Thursday, March 31, 2011

Romance Nominees

The Romance Writers of America has announced the nominees in all their categories—and there's a lot of them. That's one of the amazing things to me about romance novels, i.e., the number of sub-genres. It's an area where, apparently, the fans know what they like, and what they want. If you're one of those fans, a list like this has to be a great starting point for finding your next read.

The future of movies

Motion picture heavyweights George Lucas and James Cameron believe that movies in theaters will not go away. (They also are strong believers in 3D movies, about which as far as I'm concerned the jury is still out.) Going to the movies is an experience beyond actually watching the movie itself, and having other people in the theater is as important as the impact of the big screen. According to Lucas: '"Movie theaters represent a social art form you can't get on an iPhone and you can't get on the TV.... Man is a social animal — we want to enjoy things together. And that's what a theater is."' More...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A gown made of Golden Books

You read that right. The website shows how it was done. (Via.)

"I love a piano"

So wrote Irving Berlin. I agree with him. One of the most interesting experiences I've had is purchasing a piano, when you go from box to box banging on them until one of them jumps out from the rest. So I was taken by this article about Juilliard moving away from its all-Steinway position. (When you bang on a Steinway, by the way, it bangs back.) 'The Juilliard School, long an all-Steinway institution, is breaking with tradition and buying a non-Steinway piano. Paolo Fazioli, the Italian piano maker, will be in New York later this week to complete the deal with Juilliard, after the performing-arts school agreed to purchase one of his pricey, handmade – and coveted – pianos. “I’m very happy,” said Fazioli from his home in Sacile, north of Venice, late Monday – adding that he was trying to be cautious until the historic deal was finalized.' More...(Via)

If you have the money to spare, you might want to buy one for yourself. Any pianist will drool over the Fazioli website.

Doris Day

As we move out to include subjects beyond just books (like the previous entry on dance), it's amazing how much good material is on the net about entertainment subjects. It's not all gossip and scandal, in other words. For instance, Doris Day turns 86 years old, and WSJ posts a wonderful update: '"When I first came up here...I put all my records and everything away. I didn't think anybody cared if they heard me or not." She assumed that her work would be forgotten. "It's hard for me to understand why all these people write me, and they say, 'Sometimes I'm feeling so down, I can't get myself out of it, and then I put your record on, and I'm OK.' Can you imagine?"' More...

Dance videos

The NY Times pointed us to this site, which will stop just about anybody for as long as they have time to spend visiting it. It's a video archive of dance, and for just a taste, try Savion Glover. Then just click on anything and enjoy yourself.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

HRF Keating

The creator of Inspector Ghote, the Indian detective, has passed away. 'His gentle manner and a particularly luxuriant beard gave Keating something of the aura of a guru. In fact, he had never been anywhere near India. Things, as he said "were going quite nicely without having to face the actuality" when, one morning in the 1970s, the postman delivered a letter from Air India offering a flight to Bombay (now Mumbai) so that he might see the country he had been describing in convincing detail for the best part of a decade.' More...

Imagine a room without books

The ebook future that may be upon us does present this possibility. I don't think I like it, and neither does the author of this article about Don Quixote. Even if you're not a big fan of that book, this article will draw you in. 'Don Quixote is not only a cautionary tale about the perils of idealism: among other things, it is also the first great book about books, a visionary parable about the responsibilities of reading and writing fiction that arrived early on in the age of printing.' More...

Yip Harburg sings

The lyricist sings a most affecting version of his most famous song. (A tip of the hat to @ktmenick for this one.)

The iPad album

The possibilities here are endless. Music artists, given the existence of the iPad, might want to do more than just create music for it. Video, interactive, social? Who knows? 'The Universal Music Group has teamed up with a video company, Eagle Rock Entertainment, to create iPad versions of films about classic albums like Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” with social networking features that allow fan commentary. This month, Bjork announced that her next project, “Biophilia,” will encompass “music, apps, Internet, installations and live shows.”' More...

Monday, March 28, 2011

The illustrated Hobbit

Classic books do get new illustrations over time. I, for one, believe that the Tenniel drawings are inextricably linked to the Alice books, but there's plenty of other visuals from Walt Disney on competing for the imaginations of the modern young reader. The idea of Maurice Sendak illustrating The Hobbit is especially intriguing. 'As Sendak noted passages for possible illustration and sketched in the margins of his copy of the book, the publisher prepared the art samples for Tolkien’s approval. The editor mislabeled the samples, however, identifying the wood-elves as “hobbits,” as Sendak recalled to Maguire. This blunder nettled Tolkien. His reply was that Sendak had not read the book closely and did not know what a hobbit was. Consequently, Tolkien did not approve the drawings. Sendak was furious.' More...

An appreciation of Lanford Wilson

Playwright Wilson died this week. Whether or not you're familiar with his work, this piece by Jack Viertel is fascinating. 'He loved the human voice, though, and would repeat phrases that people spoke to him as if he was turning them over in his mind for rhythm and cadence, then filed them away for future reference. And when his characters talked, it was immediately clear that his most remarkable capacity was for taking those kinds of collected phrases and turning them into the everyday poetry of the lost, the invisibly heroic, and the unheralded. He believed that everything – love, moral action spiritual redemption – existed at the margins of life as often as at the center.' More...

The film is not the book

Robert Gottlieb goes to town on the latest film version of Jane Eyre in the New York Review of Books. What he doesn't like is the lack of what makes the book so good—the essence of Jane Eyre. And as far as Gottlieb is concerned, Jane isn't alone in this. 'What we have here is the usual result when the movies take on a famous book with a singular voice. They hold on to the plot, the furnishings, even the language, but they lose the essence. It’s the problem with all the Vanity Fair adaptations—they give us Becky, they give us the Waterloo ball, but they can’t give us Thackeray’s sardonic vision of Vanity Fair. No filmed Moby Dick reflects Melville; no filmed Madame Bovary suggests Flaubert.' More...

(A nice bonus to the entry is the short clip of Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Now that is a marriage proposal.)

Writers' secrets

It seems that more and more the Guardian provides the best articles on writers and writing. This time out they talk to a slew of authors asking about the writing process. Michael Frayn, for instance, talks about practical matters: 'It's very difficult when each day you start with a sort of cold brain and nothing happens. In my case I look back over what I was doing the day before and make a few small corrections, often to typing errors, then maybe a few grammatical errors, and then I see a better way of putting something, and gradually you get drawn into the world you've created and you start rewriting what you did the day before and gradually coming up to the point where you left it the day before and going on.' More...

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Maurice Sendak

Normally I wouldn't announce a new book, because goodness knows there's plenty of them and enough sometimes is enough. But Maurice Sendak? That's something else. 'Bumble-Ardy evolved from a 1970s animated segment for Sesame Street to a glorious picture book about a mischievous pig who has reached the age of nine without ever having had a birthday party. But all that changes when Bumble throws a party for himself and invites all his friends, leading to a wild masquerade that quickly gets out of hand.' More....

The quintessential Aaron Sorkin

If you know West Wing or Sports Night, or films like The Social Network, you know Aaron Sorkin's work. There is a to it. In Sorkin pieces, no one is ever at a loss for words. A lot of words. The NY Times highlights a great piece of self-parody from the man himself.

Kander and Pierce

It is of interest when one half of a team takes on a new teammate. One composer who did it a few times was Richard Rodgers, starting with Lorenz Hart and moving on to Oscar Hammerstein and later Stephen Sondheim and even—in a most interesting collaboration—Richard Rodgers, writing both the words and the music. Now it's John Kander's turn, after the passing of his longtime partner Fred Ebb. ' “I hadn’t thought much about what projects were next after Fred died until one day, when I was working on ‘Scottsboro’ at home, and thought I’d like to do something really tiny — that you could almost do in your living room — after so many years of doing big Broadway shows,” Mr. Kander said in a telephone interview. Mr. Kander said he and Mr. Pierce [actor David Hyde Pierce's nephew] clicked when they began talking about an intimate musical project.' More...

I'm experimenting for a little while

I'm going to try to see if I can add some music articles into the mix, for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I come across a lot that might be of interest in my search for book articles. My question to myself is how many can I really find. When it comes to books, one a day or so is about what it boils down to. Let's see what happens with music.

Killing off your detective

It can't be easy writing about the same characters over and over again, as this article explains. So sometimes, authors conspire to kill off their creations. 'In 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle was so fed up with being known solely as the creator of the all-knowing Holmes that he threw him over the Reichenbach Falls while in pursuit of master-criminal Moriarty...Agatha Christie was more pragmatic. She wasn’t prepared to kill off her golden goose, even if she didn’t much like him (“He is the most extraordinarily irritating little man,” she once said crossly)...' More.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Way Out"

Watch the beginning of this video. It's Roald Dahl introducing "Way Out," his Twilight Zone like 60s TV series. If it doesn't give you the creeps, nothing will. But then again, it is Roald Dahl. (Via.)

Tennessee Williams would have been 100 this week

Editor Kenneth Holditch tells a fond anecdote: 'I sat by Tennessee and we discussed mutual friends in New Orleans, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Then the conversation turned to Southern literature and we both agreed that we very much liked the work of Flannery O’Connor. Looking somewhat conspiratorial, he leaned toward me and inquired, “Do you read any of the northern writers?” More...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Children's books illustrations

This is a gorgeous slideshow of the winners of a British award, accompanied by a text explaining just how wonderful, and important, illustrations can be. It's worth a look, even in the US. Link.

Digital learning

The internet changes the way people learn because, well, if you've been brought up in a digital world, you have a different set of tools at your disposal than if you weren't. Teachers today are learning this lesson and applying it. 'Prof. Katherine Rowe’s blue-haired avatar was flying across a grassy landscape to a virtual three-dimensional re-creation of the Globe Theater, where some students from her introductory Shakespeare class at Bryn Mawr College had already gathered online. Their assignment was to create characters on the Web site and use them to block scenes from the gory revenge tragedy “Titus Andronicus,” to see how setting can heighten the drama.' More...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So much for Wuthering Heights

A collection of contemporary reviews in The Telegraph indicate that the book was, shall we say, not received well. 'We rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heights as if we had come fresh from a pest-house. Read Jane Eyre is our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights.' More...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writers in the movies

Jennie Yabroff in the Paris Review takes advantage of the new movie Limitless to riff a little on how Hollywood portrays the writing fraternity. It isn't a pretty picture. 'In movies, writers are only slightly less morally repugnant than serial killers (unless the writer is a serial killer)... They have monstrous egos and tiny, wizened hearts. Their moral compasses are permanently cracked; their personal relationships are cynically contrived to produce “experience,” which they feed to the insatiable maw of their craft. They are creatively constipated. They practice poor personal hygiene. They are not lovely to look at. It almost goes without saying that they are almost always male.' More...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A history of book illustration

Robert Irwin writes an article describing the history of "The Arabian Nights" and how it acquired illustrations, and how those illustrations changed as the world changed. It is absolutely fascinating. For instance, 'Since Coster had no notion of the medieval Islamic world as something alien and strange, his engravings depicted the characters in the stories in European dress. King Shahriyar looks very comfortable in his western-style four-poster bed as he sits up listening to stories told by Sheherazade. The only concession to the exotic is that he has a loosely tied turban as an item of nightwear.' More...

What to read in jail

We like James Patterson, and have used a lot of his books. On the collector's market, what you really want are signed copies. And if you get thrown into the pokey... 'He had had a book request from his son who is doing a spell in jail for drug offences. The lad needed as many Patterson paperbacks as his dad could muster. Apparently in prison they are a sort of currency.' More...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book video

This is pretty viral now: the books dancing on the shelves. It's cute, though, and I don't think we've noted it here before.

Friday, March 11, 2011

10 best American poems

Really? That remains to be seen. But if you wanted to do a little poetry grazing, you could do worse. 'These are the 10 poems that, in my own reading life, have seemed the most durable; poems that shifted the course of poetry in the United States, as well as poems that I look forward to teaching every year because they represent something indelible.' More...

National Book Critics Circle Award winners

Speaking of Omnivoracious, I also like how they handle the announcement of the NBCC winners, with nice descriptions of all of them. (Well, it is Amazon, after all, so I guess they want you to buy the books, but there's nothing wrong with that.)

Connecting the thriller writers

Omnivoracious does a nice piece on, specifically, Harlen Coben, and how he connects to a whole bunch of other thriller writers. It's a small (thriller) world. Link.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Boxing = Great writing

I'm not sure why there is such a connection between writers and boxing, but there undoubtedly is. Library of America has a whole volume on the subject, and posts this article—a little piece of great writing by the book's co-editor John Schulian—to whet the appetite. 'It seems like only a heartbeat ago that Frank Sinatra was ringside at Madison Square Garden, camera in hand, straining to get just the right shot of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier as they went to war for the first time. The calendar tells us, however, that forty years have passed. Sinatra is gone. So is Life magazine, which made him part of the working press for the night that launched boxing’s greatest trilogy. Ali and Frazier dwell in retirement like battleships that were too long at sea, but in our memories, they are forever young.' More...

Michael Connelly on the set

What happens when the creator of a character, and the real life people on which he based that character, meet the people making a movie out of it? Michael Connelly talks about The Lincoln Lawyer. 'As I watch the first three takes of the scene, I see that the director, screenwriter, actors and everybody have gotten the point. A momentum builds, an undeniable energy that seems to explode in a stare-down between lawyer and client—McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe. As I watch, I am absolutely ecstatic. When the long scene ends with actor Bryan Cranston delivering the line of the movie—“Are you a good guy or a bad guy, Haller?”—I am at a loss for words. Me, the writer. I don’t have the words.' More...

More books as art

I've posted this sort of thing before, but I have to say, this latest batch is the best yet.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Carl Hiaasen interviewed

If you like Hiaasen's novels, or even if you've never read him, you'll enjoy this interview. 'It requires no talent whatsoever now to be not only "famous" but actually elevated to the status of a pop star or something. The technology exists now, Auto-tune and Pro Tools, which is so extraordinary. I could take my labrador to a studio in the morning and by the evening I'd have a CD that made him sound like Pavarotti.' More...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aldous Huxley children's book

I had no idea that Huxley had written such a thing, and I'm a big Huxley fan. 'Huxley was also the author of a rather charming children’s book, his only foray into the genre. “The Crows of Pearblossom.” ' The announcement was on the NYTimes ArtsBeat blog; the book is published by Abrams.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top ten teen books

Harry P is number one. No suprise there. As for the others? Judge for youself: List.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The missing Bond scripts

The Telegraph tells the tale of the James Bond movies as we know it, but adds a new wrinkle, the existence of multiple surviving drafts of a Casino Royale script by Ben Hecht. This is catnip for Bond fans. 'To my amazement, I found that Hecht not only contributed to Casino Royale, but produced several complete drafts, and that much of the material survived. It was stored in folders with the rest of his papers in the Newberry Library in Chicago, where it had been sitting since 1979. And, outside of the people involved in trying to make the film, it seemed nobody had read it. Here was a lost chapter, not just in the world of the Bond films, but in cinema history: before the spoof, Ben Hecht adapted Ian Fleming’s first novel as a straight Bond adventure. The folders contain material from five screenplays, four of which are by Hecht.' More...

It's March 2?

In that case, happy birthday Dr. Seuss!

Book sculptures

From Omnivoracious: 'Prepare to be delighted by the work of Chicago-based artist Brian Dettmer, who crafts old encyclopedias, medical journals, and dictionaries into completely original sculptures.' More...

Harry Potter quiz

This is not for experts, but for casual fans, among which I number myself, although I did miserably when I tried it. 5 out of 10? True muggle-ness. The quiz is in aid of the Guardian's launch of their new UK-based kid's site.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What? That's not the real Dr. Johnson?

The tweets of a latter-day Samuel Johnson bring on some thoughts of other lexicon creators. 'The real Dr Johnson died in 1784 – but it was his devotion to lexicography that paved the way for Tom Morton, the man behing the tweets, to offer gems such as "Valentine (n.) Patron-Saint of avaricious Florists & the MAWKISH: his Feast mark'd by Consumption of pinkish Victuals" on the social networking site.' More...

40 years of ebooks

Did you say 40? 'Most people are still convinced that e-books are a fad. That’s why I was looking for a convenient, all-in-one way to challenge this myth. I hope it works.' See for yourself.