's worth by sharing them here—so after the jump, pictures and notes on the Dostoyevsky Museum.
According to my Walkman audio guide, Dostoyevsky was a real family man and ate supper with his wife and children every night at 6 o'clock. The apartment's most touching relics were the handwritten notes from his children (who were all quite young when he died) asking for sweets and telling him they loved him.
Accounts of Dostoyevsky's death vary, but the story told here is that during a late-night writing session, the author dropped his pen, which rolled under the bookcase behind the desk. He tried to move the bookcase and suffered a pulmonary embolism. Two days later, he was dead. The clock on the right is set for the date and time of his death.
Which writers' homes have you visted and especially enjoyed, and what made them special?
While the Internet has been abuzz with news about Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, for weeks, we thought our Book Case readers might want a bit more on Brown. Years (and several title incarnations) in the making, the long-awaited follow-up to The Da Vinci Code will be released from Doubleday on September 15th, 2009.
When the news of this momentous publication hit the web, The Lost Symbol shot to #1 on Amazon.com almost immediately. And B&N.com is offering pre-order customers a whopping 40% discount. With an unprecedented first printing of five million copies, we’re sure the folks at Doubleday are hoping to break all kinds of pre-order—and overall—sales records.
About The Lost Symbol, Brown’s longtime editor, Jason Kaufman, says, “Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel. This book’s narrative takes place in a 12-hour period, and from the first page, Dan’s readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. The Lost Symbol is full of surprises.”
While you’re waiting for publication of The Lost Symbol, you can check out Ron Howard’s big screen adaptation of Angels & Demons, the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, which hits theaters nationwide on May 15th. Fan favorite Tom Hanks stars again as Robert Langdon, and this time we’ll watch Landgon track a legendary secret society, the Illuminati, and their connection with the recent murder of renowned physicist.
So which Dan Brown event are you more excited about—the movie of the summer or the bestseller of the fall?
Well, you never know what you’re going to find in the mail here at BookPage.
Yesterday I came across A Trace of Smoke (Forge), whose jacket photograph of a rainy nighttime street scene with German-language signage and an U-bahn entrance drew me in at first glance.
In this debut novel by Rebecca Cantrell, crime reporter Hannah Vogel tries to solve the mystery of her brother’s death, hold onto her job and maybe fall in love—all while keeping a low profile. It’s Berlin, 1931, and you know what that means. To makes things even trickier, Hannah has loaned her identity papers to a Jewish friend trying to emigrate to the U.S.
Too bad I didn’t have this book this past (very rainy) weekend; I would have curled up with it, neglecting my other reading duties.
Ah, time for full disclosure: Becky Cantrell—sorry, that’s Rebecca Cantrell—was my roommate for a year at Carnegie Mellon University. She doesn’t know that I later won a fellowship to Germany, spent a year in Berlin and became fairly proficient in German (uh, don't test me on that, I'm rather rusty).
Becky went to high school in Berlin, and also studied there in college. She captures the essence of that fascinating city in her new book, while also creating a well-written period piece set in the last days of the Weimar Republic.
A Trace of Smoke pubs May 12.
Note to publishers: Last I heard, London was only a 6-hour plane ride from New York City. And Canada? Even closer. So why do US fans have to wait nearly six months for A.S. Byatt's new novel, The Children's Book, which was published in the UK and Canada on April 21?
Set during the idealistic epoch before the Great War, The Children's Book is already being described as "a tour de force" "panoramic" and "a rich, sprawling chronicle" by various Canadian and British news outlets. What a shame that the US media won't get a chance to weigh in until October 6, Knopf's current publication date for the book. Sure, Byatt is your typical big-name literary fall release, but to really build momentum for a novel, wouldn't it be better if all the English-speaking media* were talking about it at once? (And for the record, I would have loved to take this one to the beach. The movie industry seems to have figured out that fall isn't the only time a serious film can do well—publishers should give it a try.)
The Internet doesn't differentiate between countries, and books are often impulse buys. By October, we might not remember that this is the same novel The Guardian called Byatt's Middlemarch, or we might have added too many other books to our reading lists—or we might have already ordered a copy from an overseas retailer. Guess Knopf is willing to roll the dice, but this type of arbitrary, disconnected publication schedule only makes books seem more archaic than most people already think they are.
Lucky Canadian blogger Crooked House has an excerpt.
*Australian release date is May 15 and New Zealand's was May 1, according to their Random House websites.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a recent release from Quirk Books, is just the latest in a long line of riffs, adaptations and yes, parodies, of Jane Austen's novels—though it is the first to pit her beloved characters against a supernatural enemy.
Taking its success as proof that the publishing world must be in want of a few more Austen/supernatural mash-ups, there are at least two more in the works. Instead of adding to a classic, though, both authors have chosen to give Jane herself a starring role.
Today's Publisher's Lunch listed the sale of "Janet Mullany's The Immortal Jane Austen, a humorous novel about Jane Austen in Regency England who joins the vampire resistance in Bath when England is invaded by French forces," to Harper/Avon editor May Chen.
And the Washington Post announced that 2010 will see the publication of Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford (Random House), the first in an intended three-book series that casts Jane as a vampire bookstore owner (can you hear those cash registers ringing?).
In case you thought the diehard Janeites were the ones to be won over in this meeting of the genres, consider this: not all zombie fans have a taste for 19th-century literature. As demonstrated in this comment from the horror novel discussion site Shocklines, "So far I'm not tempted to slog through the other 80% of the book in order to enjoy the zombies." Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow had the same problem. "I found myself skimming, skipping larger and larger chunks of text to get to the zombie sequences, desperate to escape the claustrophobic drawing-room chatter of Austen's characters with a little beheading, disemboweling and derring-do."
New York's gaggle of gossipistas has been all a twitter (figuratively and literally) about Michael Gross' latest exposé of the Big Apple's super-wealthy social glitterati. In Rogue's Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum (Broadway), on sale tomorrow, Gross does his damnedest to out as many "secrets" and secret-sharers as he can. His social scalpel sharpened, he set out to uncover the ugly, but alluring, underbelly of the cash-fueled power politics of the art world, with its elite egotists ever-battling for prominence. He maintains that "ever since its founding, the Metropolitan has bred arrogance, hauteur, hubris, vanity and even madness." And he goes on to say that the Metropolitan is "a huge alchemical experiment, turning the worst of man's attributes — extravagance, lust, gluttony, acquisitiveness, envy, avarice, greed, egotism, and pride — into the very best, transmuting deadly sins into priceless treasure."
Real dirt is dished all the way through, but the second half of the book, dealing with the living and the not-long-departed—Thomas Hoving, Annette de la Renta, her mother Jane Engelhard, Brooke Astor and Diana Vreeland are among the skewered luminaries--has the juiciest bits that titillate and tantalize. Not everyone was thrilled to talk to Gross. The Met's soon-to-retire leader, the ultra-elegant Philippe de Montebello, zipped his lip and told his staff, from curators to janitors, to zip theirs (a friend of mine had the pleasure of hanging up on Gross when barraged with inappropriate questions). In his acknowledgments, Gross thanks all the fearful folks who talked to him under the cloak of anonymity, to "protect their livelihoods or their social positions." Undeniably fun, Rogue's Gallery is a hefty (over 500 pages), detailed guilty pleasure that's hard to put down.