Talking About Books . . .

The Today show has just started a book club.  The first selection is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, and sales of the book have skyrocketed since the announcement.  The club will choose a book every four to five weeks with some choices being fiction and others nonfiction.  Book publishers are understandably overjoyed since Oprah Winfrey’s book club has shown just how much the right kind of publicity from the right place can boost sales.  You can see a video from the Today show here, and read an article about the book club here.

And here is the article from USA Today that was mentioned on Today.

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As you surely know, Elmore Leonard recently died.  Many of the articles about him mention his 10 rules for writing a book.  I particularly like rule 10.

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Nathanial Rich of The Daily Beast is writing an article about one novel that was published in each year from 1900 to 2013.  He started with years ending in 2: 1902 (Brewster’s Millions by George Barr McCutcheon), then 1912 (The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson), and continued up to 2012 (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain).  Then he started with the 3s: 1903 (The Call of the Wild by Jack London), and has recently reached 1973 (The Princess Bride by William Goldman).  I assume that he will finish the 3s and then move on to the 4s.

Why is he doing this, and how does he choose the books?  “In each column,” Rich says, “I’ll write about a single novel and the year it was published. The novel may not be the bestselling book of the year, the most praised, or the most highly awarded—though awards do have a way of fixing an age’s conventional wisdom in aspic. The idea is to choose a novel that, looking back from a safe distance, seems most accurately, and eloquently, to speak for the time in which it was written. Other than that there are few rules. I won’t pick any stinkers.”

The Princess Bride was made into a film in 1987, with the screenplay also written by the book’s author William Goldman.  It became a cult classic much to the surprise of many including its director Rob Reiner.  In 2012 Reiner and the movie’s two main stars were reunited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film.  I include this segment from the Today Show because I think the film – one of my favorites – was that rare movie that was even better than the book.

At the end of Rich’s article about The Princess Bride there is a list of other notable books published that year, and a list of other books that Rich has written about.  I think you’ll find something interesting to explore – and some old memories may resurface.

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I know we keep track of suspected terrorists, and hate groups, but I didn’t know until after Miley Cyrus did her infamous dance with Robin Thicke on TV that there is a group that has a watch list for suspected new words.  That’s right, the people who are responsible for updating the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) have kept track of the word “twerk” for 20 years, but they’re still not sure that it’s worthy of inclusion in the OED.  You can read about one word’s long odyssey to achieve legitimacy here.

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There’s talk that the reclusive J. D. Salinger who recently died wrote five books that will be published starting in 2015.  Is it true?  That’s as unclear as most everything else about his life, but the curtain of silence surrounding him might finally be lifting.  CBS Sunday Morning had an interesting story about Salinger in which a woman who knew him finally talks after 60 years of silence.

Screenwriter Shane Salerno spent $2 million of his own money to produce a documentary on Salinger which he claims will answer many of the unanswered questions about the reclusive Salinger.  The documentary is now in limited release in theaters throughout the USA.  Here is the first trailer.

Salinger, despite his reclusiveness, did have friends with whom he corresponded.  One was a Bavarian Jew named Werner Kleeman.  How the two men met, and how writer Shelley Salamensky learned about their long-term friendship is the very definition of serendipity.

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In response to a short story that appeared in the June 26, 1948 issue of The New Yorker magazine Camilla Ballou of St. Paul, Minnesota wrote, “I read it while soaking in the tub . . . and was tempted to put my head underwater and end it all.”  That is not the typical response to a short story, but in the case of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” it was one of the most genial responses from the magazine’s readers.  Other people were so irate that they blasted the magazine for publishing such tripe and cancelled their subscriptions.  But the general response ran along the lines of “what in the world is the meaning of this story?”  Many people have expressed their theories, and even Jackson gave a number of different answers to that question.  I think this is a case where your interpretation depends on how you look at the story, and how you look at it is certainly dependent on your past life experiences.

There is a very interesting article in The New Yorker about the response to Jackson’s story immediately after it was published, but I strongly suggest that you read “The Lottery” before you read the New Yorker article.   The story won’t be hard to find because it is one of the most anthologized American short stories ever written.  However, be aware that the story is very disturbing, so if you can’t handle that sort of thing, then don’t read it.

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Authors are often influenced by the writing of other authors, so the Huffington Post asked 20 famous authors to name their literary role models.

And earlier this year Flavorwire asked some poets to name their favorite books of poetry.

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The two main characters for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie have just been named, and many fans of the book are irate – so irate that they have started a petition to change the lead actors.  That’s passion of a different kind, isn’t it?

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And finally, USA Today has published its list of the 30 coolest books for the fall season.  So many books, so little time.

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