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September 28, 2007

Friday Literary Links: The Wish List Edition

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If we're ever wealthy and foolish enough to hire the Strand bookstore to Build A Library for us, we'd request blue and green Victorian era tomes, cause they're pretty. On our current budget, however, we can definitely manage a copy of Stephanie Myer's Twilight, which fellow Phoenician bookworm Deirdre recommended to us. Care to join the PHX book club? We don't actually have any meetings planned, but if we did, we could all take notes in these Moleskin notebooks, which were a favorite of Hemingway's, and which we always stupidly pass over for the plain spiral-bound reporter notebooks that come free with our job. So since we don't write in Hemingway's journals or write like Hemingway himself, we'll just have to settle for reading his LiveJournal. Shame he hasn't updated since 2001. Here are some actual famous people with LiveJournals, just in case you're in a web-journal reading mood. Actually, forget the computer altogether and take a good long lusty look at one of these vintage typewriters; we can't stop thinking about how badly we want one. Although we'll be satisfied with some typewriter jewelery. Perhaps we'll just make our an amazing purse out of an old hardcover. (More book-bags here). And after we're done pricking our fingers numb, we'll fantasize about the day someone gifts us a first edition copy of our favorite book ever, just because. Even nerds can dream big, right?

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
September 24, 2007

Back In Your Head

The new Oprah's Book Club pick has not yet been revealed, but Publisher's Lunch informed us that the publisher is Vintage. Also, that James Wood's first New Yorker book review piece, "Desert Storm," is up and online. There's a new best-seller list (for trade paperback fiction) included in The New York Times Sunday Book Review. Fall is here, but it was A Model Summer, don't you think? We thought the crisp air would bring more literary motivation, but it's harder than we thought: this is so true.

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
September 21, 2007

Friday Literary Links: Step into the World of Gossip Girl

There was only one new fall television program we were especially excited to see, and it finally made its debut this week. Good news: it really is the most Important show of our time! Gossip Girl, which airs on the CW on Wednesdays at 9 pm, was a delight. And we hear the original best-selling YA book series is even more delicious. Upper East Side prep schools are a bitch, eh? Glorious! Plus, just today we got a recommendation for Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass -- supposedly a favorite of Harry Potter afficionados. Oh dear, someone out there (dpritchard, we've missed you so!) will probably crucify us for this so very un-alternative and sugar-highish post (Friday!), so we'll do our best to counteract the damage with a link to this neat interview with F. Scott Fitzgerald, published now in the Guardian but originally in the New York Post back in 1936. Dig it.

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by Sharon Steel | with 1 comment(s)
September 19, 2007

Leave James Frey ALONE!

Too bad Chris Crocker and his not-fake crying and serious glitter eyeshadow didn't bother You Tubing a video about leaving poor James Frey alone a year ago. Oh well - just watch this and replace "Britney" with "James." So yeah, we thought we were over it but we're not. This week the Observer weighs in on Frey-gate and we can't turn away.

Argh. It'll be a cold day in hell before we read another drug memoir.

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by Sharon Steel | with 1 comment(s)
September 18, 2007

The Literature of Capitalism

A piece in the New York Times' business section today about author Ayn Rand and her economic legacy got us thinking.

We read all of Rand's fiction back in high school, when we were feeling rebellious and anti-establishment and hating on adolescent suburban sheep (even though, duh, we were one of them). And while we don't live by her philosophy, we've long been fans of her writing. This has gotten us into trouble before. People who deem themselves literary taste-makers have yelled themselves blue in our faces trying to explain why Rand is a horrible writer who deals in primarily in clichés. Plus, she has no morals, and how can we stand that? We try to defend her.

Well, we say. The Fountainhead is a beautiful book, and when we try to explain why, we wind up talking a lot about Rand's aptitude for description and her ability to zoom into the hearts of her characters. Yes, she makes people villains and heroes, and most people in the real world aren't all Bad or all Good, but if you sit down to read one of her books, it's just something you have to expect of her style. You accept that, and you can accept the liberties she takes. Then - for us, at least - you can really take pleasure in what she has to say, whether you agree with it or not. If you ask us, she earns that right in the way she can weave a plot and a mystery. The Fountainhead is a true thriller, as are most of her novels.

Oh, and let's skip all the scary-creepy stuff about her affair with her (former) intellectual heir Nathaniel Brandon. We know. We read her biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand (written by Brandon's ex-wife Barbara), and if you care to learn the gossip, you can read it too.

What's more interesting to us, though (more interesting than gossip - we must be turning over a new leaf!) is that tons of high-powered CEOs and government figures have been harboring this secret passion for Objectivism in the years that Rand's novels have continued to sell and sell and sell. Rand's philosophy is a controversial one, which could explain why they're secretive about it - although it's common knowledge that recently-shamed Alan Greenspan counts her as one of his mentors.

But beyond that, is it possible that the movers-and-shakers of the business world could ever get together - not just at informal meetings - and do what Rand envisioned in Atlas Shrugged? Pull back, stop the motor of the earth, trample self-sacrifice, and rule by self-interest? We think perhaps, yes, although it's also just as possible that they would be doing it for reasons that Rand would despise.

Here's Part I of a conversation Rand had with Mike Wallace in 1959. We think she sounds a bit shrill at times, although we're fascinated by the fervor and belief you can practically see burning through her eyes. Not so unlike the religious fanatics she derides, if you ask us, but form your own opinion:


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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
September 17, 2007

The Literary Type

The New York Times T Style magazine has a lovely slideshow up that attempts to merge the contextual style of classic literature with a proper dress code. Our one gripe: where are the ladies? Click on the image above to view the rest of the spread.

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by Sharon Steel | with 6 comment(s)
September 17, 2007

A Conversation with Michael Palin

A little over a week ago, the Phoenix's own Peter Kadzis chatted with Michael Palin over at the First Unitarian Church. They discussed Palin's new memoir, Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years, Saturday Night Live, and why writers should always pose with beer and a cigarette in publicity photos. Just kidding about that last part. Watch the magical Boston Phoenix Video here.

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
September 14, 2007

The Paperback Blockbuster

The Wall Street Journal has a great piece on how Penguin built on the word-of-mouth success of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, and turned the well-received hardcover into a paperback blockbuster.

Our favorite bit:

Selling Ms. Gilbert, the author, was just as crucial. Unlike many writers who don't like touring and are uncomfortable in front of crowds, Ms. Gilbert has a sunny, upbeat personality that plays well on television and in personal appearances. Notes [her publisher] Ms. Court: "When the writer of a book is attractive, generous, and funny, booksellers end up rooting for her."

Yup, sounds about right.

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by Sharon Steel | with 1 comment(s)
September 13, 2007

James Frey's New Book Deal

HarperCollins will be publishing Frey's new novel, Bright Shiny Morning.

Publisher Jonathan Burnham said that "Mr. Frey was a “media lightning rod” but that “my opinion about James Frey and whatever he did is beside the point.”

“What matters is this is a very, very good work of fiction, and it very much stands up on its own.”

 See, Oprah? Even liars can succeed in publishing if they're good writers.

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
September 11, 2007

Writer, Rejected

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review, here's David Oshinsky's great essay about Knopf's biggest (and most regretable) rejections.

See for yourself.

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by Sharon Steel | with 2 comment(s)
September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle is Dead

I cite A Wrinkle in Time as one of my favorite books of all time. This is sad news. You can read the New York Times obituary

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by Nina MacLaughlin | with 4 comment(s)
September 07, 2007

Friday Literary Links

Jack Romanos, president of Simon and Schuster is retiring, and Carolyn Reidy is in. Looks like Romanos will have quite a bit of spare time on his hands. Might we suggest whiling away the hours with Literary Rejections On Display? We've been hooked for the last couple of weeks: reading about someone else's failures is about as comforting as a good cup of boiling tea in an overly air-conditioned office (the Phoenix HQ has been freezing us out all week). But in between shivering and ordering extra-hot lattes from the Starbucks around the corner, we finished reading Karma and Other Stories by Rishi Reddi, and it floored us. In keeping with the Indian theme, we might try The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy next, although Sense and Sensibility and Dalia Sofer's The Septembers of Shiraz is also on our list. Of course, toting all that around on the T might be sort of impossible, so perhaps we'll have to get all cutting-edge and switch to e-books. Didn't someone predict that, like, everyone would be reading e-books by now? Yeah, so much for that. Although we do kinda enjoy the idea of being able to read a comic book on our cell phone. Avril Lavigne's manga will probably be next. Oh, anyone planning to hit up Eric Schaeffer's Boston University Barnes & Noble reading on Sept 13? We'll give you a prize if you quote him something from the Gawker tirade during the Q&A.

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by Sharon Steel | with 4 comment(s)
September 04, 2007

New York Times Book Review Podcast with Pagan Kennedy

Local favorite Pagan Kennedy (Confessions of a Memory Eater, The First Man-Made Man) discusses MySpace's literary communities in this week's New York Times Book Review podcast. Subscribe!

She also penned an interesting essay for the newspaper on the same topic, which you can read here.

On MySpace, we are friends with Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Anton Chekov, Jack Kerouac, Blue van Meer (Special Topics in Calamity Physics), and several other writers/characters we admire. Any authors in your Top Ten?

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
On The Phoenix's books blog, we obsess over literature so that you don't have to. Reviews, readings, news, and literary gossip. Levar Burton might not have wanted you to take his word for it. But we do.
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