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On the Books: Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, apologizes for racist comments

- Daniel Handler, the author best known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, has apologized for a racially insensitive joke he made while hosting Wednesday’s National Book Awards. After Jacqueline Woodson, a children’s author who is black, accepted young people’s literature prize, Handler mentioned she had once told him she was allergic to watermelon—and then he started riffing on that fact.

“Just let that sink in your mind,” said Handler, elaborating that he told Woodson to put it in a book, who then told Handler to put it in his book. “I said, ‘I’m only writing a book about a black girl who’s allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornel West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying, ‘This guy’s OK.’” [Washington Post]

- Barbie dolls are tenuous role models at best. Mattel has occasionally made strange marketing decisions when promoting its iconic toy over the last five decades, including a 1965 doll that came with a fake scale set to an absurd 110 pounds and a 1992 “Teen Talk Barbie” that made declarations like “Math class is tough!”

Now author and blogger Pamela Ribon has uncovered another problematic Barbie product. On her blog, Ribon recounts discovering a book called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer through a friend. The title might sound innocuous, but in the book Barbie accidentally downloads a virus that crashes her computer, before unwittingly transferring it to her sister Skipper’s and eventually calling in two male characters to fix the mess.

Mattel posted an apology to its Facebook Wednesday, claiming that since the book’s original 2010 release, “we have reworked our Barbie books” and “Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.” It also has pulled the title for good. Try to forget the disheartening thought that apparently Mattel did think this characterization of women was appropriate just four years ago, and enjoy one of the book’s many parodies, including a “feminist hacker” version where users can rewrite the story’s text themselves. [L.A. Times]

- Earlier this year, the U2-scored musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ended its two-and-a-half year run on Broadway. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, the relationship between the Irish rockers and comics continues to grow. Bluewater Comics has released a biographical graphic novel about Bono (presumably in his pre-cycling injury state). “In writing the comic, I wanted to convey the legendary performer as the ultimate Everyman,” said author Michael Frizell. No word yet on whether the e-book edition will suddenly appear on every iPad in America. [Mediabistro]

 

See the cover for Carrie Ryan's latest YA novel

daughter-of-deep-silence

Mark your calendars: On June 2, best-selling author Carrie Ryan is returning to YA with a Revenge-esque thriller titled Daughter of Deep Silence. EW‘s got an exclusive first look at the cover (above).

Daughter of Deep Silence is a revenge thriller and a romance, but it’s also a sharp and painful examination of identity,” Julie Strauss-Gabel, Vice President and Publisher of Dutton Books tells EW exclusively. “What does it mean to rebuild your life as a lie? How much is left of the awkward, shy-girl narrator Libby has cast off and buried away in anger?” READ FULL STORY

The EW pull list: The best comics of November (so far)

Welcome to the EW Pull List, a regular selection of some of the most interesting comics and graphic novels available. 

At first blush, The Wake—winner of this year’s Eisner award for best limited series—looks like a horror comic. And for a while, it is. But only for a while.

Written by Scott Snyder with art by Sean Murphy, The Wake begins with Dr. Lee Archer, a marine biologist called down to examine a monster at a secret undersea base. What starts as Alien many leagues below the sea becomes something grander in scope, a story about beginnings and endings and survival.

Bringing that story to life is Sean Murphy’s dense, moody linework. Murphy is absurdly talented—his work is instantly recognizable and worth the price of admission alone. That it’s paired with the work of superstar colorist Matt Hollingsworth makes it all the better. Scott Snyder’s story is fantastic too—perfectly paced, it’s both sweeping and personal; a wonderful piece of genre fiction with a real beating heart. READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Beach Boy Mike Love inks a memoir deal

- Beach Boys founding member Mike Love, 73, has inked a book deal with Penguin Random House imprint Blue Rider Press. Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy will hit shelves in the summer (when else?) of 2016, the Associated Press reports. “I’ve had an incredible life with a lot of triumphs, my share of heartbreak and some pretty amazing experiences,” the “Surfin’ U.S.A.” singer said in a statement issued by Blue Rider. “There are a lot of things I haven’t shared before, and I’m looking forward to opening up about my life and my work in this book.”

In Good Vibrations, Love will open up about the times he didn’t vibe so well with cousin and Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson—the two conflicted over creative issues and songwriting credits. Biographer James S. Hirsch, who has penned books about baseball player Willie Mays and boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, will help Love write the book. [Associated Press via Yahoo! News]

Check out a video clip of Love and his fellow Beach Boys performing their biggest hit on The Dick Clark Show, below.

- The Oxford University Press must be feeling some of those good vibes too—”vape” is officially the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. Oxford Dictionaries defines the word on its official blog as “an abbreviation of vapour or vaporize… the verb means ‘to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device,’ while both the device and the action can also be known as a vape.” Casper Grathwohl, president of the Oxford’s Dictionaries Division, said that “This year ‘vape’ also served as an insightful window onto how we define ourselves,” reports NPR.

The blog announcement also explains that “vape” was chosen for its rapid proliferation in the English language in 2014: “You are 30 times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.” The trending verb joins the words “overshare” and “photobomb,” the Chamers Dictionary and the Collins English Dictionary’s words of the year, respectively.

- Ebook subscription service Oyster is launching its own online literary journal called The Oyster Review, “a modern literary magazine about a life well read.” The journal will publish original essays, humor pieces, book reviews and interviews about the best reads available—from publishers big and small, and authors past and present. Oyster seeks to tackle what editorial director Kevin Nguyen terms “the dilemma of the modern reader,” our ever-growing to-read lists, by curating the best reads for ambitious bookworms. “Think of it as a field guide to a life well read, a place of literary exploration and discovery… Here at Oyster, we believe the best book discoveries come from reading outside of your comfort zone.” An advisory board comprised of novelist Megan Abbott (The Fever), scholar and writer Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist), and YA author Lauren Oliver (the Delirium trilogy) will serve as a liaison between Oyster and the writers they publish. [Publishers Weekly]

'ODY-C' writer Matt Fraction talks about creating a comic epic

Think of Homer’s classic tale, The Odyssey. Now think of The Odyssey, but re-imagined as a gender-bent sci-fi space adventure—and in comic form. Sound intriguing? That’s the premise of Image Comics’ Ody-C, from writer Matt Fraction and artist Christian Ward.

As the Eisner Award winning genius behind acclaimed titles such as Sex Criminals, Hawkeye and The Invincible Iron Man, Fraction is no stranger to crafting narratives that are as smart as the are compelling. But gender-bending one of the most complicated classics ever written? Well, that’s an entirely new challenge altogether.

In advance of the comic’s debut next week, EW spoke with Fraction about bringing ODY-C to life, a little book called Sex Criminals, and that darn half-marathon he just ran.

READ FULL STORY

Iraq war veteran Phil Klay wins National Book Award

Phil Klay, an Iraq war veteran, won the National Book Award for fiction on Nov. 18 for his debut collection of short stories, Redeployment.

READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Prepare for another Alan Moore adaptation

- Alan Moore’s graphic novels have inspired some of the most memorable action flicks in recent years, including Watchmen and V for Vendetta. Now, Moore’s From Hell will get the small-screen treatment. FX has picked up a drama series based on the story, which chronicles Jack the Ripper’s exploits from the killer’s perspective.

Don Murphy will executive produce the series. It’s not the first time Murphy has been attached to From Hell—he produced 2001′s well-received film adaptation, which starred Johnny Depp and Robbie Coltrane. Sources say that Murphy always saw the story’s structure and plot as more conducive to TV, and that the recent explosion of high-quality dramas led him to push the project.

In the meantime, Moore’s graphic novel is worth revisiting. Moore released installments of the 572-page epic from 1989 to 1996, and included 46 pages of footnotes to add depth and historical detail to the plot. [Deadline]

- Moore can only hope that From Hell‘s adaptation receives the same praise as Game of Thrones. In the latest expansion of George R.R. Martin’s Thrones empire, HBO has inked a deal with Running Press to produce multiple books and mini kits inspired by the show. They’ll launch the partnership in April 2015 with In Memoriam, a short book about the characters who have died throughout the show. Running Press has also announced two mini kits (memorabilia collections) for the series: Game of Thrones: Stark Direwolf Kit and Game of Thrones: Hand of the King Wax Seal Kit. [Publishers Weekly]

- A massively influential activist and writer in the gay and transgender communities died Saturday. Trans woman Leslie Feinberg championed trans and lesbian issues, workers’ rights, and intersectionality. She advanced the Marxist concept of “transgender liberation,” and her final words were “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Feinberg wasn’t just responsible for bolstering academic understanding and political organization surrounding these topics. Her 1993 novel Stone Butch Blues told the story of a working-class butch lesbian living in pre-Stonewall America who runs away from home and becomes a part of gay subculture. The book won the 1994 Stonewall Book Award, received multiple translations, and assimilated into mainstream literature at a time when few people were familiar with books about trans and lesbian issues. Feinberg was 65. [The Advocate]

- In September, suburban Dallas’ Highland Park Independent School District drew criticism when it suspended seven books—including Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha—from its high school curriculum. Now the school district has announced further literary restrictions. Going forward, students will need signed permission slips in order to read six titles, among them Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. [L.A. Times]

- We also have a Shelf Life reminder: Watch the National Book Awards tonight. The event will stream live online. Last year’s winners were James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird and George Packer’s The Unwinding.

On the Books: Bidding for 'Psycho' typewriter starts at $25K

Junky old typewriters aren’t typically worth a fortune—unless the screenplay for a Hollywood classic like Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho was written on it. The 1959 faded green Olympia that Joseph Stefano used to adapt Robert Bloch’s novel into the screenplay for Psycho is going up for auction on Nov. 20—and the bidding starts at an exorbitant $25,000. At least it’s still fully functional, according to the lot description.

Psycho went on to win four Oscars and carve out a place in movie history with its iconic shower murder scene. Stefano’s most notable change from the novel was his decision to begin the movie with Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane, instead of killer Norman Bates. In doing so, “Stefano changed the drift of the audience’s affections, and changed film history in the process: it was the first time a leading lady had been murdered within the first 20 minutes of a movie,” writes The Telegraph.

British comedian Eddie Izzard is writing a memoir to be published by Blue Rider Press (a Penguin Group imprint) in Winter 2015-2016. The book will document his journey from performing on the streets of London to selling out standup tours and appearing in films like Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 13 and Across the Universe. “Eddie Izzard’s brilliant, and brilliantly funny, narrative style lends itself perfectly to the printed page,” said Executive Editor Sarah Hochman. [GalleyCat]

Barnes & Noble has created B&N Sync Up, a program that will allow customers to buy the digital editions of select titles for $4.99 each after purchasing the print editions. The company has also expanded the services it provides to self-published authors. Nook Press Print Service will allow authors to “create their own print books and have them shipped to an author’s home about one week after placing an order,” reports Publishers Weekly.

 

On the Books: Jonathan Franzen releasing new novel in September

Jonathan Franzen’s body of work—particularly 2001′s The Corrections—is so strong that it’s hard to believe he’s only released four novels and three non-fiction collections since his first novel, 1988′s The Twenty-Seventh City. The author has now announced the follow-up to 2010′s massively successful Freedom. Set for publication by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in September, Purity is “a multigenerational American epic that spans decades and continents.” Sound familiar?

But Jonathan Galassi, Farrar’s president and publisher, promises Franzen won’t just retread old ground in Purity. “There’s a kind of fabulist quality to it,” he said. “It’s not strict realism. There’s a kind of mythic undertone to the story.”

The five-year layoff since Freedom might seem long, but Franzen hasn’t had less than eight years between novels since he released his second one in 1992. [The New York Times]

Next time zombie hordes are on your tail, pull up Buzzfeed‘s new interview with Margaret Atwood. The esteemed author gave tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse, and they’re pretty great. Because “zombies can’t climb,” Atwood advised victims head for the top of the Empire State Building. She thinks Twitter would be the most useful social network (“People are going to want news, not photos of your baby.”) and said her weapons of choice would be “long-handled garden tools.” [Buzzfeed]

If he’d been in New York City this weekend, Herman Melville wouldn’t have believed his eyes. While Moby-Dick sold only 3,715 copies during Melville’s life, now the novel some hail as the greatest in American history has its own marathon. The second Moby-Dick Marathon NYC saw 150 readers of different stripes gathereing to honor Melville and his magnum opus. When [spoiler alert] Ishmael finally sights the whale, the crowd cheered. Maybe classic literature has a future as a spectator sport. [The Guardian]

Earlier this year, Mo’ne Davis made history as the first female pitcher to win a Little League World Series game. At just 13, Davis blanked her opponents—and has since thrown out the first pitch at a professional World Series game, starred in a Spike Lee-directed car commercial, and donated her jersey to baseball’s Hall of Fame. She’ll soon add “author” to her resume when she releases Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name via HarperCollins in March. [AP]

First look: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham's human-hating horror comic 'Nameless'

Announced at the beginning of this year, Nameless is a forthcoming six-issue miniseries by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham. Described by Morrison as his first full-on horror comic, both he and Burnham have been working very hard to find some of the most terrifying, depraved ideas ever dreamed up for the hero, Nameless, to face. Below, courtesy of Image Comics, EW has an exclusive first look at preview pages from Nameless #1.

READ FULL STORY

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