Thursday, July 22, 2010

July's Compendium of Literary Links

The dog days of summer always seem to slow life down a bit, don't they? Similarly, compelling book-related news stories and/or content seem to have dwindled to a trickle as well. But I managed to find a few items of interest, so to continue what has become a monthly feature at The New Dork Review of Books, here's a short list of recent literary "things" in the news

1. The Millions' Future Releases List — There's so much to look forward to the rest of 2010! I mean, the new Franzen by itself makes me squirm with anticipation. But new books from Sara Gruen, Nicole Krauss, Philip Roth, and Tom Clancy (yeah, I sorta like Jack Ryan...) all make me wonder how in the name of Neal Stephenson I'm going to do all this reading. Which on this list are you looking forward to? (Also, in case you're tempted to bail out before the end of the post, the last item provides some info about David Foster Wallace's last novel — The Pale King. That just makes me giddy.)

2. E-books Sales Beat Hardcovers — Depending upon your e-book persuasion, Amazon's announcement that it sold more e-books than hardcovers in the second quarter of this year is either terrifying or exciting. Amazon says it sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardbacks in the second quarter, a rate which accelerated to 180 to every 100 in the past month, according to this article in Wired. It'd be easy to be skeptical about these numbers since Amazon is always so secretive and shady about its sales. But Publisher's Weekly reports that publishers are backing the numbers. And as an addendum to this, Amazon also acquired the e-book rights to a few titles by Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov and John Updike, among others.

3. McEwan Whines — Have you read Solar?  I didn't think it was horrible, but it definitely wasn't McEwan's best effort. McEwan, however, defends his satire from the chilly reception by readers and critics in the U.S. by explaining that Americans are "profoundly bored" with climate change. From where I'm sitting, this couldn't be further from the truth. As the wonderful blogger "Jane Doe" at Dead White Guys tweeted this week, "Or maybe, McEwan, your book just sucks." Indeed. 

4. Frank, You're A Long Way From Ireland — Lindsay at Not-So-Gentle Reader just discovered the joys and wonders of Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes (as I did last fall). But instead of being cliche and writing a gushing review — since we already all know the book is amazing — Lindsay recorded this video blog of herself singing a tribute to McCourt and his memoir. Really good stuff!

Any literary items I've missed? What's caught your eye?


  1. I'm really looking forward to Nicole Krauss's new novel. I'm hoping it will read more like The History of Love instead of Man Walked into a Room, but i'm sure i'll devour it either way.

  2. Looking forward to the Gary Shteyngart myself. Love me some post-apocalyptic fiction!

  3. I think the Amazon claims when combined with all the hubub about the "slow reading" movement have made for some interesting discussions in the literary world. Is it not possible to read slowly and with thought on an e-reader? I guess I just don't get what the big deal is. As long as people are reading, who cares if it's on an electronic device? I don't prefer them myself, but that's because I like collecting books. If it weren't for that, I'd be all over e-readers like white on rice.

  4. Oh, wow, thanks for the shout out, Greg!

    And I'm not so sure about whether Amazon's claim about e-book sales is the end of the world as we know it. For one thing, buying e-books on-line means you don't have to pay for shipping and handling, which (for me) is a deterrent for buying hardbacks online. And I also think that for those of us who appreciate the feel of a book in our hands, the trip to a bookstore is half the fun.

  5. Isn't McEwan British? We won that war, so we can say whatever we want about any of them. AMERICA, F--K YEAH!

  6. Well, as you know Franzen is my Most Wanted, but I'm thrilled to see novels from Cunningham and Ozick are in the offing.

    The new Gruen novel sounds like a potential disaster--it feels like we might have another Beatrice and Virgil on our hands. Perhaps authors following up a super-smash hit should be wary of any plotline involving talking animals.

  7. Thanks for the link to The Millions list. I've been looking for a comprehensive list just like this. There's a lot to look forward to! The Saramago is at the top of my list, and I've already gotten my hands on the Krauss.

    I'm with Jane Doe on not getting the whole panic over e-readers. The only thing that annoys me is when the digital evangelists types start saying this is what the book *will* become for *everyone*--like it or not. Sorry, I prefer paper over a device that I'll keep having to upgrade. And I don't want to be locked into buying ebooks from one vendor.

  8. Ken Follett is coming out with the first novel of a new trilogy in September, so you'll have to put that one on your list if you're a fan. I haven't heard great things about Sara Gruen, but folks are saying that Franzen's upcoming title is every bit as good as The Corrections. Can't wait for that, but I REALLY can't wait for Great House. I love Nicole Krauss's work.

  9. I just bought a nook and enjoy its convenience, but I'll never stop buying old-fashioned books either. I'm an equal opportunity reader that way.
    I'm not eagerly anticipating any of the books mentioned on the Millions' list, but I will probably read some of them.

  10. I guess I'm looking forward to Nicole Krauss's new one despite her husband colluding with my wife to ridicule me at a recent signing ( Looking forward to Franzen although I'm still waiting to get my hands on The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris which I might enjoy more.
    I'm currently halfway through the new Martin Amis which is terrific and highly recommended.
    I was not impressed with McEwan's Solar but I was moved to blog about my 20-year relationship with his writing here: I'd love to get your feedback.

  11. I can't wait for Nicole Krauss' new novel.

    I love the link to the Angela's Ashes video. I think I might be the only person in the world that didn't enjoy that book, though. And people keep giving it to me as a gift - I own the three of his at least twice over.

  12. I have Great House waiting on my review pile, and I CANNOT WAIT to get to it. I'm trying to hold off until closer to the pub date, but it's so hard to restrain myself.

    And the bit about McEwan made me laugh. I haven't read anything of his (current or backlist) since I devoured On Chesil Beach on audio a few years ago. I adored it so much, I just can't imagine anything else lives up.

  13. @Letter - Yeah, good call on the Krause. I didn't hate Man Walks Into Room, but definitely liked The History of Love much, much more.

    @Rebecca - Keep hearing some very good things about Super Sad True Love Story - really enjoyed the excerpt that was in The New Yorker's 20 under 40 issue.

    @Jane - What is the "slow reading" movement? That's a term I'm not familiar with. I've seen studies that people read more slowly on e-readers, with less comprehension - is that what you mean? But, you're right, it's a personal preference thing - you don't HAVE to choose one or the other!

    @Lindsay - The trip to a bookstore is, indeed, a huge part of the reading life. It's one of my favorite things in the world! Yeah, no matter how popular e-books become, there will always be the entrenched base of people who enjoy the bricks and mortar stores and the paper and ink books!

    @Kenneth - Suck it, Britain...and McEwan.

    @the Ape - Ah, yeah - I forgot to mention Ozick, but good call! Good call also on Gruen and the talking animals and following in the tiger paw prints of Martel's shaky follow up. Talking animals, in my view, are ALWAYS a bad idea, whether or not you've had a huge hit with your debut.

  14. @Teresa - How is the new Krauss?! And, yeah, the people who love and collect books will continue to be quite the vocal minority. I don't understand the e-evangelists who think that e-books are an all-or-nothing prospect. Not the case!

    @Sarah - Yeah, Follett didn't make The Millions' list, but I can't wait for Fall of Giants, too. Franzen and Krauss: Couldn't agree more!

    @Suzanne - I think you represent the more common approach to e-books - most people who have e-readers don't EXCLUSIVELY use that e-reader and don't EXCLUSIVELY buy e-books. Hardovers aren't going away any time soon!

    @Guilt - That's hilarious! Check out this post about The Unnamed and meeting Ferris for my own (a bit lesser, though) awkward interaction with an author: Great post on McEwan, too!

    @Kerry - Ha - it's as if the universe is trying to get you to change your opinion. Why didn't you like it?

    @Andi - Looking forward to your review of Great House! On Chesil Beach is that good, eh? I skipped that one because I'd heard it wasn't nearly as good as Saturday or Atonement or even Amsterdam.

  15. I will never catch up. I have so many unread books, and I just keep adding and adding and adding to the list. I need to invent a time machine, just to slow it down from time to time. :)

  16. @Kerry: I can totally understand how you wouldn't have enjoyed it--part of what kept me coming back was that McCourt's lifestory now serves as the second-from-the-bottom of my 1-10 scale of literary life suckitude (with 1 being The Road by Cormac McCarthy and 10 being the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

    Anyway, as I was enmeshed in a period of intense self-pity at the time of reading Angela's Ashes, I slowly realized that even my very worst moments have never been lower than a 4, maybe. So there's that.

  17. Great post. Thanks for the link to the Millions - I just added a slew of books to my TBR list.

  18. I picked up the Krauss and the Roth as ARCS from the American Library Association Conference. If you'd be interested in a trade of something let me know. I'm slotted to read the Krauss sometime in the near future and I can bump up the Roth.