Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

I hope you have been keeping well this week, and have some wonderful reads on-the-go. Here are some of the bigger news items from the book world:

  • Martyn Goff, bookseller and administrator of the Man Booker Prize from 1970 to 2006, died at age ninety-one. In a statement, current Booker Foundation chair Jonathan Taylor said: “His contribution was invaluable and under Martyn the prize grew in stature and reputation, not least because of his tireless championing of contemporary fiction of the highest quality.
  • When news broke last year that screenwriter Zak Penn had been tapped by Warner Brothers to adapt Ernest Cline’s best-selling Ready Player One to film, rumors began swirling about high-profile directors looking to helm the project. It’s now been announced that Steven Spielberg will be bringing his skills to Cline’s elaborate story, just as soon as he finishes working on The BFG.

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia | Photo by James D. Morgan/REX

Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

  • After 4 days of interesting and passionate debates, Kim Thùy’s novel Ru was crowned the winner of Canada Reads 2015. The novel was championed by Cameron Bailey, Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. Bailey was eloquent and thoughtful all week, and was a wonderful advocate for Thúy’s novel.
  • A new Little Women adaptation is being written by Sarah Polley, the Canadian actor and director known for Oscar-nominated drama Away From Her, and the acclaimed Stories We Tell. So far, Sony has lined up an all-female production team for the project. In addition to Polley, the studio has brought on Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord, and former Sony executive Amy Pascal to produce the film. No director has signed on yet, although it’s possible Polley could join in that capacity after the script is finished as she usually directs her own projects.
  • Writer Andrew Shaffer’s popular parody Twitter account of bestselling author Jonathan Franzen—@EmperorFranzen—has been suspended. Shaffer said that “Emperor Franzen,” which he’s been running for five years, became more than just a parody of Jonathan Franzen, but of high-minded fiction writers in general. Luckily, a similar parody account has yet to be suspended: @GuyInYourMFA.
  • Roberto Bolaño’s 900-page novel 2666 is getting a theatrical adaptation, thanks to Powerball Lottery winner Roy Cockrum, who used his jackpot winnings to back the project and support the theater arts. The Goodman Theater in Chicago will produce the five-hour adaptation for its 2015-2016 season.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle was the victim of a police conspiracy. “Newly discovered documents show that the Staffordshire police fabricated evidence to try to discredit Arthur Conan Doyle’s investigation into the curious case of George Edalji, a Birmingham solicitor accused of maiming horses and sending poison-pen letters at the turn of the twentieth century.
  • George R.R. Martin raised the hopes of Game of Thrones fans this week, when he hinted his long-awaited new novel The Winds of Winter would be completed this year.

And, of course, I have questions for you based on this week’s news:

  1. I would love to hear about novels you adore that flew under the radar and didn’t get the attention you felt they deserved. Which books fell into this category for you?
  2. Have you read George R.R. Martin’s series yet? Do you think he will finish the latest novel this year?
  3. Did you follow along the debates for Canada Reads this year? How did you find the 2015 edition of the program?
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Bookstore © xkcd

Happy reading!!

Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

  • On March 12th, celebrated author Terry Pratchett, best known for his Discworld series of novels, died at age sixty-six. Pratchett had suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. “The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds,” said Transworld Publishers’ Larry Finlay.
  • In today’s digital age, writers are frequently told that promoting their work on Twitter is not just an option, but a necessity.  New York Magazine talks to twelve writers, editors, and journalists about the challenges and complexities of self-promotion.
  • Still in our digital world for a moment: “If there is an individual alive in 2015 with the genius and vision of James Joyce, they’re probably working for Google, and if there isn’t, it doesn’t matter since the operations of that genius and vision are being developed and performed collectively by operators on the payroll of that company, or of one like it.” At the Guardian, Tom McCarthy examines the current state of fiction writing in the age of digital saturation.
  • If owning and operating a New England Inn is your dream, enter an essay contest and you could win the Center Lovell Inn in southwest Maine. Current owner Janice Sage, who won the Inn in an essay contest twenty-two years ago, will judge essay submissions on the subject, “Why I would like to own and operate a country Inn.” A $125 entry fee is required.
  • Was 1925 really “the greatest year in the history of literature”? The BBC has declared it so. They searched “for a cluster of landmark books” and then asked if said books “continue to enthrall readers and explore our human dilemmas and joys in memorable ways.” 1925, which featured works from Woolf, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos and Dreiser, came away the winner.

So… there are some of the bigger stories that made the news in the book world this past week.  And, of course, it makes me wonder some things:

  1. Do you follow book awards? Do they influence your reading in any way? If so, do you have a favourite book award?
  2. How do you feel about authors and self-promotion? Is this something you encounter frequently?
  3. I was reminded of this hilarious (to me) xkcd comic today (shared below). Can you be a bit of a book snob? Also: have you always wanted a secret bookshelf? :)
bookshelf

Bookshelf © xkcd

Happy reading!

Weekly Book News Roundup

  •  Has social media brought about “a great renaissance of public shaming”? Author Jon Ronson has a new book coming out – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. He spoke with The Guardian about rants and tweets.
  • “A book we crack with our two hands creates an actual physical space for reverie that functions as an oasis outside daily life, a cocoon in space and time.” Amidst the ongoing debates about e-books versus print, Alix Christie explores the pleasures and permanence of print books in an essay for the Millions.
  • Last weekend, in the Globe & Mail, books editor Mark Medley examined the particular challenges faced by Canadian nonfiction writers.
  • Over the past week, Ryan Boudinot’s feature at the Stranger, “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One,” has sparked bookish internet debates regarding the value of MFA programs and whether or not writing can be taught. Examples of Boudinot’s frank assertions, which have led to what is now being referred to as “MFA-gate,” include, “Writers are born with talent,” and “No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.”   In Electric Literature, writer and former MFA faculty Adrian Van Young responded to Boudinot’s essay in what he calls a “Rebuttal of Sorts.” Meanwhile, at Salon, Laura Miller dissects the Internet outrage sparked by Ryan Boudinot’s essay on the questionable value of a creative writing MFA. “He hasn’t expressed anything worse than what writers outside of the MFA bubble hear every day.”
  • Lambda Literary announced the finalists for its 27th Lambda Literary Awards. The “Lammys” celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing in twenty-four different categories. The winner will be announced on June 1st. Sixteen Canadian authors were shortlisted in 11 of 27 categories.
  • “In contemporary fiction with nameless narrators, the real-world, present-day phenomenon of namelessness is not usually confronted.” At the New Yorker, Sam Sacks examines the idea of books with nameless protagonists
  • After Faulkner won the Nobel Prize, he spent a lot of time traveling the globe. He was, and had, a bit of a problem, though.  The State Department circulated a memo called “Guidelines for Handling Mr. William Faulkner on His Trips Abroad,” designed to help agents curb Faulkner’s drinking. Their advice ranged from the obvious (monitor his liquor cabinet) to the subtle: “Keep several pretty young girls in the front two rows of any public appearance to keep his attention up.”
  • Book adaptation news:
    • Speaking of Jon Ronson, Scarlett Johansson is set to star in the adaptation of Ronson’s non-fiction book The Psychopath Test. In the book, Ronson explores the mental health industry and aims to uncover the turth about psychopathy diagnoses and find out how to identify a true psychopath. Jay Roach, who is best known for working on comedies such as Meet the Fockers and 50 First Dates, is set to direct.
    • Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven film and television rights have been acquired by Scott Steindorff. The story follows the days after a flu pandemic causes a civilization to collapse. Steindorff previously produced Jon Favreau’s Chef and the upcoming Jane Got a Gun.
    • Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey will be teaming up to create a television drama for OWN based on Natalie Baszile’s book Queen Sugar. The story follows a widow who moves with her daughter from Los Angeles to the Louisiana sugar farm she recently inherited. DuVernay, who directed the Academy Award nominee Selma, will write, direct, and executive produce the series and Oprah will executive produce and have a recurring role on the show.
book2movie

Book to Movie © Tom Gauld

I have a few questions for you this week, based on the news roundup:

  1. Do you read nonfiction? If so, do you have a favourite genre?
  2. When you are reading fiction, can you tell if an author has come through an MFA program?
  3. Do you like nameless narrators? Can you think of a really great book you have read in which the narrator was never identified? Why do you think authors do this?
  4. E-book, or printed books? Do you have a preference?

Happy reading!!

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

★★½ out of 5

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From the book’s description:

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary pharmacist. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.


Okay, first up: Hello, my name is Jennifer and I got a bit suckered into reading a romance novel. :/  (Publisher has listed this as ‘fiction, romance, contemporary’ on their website. NetGalley listing reads ‘literature/fiction’, and did not have the ‘contemporary romance’ identifier. I did not check the publisher’s website until after I finished reading the novel. Oops!)  I am not against romance, per se. But when reading, I am against the overly-sentimental and schmaltzy, and overuse of clichés. So this book fell apart for me on all three counts. which is really, really unfortunate. This is a novel about books, and their power to help and to heal. It’s set in Paris, and the bookshop is a floating barge on the Seine. I mean… come on – it sounds perfect, right?! But the books and bookshop are a feint for the love story (actually, a few love stories – the primary of which is pretty thin and, for me, difficult to believe).

I probably should have clued in right away that The Little Paris Bookshop wasn’t going to be the best read for me – the main character’s name is ‘Perdu’, French for ‘lost’ or ‘missing’. And Perdu – Jean Perdu – has shut himself off to experiencing the world after the heartbreak of being dumped 21 years ago. (Le sigh.) Jean Perdu is truly, emotionally, and physically lost. It’s a bit too literal for my tastes. Jean was left a letter by his departing girlfriend (again, a literal ‘Dear John’ letter), but he could not bring himself to read it for more than 20 years.

The book, at moments, reminded me of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – both charming, nice novels with interesting premises and some endearing secondary characters. The Little Paris Bookshop, though, is not as strong as these and mostly it’s because of the schmaltz and clichés. I felt like I was reading regurgitations and not originality. (Hmm, in noting these comparison novels, I am now wondering what’s up with the men? Heh.)

There was also this very strange situation where Jean Perdu’s father goes on a bit with a long comparison of horses and women. This came right at a moment during the read where I was feeling awkward about how men and women were being presented/treated in the story, and I found myself off on a tangent wondering what the author really feels about men and women. A passing mention of someone being a misogynist happens later in the story. I’m not explaining this very well, sorry. But I felt strange that this female author offers stereotypical thoughts that might usually come from a (less-than-evolved) male perspective.

nina_george_author

Nina George

So as to not sound so old and cranky and down on love (I am none of these things, I swear!): I did really enjoy the meta-ness of the book. As I was reading, I was marking the authors and books mentioned in the story. Helpfully, there is a list included at the back of the book. As well, there was some good eating happening through the novel. A few recipes are also collected at the back of the book. So both of these aspects were great. The novel, originally published in Germany as Das Lavendelzimmer (The Lavender Room) has been a huge hit for Nina George – more than 500,000 copies have been sold. George is also a freelance journalist. Between her careers as a fiction writer and journalist, George has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction), over one hundred short stories, and more than 600 columns. George has won two awards – a DeLiA (a German literary prize) and the Friedrich Glauser Prize (Germany’s best-known award for crime writing).

So, clearly George has talent, and The Little Paris Bookshop book has worked for, and is beloved by, many, many readers. I just really wish the whole of the thing was stronger and more engaging for me. I do feel this will make an easy vacation read, and will offer a lovely escape for some readers (and I recognize I may be in the minority with my opinion of the book).

Lists:

(ARC of the novel provided by the publisher, via NetGalley. Novel will be on sale 23 June 2015.)

Question:

Based on my response to this novel, I am curious: which books have your read that – ahead of the read – seemed to tick all of your literary preferences boxes, yet just fell flat for you?

paris-reading-girl

Archive Image

Happy reading!