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FICTION IS A MAGIC TRICK of sorts. But at its best it doesn’t just conjure up an imaginary world; it makes the real one disappear, it makes the author disappear. Only a book can do this — let you lose yourself so completely. So, if you can, forget about everything else. Just be there with the book.

Jami Attenberg, Author of All Grown Up
Interview, NY Times Book Review, March 26, 2017

And in the other corner . . .

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A GREAT OBSTACLE to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, …[t]he result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment and disgust towards all the real businesses of life.

Thomas Jefferson 
Letter to Nathaniel Burwell, March 14, 1818

 

 

sad books3New York, NY: If you like your books upbeat, you're in luck. After contentious debate within the ranks, American publishers say they will no longer publish depressing books.

"Given current anxieties over everything from global politics to the migratory Texas fire ant, we cannot pile more misery on our readership," said C.P. Snow, C.E.O. of the A.P.A.

Authors disagree. "Now more than ever, we need our readers to feel miserable," author Ann Patchup said.

"They need to learn empathy, and the only way is by subjecting them to thoroughly depressing fiction," she added. "Personally, I promise to do more for the effort."

Ms. Patchup was joined in her remarks by fellow author, Filup Roth. "Suffering brings enlightenment," he intoned. "I generally go for sex in my books, but suffering gets you there, too."

Authors, however, may be bucking the wishes of their most ardent fans. While on book tour, many find themselves confronted by angry readers, waving books and demanding an end to the crush of dreary novels have recently crowded the market.

Even reviewers, usually strong proponents of bleak literature, have joined the nay-sayers. Said Shelley Byron of The Daily News, "I've run out of words for sad—you've got dreary, dark, depressing, doleful, dismal—I've used them all. Pretty soon all you're left with is 'down-in the dumps.'"

Another reviewer, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed. "I can't recall using the words lyrical, delightful, pleasing, uplifting, or even wistful…like, you know, forever."

The online community has weighed in, as well. Molly Lundquist of LitLovers asked, "Can you think of any other consumer product specifically designed to make its users miserable? Other than treadmills, of course not."


Fronta Loeb, special to City Examiner and LitLovers.



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Have you noticed
the number of absent mothers at the heart of new novels lately? So far I count SEVEN—in the first quarter of this year alone—and surely there are more.

1/10  The Sleepwalker
1/31 I Liked My Life
1/ 7 Swimming Lessons
1/ 7 Universal Harvester
3/ 7 Rabbit Cake
3/ 7 Close Enough to Touch
3/28 Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Then there are last year's books, as well as those over the past several years—most famously, Where'd You Go, Bernadette. We can even go back to the early-aughts.

The missing mothers in these stories take off…or wander off…or die…or are killed…or kill themselves. Sometimes it happens before the novel opens, sometimes within the pages.

Whenever or however they disappear, fictional moms leave heartbreak and loneliness in their wake—a grief so profound it shapes a character's motivations and actions throughout the novel.

It is an age-old literary trope, which authors use to set their protagonists on the path of the Hero's Journey—a quest for self-discovery, belonging, and self-acceptance.

One of the best missing mother novels? Dickens' David Copperfield—the mother of all missing mother stories.

By the way...I've written on a this subject a number of years ago. See Lost Mothers—Why authors bump off moms.

reinvent novelRachel Cusk, wants to reinvent the novel, at least according to the New York Times Book Review.* Just writing that makes me break into a sweat. Why do we have to reinvent the novel?

Okay, I get it. It's not unlike composers wondering where to take symphonic music after Beethoven. Ludwig pretty much said it all.

Poor Johannes Brahms: when folks heard his first symphony, they went, "Oh...whaddya know: it's Beethoven's 10th!" Or so the story goes.

After 200+ years of the novel as art form, it's understandable that authors might want to try something different.

Perhaps you've noticed the trend toward SHIFTING POINTS OF VIEW, different characters taking turns at the helm…

. . . surely you've noticed the frequent use of SHIFTING TIME FRAMES, the lack of straightforward chronology…

. . . or maybe you've noticed the use of ALTERNATIVE TEXTS: news clips, diary entries, handwritten letters, scholarly papers, emails, even PowerPoint…

. . . how about the use of ALTERNATE REALITIES?


Sometimes it's hard
to tell exactly where you are...or what character you're following—one of the criticisms leveled at Paul Auster's otherwise highly touted new book 4321. Other times, all this narrative disruption can make it hard to engage with the characters.

Yet we know people see and experience life differently. And that is precisely what the new fiction is trying to get at—to point out that the human condition isn't monolithic, that there is more than one way of seeing a particular event.

"Roshoman effect" — it even has a name: from the 1950 Japenese movie by Akira Kurosawa. The film is considered a classic because of its novel use of varied perspectives — "novel" 70 years ago, not so much now. Anyway, Faulkner got there 20 years before Kurosawa did with As I Lay Dying. And Joyce got there even earlier with Ulysses (a book only academics can read).

Still, don't you miss the comfort of a single narrator? I do. I have a yen for that 19th-century style of writing in which someone steps onto your front porch, claims a seat, and tells you a grand story.

I hate being old-fashioned and curmudgeonly. But I'm weary of the fact that EVERY new book I pick up messes with point of view and chronology. Friends, I just had to get that off my chest.

* New York Times Book Review, January 29, 2017, cover review of Rachel Cusk's Transit.



criminal librarians3Ha! And you thought librarians were goody-two-shoes. Well, here's a TRUE CRIME story that'll make your toes curl.

The AP reported that the county library in Sorrento, Florida, was caught red-handed in a devilishly clever SCAM. Over the course of nine months some 2,000 books had been checked out by a fake card holder.

Now THAT is registration fraud; it's the real thing. But get this: the books were always returned. Within an hour. Undamaged.

The Big Reader was Chuck Finley, except Chuck Finley doesn't exist (at least with an East Lake Library card). It turns out two librarians had dummied up an ID and used it to check out books, dozens at a time—everything from John Steinbeck's Cannery Row to Why Do My Ears Pop, a children's book by Ann Fullick.

It was all for a good cause—to save them from the chopping block because books that haven't been checked out for a period of time are removed from the county system. So the two librarians took it upon themselves to save as many as they could.

Until someone ratted them out. What a kill joy.

But who's the bad guy here—the fink or the perps? Bleed though our hearts may, it's hard to say. With some 300,000 titles published a year by major U.S. houses (50,000+ for fiction alone), libraries face a serious shortage of space. Budgets aren't the only thing being squeezed…so are books on shelves.

Still, how can we NOT relate to these two benighted—or beknighted—souls, so enamored of books that they can't bear to have them tossed in the dust bin of history? (Btw, I've no idea what's become of our librarians—to say nothing of all the BOOKS.)

A humorous yet sad tale.


moon-lib-book-bundles2So imagine: you're walking into one of your local library branches, as I was recently, and you find right in front of you a sumptuous table, positively laden with tote bags—each of them charmingly tagged by theme and filled with used books.

For $10 any Book Bundle could be yours. Patrons get the books (from 4 to 6), AND they get the tote bag. It's enchanting.


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Government Clamps Down on Long Book Titles
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Charges of Blatant Overreach

Dec. 12, 2016: Washington, DC— In a rare show of bi-partisanship, Congress cried foul today when the Department of Homeland Security moved to put an end to excessively long book titles.

"It's a case of blatant government overreach," said Ron Paul Ryan, House Speaker. In a joint press conference held in the Capitol Rotunda, Shuck Chumer, Senate Minority Leader, concurred.

Vulnerable to hacking
But security officials say they worry that lengthy titles "could possibly" contain encrypted U.S. intelligence messages, making them vulnerable to its enemies.

"We know for a fact that Russia has the capability of hacking into these things and gaining access to the nation's top secrets," said F.B.I. Director Robert Combover.

Disturbing trend
"Some titles are 30 words in length—and they're getting longer by the year," he said. "It's a disturbing trend, and no one knows what's behind it."

Mr. Combover gave as an example Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped America Whoop the Soviet's Ass and Win the Space Race All the While Raising Their Children and Struggling Against Racism and the Man.

Buried code
"We have reason to believe there's a piece of code buried in that title," he said.

"Why else would anyone write like that?"

Other examples include the new biography by Julia Baird—Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Became Queen at Eighteen, Loved Sex, Had Nine Children and a Fussy Husband, Yet Still Found Time to Rule Over a Vast (and Yet to Crumble) World Empire.

Confusing
Lengthy titles have dismayed those in the book business, though for different reasons.

"Long titles confuse young people. They read the titles and think they've read the book," said Steve Holt of Steve Holt, Steve Holt, Inc.

"Titles are longer than Twitter posts," he said, "and that's a problem."



Fronta Loeb, special to The Daily News and LitLovers.

boy-a-girl2Oops ... about to show my age. Remember A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford? Back in 1979 it was yuge, a bestselling book and later a TV movie.

Today it would be "A Girl of Substance." Talk about lost in translation.

What's the big deal? Well, if you have to ask, you're too young to have been around during the nascent Woman's Movement in the late-'60s and '70s.

You've seen Mad Men, right? It was like that, even into the 70s. I was there. To be called a "girl" was dismissive. "My girl can get you coffee." Or, "Nah. Don't bother. The girls can clean that up." Age didn't matter—21, 41, or 61—we were just girls, not women of substance.
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Which is why
I get all dithered-up by the use of "GIRL" in the dozens and dozens of recent BOOK TITLES—some 200. I know because I made a LIST. (Click button for a laugh!)
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Girl Titles sell books—The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo series made it so, starting in 2005; then came Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. It's a hot trend, and publishers want in on it—to the point that they're REVISING PREVIOUS TITLES, hoping to breathe new life into older books. Take a look ...

Newly Revised Titles
By publishers

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Girls Who Dug Rocks

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Girls

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Girls Who Wore Corsets

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
The Girl Who Made It to the Supreme Court

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
The Girl Who Left Her Daughter (But Kept in Touch)

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Girl Who Runs with Arrows and Other Sharp Objects

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Girl Who Went for a Walk and Then Felt Better

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
The Girl Who Kicked Corporate Butt

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Girl with Prejudice and the Man with Pride, or Vice Versa

Obsessive Genius: The Inner Life of Marie Curie by Barbara Goldsmith
This Girl's the Bomb

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Girl Who'd Better Win the Nobel Prize

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid
The Girl Who Owned a Slave Who Was Also a Girl

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Climate Change Girl

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Girl Who Watched Fungus Grow and Became Famous

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The Girl in Cabin 10



 

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Ryan Gosling—Real Genius Behind LitLovers
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 Practically Twins 

Oct. 12, 2016: Hollywood, CA— Who really is LitLovers? The closely guarded secret that has kept the literary world guessing for years has finally been revealed.

The driving force behind LitLovers, according to Claudio Gatti, is film star RYAN GOSLING. Gatti recently achieved notoriety as the investigator who divulged the true identity of best-selling Italian author Elena Ferrante,

"Gosling is a shape-shifter; he's been posing as "Molly Lundquist" for years," Gatti said.

Hollywood stunned
The news set the bi-coastal worlds of Hollywood and New York atwitter.



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"I'm gobsmacked," tweeted Steve Carell. But think about it— you never saw them in the same room together; it's starting to make sense."

Look alikes
Daily News asked Gatti how Gosling got away with it for so long. "Easy," he said; "the two are practically twins."

"They have an uncanny resemblance to one another—eye color, hair color, even body build."

Hefty woman
Gosling's sculpted abs may explain why many—Donald Trump included—have poked fun at Lundquist as a being on the "hefty" side.

"What looks great on him may not look so great on her," Gatti conceded.

Gosling's speech
Gatti also noted a perfect match-up in Gosling's speech pattern with Lundquist's writing.

"Ryan makes liberal use of dashes and semicolons when he
talks—just like Molly when she writes," noted Gatti.


Fronta Loeb, special to The Daily News and LitLovers.

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