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Tag: Fiction (1-10 of 299)

What We're Reading Now: 'Arts & Entertainments' by Christopher Beha

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Have you met Jacob the Intern? You should, especially if you like to read, as he is full of suggestions. I spent a little time at his desk last week and in the middle of explaining something I needed help with he quietly asked what I was reading / what I like reading / did I want to borrow Arts & Entertainments?

I did, I discovered, after he finished explaining why he liked it (his review for EW can be found here). I did, also just now discover, that I never finished explaining what I needed help with…bold move, Jacob, you’re trickier than I thought.

Social commentaries aren’t necessarily right up my alley, but as someone who oscillates between reality TV binging, crying at the love between Kim and her sisters, laughing hysterically at the Real Housewives of WhereverTheyAre, and alternatively scorning Ryan Seacrest Productions’ roster, hemming and hawing about the rise of the Reality TV Star — a book about all the weird mechanics of fame today is perfect.

Beha gives Eddie Hartley, our failed actor at the novel’s center, everything and nothing that he wanted. He gives him fame and failure and longing and a pregnant wife and a sleazy agent and as many fans as haters. Along the way, we see the intricacy of modern fame: the 24/7 star, whose tabloid antics, social media presence, and relationships are as (or sometimes more) important than any of their work.

It’s short and fun and and was an easy read, but there’s also something to chew on. We definitely recommend you add it to your list.

What else should we be reading? What’s on your nightstand?

What We're Reading Now: 'Friendship' by Emily Gould

Friendship

No post last week, as I assumed we were all off reading The Constitution with our nearest and dearest, but we’re back together again to discuss the much (much) lauded Friendship by Emily Gould (EW‘s review is here.)

The way I came by reading Friendship is this: Stephan popped by my desk asking, “Do you like reading books about yourself?” I giggled a little—wholly unaware there were any books about me—and just as I was about to flip my hair, give a little wink, and mutter something mind-blowingly witty, he quickly clarified that what he meant was, “Do you like reading books about youngish ladies working in publishing in New York City living the messy, crazy struggle that is working in publishing in New York City as a youngish lady?” READ FULL STORY

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: 'The Vacationers' by Emma Straub

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I’ve been moaning about wanting the perfect summer read for a while now (let’s not count the number of posts I’ve mentioned it in, mkay?). Everything was falling a teensy bit short of expectations: a flat character here, a lame plot twist there, something always sitting a bit wrong. I’d all but dashed my hopes for the season when Stephan came across this one, emailing me immediately about having the book for me / this blog / any upcoming trips / summer days / lazy afternoons / quiet moments by the pool / longish hours on the plane / do you get what I’m saying?

I didn’t want Stephan to get a big head, thinking he was my only book-friend in this office so I wagged my finger, chiding him, “Maybe someone else wants to give me a book this week.” The Vacationers would have to wait, or so I thought.

And then…

Well… 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?

'Brutal Youth': EW's Anthony Breznican reveals inspiration behind his dark coming-of-age novel

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EW senior writer Anthony Breznican’s first novel, Brutal Youth, hits shelves and e-readers on June 10. As part of the release, we asked Breznican to write about his teen years and how they inspired his coming-of-age debut.

I never liked to fight. Maybe that’s because I was bad at it.

I didn’t like to get beaten up.

One time while riding the bus home in seventh grade, some guys who were getting bored of picking on me decided I might be a good candidate for one of their younger brothers to pulverize. That kid was three or four years younger than I was — and eager to kick my ass for no good reason. When we came to my street, the whole gang got up and walked off the bus, making a little semi-circle on the street corner. I trudged down the aisle behind them with my head down, then stopped short of the door and sat down in the front seat. The driver looked at me. “I’ll get off at the next stop,” I said. The guys on the street corner whooped and screamed with fury as the door hissed shut and I rolled safely away. (I’m not sure why they didn’t beat me up the next day. Maybe they were really bored.)

If I could find a way to get out of a fight, I would take it. Maybe I was a coward, but I also didn’t like the feeling of hitting another person. When you’ve been on the business end of enough fists, you’re not so quick to make one. I’m sure I said tons of mean and cruel things to other students over the years, which is its own form of bullying. But I never beat anyone up.

That’s kind of ironic, because in my new novel, Brutal Youth, I beat up a lot of kids. READ FULL STORY

Hey grown-ups: should you be embarrassed to read YA books?

The-Fault-in-Our-Stars

Should adults be embarrassed about loving books meant for teens? With The Fault in Our Stars expected to take in as much as $45 million this weekend at the box office — in no small part due to the swarm of grown-ups eager to see Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters live on the big screen — Slate writer Ruth Graham poses a question that might make some fans squirm: Should adults be ashamed about indulging in “literature” meant for the school-aged set? READ FULL STORY

What We're Reading Now: The Secret of Magic; Deborah Johnson

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Do you know what feeling I love?

Sitting in the glow of a warm window. Afternoon streams in, warming the nape of your neck, the tops of your shoulders, somedays even the corners of your soul.

It’s the simplest of simple pleasures.

There are a million metaphors I could use to describe Deborah Johnson’s writing in The Secret of Magic – but all of them are inadequate in conveying the ebb and flow of her phrasing or the care in crafting her characters (guess you’ll just have to, like, actually read it) but that attempt above is as close as I can get.

JoJo Marshall recommended it to me, having reviewed it for EW earlier this year. Handing me her copy, she gave me a hearty, “If you liked The Help, you’ll love this one!” I over-enthusiastically nodded my head in return, made a few exclamatory sounds, probably threw in an awkward wink and scooted off, never copping to having committed the ultimate Book Club faux pas: Nope, I haven’t read The Help….

In her review, JoJo writes that Magic is about, “…the troubling duality of the Jim Crow Era South.” It follows Reggie Robichard, a black female NAACP lawyer from New York who travels to Mississippi to investigate the (alleged) murder of Joe Howard, while navigating “the town’s segregated social structure with equal parts horror and wonder.”

It is also about local mythology and politics and the town matriarch, her convoluted definition of “family” and the legacy of slavery in Revere, Mississippi.

And, as JoJo’s first sentence claims, it is troubling. For all those pretty words, it is troubling. Troubling because the brutality and racism (or rather, the brutality of racism) ingrained in this town and tale remain such important parts of our current national dialogue. I read about Reggie taking in Jim Crow Mississippi and want to sigh in relief, grateful that such a time has passed. I want to shake my head and mutter “How could it have ever been so?” but, I, and we, can’t. That awareness, for me, was present throughout the entire experience.

On a more literary level — the cadence of Johnson’s writing is an absolute joy. I know that seems contrary to the weight of my prior paragraph but I stand by both notions and refuse to take either back (!). I can’t think of any other recent book in which I have so enjoyed an author’s actual stringing-together-of-words (is there where you tell me to read The Help?).

What about for y’all? What book has been the most enjoyable to actually read?

'Arrow' producer Marc Guggenheim breaks down his book 'Overwatch' and teases a sequel

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As an executive producer on CW’s Arrow, Marc Guggenheim knows how to pull off an awesome cliffhanger. Which is why anyone who has come to the ending of his new book, Overwatch, about a lawyer who finds himself unraveling a CIA conspiracy, was probably left wondering, ‘…and now what?!’

We thought the same thing and set out for some answers.

“I think the two reasons I really want to do another novel is because I have [a] story to tell,” Guggenheim says of his in-the-works sequel. “And then the second reason, quite frankly, is that I feel like I learned so much [during the first book], I want to put that knowledge to use.”

Below, Guggenheim opens up about the Overwatch follow-up and which characters will (and won’t!) be returning.

[In other words, book spoilers below.]  READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Aboriginal author Doris Pilkington Garimara dies at 76

Doris Pilkington Garimara, the Aboriginal novelist who wrote Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, has passed away at 76 years old in Perth, Australia. Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, her most well known book, was published in 1996 and tells the heart-wrenching story of her own mother’s life. As a young aboriginal in the 1930′s she was torn from her family and sent to a government “re-education camp,” but she broke free and spent nine weeks braving the Outback to return to her home. In 2002, the book was adapted into a film called Rabbit Proof Fence starring Kenneth Branagh. The success of Doris’ story helped draw attention to the aboriginal cause, and she used her fame to further promote reparations between natives and white Australians. The New York Times says that Doris was a member of the Reconciliation Committee and a principal promoter of National Sorry Day, an annual event started in 1998 to commemorate the government’s mistreatment of Aborigines.  [New York Times]

If you’re a vocabulary stickler, a strict constructionist for wordsmithing or just into useless apps, then you should be pleased to hear about this new app for Google Chrome that replaces all appearances of “literally” on webpages with the more proper usage of “figuratively.” So the next time one of your friends posts a status update like, “I’m literally perishing from the heat,” you’ll read “I’m figuratively perishing from the heat.” The caveat is that it will replace even proper usages of literally. So when I say that “I could literally kill someone for a coffee,” then you’ll think I’m kidding. It’s Monday – don’t cross me. [Slate]

Over at The Guardian, Elizabeth Edmondson is also getting into a huff over definitions. She’s taking aim at “literary fiction,” which she thinks is a crock. She argues that “Lit Fic” is just a fancy way of marketing books that posterity has decided are exemplary, while the original authors were just trying to entertain folks like the rest of us hacks. Agreed. [Guardian]

Ann Brashares, author of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, has a new book coming out and it’s less “traveling pants” and more “traveling time and blood plagues.” Her publisher probably told her that dystopian blood plagues are very now. [NPR]

Fans have browbeat the Hugo Award judging committee into shortlisting The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan’s 15 book, 4.5 million word epic series that a some Sci-Fi academics (What?) have slated as being “a long-winded Lord of the Rings.” Ouch. [Guardian]

 

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