by Campbell Geeslin
Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, due out in March, is The Buried Giant. Reporter Alexandra Alter wrote in The New York Times that it was “the weirdest, riskiest and most ambitious thing he’s published in his celebrated 33-year career.”
“Will readers follow me into this?" asked Ishiguro in an interview in Chipping Campden, England, where he and his wife spend weekends. "Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?”
One early reader and admirer of the book, novelist David Mitchell, said, “Bending the laws of what we call reality in a novel doesn’t necessarily lead to elves saying ‘Make haste! These woods will be swarming with orcs by nightfall.’”
WITH MUSIC: Jeff Kinney is the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which has sold more than 120 million books. Now there will be a stage version. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Musical will cap off the 50th anniversary season of the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis. Opening date is April 22, 2016.
MISSISSIPPI MAN: Barry Hannah, author of eight novels and five collections of short stories, died in 2010. He was the subject of an essay in The Guardian by Chris Power.
Power wrote, “Hannah’s work re-energizes prose in the way that one of his favorite musicians, Jimi Hendrix, re-energized the sound that could be rung from a guitar.”
In Hannah’s stories of the South, “violence and wild humor meet in line after unpredictable line. A particularly hated adversary is ‘overmurdered’ by a battle-crazed Confederate soldier; a doctor enduring a crisis of confidence, is ‘an unshucked oyster, hurtling on the winds, all air, gonad and gut.’”
BIRD BOOK: Vicki Constantine Croke’s most recent book is Elephant Country. In a review in the Sunday Times Book Review, she wrote: “If birds are made of air, as the nature writer Sy Montgomery says, then writing a great bird book is a little like dusting for the fingerprints of a ghost. It calls for poetry and science, conjuring and evidence.” The book Croke was reviewing is H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.
STORY: In his Aspects of the Novel (1927), E.M. Forster wrote that the backbone of a novel has to be a story. He said that a story is “a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence—dinner coming after breakfast, Tuesday after Monday, decay after death and so on. Qua story, it can only have one merit--that of making the audience want to know what happens next. And conversely it can only have one fault: that of making the audience not want to know what happens next.”
FOUND: Theodore Geisel died in 1991. As Dr. Seuss, he wrote and illustrated many bestselling books for children. In 2013, his widow found a manuscript for an unpublished book, What Pet Should I Get?, in a closet, and it will be in bookstores in July.
The New York Times said, “Random House plans to release at least two other books based on the recently rediscovered materials, with publication dates to be announced.”
GIFT: After hosting the Scheide collection of rare books for more than half a century, Princeton has been bequeathed it outright, the largest gift in the university's history. Begun by oil executive William Scheide in 1865 and now valued at $300 million, the 2,500-item collection includes the first six printed editions of the bible, including a Gutenberg, four Shakespeare folios, a treasury of original documents from the 15th century, musical notes from Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. The collection was left to the university by Scheide's grandson William, a noted musicologist and philanthropist who was one of the principal contributors to the Brown vs. Board of Education suit and who died last year at 100. Since 1959, the collection has been housed in the Firestone Library at Princeton.
ADVICE: Richard Price, author of The Whites under the pen name Harry Brandt, was interviewed for Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. Asked, “Any book you regret reading?” he replied, “Sophie’s Choice in 1982. Never ever read a powerful novel when you’re trying to write a novel of your own.”
WINNER: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore has been awarded the annual American History Book Prize. A black-tie dinner will be held to present the award on April 17. Lepore, a professor at Harvard, was quoted in The New York Times: “this was an incredibly fun book to write.”
SHY: Kim Gordon is the author of Girl in a Band, a memoir published this week. Gordon told The New York Times that she had thought of putting in a disclaimer at the beginning that said, “No sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll. I’m a read-between-the-lines kind of person.”
An “antifrontwoman,” she said she didn’t want the book “to become a Sonic Youth book,” about the band she spent 30 years with. Recently divorced, she said, “For a while, I was concerned about being alone. Now I’m really enjoying my freedom.”
MEMOIRS: There’s a new comedy-drama on Broadway, Verite by Nick Jones, that “satirizes the mania for memoirs that has felled so many trees and fired up so many Kindles, “ wrote theater critic Charles Isherwood in The New York Times.
The play’s heroine is told that “what she writes must be ‘interesting’ and ‘true’ (not like those scandal-causing fake memoirs).” Her life has been dull, so she has an affair and gets an ardent proposal from her lover. “It’s overwrought," she says of her lover's declaration, "but that’s fine. I’ll rework the dialogue.”
Isherwood ended his review with, “Unlike memoirs, plays don’t necessarily have to be true, or even true-ish, but they should be credible enough to keep us engaged with the fates of their characters.”
BUSY EDITOR: Interviewed for The Paris Review in 1957, humorist James Thurber was asked about what kind of editor The New Yorker’s Harold Ross was.
Thurber said, “As Andy White mentioned in his obituary, Ross approached the English sentence as though it was an enemy, something that was going to throw him. He used to fuss for an hour over a comma. He’d call me in for lengthy discussions about the Thurber colon. And as for poetic license, he’s say, ‘Damn any license to get things wrong.’ In fact, Ross read so carefully that often he didn’t get the sense of your story. I once said, ‘I wish you’d read my stories for pleasure, Ross.’ He replied he hadn’t time for that.”
NEW AUTHOR: Pharrell Williams, a frequent hat-wearer on TV, is also a singer, songwriter, fashion designer and soon-to-be author. His first book will be Happy, the title of his 2014 musical hit recording. The illustrations will be photographs of happy children all over the world. The New York Times said publication will be September 22. It’s part of a four-book deal with Putnam Books for Young Readers.
POEM: Jake Silverstein, editor of the newly designed New York Times Magazine, said that there would be a poem in the magazine every week because “we believe it is a vital experience.“ Natasha Tretheway, a former U.S poet laureate, will make the selection from recent or forthcoming books. Sunday’s poem was “Abide” by Jake Adam York who died in 2012. His poem begins: “Forgive me if I forget/with the birdsong and the day’s/last glow folding into the hands of the trees.“
ABOUT TWAIN: Brenda Wineapple is the author of Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877. She started her review of two books about Samuel Clemens in Sunday’s New York Times Review with a description of the man.
“Fresh and funny today as he was more than a century ago, Mark Twain wittily distrusted everything bogus, inflated, predictable or empty. He was a man of a thousand American parts—novelist, stand-up comic, travel writer, impresario, capitalist, full-time celebrity and coruscating social critic—whose ear for dialogue, nuance, slang, and absurdity seldom failed him. No wonder we still read him . . . “
The books reviewed were Mark Twain’s America by Harry l. Katz and the Library of Congress and Huck Finn’s America by Andrew Levy.
WHY: Romance writer Sarah MacLean, author of Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, explained why the Fifty Shades trilogy has been on bestseller lists for 141 weeks.
She told New York Times Review columnist Gregory Cowles: “Essentially, we live in a time when women aren’t only feeling responsible for making a home, they’re feeling responsible for keeping the house standing. Fifty Shades strikes at the heart of the fear that comes with this responsibility—Christian [the hero] takes control of everything for Ana: finances, career, food, sexual pleasure. Anyone who can’t see the value in that fantasy is deliberately looking the other way.”
IT’S POLITICS: Mohsin Hamid’s new book is Discontent and Its Civilizations. In an essay for Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, he answered the question: “Does fiction have the power to sway politics?”
All fiction was political, he wrote. “Fiction writers who claim their writing is not political are simply writers who seek to dissociate themselves from the politics furthered by their writing. Making up stories is an inherently political act. Like voting is. And like choosing not to vote is, too.”