Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cradle by Somerville

At the annual Wisconsin Library Association conference this year, I was lucky enough to sit in on a panel discussing some of 2010's best books. One of the books mentioned was Somerville's, "The Cradle." Clocking in at a mere 200 pages, it can be read in a couple of sittings--which is easy to do when a book is as descriptive and flows as well as this one does.
The story centers on Matthew Bishop and his wife Marissa who are looking to recover an antique cradle Marissa slept in when she was a child. Matt embarks on a road trip to track down Marissa's mother and the mysterious cradle. From Wisconsin to Minnesota, Illinois, and beyond in search of the cradle, Matt makes a discovery that will forever change Marissa's life, and faces a decision that will challenge everything he has ever known.
To use the words from the book jacket: "elegant and astounding."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eat, Sleep, Read & Be Merry!

Booksellers at Red Fox Books, Glen Falls, N.Y., modified IndieBound Eat, Sleep, Read posters, adding a "holiday" word to each, and featured them in the store's eight windows, Red Fox's main decorations for the season. Co-owner Susan Fox reported "a lot of good feedback."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Connelly VS Paramount

Bosch is back, after 15 years in "Hollywood development hell." reported that since 1996, Michael Connelly and his signature character, Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, have been locked in a battle with Paramount: "Connelly's first two Harry Bosch books, Black Ice (1992) and The Black Echo (1993), were optioned by Paramount back in 1995. But Paramount never developed either book into a film, to Connelly's big disappointment. Worse, Connelly had given Paramount ownership of the Harry Bosch character, so the other 13 books couldn't be made into movies, either."

Last January, the option expired and Connelly had a one-year window to buy back the rights, though he would also have to pay Paramount for "all out-of-pocket costs, advances and payments' incurred by the studio, plus interest." Connelly sued the studio in March to seek an accurate accounting for the buy-back price. That lawsuit was settled in October. "All I can say on the record is: 'The case has been settled in a confidential agreement,' " Connelly noted.

So what does the future hold for Bosch? Although Connelly can't discuss specifics yet, wrote that earlier this year the author had said, "Harry could have a life on TV. Just about every other year, I write a TV pilot. I want to get further into the [entertainment] business than writing books and then standing on the sidelines watching them be turned into a movie. I'd like to be more creative. And television really attracts me. But I have not been successful in that."

The screen future for another of Connelley's characters, lawyer Mickey Haller, is more certain. Shooting wrapped in August for a movie adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey, and the movie is set for a March 18 release.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cool Idea: Penguinmobile 4 Sale

Last summer, Penguin's 75th anniversary celebration included a mobile version with a 2010 Mini Cooper SD that traveled across the country to literary and book events, where it gradually collected the dashboard autographs of 18 Penguin authors, including Garrison Keillor, William Kennedy, Geraldine Brooks, Michael Pollan, Sue Monk Kidd, Jan Karon, Rosanne Cash, Nathaniel Philbrick, TC Boyle and many more.

Now these literary wheels can be yours. The vehicle is being offered on for $30,000. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to the New York Public Library. Penguin said the price reflects the unusual background of the vehicle, its excellent condition and an option you won't find with other used cars: this Mini Cooper comes with the top 75 titles published by Penguin Books over the past 75 years.

"We priced the car at the top of the price range you would find for a used 2010 Mini Cooper on because of the special and unique nature of the vehicle," said John Fagan, v-p, director of marketing, at Penguin. “We'll consider all offers, but are obviously looking to get as much for the vehicle as possible as all the proceeds benefit the New York Public Library, one of New York City’s most treasured institutions."

Melanie Kovach,'s general manager of private seller service and sales, added, "When Penguin approached us to assist them in finding a buyer for this unique vehicle and for this great cause--the New York Public Library--we immediately said 'yes.'

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Portnoy's Complaint....

Phillip Roth is still writing nail-biting, controversial books that depict more angst than seems humanly possible. And I love him for that. After going on a binge recently and reading a steady string of his works, I decided to head back to the books that began it all~Portnoy's Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus. While only halfway through Portnoy's at the moment, it is clear that Roth delivered early on what he is famous for: that raw protagonist whose life seems a series of misadventures, and who brings out our most hedonistic, human impulses.
And the laughter. I can't help but laugh reading Roth. Whether he means us to or not, I could care less (as an homage to Portnoy, of course). His maniacal, brilliant, yet disturbing images just bring out the cackle in me. Ask my neighbors. I'm pretty sure they think I'm practicing to be a comedienne at this point.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oprah's New Pick!

Oprah Winfrey went “old school”--her words--in selecting two 19th century novels for her next Oprah’s Book Club pick. Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, both by English master novelist Charles Dickens, made Oprah’s reading list. On her Monday show, Oprah urged her audience to read Dickens over the holidays, confessing she had never read him. The novels are available from a number of publishers. For book club purposes, Penguin had produced a paperback edition containing both books.

Freedom author Jonathan Franzen appeared right before the pick was disclosed on the show to discuss his bestselling novel, which Winfrey had previously made a book club selection. Franzen famously expressed hesitance in 2001 over her pick of his earlier novel The Corrections. The reading taste-maker thereupon dis-invited him from her show. The two hugged and spoke cordially on Monday. Affirming that he was a “Midwestern egalitarian” and not a woman-reader hating snob, a jeans-clad Franzen told Oprah “it’s an honor to be here.” He called A Tale of Two Cities “a page-turner.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Visiting Twain

Tuesday is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Clemens, the writer we know as Mark Twain. This year also marks the 125th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece Huckleberry Finn. And last month, 100 years after Twain's death, the world saw the publication of his official autobiography, a tome that has become so popular in recent weeks that bookstores cannot keep it in stock.

Fans of Twain may be surprised to learn that the author wrote Huck Finn — along with his other classic works about life on the Mississippi — in upstate New York, in a small writing cottage at his sister-in-law's summer home in Elmira. NPR made a pilgrimage to the site of Twain's brilliant writing life — and to the place that the author is buried — to learn the stories behind one of the satirist's favorite places.

The Writing Study — Full Of Cats And Cigars

Quarry Farm overlooks the dairy country of the Chemung River Valley in the Finger Lakes District of western New York. In his letters, Twain called the Farm "the quietest of all quiet places." He described the view as "an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills." It was looking at this view that Twain wrote some of the most beloved works in American literature, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi and The Prince and the Pauper.

'The Autobiography Of Mark Twain': Satire To Spare
But when Twain arrived in the sleepy New York town in 1868, he had not yet begun to write novels. He was already the well-known author of a book of travel writing (The Innocents Abroad) and had come to Elmira to court Olivia Langdon, the daughter of the richest man in town. When Twain and Langdon were married in 1870, they settled in Hartford, Conn., with their four children, but Twain continued to do most of his writing when he returned to Elmira to visit family every summer.

While in Elmira, Twain began writing his great works in a small study — 12 feet across, with eight sides and a large window in each face — built to mimic the pilot house of a riverboat. His tiny writing room was moved from Quarry Farm to the Elmira College campus for preservation in 1952. NPR observed the space with Twain scholar Michael Kiskis. "On this side and the other side, you'll see these little holes with grates over them," Kiskis described. "Those are the cat doors. He absolutely loved cats, and their company when he was writing in this building. You probably know he smoked a lot. He averaged between 30 and 40 cigars a day. So you gotta think of smoke, and cats and lots of paper, and breezes coming through."

'A Real Chance To Put Down Roots'

Twain was not a solitary man when he stayed in Elmira — although he had traveled across the country after leaving his rural Missouri hometown and gone to such far-flung places as Hawaii, Europe and the Middle East, the attraction to Elmira was the stable family environment and many personal connections.

"He'd been such a vagabond in the years between 17 and 30 — this gave him a real chance to put down roots," says Kiskis. "To be kind of hugged by a big family. And I think he really appreciated that. If you look at the major novels that frame his career, look how many of them deal with questions of family."

Twain's Resting Place

Elmira provided Twain with such strong ties that the town also represented the end of his family. The author is buried on a hill at Woodlawn Cemetery there, along with his wife, all of his children and his only grandchild, who had no children. The gravestones tell a sad story — his son Langdon died as an infant. His daughter Suzy died when she was 24 of spinal meningitis; his wife died when she was 58; and his daughter Jean, an epileptic, died at age 29, when she drowned in her bathtub on Christmas Eve.

It was this family sadness that ultimately drew Twain away from Elmira — he could not return after Suzy's death in 1896. His final summer homecoming to the town where he composed so many masterpieces came when he was laid to rest, 100 years ago.

It was a beloved place for the writer who captured America so clearly. In writing about the Chemung River, which he would view from his rocking chair each summer night, Twain summed up his feelings about Elmira: "Once or twice each night, we'd see a Steamboat slipping along in the dark. And every now and again, she'd belch a whole world of sparks up out of her chimney. And they would rain down in the river. And look awful pretty."