Andre Agassi’s new book is going to be great. Everyone everywhere is writing about how the tennis player is admitting to meth use. What I have read about only at ESPN, however, is that Agassi’s collaborator on the book is Pulitzer-prize winning author JR Moehringer. I loved Moehringer’s memoir The Tender Bar so much I was all but handing it out on street corners. I’ve been waiting for his next book. This is it.
Another blog becomes a book. The 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son blog has magically transformed to Rules for my Unborn Son – the book. The blog features bonus advice, such as this one from PJ O’Rourke: “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
Cory Doctorow has a new novel out called Makers. His Little Brother was a big hit (x2) around these parts. Like all of his books, Doctorow is also giving this one away for free if you want to check it out.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons has new book about basketball that’s making the rounds. I have been a regular reader of Simmons’s columns on Page 2 for years. It seems with every successive interview that Simmons is trying to come off as a bigger jerk than in the previous interview.
The new Superfreakonomics is chock full of – something. Read the digested version at The Guardian.
Wired brings the Fake AP Stylebook to our attention. Fascinating stuff. Did you know for example that the correct Fake AP Style is to: “Refer to him as ‘President Obama’ when he first appears in an article, ‘Soul Brother Number 1‘ in subsequent mentions.”
The Online Universities blog, a distance learning site of discerning and exemplary taste, has posted a list of 101 Book Blogs You Need to Read. You should check it out. I’ll show you the part that caught my eye:
Note: The actual web site linked above may appear slightly different in your web browser than this artist’s rendering.
They appear to be entirely sincere and serious, too. I was sure I was being Punk’d. But, no. Accordingly, I’m humbled by and thankful for the the shout out. Wow. We’ll take it. I will also note that the list was not prepared by my mother.
Whenever I see a list like this, I always look to see what’s missing. At the risk of jeopardizing my own place on the list, here are a few blogs that I’d add to the list:
- Carolyn Kellog’s Jacket Copy
- Largehearted Boy (as much about music as about books – all the better we say)
- Maud Newton the blogger laureate of the litblog world
- the wisecracking Book Ninja
- Melville House Publishing’s thoughtful Moby Lives
What about you? What are your must read book blogs?
In a move that should surprise no one, I had to read the book The Wild Things by Dave Eggers prior to seeing the Spike Jonze movie, Where the Wild Things Are. Both are based on the Maurice Sendak classic, and the Eggers book is ostensibly a “novelization” of the Jonze film. In the acknowledgements section of the book, Eggers explains it like this:
The children’s book Max is, after all, a version of Maurice, and the movie Max is a version of Spike. The Max of this book, then is some combination of Maurice’s Max, Spike’s Max, and the Max of my own boyhood.
One big difference between the book and the film: Eggers spends much more time with Max at home before setting off for the island of the Wild Things. The book naturally has the room to explore the roots of Max’s angst on a deeper level than the film. The Eggers super-combo Max is caught up in the swell of emotion just as much as the other incarnations of the boy in his wolf suit. In the world of Egger’s Max though, the adults have a hand in instigating the wild rumpus.
Sure, Max’s mom is divorced and seeing the milquetoasty Gary. And things may be a little unsettling for an 8-year old when he spends the night at dad’s place. It’s the world at large that seems to have lost its grip on reality. One neighbor scares Max by chasing him down the street to make sure that he gets home safely on his bike, even though it is within viewing distance on a quiet street. Max isn’t wearing a helmet! And he is alone! Max is also forbidden from riding his bike to school after a concerned neighbor complains to the administration. Repeatedly.
He thought that Max’s unchaperoned riding was attracting potential child-abductors and child-assaulters. ”Just as a liquor store attracts drunks,” he’d written in a note to Max’s mom, “so does an 8-year-old riding alone attract all sorts of unsavory types…”
Tellingly, there is one adult who understands Max instinctively, an elderly man named Mr. Beckmann:
Mr. Beckman’s eyes were dangerously alive, punctuated by brows so thick and mischievously arched that he seemed at all times to be plotting a great and dastardly plan.
Max told him about soaking Claire’s room with water.
“What’d you use?” Mr. Beckmann asked. ”A bucket?”
“Yeah, I would have used a bucket, too.”
In my mind, Mr. Beckmann is clearly an homage to Maurice Sendak of recent “go to Hell” fame. The grouchy mischievousness. The perfect understanding of what is to be a kid. It’s all there.
I loved Eggers’s take on the Wild Things as you may have guessed. It’s much more than just the standard official movie tie-in cash grab. The novel is a spectacular reminder of what it feels like to be a kid. And for kids, it’s a great adventure. That the novel can work on both levels is remarkable enough, but that it can also be heart wrenching, funny, and completely moving is a testament to the creative force of Dave Eggers. Feel free to disagree, but don’t be surprised if you get a “go to Hell” in return.
My windshield view of Where the Wild Things Are at the Starlight Drive-In.
Wired hearts the new Barnes & Noble e-book reader, Nook.
At The Guardian, the top 10 literary anti-heroes.
You don’t think that the Wild Things movie was appropriate for kids? Maurice Sendak says you can go to hell.
Helena of the Swedish book blog Bokhora lists some of the things that she has done instead of reading new Dan Brown book:
Combed the cats.
Empty the litter box.
Empty blöjhinken. (?)
Sticking with the theme of the intersection of books and music, let’s talk about Joe Pernice. Pernice currently leads the band the Pernice Brothers and was formerly frontman of the Scud Mountain Boys and Chappaquiddick Skyline. Pernice also appeared as “the bearded troubadour” on the final episode of the Gilmore Girls, one of the most literary television shows ever (eyeball the chicanery of the first guy singing in this clip), thereby sealing his place as one of “my kind of guys”.
When I saw that Pernice had penned the novella Meat is Murder (centered around one of my favorite Smiths albums), I bought it immediately. I crushed on the book in this review way back in 2005 when BGB was in its infancy. I’ve been waiting for Joe Pernice’s first novel, It Feels So Good When I Stop, ever since. It was worth the wait.
The title of the novel is the punchline of a joke – Q: “Why do you keep [pick a self defeating behavior]?” A: “Because it feels so good…” I’m not a big fan of the term “loser”, so let’s call the unnamed narrator of It Feels So Good an anti-hero. Although he is intelligent, college didn’t exactly fulfill its promise. He’s a talented musician, but the kids don’t seem to get his music. He’s lost his job. He has no place to live. And there are female troubles:
When I met Jocelyn I knew within minutes I was going to marry her or completely destroy my life trying. It never occurred to me that both things could happen.
Actually our anti-hero has gone AWOL on day two of his marriage. He finds himself broke and on his sister’s doorstep in Cape Cod. Not the part of Cape Cod where people go for vacation but the part where people who work for a living live. His sister, going through a divorce, has moved out, so he’s actually staying in their home with his soon to be ex-brother-in-law. His only transportation is a small girls bike with a banana seat. Money is dwindling fast.
It seems like a tough place to get settled in and figure out why your life is such a mess. And it is. Through flashbacks, we learn how the sad state of affairs has come to pass for our anti-hero. After a few encounters with some of the locals – the slow convenience store clerk, a cop, the drunk and mysterious lady down the street, his toddler nephew – it seems possible that our guy may finally be able to get a handle on things. But life is never without it’s complications.
As in the novella Meat is Murder, Pernice’s writing is crisp and genuine. The author has also recorded a soundtrack for the book, which seems like the best idea ever. I am a big fan of It Feels So Good When I Stop, but then I am a big fan of most of what Mr. Pernice does.
Audio Bonus – my favorite Pernice Brothers 1-2 punch from the album Discover a Lovelier You:
Pernice Brothers – Saddest Quo
Pernice Brothers – Snow
It was brought to my attention that our “Contact Us” page was not actually allowing people to do so. It’s all better now. If you have been unable to contact us recently, give us a holler. Now that you can. Carry on.
After spending over 12 hours of the first part of my weekend immersed in baseball (Go Yankees!!), my boys and I tore ourselves away from our home screen and headed out on Sunday to the big screen to see Where the Wild Things Are.
There has been so much hype (much on this site) and I had read so many reviews that I almost expected to be disappointed. To my delight – the movie exceeded my expectations and and was truly one of the best family movies I’ve seen in years. When everyone in your family (ranging in age from 9 to 40something) gives the movie a 9 out of 10 rating – you know it’s good.
For those of us that are Dave Eggers fans, his writing style and depth of emotions are front and center in the screenplay. The movie expertly depicts how deeply children are filled with emotion through the main character, Max, but even more so through the Wild Things. Carol, the “lead” monster who is voiced by James Gandolfino is such a complex character – wild and crazy one minute and deeply hurt by his monster friend’s abandonment in the next scene – that you can almost hear your own child’s voice in the dialogue.
The hopes and desires that the Wild Things have for their king are what most humans want in life – stability, friendship and fun. Where the Wild Things Are is as much an adult movie as it is a children’s movie. About 20 minutes into the movie – I was concerned that it would be over my kids’ heads. Not only did they completely get it but afterward wanted to talk about why the different characters behaved the way they did. When was the last time you saw a kids movie and actually had something to discuss afterward?
The costumes were fantastic and overall the movie is visually stunning and a complete joy to watch. It was worth the admission price to hear my own son, Max, get out of the car this morning and turn to me with an impish grin and say “Let the wild rumpus begin!
***Great post, Nicole, and Ima let you finish, but because we are a blog that explores the intersection of books and music (and film) – be sure to check out the excellent soundtrack to the movie by Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and the Kids — Tim****
We were recently accused of being a blog that is interested in the intersection of music and literature. Guilty. We’d maybe also throw film into the mix, too. Here’s an example of what I mean. I’m excited that there’s a documentary coming out tomorrow about Jack Kerouac and his novel Big Sur.
The movie features commentary, readings, interviews, and remembrances by Lawrence Ferlingetti, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Sam Shepard, S.E. Hinton, and others. Here’s the trailer:
A soundtrack for the movie was recorded by Jay Ferrar (Son Volt) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie). I would check out anything that these two particular guys worked on together. The lyrics for the songs are taken from the text of the novel. Very cool.
If you run over to NPR, you can listen to the whole soundtrack for another day or so.
This is the groovy court yard of the Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I didn’t fall in the pond. But I wanted to. It’s a great little neighborhood bookstore with a cat, a sleeping dog, and a lizard. While I was there on Saturday, I picked up a copy of the new Jonathan Lethem novel Chronic City. On Monday Michiko Kakutani savaged the book in the New York Times. Michiko, why do you hate me?
BGB contributor Russ Marshalek, the hardest working man in books, has a new blog about music and writing and writing about music called Soldout. Someone once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. If you think that guy should shut up and go hang out with Michiko, check out Russ’s new blog.
Speaking of friends and blogs, a friend of BGB friend Rich is blogging a novel called Run and Shoot. It’s a pretty cool idea. The book is about a murder on the campus of a southern football powerhouse Deep South University. Each Saturday, college game day, Jay Busbee releases a new chapter in the story. (Prediction: DSU goes loses badly on Nov. 30)
The New Yorker notices a disturbing trend in kiddy picture books.
Chuck Klosterman talks to the Washington Post about transcendent interviews.
A new blog Reading Radar constructs mashups of the current NYT bestsellers and Amazon reviews of the listed books. It’s an interesting perspective. Everyone who reads the Glenn Beck book apparently loves it.
Today the Where the Wild Things Are movie is finally comes. The next children’s book movie that we’re waiting for is Oliver Jeffers’s Lost and Found (currently unavailable on Amazon!) – a favorite of my five year old and her parents. IMDB says it is an animated short (2008) that aired in the UK. When do we get to see it?:
Speaking of Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín is one of those author’s that I’ve always meant to get around to reading. His novel The Master was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Tóibín was also shortlisted for the Booker for an earlier novel The Blackwater Lightship. Generally speaking, a friend of the Booker Prize is a friend of mine. With a new novel called Brooklyn garnering rave reviews and a trip to that same borough in the works, it seemed time to get to know Mr. Tóibín
Brooklyn begins in Ireland. Eilis lives with her widowed mother and older sister in Enniscorthy (Tóibín’s birth place). Her older brothers have moved to England to make a living, and life is hard for three women who are living on the book keeping work her sister brings in and the occasional money sent home by her brothers. Before Eilis is even aware of the machinations of her family, a plan has been hatched to send Eilis to America under the watchful eye of an Irish priest living in Brooklyn.
Eilis soon finds herself on a ship bound for NYC, and let’s all thank goodness that we don’t have to make the trip that way anymore. Needless to say, Brooklyn in the 1950s bears little resemblance to a small picturesque town on the coast of Ireland. Eilis is determined to make a go of it and soon finds herself employed and taking night courses at Brooklyn College towards a degree in accounting. Before too long, she has carved out a small life for herself. She has made of herself what her family had hoped.
However, Eilis is called home for a family emergency at almost the exact moment that she has begun to feel at home in Brooklyn. The situation in Enniscorthy has changed considerably since Eilis first set sail to America. The choice between the home she grew up in Ireland and the home she made for herself in Brooklyn drive the remainder of the novel. The complications inherent in either choice are not inconsequential. And it’s probably best to leave it at that.
Tóibín, as the awards would suggest, is a master story teller. His depictions of 1950s Enniscorthy and Brooklyn drop the reader into fully realized worlds. Characters are richly developed and sympathetically drawn. If you are not fully emotionally invested in Eilis decision at the end of this novel, you have a cold, black heart. I’ll let this stand as my final assessment of the relative merits of the novel: In the few weeks since I have read Brooklyn, I have bought two additional copies as gifts – Tóibín made me buy the same novel three times.
Things have been quiet here while we’ve been enjoying our fall break from school. A trip to New York City was just what the doctor ordered. Fun was had by all.
I visited the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. Sunday afternoon. The store is a front for the 826NYC tutoring/writing/workshop center for kids. It is one of the regional centers of the 826 National organization started by Dave Eggers. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. was conveniently located in my friends’ neighborhood, so this was more or less a mandatory stop on the trip. Unfortunately all I had was my crummy cell phone camera at the time.
The first thing I saw when I walked into the store was a kid trying out the cape tester – a kid in a cape standing atop some steps with a fan underneath blowing his cape up and back majestically. My kind of place. The shelves are stacked with, as you might guess, superhero supplies.
There are shelves of clothing choices, capes, masks, suction cups (delexe and economy styles), etc. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store also has cans and bottles of the finest superhero attributes that can be found anywhere: invisibility, intelligence, muscles, omniscience, and on and on. I ended up with a couple satin masks for the kids, a too cool Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. t-shirt, and a can of Intelligence. As my friend pointed out to my incredulous wife, my restraint was incredible. After all, it’s for the kids…
In order to purchase super hero supplies, all items must be placed in a vault which then ascends to the control room. Before the items can be released to you, the purchaser must take the vow of heroism. This more or less ensures that these powerful items do not make it into the hands of area supervillains. Good thinking.
Let’s take a look at how we’re doing on our DonorsChoose.org fundraising effort. Well, hey, look at that. We’re done. Thanks to your support, we’ve helped to raise $295 to help a “high poverty” class room here in Atlanta. The money is going towards teaching materials for beginner readers. Between this and last year’s project, you’ve helped 66 students and provided for 220 hours of instruction. Awesome. Thanks to everyone who helped us reach our goal in record time. You’re the best!
In other news, The Times Picayune features poet Dave Brinks. It’s a great article and I’m especially digging it because Brinks and I went to high school together. Here’s a quote from the profile:
Before the storm, and everyone can remember this, and it used to bother me, when you came in from I-10 to the city, there was this sign, ‘Welcome to New Orleans, America’s most interesting city.’ And I used to think ‘Well, that’s definitely not good,’ because you know that old Buddhist thing, the curse, ‘May you live in interesting times.’
Buy Dave’s new poem cycle, Caveat Onus, in convenient book form.
If you love books, and I think you do, you’ve got to love the intro to HBO’s Bored to Death:
Better late than never: Dr J says, “This Terry Gross interview with Michael Chabon (Shay-bone!) from earlier in the week is tip-top.”
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second book in the international bestselling Millennium trilogy. The author never saw his work in print, having died shortly after handing in the completed works. The tragic circumstances and his actual “job” certainly add to the trilogy’s mystique. I challenge you to read this profile of the author and not want to read his books.
If you haven’t read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you’ll probably want to start there. (Read BGB Reviews of Dragon Tattoo here and here.) Dragon Tattoo is loaded with character development of all the major players in Played with Fire. You don’t necessarily need all of that back story to enjoy Played with Fire, but I’d imagine that reading the second book will be a richer experience if you do.
If you have read Dragon Tattoo and enjoyed it, you will definitely want to read Played with Fire. It’s even better than the first book. Way better. There’s more Lisbeth Salander (and we learn more about why she is the way she is). More intrigue in the Millennium offices of Michael Blomkvist. There’s more Stockholm. I’m not even going to mention the plot. The less you know going in, the better it is.
There is one bit at the end that strains credulity. I’m willing to overlook that part because I devoured the book right up until that piece – paused and said “Oh come on!” – and then dove right back in. If you are oversensitive to that sort of thing, then the whole enterprise may not be your bag.
The reviews of the final book in the trilogy have started coming out in England. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest will not be available here until next summer. On my birthday. Perfect.
Before this post gets fully underway, let’s check and see how our fundraising efforts are going so far. As you may know, BGB is once again joining in the DonorsChoose.org Social Media Challenge. We’ve chosen to help a “high poverty’ class here in Atlanta buy books and learning materials to teach beginning readers how to read. We’ve had four donations so far totalling $120 (41% of our goal). It’s a great start, but we’ve still got some work ahead of us. If you’d like to help us out in this worthy effort, check out our donation page. Thanks!
This year’s Booker Prize went to the lady that the English bookies said it would all along. Hooray! Don’t let the fact that the book (Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall) won’t be available in this country until next week dampen your excitement.
ESPN’s Rick Reilly reviews Chad Ochocinco’s new book, Ocho Cinco:
The cover of Chad Ochocinco’s new book, “Ocho Cinco,” has Mr. Ochocinco flipping off you, the reader, with both hands. Why would you want to buy a book where you’re being flipped off while you’re still in the store? So many, many reasons.
Speaking of ESPN, Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog interviews Bill Simmons about his new basketball book, The Book of Basketball. The interview creates what I’ll assume is the opposite of its intended effect.
The New York Times reports that those freeloading bloggers will need to start reporting when reviewed item were free. The New York Times will continue to receive complimentary books by the metric ton, and they will never need to tell you about it. Wired magazine thinks through some of the grey areas of this new Federal Trade Commission requirement.
Also: Atlantans – Agnes Scott College presents a lecture by Alan Lightman, physicist and author of Einstein’s Dreams tonight at 7:30 in Presser Hall. Free.
FTC Disclosure: All of the links in today’s post were complimentary. The thermometer graph in this post was made by BGB using free web-based software.
Wonderful World is definitely ironically titled. The world within its pages is a dark place, populated by thieves, con men, mobsters, along with the just generally unhappy. Lucas Girault is among the melancholy. His father was a stranger. The elder Girault, an antiques dealer and possible gangster, died under mysterious circumstances after being released from jail when Lucas was young. His mother hates him completely and is seeking to wrestle control of his portion of the antiques empire through any means necessary. Lucas’s best friend is one his neighbors, a disturbed 12-year old girl who is a self-declared expert on the works of Stephen King.
Lucas decides to assert himself by defying his mother and hanging on to his control of the family business. Breaking free from her control, he decides to find out what happened to his father by choosing to become a bit of a gangster himself. He joins one of his father’s former associates in a shadowy organization known as Down with the Sun Society, who treats him like a long lost son. The base of their operations is in a fantastically exorbitant strip club called The Dark Side of the Moon.
Darkness is a recurring motif in the novel. In addition to the Down with the Sun Society and the works of Pink Floyd (featured prominently in the organization’s activities), the imagery of literally turning away from light is frequently invoked. A painting at the center of an art heist features a dark sun bearing down on a humanity that appears to be descending into a hell on earth (like the cover).
Wonderful World is a post-modern mash up. It is thriller of sorts, but it subverts that genre with regularity. Excerpts of the (fictional) new Stephen King novel are interspersed throughout the novel. Popular culture is distorted throughout by observers who live outside of the culture in question. A Spanish woman delivers a hilarious take on the final season of Friends, the only season she has watched on DVD. A dread-locked Russian mobster wants desperately to escape to Jamaica to become a Rastafarian, even though most of what he thinks he knows about the religion, Bob Marley, and Jamaica are dead wrong. Donald Duck is referenced in perhaps the most sinister way possible.
It is a “big” novel, in size, ambition, ideas, and scope. Wonderful World is a translated novel (from Spanish), which is perennially on my list of the kinds of books that I am going to read more of “next year.” The “foreignness” of the novel kept me continually off balance as a reader, which is place I am happy to be. Wonderful World is surely not everyone’s cup of tea. Yet, the fact that I came to read the book almost by accident seems like the perfect way to encounter this particular novel.
There’s something sort of unfathomably awesome about being able to make the statement “while I was interviewing BGB-beloved first novelist Rivka Galchen to see what she’s been up to in the year since her awesome Atmospheric Disturbances was published, before her reading at the Guggenheim for the ‘It Came From Brooklyn’ music/literature event, Julian Plenti, aka Paul Banks from the band Interpol, came into the cafe and glared at us over his mustache for a very, very long and uncomfortable time.”
But it’s true.
I met up with the lovely, warm and witty Rivka Galchen on an unexpectedly cold New York afternoon at a small, comfy cafe on Madison Ave, mere steps away from where she would be reading later that evening, to be followed by the first public performance of Julian Plenti.
I had assumed Rivka would be as downplayed and friendly as she was. I didn’t assume I’d be stalked by Paul Banks.
But it makes for a great story. Apologies for the way the interview trails off at the end-blame the surprise mustache cameo.
BGB Interview Podcast (!) with Rivka Galchen:
Rivka, reading at the Guggenheim from a book that wasn’t Atmospheric Disturbances. (Photo courtesy Kristina Weise )
Fair warning: We are going to be worse than NPR during its pledge drive until we meet our fund raising goal. In case you missed the roll out, we have committed to help a teacher at a “high poverty” Atlanta school purchase books that teach basic skills to beginning readers. If you’d like to make a donation to this worthy cause, visit our donation page at DonorsChoose.org. Thanks!
If you are unaware of the incredible changes taking place at the Wren’s Nest (Atlanta’s oldest author home museum) due to the work of its youthful leadership, Lain Shakespeare and Amelia Lerner, check out the feature story on those crazy kids in this month’s Atlanta Magazine.
Remember the hubbub about the e-book editions of the Dan Brown book selling more copies than the dead tree version? Apparently it was a short-lived phenomenon. The Lost Symbol’s sales adhere to what has become an industry rule of thumb, the 5% rule.
But forget Dan Brown, Mitch Horowitz author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation tells NPR that rapper Jay-Z is “a master of occult wisdom.” Seriously. It’s fascinating.
I’ve long been a fan of Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm radio show on KCRW. Silverblatt is an incredibly deep reader and an inspiration for both how to read books and how to engage authors on their work. His skill hasn’t gone unnoticed apparently. Mark Sarvas reports that Silverblatt is featured in this months Oprah Magazine.
The law of unintended consequences: due its prominence at the top of the ALA’s most challenged book list for the third year running, the “gay penguin” book is racing up the Amazon charts in the UK. The article quotes the author:
…it was “regrettable that some parents believe reading a true story about two male penguins hatching an egg will damage their children’s moral development”. “They are entitled to express their beliefs, but not to inflict them on others,” he added.
Check out a map showing the locations of all of the book challenges reported to ALA in 2008.
A handy slideshow of the 10 most challenged books of 2008.