Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Regan-omics

I love myselfHere's a little FYI, for anyone who cares. I, for one, do not. No, seriously, unless she kills OJ, I will never speak of this again.
- Judith Regan, former head of ReganBooks, has settled her lawsuit against her former employer, News Corp, out of court. (Regan, responsible for trying to publish the OJ book last year, was suing over a variety of reasons, including, being labeled as "anti-Semitic" and "devoid of any integrity", having her career ruined by a News Corp smear campaign, being a generally disgusting human being, yadda yadda yadda.) Their joint statement following this momentous occasion informed us that “the parties are pleased that they have reached an equitable, confidential settlement, with no admission of liability by any party.” Even better, News Corp also wanted to express "thanks (to) Ms. Regan for her outstanding contributions and wish(es) her continued success." Rupert Murdoch and Ms. Regan then decided to make out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Brian Selznick, the Man

I know it seems improbable that I would be discussing or endorsing a (gasp!) children's book, but you've got to check out The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Brian lives part-time in San Diego and is a frequent visitor to Warwick's - and is one of the nicest guys and the most humble author you could ever meet. He just won the 2008 Caldecott Medal, as well - given to the year's best illustrated children's book - and this month at least, he's bigger than JK Rowling. Here's the NY Times piece on Brian from this week. For the record, I knew Brian waaaaaaaaaaaaaay before all this and I'm not jumping on some bandwagon.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Vikram Chandra

Vikram ChandraMarko meets Vikram Chandra, author of Sacred Games - one of The Book Catapult's 2007 Notables - last week at Warwick's in SD. (Vikram is the shorter Indian man on the right.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Blood Kin" by Ceridwen Dovey

In 1985 (translated into English in 1998), Egyptian Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz wrote the little known, highly ambitious novel, Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth, in which the controversial Egyptian pharaoh is eulogized by numerous narrators – each with their own, first-person chapter - who claim to have known him well, creating a complex, all-encompassing portrait. The reader is left to judge for themselves what sort of man the self-proclaimed Sun King was – since there are so many conflicting perspectives, there is no definitive answer. Now, I'm not saying that South African/Australian debut novelist Ceridwen Dovey is the next Mahfouz, but she at least employs a similar, multi-layered narrative in her upcoming novel, Blood Kin. Set in an unnamed nation, the novel is told in the alternating perspectives of the barber, the chef, and the portraitist of the freshly overthrown president. After a military coup, these three men are imprisoned in a presidential palace, high in the hills above the city, where they speculate on their fates, and that of their leader. Through their self-preserving narratives, we are able to piece together an image of what the president was like, at least in the eyes of those closest to him. But is this the whole story - even of the men telling it? Of course not, so the second half of the book is told from the perspectives of the predominant women in each of the men's lives, which gives a very different version of the circumstances, both surrounding the deposed president, as well as of the men telling the tale. As the story unfolds, the truth embedded in the novel's title begins to reveal itself and all is not as we once believed. A beautifully written, brilliant, unfolding onion of a book.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Key to the Duma

I don't know if this was a snarky response to my repetetive blathering about Mr. King (more than likely, I'm sure) or whether Simon & Schuster are just unaware of my history with him (impossible!), but I received this in the mail last week. Get your copy of Duma Key by Stephen King on January 22 at an independent bookstore near you!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yes We Can

The Book Catapult is endorsing Barack Obama for President. Watch this video and feel the love.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Reading is Fun-damental

During THE HOLIDAYS, the book world experiences a huge burst of buying activity, of course, much like all of retail. But the question for me has always been, how much of these purchased books are really getting read? How many are just given as gifts-as-status-symbols or perceived examples of giver intelligence? I ask these things now after reading this fabulous article in the NY Times by Motoko Rich - check it. I think Rich has an in with a bookseller somewhere, as she hits the first pitch out of the park with "The Landmark Herodotus" - the season's poseur-intellectual non-fiction book pick. I would guess that 80% of those that purchase it will never give its insides more than a cursory glance, yet it looks really smart sitting amongst your other dusty tomes. And, granted, fiction like "Tree of Smoke" may earn extra purchases simply from its National Book Award, being one of the New York Times' Top 10 Books of the Year, and making it onto Seth's 2007 Notable List. And I will admit that it is more of a so-called, "difficult" read than some of the other books I read last year - Thom Geier of Entertainment Weekly said, in the course of the Rich article, that "Denis Johnson is a purveyor of rather dense prose that can be as thorny and complicated as a Laotian jungle" - but it still needs to be read. Honest!

My point is this: books are meant to be read, not shelved, otherwise, what's the point really? I've always been a firm believer that you really should never give someone a book that you've never read yourself. Yes, sometimes this is impossible - there are some people out there who actually had "The Landmark Herodotus" on the Christmas wishlist they sent to Santa - but it is a good rule to try and follow. How can you know if it is any good if you haven't read it with your own eyes. If you were moved to tears by Stephen King's "Cell", by all means, spread the love. (Please note that I wrote "moved" and not "reduced to" or "bored to". Thank you.) And the notion that "the idea of a book - and its physical presence - is as important as content", as Motoko Rich says, is just utter nonsense. See the article below from a "genuine news source" for more on that subject. (FYI: Pynchon's books collect dust on the shelves of the rude and snooty all across America, so don't feel bad if you don't know who he is.)

The Onion

Man Reading Pynchon On Bus Takes Pains To Make Cover Visible

PHILADELPHIA-According to riders on the eastbound C bus, John Bolen, 23, made a conscious effort Monday to make the cover of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying Of Lot 49 visible to all on board.