Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jaws Overtime

Jaws the movie turns 40 this year. Don’t expect that to happen without at least a little bit of hullabaloo. And it starts here. A new video essay series begins their journey with “An Absurdly In-Depth Study Of the Beach Scene In Jaws.

With that set-up, you wouldn’t necessarily think it worth watching, but this is stellar stuff. From Film School Rejects:
“Spielberg at his most Hitchcockian.”
That’s how the team behind The Discarded Image (a new video essay series focused on cinema) describes the beach scene in Jaws where Brody watches a ton of potential beach-loving victims, helpless to save a little boy who’s ripped apart by the shark. I can’t disagree. Mostly because Alfred Hitchcock also loved bad hats.
The video does a striking and thorough job explaining how Steven Spielberg tortures the viewer by forcing them to identify with a powerless figure caught in the middle of a violently chaotic moment. It’s about framing, camera direction and dramatic irony. It’s also about color coordination, foreground imagery and the culmination of earlier character decisions. It’s also about a dozen other things that allow us to marvel at Spielberg’s genius and allow aspiring filmmakers to shudder at the sheer level of detail that goes into making something this powerful.
Film School Rejects sets up and then shares this first episode of a new video essay series called The Discarded Image here. Want to see the beach sequence without commentary? That’s here.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Orson Welles’ Lost Last Film: The Hemingway Connection

Orson Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind, was never finished and no one knows with certainty what it was meant to be about. John Huston once asked Welles and got a cryptic answer. “It’s a film about a bastard director…” Welles answered Huston. “It’s about us, John. It’s a film about us.”

The May issue of Vanity Fair publishes a piece adapted from Josh Karp’s new book, Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind (St. Martin’s Press). It’s a book to look for, all about the making and non-making of a film whose title couldn’t even be explained. According to Karp, Rich Little, who was also in the cast, asked Welles about the title:
“Orson,” Little asked, “what does The Other Side of the Wind mean?” 
Looking down over his reading glasses, Welles, in his rich baritone, said, “I haven’t the foggiest.”
Though the film came to be about the film industry, it was initially going to be loosely based on novelist Ernest Hemingway:
The initial inspiration for The Other Side of the Wind can be traced back to an event that took place more than 30 years before Graver walked into Schwab’s that summer day and found Orson in the pages of Variety. 
Orson Welles in 1937.
It was May 1937 and Welles entered a Manhattan recording studio to narrate a Spanish Civil War documentary whose script had been written by Ernest Hemingway—who happened to be in the sound booth when Orson arrived.
Only 22, Orson was not yet the Orson Welles, but he was on his way as a talented voice actor earning $1,000 a week during the Depression and a Broadway wunderkind who’d had the audacity to stage an all-black Macbeth.
Looking at Hemingway’s script, Welles suggested a few changes, as he recalled to a reporter decades later. Wouldn’t it be better, for instance, to eliminate the line “Here are the faces of men who are close to death,” and simply let those faces speak for themselves?
Hemingway was outraged that anyone would dare tamper with his words and went after Orson, implying that the actor was “some kind of faggot.” Welles responded by hitting Hemingway the best way he knew how. If Papa wanted a faggot, Orson would give him one.
“Mr. Hemingway, how strong you are!” Welles said, camping it up with a swishy lisp. “How big you are!”
Grabbing a chair, Hemingway attacked Orson, who picked up a chair of his own, sparking a cinematic brawl between two of the great creative geniuses of the 20th century, who duked it out while images of war flickered on a screen behind them.
Eventually, however, the pair realized the insanity of their fight and soon slumped to the floor laughing, cracked open a bottle of whiskey, and drank their way into friendship.
Twenty years after this encounter, Welles would work on a screenplay about a hyper-manly, middle-aged, American novelist living in Spain who has lost his creative powers and become obsessed with a young bullfighter in whom he sees the promise of youth and perhaps something more. Meanwhile, a Greek chorus of sycophantic biographers, worshipful grad students, and literary critics trailed the writer, reminding him of his own greatness.
Sometime after Hemingway killed himself, on July 2, 1961, Welles changed the locus of the film to Hollywood and turned the novelist into a sadistic man’s-man filmmaker who may also be a closeted homosexual. He decided that all of the action would take place on a single day—July 2—which became his main character’s birthday and the last day of his life.
There is so much more to this stellar piece: so many other anecdotes, angles and stories. It can all be found in the May issue of Vanity Fair, and here. Look for the book later this month and -- maybe! -- we’ll finally get to see the film within the year.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New True Detective: Official Tease

And here it comes: a brand new season of the much ballyhooed True Detective will debut on HBO Sunday, June 21st. Here's the first official tease.

A bizarre murder brings together three law-enforcement officers and a career criminal, each of whom must navigate a web of conspiracy and betrayal in the scorched landscapes of California.

Colin Farrell is Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective in the all-industrial City of Vinci, LA County.

Vince Vaughn plays Frank Semyon, a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life’s work, while his wife and closest ally (Kelly Reilly), struggles with his choices and her own.

Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective often at odds with the system she serves, while Taylor Kitsch plays Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol who discovers a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars.

True Detective is written and created by Nic Pizzolatto. The first two of this season’s eight episodes will be directed by Justin Lin.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Interview: Ona Russell author of Rule of Capture

In Ona Russell’s latest novel, Rule of Capture, we are in Los Angeles in 1928.

One of the victims of a Ponzi scheme, Ohio probate officer Sarah Kaufman is in the city to attend the trial of the perpetrators, in particular of the “friend” who convinced her to invest. Sarah is eager for justice and committed to seeing the trial through. But when a Mexican woman she barely knows winds up dead, Sarah’s plans are thrown upside-down. She finds herself in a nightmarish trial by fire, one that takes her from the glamour of Hollywood to the Tijuana frontier, tests her deepest beliefs and leads her to discover not only a killer, but a part of Los Angeles built on a terrible secret.

The full interview is here.


This Just In… The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True

Gail. Hannah. Bridget. Lizzy. Flavia. Each of them has a shameful secret, and each is about to find out that she is not alone… 

Gail, a prominent Boston judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband’s latest girlfriend, while her husband, a theology professor, claims he’s nine-months sober from sex with grad students. 

Hannah, a homemaker, catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. 

Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, is sure she has a loving, doting spouse, until she learns that he is addicted to chat rooms and match-making websites. 

Lizzy, a high school teacher, is married to a porn addict, who is withdrawn and uninterested in sex with her. 

Flavia was working at the Boston Public library when someone brought her an article that stated her husband had been arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. He must face court, and Flavia must decide if she wants to stay with him. 

Finally, Kathryn, the young psychologist running the group, has as much at stake as all of the others.

As the women share never-before-uttered secrets and bond over painful truths, they work on coming to terms with their husbands' addictions and developing healthy boundaries for themselves. Meanwhile, their outside lives become more and more intertwined, until, finally, a series of events forces each woman to face her own denial, betrayal and uncertain future head-on.

You can order The Wednesday Group here. Visit author Sylvia True on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Salman Rushdie’s Ratings of Other Authors Goes Viral

From the “It happened on the Internet so it must matter a lot” department, Salman Rushdie’s social media gaff in rating fellow authors has gone viral. The author of The Satanic Verses is getting a lot of criticism right now for rating books on Goodreads. From The Independent:
The outspoken writer gave Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis only one star, and Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mocking Bird – thought by many to be one of the greatest novels of all time – just three stars.
When fellow readers challenged his judgement, Rushdie declined to justify his ratings and blamed ignorance of social media for his indiscretion. “I’m so clumsy in this new world of social media sometimes. I thought these rankings were a private thing designed to tell the site what sort of book to recommend to me, or not recommend. Turns out they are public. Stupid me. Well, I don’t like the work of Kingsley Amis, there it is. I don’t have to explain or justify. It’s allowed,” he wrote.
The full piece is here. January Magazine’s 2002 interview with Rushdie is here.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Fiction: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

If Kazuo Ishiguro is to be believed, he is way past his prime. In a London Telegraph article last autumn, he was quoted as saying he thinks novelists peak in their late 30s and early 40s. “It’s rather like footballers,” he said. “Although novelists peak three or four years after footballers.”

One wonders why, if he really thinks this is so, he would, at 60, publish the novel that seems likely to be remembered as his most ambitious to date.

The Buried Giant (Knopf) is so outside what we understood to be Ishiguro’s oeuvre, it’s been easy for some fans to shake their heads in wonder, while others wring their hands in consternation and still others (an apparent minority) feel this is the best thing Ishiguro has produced.

And me? I’m on the fence a little bit. To be honest, I found aspects of The Buried Giant, Ishiguro’s crack at Arthurian England, to be a bit of a slog. But weeks after reading, aspects and images hang with me. The very best fiction does that, doesn’t it? (That’s what I tell myself.) You don’t always “get” it while you’re reading, but months and years later pieces/passages/images hang with you, having perhaps somehow impregnated themselves in your mind. I suspect that will be the case with The Buried Giant, a book that somehow seems better with the last page turned than it did while reading.

So what’s the hold up? In the first place, it’s very different than the Ishiguro we know and love. Light years, in its own way, from Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day, for which he won the Booker (when he was just 35. Big surprise). And this is not a condemnation, but it has been ten years since his last novel was published. We’ve been waiting a long time. Now… this?

And yet, in some ways, this astonishing work of fantasy truly is Ishiguro’s most audacious -- and ambitious -- novel to date. He has created a classic fantasy journey that brims with messages and memos for our own times.

The Buried Giant is a tapestry: carefully woven, beautifully wrought. One can barely imagine a 35-year-old writer wrapping his mind around it. But the mature Ishiguro has given us one for the ages. Don’t plan on a fast read. This is one you’ll be chewing on for a while.

January Magazine’s 2000 interview with the author is here. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.


This Just In… Conjure Woman’s Cat by Malcolm R. Campbell

Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order. 

When some white boys rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the sawmill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.” 

But Eulalie has secrets of her own, and it’s hard not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending. 

You can order Conjure Woman’s Cat here. Read more about Malcolm R. Campbell on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Sharpen Your Crayons

A lot of people have told Johanna Basford that they secretly colored when their kids were asleep. That’s probably the reason Basford, a Scottish illustrator, is currently killing it on Amazon with two titles. Both Secret Garden and the recently released Enchanted Forest (both from Laurence King Publishing) are, you guessed it, coloring books. And, at time of writing, they are one and two on Amazon, respectively.

Basford’s drawings are intricate and beautiful… and were given a bit of a push through social media. From The Guardian:
Basford’s intricately drawn pictures of flora and fauna in Secret Garden have sold 1.4m copies worldwide to date, with the newly released follow-up Enchanted Forest selling just under 226,000 copies already. They have drawn fans from Zooey Deschanel, who shared a link about the book with her Facebook followers, to the South Korean pop star Kim Ki-Bum, who posted an image on Instagram for his 1.6 million followers.
“It’s been crazy. The last few weeks since Enchanted Forest came out have been utter madness, but fantastic madness,” said Eleanor Blatherwick, head of sales and marketing at the books’ publisher, small British press Laurence King. “We knew the books would be beautiful but we didn’t realise it would be such a phenomenal success.”
But the real secret to Basford’s success is very same one you hear from most mega-sucessful authors: the author created the book that she wanted to see.
The illustrator, who lives in Aberdeenshire, has been astonished at the reaction since she released Secret Garden in 2013. “I had a kids’ book commissioned and I told them I would like to do one for grown-ups. It really wasn’t a trend then. I drew up the first story and they thought, ‘Let’s go for it’. I was thinking simply that people like me would like to do it. My intention was just to make a book I would like to have. So it’s been a real surprise, to see the category bloom.”
You can see The Guardian piece here.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

McDermid: Politics in Crime Fiction? Mysteries Left, Thrillers Right

Mystery novels lean to the left. Thrillers lean to the right. That’s what crime fiction superstar Val McDermid wrote in a piece for the Guardian a few days ago. McDermind writes:
As my compatriot Ian Rankin pointed out, the current preoccupations of the crime novel, the roman noir, the krimi lean to the left. It’s critical of the status quo, sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly. It often gives a voice to characters who are not comfortably established in the world – immigrants, sex workers, the poor, the old. The dispossessed and the people who don’t vote.
The thriller, on the other hand, tends towards the conservative, probably because the threat implicit in the thriller is the world turned upside down, the idea of being stripped of what matters to you. And as Bob Dylan reminds us, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
Do these thoughts hold water? Well, it should be pointed out that McDermid started putting these ideas together while in France where, she says, they take their crime fiction pretty seriously.
I was asked questions about geopolitics, and the function of fear. I found myself saying things like “escaping the hegemony of the metropolis” in relation to British crime writing in the 1980s. 
What they are also deeply interested in is the place of politics in literature. Over the weekend, there were local elections in France, and a thin murmur of unease ran through many of the off-stage conversations with my French friends and colleagues. They were anxious about the renaissance of the right, of the return of Nicolas Sarkozy, the failure of the left and the creeping rise of the Front National.
McDermid’s most recent novel is The Skeleton Road, published last September. Upcoming this year is Splinter the Silence, the ninth book in McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, it will be out in December.

The full piece is thoughtful, unsurprisingly articulate and here.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Cookbooks: The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Susan O'Brien

While I’m as forward thinking as the next guy, it seems to me there is just too much going on in The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Family Cookbook (Da Capo/Lifelong). If I’m very honest (and I know I will likely get rocks thrown at me for saying this) I don’t even really believe that it’s possible that as many people are gluten intolerant as say they are. No matter what the cost, it seems, these days people seem to be determined to be special, in this way if not that one.

That said if you happen to be part of that small minority who does, in fact, have a gluten sensitivity and you are also a vegetarian. Who has a family. Then Susan O’Brien’s latest is for you. 

By the way, this is not O’Brien’s first gluten-free, vegetarian rodeo. She is also the author of Gluten Free, Sugar Free Cooking, The Gluten Free Vegan and Gluten Free Vegan Comfort Food, so clearly this is a topic she knows better than most.

This expertise shows in the book, as well. Nothing here seems like just making do. From Eggplant Lasagna to Hearty Sandwich Bread and Strawberry Coconut Pudding, O’Brien’s book is filled with recipes that are “safe and nutritious for everyone at the table.”

O’Brien’s own focus is on vegan foods, and The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Family Cookbook definitely leans that way. However, there are several vegetarian recipes, though even some of those include instructions for doing them up vegan.

With her down to Earth style and back to basics leanings, O’Brien has created a book that is refreshingly normal. Is this where vegan goes mainstream? We might not be quite there yet but, at the same time, it’s beginning to feel quite close. ◊

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This Just In… LIARS, INC. by Paula Stokes

A dark and twisted psychological tale that will keep readers guessing, perfect for fans of I Hunt Killers and Gone Girl.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money. So with the help of his friend Preston and his girlfriend, Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something, and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about it. But then Preston never comes home. And the evidence starts to pile up -- terrifying clues that lead to Preston’s body.

Terrifying clues that point to Max as the killer….

You can order LIARS, INC. here. Read more about the book on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Question of Copyright

What is copyright? How does licensing on the web work? How can you make it work for you?

These are some of the questions asked and answered on a new web site called Copyright Aware. It was developed by the BBC to help people how to understand some of basic facts about copyright:
Copyright is your tool. Do you know how to use it? 
Many of us create copyright all the time, mostly without even knowing it, and use other people’s copyright every day.  Whether it's taking a photo on your phone or uploading a video to your vlog, you have created copyright. Copyright describes both the creative work you have made and the law that protects that work.  
You can use this site to explore more about your rights and the rights of others, plus details of where to find out more.  
Because the site was created by the BBC, the content and resources here relates specifically to UK copyright. But even those not in the United Kingdom will find much of interest here. A great starting off point on a conversation that’s being had around the world.

You can find “Copyright Aware” here.

This Just In… The Never-Ending Swell: A Liam Sol Mystery by Timothy Burgess

It’s the summer of 1967 and all Liam Sol wants is to ride the perfect wave and to sleep with the prettiest girls. But when his father’s murdered body is found washed ashore, his carefree life comes crashing down on him. 

A prime suspect mysteriously dies in police custody and Liam leaves behind his life as a surfer and launches his own investigation into his father’s death -- against the warnings of the police and his family. But the killings have only just begun, and Liam soon finds himself being hunted by both the killer and the police, who suspect he is a cold-blooded murderer. Liam’s pursuit to find his father’s killer will lead him to a violent showdown and a shocking discovery. One that will shake Liam’s faith to its core.

From the pure waters of the Pacific Ocean to the dark depths of the human soul, The Never-Ending Swell is a pulse pounding mystery.

You can order The Never-Ending Swell here. Learn more about author Timothy Burgess here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Bruce Willis to Star in Stage Version of Stephen King’s “Misery”

It’s always fun when a high powered screen name heads to Broadway. But this production? This sounds golden all the way through. From The Hollywood Reporter:
[Bruce] Willis will make his Broadway debut opposite stage veteran Elizabeth Marvel (Other Desert Cities, House of Cards) in the play written by two-time Academy Award winner William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), who also wrote the screenplay for the 1990 Rob Reiner film that starred Kathy Bates in her Oscar-winning turn as Annie Wilkes.
Willis will play the housebound romance novelist Paul Sheldon, who becomes a prisoner of his unhinged "Number One Fan" Wilkes (Marvel) after she rescues him from a car accident and learns that he plans to kill off her favorite fictional character.
Will Frears (Omnium Gatherum) has signed on to direct the play, which is scheduled for a limited run in the fall at a theater to be announced.
Misery will be produced by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures' Mark Kaufman and Castle Rock Entertainment's Martin Shafer and Liz Glotzer. Raymond Wu also is producing.
The play is scheduled for a limited run this fall. You want tickets? You’ll be able to order them from the play’s web site here.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Harper Lee’s New Cover Revealed

People magazine today revealed the cover of Harper Lee’s new novel, Go Set a Watchman. It is the author’s second novel, the first since the publication of her debut, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960. From People:

Publisher HarperCollins, planning for a hit, will print two million copies for the book's July 14 publication date, a spokeswoman tells PEOPLE. 

HarperCollins president Michael Morrison says the book jacket was meant to evoke Mockingbird's now-iconic look: "It draws on the style of the decade the book was written." 

You can see the full piece here. We’ve previously written about Go Set a Watchman here and here.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

App Sweeps Questionable Words in Books Away

Bad language in books got you down? There’s an app for that. From the Clean  Reader web site:
Clean Reader prevents swear words in books from being displayed on your screen. You decide how clean your books should appear and Clean Reader does the rest.
A Harry Potter-style broom icon is engaged to clean the crap (sorry) right out of the e-book you are reading. It leaves behind nothing beyond a little gap and some dots where the offending letters were previously located. And how clean is clean?
The “Clean” setting only blocks major swear words from display. This includes all uses of the F-word we could find. The “Cleaner” setting blocks everything that “Clean” blocks plus more. “Squeaky Clean” is the most restrictive setting and will block the most profanity from a book including some hurtful racial terms. 
Aside from the fact that all of this stuff is pretty subjective (What is “hurtful”? What is “profanity”? What is “clean”?) how can anyone think that altering the text of a book in this way is a good thing? One of the things I do is write novels. When I choose a word, I do so for a reason. I’ve chosen it for the way it fits in with the other words on the page. How it enhances the meaning of those other words and how it sounds in the mind when you read it. Are you offended by my word choice? Maybe sometimes. But it’s a bit world. And there are a lot of books in it. Go read one of those.

On their blog, the Clean Reader folks have a snappy (if poorly composed) reply for that:
When I get a salad at a restaurant and the chef thinks the salad is best served with blue cheese on it, I will spend a significant amount of time trying to find and remove every piece of blue cheese. Then I’m able to enjoy the salad. In the restaurant world the chef is the artist. He has spent his entire professional life trying to create masterful pieces of art to be served on a dish or in a bowl. Is the chef offended when I don’t eat the blue cheese? Perhaps. Do I care? Nope. I payed [sic] good money for the food and if I want to consume only part of it then I have that right. Everyone else at the table can consume their food however they want. Me removing the blue cheese from my salad doesn’t impact anyone else at the table. 
Okay, right, it doesn’t. But at a time when hundreds of thousands of books are published every year, why not choose a different book? (Or a salad that doesn’t have blue cheese, for that matter.)

But if you insist on ordering that salad you don’t like, you might as well have an app to “fix” it. And, essentially, Clean Reader makes it possible for you take my carefully wrought prose and pull the stuffing out of it if you desire. Is it even legal? Clean Reader says so:
We’ve discussed this with several lawyers and they have all agreed that Clean Reader does not violate copyright law because it doesn’t make changes to the file containing the book.  All Clean Reader does is change the way the content is displayed on the screen.  The user has the option of turning off the profanity filtering tool if desired.  No changes are made to the original book the user downloads when they buy a book.
And yet, reading it that way can alter every aspect of the intent of the work. And, as The Huffington Post says:
It’s also worth pausing, however, to note that ebooks have once again shifted the balance. No longer does an author necessarily have the option of signing off on altered editions -- at least if the alteration is merely a filter applied to the original book. Once we had to wait until books left copyright -- long after they'd become fixtures in literary and cultural history -- before we could play freely with their stories. Now, we can read a book that came out yesterday in a form as heavily edited as the recently sanitized edition of the classic Huck Finn.
Perhaps this is all meaningless. After all, the changes aren’t “real.” But it’s worth wondering what this newly unstable sense of reality means for readers.
The Clean Reader app is free. Downloading sweepable books, however, is not.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Eloise and Me

Loved and admired by generations of children, the fictional child Eloise had a creative and loving birth, but a difficult childhood, as seen in a new documentary slated to be aired on HBO March 23rd.

Though Eloise’s charming face is known by many, few know -- or paid attention to -- the drama that occurred behind the scenes while the Eloise franchise grew in popularity a few years after the debut of the first book, Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups, in 1955.

The character of Eloise, the little girl who lives alone in the Plaza Hotel in New York, was created by singer/performer Kay Thompson and brought to visual life by the pen of Hilary Knight. But Knight and Thompson would end up in outs, and Knight has for many years been restricted from illustrating the character he so charmingly co-created.

All of this is explained in It’s Me, Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise, a documentary form portrait of Hilary Knight, an artist in some ways stunted by early success and haunted by his own failures while remaining devoted to his most famous creation.

Interestingly enough, the documentary came to be because, as explained in It’s Me, Hilary, a friend told Knight that Lena Dunham (Girls) had an Eloise tattoo (shown at left). Knight created a special drawing for Dunham that acted as a sort of introductory bouquet and the two have been fast friends since.

Dunham acts as narrator here as well as executive producer. The resulting portrait is honest, affectionate and truly entertaining.

The documentary debuts March 23rd on HBO, with other playdates happening into April.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Victorian TV Sherlock Set for Christmas

Fans of the BBC Sherlock Holmes series (and there are many) staring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role with Martin Freeman as his Watson can rejoice. The dynamic duo will be transported to Victorian England for a holiday special likely set to air next Christmas. From Collider:
Well, add the apparent ability to time travel to the long list of things at which Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is generally unmatched. Steven Moffat, co-creator of Sherlock, confirmed today to EW that the series’ anticipated Christmas special will be set in Victorian England, just ahead of the Sherlock SXSW conference. Details about the episode are scant, but we can now assume it will involve Holmes and Watson (Martin Freeman) investigating a major crime in the 19th century.
Nor is that the only thing big fans have to look forward to:
The fourth season of Sherlock is also currently filming and will likely premiere around the same time as the Christmas special.
The full piece is here.

Anniversary Edition: Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

“The girl she said, I didn’t tell you this because it was a small thing, but little girls, they leave their hearts at home when they walk outside. Hearts are so precious. They don’t want to lose them.”

Breath, Eyes, Memory was Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat’s debut, the book that made readers and reviewers instantly sit up and pay attention: here was a writer to watch out for.

Published in 1994, it is the story of Sophie Caco as we follow her from her native Haiti at 12 to the inevitable culture shock that New York City will be.

The 20th anniversary edition from Soho Press includes an essay about the book by the author as well as an interview with her. The insights Danticat provides in both forums add a depth to an already wonderful book.

“First novels are a lot like first children,” Danticat writes in the afterword. “You lavish all your love and attention on them, but you also make all your rookie mistake on them. First novels teach you how to write.”

And it’s true: Danticat’s novels have become progressively more luminous, sharper, perhaps better defined. But this first? Was pure love, pure raw pain. And it is still so very beautiful. ◊

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett Dies at 66

Terry Pratchett, beloved creator of the Discworld series, has died at the age of 66. From The New York Times:
The cause was posterior cortical atrophy, a rare form of dementia, Suzanne Bridson, an editor at Transworld Publishers, said in an email. 
An accomplished satirist with a penchant for sending up cultural and political tomfoolery, Mr. Pratchett created wildly imaginative alternative realities to reflect on a world more familiar to readers as actual reality.
January Magazine interviewed Pratchett in 1997 and 2002.

“We use the term ‘masterpiece’ and don’t understand what it means,” Pratchett told me in 2002. “But, in the old days of the guilds you’d become an apprentice carpenter, and then you’d become a journeyman and you were not allowed to call yourself a master until you had made … something that indicated you had sufficient skill to be considered to have mastered the art. And it might be a model piece of furniture or something but it was the master piece: the piece that you made to demonstrate that you had learned your trade.”

For many who admired Pratchett’s special brand of magical realism, with his loss, the master has moved on. Good night, Sir Terry.


Top Flavors for 2015

We’re late to the party. Flavor creator Sensient predicted their top flavors for the year a while ago, but thanks to Natural Products Expo in Anaheim last week, they've come under our radar now.

Wisconsin-based Sensient is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of colors, flavors and fragrances. They’re pretty much in the business of knowing what is going to hit next. After all, long before it gets anywhere neat the market, Sensient has every flavor and color imaginable in giant cauldrons awaiting action. It makes sense that they’d be keeping close watch on what way the wind blows.

So how is the wind blowing for 2015? Sensient predicts eight flavors that range from warm, familiar and comfortable to exotic and new. Here is their list of the top trends in flavors for this year.
  • African Blue Basil — A dynamic hybrid with a bright flavor
  • Cascara Tea — Brewed from the dried skins of coffee berries: hints of raisin and prune
  • Desert Wildflowers — A subtle eco-friendly way to impart floral notes
  • Everything Bagel — A blend of big, bold flavors — poppy seed, kosher salt, sesame seed, garlic, onion — moving out of the bakery and into everywhere else
  • Falernum — A key ingredient in Caribbean and tropical drinks, a sweet syrup flavored with almond and lime
  • Maple Mirch — A dried red chili powder complemented by sweet maple syrup notes
  • Salted Satsuma — Honey sweet citrus complemented by a tinge of salt
  • Smoked Chantilly — Vanilla or brandy infused whipped cream enhanced by a subtle smoky flavor


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Crime Fiction: Voluntary Madness
by Vicki Hendricks

(Editor’s note: The following review comes from Steven Nester, the host of Poets of the Tabloid Murder, a weekly Internet radio show heard on the Public Radio Exchange [PRX]. Nester is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Rap Sheet, Mystery Scene and Firsts Magazine. He last wrote for January Magazine about Jonathan Ashley’s The Cost of Doing Business.)

Ask yourself this, you outlaw bohemians who view the suburban cul-de-sac at the end of the bourgeois rainbow as a fate worse than death: If you planned to chuck it all to avoid having to endure an undistinguished life; if you wished to live large and make a last-ditch statement of your existence, then check out with some Bonnie and Clyde panache (didn’t they die pretty -- at least in the 1967 film?), what would you do? You would live dangerously in order to acquire material for a novel, write it, party until your money ran out, then dress up as a skeleton and overdose on sleeping pills on a prominent float in Florida’s Key West Fantasy Fest parade, right?

Now that’s a bang worth hearing. It also happens to be the game plan for Punch, an older, half-Jamaican, half-Italian half-hearted desperado, and Juliette, a desultory 20-something waitress at a Tennessee Cracker Barrel, the main players in Vicki Hendricks’ much-missed and thankfully reissued, 2000 novel, Voluntary Madness (New Pulp Press). These star-crossed but well-suited lovers -- partners in crime and co-dependence -- stumble upon each other in a white-trash version of what Hollywood used to call a “meet cute.” Juliette wanders into the 7-Eleven that Punch was about to rob and is immediately smitten by “his hard muscles, with the smoothest Kahlua and cream skin, thick black hair past his shoulders, a view of the world evolved past our time -- I’m his, body and soul, no regrets, till I die …” This is a love story of two people who need unconditional love, without any kind of foreplay or background check. The dating scene was a lot more fun before the advent of, for sure.

Punch is a deadbeat with a sense of adventure, and in Juliette’s eyes he’s a man of the world. He’s played guitar in a band, troubadoured around Europe, knows how to order food at fancy restaurants, and possesses enough world-weary je regrette rien to make her swoon and substitute his beloved rum for a curative cup of hemlock. An affable opportunist who is also sincere, Punch tells her that she saved his life, and dedicates himself to her as much as her modest inheritance and his dissolute ways will allow. The only sin Punch acknowledges is the sin of being ordinary, and this borders on the nihilistic, giving weight to his suicidal endgame. “Nothing’s right or wrong, good or bad. Just more or less interesting,” he says.

In the “you complete me department,” Punch provides what Juliette lacks. “ … I always wanted to be a writer. We read about Hemingway in high school, and I’d be an adventure-novelist myself, if I had the brains -- which I don’t. I know my limitations. So being with Punch is the next best thing, the only thing for me.” Juliette possesses what Punch walked into the 7-Eleven for in the first place, money -- and lucky for him, also the instant compassion of a needy person. Juliette brings more to the relationship than complacency and care-giving; and if their first meeting doesn’t limn her as a chance-taker, one of her private pleasures is to wander Key West at odd hours and “flash” passersby. Punch, on the other hand, is a diabetic and a little less mobile, and seems weary of the day-to-day. He’d rather spend his time slouched on a bar stool than writing his much-vaunted but unseen novel, which he musters the courage to do when Juliette gently prods him. Aside from being Punch’s sweet-natured taskmaster, Juliette is also his muse. “I don’t interfere with his art,” she says, “I just set up interesting situations to stimulate it.” But what this pair are really doing is living their lives on their terms; and as Juliette’s inheritance dwindles the situations become more interesting.

They soon realize that armed robbery, another form of experience for the book, could also be a way to solve their cash-flow dilemma and spice things up a bit. First, they break into Key West’s Ernest Hemingway House & Museum, intent on theft. While there, Punch raises the ante to the house limit when he strikes and kills an elderly security guard. Free from compunction for lesser crimes, they then work their way up to robbing restaurants for food, and ultimately emptying the pockets of patrons at the fancier restaurants in town. The press covers their exploits and they gain some renown and a reputation to uphold.

Juliette is willing to follow her partner to the end, though she carries the hope that he can be rehabilitated. “But if Punch writes his great American Novel,” she muses, “I’m figuring he’ll want to live. He’ll be happy forever and won’t have to drink himself into a coma anymore.” Yet this outcome is not to be.

The titular “voluntary madness” in Hendricks’ tale is alcohol, something Punch submits to almost nonstop. As the two plan their path to oblivion, Juliette knows the best way to keep Punch sober is to keep him busy. (“I’m amazed at the way he can stay sober when he has mischief in mind.”) As much as she loves Punch when he’s sober, and as deep as her commitment is to his doomsday plan, the irony is that this busyness will lead to the completion of their misguided life’s work.

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The Performance Paleo Cookbook: Recipes for Training Harder, Getting Stronger and Gaining the Competitive Edge by Stephanie Gaudreau

You’ve heard to it referred to as the Caveman Diet. And, no: you don’t eat cave men. Rather, at its simplest, on the Caveman Diet you don’t eat things that would have been available to prehistoric humans, avoiding foods like dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils and refined sugars. Plus you eat meat. A lot of meat. No vegetarians need apply. The goal is to lose weight, increase energy levels and detoxify the system. This is not the place for those who choose diets for ethical reasons. Results are the thing. Results that are sleek and firm and strong. Full stop.

In The Performance Paleo Cookbook (Page Street), author Stephanie Gaudreau takes all of this to new levels. This is not Paleolithic Diet 101. Rather Gaudreau’s book focuses on using food as fuel to bring your personal machine to whole new performance levels. For a first take on high performance eating, you could take a run at a book Gaudreau co-wrote in 2014: The Paleo Athlete: A Beginner’s Guide to Real Food for Performance. Nor was she even then a newcomer to the Paleo diet. Her web site, Stupid Easy Paleo has been running hard since 2011 (ancient history in the Paleo diet world). Gaudreau’s mandate with the book is very similar to that of the web site: simple, easy-to-follow recipes that “stay true to the roots of Paleo” along with great resources for a paleo lifestyle.

Gaudreau knows her stuff and it shows. The Performance Paleo Cookbook is filled with nutrient-dense recipes you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Imagine Blueberry Pork Patties. Curried Lotus Chips. A Swiss Chard Salad that is beyond belief and a whole lot of desserts that will put wanna-be cave people into dinosaur heaven.

This is great stuff. True to form, Gaudreau makes something that can seem complicated quite simple. And in The Performance Paleo Cookbook she does it beautifully and with style. A great (and perhaps necessary) addition to the gym rat’s cookbook shelf as well as those considering new options for age old questions. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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Friday, March 06, 2015

This Just In… The Circle (Circle of Conspiracy Book 2) by Cas Peace

The Alliance is crumbling. 

Driven to madness by the abduction of his son, King Elias declares war on Andaryon. Sullyan knows the Andaryans are blameless, still reeling from the abduction of their own prince and the subsequent collapse of the Hierarch, but Elias will not listen to reason. 

While he gathers his forces to march through the Veils, the real conspirators remain free to wreak havoc on both sides of the conflict. Branded a traitor by her king, and with the rift between her and Robin widening, Sullyan embarks on a perilous search for the missing princes. Bloodshed is inevitable and innocent lives will be lost, but the war must be stopped. If she fails, it will mean death for both princes and disaster for the Five Realms. 

“Cas Peace’s Artesans of Albia trilogy immediately sweeps you away: the drama starts with King’s Envoy, continues unabated in King’s Champion, and climaxes in King’s Artesan, yet each volume is complete, satisfying. The Artesan series propels you into a world so deftly written that you see, feel, touch, and even smell each twist and turn. These nesting novels are evocative, hauntingly real. Smart. Powerful. Compelling. The trilogy teems with finely drawn characters, heroes and villains and societies worth knowing; with stories so organic and yet iconic you know you've found another home -- in Albia. Now there’s ... Peace’s forthcoming sub-series, the Circle of Conspiracy trilogy, proof of more Albian tales on the way. So start reading now. I, for one, can’t wait to find out what will happen next.” -- Janet E. Morris: author of The Sacred Band of Stepsons series; the Dream Dancer series; I, the Sun; Outpassage. 

You can order The Circle here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, March 05, 2015

E-Book Readers Want a Trashier Experience

Do readers of electronic books desire a trashier reading experience than those who read in more traditional forms? That’s what international bestseller Fay Weldon (The Ted Dreams, Mischief) seeemed to suggest when the 83-year-old author spoke at The Independent Bath Literature Festival. From The Independent:
Authors should write a literary version for publication in print form, and a racier “good-bad” version for those who use e-readers such as the Kindle. Weldon revealed she had considered expanding a recent e-book novella for print.
“Writers have to write now for a world where readers are busy, on the move and have little time for contemplation and reflection,” she said. “The writer has to focus on writing better, cutting to the chase and doing more of the readers’ contemplative work for them.”
Recent research would seem to back Wheldon’s theory:
 A European research network studying the effects of digital text reading said “research shows that the amount of time spent reading long-form texts is in decline, and due to digitisation, reading is becoming more intermittent and fragmented”. 
Alice Mangen, of Stavanger University in Norway, a lead on the study, said it “might make a difference if the novel is a page-turner or light read…compared to a 500 page, more complex literary novel.”
Weldon wrote on her blog that the works that sell best in e-book form were fast-moving event-driven stories “with no lingering on obscure complicated ideas,” and that authors should “abandon literary dignity” and write two versions of the same novel. She added: “Writers can’t expect the same version of their book to serve both markets.”

This Just In… Universeros by Harold R Miller

Penn Gwinn wasn’t interested in another assignment. But his curiosity is piqued when his Control Agent mentions one of his best friends, as well as the mysterious coins known as Universeros. 

The pursuit of the Universeros takes Penn through the desert of Northern Mexico and the jungles of South America, one step ahead of ODESSA -- an international Nazi network set up to facilitate secret escape routes for SS officers, as well as across the U. S. Mexico border, where he becomes enmeshed in skirmishes between the Minutemen and the ACLU. As libidinous red-haired women and duplicitous conspirators attempt to confound him, exposing the darker side of those he considered friends, the stakes get higher: the mysterious coins... and murder.

You can order Universeros here. Visit author Harold R Miller on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Happy World Book Day!

Whether or not your city or even country participates (yet!) today is World Book Day. If your community is part of it, go out and play. If not? Maybe you’re just as lucky: you can feel justified in grabbing some extra “me” time to read a book!

Didn’t get enough time to plan? Don’t despair: the UN’s World Book and Copyright Day is coming up on April 23rd. Irina Bokova, director general of the UN says, “Our goal is clear -- to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.” You can get more information here.


Sunday, March 01, 2015

Does Harrison Ford’s Participation in Blade Runner Sequel Confirm Deckard is NOT a Replicant?

Harrison Ford will reprise his role as Rick Deckard in a sequel to Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic, Blade Runner. After much speculation, Ford is confirmed to return in the upcoming production. From Collider:
Harrison Ford is officially returning as Rick Deckard in the sequel to Alcon Entertainment’s Blade Runner with Academy Award nominated director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) in talks to direct. Last we heard about the film Ridley Scott, who directed the original 1982 film and will produce the sequel, confirmed earlier reports that Ford was interested in the script and said the film would shoot this year.
Turns out Scott was optimistic. Ford will return, but production is not slated for early 2016. Before that, Ford will be seen in The Age of Adaline and the much anticipated upcoming Star Wars: Episode Seven.

Fans are talking, though: does Ford’s participation as a much older Deckard confirm that the character was not a replicant? We’re undecided.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Life-Changing Books

Can a book change your life? Staunch readers will invariably say so. For those people, as well as those who just love lists, comes the crowdranking Ranker, whose various lists include one that does just that: ranks books that “Changed My Life.”

The most life changing books, ranked by the wisdom of the crowd of hundreds of people. If you are looking for books that will change your life, these have the themes, characters and story-arcs to do it. From the courage and determination of Frodo as he ventures into Mordor to the conviction of Atticus as he defends a man a whole town has already condemned, there are countless books to add to your list of books to read to change your life.

Top Ten “Books That Changed My Life”
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  5. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  8. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  9. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
See the other 90 here.

New Sherlock Holmes Story Discovered

We’re beginning to wonder what on Earth could be next! First the To Kill A Mockingbird prequel was announced. Then a lost Dr. Seuss manuscript was uncovered. And now… a long-forgotten story by the master himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Scottish historian Walter Eliot has discovered a short story written by the Sherlock Holmes creator in support of a rebuilding project for a local bridge. From The Telegraph:
It is believed the story -- about Holmes deducing Watson is going on a trip to Selkirk -- is the first unseen Holmes story by Doyle since the last was published over 80 years ago.
Mr Elliot, a great-grandfather, said: “In Selkirk, there was a wooden bridge that was put up some time before it was flooded in 1902. The town didn't have the money to replace it so they decided to have a bazaar to replace the bridge in 1904. They had various people to come and do things and just about everyone in the town did something.”
What Doyle did was donate “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar” for inclusion in a book of short stories published to conceder with the fund-raising bazaar.

You can read the complete story here.


Friday, February 20, 2015

New Dr. Seuss Book to be Published in July

February 2015 may well be remembered as the month lost works by beloved authors were uncovered. First, of course, the To Kill a Mockingbird prequel, due now to be published this summer. And now a lost (or perhaps discarded) Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? has come to light. From The New York Times:
Random House has announced the publication on July 28 of “What Pet Should I Get?,” the story of a brother and sister searching for the newest member of the family. The manuscript had been in a box that was discovered in the home of Dr. Seuss (otherwise known as Theodore Geisel) in the La Jolla section of San Diego, shortly after his death in 1991, and set aside. In 2013, Mr. Geisel’s widow, Audrey, and longtime secretary and friend, Claudia Prescott, went through the box and found the nearly complete manuscript, along with other unpublished work. 
Cathy Goldsmith, the vice president and associate publishing director at Random House’s children’s publishing division, said in a statement that the book seems to have been written between 1958 and 1962, given that the brother and sister are the same as those in “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” which was published in 1960.
Are there ethical questions at play here? Probably. Theodore Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss, was a notorious perfectionist. It’s quite possible this is a work he did not think was up to snuff, else why not submit it to his publisher himself? Though when he died in 1991, Geisel had left no specific instructions regarding the fate of What Pet Should I Get, we can’t help but be reminded of the debate which sprung up prior to the publication of the Nabokov novel that was ultimately published as The Original of Laura in 2008.

Whatever the case, a brand new Dr. Seuss book will be published in July, the first one since Oh, the Places You’ll Go! came out in 1990, the year before the author’s death.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

This Just In… Crescent City (An Alec Winters Series, Book 1) by Chariss K. Walker

Alec Winters quietly moves through the streets of New Orleans, the Crescent City, looking for predators -- those who destroy and prey on innocence. Trained in close-hand combat, he uses these skills when necessary to kill the offenders. Sometimes, his military training isn't needed at all. Sometimes, the only thing it takes to end the lives of wicked, evil men is one look at him. 

After two suspicious murders in only a short time, the main problem Alec faces in his quest of redemption is a nosy reporter. Vivien Simon came to the metropolitan area to do a series on the effects of Hurricane Katrina -- with crime rates on the rise, her interests are drawn to the seedier aspects of the city. She’s hoping to get the story that will make her career. When she discovers that both murder victims were pedophiles, Vivien begins a newspaper and blog campaign that frightens parents and turns the city upside down. 

Some say the perpetrator of the murders is an angel while others insist it’s a devil. With contrasting accounts, Vivien wonders if a vigilante is on the loose -- or worse, a serial killer. She’s hell-bent on discovering the truth, but her persistence and stubbornness might bring her closer to death and damnation than she ever imagined. 

No one can stop the Angel of God… and they wouldn't want to get in his way.

You can order Crescent City here. Visit author Chariss K. Walker on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Game of Thrones Fans in for a Surprise

Those who love the oft-bloody Game of Thrones television series, based on the books penned by George RR Martin, are in for a surprise in season five. According to the author, even fans of the books won’t know in advance who will get axed. From Esquire:
While those with novel knowledge were a step ahead of the virgin crowd, their safe days are over. Like Nostradamus, Martin arrived to Sunday night's Writers Guild West Awards with an apocalyptic vision, telling Showbiz411 that characters set to die in Game of Thrones Season Five didn't necessarily die in his original tomes. "Even the book readers will be unhappy," Martin says. "So everybody better be on their toes. [Showrunners] David [Benioff] and D.B. [Weiss] are even bloodier than I am."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, season five will premiere at a red carpet gala at the Tower of London.
The premiere, on March 18, will mark the first time a season of the HBO fantasy series has debuted in Europe ahead of the U.S. Sky is HBO's pay-TV partner in Western Europe and airs Game of Thrones across its markets in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

James Franco to Star in Stephen King Adaptation

A nine-episode adaptation of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 has been announced, with James Franco now tapped to play the starring role. From Vulture:

[Franco will] also be a producer on the project, which is from J.J. Abrams’s Warner Bros. TV–based Bad Robot Productions. Franco will play the central character in the show, a time-traveling English teacher named Jake Epping who heads back to 1963 on a quest to halt President Kennedy’s assassination. 

See the full piece here. January Magazine’s review of the book is here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fifty Shades Film Opens to Good News

The film adaptation of E. L. James’ 2011 novel will open in time for Valentine’s Day dating, but theatre goers can anticipate more sex than romance. Roughly one fifth of the film is devoted to sex scenes and those who are familiar with the the premise of the book already know that what we’re not seeing in the film will be implied. From The Sunday Times:

Fifty Shades of Grey is set to be the raunchiest film for more than a decade, featuring a dozen erotic scenes that account for a fifth of its running time.
Reports from previews ahead of the film’s launch on Valentine’s Day suggest it features about 20 minutes of sex during its 100-minute running time.

And even prior to its official release, the film starring Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Marcia Gay Harden and Luke Grimes has been given the nod for two sequels. Both Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed will be adapted for the screen. From MTV news:
The news was announced on Friday morning (February 6), when Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and author E.L. James hit New York’s Zeigfeld Theatre for the “Fifty Shades First” fan screening event. The fans in attendance started freaking out almost immediately, to the point where one might even say their inner goddesses were soaring.


Second Harper Lee Novel Fans Literary Flames

It is unsurprising that, during debates of whether To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee intended her about-to-be-published novel, Go Set a Watchman, to be published or not, the ghost of Truman Capote should raise his head.

There have always been rumors that Capote, a childhood neighbor of Lee’s, actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. But those close to Lee scoff.
For Lee’s place as America’s First Lady of letters has been soured by persistent rumours that it was Capote and not her who was largely responsible for the original story about small-town Southern life in the Fifties and a heroic lawyer who tries to save a black man from a terrible injustice. Capote went on to have a long and glittering literary career, but Lee retreated into reclusive obscurity, stating she had said all she needed to say in print.

For sceptics, it has always defied credibility that an unknown writer could produce a single, perfect novel and then pack away her typewriter for good and completely disappear from public life.

Surely she would want to write more. Could her half-century of silence — not to mention her drastic falling out with Capote — have a more extraordinary explanation? The circumstances surrounding the sudden appearance of this new book, Go Set a Watchman, similarly almost defy belief.
Later, Lee and Capote’s estrangement added to the rumors:
While he was boasting of an affair with Errol Flynn and being pals with Greta Garbo, Lee retreated behind a small circle of trusted friends and maintained a wall of public silence.
When Lee helped to promote the acclaimed 1962 film version of her book starring Gregory Peck, Capote sneered: ‘I think it very undignified for any serious artist to allow themselves to be exploited in this fashion.’
Lee told a neighbour: ‘Truman was a psychopath, honey.’
Her older sister, Alice, was more precise, claiming: ‘Truman became very jealous because Nellie Harper got a Pulitzer [Prize, for literary achievement] and he did not.’
The announcement of the summer 2015 publication of Lee’s second novel have fanned the rumor flames.
Some now say that what has been called the ‘Loch Ness monster of the literary world’ — the dispute over this revered book’s authorship — may finally be solved by this second Harper Lee novel. But will it? 
If Go Set a Watchman — being published unedited — is far inferior, does that really prove she must have had help with her later masterpiece?
And if it turns out to be every bit as brilliant, couldn’t a counter argument simply run that Capote might have written both books? No doubt we will learn more later this year.
Perhaps the best approach is simply to be grateful that a story of such elegance and power as To Kill a Mockingbird was given to us at all.
The Daily Mail story quoted above is here.

Innovations in Reading

Let’s get people reading! That is the subtext -- and more! -- of the National Book Foundation’s “Innovations in Reading” program. And the biggest part of the upside? The most innovative individual or foundation out there will take home a $10,000 prize.
The National Book Foundation’s 2015 Innovations in Reading Prize will award $10,000 to an individual or institution—or partnership between the two—that has developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. In addition, the Foundation will select four honorable mentions. Applicants should be VITAL demonstrating Vision, Ingenuity, Transformation, Achievement & Leadership.
Applications must be in by February 28th, and you can get full details here.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

This Just In… Be a Critical Thinker by Donald L. Karshner

“Donald Karshner offers students and teachers alike practical guidance to developing and applying critical thinking skills in a wide array of common situations, ranging from watching television to parsing political arguments to governing organizations and people wisely. Anyone who seeks to be consciously engaged with the world today will find value in this thought-provoking book.” -- Douglas Rorapaugh, a Pastoral Counselor and Theology teacher 
When reading the newspaper, listening to politicians or discussing current events, how can you determine whether the facts and opinions shared are truthful and accurate or misleading and false?

Donald L. Karshner has had a lifelong interest in developing critical thinking skills. Inspired by his granddaughter, who was open to suggestions as she went off to college, Karshner began compiling his advice on honing critical thinking. This book evolved from the few pages he had written for his granddaughter. 

Be a Critical Thinker offers a clear process for applying critical thinking skills to scrutinize ideas, facts and interpretations, even when they are inconsistent or contradictory.

By applying the skills of critical thinking, you will be better equipped to clarify your thinking process, to intelligently critique what you read and hear, to correct errors, to dispel misunderstandings and ignorance, and to make a positive contribution to a discussion or debate.

You can order Be a Critical Thinker here. Visit author Donald L. Karshner on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


For Sale: JD Salinger’s Writing Retreat

Anyone wanting to create a life as a recluse writer could do worse than Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger’s New Hampshire estate, currently being offered at $589,000. From Top Ten Real Estate Deals:

The Cornish home where Salinger lived and wrote from the 1950s to the 1980s is now for sale. Cottage-like, charming and ensconced in a lush setting of nature on a quiet road in his quest for privacy, Salinger also bought the land on the other side of the road, ensuring that no other house could be built whose owners could gaze into his personal life. It’s a secluded 12 acres with plantings of foliage and flowers around trees, paths, woodland trails and green lawn with dappled sunlight. There is also a creek and view of Mt. Ascutney over a valley of treetops. The 2,900-square-foot home blends seamlessly with the surrounding woodland and consists of four bedrooms, two baths, a combined family room-kitchen with fireplace, large living room with beamed ceilings and an apartment above the garage where Salinger would escape during marital conflicts. Another interesting thing about the house is the tunnel that connects the basement of the house with the basement of the garage, the purpose of which was never discovered. 

Salinger died in 2010 at age 91. If you feel like it’s been a while since you heard anything about him, get ready for the silence to end.
During his years of seclusion in New Hampshire, Salinger continued to write, but never published, a series of books that expanded on the lives of some of his most popular characters, including The Catcher in the Rye. Before he died, Salinger carefully laid out a directive in his will for a publication schedule of the books beginning in 2015.