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.
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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.

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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?

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Happy reading!

Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

  • Two bits of news in book-to-film adaptations this past week:
    • Actor Ewan McGregor is set to direct a film adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel American Pastoral.
    • Richard Linklater, the director of the critically acclaimed film Boyhood, is in talks to direct a film adaptation of Maria Semple’s 2012 bestselling novel Where’d You Go Bernadette.
  • Nearly one hundred Canadian independent bookstores have signed up for the inaugural Canadian Authors for Indies Day, which is set to take place on May 2nd. Founder, and author, Janie Chang spoke about the initiative with Publishers Weekly.
  • In a controversial industry shift, an increasing number of publishing executives at large houses such as HarperCollins and Little, Brown are bypassing literary agents altogether and inviting open submissions of manuscripts.
  • In big book award news this week:
    •  The U.S. Jewish Book Council announced Canadian author Ayelet Tsabari as the recipient of the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature (Fiction) for her collection The Best Place on Earth: Stories. Established in 2007, the $100,000 U.S. award alternates annually between emerging fiction and non-fiction authors, and aims to recognize works that “explore the Jewish experience” and show the potential to make an impact on Jewish literature.  Fellow Canadian Kenneth Bonert was awarded $25,000 U.S. as the runner-up for his novel The Lion Seeker.
    • Nine writers from four different countries have been awarded the 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes for fiction, nonfiction, and drama. The winners will each receive $150,000 to support their work. For more information about the prize and a complete list of winners, visit the Grants & Awards blog.
  • The New Yorker has republished a 1962 essay by Alice Munro. Originally appearing Canadian magazine The Montrealler, Munro describes “the first real book” she ever read: Charles Dickens’s A Child’s History of England, whose tales of melodrama and morbidity provided, Munro writes, “the first glimpse I ever had of history, before I knew what history was… I had a private vision of what I was reading about—unexpected, incommunicable, painfully exciting.
  • Starting to write a book is hard. Then there’s the whole middle part—also difficult. And finally there’s the end, which is no cakewalk, either. Can we learn anything from the last sentences in famous novels? Jonathan Russell Clark explores the idea at The Millions“For writers, the last sentences aren’t about reader responsibility at all—it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stop worrying about what comes next, because nothing does. No more keeping the reader interested, no more wariness over giving the game away. This is the game.” 

This week’s book news has me curious about a few things, so I would love to hear from you:

  1. What is your favourite independent bookshop? Do you make a point of shopping at independent bookstores?
  2. What is the first ‘real’ book you remember reading?
  3. And, as always,  I would love to know what you’ve been reading this week? Anything excellent, that you would recommend?

Happy reading!

Visit your local independent bookseller today!

Visit your local independent bookseller today!

Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

  • Kobo has launched the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, to celebrate Canadian debut authors. The annual award offers three categories of competition: Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction (beginning with Mystery, with a different genre showcased each year), and Non-Fiction. Prizewinners will each receive $10,000, and promotional, marketing, and communications support, as well as access to Kobo experts for publishing advice. Three outstanding judges (who will also provide mentorship to the three winners) will help launch the inaugural awards: Miriam Toews will serve as the judge of the literary fiction category, Charlotte Gray will judge non-fiction, and Ian Hamilton will judge genre fiction.
  • Jennifer Lopez’s (apparently) terrible new movie The Boy Next Door has inspired a misguided quest for first editions of the Iliad. “Lopez plays a divorced English literature high school teacher who has a one-night stand with her younger neighbour played by Ryan Guzman. In one scene, Guzman’s character gives Lopez a copy of The Iliad, which is described as a ‘first edition’ and apparently found for ‘a buck at a garage sale.’ ” Problems: no one knows for certain when the Iliad was even written. It was passed down by oral tradition first. It’s at least three thousand years old. It wasn’t composed in English for first publication in a handsome hardcover.
  • The 2015 #TwitterFiction Festival will take place May 11-15. The festival is presented by the Association of American Publishers and Penguin Random House, and is about “embracing, exploring, and developing the art of storytelling on Twitter.” This year, featured participating authors include Margaret Atwood, Celeste Ng, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), and Eric Jerome Dickey, among others.
  • The Economist featured a piece on the new era of “authorpreneurship,” in which no one can simply write: “Authors are becoming more like pop stars, who used to make most of their money selling albums but who now use their recordings as promotional tools, earning a living mainly from concerts. The trouble with many budding writers is that they are not cut out for this new world. They are often introverts, preferring solitude to salesmanship.” 

So, there are some of the bigger stories that made news in the book world this week.  I hope your week has been a good one, and that you have had some time to read.  If you are reading something great, I would love to know about it, so please leave a comment. (I could truly chat about books forever. Heh!)

Baldo by Hector D. Cantu and Carlos Castellanos

Baldo, by Hector D. Cantu and Carlos Castellanos

Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

Welcome to Friday the 13th! I hope your week has been a good one, and that this weekend will offer a chance for some excellent reading time.

Here’s the bookish news happenings of the past week:

  • Author Stephen Marche, who has read Shakespeare’s Hamlet and P. G. Wodehouse’s novel The Inimitable Jeeves one hundred times each, describes the experience and virtues of what he calls “centrireading” at the Guardian.
  • The recent news that Jon Stewart will step down as host of The Daily Show has certainly upset his viewers, but the announcement could also be bad news for the book industry. At the Washington Post, Ron Charles notes that “in an increasingly fractured market, The Daily Show has been a singular platform for authors to promote their books.”
  • The eight finalists for the 2015 Folio Prize for fiction have been announced. Included, my favourite read of 2014: Miriam Toews’s All My Puny Sorrows Sponsored by the London-based Folio Society, the annual award recognizes “the best English-language fiction from around the world, regardless of form, genre, or the author’s country of origin.” The complete shortlist can be found on the Folio Prize website, and the winner of the £40,000 award will be announced March 23rd.
  • ‘I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer’Aminatta Forna writes in the Guardian  about her frustration at the book world’s obsession with labels and identity.
  • And, finally: Valentine’s Day.   A letter from Johnny Cash to his wife June topped a recent poll for the “greatest love letter ever written.” The Guardian provides an alternative list of author love letters. Zelda Fitzgerald, for example, felt particularly swoony after talking to F. Scott Fitzgerald on the phone in 1930: “I walked on those telephone wires for two hours after holding your love like a parasol to balance me.”  And, on the topic of love letters, here’s a  modern guide to writing the perfect love letter, which includes some helpful rules about metaphor use: “No financial metaphors, particularly employing the conceit of what an excellent investment your lover is.”

So this week’s news has me wondering a few things:

  1. Which book (or books) have you read the most? How many times have you read them, and what was it about the book(s) that had you returning again and again?
  2. Which book to film adaptation is your favourite? Which one is your least favourite?
  3. Which novel would you recommend as a gift for Valentine’s Day? Why?

Please share your responses with me in the comments area, below. I would love to hear what you have to say about these questions (or any of the items in the news today).

Thank you so much for visiting my site, and taking a moment to read today’s news.

Happy reading!

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