Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's Mine is Mine

From the Financial times of London comes this delightful excerpt from the forthcoming  Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books  (Yale University Press) edited by Leah Price.
Writers including Claire Messud, Edmund White and Gary Shteyngart, talk about their (usually formidable) book collections, how they store them, shelve them, arrange them and whether or not they give away donate or (gasp!) throw away any volumes when things get out of hand. "I still mourn the books I chucked," admits Junot Diaz, for whom books competed in importance with food when he was young. Each writer gives a list of their ten favorite books.
Messud, who lives with the writer James Wood explains, "Certainly we both know at once which books properly belong to one or the other of us, and by the same token, know which books are somehow shared. I can’t explain how we know this, but as far as I recall, we’ve never disagreed about a single volume.." 
Bibliophiles everywhere understand perfectly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview: Alisa Valdes Rodriguez

Dirty Girl on the Record
by Vivian Lake

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez , a former journalist with the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, broke into the publishing stratosphere in 2004 with the publication of Dirty Girls Social Club at the dawn of the chick-lit movement.
Her story of six Latina American women's friendship and individual struggles to find themselves and establish careers became a a New York Times bestseller which launched her career as a novelist, but the chica-lit offshoot of chick lit. Seven novels and  later, as the third Sucias [Dirty Girls] novel hits the shelves, Valdes-Rodriquez, also a columnist on Mamiverse.com,  answered some questions via email from Literati about the new book, her upcoming Kindred series and the impact of the Cowboy, the man in her life, has had.

Q. What can you tell us about Saints of Dirty Faith: A Dirty Girls Social Club Novel?

A. This is the third book in the Dirty Girls Social Club series. It catches up with three of the six women from the first book, in their mid-30s. It's not chick lit, but sort of a romantic suspense novel.

Q. Which girl would you say is most like you?
A. Lauren. She is a grossly exaggerated version of me.

Q. What are the pros and cons of writing a series? Do you get sick of the characters?
A. If I were sick of them, I wouldn't still be writing about them. They're still speaking to me, so I still give them life. The good in writing a series is that so many people love and care about these characters already. The bad is that people like to invent futures for the characters themselves and can be disappointed in where you take them instead.

Q. What made you decide to fly solo with this book -- sans big publisher?
A. I am very intrigued by the freedom and control that new technology offers writers, and I wanted to explore it and see how it went. If it's a resounding failure, I won't go there again! It's all up to the readers now.

Q. How has the digital revolution changed publishing? There is no hardcover edition of Saints; do you think printed books will disappear?
A. There could easily have BEEN a hardcover version if I wanted to release it that way on my own. I chose to release it in paperback from the get-go to keep the cost down for readers during a recession. Printed books will never disappear. Most people who buy e-books seem to buy printed books as well. I think we'll see more people buying both, so they have the beauty and longevity of a paper book at home, and the convenience of reading that same book and hundreds or thousands of others on an e-reader that weighs a couple of ounces. E-readers are perfect for traveling, commuting, etc., but will never replace paper books in, say, the bathtub.

Q. What can you tell us about the Kindred series and what was the inspiration for it?
A. Oh, boy! I am so excited about the Kindred series. I truly feel this is the most innovative and interesting work I've done in my life, period. The books will launch in the summer of 2012, and hopefully the film will come out soon after. It's a teen series, but I hope all ages will read it. It's about ghosts, parallel universes, and the intersection between faith and science. It tells of a ghost boy who meets his soulmate in a living girl, and how they are able to navigate their different dimensions. I've honestly never been so excited or invested in a project in my life.

Q. Were you actively pursuing a film sale? What is working on the film like?
A. I wrote the Kindred series to be films. That was my goal from the start, to write both the books and the films. I am a co-producer on the film for the first book, TEMPTATION (the film is THE TEMPTATION OF TRAVIS HARTWELL). I'm also the screenwriter. So far, working on the film has been wonderful. My fellow producer Harris Tulchin is amazing. Willie Kutner, who has helped me polish the script, is brilliant. And our director, James Foley, is absolutely incredible as a talent, intellect, visionary and all-around nice man. I am super excited to enter the film world. It's somewhere I'd like to stay.

Q. Any chance Sucias will become a film?
A. Highly unlikely.

Q. If you were casting Sucias.....?
A. I don't even go there anymore. I've given up hopes for that project ever making it to the screen. It is under option with someone who doesn't get it, and there is a very good chance that she could own the rights forever, just to spite me. In the interest of my mental health, I simply have to let it go.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Donate to the Occupy Wall Street Library - GalleyCat

Donate to the Occupy Wall Street Library - GalleyCat:
Mediabistro's Galleycat posted an address where bibliophiles can send books to protesters to read during the chilly evenings. Our recommendation? Confessions of an Economic Hitman. Send books (and other supplies) to:

Occupy Wall Street Library
c/o UPS Store
118A Fulton Street #205
New York, NY 10038

Saturday, September 24, 2011


HarperCollins to offer Backlist On Demand

HarperCollins has become the first publisher to cross the digital frontier and offer books to readers as print on demand products, reports Whattheythink.com .
From the time digital publishing became possible, we all knew the on-demand book was coming the only real question being how.
At launch, HarperCollins will work with On Demand Books, LLC, the maker of the Espresso Book Machine, to enable instant distribution of books that are not currently stocked in stores. With the push of a button, books can be printed, bound, and trimmed to a bookstore-quality, perfect-bound paperback book, with a full-color cover, in minutes.

Oooooh, baby!  Welcome to the 22nd century.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


 Lost Cain Novel to be Published by Hard Case Crime

Up to no good: Barbara Stanwyck as the Dame and
Fred MacMurray as the Detective in  Double Indemnity.
Hard-boiled crime fans everywhere are salivating over news that Hard Case Crime, the publisher devoted to publishing vintage and new pulp crime novels in the style 30's 40's and 50's was in possession of a previously lost James M. Cain novel.
Cain, of course was the god of the noir novel,  whose work was immortalized in the classic films Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce, among others. He died in 1977 in Maryland, but had lived in Hollywood throughout the 1930s and 40s when was hired away from the New York papers to write for films.
Literati reached out to Charles Ardai, the editor of Hard Case Crime, to get the scoop. Here it is.

Where was the manuscript discovered?

I hunted for it for years and finally found it, with the help of my film and TV agent, in the files of an old-time Hollywood agent, H.N. Swanson, who had represented authors like Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Chandler and Cain when they worked in the film business.

How was it authenticated?
Swanson handled Cain’s work, so he had extensive files on Cain, and there’s enough of a trail to make me confident that the manuscript is the real thing.  It’s also got edits all over it in Cain’s handwriting, and the plot matches the brief description of it Cain gives in his biography. 

When did Cain write it?  Before or after titles that are in print?
After.  It was the last crime novel he ever wrote.

Why I Just Want to Smack the "Woman in White"

For years I've had this on my classics tbr pile but for some reason my attention always veered away. This summer the Wilkie Collins mystery moved to the top, and I dove in, eager for a good old-fashioned 19th-century yarn, my favorite kind.
I haven't been this disappointed since Anna Karenina, another doorstop of a novel which fails in every way except one, Anna, for whom Tolstoy has utter contempt and who only comprises about one-third of the aforementioned girth of the book (yeah go ahead, make my day. You know I'm right).
As I was saying, while  The Woman in White works as a thriller (or "sensation novel" as it was called at the time of publication) I found some of it, particularly parts of the ending to be dreadful.
If you're going to take readers on  a six-hundred page ride, you better give a good bang at the end, but here, you're left asking questions. Who is Percival and how did he meet the evil Count? I have no idea, and Collins apparently didn't think this was important. The bare bones of the central crime are explained, it's not the thousand percent solution that a book with this kind of longevity should have. Percival and the Count's true identities are never revealed and this is a major flaw.
Surprisingly, I thought there was an excellent balance of female characters -- the half-sisters Miss Fairlie fair and simple, Ms. Halcombe, plain and smart are cliches but balanced,  and all the other women, especially the redoubtable Mrs. Catherick, the stone-hearted mother of the woman in white in the title, are portrayed with exceptional skill and clarity. The Woman in White herself, not so much. Of course her place in the story is to set up the mystery, but for some reason I find her annoying and whiny beyond measure. Every time she appears in the story instead of sympathy I just want her to get to the friggin' point before the bad guys show up. Of course she's doomed, but even that can't endear her to me. Oh well. And by all means if you think I'm wrong, feel free to comment. The Moonstone anyone?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Browse and to Borrow

photo by Caitlin Donohue for  SFBG.com
I LOVE this story! Just when everyone is predicting the death of the book, one brave soul opens a lending library. You know, for a small fee you get to borrow books. How positively 19th Century! The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports on the miraculous existence of Ourshelves, which was born from one woman's love for international literature.
Our heroine is a fan of hard-to-find European authors. She points me towards a slim volume by Hungarian author László Krasnahorkai entitled Animalinside and speaks reverently of Scottish poet W.S. Graham. “He’s not even in print here,” she tells me disbelievingly.
Tucked in the back of art and antiques shop Viracocha, Ourselves started as a personal quest and quickly became a beloved project, evidenced by donations from the SF Public Library and the famously reclusive writer Michael Chabon, who let founder Kristina Kearns pick what she wanted from his personal collection. Vivre le livre!
With two films based on Bronte novels set to premier soon, the talented sisters stand poised to dominate the cultural conversation this fall, a mere 150 since they died.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte have never really been "over" or out of style. Their spectacular talent left a legacy to be rediscovered generation after generation, and everything about their lives has fascinated readers from their first publication, notes Blake Morrison  at the Guardian:
The public were enthralled from the start. Curious visitors began turning up in Haworth once the truth about Jane Eyre's authorship got out [Charlotte had used a pseudonym, Currer Bell], and the numbers grew with the publication of Gaskell's biography two years after Charlotte's death in 1855. Some came from as far as America. Local shops cashed in, selling photos of the family. Patrick took to cutting up Charlotte's letters into snippets, to meet the many requests for samples of her handwriting. Charlotte was the sister everyone wanted a piece of; the reputations of Anne and Emily took longer to develop. But the books kept selling and groupies kept coming to gawp. By 1893 aBrontë Society had been formed, and a small museum opened two years later.
Morrison examines the truth behind the "tortured souls" image the sisters were cast in and examines the history and trajectory of their fame, which was immediate and wide spread.
After Charlotte's Jane Eyre appeared, the publication of Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey, the Brontes became an industry through their talent and 150 years on, business is booming.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Literati Loves...
Clicking around the net this rainy afternoon we landed on the luscious design blog Little Augury where we found this eye-popping dress.

We are SO excited about this dress!  New York designers  Zero + Maria Cornejo take the city's literary love affair to new heights with this Library Dress (our name) with which you can flaunt your love of the written word for all to see.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

King on Golding

The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph runs a piece by Stephen King on his discovery of Lord of the Flies, and the impact it had on him emotionally and as a writer. A wonderful appreciation of William Golding's masterpiece about what happens when a group of boys gets stranded on an island.

E-Books Accelerate Paperback Publishers’ Release Dates - NYTimes.com

E-Books Accelerate Paperback Publishers’ Release Dates - NYTimes.com

The Times reports on the growing trend of publishing paperback books earlier than the usual year after the hardcover version of a book debuts, in part to compete with the e-book versions.

Do you think paperback books will eventually disappear?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Literati Loves...

The New York Poetry Festival, happening on Governers Island next weekend. For the first time ever, the city's poetry groups like The Poetry Brothel, Nuyorican Poets, Futurepoem and Warrior Writers among others will gather in one place to showcase and revel in the written/spoken word.
The event and ferry rides is free but there will be food vendors and craft vendors at the event, or you can bring a picnic with you. You will definitely need a blanket and sunscreen. Saturday and Sunday, July 30 & 31, from 12 -5 p.m. For more information or tickets to the pre-festival fundraiser ($10) at the Bowery Poetry Club, click tpsny.org

Friday, July 22, 2011

Literati Loves...

Book Boxes!
These cute and functional boxes can be used to store valuables or papers. They come in three sizes (8.5", 9.5" and 10.5") and at under $20 each, they're the perfect combination of form and function for booklovers.  Available at Pier1.com

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Got Book?

If you've got an idea for a whodunit rattling around your head, or are trying to write one but are stuck one way or another, the Mystery Writers of America has your back. The prestigious organization behind the Edgar Awards, has launched MWA University, which is dedicated to "giving back to the mystery community."
On August 13 they're holding a one day event where aspiring writers will be taught by established authors. Described as "not your grandmother's writing class," the full-day program is designed to teach participants the essential skills needed to write a novel, from the idea stage to the final editing. The focus is on the craft of writing.
The seminars will be available around the country. If there isn't one in your area ask your local MWA chapter to request one.

And when they say low cost, they're not kidding. $50 gets you a seat. For more information or to register (space is limited) click on the link above or call 212-888-8171.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Drink in the City

Sherry & Narcotics by Nina-Marie Gardner (Future Fiction, 239 pp. trade paperback, $14.95 )
By Vivian Lake
This searingly authentic portrayal of a young woman's downward spiral is the best and boldest writing I've seen in a long time.  First-time novelist Gardner pulls no punches with her prose. Her writing is so emotionally authentic and unfiltered you'll have to lie down to recover.

The first person perspective works brilliantly here to drop the reader right in the middle of a troubled young woman's self-delusional downward spiral.

Mary is a talented young American writer living in Manchester who's had some success as a playwright, but thanks to addiction, when we meet her she has given up serious writing and is writing term papers for money. She is lying to her family about her drinking (and occasional drugging), and has started a relationship with a man she is to damaged to assess properly. It quickly becomes apparent how bad thing are, and it's  obvious that they're going to get worse.

Mary's two addictions are alcohol and Jake. Jake, a fairly well-known writer reached out to her and half-heartedly started a relationship. Mary's reaction is to hang on to him like a life-preserver, infusing him with all the love, generosity and good will she would want, but not realizing that the whole time, he's just standing there while she creates the relationship around him. You're wondering if she will ever realilze the truth about him, you'll wonder just how long she can remain deluded about him. Let's just say longer than any sane person could be.

Gardner paints such a wretchedly accurate portrait of the drug and alcohol fueled haze in which Mary lives, the pain she's trying to obliterate bleeds off the page.

You will find yourself cringing, moaning, screaming at Mary as she drunkenly fumbles through work, relationships, and the danger she occasionally places herself in. The narrative is as addictive as its subject, compelling you to turn the page, get to the next horror, delusion, despair, and it is great writing that gets you to sit still for something you wouldn't want to witness in real life.

In spite of its dark subject matter, Gardner somehow weaves in comic moments, and writes a runaway train of a narrative which is as compelling as any thriller. And magically, she also provides a point of light, the possibility of enlightenment and redemption.