Book Bits: Bond returns, poetry controversy, Joan Didion, ‘Purity’
I’m not a big fan of the lists of books that appear about this time every year purporting to show us the year’s best fiction. For one thing, they appear so early in the fall, they overlook the fact there are more books to be published before December 31. For another, these lists usually only consider known writers and widely known presses, leaving many wonderful books off the radar.
So, the idea that a book can or should be called Best American Poetry is, for many of us, another exercise in futility. This year the submission process became tangled when a white author submitted a poem under an Asian name. He was lambasted for being unethical, fraudulently pretending to be an Asian in the belief this gave him a better chance of having his poem accepted. What a mess. (Items 11 and 13)
- News: Nation’s Largest Paper Chains Talk Merger in Ad Revenue Push – by Keith J. Kelly – “Five of the nation’s largest — and battered — newspaper chains are in hush-hush talks about banding together to form a new company to sell ads to national advertisers in 30 major metro markets.Gannett, Newhouse-owned Advance Publications, the family-owned Hearst Corp., McClatchy Newspapers and Tribune Co. are the companies huddling.” Editor & Publisher
- Feature: Author fans controversy as Bond returns in book form – “The latest literary installment of the James Bond saga hit bookshelves on Tuesday, following controversial comments by Anthony Horowitz, the latest author to assume 007 creator Ian Fleming’s mantle.” Relaxnews
- Event: Genre Ball, 8-11 p.m., October 23, 2015, Liberty Hall, Ace Hotel, Manhattan: a costume party hosted by Electric Lit.
- Obituary: “Rhoda Lerman, ‘whose critically praised novels melded history with contemporaneity, mythology with social criticism, feminism with a Jewish sensibility and snark with seriousness,’ died August 30, the New York Times reported. She was 79. Lerman’s books include novels Call Me Ishtar, The Girl That He Marries, Eleanor, The Book of the Night and God’s Ear and a nonfiction work Elsa Was Born a Dog, I Was Born a Human… Things Have Changed.” – Shelf Awareness
- Review: “The Last Love Song,” by Tracy Daugherty – “An eloquent work on the life of Joan Didion (b. 1934), fashioning her story as no less than the rupture of the American narrative…A dogged biographer elicits from Didion’s life much more than tidy observations of ‘morality and culture.'” Kirkus
- Feature: 20 Years of Amazon.com Bookselling, by Jim Milliot – “In 1995, the year Amazon opened the virtual doors to its online bookstore, the company posted revenue of $511,000—a total that jumped to $15.7 million in 1996 and skyrocketed to $147.7 million in 1997. By 1999 annual sales reached $1.64 billion, and the company began to aggressively implement founder Jeff Bezos’s strategy of adding more products to complement its book offerings. In 1998, Amazon added music and DVD/videos to the mix; in 1999 electronics, toys, home improvement items, software, and video games were added to Amazon’s selection.” Publishers Weekly
Feature: 10 Novels Written Under the Influence, by Alison Nastasi – “Drugs, sex, and experimental writing in post-War America — it’s a wonder that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road found publication in 1957. Dubbed a “barbaric yawp of a book,” its author “lacking the “symbolic spokesmen with anywhere near the talents of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or Nathanael West,” On the Road came to define the Beat and Counterculture generations. The spirit of Kerouac’s novel is evoked in films like Easy Rider.” Flavorwire
- News: New Zealand bans young adult novel; first book ban in 22 years. by Euan McKirdy – “New Zealand has banned its first book in 22 years after an award-winning New Zealand author’s novel was criticized for its offensive language and gratuitous sexual imagery.” The book is “Into the River” by Ted Dawe CNN
- Review: “Duty’s Call,” by Susan Stuckey, reviewed by ?wazithinkin – “Jatham is the youngest son of Rurik Darben, a retired Stormhawk commander whose four other sons all became Stormhawks. He is on his first mission as a Stormhawk and knows he has a lot to live up to….I love the whole Aldera series, they have all been creative, magical, and unique” Big Al’s Books and Pals
- News: Barack Obama to Give National Medal of Arts to Stephen King and Tobias Wolff – “This year, President Barack Obama will give the National Medal of Arts to two writers: genre-master Stephen King and literary fiction author and creative writing teacher Tobias Wolff.” Electric Lit
Viewpoint: The White Poet Who Used an Asian Pseudonym to Get Published Is a Cheater, Not a Crusader, by Kay Waldman – “Congratulations to Yi-Fen Chou, whose poem “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” was selected for inclusion in the Best American Poetry anthology for 2015…There’s just one problem: Yi-Fen Chou’s real name isn’t Yi-Fen Chou. It’s Michael Derrick Hudson.” Slate See Also, A White Poet Borrows a Chinese Name and Sets Off Fireworks in the New York Times.
- Review: “Purity,” by Jonathan Franzen, reviewed by Jocelyn McClurg – “Every once in a while in fiction, when we’re lucky, a character comes along who grabs you by the teeth and won’t let go. In Purity, Jonathan Franzen’s wildly entertaining new novel, that unforgettable character is Andreas Wolf, a Julian Assange-like “Internet outlaw” and former East German dissident on the lam in Bolivia.” USA Today
- Quotation:”I only learned that Yi-Fen Chou was a pseudonym used by a white man after I’d already picked the poem and Hudson promptly wrote to reveal himself. Of course, I was angry at the subterfuge and at myself for being fooled by this guy. I silently cursed him and wondered how I would deal with this colonial theft.” – Sherman Alexie in Sherman Alexie Speaks Out See also an opposing view to Alexie’s column here.