The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015 The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
Patter and Patois by Walter Mosley [New York Times] Walter Mosley writes about his relationship to the literature of Louisiana.
“Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation.”
Robert Stone, Novelist of the Vietnam Era and Beyond, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
"Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious, award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests — or both — as commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.[more inside]
First editions, second thoughts: [New York Times] "On December 2, Christie's will auction 75 first-edition books, each of which is a unique object that has been annotated with words and/or illustrations by its author. Proceeds from the auction will benefit PEN American Center."
Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify: [New York Times]
"Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers."
‘The Giving Tree’: Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing Tale of Selfishness?
Anna Holmes and Rivka Galchen reconsider Shel Silverstein’s classic, published 50 years ago.
Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ [New York Times] Patti Smith reviews Haruki Murakami's latest novel. Book Trailer
"Great war novels inevitably follow great wars, and in literary circles following World War II, everyone was wondering what would be the successors to A Farewell to Arms and All Quiet on the Western Front — and who would write them. But when John Horne Burns, age 29, in his small dormitory suite at the Loomis School in Windsor, Conn., on the night of April 23, 1946 (Shakespeare’s birthday, at that), finished The Gallery — 'I fell across my Underwood and wept my heart out,' he later recalled — he was convinced he had done just that, and more. ‘The Gallery, I fear, is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century,' he wrote a friend." (SLNYT) (via) [more inside]
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann's Way, the New York Times is publishing a series of blog posts on In Search of Lost Time. (via) [more inside]
On Sunday, Rachel Shteir, a theater professor at DePaul University, wrote a critique of three Chicago-focused books for the New York Times Book Review. Many Chicagoans were none too happy. [more inside]
Famous writer Anne Carson on ice bats: "I made up ice bats, there is no such thing." (SLNYT) [more inside]
"De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
The Pastiche of a Presidency, Imitating a Life, in 957 Pages This is a very bad review of the Clinton book, soon to be released. My question: why has the New York Times placed a book review on its front page? Would they have done this if the book were given a good review? Is the "paper of record" making a clear-cut statement about its feelings about Clinton? Has any other book review made the front page of the NY Times? I for one plan to read the book. I recall that Edmund Wilson once said: always stick to primary sources rather relying upon what some scholar or reviewer has to say about a book. Finally, Clinton is out of office (alas). How much longer will small and jealous puppies chase after The Big Dog?
Kinsley goes Zola on Brooks "In his writing and on television, he actually seems reasonable. More than that, he seems cuddly. He gives the impression of being open to persuasion. Like the elderly Jewish lady who thinks someone must be Jewish because ''he's so nice,'' liberals suspect that a writer as amiable as Brooks must be a liberal at heart. Some conservatives think so too." via A&L Daily
Can the man who started the CRIPS really be reformed? A great article from the NY Times. Stanley "Tookie" Williams, one of the two founders of the LA gang, the Crips, has written numerous books and now does "public" speaking to young men to warn them away from the gang life. Is he serious? Is he reformed? Or is he just trying to make himself look good to get off death row? Does this "Scared Straight" stuff really work?
Michiko Kukatani goes whacky! (NYT Reg Required) Maybe all the craziness at the NYT is taking its toll, but everyone's favorite high-brow book bully reviews Candace Bushnell's (Sex and The City chick's) new book as a letter from...Elle Woods?!
Are you writing a novel? An article in the NY Times urging would-be authors to pack it in. Given the quoted stat (that 81% of Americans 'feel they have a book in them'), and extrapolating it for the rest of the world, that still means that there are roughly 12,887 unwritten books out there in me-fi land. Is this true? And has anyone actually written theirs down?
The Talk of the Book World Still Can't Sell (NY Times link) About two months ago, a new book about women putting careers before babies, and risking going childless, got a lot of publicity and was expected to be a huge seller. Wrong. Did it scare women? Did it sadden women? Was the coverage unfair (most of it highlighted the 'infertility after late 30's' angle, instead of balancing/choosing between career and family)? Or, did the massive publicity subvert sales by summing up the story and findings?
Whatever Next? Amazon Makes A Profit! Having lost $3 billion so far, Amazon Books has just posted its first-ever profit of $5 million. Perhaps it was thanks to the new machines they bought to replace more workers.(this last link req. NYT reg.) How would you spend it if you were Jeff Bezos? And what does it mean: has the tide turned or not?
"But at some point along the path to discovery, the reader confronts his or her reading mortality. There's only so much time. And there are so many great books." I must come to grips with this myself, even as I anxiously await the inaugural book club discussion. I must admit, though, that people like this [NYT link] make me feel my own "reading mortality" more acutely. (I wish I could read that much so quickly...)
Fun to be Clueless Literati in the L.A. area will no doubt like this take on the odd tastes of the Times Book Review section. For the rest of us, there's the fun of watching one paper try and stick it to another. Also, and interesting take on the role books play as a medium in this media-rich age.