by Campbell Geeslin
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) and Americanah (2013). She won a MacArthur grant in 2008.
In an interview in The Wall Street Journal, she said that Americans should know that African writers don’t just write about Africa’s problems.
As a writer, she said, she suffers from bouts of depression, “the crazy writer illness” that she thinks is common in her field. “I wish I could write every day,” she said. “When it goes well, I ignore things like family and hygiene, but other days, when it’s not going well, I read the books I love to remind myself of how beautiful and essential and nurturing words can be, and I hope that doing that will bring my own words back.”
SALE: A house on Great Neck Estates, Long Island, where F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived between 1922 and 1924, is for sale for $3.8 million. The Guardian said it is believed he wrote The Great Gatsby there.
STREISAND MEMOIR: At 73, Barbra Streisand is adding to the surfeit of books about her that are already on the shelves. Her memoir will be published in 2017. Viking, the publisher, told The New York Times that many of the books about her are “full of myths and inaccuracies, and she is finally going to tell her own story.”
HOW WORDS WORK: Robert M. Sapolsky writes a column, “Mind & Matter,” for The Wall Street Journal. In a recent post, he commented on how language shapes our thoughts. In languages with grammatical gender systems, some nouns are masculine, others feminine. “The results can be nutty," Sapolsky wrote. “In French, for example, ‘kidney’ is masculine, but the place where it sends its urine, the ‘bladder,’ is feminine.”
Sapolsky asked, “Do gendered nouns shape thought? Ask Germans and Spaniards to describe a bridge. Germans, with a feminine word [der bruke], tend to emphasize a bridge’s beauty and grace; Spaniards, with their masculine word [el puente], tend to focus on its strength and construction.”
HER FAVORITE: Edna O’ Brien’s new novel is The Love Object. She was asked by The New York Times Book Review of May 24 which of her novels was her favorite.
She said, “The Country Girls wrote itself, and a part of me would, of course, love to feel again ‘that first fine, careless rapture.’”
TWO JOBS: St. Martin’s Minotaur Books has hired McKenna Jordan, owner of Murder By the Book in Houston, as a consultant. Minotaur said in PW that Jordan would be making her “unique and successful experience in the positioning, selling, and marketing of crime fiction available . . . to Minotaur’s staff.”
FIRST ONE HITS BIG: Sabaa Tahir’s first novel is An Ember in the Ashes, out last month. The book hit No. 2 on the young adult best-seller lists. The New York Times said Ember “has drawn comparisons to several of the biggest publishing blockbusters of the last decade, including The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and George R.R. Martin’s high fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire.” Film rights have been optioned. A sequel is due in 2016.
The author, a former international editor for The Washington Post, said that the setting and plot were inspired in part by stories of children around the world who are pressed into being soldiers. She said, “I love my characters like family, and cannot wait to share more of their story with readers.”
SEASONAL NOTE: Spring turned Amanda Foreman, columnist in The Wall Street Journal, to thoughts of Virgil (70-19 B.C.E.). “His pastoral poetry,” Foreman wrote, “was more than just an elegant commentary on the countryside: fundamental to its purpose was the exploration of our relationship with nature. ‘Let me love the rivers and the woods,’ Virgil declares in ‘The Georgics,’ before going on to ponder whether he should spend his life contemplating rural delights.”
LIT RAP: JaQuavis and Ashley Coleman have co-authored dozens of novels, many bestsellers. In the last ten years the couple has published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms. The New York Times said, “They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap.” They have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals. They flood the market with five or six books a year.
JaQuavis Coleman said, “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.”
The article ended with some “swagger” from JaQuavis Coleman: “My wife is the best female writer in the game. I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”
WRITING ON TRAINS: Elif Shafak is the author of The Architect’s Apprentice, published in March. She wrote in The Wall Street Journal that she loved working while riding on trains. “I have my notes with me and a few quotes: ‘If you have no sympathy for human pain, the name of human you cannot retain,’ whispers the Persian poet Sa’d from his ‘Gutlistan.’ I write for two good hours. I have begun my next novel, and I am terrified. It never gets easier, writing books.”
PROLIFIC: R.L. Mathewson’s new bestseller is Double Dare, part of her “Neighbor From Hell” series. She’s written 37 paranormal and contemporary romance novels.
Mathewson wrote online that she self-publishes because she “doesn’t want to be hassled by contractual obligations. That would just cut into my writing time, time with my kids, reading time and my hot cocoa addiction.”
Last fall, she published a book entitled How to Write, Publish and All That Good Stuff. She wrote that it “tells how to get word out about your book without spending a dime . . . and enjoy the process.”
BIG PRIZE: Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai won the sixth Man Booker International Prize in London last week. The $93,000 award is given every two years for a body of work published originally in English or available in English translation. The New York Times said Krasznahorkai’s novels include The Melancholy of Resistance (1989), Seiobo There Below (2008), and Satantango (2012).
FOR SUMMER READING: Janet Maslin of The New York Times did her annual preview of books for summer reading, with the emphasis on déjà vu. She mentioned Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman—“only 55 years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird"— and said, “We’ll be hit with The Devil Wears Prada kickoff . . . called The Knockoff [that] borrows freely from All About Eve. The Stephen King-type chiller, in which a famous writer falls prey to an obsessed fan (sound familiar?) has been written by Stephen King. It’s called Finders Keepers.”
SENSITIVE CASTING: Margaret Sullivan is public editor for The New York Times. Her most recent column explained how reviewers are chosen for the Sunday Book Review.
“Writers who have ‘blurbed’ particular books—that is, written short pieces of laudatory copy for promotional purposes—are ruled out as reviewers for them. So are those who share the same agent or editor as the author. In some cases, having the same publisher or imprint is considered a conflict, for example, if the publishing house is a small one, such as Farrar, Straus & Giroux or Algonquin.
“However, a personal connection with the author or well-known strong feelings on the book’s subject, may actually be considered a positive, or at least not a disqualifier.” Pamela Paul, editor of the Review, told Sullivan, “It comes down to ‘who would you want to read on this?’ It’s a tricky challenge to get someone informed but not entrenched.” Getting an accomplished reviewer who writes a provocative, well-informed piece “is what gets us excited,” Paul said.