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On The Books: Laura Hillenbrand rewrote 'Unbroken' as a YA book

Unbroken.jpg

Laura Hillenbrand has rewritten her best-seller Unbroken, the life story of Olympic runner Louie Zamperini, as a YA nonfiction book that will be published on Veterans Day (Nov. 11, 2014). The original Unbroken tells the tale of Zamperini’s Odysseian journey from a hard-scrabble kid in Southern California during the Depression to his meteoric rise as an Olympic runner in the 1936 Berlin Games. Later he signed up as a fighter pilot during World War II and flew planes in the South Pacific. His bomber crashed 850 miles off the coast of Hawaii and he spent 47 days stranded on a raft before being captured by the Japanese and brutally abused in a POW camp until the end up the war. But it’s not a downer! He perseveres and with the same buoyant spirit that carried him to the Olympics, he recovers from his wartime experiences and finds new life for himself.

I’m not sure why this needs a “YA” version. It sounds pretty appropriate for the 12+ ages of the “young adult” genre. Surely if you can be conscripted to read Lord of the Flies at 13, you can read this amazing real-life tale of the triumph of human spirit. Hillenbrand didn’t say specifically what she changed for the younger version, only that “Louie Zamperini’s story is spellbinding to people of every age. At the urging of librarians, teachers, and parents, I’ve created this edition specifically for younger readers. I’m delighted to bring Louie’s inspiring, exhilarating story to a new generation.” Since its original publication in November 2010, Unbroken has sold nearly 4 million copies and has remained on the bestseller list for over 160 weeks, with 14 weeks at #1. Angelina Jolie is directing a film adaptation (written by the Cohen brothers no less!) which is set for release on Christmas Day 2014.

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On The Books: Stephen King's 'Carrie,' 'The Stand' and more to be reissued!

Six of Stephen King’s early novels are going to get a fancy, limited edition reissue from Cemetery Dance Publications. The collection will include some of his best works: Carrie, ’Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Night Shift, The Stand and Pet Sematary. The books will be oversize editions on heavy paper, with newly commissioned artwork for the dust jackets, new introductions by Mr. King, and other features. Ahhhh!! But they will only be printing very few and they will not be cheap, so start saving now. The fisrt installment will be Carrie: The Deluxe Special Edition, which is due in August. an essay by Tabitha King about the book’s exploration of adolescent terror and sexuality, six paintings (as well as a dust jacket) by the fantasy illustrator Tomislav Tikulin, and a reproduction of the telegram sent by Doubleday to Mr. King saying that the company would publish the book. You can buy at 3 price points, ranging from the artist-signed copies that are already sold out, to ones with a special dust jacket for $225 to the most affordable version in a slipcase for $80. [New York Times]

Rabble-rouser and British bad boy of the art world, Damien Hirst has finally confirmed that Penguin will be publishing his autobiography. This promises to be a wild ride and he’s sworn to write with “utter candor” about his early exploits. It will cover his childhood and his college years in London, including “his Turner prize win in 1995 for Mother and Child, Divided, one of his many works fixated on death. The piece consists of four glass tanks, containing the two halves of a cow and calf preserved in formaldehyde, and would be followed by his famous shark in formaldehyde known as Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. The shark is one of my favorite pieces of modern art. Terrifying to behold. I hope the title of his book is something equally overstated: “The Physical Impossibility of the Infinite in the Mind of an Artist…and Also Death.” [Guardian]

The Bailey’s Prize for Women in Fiction has revealed it’s shortlist. The predictable choices were: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah, Jhumpa Lahiri - The Lowland, Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch. Less obvious choices: Eimear McBride - A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, Audrey Magee - The Undertaking, Hannah Kent - Burial Rites. Helen Fraser, the Chair of the judges said, “We feel you could give any one of these books to a friend with the absolute confidence that they would be gripped and absorbed and that maybe their view of the world would be changed once they had read it.” The winner of the prestigious honor and the £30,000 reward will be announced on June 4th.

Did you remember that Paddington Bear was Peruvian? Well he was, and the author Michael Bond is releasing a new Paddington book, Love From Paddington, where the duffel-coat-wearing bear writes letters to his Aunt Lucy in Lima, reminiscing about his first days in England. A Bear Called Paddington has been in print continuously since it’s publication in 1958, and Bond has written a number of sequels since then. There’s even a Paddington movie coming out in November with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.  [Guardian]

On The Books: CIA used 'Dr. Zhivago' as anti-USSR propoganda

When I first read that the CIA used Dr. Zhivago to breakdown the USSR during The Cold War, I assumed that they forced Soviets to watch that movie on repeat as a form of torture. I know, I know, before you get all up in arms about “how wonderful that film is” and “what a classic,” I’m a big fan of Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness (hello, Lawrence of Arabia.) But think about Dr. Zhivago‘s torture potential. No human could watch that 3+ hour Russian downer drama twice in a row without cracking. You would have to have a will of steel not to end up in a ball crying, “The balalaika! It’s always the balalaika!”

But I guess the CIA wasn’t on the same page. According to recently declassified CIA documents, the U.S. government commissioned Russian-language editions of Boris Pasternak’s novel (which Mother Russia had banned) and distributed them to citizens in Moscow. The story largely takes place during the Bolshevik Revolution and dramatizes the casualties of the Communist rising, so the Americans thought it would make great anti-USSR propaganda. We should fight more wars with these kinds of non-lethal weapons. This plot ranks right up there with blue jeans and MTV bringing down the Berlin Wall. [Washington Post]

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On The Books: A Divergent-themed Summer Camp

Every year your parents ship you off to summer camp. You spend a few weeks battling the mosquitoes, swimming in the weedy lake, gorging on s’mores, and acting out bad skits for an audience of loopy counselors and bored campers. (Or maybe your camp experiences were awesome?) Well imagine a summer camp that lets you throw knives at the other kids? Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperille, Illinois landed on the genius idea to host a Divergent-themed summer camp this year, which in my mind means zip lines, trust falls off of abandoned buildings, jumping into moving trains, fighting personal demons in a virtual reality cube, you know, fun kid stuff. (Disclaimer: Anderson’s is not letting your kids do any of these things.)

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On The Books: Jon Cryer's Memoir from 'Pretty in Pink' to 'Two and A Half Men'

Jon Cryer is writing a memoir, and I hope he makes it a diary from the perspective of Duckie. I would snap that book up. Sounds like Cryer has the right attitude about it though: “In these times of truly global crisis when fear is outracing hope, I think we can all be grateful that the guy who played Duckie in Pretty in Pink is writing a book. It’ll be filled with just what you’d expect from me; juicy tidbits on international monetary policy, catty comments regarding agriculture in Central Asia and of course, forbidden anecdotes about stamp collecting. And maybe I’ll talk about Charlie Sheen.”

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On The Books: Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers has a memoir (This is not a Fool's joke)

Calling all RHCP fans: Flea has penned a memoir! A publication date hasn’t been set, but sometime soon you will be able to peek inside the mind of the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who has probably seen more in his 51 years than anyone alive. Born Michael Balzary, Flea is originally from the suburbs of New York, but he moved to Los Angeles as a kid to live with his bohemian step-father. In high school he met Anthony Kiedis and the rest is history. He said that the memoir will cover his young, rebellious life on the streets of LA, founding the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Kiedis and two other high school friends; details about his sometimes complex friendship and collaboration with Kiedis; his myriad experiences with hard drugs; and, of course, the tumultuous creative journey of the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers through its various incarnations over the last 30 years. Sounds like an epic.

I hope you’re all watching your back today because April Fool’s Day can be dangerous — especially for gullible types like me. Here’s an easy (but funny) one: Penguin announced a new imprint today called Penguin Now! In order to appeal to Millennials with their internet-speak and emojis and ADHD, Penguin will (fake) publish a series of classic novels replacing all full-stop periods with exclamation points! The publisher gleefully announed, “By using exclamation marks over and over again, the reader is reminded of the urgency of the story at the end of every sentence. It’s a great way of preventing potentially inattentive readers from tuning out, putting the book down and wandering off, without altering the original text too much.” My favorite example: Thomas Hardy (who is pretty much the anti-exclamation) gets an attitude adjustment in Jude the Obscure: “But no one came! Because no one ever does!” Or Albert Camus (another Sour Sally) in L’Etranger: “Mother died today! Or yesterday, I don’t know!” …kinda wish they would actually print some of these. [Penguin]

Not a joke – Jane Goodall has finally addressed accusations that she plagiarized passages of her book, Seeds of Hope, from various web sources. Jane is an amazing scientist and advocate who deserves a break on this at 79 years old. “I don’t think anybody who knows me would accuse me of deliberate plagiarism,” she says and I don’t know her, but I would bet that is true. She’s no Stephen Glass. Although I do think it’s a bit strange that she says her note-taking isn’t very methodical…isn’t that like rule number one for a scientist? [Mosaic]

Here’s an April Fool’s quiz for you. How well do you know your literary hoaxes and frauds? (Apparently I know very little…)

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: Alice Munro is so money

In honor of the Nobel laureate winner, Canada has put Alice Munro on a new collector’s coin. The Guardian reports that the engraving on the coin is of an “ethereal female figure emerging from a pen as a representation of one of the many central characters from Alice Munro’s beloved short stories,” said the Mint, as well as an image of an open book, inscribed with a passage from Munro’s The View from Castle Rock. Two other notable author’s are getting honored by mints around the world: Jane Austen will be appearing on future £10 notes in England and Astrid Lindgren her character Pippi Longstocking will grace Sweden’s 20 kronor notes next year. The irony is not lost on me. Attention writers: you will be penniless in life, but after death — if you’re lucky — they’ll be printing money with your face on it.

A previously unpublished short story by Tennessee Williams is going to be printed in The Strand magazine’s spring issue. It’s called “Crazy Nights” and it’s about his college girlfriend, Anna Jean, who he dated at the University of Missouri. The themes are similar to his other works and the characters are titular, cynical and filled with disappointment. His narrator enjoys “the ultimate degree of intimacy” with Anna Jean. “Both her arms were lifted toward me,” wrote Williams. “I had fallen between them. And the rest of what happened between us was a blind thing, almost involuntary, drawing from us both something that seemed hardly a part of ourselves.” [The Guardian]

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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.

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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

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