Thursday, May 31, 2012

Never Shoot a Stampede Queen Will Be Feature Film

Toronto-based Middle Child Films will develop Vancouver journalist and screenwriter Mark Leiren-Young’s Leacock Award-winning memoir, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, as a feature film.

The book engagingly describes Leiren-Young’s recollections of cutting his teeth a young reporter in the rough and rural Cariboo-Chilcotin region of British Columbia in the 1980s. The Globe and Mail described the book as “the Wild West mixed with Capone-era Chicago with a soupçon of Jim Crow Deep South segregation and an unsavory dash of perversion.”

“The great thing about this,” Leiren-Young says about the film deal, “is that the producer is the friend who made this book happen.” The author said that when producer Tony Wosk read the original manuscript several years ago, he “immediately abused me for abandoning it. Then he told me he only had one problem with it as a book. The original structure was completely chronological, so there was no sense the stories would get as dark as some of them do until almost 100 pages in.” Wosk encouraged Leiren-Young to begin with a dramatic incident and then flashback from there.

“I’m not sure I quite slapped my forehead like the guy in those old V-8 commercials,” says Leiren-Young, “but I’m not sure I didn’t.”

Middle Child has received funding for the option from Astral Media’s The Harold Greenberg Fund. Leiren-Young, who previously worked with Middle Child Films on the award-winning feature, The Green Chain which he wrote and directed, is adapting his book for film.

The Toronto-based film production company headed by producer Tony Wosk recently released The Samaritan, a neo-noir thriller from director David Weaver starring Samuel L. Jackson, Luke Kirby, Ruth Negga and Tom Wilkinson. In 2011 they released Leiren-Young’s The Green Chain, a faux documentary about the battle between loggers and environmentalists in a small British Columbia logging town. They are currently in production on a documentary about Canada’s forgotten comic book superheroes called Lost Heroes.

Holmes’ Home Saved

Undershaw around 1900. Doyle's children,
Mary and Kingsley, are on the driveway.
Sherlock Holmes fans can heave a sigh of relief. Undershaw, the Grade II listed building near Haslemere in Surrey where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 13 of the Holmes stories, and that had since fallen into disrepair, has been reprieved from planned development. From The Guardian:
In 2010, Waverley borough council decided to allow the owner, Fossway Ltd, to divide up the property. Campaigners trying to save the house as a single entity launched a judicial review, and have now won their case at the high court in London. Mr Justice Cranston said legal flaws meant that the council's decisions to grant planning permission and listed building consent must be quashed. 
Hailing victory in "a long and difficult battle" to save Undershaw, [representing lawyer John] Gibson said: "This is a place which is steeped in history and should be treated with reverence. Conan Doyle's life and works are a fundamental part of British culture and arguably their stock has never been higher. We have been absolutely delighted to see enthusiasts from across the world get in touch and pledge their support to our efforts.
Undershaw’s ties to Doyle are undisputed. The writer lived and entertained there for several years:
Conan Doyle chose the location for Undershaw in accordance with the needs of his wife, Louise, who suffered from consumption. Before Louise's death in 1906, when he remarried and moved to Crowborough, the author entertained friends including Peter Pan author JM Barrie and Dracula creator Bram Stoker. 
In a 1907 article, Stoker described Undershaw as having "all the elements of home" and said the view from the drawing room was one of "a never-ending sea of greenery" to the South Downs. Conan Doyle did not sell Undershaw until 1921 and, in 1977, it was listed as being of special architectural and historic interest because of its literary association.
The full piece is here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SF/F: Under My Skin by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is one of the ranking names in SF/F. With 36 novels to his credit, as well as 36 collections of short fiction, he is prolific as well as fiercely talented.

While de Lint has published fiction for young readers in the past, those works have been much overshadowed by his novels and stories for adults. For instance, 2007’s Little (Grrl) Lost and The Painted Boy from 2010 seem to have been well enough liked by both readers and critics, but they didn’t ever get the kind of traction we know this writer is capable of. Under My Skin (RazorBill) is different and we can’t help but think that it will receive at least part of the attention a book with this pedigree deserves.

The premise is very good. Something is happening to the young people in a town called Santa Feliz. And the thing that is happening is so dramatic, it’s difficult to believe. The kids are changing shape: shedding their human forms and becoming various animals. Basically, if you can think of it, the animal is represented. These are shape-shifters with a difference.

The action focuses on Josh Saunders who shifts for the first time during an argument with his mother’s boyfriend that, from Josh’s perspective, goes from argument to Josh standing over the man, as blood drips from his mountain lion claws. Josh’s experience almost undoes him, but he will emerge from his experience as one of the leaders of the wildlings.

de Lint is credited with the creation of the urban fantasy and readers will encounter that in this story. The setting is perfectly contemporary -- anytown and any group of kids. In a way, that’s what makes the story so chilling and helps make it work this well.

As well, de Lint captures the voice and concerns of youth perfectly in this novel. The master storyteller at play. The book is a wonderful exploration of a very good idea, but it is also a deeply human tale. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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Art & Culture: Elevating Western American Art: Developing an Institute in the Cultural Capital of the Rockies edited by Thomas Brent Smith

There was a time not so very long ago that the art of the American West was not given serious shrift by the fine art mainstream. That was then. But if you are unconvinced of the breadth and quality of the work that continues to emerge from the West, Elevating Western American Art (Denver Art Museum) is quite likely to change your mind.

The publication commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art. The book includes 30 essays by art historians from across North America as well as a deep and searing look at the collection itself.

And it’s a terrific collection. From historic works of the type we tend to associate with art of the American west -- Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Charles Deas and the like -- to some really astonishing contemporary work, the book showcases the museum’s mission to “recognize and promote the significance of the West in the larger picture of American cultural development.”  One can’t read Elevating Western American Art without thinking that, at least on certain levels, they have achieved their goal. ◊

David Middleton is art & culture editor of January Magazine.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cookbooks: The World’s Best Street Food by Lonely Planet

Having long been the ultimate word on travel with a twist, Lonely Planet now delivers on the current widespread interest in street meat with The World’s Best Street Food: Where to Find It and How to Make It, which is really a pretty terrific book.

Though it’s a bit of a reach and the whole thing could easily have gone badly, this book really works! If there is a country not included here, I can’t discern what it is. All of the expected international favorites are here, as well as many that those who have not traveled to the country in question could never have imagined. “This is a book dedicated to some of the greatest eating in the world,” Tom Parker Bowles writes in an introduction. “Clasp it to your chest and hit the streets. Gastronomic bliss awaits.”

Each example of street food is represented by a two page spread: the food itself in situ on the left -- what is it, how to find it, variations and origins. On the right is how to make your own version at home, with possible substitutions in cases where it is necessary. For instance, the book points out, the cheese curds found in every Montreal supermarket and one of the basic ingredients in Poutine is not widely available anywhere else. The book points out that mozzarella makes an acceptable substitution.

The foods included are as varied and interesting as the places themselves. Meat pies from Australia. Lobster Rolls from Maine. Red Red from Ghana. Stinky Tofu from Taiwan. Tamales from Mexico. Som Tam from Thailand and the sandwich that’s gotten to be such a favorite in much of the west of late, Banh Mi from Vietnam.

This is a great book. It’s sure to make you hungry or want to travel. Or both. ◊

New Today: Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

The homage to Joseph Heller in the title of Melanie Gideon’s debut novel is not an accident. “I think marriage is a sort of Catch 22,” Gideon said in a recent interview. “It’s strange how some of the little quirks and eccentricities of your mate that you found so charming in the beginning -- that may have even contributed to you falling in love with them -- 20 years later are the things that drive you absolutely crazy.”

Imagine Bridget Jones a couple of decades on and the “happily ever after” has turned into “another day of this?” and that will get you pretty close to the basic headspace in Wife 22 (Ballantine).

Twenty-two years into her marriage and Alice Buckle’s life is unravelling. Her marriage is dying, her kids don’t need her much anymore and her job doesn’t do anything to fill the holes in her heart.

A marriage survey Alice finds and in her spam folder ultimately leads her on a path of self-evaluation she could never have anticipated. She is “Wife 22” in the study and she knows her caseworker only as “Researcher 101” but through a serious of carefully posed, insightful questions, Alice begins to see herself and her life in a new light… and the light isn’t always good.

Gideon is the author of The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily After, fingered as a book of the year by both NPR and the San Francisco Chronicle. Wife 22 seems like the perfect fictional companion to that book and why not? Following a memoir that did as well as that one with a quirky feel-good coming-to-middle-age story seems almost like natural progression. I would not be at all surprised if Wife 22 (Ballantine) were to become on of the big books of the summer of 2012. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

New in Paperback: Truth Be Told by Larry King

Those who enjoy Larry King’s odd style and eclectic guest list as well as his acerbic and slightly off-the-wall approach will have no trouble getting into Truth Be Told, new in paperback from Weinstein Books this month.

The subtitle summarizes: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions. And, truly, King really has asked a lot of questions over the last 50 years!

Enjoyably for his readers, King is the ultimate name-dropper. “When I interviewed President Obama…” King says at one point. “No interview was quite like Brando’s” he says at another and “Gaga told me she’s constantly thinking of unique ways to shock and annoy people,” he says at another still. If you’re looking for big, dark insights on the many, many people King has interviewed, you won’t find them here. Rather, these are chirpy observations and friendly anecdotes and -- somehow? -- that’s just right. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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A Beach, a Book … and Thou

Though they don’t use the words, Flavorpill’s round-up of “10 Highbrow Books to Read on the Beach” may as well be called “What You Want People to Know You’re Reading.”

Sure: there are some terrific books here, but Flavorpill’s readers aren’t indulging in Fifty Shades of Grey or even the latest Mickey Spillane via Max Allan Collins. Rather they include I Am an Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran, the dependably manic The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt and the darkly thoughtful novelization about the fall of the Romanovs, Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison.

None of the summer reading we’re doing at January Magazine is available to you yet, but a fast poll of some of our reviewers has us thinking that the next few months are going to produce some sensational reading.

The Sword & Sorcery Anthology (Tachyon, July) includes work by George R.R. Martin, Fritz Leiber, Joanna Russ, Jane Yolen, Ramsey Campbell and other contemporary masters of fantasy. “Blood will flow, heads will roll, dragons will soar, and the dead shall rise.” There ya go: what could be better at the beach?

Gigi Levange Grazer’s The After Wife (Ballantine, July) follows up the bestsellers Maneater and The Starter Wife. So does the ex-wife of über-producer Brian Grazer know a couple of things about the Hollywood lifestyle? We’re thinking she’s got that beat wrapped up.

Chrissie Manby is kind of a big deal in the UK, but Random House would like to see that happen on the other side of the pond, as well. Their first big attempt is with Getting Over Mr. Right (Random, July), a contemporary romantic romp that’s a very long way from Downton Abbey.

Last year Canada gave the world Patrick DeWitt and his incredibly well-received The Sisters Brothers. This year’s hot young Canadian could well be Pasha Malla. Malla’s wildly anticipated first novel, People Park (Anansi, July), follows up a widely acclaimed and awarded debut collection, The Withdrawal Method.

One of the publicists flogging Dustin Thomason’s 12.21 (Dial Press, August) describes the book as “brain candy.” With a plot steeped in Mayan predictions and neuroscience, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that, before the end of the book, the fate of our world will hang in the balance. Yikes!

Billie Livingston’s writing (Going Down Swinging, Cease to Blush) is sharp, stylish and fiercely smart. Thus far, we’re loving One Good Hustle (Random Canada, July),  a coming-of-age novel as different as anything you’ve ever read.

And there are lots of surprises in Carsten Stroud’s (Lizard Skin, Black Water Transit) new thriller Niceville (Knopf, June). A young boy goes missing and the search to find him shows that the kid’s hometown isn’t nearly as (ahem) nice as it seems.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Children’s Art Auction for Free Speech

Those attending Book Expo America in New York City next month might want to consider taking in the ABFFE's (Mostly) Silent Children's Art Auction & Reception to Support Free Speech for Young People on June 6th.

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is hosting an auction of original children’s art from leading illustrators and authors. The annual event is one of the highlights of the children’s book industry and funds from the auction benefit the organization’s Fund for Free Speech in Children's Books.

Advance tickets for the auction and reception are $75 for booksellers who are members of the ABC Children's Group and $95 for all others. Tickets purchased onsite will be $105 ($85 for booksellers who are ABC members).

Full event details can be found here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Literary Icon Carlos Fuentes Dead at 83

There has been a universal outpouring of love and remembrance for Carlos Fuentes since the death of the Mexican literary icon was announced yesterday. As The New York Times reminds us, “Mr. Fuentes was one of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world, a catalyst, along with Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar, of the explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and ’70s, known as El Boom. He wrote plays, short stories, political nonfiction and novels, many of them chronicles of tangled love.”

Fuentes, 83, died Tuesday in Mexico City, where his doctor had found him at home with an internal hemorrhage. He died later in hospital.

Over at NPR, Linton Weeks recalls spending time with Fuentes in Washington, DC in 1995 when he was interviewing the author for The Washington Post. Weeks’ recollections offer a visual and intellectual portrait of the man and are among the most tactile and personal I’ve seen. Writes Weeks:

He wound up following his father into diplomacy and, of course, becoming one of the greatest writers of his generation, along with his friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The books of Fuentes were -- like the man himself -- a melange of age and youth, politics, philosophy, popular culture and sexuality.

Drawing his portrait for The Post, I described him as movie-star suave and good-looking. His cologne smelled of limes. The hair behind his temples was brushed back and, as I wrote then, looked like small silver wings above his ears. His gray mustache was supergroomed. To me, he looked like William Faulkner or Claude Rains in Casablanca.

During our hours together, over a couple of days, I asked him about many things:

What is the trick of describing someone? "I use a lot of film images, analogies," he said. "And imagination."

I asked him about his writerly fascination with sex. "Sex," Fuentes said, "as anything else in life, is an avenue to literature. Without literature, it would have no meaning. I am a literary animal. For me, everything ends in literature."

In 2000, January Magazine offered a review of an excerpt of Fuentes then-current novel The Years With Laura Diaz. You can see that excerpt here.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

January Interview: Dan Chaon

Dan Chaon was initially known for his exceptional short stories including the collection Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. And then he wrote two extremely well received novels: You Remind Me of Me and Await Your Reply. His newest offering, Stay Awake finds him once again writing stories that will remain with the reader for a very long time.

“Writing is different than waking life,” Chaon says to MaryAnne Kolton in an exclusive January Magazine interview. “I don’t feel any urgency to explore the stuff that makes me comfortable and content. I'm after some kind of shadow-self, or shadow-life, not the same as my own. I’m interested in outsiders, not because I am one but because I feel I might have become one. I’m interested in people who screw up and do desperate things because, even though I’m generally conservative and cautious in my approach to the world, I have thought screwed up and desperate thoughts. I am interested in scary things because walking through them somehow makes me feel calmer and safer.”

See the rest of Kolton’s discussion with Chaon here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fiction: Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt

It’s faintly terrific to see Patrick DeWitt’s mostly unremarked 2009 debut getting a second spin. Ablutions (Anansi) is a very different creature than DeWitt’s sophomore effort. Last year The Sisters Brothers went on to win the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was a finalist for both the Scotiabank Giller Award and the Man Booker Prize. In short, The Sisters Brothers created a hulabaloo with both readers and awards judges and made the kind of impression that had everyone looking backwards as well as forward. After all, if The Sisters Brothers was all that terrific, what on earth had we already missed?

On the surface of things, Ablutions is a very different kind of book. Slender. Contemporary. Unexpectedly dark. DeWitt’s observations are searingly trenchant in an oddly poetic way. There were elements of romp to The Sisters Brothers, a sort of dark reimagining of a western tale. Ablutions, on the other hand, is everything but funny. Or rather, in some ways the book is hilarious, but it’s a self-conscious hilarity, because just so much is going wrong.
Discuss the regulars. They sit in a line like ugly, huddled birds, eyes wet with alcohol. They whisper into their cups and seem to be gloating about something -- you will never know what.
The protagonist is a Hollywood barman, collecting experiences for a book about his clientele. At first we are amused by his observations, as indeed is he. Little by little, though, we see him lose himself in an ever-deepening vat of over-indulgence and addiction, padded by self-loathing and, ultimately, attempts at self-destruction.

This is the sort of novel that other writers might try to make redemptive. Not DeWitt, though. In some ways, Ablutions is a seedy, boozy haiku. Reed thin, yet razor-sharp and as muscular as can be. This earliest DeWitt is brilliant. A tautly wound forecast of things that were, upon publication, still to come. ◊

Jones Atwater is a contributing editor to January Magazine.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Non-Fiction: Bad Mommy by Willow Yamauchi

Prior to the birth of our children, we are given to believe that, while motherhood may not be a walk in the park, exactly, some instinctive something will kick in when the time comes and we’ll know what to do. Willow Yamauchi (Adult Child of Hippies) doesn’t believe that.

“The cruel truth,” Yamauchi warns in the introduction to Bad Mommy (Insomniac Press), “is being a good mommy is pretty much impossible. This creature exists only as a figment of our collective hope that we can actually be everything that our families need us to be. We all try to be good. And the truth is you will fail.”

To back up her statement, Yamauchi has rounded up 22 bad mommies to tell their stories of good attempts that got away. “This is not about evil mommy,” Yamauchi assures us, “this book is by, about, and for the many women who are somewhere between Joan Crawford and June Cleaver.”

Which, just as you suspected, is everyone. Possibly even you.

In texture, Yamauchi’s book is not greatly different from Ayelet Waldman’s 2009 Bad Mother (Doubleday), which was also released on Mother’s Day. However, ultimately Waldman’s look was snarkier, the humor slightly more remote. Yamauchi, on the other hand, mostly plays it for laughs, though the laughter is tempered by pathos and the reader can’t help but hear an unspoken refrain: we started out wanting to be perfect, yet we are not. And where does that leave us? Laughter is often a far better response than tears.

Happy Mother’s Day! ◊

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


Wednesday, May 09, 2012


You can say you love books until you’re blue in the face, but unless you have bookcases, all your book-based friends are going to end up on the floor. That, at least, seems to be the premise behind Bookshelf, a blog completely focused on -- you guessed it -- shelves for books.

Unsuprisingly, few of these look anything like what you might think of us normal bookcases. The swirl, they turn, they enhance.

Edited with passion and pride by author and journalist Alex Johnson who is also the creator of Shedworking, a similar but quite different blog.

The Daily Telegraph describes Bookshelf best. “In this day of e-readers and downloads,” they wrote, “it is refreshing to see a celebration of the real thing -- books. Bookshelf does so in a relevant rather than nostalgic way, taking a look at clever, beautiful and useful examples of modern shelving design.”

You can get to Bookshelf here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Maurice Sendak Dead at 83

Wildly beloved and splendidly remembered, Maurice Sendak died earlier today of complications due a recent stroke.

Best known as the creator of the Caldecott-winning children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak was considered by many to be one of the most important author/illustrators of children’s books of all times. According to the New York Times obituary, Sendak, “wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche.”
In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
A largely self-taught illustrator, Mr. Sendak was at his finest a shtetl Blake, portraying a luminous world, at once lovely and dreadful, suspended between wakefulness and dreaming. In so doing, he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.
The Times has more here.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Non-Fiction: Emotional Equations by Chip Conley

Every once in a while, you come across a book that changes the way you think about life, yourself, and what’s possible. Emotional Equations (FreePress) is such a book.

I was always taught -- or maybe I just assumed -- that emotional and rational thought were two very separate things. Much as I might understand something rationally, how I processed it and what emotions that process inspired were other matters altogether.

In Emotional Equations, Chip Conley has found a way to combine the two modes of thinking into one. In language that’s direct and spare, yet also somehow intimate, Conley suggests that if we break down what we’re feeling into bite-sized emotional elements that can be understood rationally, we should be able to find better balance in our lives. What’s more, maybe we’ll find some of the answers that have proven to be elusive, even stubborn.

 Conley, a well-known and much-admired speaker, has written Emotional Equations so that it applies to both one’s business and one’s life. The equations appear, on the surface, to be easy, and that’s the point. No need to be intimidated here, folks. But there’s a great deal more to each equation, more ways to apply it to life, than perhaps it seems at first.

Take the first couple: despair = suffering – meaning and disappointment = expectations – reality. It’s not enough that these make sense if you stop to think for a moment. Conley delves deeper into the equation. He shares how he discovered it, who and what his influences were, and how you can apply the equation to what you’re feeling right now. At times this is fun, at other times eye-opening. Now, subtraction isn’t the only game Conley’s playing here. The equations touch down at many points in the math spectrum. For example, anxiety = uncertainty x powerlessness. Why multiplication and not addition? Because in this case, the variables aren’t additive; something happens when you multiply that doesn’t happen when you add. Something compounds. Take curiosity = wonder + awe. From a mathematical standpoint, that makes more sense as addition. It’s fun to see what Conley will come up with next. You’ll find chapters on regret, jealousy, workaholism, your calling in life, authenticity, integrity, happiness, joy, wisdom, and more. He breaks them all down into their component parts and even shows you how to create your own emotional equations. And yes, though the math gets complicated at times, the writing doesn’t. Believe me, you won’t get lost, no matter how you did on the math portion of your SAT.

I’ve never read a book like Emotional Equations. Clearly, Chip Conley is more than a speaker. He’s a reader, and he’s an open book, as it were, about what he read and analyzed to come up with the ideas he shares here, starting with Abraham Maslow. I was impressed, again and again, with the intellectual leaps Conley made. This book won’t just go onto a shelf, out of reach. Rather, it’ll be one I need close by, to refer to again and again. ◊

Tony Buchsbaum, a contributing editor of January Magazine and Blue Coupe, lives in central New Jersey with his wife and sons. These days, he is writing his second novel. Again.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Cookbooks: The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler

Could there ever be a sillier or more derivative or even more exploitive idea than a cookbook based on a blockbuster fantasy series? And yet somehow, despite all these perforative thoughts, The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook (Adams Media) really kinda works.

In some ways, this is the ultimate fan fiction: taking the sights and sounds of a series of books transformed into a successful television series and remaining it in food. Make no mistake, though: readers unfamiliar with the television series based on the books by George R.R. Martin will find themselves in a sea of unfamiliar names and references. So many, in fact, that there wouldn't really be much point. Take this preface to a recipe for “Jeyne’s Stewed Onions and Leeks,” for instance:

“Humans, no matter what nation they are from or what kind of family raised them, are innately sensual," writes author Alan Kistler in the introduction. “We always find ways to carry ourselves to places and times beyond our physical reach.”

With Queen Jeyne so attentive, Robb need never go hungry, even when he’s busy making plans for his next attack on Lannisters.

Or this one from the recipe for “Pentoshi Stinky Cheese Plate”:

Any friend of his friend across the narrow sea is a friend of Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos. This is very fortunate for a certain Lannister who found himself in grave circumstances and in need of some hospitality -- and a prodigious amount of wine.

Want something even stupider and more derivative? How about The Game of Groans: A Sonnet of Slush and Soot (St. Martin’s Press) by (wait for it) George R. R. Washington. I may be missing something, but I really don’t get it. While parodies like this and last year’s The Girl With the Sturgeon Tattoo are often sharp and even funny, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever think the laughter would buoy them through the ten dollar investment necessary for the trade paperback original. With so much deeply funny original material out there, why would anyone even bother? ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

“Amazon Studios” Looking for New Types of Content

Never happy too far from the center of things, Amazon is no longer content with only having set the publishing industry on its ear. Next? It’s Hollywood’s turn. The Seattle-based online bookseller has begun inviting proposals for original comedy and children’s material to be distributed through Amazon Instant Video. From the Amazon site:
We’re looking for compelling new voices and characters that you can’t find anywhere else. Specifically, we’re seeking primetime comedies and children’s series.

Comedy series should be smart, character-driven and, of course, funny. Learn more.

We’re also interested in original series for children. Preschool series must have an educational theme, or the potential for one. Learn more.

Series can be live action, animated, stop motion or mixed media. Comedies must be 22 minutes long, while children’s series can be 11 or 22 minutes.
According to PaidContent, “Amazon will ‘option one promising new project and add it to the development slate where it will be tested for viability with an audience’ each month, the company says in a release. If a show is optioned, the creator gets $10,000. If Amazon decides to develop the show as a series, “the creator will receive a $55,000 payment, up to 5 percent of Amazon’s net receipts from toy and t-shirt licensing, and other royalties and bonuses.”

PaidContent has more here. The Amazon Studios web page is here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Children’s Books: Big Nate Goes For Broke by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate Goes for Broke (HarperCollins) is the fourth installment in the Big Nate Series. The books are based on the popular comic strip by Lincoln Peirce (pronounced “purse”). A cartoonist who lives Maine, Peirce started the Big Nate comics himself and he still does them. He started the books not too long ago, and has satisfied anticipated readers for years now, growing his beloved spiky-haired character into a popular franchise.

Filled with comics and sketches, Big Nate Goes for Broke is filled with comedy and sarcasm. Not to mention the hilarious face Nate constantly makes when he’s annoyed or being sarcastic. I agree with Jeff Kinney who says that Big Nate is hilarious and perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Peirce also makes this graphic novel fun with codes, games, sneak-peeks and more!

This book in the Big Nate Series is stomach-cramping with its comedy. Nate Wright and his school, P.S. 38, are arch rivals with Jefferson Middle School. They always lose to them, and Nate and his school have had enough. But it gets worse: After a massive water leakage in P.S. 38, the students must temporarily attend class at Jefferson! The kids there are jerks: They ruin Nate’s friend’s medical donut, cause Nate to break his arm, and even cheat at a snow sculpture contest.

What will Nate do? There’s only one way to find out. ◊

Ian Buchsbaum is a kid who loves to read. In fact, the only thing he loves more than reading is writing. He loves writing about books -- and he's already writing one of his own.


Who Needs Authors Anyway?

With all the huffing and puffing about e-books, DRM and digital rights, one could easily get the impression that these are the only challenges heading at the book industry. It’s possible, however, that all of these issues are just the teensiest tip of the iceberg. Sure, authors have problems now. But in the future? Maybe authors won’t be needed at all. Digital rights? Easy peasy. But digital literature? That’s something else altogether. From The Huffington Post:
It could soon be possible to create your own book without writing a word. Using a later version of "Rokfor" software first demonstrated in the Encyclopaedizer project in 2003, Swiss networker and literary critic Beat Mazenauer is putting together plans for a website where you can assemble your own publication. Simply type in the subjects that interest you and leave the computer [to] do the rest, trawling through a vast database of resources from books and the internet to collate a cut-and-paste text that you can download to your computer and ereader, or print out. It's your book and you're the co-author. Right?
It might be scary or it might be exciting or it might be some of both. In any case, the piece in its entirety is here.