Not long ago we got a special treat in the mail at BookPage: Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History’s Glare. This book (retail value: $40!) is a visual memoir of Vidal’s life, complete with pages and pages of photos, letters and other memorabilia (not to mention Vidal’s writing).
I could go on – but instead, one lucky reader can read for him or herself in Vidal’s new book. Just answer the following question in the comments (think of this as a BookPage.com scavenger hunt):
Which of Vidal’s audio books was named as “Sukey’s Favorite” by BookPage audio book columnist Sukey Howard? I’ll choose a random winner from the correct answers. I’ll announce the lucky reader on Monday. Good luck!
I read a lot of blurbs* -- the frequently overblown, sometimes clichéd, always enthusiastic statements, typically by one author about another author’s book. Because I see so many blurbs, they rarely impress me. So imagine my surprise when I opened a January galley from Simon & Schuster and found a simple two-page printout titled “Advance Praise for Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs.” Contained therein is perhaps the most impressive collection of blurbs for a single book that I’ve ever encountered.
The first blurb is from Billy Collins, acclaimed poet and former U.S. poet laureate, who describes Gorokova’s account of growing up in the Soviet Union as “the Russian equivalent of Angela’s Ashes.” Next is Frank McCourt himself, the author of Angela’s Ashes, who died in July. Before his death, McCourt composed a blurb in which he ruminates about Gorokhova’s “rich experience” and wonders why the book is “so damn readable.” The memoir also garners praise from Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee (“an enthralling read”); Sergei Krushchev, son of former Soviet prime minister Nikita Krushchev (“an endlessly Russian quest for self-redemption”); novelist Ursula Hegi (“gorgeous and evocative”) and Carlos Eire (“every page bears witness to the deepest longing of the human heart”). Eire knows a thing or two about growing up under a Communist regime, having won the National Book Award for Waiting for Snow in Havana, a dazzling account of his youth in Cuba.
So what did I do after reading all those blurbs? I started reading A Mountain of Crumbs myself, and decided in short order that BookPage readers would want to know more about Gorokhova and her “rich,” “readable,” “gorgeous and evocative” memoir. Stay tuned for an interview with the author in the January issue of BookPage. And never underestimate the power of a blurb.
* Did you know? The word “blurb” was coined by American author Gelet Burgess, who in 1907 commissioned a special jacket for his novel Are You A Bromide? and christened the young woman pictured on the cover as “Miss Belinda Blurb.” Miss Blurb had many wonderful things to say about the novel (“This book has 42 carat THRILLS in it”) and her last name was forever after associated with effusive praise for a book.
I'm about to express what may be an unpopular opinion: I couldn't finish Eat, Pray, Love.
There's no question that Gilbert is a talented writer and speaker. I enjoyed Stern Men, but her path to enlightenment in Eat, Pray, Love seemed a little too self-indulgent. After following Gilbert as she ate her way through Italy and lost the gelato weight and then some at an ashram in India, I couldn't stomach the love section—especially when an affair had been a contributing factor to the divorce she was lamenting so deeply.
Next fall, Gilbert's fans and foes alike will get to hear the other side of the story in Michael Cooper's (aka the ex-Mr. Gilbert's) Displaced, which was sold to Hyperion yesterday. Apparently he set out on his own globe-trotting adventure through the Middle East to cure his heartache. Are you interested? I'm thinking I'll be too busy arranging my marriage/divorce/book proposal to catch it -- better sell while the market's hot.
After the success of President Obama's books, a family member hopes to follow in his footsteps. Today's Publisher's Lunch announced that his Kenyan half brother, George Obama, will be telling the story of his "fall into crime and poverty as a teenager and his eventual embrace of community organizing and of advocacy for the poor," in Homeland, a book written with Damien Lewis. George Obama reportedly got six figures for the book, which Simon & Schuster will publish in 2010.
That's what David Young, chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group, hopes for Twelve's upcoming memoir from Senator Ted Kennedy. At a recent meeting with Books-A-Million, Young told buyers that editor Jamie Raab says True Compass "delivers" and described the book as "electrifying."
True Compass covers everything from Kennedy's youth to the current day in surprising detail. "Revelations in this book will amaze people," Young said, promising that Kennedy "went everywhere we wanted him to go" in the memoir -- including Chappaquiddick -- and that the scene where Kennedy informs their father of his brother Jack's death is especially poignant. The book will, of course, be embargoed until its October 6 release date. Will you read?
Just got back from two (mostly) sunny weeks in L.A. where I took part in an NEA arts writing institute. One of my fellow fellows was Evelyn McDonnell, contributor to the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and The Village Voice (she was formerly a senior editor there). Evelyn has also written several books on pop music and, most recently, motherhood. I had to confess that BookPage hadn’t covered Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, and Rock ’n’ Roll (Da Capo), because, well, so many books, so little space. Now, after meeting this queen of punk-inspired fashion, I’m looking forward to reading her memoir of pop culture, motherhood and making the New York scene. If you’re looking for something other than saccharine Mother’s Day fare, you should check out Mamarama, too.