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On The Books: 'Literary Death Match' is a real thing and it's exactly what it sounds like - sort of

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A new competition is trying to drum up pop cultural fervor for contemporary authors and it has the splashy title of Literary Death Match. You really shouldn’t need anymore info than that to buy tickets. But I’ll give you details anyway. Their poster says: “4 authors, 3 judges, 2 finalists, 1 epic finale (and a bunch of really attractive lit-nerds).” I mean, done and done. Their website elaborates further, Literary Death Match “marries the literary and performative aspects of Def Poetry Jam, rapier-witted quips of American Idol’s judging (without any meanness), and the ridiculousness and hilarity of Double Dare.” So throw in Legends of the Hidden Temple obstacles and I promise to watch this and nothing else for the rest of the year. [NPR] READ FULL STORY

Check out the interactive cover of Karen Russell's e-novella 'Sleep Donation'. You can poke it! -- EXCLUSIVE

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Whether with her bizarre novel Swamplandia! or her recent short story collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Pulitzer finalist Karen Russell has never shied away from literary experimentation. Now she’s tackling another form: the e-novella. The debut title from Atavist Books, Sleep Donation (out Mar. 25) will explore a future America in which an insomnia epidemic is affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor, and the mysterious “Donor Y.”

For a novella with an inventive plot, legendary book jacket designer Chip Kidd came up with an ingenius cover design. “I’m in awe of Karen Russell as a writer, and the way she articulates her extraordinary ideas,” says Kidd. “It was a thrill to work for her, and to create a book cover that responds to the reader much in the way many of her sleep-afflicted characters in the story might. More precisely: what happens when you poke a virtual book jacket in the eye? This was so much fun to conceive and execute, and the illustrator Kevin Tong and the team at Atavist Books did a fantastic job of realizing my concept and making it actually work. I still love print, and hope to work in it for the rest of my life, but what it really comes down to regardless of the medium is a visual idea that is derived from the text.”

Give the virtual cover an e-poke here.

'Teen Wolf' and 'The Hills' producers sign three-book deal for 'High School Horror Story' series

Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley, the people who brought you everything from Teen Mom to Teen Wolf, know what young-adult audiences like on TV, so it makes sense that they’re jumping into YA publishing. As part of a three-book deal, DiSanto and Gateley will develop a new series called High School Horror Story with an eye toward eventually bringing it to screen.

The first book in the series, written by YA author Chandler Baker, will be called Teen Frankenstein and will hit shelves in Fall 2015. The High School Horror Story series will re-imagine classic literary monsters in a Paris, Texas high school. The first book will draw inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, told through the lens of a teenage girl who falls in love with the popular classmate she both accidentally kills and then brings back to life.

“Evidently this is an audience we’re passionate about serving. With the literary world driving more and more television ideas, we wanted to develop our own franchises that begin on pages of a novel before ever being imagined for television,” said Gateley in a press release. “It is taking what we did with Teen Wolf and backing up the truck, so to speak, allowing a book to be the point of inception rather than a screenplay. We have an endless amount of ideas for this audience and want to find the best young writers to bring them to life for us.”

Preview a paragraph from George R.R. Martin's 'The Winds of Winter' -- EXCLUSIVE

Since July of 2011, Game of Thrones fans have been waiting — not very patiently — for a release date for the sixth installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, we can’t bring you an update on that news quite yet — but we can give you an exclusive first look at the book.

Next month, Random House will launch a large update for George R.R. Martin’s A World of Ice and Fire app. In addition to including many new characters and location descriptions, the update will also include an exclusive chapter from The Winds of Winter, featuring one of the series’ most popular characters: Tyrion Lannister. (And yes, you’ll be able to download and access the excerpt in the free version — no payment required. If you’ve already purchased the app, you’re covered there, as well.)

The full chapter will be available in March, but check out the exclusive first paragraph below and tell us what you think:

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On The Books: Stieg Larsson basically was Mikael Blomkvist

Remember Mikael Blomkvist from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series? (He was played by Daniel Craig/Michael Nyqvist, depending on whether you watched the Swedish or American version.) Well, Stieg Larsson didn’t have to get very creative when he was writing that character because he was that character. In 1986 the Swedish Prime Minister was assassinated leaving the cinema with his wife. A few years later, a petty criminal was arrested and charged, but it was widely thought that the police bungled the investigation. Much like the Kennedy assassination, conspiracy theories swirled about what really happened. Larsson himself sent the police fifteen boxes of papers he said proved that the shooting could be traced to a “former military officer said to have had links with the South African security services.” What? Fifteen boxes?? That’s right out of a page of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I love it. He was probably one of those guys whose office was spackled with photos stuck to the walls and lampshades with pushpins and yarn. [The Guardian]

After stepping down from his post last month, Ben Bernanke announced that he will pen a memoir about his time as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. I will only read this if Marjane Satrapi agrees to make it a graphic novel. [Washington Post]

In preparation for Wes Anderson’s newest fancy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, check out this article on Stefan Zweig, the Austrian author whose work inspired the movie. Zweig was a prolific and important literary voice during the 1920’s and 30’s, but as a Jewish Austrian he was driven out of Europe as the Nazi’s rose to power. Ultimately, his tortured life ended in a double suicide. He and his wife swallowed a bottle of barbiturates in a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro in 1942. Despite, Zweig’s sad end, his stories of “disastrous passion” live on. I got a sneak preview of Grand Budapest last week and it was amazing. You definitely don’t want to miss it. [The Guardian]

In case you missed this, a new low-sugar book has been generating some buzz in the public health community. Dr. Richard Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF, has a new cookbook out called The Fat Chance Cookbook with low sugar recipes that can be made in under 30 minutes. The New York Times did a Q&A to get some basics about his dietary philosophy.

On The Books: Gender count shows literature is still a man's world

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Since 2009 the good people at VIDA have been trucking away counting bylines and book titles to give us the hard data on gender equality in literary journals. The 2013 VIDA count just went up today and the general consensus is that there is still a disparity between men and women when it comes to literary coverage — both in whose doing the writing and in whose being written about. The highlights:

– Most improved this year goes to The Paris Review. “The Paris Review’s numbers, previously among the worst in our VIDA Count, have metamorphosed from deep, male-dominated lopsidedness into a picture more closely resembling gender parity. While such progress is remarkable in one year, we are likewise pleased to note that we haven’t heard anyone bemoan a drop in quality in The Paris Review’s pages.”
– Poetry Magazine is consistently the most equal.
— The least gender equal with at least 75% male representation: The Atlantic, London Review of Books, New Republic, The Nation, New York Review of Books (actually holding steady at 80% men for four years) and New Yorker.
— Journals that skew more than 50% female: Tin House, Callaloo, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, New American Writing, and Ninth Letter.

Amtrak is contemplating a “writers’ residency” program on their trains, which would allow writers to travel for free (or at least for cheap). They’ve already hooked up Jessica Gross, who contributes to the New York Times Magazine. Gross got to ride for free from New York to Chicago and back (straight through 44 hours, no hanging out in the Windy City.) After the trip, she wrote a piece for The Paris Review on her time. Sounds a little like…how do I say this? Hell. A 44 hour train ride with no destination? To me, the draw of writing on trains is open adventure, being in the Tuscan hills with nothing ahead of you except sunflowers and vineyards. Or being on the Orient Express scoping each new passenger for murderous intent in between exploring Egyptian ruins. Somehow being trapped on a commuter train between NYC and Chi-town sounds more like living Sartre’s No Exit. [The Wire]

Rick Yancy’s The 5th Wave has won the 2014 Red House Children’s Book Award (a unique award because it’s voted for entirely by children). Big surprise: the YA novel is set in a post-apocalypse dystopia. The plot follows Cassie who is left alone, after waves of extinctions, running for her life from death squads roaming the countryside. But she meets a boy named Edward — no, Peeta — no, it’s Evan this time who might be the key to her survival. [The Guardian]

J.K. Rowling has seven books planned for Cormoran Strike series

Using a similar approach as she took with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling has plans to write up to seven novels in her Cormoran Strike series, according to The Sunday Times. Rowling, writing under the name Robert Galbraith, has already had solid success with the detective genre. Her first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was published last April and has sold 600,000 hardback copies and 1 million ebooks. As we announced last week, the sequel The Silkworm is coming out in June 2014.

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On The Books: Let's hope you don't win a book prize

You better hope you haven’t been nominated for any book prizes this year. (No, not really. Let’s hope you have.) A new study coming out in the March issue of Administrative Science Quarterly finds that prize winners face a backlash from readers. According to The Guardian, Amanda Sharkey and Balázs Kovács looked at 38,817 reader reviews on GoodReads.com. They compared the reviews of books that had won an award to reviews of books that had not. Apparently the reviews of the award winners took a notable nose dive after their authors’ accolades were announced. Sharkey and Kovács hypothesized that “many readers who are drawn in by prize-winning books tend to have tastes that are simply not predisposed to liking the types of books that win prizes.” That sounds like a circumspect way of calling us superficial social climbers for reading a book because it won an award. Doesn’t everyone presume something award-winning must be particularly outstanding and therefore worthy of our time? That doesn’t mean every book that wins a Booker Prize or every movie that wins an Oscar or every restaurant that wins a James Beard Award is going to be your favorite thing ever, but still it’s worth a shot. Also, checking Goodreads.com for your case study seems pretty amateur. What do you guys think? [The Guardian]

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On The Books: Dr. Seuss' hats hit the road!

From there to here, from here to there, funny hats are everywhere! Dr. Seuss was a fiend for hats, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. But for the first time in history 26 of his hats will tour the world. These guys have rarely been outside of his house in La Jolla, and they’re pretty excited to visit six states in the next seven months. Can’t you just picture a Seuss book about his hats flying around the world? He used the hats as the basis for The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Reacquaint yourself with some of his art and design work here. You will not want to miss this exhibit. [NPR]

James Patterson, who’s sold a bajillion novels, is donating $1 million to 50 independent bookstores across the nation. A worthy cause supported by a man who is “one of the industry’s wealthiest writers.” [New York Times]

Wikipedia wants a book deal. Indiegogo wants to print the entire English Wikipedia in 1,000 books with 1,200 pages each. Trees around the world are shuddering. Even though they have proposed to use “sustainable paper,” this sounds like a total waste. Upshot: you could now reference Wikipedia as a legitimate bibliographic source. [The Guardian]

Neil Gaiman, the king of multimedia artistic endeavors, will be doing a live reading of The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains backed by a string quartet playing music to accompany the tale of a search for hidden treasure. Illustrations by Eddie Campbell will  be projected during the performance. Shows will be at New York’s Carnegie Hall on June 27 and San Francisco’s Warfield on June 25. Stop it, Neil. We love you enough already! [SF Chronicle]

On The Books: Harper Lee settles lawsuit against Alabama museum

Harper Lee settled her federal lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama. As we reported in October, the reclusive author sued her hometown museum for selling souvenirs of To Kill A Mockingbird without compensating her. She was also embroiled in a lawsuit against her former literary agent last year over the copyright to her book. Those charges were dismissed after the parties reached an out of court settlement. [AP] [ABC News] READ FULL STORY

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