Friday, September 24, 2010

"Hunger Games" Author Speaks Up

Now that the "Hunger Games" series is complete, author Suzanne Collins talks to the Associated Press about the experience, in a fantastic article by Hillel Itali:
NEW YORK – As she worked on the final book of her "Hunger Games" trilogy, Suzanne Collins discovered that her life had changed.

"I started to get calls from people I didn't know, at my home number, which at the time was listed and we had never thought anything about it," says Collins, a 48-year-old mother of two who lives with her husband in rural Connecticut.

"Suddenly, there was this shift. Nothing threatening happened or anything, but it is your home and you want it to be private. So I think that was the point where I felt, `Oh, something different is happening now.'"

With the release of "Mockingjay," an instant chart-topper, Suzanne Collins is a celebrity. Perhaps not the kind you'd spot on the street, but one whose name is known and welcome to millions of readers, young adult and adult. Her fame comes not from wizards or vampires, but from her portrait of a brutish, dystopian future in which young people are forced to fight to the death, on television.

Inspiration, like a sudden phone call, began at home. A few years ago, Collins was surfing channels late at night and found herself switching between a reality program and news reports about the Iraq war. The images blurred in her mind. She wondered whether other viewers could tell them apart.

"We have so much programming coming at us all the time," she says. "Is it too much? Are we becoming desensitized to the entire experience? ... I can't believe a certain amount of that isn't happening."

Narrated by the teenage rebel-heroine Katniss Everdeen, the "Hunger Games" books ("The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay") are also stories of honor and courage in the worst of times, when, as Collins notes, honor and courage may be all you have. The stories begin with Katniss volunteering to stand in when her little sister is called to participate in the televised games, the "hunger games." She learns about love, too. A romantic triangle among Katniss and her noble suitors, Peeta and Gale, has divided readers into "Twilight"-like camps.

Collins' sources run much deeper than television. She cites the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, in which seven boys and seven girls are sacrificed to keep Athens safe. She was also inspired by "Spartacus," the epic film starring Kirk Douglas as the rebellious Roman slave, and by the classical biographer Plutarch. The stories are set in a country called Panem — in honor of the old Roman expression for mindless diversion, panem et circenses, meaning bread and circuses, or bread and games.

"I have been following her for a long time. She is one of the authors who got my older son reading, so I owe her a personal debt on those grounds," says Rick Riordon, author of the million-selling "Percy Jackson" series and the upcoming "Heroes of Olympus" series, which also draw upon ancient Greek culture.

"I think she does a wonderful job of mixing good action, with strong characters, with a dash of humor and really providing readers everything they need to have a page-turning experience. She's just a masterful writer."

Collins was interviewed recently at the offices of Scholastic Inc., her long, blond hair parted in the middle, wearing a pendant with the "Hunger Games" icon, a golden winged hybrid — a mockingjay — clutching an arrow in its beak. She has a careful, deliberate speaking style and a passion for explaining and clarifying subjects. She is a
storyteller who wants her books not just to entertain, but to provoke. The young are her ideal readers.

"I think right now there's a distinct uneasiness in the country that the kids feel," Collins says, citing the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Dystopian stories are places where you can play out the scenarios in your head — your anxieties — and see what might come of them. And, hopefully, as a young person, with the possibilities of the future waiting for you, you're thinking about how to head these things off."

The daughter of a career Air Force officer, Collins lived all over the world as a child, from New York City to Brussels, and was reading Greek myths at an early age. Her father served in Vietnam and later taught history, not just to college students, but to his own family.

"I believe he felt a great responsibility and urgency about educating his children about war," she says. "He would take us frequently to places like battlefields and war monuments. It would start back with whatever had precipitated the war and moved up through the battlefield you were standing in and through that and after that. It was a very comprehensive tour guide experience. So throughout our lives we basically heard about war."

Collins graduated from Indiana University with a double major in theater and telecommunications, and received a master's in dramatic writing from New York University. She worked on several children's programs, including "Clarissa ExplainsIt All" and "Little Bear." Her work was noticed by "Generation O!" creator James Proimos, who hired her as head writer. They became good friends, and he suggested she try writing books.

"She seemed like a book writer to me; it was sort of her personality. She also had the style and the mind of a novelist," says Proimos, who has written and illustrated several children's books. "I was telling her that you can't do TV forever; it's a young person's business. With books, at the very worst, you start out slow, but you can do them for the rest of your life."

Collins began working on what became her first series, the five-part "Underland Chronicles." She liked the idea of taking the "Alice in Wonderland" story and giving it an urban setting, where you fell through a manhole instead of a rabbit hole. At Proimos' suggestion, Collins contacted his agent, Rosemary B. Stimola of the Stimola Literary Studio. After hearing a little about the author's planned book, Stimola suggested she turn in a sample chapter.

"Quite honestly, I knew from the very first paragraph I had a very gifted writer," says Stimola, who still represents Collins. "It happens like that sometimes. Not often, but when it does it's a thing of beauty. From the very first paragraph she established a character I cared about. She established a story and a mood that touched my heart."

Collins sees her books as variations of war stories. The "Underland" series, she explains, tells five different aspects of conflict — the rescue of a prisoner of war, an assassination, biological weapons, genocide and the use of military intelligence. "The Hunger Games" series is an exploration of "unnecessary" war and "necessary" war, when armed rebellion is the only choice.

"If we introduce kids to these ideas earlier, we could get a dialogue about war going earlier and possibly it would lead to more solutions," she says. "I just feel it isn't discussed, not the way it should be. I think that's because it's uncomfortable for people. It's not pleasant to talk about. I know from my experience that we are quite capable of understanding things and processing them at an early age."

See the article on Yahoo! News HERE

Having just finished Mockingjay not too long ago (considering it for a dueling review, by the way, if anyone is interested in contributing--pro or con!) I was intrigued to hear what Collins had to say about why she wrote the series and what she'd hoped to accomplish. And I gotta say, I'm quite satisfied with her answer! I also was very excited to hear that before writing novels, she was one of the tv writers on Nickelodeon's "Clarissa Explains It All," one of my childhood obsessions!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Multimedia Rights No Longer Only for the Film Buffs

This morning, Twitter pointed me to an article on E-reads.com by Richard Curtis. This instantly caught my attention because I'm having lunch with a literary agent, Richard Curtis, tomorrow (he's the agent on the fabulous Jillian Stone novels I recently acquired). But whether it's the same man or not, remains to be seen--and either way, the article is an intriguing one.

I've been in the publishing industry for four years now and until I read Mr. Curtis's article, I was unaware that e-book rights were separated into two different factions--straight text and multimedia. I was also ignorant of the fact that the standard boilerplate electronic rights include straight-text only for a publishing house, so as not to interfere with dramatic rights (film/tv). I've never seen it in a contract, so how was I to know?

But apparently, I'm finding out just in time, as the creation and growing popularity of enhanced e-books is forcing some literary agencies to recall that boilerplate and no longer retain those rights, according to Mr. Curtis's post:

Since the dawn of the digital age – call it Year 2000 – publishers and agents have separated e-rights into two categories. One is verbatim text rights – plain old e-books. The second is interactive use of texts in combination with music, video, audio and other media – what have come to be called enhanced e-books. Commonly, agents struck the latter provision out of publisher boilerplate. Why? Because film studios and networks felt that enhancements incurred on their ability to dramatize the books they acquired.

But with development of vooks and similar hybrids of text and other media (“Vook” = Video + Book), publishers are challenging the assumption that interactive rights must be reserved to authors. As enhanced e-books become viable and valuable, publishers want to know why they are abandoning rights to movie and television companies.

That is the background for the memo that a major literary agency has sent to a number of film agents informing them that henceforth they cannot count controlling those interactive rights.

The memo declared in part:

“As a result of this fundamental change in publishing, we will no longer be able to agree to the boilerplate language in most studio option/purchase agreements that address multimedia. These clauses usually restrict the author’s reserved electronic book rights to digital text only. We cannot agree to this limitation. Authors’ reserved ebook rights must now include the right to grant enhanced digital rights in their work, including all the elements mentioned above.” The memo made it clear that “enhanced digital editions, as long as they are non-dramatic, are best exploited by the author in conjunction with the publisher.”

Despite this distinction it’s not likely that Hollywood is going to take this shift lying down. Where enhancements end and movie effects begin will certainly become a bone of contention, so this is going to get interesting and probably adversarial. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Though enhanced e-books are on everybody’s tongue these days, we suspect you won’t see a flood of them any time soon. The cost and complexity of clearing permissions and the time it takes to produce works of real quality will in all likelihood restrict the number released to a precious few. But that may not be the point, as we will eventually see when the titans of publishing and Hollywood clash on the field of enhancements.

See the post HERE

Personally, I think this is a fabulous idea. Many publishers have already jumped on the enhanced e-book bandwagon, and while yes, it is a slower building trend, I know a lot of houses have much in the works regarding this new form of multimedia. (I wish I could tell you specifically what I'm referring to but I can't--you'll just have to keep your eyes peeled!)

Not only do publishers have a lot of great ideas to implement, but the movie biz isn't capitalizing on enhanced e-books anyway. And in contrast to what one commentor on Mr. Curtis's post, Scott Nicholson, suggests--"a Hollywood studio is about as well-equipped as a publisher to release an ebook today, and probably MORE equipped to release an enhanced e-book"--I don't believe that Hollywood does necessarily have that capability. Though the film/tv and book businesses may seem to have similarities to some, they are run--and behave--nothing alike. They have different distribution channels and different ways of producing their products. It's not a mix-and-match scenario.

I can, of course, understand the studios concerns over Vooks, which are completely different than many of the enhanced e-books hitting e-shelves. Quite frankly, as some of you may already know, Vooks don't seem much different to me in concept than movies in the first place (clearly they are different, but they are very similar in many ways). But other kinds of enhanced e-books are horses of another color.

Scribner and Simon and Schuster released Nixonland as an enhanced e-book, for instance (Check out a video demo HERE). In this non-fiction book, S&S embedded video into the e-books e-pages:

The book, a history of how Nixon used the modern media, makes use of archival video footage from Simon & Schuster parent, CBS (NYSE: CBS). Among the 27 videos inserted into the text of the iBookstore’s enhanced e-book, there’s an original interview with the author conducted by CBS News Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer. (paidcontent.org)

You can also take the The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss as another good example. The enhanced e-book that has shown up with the creation of the iPad is pretty phenomenal. Kids can click on words and illustrations and the e-book will say the word aloud. It's an amazing tool to help with literacy. And Grand Central Publishing went the fiction route with its release of an enhanced e-book for David Baldacci's Deliver Us From Evil in March 2010. It was "an innovative 'Writer’s Cut' eBook that will hurtle readers inside David’s creative process" (DavidBaldacci.com).

But, of course, you do also have books like Flipped, which was recently released as a movie tie-in enhanced e-book by Knopf for Young Readers:

The FLIPPED enhanced e-book movie tie-in will include an exclusive video feature about the making of the movie with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the director and cast as well as three original songs written and recorded by author Wendelin Van Draanen. It will also feature eight video clips of key scenes from the movie. With sixteen full-color photos from the film and four video interviews with the author, as well as a sneak peek of Van Draanen's latest romantic comedy Confessions of a Serial Kisser, the enhanced e-book edition has much to offer fans and will appeal to readers of all ages. (PRNewswire)
Enhanced e-books of that caliber just may help the two industries merge as Nicholson suggests. There are lots of ways this one could play out. I'm very curious to see which reigns supreme (to steal a line from my beloved "Iron Chef").

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harry Potter Galore at Scotland Book Fest

It's very rare that I ever wish I lived in Scotland. And when I do, it's usually the result of some sexy man in a kilt from a historical romance novel. But right now, I'm kinding wishing I were able to just hop in my car (if I had a car, that is) and drive on over to the Wigtown Book Festival in southwest Scotland.

Why, you ask?

Because, for the first time ever, one of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter manuscripts is going on display, according to CBC News:

Handwritten manuscripts by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling are going on public display for the first time at a book festival in Scotland.

The original manuscripts, which are signed, were written as part of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — the second title in the seven-book series that stormed the world and made Rowling a multimillionaire.

The framed pages contain "The Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick" and will be put on display at the ReadingLasses bookshop as part of the Wigtown Book Festival in southwest Scotland.

Nearly Headless Nick is the ghost who haunts Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The ballad was edited out of the book before publication.

"This is a one-off exhibition and contrary to belief it is not on a world tour," Gerrie Douglas-Scott of ReadingLasses, which focuses on books by women, told the Scotsman newspaper.

"We're very excited that this bit of Harry Potter is coming home to Scotland for 10 days."

The pages were first donated in 2005 by the author, who lives in Edinburgh, to the Scottish Language Dictionaries organization to help raise funds for a new Scottish language dictionary.

They subsequently ended up in the hands of Ilyas Khan, owner of the Asia Literary Review and a book collector. The Review is one of the festival's sponsors.

In 1999, the Scottish Parliament recognized the town as Scotland's National Book Town, marking the inaugural year of the festival, which runs from Sept. 24 to Oct.3.

See the complete post HERE

I'd kill to get an upclose look at Rowlings manuscripts. I look at manuscripts every day, yes, but there's something so powerful about looking at an MS of one of the beloved titles on your bookshelf, years after you first read it. Or even just looking at an old manuscript will do it for me. Whenever libraries and museums put new manuscripts on display, I go weak in the knees. I'm not sure when I began having that reaction to manuscripts, but my love certainly escalated in college when I took a class called "Book Work."

Our main topic of study in the class was authorial versus editorial intent and, as such, we spent a great deal of time in the Boston University and Harvard University libraries and archives, getting a first-hand look at what the authors themselves had written in their notebooks. I love donning those white gloves, having each piece carried out to me, slipped out of its protective plastic sleeve so I could spend some time with the work.

Remiscining over one particular project is even making me feel all jello-y inside. My big paper in that class was on Robert Frost's first collection of poetry, A Witness Tree, and the word/punctuation choices editors over time had made when reissuing the collection. So, given my thesis topic (I can't recall my thesis exactly at the moment haha), I would go to the archives and sit there for hours, transcribing Frost's handwritten poems into my notebook.

It was just love.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Man Booker Prize Finalists, Ron Charles Style

Ron Charles, The Washington Post's popular fiction critic, cracks me up...

Check out his most recent "vlog" about reading and today's crazy technology...and this year's Man Booker Prize Finalists:


Happy Book-Blogger Appreciation Week!

It's Book-Blogger Appreciation Week!!

So, thank you to all of our fabulous guest bloggers for helping to make Reading Between the Lines such a success!

And, of course, a shout out to all our readers--we wouldn't exist without you!

RBtL <3's you all!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Best US Bookstores Still Alive and Kickin'

As we know, every year, more and more bookstores are forced to close their doors--and it's no longer just the little indie sellers that are being kicked to the curb. Big chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble have also joined the ranks of those honorably discharged.

Yet, there are still some fantastic stores that are alive and kicking, as Flavorwire pointed out last week with it's round-up of the Top 10 Bookstores in the U.S.:
Bookstores are dying. They’re dying because of jerks who are too cheap to buy a hardcover, or even a paperback, and too lazy to get a library card. Guys like the one from Julie Bosman's NY Times article, and this guy, and this guy. Even before we break into the eBooks discussion, think about everything else that reading is supposed to contend with these days — movies, video games, television, and the internet. And now that there’s competition even within the “book” medium, it’s no wonder that Barnes and Noble is closing a four-level shop (for those of you in New York, the Union Square Megastore is safe) and Borders agonizes through round after round of layoffs and store closings.

After the jump, please shed a tear, observe a moment of silence, then head to one of the top bookstores in the United States, and buy something fer chrissakes.

First, a memorial of sorts. The Gotham Book Mart closed in 2007, ending a storied role in literary culture. You can read more about it here, but please support your local bookstore (and our favorites below) so smart, creative people don’t run out of places to hang out and find dates.

Powell’s in Portland, OR opened in 1971. Since then, they’ve managed to open several locations city-wide (including two specialty shops) and, more importantly, build an independent online marketplace to rival Amazon’s book selection. The building itself is built like a casino — a complicated web of rooms that trap you in front of merchandise. It’s not that bad though; their color-coded map makes it easy to find what you want.

With arguably the best website name (http://www.crimepays.com/), Partners & Crime Mystery in New York City pays homage to every mystery novel. Ever. They have an astounding collection of rare, out-of-print, and first edition books to choose from, as well as the most popular mysteries of today. Because they occupy such a niche market (niche in the sense that it’s one subject, not so in that mysteries are an huge part of book sales) P&C’s services are tailored to each customer. Said awesome website boasts that more than 85 percent of their sales are to repeat or referral customers.

Secret Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA holds the widest selection of comics you’re likely to find in a bookstore — from weekly superhero rags to rare graphic novels. But this is not your Jeff Albertson comic store. The staff is known for being some of the friendliest comics nerdz around. SHQ is such a great place that it was the only US location allowed on The Guardian‘s list of the Top Ten Bookshop(pe?)s in the world. With all the writers & artists, inkers and colorists making appearances, it’s little wonder.

[Other stores featured? Politics and Prose in Washington, DC; The Strand in NYC; City Lights Booksellers in San Francisco; The Tattered Cover in Denver, CO; Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, IA; and The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle, WA.]

See the entire post HERE
I haven't been to most of these stores (The Strand, however, I was at just this past weekend selling some books ), but they all seem to warrant a visit for various reasons. Particularly the legendary Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. A color-coded map of the store? Count me in!

I think I'm going to have to start building vacations around famed bookstores. Especially since my fave bookstore, Commonwealth Books, in Boston, MA closed a couple years ago. I found some amazing rare books there--it was such a gem *sigh* I guess I now must explore other options!

What's YOUR favorite bookstore? Any recommendations to add to the list?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Funny from the Melbourne Writers Festival

One of our guest bloggers, Meghan Stevenson, brought this silly video from our friends down under to my attention recently.

It made me giggle...particularly number 9!




What random (and seemingly made-up) "fact" about books do YOU have to share?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guest Blogger, LG: Hate Typos? Your Not Alone.

I signed up to be a writing tutor in college because I thought I would get to “edit” students’ papers. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that there was no copyediting involved in the job at all. Instead we were discussing content and organization and helping students explain their ideas.

Fast-forward a few years. There I was, out of college, fresh-faced and eager in my new job in publishing, voraciously copyediting advertisements and catalogs.…And then it got boring.

But wait, there’s more! I learned from a few friends that if I were to take a copyediting class, I could actually get some freelance work as a proofreader at the publishing house. So, here I am today: web producer by day, proofreader by night (and on the occasional lunch break).

This second job, I must say, is a pretty cushy gig – so long as I don’t push my luck and hit too close to deadline, which I confess I have done more times than I’ll admit. The downside, though, is that it has me seeing typos everywhere I go! From “We have cofee” to “dinner” vs. “diner” to “Laundromat not responsible for damage to you’re belonging.” They even pop up in my personal life! I’m now determined to teach my older sister that it’s spelled “college,” not “collage.” She’s a visual artist and spelling was never her strong suit, but that’s not the point!

What got me started on this little typo-hating post? Why, something from the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com), naturally! They’ve written an article called “The Great Typo Hunt”, inspired by a new book of the same name, and it struck my funny bone:
Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson traveled across the U.S. for two and a half months to find and correct typos in public signage. Deck and Herson tell the tale of that journey in their new book, "The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time" (Crown). Our heroes unearthed over 400 spelling and grammar errors during their adventures, and certain kinds of typos kept popping up along the way. You must know your enemies before you can vanquish them; use the following reconnaissance to win the battle against typos. Here are the top 10 most common typos in America today.

Their book, "The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time," is available now.
HuffPo then goes on to list a series of the most common typos, including "the unnecessary apostrophe," "the wrong its or it's," and "the confusion of tasty treats and arid sands."
What are the worst—or best—typos you’ve seen lately?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why "Must Love Books" loves BOOKS

You all know how I feel about e-books (and if you don't, you'll understand quickly if you check out all my tagged RBtL posts ), how I crave the physicality of the book when reading. I've even been struggling lately reading submissions on my e-reader. Yes, that's right. Word documents are difficult for me to even read on screen. I know, I know. It's very sad.

But I'm not the only one who feels this way, as pathetic as I personally may be about it.

Exhibit A: a new post from one of our guest bloggers, T.S. Ferguson, over at his blog Must Love Books:

For a few months now, my mother has been asking me about e-readers, what kind I would recommend (the Sony or the nook, but I have a personal one-man boycott against Amazon especially with e-books, so I’m biased), whatthey’re like to use, and more specifically, what brand I would want if shewere to get me one. Every time she asked I would tell her the same thing.

“Honestly mom, I don’t really want or need an e-reader. I wouldn’t use it so please don’t waste your money on buying me one. I could use some bookshelves though.”

Well she bought me one anyway (yes I said thank you) and many of the friends that I’ve told seem shocked that I’m not more excited about my new “toy.” They don’t understand why I’m not buying thousands of e-books and taking it everywhere with me. Many of them have told me “just wait…you’ll get used to it and then you’ll be addicted.” But I know I won’t and here’s why.

I love books. I don’t just mean reading. I love physical books. So much of the pleasure I derive from the reading process comes from the actual physical book. Maybe that’s a comfort thing from growing up as a reader, but so be it. Let’s start with the purchase. While it’s nice to be able to order a book offline and have it shipped, there’s no substitute in my mind for going to the brick-and-mortar bookstore and browsing the shelves. Some people find it soothing to shop for clothes, I shop for books. I love scanning the shelves, pulling out books that look interesting, reading the copy, judging books by their covers, and ultimately walking away with at least a few books to buy. If I go looking for a specific book and it’s not there, I will almost always say no when the clerk asks if I’d like to special order it. It gives me an excuse to go to the next closest bookstore and repeat the whole process again.

E-books, being digital, cannot be bought at a bookstore. All you have to do is go online or on your reader and click a few buttons. It sounds easy but to me, that’s boring. And unlike my fashion-loving friends, who can order something and then get to try it on when it arrives, I don’t even get something solid I can hold in my hands.

Once I’ve bought my books, I love to look at the covers and read the copy again. Covers are very important to me. There have been times when a cover will make or break a book for me. In fact, you could probably hand me my favorite book and if it had a horrible cover, I would probably not enjoy the reading experience as much as I would if it had a cover I loved. I could still enjoy the book, but part of the experience wouldbe ruined for me. And unfortunately e-books don’t really come with covers.Even the companies that include their covers in the e-book can’t duplicatesome of their most amazing covers on the grayscale e-readers. I downloaded afree sample of Jennifer Brown’s Hate List (which, you’ll recall, was my first acquisition) just to see what it would look like as an e-book, andwhile the cover was included, even that cover, which was incredibly beautiful, simple and only two-colors (black and gray-blue) just didn’t do it for me on the e-reader....

Read the rest of T.S.'s fantastic post HERE

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Suburbia: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

If you live in a city and are anything like me, it starts to wear on you fast. Especially on those hot summer days where the city grime basically seeps into your skin and you pool sweat at your feet on the subway platform.

You quickly begin to long for the open fields, fresh air, and sparkling night sky of the country. Hell, you'd even settle for suburbia!

But, as the folks over at Flavorwire point out, the suburbs have their own brand of drama. In honor of the ups and downs of non-city life--and of the recent release of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen--they've compiled the perfect top-ten list: 10 Classic Stories of Suburban Ennui

Forget summer in the city. This year, the heat is on in the suburbs. Whether in music — Arcade Fire’s third album is an extended rock homage to the burbs — or on television — Mad Men is back for its fourth season and still toggling back and forth from the leafy mid-century hamlets of upstate New York to the cutthroat world of Madison Avenue — or in books — Jonathan Franzen’s breathlessly awaited follow up to The Corrections, Freedom, centers on life and its discontents in suburban St. Paul — the vast sprawl is having its moment in the cultural spotlight.

In anticipation of Franzen’s book (due in stores on August 31), we found ourselves thinking about the literary tradition of the suburban novel — the fictive portraits of damaged domesticity, day drinking, and disillusion. As an American invention, novels of suburban ennui are only as old as their subject, but we’ve polled the last half-century (and beyond) to bring you these ten essential novels of suburbia and its displeasures.

1. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

The mother of all suburban novels, this harrowing tale of April and Frank Wheeler is haunted by the specter of lives unlived and paths not taken. Though the book will be turning 50 next year, its insights into boredom, escapism, and class are as relevant today as ever. The 2008 film was faithful to the book, but lacked the power and precision of Yates’s perfect prose. Read it rather than rent it.

2. Couples by John Updike

American suburbs, meet bed hopping. Want to know how sexual liberation plays out in the suburbs? This is book for you. Deemed scandalous and risqué at the time of its release in 1968, Couples — which tells the story of five twosomes in fictional Tarbox, Massachusetts — propelled Updike onto the cover of Time magazine under the headline “The Adulterous Society.” Celebrated as a poet of suburban angst, Updike famously pushed boundaries by peering into American bedrooms.

3. The Stories of John Cheever

Like Updike, Cheever made a career of training his astute eye on inner conflict and dualism (perhaps a reflection of the author’s own struggle with his sexuality), and most of his work would be at home on this list. So perhaps it’s disingenuous to include this Pulitzer-prize winning collection of short stories on a list comprised chiefly of novels, but Cheever excelled in this format, and these masterfully crafted tales testify to why critics dubbed him the Chekhov of the suburbs. “The Swimmer” may be one of Cheever’s most anthologized stories, but read it once and you’ll agree it deserves the acclaim.

4. The Ice Storm by Rick Moody

Set in the affluent suburbs of Connecticut in 1973, Moody’s atmospheric novel centers on neighboring families — the Hoods and the Williams — in parallel states of decline. Redolent with the spirit and pop culture of the era, The Ice Storm is a bleak look at human failure, tragedy, and sex. Its detachment and distance evokes the disassociation of its subjects.

5. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The tale of the deaths of the five Lisbon sisters is told in flashback from the perspective of the curious neighborhood boys who used to lust after them, a narrative trick that too renders the reader an astonished, helpless observer. Set in the Michigan suburbs of the early ’70s, The Virgin Suicides asks how much we can ever know about anyone else and forces us to confront the power of the talismanic artifacts of tragedy and infatuation. Eugenides’s precise descriptions will haunt you long after the last page.

[...]

See the original post HERE

The other books on Flavorpill's list? White Noise by Don Delillo, Little Children by Tom Perotta, Music for Torching by A.M. Homes, The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Sadly, the only one of these I've personally read is Madame Bovary...and boy, was it BORING!

What about you? Are any of these tales from Suburbia on your have-read list??

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Hollywood Hand for Sparks's "Safe Haven"

There's one author in my mind whose books almost always lend themselves to a nice chick-flick---Nicholas Sparks.

Hollywood clearly agrees with films like "The Notebook," "Message in a Bottle," and "Dear John." And they feel the same about Sparks's upcoming release of Safe Haven.

Scheduled to hit shelves on September 14th, this will be the first time that Sparks will be getting a nice Hollywood push during a book release. In fact, it's something that rarely happens in the biz, according to The Wall Street Journal:

Nicholas Sparks's new novel, "Safe Haven," goes on sale Sept. 14, and it will be getting a promotional push from an unusual partner: a Hollywood movie maker.

Relativity Media, the company behind "Evan Almighty" and "Mamma Mia!," bought the rights to adapt the novel and hopes to release the film late next year. Relativity also produced "Dear John," based on Mr. Sparks's novel of the same name, which was one of its most profitable films yet.


At a time when marketing dollars are hard to come by in the book business, Relativity Media will launch online and print promotions for the novel, even though there isn't even a screenplay yet. Mr. Sparks is one of the rare authors whose publishers advertise their new works on TV, but the additional Hollywood push prior to publication appears to be a first.

"I don't know that this has ever been done before," Mr. Sparks said. "It's a way for Relativity Media to get out in front in marketing the film, and to build interest and familiarity in the project."

Mr. Sparks is one of the country's most popular novelists. His books typically have over 2.5 million copies in print. When there's a movie involved—Mr. Sparks has had six films made, with a seventh in production—those numbers can double, as book sales get a lift from the blitz of marketing for the film.

"Safe Haven," a love story with thriller elements set in a small town in North Carolina, is a bit of a departure from Mr. Sparks's traditional romantic dramas, with considerably more action scenes.

"His success hasn't abated even in these hard times, and the movies have been a big part of that," said Jamie Raab, head of Grand Central Publishing, a unit of Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, Mr. Sparks's publisher. She said that "Safe Haven" will have a hardcover print run of more than one million copies.

Howard Sanders, a partner in the United Talent Agency who has represented Mr. Sparks on the film side for more than a decade, said he specified that the company that acquired the film rights to "Safe Haven" would have to commit to a marketing campaign for the book.

"We wanted the film side to acknowledge Nicholas is a best-selling author and to bring the expertise of movie marketing to support the publishing side," he said. United Talent has represented articles published in The Wall Street Journal to the film industry.

One veteran agent said he thought Relativity's investment made sense. "I don't know that I've heard of a film company doing this so far in advance of the movie, but relative to the budget of a Hollywood film, buying some ads and doing an online campaign is a minor investment," said Ira Silverberg, with Sterling Lord Literistic.

Richard Pine, another agent, said, "It's smart to start early. Also, they are so confident that the movie is getting made that it's worth their advertising dollars to start now."

Typically, movies are promoted most aggressively in the six-week period leading up to their opening, with blanket television advertising intended to saturate specific markets. Relativity has championed an approach that stresses building online social communities, to engage audiences early in the process. It says it can apply the same approach to publishing.

"The social community has evolved to the point where audiences want to be engaged, not just sold to," said Randall Cox, who oversees Relativity's digital properties.

In the case of Mr. Sparks, Relativity intends to take advantage of his deep fan base by creating a social community around "Safe Haven." The theory is that if Mr. Sparks's readers become involved early on, they are likelier to become a fan of his works in the movie arena.

Strategies include hosting a variety of interactive experiences and contests. Prizes may include a walk-on role in the movie version of "Safe Haven" and a meet-and-greet with Mr. Sparks during production. Fans will also be consulted on their opinions for casting the movie.

Read the rest of the article HERE

Personally, I think this tactic is kind of genius. Tapping into the film audience early can't do any harm, that's for sure. It can only boost book sales and widen Sparks's already astronomical fan base. I also love the idea of Relativity asking for fans casting suggestions, though I'm not quite sure I believe that one will actually happen!