Friday, September 23, 2011

JPatt Redemption?

And on the 118th day, JPatt gave away $70,000 worth of Indiebound gift certificates to college-bound high school seniors.

From ABA's Bookselling this Week (September 22, 2011):
Bestselling author James Patterson has announced the launch of the second annual College Book Bucks program supporting college-bound high school seniors. The 230 winners of the College Book Bucks contest will receive gift certificates ranging from $250 to $1,000 apiece for use at any IndieBound-affiliated independent bookstore.

High school seniors headed for college can enter the competition by visiting and submitting an essay that answers the question “How has your favorite book inspired you toward what you’d like to do in life?”

How can I hate so hard on this guy now? My world is crumbling around me! Everything I believed in is a lie!!!

Nicely played, Patterson, nicely played - you smashed this one right into my face. Although, you DID make $84 million last year, so giving away 70 grand isn't THAT great...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jack Taylor is my BFF

Is there anything better than settling in for the evening, pouring yourself a stiff drink, and finishing a new Ken Bruen novel?

In Headstone, Ken's latest Jack Taylor novel - and the first of his to be published with Otto Penzler's revitalized Mysterious Press (see the awful jacket ARC version at left) - Jack has worked out an equilibrium with the pints and the Jameson (the Jay) and the cigs and his battered, half-deaf, limping self. He's gotten himself a ladyfriend - they even spent a week together in Paris, in a decidedly un-Jack turn of events. Life is good... But lest we forget, this is Jack Taylor. Brace yerself, for right on Jack's turf there's a group of Galway kids methodically beating, murdering, and 
"...ridding the city of:
the misfits,
the handicapped,
the vulnerable,
the weak, 
the pitiful."
It's only a matter of time before Jack gets involved, being a misfit and all. Not to mention, de facto defender of the pitiful. Of course, as usual, he gets in over his head, at least at the start of things, and ends up - forgive me - getting his ass handed to him. But there's no keeping auld Jack down for long...

The thing I love about Bruen's novels is that they sort of help me reset my reading compass. As I read book after book of "serious" fiction - Eugenides, Ondaatje, Denis Johnson, Ron Hanson, etc, etc, blah, blah - it helps me to regroup & recenter a little bit with a healthy dose of Jack Taylor from time to time. The books only take me a matter of hours to get through - not because of anything but the machine-gun fast pacing and ripping-quick, brilliant dialogue. Jack holds a lot of disdain - mild hatred, even - for pretty much everyone he meets, with the exception of a select few friends. He's without a doubt, THE best guy to have in your corner. But whether he stays in that corner from day-to-day, is another matter. 

I'll leave you with this little bit from Headstone, which I particularly enjoyed - I think it gives you the perfect sense of what kind of a fellow Jack is. (He's not particularly a fan of Catholic priests, I'll have you know.)
"I'm Father Gabriel."
Like I should know?
I asked,
"Like the Archangel?"
Too easy, but what the hell, how often do you get a Dan Brown moment, especially when he said,
"You know your angels?"
I countered,
"And my demons."
The smile vanished. Just folded its tent and fucked off. He asked,
"Is there somewhere...less public we might talk?"
I bit down, asked,
"The confessional?"
He was seriously tiring of me, so I said,
"The River Inn, across the road, does a rather good lunch."
I added the rather just to keep him off balance.
Some of the smile slithered back. He said,
I mean, outside of Booker nominees, who talks like that?
He added, 
"My treat."
My cup fucking overfloweth.
See? Quit wastin' time & get reading. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Art of Fielding

Before the weekend, I grabbed a copy of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach as I was leaving work. I've been hearing kind of an insane amount of buzz about this debut novel (actually, since BEA in May, and I wasn't even there) & I thought I'd give it a look-see on my day off. Before I could start it, however, I read an article in the October issue of Vanity Fair entitled, "The Book on Publishing" written by Keith Gessen - yes, I occasionally read VF for the articles. After that, I dropped the other books I was reading & started Harbach's novel.

This is as much an endorsement for Gessen's article as it is for Harbach's novel - of which I am only 50 pages deep, so who knows how its really going to go. Gessen, an old friend of Harbach's and fellow co-founder of the lit journal n+1, chronicles the entire process of getting The Art of Fielding published - which is completely fascinating, to say the least. From the decade Harbach spent crafting his novel and the endless rejections & pitches to agents, to the eventual, breathless acceptance and the headline-grabbing $665,000 bidding war between publishers. Then to the exhaustive editing process (at the hands of the great Michael Pietsch, multi-talented editor of David Foster Wallace and James Patterson), to the cover design, galley printings, and a full-on analysis of the economic state of the industry - this is the first time I have seen the whole deal so eloquently laid out before.

As if that weren't enough, there's this other bit: Gessen has no reason, really, to pad the egos of independent booksellers in his article. We often feel like the red-headed stepchildren of the book industry, living in the shadow of giants like B&N and Amazon, complaining endlessly about how no one's got our backs, customers are heading for the hills, pubs are ignoring us, Amazon is trampling us, yadda yadda. The following bit from this article, however, renewed my faith in the indie's place in all this:
I was surprised to hear from Heather Fain, the head of marketing at Little, Brown, about just how much energy goes into wooing the independent booksellers. They are visited by salesmen and sent galleys; at BookExpo there is a dinner for them. All this, because they, more than anyone else, can put a book into someone's hands and urge them to read it. Would Fain, if she could, trade the affection of these booksellers for any single item of publicity? A positive review in the Times would not be enough, but how about the cover of the Times Book Review? It would depend on the review, said Fain. "If it is a rave review, if Jonathan Franzen wrote it and said, 'This is the new me,' or Don DeLillo wrote it and said, 'I will never write a book again because this man has written anything I could ever do'" - well, in that case, maybe, but only because the booksellers would really enjoy a review like that.
I can't seem to find the full article on Vanity Fair's website (here's an excerpt of the novel, though) but if you are at all interested in the process of publication, pony up for the whole magazine. Or... somewhat ironically (and depressingly) Gessen's full article is available as a VF eBook for $1.99 at the Nook & Kindle stores. Sigh. (There's another roundup of the article on PW's blog as well.)

Oh, one last thing - this review quote appears on the back of the book:
"Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding is one of those rare books - like Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh or John Irving's The World According to Garp - that seem to appear out of nowhere, and then dazzle and bewitch and inspire until you nearly lose your breath from the enjoyment and satisfaction as well as the unexpected news blast that the novel is very much alive and well."  -James Patterson