by Campbell Geeslin
Is there a recipe for writing a novel these days? Alice Gregory, a contributing editor to The New York Times Style pages, wrote in the August 9 Times Book Review: “If I were to commission a novel, I would ask the author for lots of things (that it be short; that it be written in free indirect speech; that it include funny, but frank, acknowledgment of women’s grooming rituals), but mostly I would want this notional novelist to take up the challenge of animating at least one character who is virtuous, not in the intimate way that everyone seems to be up close, but in a way that is obvious and legible in the book’s own universe. It’s time that goodness be shown in all its relentless torment and sacrifice.”
DIETS FOR LIVING: Dan Buettner is the author of The Blue Zones Solution. In an article in The New York Times, Jeff Gordinier wrote that the book “takes a deep dive into five places around the world where people have a beguiling habit of forgetting to die. In Icaria [a Greek Island] they stand a decent chance of living to see 100.” The article goes into the diets in detail. There is no meat or cheese. But all is not lost—coffee gets a big okay.
ON THE NEWS: Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic and author of the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller, Between the World and Me.
Slate.com said that the book “was originally slated for an October release but was . . . bumped up to July 14 in the wake of last month’s white supremacist terror attack in Charleston.”
EXPOSES: Eric Schlosser is the author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal, an expose of the fast food industry. More than 2 million copies have been sold. It was adapted into a young adult book, Chew on This, and made into a movie.
Now he is working on a book that investigates America’s prison system. The title will be The Great Imprisonment. It’s scheduled for publication in 2018.
The New York Times said, “Mr. Schlosser aims to land a…blow against American’s prison system, which he argues has expanded and become more profit-driven since the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing.”
SCI-FI MAN: Ernest Cline is the author of Armada, a bestseller about a teen-age gamer who helps save the earth from an alien invasion. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter.
In an interview on Slate.com, Cline said, “It’s a great time to be a science-fiction writer but also dangerous if you’re trying to imagine the future.” He was five years old when the movie Star Wars came out, and he said he saw that movie as many times as he could. “It was part of the mythology of my youth.”
LitLovers.com says that Cline “spent much of his young adulthood working a series of low-paying tech support jobs that allowed him to surf the internet while on the clock and research his many pop-culture obsessions.” Cline is a fan of the Back to the Future film series and owns a 1982 DeLorean sports car.
PRIVATE EYE: Don Winslow, 61, is the author of The Cartel, a bestseller. He and his wife of 30 years live in California. Bing.com said many of his crime and mystery novels are set in California. Five of his books have Neal Carey as the fictional private investigator. Of the many jobs Winslow held, one was that of a private investigator.
The Cartel is a sequel to The Power of the Dog (2005) and Winslow is quoted on KirkusReviews.com: “Things in Mexico and along the border got so much worse than my worst nightmares. The most horrific things I wrote about in The Power of the Dog wouldn’t even make the newspapers today.”
GROUP EFFORT: Sci-fi author Chris Farnell orchestrated a novel written by 50 fans in 75 minutes at the “Nine Worlds Geekfest” convention in Heathrow over the weekend. Participants were drawn from “across the spectrum of geek culture,” said theguardian.com.
The 50 acolytes spent about 45 minutes hammering out a plot, characters and structure. Then for 30 minutes, each had one chapter to write. The results were collected, lightly edited, and published as a free ebook.
“It’s not really about whether it’s going to succeed, or how good the book ends up being,” Farnell said, “as it is about what we learn by doing.”
MOVED: The publication of a St. Martin’s Press biography of Donald Trump has been moved up from next year to October 6. It’s made up of conversations with Trump and interviews with some of his children and former wives Ivana Trump and Marla Maples.
The Associated Press said, “Trump’s candidacy has revived interest in some of his own books, including Time to Get Rough and Trump: The Art of the Deal. Both books were out of stock . . . on Amazon.com.”
BOOKSTORES: Two Paris bookstores have U.S. roots: San Francisco Book Co. and Berkeley Books of Paris. That’s the good news.
Blog.sfgate.com said that “Paris, like other cities around the world, has lost some of its treasured bookstores to rent increases and the rise in online book sales. Just last month, La Hune, a famous Left Bank bookstore frequented by the French intelligentsia, shut down after more than 60 years in business. Also gone are the English language bookstores Village Voice, the Red Wheelbarrow and Tea and Tattered Pages.”
MUSEUM: The American Writers Museum will open in Chicago next year. The purpose “is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives.” The quote is from americanwritersmuseum.org.
COUNTS TO 10: Jennifer Niven is the author of All the Bright Places, a bestseller that is her first novel for young adults. It’s about a girl dying of cancer who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
“In 2000,” Niven said on goodreads.com, “I started writing full time. I’ve written eight books (two of those are forthcoming), and when I’m not working on the ninth, I’m . . . thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I’m always writing.”
On jenniferniven.com, she offers a list of things she loves. These include bookstores, research, lip gloss and boys with guitars. Her favorite heroine is Alice of Wonderland. Her favorite words are “lovely, sunshine, obstreperous, yes.”
On her writing desk she keeps “a tiny marble armadillo to remind me to have a tough hide (which is especially helpful during publication time).”
She can also count to ten in Japanese.
LATE ARRIVAL: Anton Chekhov was the author of an unpublished—until now—collection of short stories entitled The Prank. It was written more than 130 years ago and rescued by New York Review Books, The New York Review of Books’ publishing offshoot. Chekhov was just 22 years old when the stories were submitted to the censors “who discerned a subversive intent and promptly forbade publication.”
The New York Times said Review Books “has made a specialty of rescuing and reviving all kinds of ignored or forgotten works in English or in translation, fiction and nonfiction, by writers renowned and obscure.”
GIVE HER AN OPERA: Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of an updated Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story.
She was asked by the New York Times Book Review which sorts of books she avoided reading. She said, “At the moment, I tend to avoid fiction about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense. This makes it hard to find a new novel, sometimes.”
Asked which of her novels she would like to see adapted for TV or film, she said, “May I have an opera by Philip Glass instead, please? Whichever book he likes.”
THREAT: YouTube star Miranda Sings (real name Colleen Ballinger) is the author of a parody advice guide, Selp-Helf, that is a bestseller. The book includes a ransom note that starts: “Date me! or else. . . . If you want 2 see your cat alive again you will give me a foot rub. Watch out for warts. They hurt a lot today.”
WAY TO GO: Walter Isaacson is the author of biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs and heads the Aspen Institute. He wrote an essay, “Walker Percy’s Theory of Hurricanes” for the August 9 New York Times Book Review.
Isaacson wrote: "Percy was a medical doctor who didn't practice and a Catholic who did, which equipped him to embark on a search for how we mortals fit into the cosmos."
He concludes with a quote from Percy’s most famous work:
“At the end of The Moviegoer, as the Mardi Gras gives way to Ash Wednesday, [the hero, Binx] is asked “about his search, the leap of faith it has occasioned, and how he now makes his way in the world. ‘There is only one thing I can do,’ Binx replies, ‘listen to people, see how they stick themselves into the world hand them along a ways in their dark journey and be handed along.’”