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On The Books: 'Gone With The Wind' prequel centers on Mammy

The Margaret Mitchell estate has authorized a prequel to Gone With The Wind which will follow the life of the house slave, Mammy. Donald McCaig is authoring the book,called Ruth’s Journey, which is slated for publication in October. McCaig also wrote Rhett Butler’s People, one of two sequels to the epic Southern tale. Gone with the Wind has sold hundreds of millions of copies since its publication in 1936 and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937. Of course we can’t forget the Oscar-winning movie from 1939 starring Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh and the inimitable Hattie McDaniel as Mammy. Mammy captured hearts with her staunch morality, loyalty, and best of all, her harsh verbal lashings of Miss Scarlett. McCaig plans to delve into Mammy’s past, and the first order of business is to give her a real name (since Mitchell never did): Ruth. The story begins in 1804, when Ruth is brought from her birthplace, the French colony of Saint-Domingue that is now known as Haiti, to Savannah, GA where she will end up with Scarlett’s mother, Ellen. [New York Times]

The American Scholar has made a list of the “Ten Best Sentences” ever written. That’s a tall order. NPR’s All Things Considered has an interview with associate editor Margaret Foster, who explains their reasoning. No real surprises in the author’s on the list (although some of the chosen sentences are odd): Joan Didion, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Toni Morrison, Ernst Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Tim O’Brien, Vladimir Nabokov, John Hersey and Jane Austen. Austen is a bit of a surprise. I wouldn’t say her writing is the pinnacle of our craft. My choices for authors would be very different. I’d have to include Cormac McCarthy, Edward Abbey, Raymond Chandler, and David Foster Wallace. What sentences or authors would make your list? [American Scholar]

Ian Fleming, the author who created James Bond, was a notorious womanizer — color me stunned. And a series of love letters and postcards that he wrote to one of his girlfriends are being auctioned off in London. The auctioneer writes that the relationship was “typically tempestuous with hints of sadomasochism.” Here’s a quote from one of the letters:

I will only buy the castle if you will live with me there. So, do you offer yourself or not, everything included, naturally. High class ninny, the dust is a meter deep in the apartment. Since the day you went away, I have not been back there again, and there must be some letters for you there. Your flowers must be there too. When will you come back and clean everything up? You can have it whenever you want to and I won’t “bother” you, and you won’t have to watch out for my lies. Please, Edith, come. I can’t use the apartment in any case, because it still stinks of you (should I have said smells), and besides no candidate is available. [Peter Harrington]

Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings, wrote a piece in The New Yorker about what cultural things she drew upon for inspiration in her novel. Wolitzer’s sharp sense of humor is a treat for the Thursday slump. She says she subscribes to the “ ‘give yourself treats’ school of writing. (Not to be confused with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.)” I subscribe to that school too.

Jonathan Schell, author of many nonfiction books on 20th century warfare, died of cancer on Tuesday at his home in Brooklyn. One of his most famous books is The Village of Ben Suc (1967), which chronicled the systematic devastation of a South Vietnamese village by American forces during the Vietnam War. [New York Times]

On The Books: Jimmy Carter talks biblical misogyny and an author imagines Hitler is a comedian

It’s a weird collection of book news this Monday. To start with, Jimmy Carter has a new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, which hits shelves tomorrow. The 39th President has published more than 25 books during his career, covering everything from history to politics to “The Virtues of Aging.” But his newest book is on the subjugation of women around the world, looking closely at how religion is used as a tool of oppression. NPR interviewed the former president this weekend and you can listen to an excerpt on their website.

READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Elizabeth Vargas is penning a memoir

News anchor Elizabeth Vargas has announced that she is penning a memoir about her struggle with anxiety and alcoholism. The untitled project will be released by Grand Central Publishing in Spring 2016. Grand Central said that the 20/20 anchor’s memoir will be “a no-holds-barred account of growing up with crippling anxiety and of turning to alcohol for relief.  She’ll divulge how she found herself living a dark double life and will share personal stories of her despair, her time in rehab, and, ultimately, her recovery process.” Vargas found solace in reading stories by other women who had battled alcoholism and she feels like it’s her turn to share. “I have spent my entire life telling other peoples’ stories,” she said. “This one is my own, and is incredibly personal: the burden and the loneliness of the secret drinker.  If just one other person can relate to it, it will make my own story worth writing, and I will have paid the gift forward.” READ FULL STORY

On The Books: join the Beat Generation with Ferlinghetti's travel journals

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Beat poet and co-founder of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, has sold the rights to his travel journals to Liveright Publishing. They plan to release the collection, titled Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals (1950-2013), in September 2015. It sounds like it will be a counterculture travel guide and a historical snapshot of the second half of the 20th century rolled into one. The New York Times reports:

The journal material, most of it being published for the first time, sheds as much light on Mr. Ferlinghetti’s political passions as on his relationships with the Beat writers. His itinerary takes him to Mexico, Haiti and North Africa, to Cuba in the throes of the Castro revolution, to Franco’s Spain, to Soviet Russia for the 1968 Writers’ Congress, and to Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. It also includes his frequent trips to Italy and to France, where he lived for four years while pursuing a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris. Along the way, he records his encounters with Pablo Neruda, Ezra Pound, Ernesto Cardenal, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznesensky.

On April 18th, Haruki Murakami will publish his first collection of short stories in nine years. The title “Onna no Inai Otokotachi” translates to “Men Without Women” and will be a compilation of short novels that have previously appeared in magazines, as well as one new offering. Apparently there was some scandal around the story “Drive My Car — Men Without Women.” The town featured in the story was offended by Murakami’s portrayal. Supposedly he apologized, but then he went and named the whole collection after that story, so that’s confusing. I’ll chalk it up to “lost in translation.” [Yahoo]

Some post-grad student at Cambridge translated Lorem Ipsum, that swatch of dummy text that acts as a placeholder in the publishing biz. I love finding meaning in nonsense. It’s almost a superstition, when I walk down the street and I try to make sentences out of the snippets of words from graffiti, old posters, torn stickers–in case it’s a secret message for me. Like the little boy in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In this case, it paid off. The translated paragraph reads almost like e.e. cummings. The first sentence: “Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum.” This doesn’t come as a total surprise because the text was originally pasted together by a 16th-century printer who “got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon.” [London Review of Books]
Over at the Guardian, Adrian McKinty has written a literary jaunt through the historical and futuristic settings of fantasy novels, all in service of the question: When and where is Game of Thrones set? Read it for a full explanation because he has some very interesting examples, but his final conclusion is that Game of Thrones is set “not in some canned version of our medieval past but in the far future when the continents have shifted and some humans have evolved extraordinary physical and mental abilities which, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, are indistinguishable from magic…As the sun expands, Earth’s orbit becomes more eccentric and massive variations in climate are to be expected, resulting in stretched-out summers and long, deadly winters.”

National Book Critics Circle Awards go to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Sheri Fink

Last night, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its prestigious awards for books published in 2013. Not too surprisingly, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche — you might recognize that name from the Beyonce track “***Flawless” — edged out Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch for the big fiction prize for Americanah, the probing novel about Nigerian immigrants that EW chose as one of the best books of last year.

See below for a full list of winners: READ FULL STORY

Holy Quidditch Cup! More stories from J.K. Rowling on Pottermore

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Attention Potter Fans! (That’s the same as saying “attention everyone.”) J.K. Rowling has written a 2,400 word story on the “History of the Quidditch World Cup” and she’s given it exclusively to Pottermore to post in two parts, half today and half next Friday, March 21st.

Part one, which is going up today, provides historical background about the tournament, information about how the tournament works, and examples of controversial tournaments, including the infamous 1877 match played in Kazakhstan’s Ryn Desert now known as the Tournament that Nobody Remembers. READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Orson Welles reading Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself' will root you to your chair

Walt Whitman’s poetry flares up a lot in Americana. Breaking Bad‘s meth kingpin Walter White had an inscribed copy of Leaves of Grass (which sold at an auction for $65,500). In the show, the book was the catalyst for his undoing. Bill Clinton infamously presented Monica Lewinsky with a copy of Leaves of Grass. (Lesson: never gift Leaves of Grass. It’s the Hades pomegranate of modern times.) Apple’s recent iPad commercial makes striking (and shameless) use of Robin Williams’ speech from Dead Poets Society in which he quotes Whitman’s “Oh Me! Oh Life!” Today Open Culture featured an interesting article about this phenomenon, but the real treat is the download of Orson Welles’ BBC recording of “Song of Myself.” Welles’ resonant voice and expressive reading is absolutely riveting. He gives the poem the gravity that Whitman intended. It makes you miss old time radio readings. [Open Culture]

If you feel like gobbling up more radio after Orson Welles, head over to N+1. The associate editor Richard Beck and author Sheila Heti discuss political and literary topics like friendship, feminism and the child-care sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980s. You know, casual Thursday thoughts. [N+1]

Lotte Fields was a regular visitor to the New York Public Library until the day she died at 89-years-old. She loved to read and she donated the occasional small sum to the institution. So imagine the everyone’s surprise when it was discovered on Wednesday that she bequeathed the 119-year-old library $6 million in her will. That sounds like something written by E.L. Konigsburg. [New York Times]

The Hugo Awards periodically recognize books that were written 50-75 years prior to the current award ceremony. This year the Hugo committee asked members to pick a science fiction book written in 1938 for an honorary Retro-Hugo award. Notables include: Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis; the Doc Savage novels; and The Sword in the Stone, by T.H. White. [Guardian]

Another sweet poetry story, Afaa Michael Weaver just won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his poetry collection The Government of Nature. Chief Judge Chase Twichell said of Weaver, “His father was a sharecropper. After serving for two years in the Army, he toiled for 15 years in factories, writing poems all the while. When he learned that he’d won a National Endowment Fellowship, he quit his job and attended Brown University on a full scholarship. He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet. It’s truly remarkable.” So second lesson today: it’s never too late to seize your dream job. [NPR]

First peek at 'YOU' by Caroline Kepnes -- EXCLUSIVE

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Former EW writer Caroline Kepnes, along with Alloy Entertainment and Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, is bringing you a story of creepy obsession that seems to fit squarely in the “New Adult” genre that’s been taking off lately. According to the official description, You (out Sept. 30) begins innocently enough:

Recent Brown graduate Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works. Joe is instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: she’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and sexy beyond his wildest dreams. Joe needs to have her, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so. As he begins to insinuate himself into her life—her friendships—her email—her phone— she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom-made for her. So when her boyfriend, Benji, mysteriously disappears, Beck and Joe fall into a tumultuous affair. But there’s more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade, and their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences…

Take a closer look at the cover above, which Kepnes calls “beautiful and bloody.” She adds, “Looking at this cover was love at first sight. It’s so rich and inviting but also scary in all the right ways. I love it. The designer nailed it.”

On the Books: Keith Richards wrote a children's book and Anne Rice's Lestat lives!

Keith Richards is publishing a children’s picture book, called Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. Richards’ grandfather was in a jazz big band and was a childhood role model of the rocker’s. “I have just become a grandfather for the fifth time, so I know what I’m talking about,” says Richards in a press release. “The bond, the special bond, between kids and grandparents is unique and should be treasured. This is a story of one of those magical moments. May I be as great a grandfather as Gus was to me.” His daughter Theodora Richards will do the illustrations in pen and ink. The book will be released in hardcover and ebook on September 9, 2014, with the hardcover edition including an exclusive audio CD featuring bonus book content.

City Room’s Big City Book Club had a funny little Q&A with Gary Shteyngart on Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City. Shteyngart reminisces on the good old days when Manhattan was “a genuine mix of pathology and creativity.” Now the craziest thing that might happen to you is “a Citi Bike might run over your foot on the way to the Equinox and then you’ll tweet about it pretty hard.” True. [New York Times]

That Amtrak writers residency is now a real thing. They’re accepting application on their website and 24 “winners” will receive round-trip tickets to a mystery location that Amtrak chooses based on availability. So get ready for a romantic ride to Bakersfield, CA.

George Saunders is going to have to install a second mantle in his house to hold all his trophies. He has now won his second award in as many weeks. First it was the Story Prize and now it’s the inaugural Folio Prize from the UK, which comes with a $67,000 reward. Slow clap for the Tenth of December. [New York Times]

LESTAT LIVES! Anne Rice is publishing a new Lestat novel, Prince Lestat, which will be out in October (go figure.) The book will be a sequel to her Vampire Chronicles and the start of a new series. [Guardian]

I had to read all the Vampire Chronicles over again and I had to kind of … I don’t want to be irritating or pretentious talking about a character as if he’s a real human being, but I really had to wrestle Lestat to the ground, and beat him up, and say ‘look, you’ve got to talk to me, I’ve got to know what you’ve been doing’. Because I can’t really write novels about that character unless he wants to come through, and it really is like he’s a living breathing being somewhere, and suddenly he did, he came through, and he started to talk and I was taking the dictation, and everything went splendidly well and it was very exciting.

On the Books: David Nicholls takes on 'Us,' his first book after 'One Day'

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David Nicholls, the author behind the novel One Day — which sold 5 million copies worldwide and garnered a film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess — has finally announced a publication date for his next novel. After five years in the works, Us will hit shelves on September 30, 2014. This story is about a family on the brink of dissolution — a husband and wife of 21 years who are about to call it quits and their college-bound son. But before everything falls apart, the husband takes them on a grand tour of Europe in hopes of knitting their lives back together. So this is basically the flip side of One Day, which was a 20-year search for romance; Us is a 20-year breakdown of love. While ruminating on Us, Nicholls also wrote the screen adaptation of Great Expectations for the version released last year starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.  [The Guardian]

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch will also be getting a screen adaptation, although the scope of that project hasn’t been decided yet. The producers behind The Hunger Games films have optioned the book, but they’re waiting on “the right filmmaker” to determine the book’s cinematic future, which could be a television miniseries or a movie. The Goldfinch has been gaining more and more momentum since its October 2013 release. The New York Times named it one of the best books of 2013 and it has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Bailey Prize. [The Wrap]

Serhiy Zhadan — Ukraine’s most famous counterculture writer according to The New Yorker — suffered a violent beating at the hands of a pro-Russian mob on Saturday. Photos of his bloody face made the rounds online, but he posted this note on his Facebook page to reassure his supporters: “Friends, with me everything is okay.” Zhadan is a national icon in Ukraine and his abuse will reverberate through the Ukrainian populace. Unfortunately The New Yorker reports that:

Now, Zhadan is back in the hospital—his jaw has not been healing properly. But, he wrote in an e-mail, the beating has not deterred him. “It’s very simple,” he wrote. “I don’t want to live in a country of corruption and injustice. I, like millions of other Ukrainians, would like to have a normal measure of power. A dictatorship is not normal, and people who don’t protest injustice, they have no future.”

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