by Campbell Geeslin
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the seven-foot, two-inch retired basketball star, was in New York to attend the annual meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars last week. His first novel, Mycroft Holmes, a thriller about Sherlock Holmes’s older brother, is due out in Fall.
Abdul-Jabbar told The New Yorker that he had begun reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he was a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969. He said Holmes’ methods had helped him figure out an opponent’s weaknesses on the basketball court. He heard the ball boys saying that opponent Bob Lanier sneaked cigarettes during half time. Abdul-Jabbar then knew that if he made Lanier run, “he would be in pain. These are the little clues I pick up.”
Abdul-Jabbar said, “I make deductions. That’s what I do. Hey, I read Sherlock Holmes.”
NOW A NOVEL: Bill Clegg, a first-time novelist, was described by The New York Times as a superagent. Noted for the million dollar deals he gets for his clients, Clegg is the author of two bestselling memoirs about addiction and recovery: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man (2010) and Ninety Days (2012).
The novel’s title is Did You Ever Have a Family. The Times says the book is about “a middle-aged woman struggling to recover from an accidental explosion that destroyed her home and killed her family.” Publication is scheduled for September.
Clegg founded his own agency last August. He has closed more than 20 deals in the last year, including a $3 million, three-book deal for the debut novelist Emma Cline with Random House.
WINNING BET: Helen McDonald has won two of the U.K's most prestigious book prizes in succession for H Is for Hawk. In November it was the Samuel Johnson Award, in the nonfiction category, worth 20,000 pounds; in January, it was the Costa Prize, in the biography slot, worth 30,000 pounds. The Guardian said of the memoir, “It explores grief, love, and nature—as well as how you train a goshawk.”
Robert Harris, a Costa panel judge, said, “Everybody agreed it was wonderful, muscular, precise, scalpel-like prose. It was a very clever and accomplished piece of writing that wove everything together.”
After the presentation, McDonald said she felt wobbly and “my mum was hoping I’d win. I think she put some money on me.”
JUST FOOLING ROUND: Actor David Duchovny, of the X-Files and Californication, was the subject of an interview in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. He is the author of a novel, Holy Cow.
Asked if he thought his writing was in the tradition of Samuel Beckett, Duchovny, who has a B.A. in English Literature from Princeton and an M.A. in the same from Yale, said, “No, I still like the language a little too much to call myself Beckettian. He is very austere, and I like fooling around with words. I guess I’m more Joycean, although that’ll sound really pretentious.”
IMMORTAL: A real bear caused the real Christopher Robin (Milne) to fixate on his stuffed toy. The live bear, which young Milne visited at the zoo during World War II, was tame enough to be patted, and was the inspiration for Milne's father's Winnie the Pooh series. Now the real bear is the subject of a children’s picture book, Winnie, by Sally M. Walker.
In a Wall Street Journal review, Megan Cox Gurdon wrote, “There is a snapshot here of Christopher Robin in his knee socks and patent leather shoes, stroking the fur of the bear on which his father would bestow literary immortality.”
LISBETH TO RETURN: The sequel to Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy was completed in November by journalist David Lagercrantz. The title is That Which Does Not Kill. Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004. He was 50 years old.
The Guardian said publication is set for next August in 35 countries. Lisbeth Salander, the fictional tattooed lady, is the superhero.
WORD’S MEANING: From the 19th century on, the word “salty” has had several meanings: “Piquant,” “rude” and “tough”-—that last meaning associated with sailors, “called ‘salts’ because of their life on the sea.” The word has been named the Most Likely to Succeed by the American Dialect Society at its annual conference in Portland, Ore.
The word was the subject of a column by Ben Zimmer, chairman of the New Words Committee of the Dialect Society, in The Wall Street Journal. “Salty” is now defined as “exceptionally bitter, angry, or upset.” This slang word, Zimmer wrote, “will likely continue working its way into mainstream acceptance. Just take its apparent novelty with a grain of salt.”
VILLAIN: George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series features King Joffrey, called by The Guardian in quotation marks, “a truly little shit.” The boy is a candidate for the title of worst villain in all fiction.
“When King Robert dies, King Joffrey takes to the throne with gleeful savagery. . . . he has the power to do everything he pleases—and none of it is nice.”
EVENTS: Poet Theodore Rilke wrote that the events of the human body—pain, organism, taste, smell—are experiences for which language offers no solution.
Richard Selzer, retired professor of surgery at Yale and author of Taking the World in for Repairs, wrote in The New York Times in 1987: “These are events and experiences for which language offers no solution. They cannot be conveyed. The writer falls back from his assault upon these citadels of sensation and contents himself with encircling the body with an array of sentences, besieging it with paragraphs in the hope that he will awaken a connection, however dim, between what his character is feeling and what the reader has felt in his own lifetime. The writer must try to awaken the buried past of the reader.”
YOUNG DREAM: Except for Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence is the most written- about Englishman in the 20th century. Michael Dirda of The Washington Post wrote about him again in a review of Anthony Sattin’s The Young T.E. Lawrence.
His family called him Ned. His first 25 years are “the pre-history of that hero, the story of how an English youth with a passion for chivalric romance actually came to live out his boyhood dream.”
Lawrence wrote, “I love all waste and solitary places; where we taste the pleasures of believing what we see is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.” He found that place in Arabia.
RETURN HABIT: Bestselling Scotsman Ian Rankin, 54, has had his fictional Inspector Rebus come back three times since his first “final” case, Exit Music, in 2007.
A Rankin Twitter was quoted in The Guardian. He said that he was keeping the next Rebus title “under wraps, but am beginning to wish I hadn’t named it after a song with such a catchy chorus.” Due date wasn’t mentioned.
ON A JAG: Stewart O’Nan’s new novel is West of Sunset. It’s about F. Scott Fitzgerald. O’Nan was asked by The Boston Globe about his favorite surrealist writers.
O’Nan said, “Andre Breton and Max Ernst, who was an artist and writer. I consider a guy like William Burroughs absurdist or surrealist, too. I discovered the surrealists in my early 20s when I was reading a lot of French authors. I read Flaubert, Camus, Sartre, and then I latched onto the surrealists. That’s how it is with reading for me. I go on a jag.”
In an interview about Sunset with The Los Angeles Times, O’Nan said, “I had this fear that this was the haunted or bad-luck book and that I would die before I finished it. It would be an unfinished novel about the guy who wrote the unfinished novel.”
QUARTET: Four new books address the benefits of getting rid of stuff, and they were reviewed by PW.
Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space by Kathy Lipp “offers practical advice for battling clutter” and the “fears that cause us to cling to what we no longer want or need.”
In the Love the Home You Have, Melissa Michaels claims that “clutter is what holds us back from living the life we want.”
Denise Liotta Dennis’s book is Classic Feng Shui for Romance, Sex and Relationships. She wrote that just changing the angle of a door “can change your relationships.”
Paula Rizzo is author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Successful and Less Stressed. She wrote: “The last thing I do [each day] is start a clean to-do list for the next day, and it brings me a real sense of calm.”
Perhaps those titles are all you need.
BIG JOB: Anne Enright has been named Ireland’s first laureate for fiction. During the next three years she will deliver lectures, hold university residences and promote Ireland’s literature culture. She will be paid $170,000. One of her teaching duties will be at New York University, which supports the award.
Her first novel was The Wig My Father Wore (1995). She won the Man Booker Prize in 2007 for The Gathering. The New York Times said her new novel, The Green Road, will be published in Spring.