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Tag: Books (1-10 of 27)

Author Robert Stone dies at 77

Robert Stone, best known for Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise, has died, according to a statement from his literary agent made to the Associated Press. The award-winning author died Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Stone’s career spanned nearly five decades. He authored 11 literary works including a memoir titled Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties. In 1975, Stone won the National Book Award for Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise, published in 1981, would go on to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It was also nominated for the National Book Award twice, as a hardcover and paperback.

His last completed work, Death of the Black-Haired Girl, was published in 2013. His agent said that before his death, Stone was working on a new novel—but there’s no word yet on whether it will be published.

'Sex Criminals' creators give you the worst sex advice ever with 'Just the Tips' (NSFW)

Just-the-Tips

Let’s start with a question: Are you reading Sex Criminals? Because you should be. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s comic about a couple who can stop time whenever they have sex—and therefore turn to a life of crime—is both hilariously raunchy and deeply heartfelt, frank in its language but never titillating. That’s always been the sort of metajoke with the book—if you only give it a cursory glance, it’s easy to write off as prurient and crude, but if you take the time to read it, you’ll be met with a thoughtful story that’s actually about sex, and not just full of it.

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'Gilmore Girls' reading-inspired challenge: 7 books to read right now

Fans of Gilmore Girls know that a scene featuring daughter Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) with a book in hand was a prominent part of the show’s storyline across its seven season run, influencing the teen’s stance on everything from politics to pizza toppings. And while the quirky mother-daughter dramedy employed frequent pop culture references beyond literature (mother Lorelai Gilmore, played by Lauren Graham, was a film buff whose Friday movie nights included screenings of American Gigolo and Animal House, while Rory’s BFF had a sophisticated taste for Velvet Underground), Rory was—and remains—remarkably different from the majority of designer clothing-and-dating obsessed teens on TV. Week after week, loyal viewers tuned into see Rory read and talk about books, an infatuation which underscored both her ambition and her journey of self-discovery as she navigated the growing pains of young adulthood.

Packed with literary references from Chaucer to Truman Capote, the cult TV show—which was cancelled in 2007—has inspired numerous online reading groups, book lists and literary clubs. But none have been quite like the massive challenge created by fan Patrick Lenton, who in 2013, decided to read all 339 titles referenced in Gilmore Girls in a massive endeavor he calls the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

“While I was watching Gilmore Girls, I saw Rory voraciously reading this huge variety of books, from the classics to literature to genre. I realized that it had been ages since I’d challenged myself in my reading—I was fairly set in my favorite authors, in my genre styles. I realized that unless I really kicked myself into action, I might never read some of the ‘greats,’” Lenton says, who compiled his exhaustive list by watching every single episode of the show. Though he hasn’t loved all of them. Says Lenton: “There are some books on there that I really dislike, and find weird to be included anywhere. But, in the end there’s nothing I really can’t imagine Rory reading – she’s indiscriminate in her enthusiasm, and I think that’s why I wanted to be just like her.”

Just in time to celebrate the series now available via streaming on Netflix, Lenton shares seven of his very favorite Rory Gilmore-inspired reads. READ FULL STORY

Ursula Le Guin honored with National Book Foundation award

Every year, the National Book Foundation awards the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to an author “who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” Since the medal’s inception, authors spanning all genres have been honored, from David McCullough’s historical nonfiction to Ray Bradbury’s science fiction and everything in between.

This year, the foundation has awarded the medal to Ursula Le Guin, whose body of sci-fi and fantasy work spans dozens of novels, short stories, and poems.

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Haruki Murakami's 'Strange Library' to arrive in December

Known for a large body of work including 1Q84 and Norwegian Wood, Japanese author Haruki Murakami is set to release an English-language translation of his story The Strange Library on Dec. 2. READ FULL STORY

J.K. Rowling makes an appearance as male pseudonym Robert Galbraith

As fans of J.K. Rowling know, the author doesn’t make many public appearances—which is why Rowling shocked fans last week when she showed up to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing festival in England. Only she wasn’t there as J.K. Rowling: She was there as Robert Galbraith. READ FULL STORY

Harper Lee speaks: Marja Mills-penned bio was unauthorized (Updated)

Harper Lee, aka Nelle Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is the focus of author Marja Mills’ bio The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, which hits shelves Tuesday. It purports to be a rare in-depth look at the lives of Lee and her sister Alice, borne out of a years-long friendship between Mills, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, and the Lee sisters, whom she moved next door to in 2004.

According to the book’s description, Mills “spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.” The Lee sisters, it says, “decided to let Mills tell their story.”

But, there’s just one problem. According to a letter penned by none other than 88-year-old Nelle Harper Lee herself—who, mind you, hasn’t written a book since Mockingbird, doesn’t grant interviews, and generally stays out of the public eye—The Mockingbird Next Door was executed without her cooperation or permission and based on false pretenses. Lee first issued a statement on the matter in 2011 when Penguin Press announced that it had acquired the book. Now, on the evening before its July 15 release, she’s reminding us that nothing has changed on her end.

Take a look at Lee’s statement in its entirety after the jump, where she reiterates her declaration that she had not “willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills.” And, in case that isn’t clear enough, she also says, “rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” Penguin Press and Mills also responded Tuesday morning with their own statements.

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The life and times of a ghostwriter (or, how Kendall and Kylie Jenner became published YA authors)

First comes fame, then the magazine covers, the signature perfume, the makeup collection, and—yes—the novel.

Tyra Banks, Pamela Anderson, Nicole Richie, and Britney Spears are just a few of the stars who have novels to their credit, and much like clothing collections or advertising gigs, their literary offerings are considered a commercial product with which to cash in on their fame. And the latest to join the celebrity-turned-novelist club are teen darlings Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who catapulted to fame as the half-sisters of Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney Kardashian.

The Jenner sisters—ages 18 and 16—have just released their first novel, Rebels: City of Indra, marketed as dystopian story about two girls who take off on a journey “amid the constant threat of danger.” But is there any pretense that Jenners or any other celebrity—with their modeling and reality television careers—actually sit down and write these books? (Remember how hard it’s been for Hannah Horvath of Girls? And she actually wants to become a full-time writer.)

The answer, it seems, is a resounding “no.” “I don’t have any expectation that any of the celebrities that I sign or work with will be able to sit down and write a book,” says Rebels publisher Karen Hunter, who has worked on books with Kris Jenner and Tamar Braxton. “I don’t know that many teenagers that could write a book, period.”

Enter the celebrity ghostwriter, usually a seasoned novelist or journalist who gets connected to celebrity projects via literary agents (paired together in what ghostwriter agent Madeleine Morel calls a “matchmaking process”). Then, for a price—a negotiated fee typically between $20,000 and $40,000—ghostwriters will churn out several hundred pages that will ultimately be passed off as a celebrity’s creative endeavor. Which, it turns out, is okay with celeb-crazed readers.

“Fans don’t really care whether or not a celebrity wrote it or not, as long as they can visualize the characters and the setting,” says Valerie Frankel, who’s written several novels under her own name and ghostwritten others, including a 2011 New York Times bestseller for Jersey Shore sensation Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.

But that’s not to say celebrities aren’t part of the process; they’ll usually create a novel’s characters and plot, providing a foundation for a ghost writer to expand on.

“It’s an escape out of my own head to work with other people and be inspired by their lives, and their stories and their characters,” Frankel explains of collaborating with pop culture phenomenons like Polizzi. “It’s as satisfying as writing a novel under my own name.”

Rebels ghost writer Maya Sloan agrees. “It’s a gift to be writing, making a living,” says Sloan, who did “a ton” of interviews with the Jenner sisters and spent hours studying their preferences, style, and language in order to accurately transmit their personalities onto the written page. “And to me, writing is collaborative. That’s how the face of writing is changing—we need to own it.”

Though Sloan’s name appears on the Rebels title page along with the Jenners’ manager, Elizabeth Killmond-Roman, ghostwriters aren’t often acknowledged at all in a book (that largely depends on how savvy an agent is at negotiating—and how willing a celebrity is to share the credit). And while slapping a celebrity’s name on a product seems to be an easy sell, these novels actually aren’t guaranteed bestsellers, says Morel.

“Stars think writing a book loosely based on their life is the way to go, but most of these books don’t sell,” explains Morel. “Fiction is too subjective.”

The books that have done well—like Lauren Conrad’s L.A. Candy series or Hilary Duff’s Elixir trilogy—are aimed at young adult and 20-something audiences who are captivated by their idols’ forays into literature (and will likely also purchase their branded nail polish or musical albums). However, following the success of 50 Shades of Grey, both Mob Wives star Renee Graziano and talk-show host Wendy Williams have ventured into a new kind of celebrity novel: erotica.

Might that be the next big thing? Maybe. But for those who prefer a youthful brand of dystopian chic, feel free to hold out for a Rebels sequel.

“There’s more to come,” says Hunter of the Jenners’ literary efforts. “They’ve already figured out what’s coming next.”

What We're Reading Now: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Fourth-of-July-Creek

Book sharing is at an all-time high here in the EW offices — maybe it’s the lazy summer days (do people really have those?), the afternoons spent languishing by the pool (are there pools by which one can languish in the city?) or the casual pace people adopt heading into July (casual as in only elbowing three people as they shove onto the subway instead of ten…) or, maybe just maybe, it’s that books are really good right now.

Either way, Editor Matt has pulled 1Q84 off my desk and into his travel bag. Deputy Editor Kristen B snagged The Southern Reach Trilogy‘s next installment before I could even begin detailing why I, like, totally need it first. And, Executive Editor Meeta and I had to jockey for Fourth of July Creek (which Matt raved about the whole time he was reading and EW reviewed here).

Lucky for Meeta, there were two copies floating around and we could all get on with our day.

This book is stunning. The language, the setting, the characters, their spirit, their damage. All of it. Everyone is splintered. Everything needs a helping hand. I don’t generally get drawn to books with obvious moral messages, but the notion that we all need help before we need judgement…well, that’s not so hard to get behind. READ FULL STORY

Donna Tartt's 'Goldfinch': Love it or hate it?

It’s not every year that an 800-page literary novel becomes as popular as The Goldfinch. Yet the book, which has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 33 weeks, is pretty polarizing — people either seem to really like it or they can’t stand it. It wasn’t nominated for the National Book Award, but it won the Pulitzer.

Last week Vanity Fair surveyed literary critics who panned the book when it came out. New Yorker critic James Wood, who wrote in his original review that the book’s “tone, language, and story belong to children’s literature,” told Vanity Fair that “the rapture with which this novel has been received is further proof of the infantilization of our literary culture: a world in which adults go around reading Harry Potter.” Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, said that Tartt’s novel uses, rather than breaks, clichés. “Nowadays, even The New York Times Book Review is afraid to say when a popular book is crap,” he said. Stein thinks The Goldfinch might misrepresent fiction as a whole. “What worries me is that people who read only one or two books a year will plunk down their money for The Goldfinch, and read it, and tell themselves they like it, but deep down will be profoundly bored, because they aren’t children, and will quietly give up on the whole enterprise when, in fact, fiction—realistic fiction, old or new—is as alive and gripping as it’s ever been.”

None of these reviews hurt The Goldfinch, of course, which is still a huge best-seller. It’s so popular that even though it’s a Hachette title, it’s exempt from the current Amazon-Hachette feud. While other Hachette books, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s, might take three weeks to get to your house, Amazon offers regular shipping  for Tartt’s novel.

Most people probably didn’t go out and buy The Goldfinch because they heard it has “fine-chiseled sentences” or whatever other phrase usually employed to praise a work of literary fiction. I suspect they picked it up because they heard it tells a great story — the book’s popularity seems to rest on Tartt’s storytelling skills and not on her prose (in her review of The Goldfinch, Francine Prose wrote about Tartt’s “baffling turns of phrase”). Even the Pulitzer committee said the book “stimulates the mind and touches the heart” but didn’t mention anything about the writing style.

Did you love The Goldfinch or hate it? And why?

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