Blogging & Musing...

In Praise of the Short Novel

Thursday, 31 March 2016 09:08

Intall-book3 case you hadn't noticed, the novel seems to be getting longer and longer, some of them clocking in at 600-700-800+ pages.

In a gag news article we wrote a while back, we riffed on the idea of authors taking performance enhancing drugs, enabling them to pound out longer and longer sentences, leading to "stupefyingly longer" books.

Now someone's pushing back. Although publishers have pressed him "to write longer books," Welsh author Cynan Jones praises the short novel.

He points to The Old Man and the Sea, They Shoot Horses Don't They?, Animal Farm, even Gatsby (though Fitzgerald worried it was too short). Here's Cynan Jones on the subject:

I've never met a reader who doesn't like short novels.... For me, the opportunity to sit somewhere for two hours and read a book from start to finish—to submerge myself in it—is a thrilling experience. A short novel makes a straightforward demand: give me this time.
Readers don't buy books by the the pound, Jones points out. And publishers should get over their obsession with longer works. "The only thing to be taken into account should be the impact a piece of writing has," says Jones. Amen, we say.



Cynan Jones is the author of The Dig and, more recently, Everything I Found on the Beach. The full article can be read in Publisher's Weekly.

 

LitLovers Goes to the Movies

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 10:03

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We love books, and we love movies. And we REALLY love movies that come from books.

Book clubs say, over and over, that a favorite club activity is attending movies based on books—especially if the book is a club selection.

That's why LitLovers has decided to partner with Screen Thoughts.

hollister-otoole1SCREEN THOUGHTS takes the book-to-movie connection a step beyond. They read the book . . . see the movie . . . then create a 20-minute podcast about their impressions.

Hollister and O'Toole, the voices behind the mic, are smart, knowledgeable, and engaging. They review the films and ask the questions we care about:

Is the film true to the book?
Are the actors right for the book's characters?
Do you prefer the book to film . . . or film to book?

Click HERE for Screen Thoughts podcasts—or go the top of the LitLovers homepage. Listen on your own . . . or listen as a group in your book club—they're sure to spark discussion.  Who's right—Hollister or O'Toole? Both? Neither?

Each month you'll find a new book-to-movie podcast. So be sure to listen in.

 

Leigh Bardugo is C-O-O-L

Thursday, 22 October 2015 12:38

uncool2

By Molly Lundquist, LitLovers.
Haven't we all, at some point, wanted to be cool? Well, my friends, here's what cool looks like—and what it doesn't.

six-of-crows1I'm a cool wanna be. And just when I deluded myself that I might, after all these years, be getting close...here comes Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, etc.). Now she's got a brand new fantasy novel—Six of Crows, published to rave reviews. Think Oceans Eleven with a bunch of adolescents.

Not only is the book cool, but take a look at the photos of Leigh and friends I found on Instragam. Top row is Leigh. Bottom row? Guess who. Not even close.

 

Bookstores May Stick Around After All

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 07:46

phewIt might be time to remove BOOKSTORES and LIBRARIES from the list of endangered species!

Over the past several years, those dealing in print books were preparing themselves for extinction. With ebook sales skyrocketing, it looked as if end times were on the horizon. But that may have changed.

According to the Association for American Publishers (AAP), digital ebook sales have dropped—by about 10%. Okay, that's not a lot, but it's enough to give books-on-shelves some wiggle room...and booksellers some hope.

Adding to the good news, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) says its member bricks & mortar bookstores have increased their numbers over the past five years—from 1,400 to 1,700.

Moreover, some surveys show that young readers, the ones in love with digital devices, still prefer reading on paper.

Not that we readers are leaving our digitial devices behind: it's more like we're becoming "hybrid readers," toggling from hard copies to ebooks. I'm a hybrid—I love my Kindle but also enjoy the feel of a print book. You can read more in the New York Times.

So what about you? Are you a hybrid reader, strictly ebooks, or strictly paper ones?
 

The 7 Worst Places to Read

Sunday, 13 September 2015 07:39

best-places-read6Ah, Pinterest—all those lists and photos of the BEST PLACES TO READ...inside, outside, in cities around the world. But the novelty's wearing thin.

And that
got us to thinking—perversely—about where you DON'T want to be caught with a book. So we put together our own list. This one is about . . .

THE 7 WORST PLACES TO READ


1 — Job Interview
Terrific resume. Great experience. Top-notch references. And there you sit, peering down at a book—just to prove you can multi-task. Gee, how could they not hire you?

job-interview


2 — Lunar Landing Craft
You wanna screw this up? Your one big shot at making history? The world is watching, so put the book down—now—and land this baby.

lunar-landing


3 — Parent-Teacher Conference
You think you're showing off your reading skills—which have rubbed off on your gifted kid. But while you sit there with your nose in a book, the teacher?...well, she thinks differently.

teacher-conference


4 — Speeding Traffic
Eyes on the road; hands on the wheel. Do we really need to explain this one?

speeding-traffic


5 — Tax Audit
That's right, just keep on reading. Nonchalance implies innocence. He'll see right through you.

tax-audit1


6 — Real Bedroom
This isn't on Pinterest—because this is LIFE. Picture yourself curling up here with a book and a Pinot. You can't, can you?

messy-room3


7 — Empire State Building
You could accidentally drop your book from the Observation Deck—you would see it accelerate at (32 ft. per sec.)2, hitting the ground in 15 sec. at a terminal velocity of 50 mph. And THAT would crack the book's spine—which everyone knows is a crying shame.

empire-state


So, dear reader, you tell us...what's YOUR worst place to read?

 

CONGRATS to Medal of Arts winners

Thursday, 10 September 2015 07:19

stephen-king-jumpha-lahiriHardy (or hearty?) congratulations go to STEPHEN KING and JUMPHA LAHIRI, who are to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Arts by President Obama. The presentation will take place at a White House ceremony today.

The National Endowment for the Arts awards medals each year to a wide range of individuals in the arts—actors, authors, dancers, film makers, musicians, and visual artists (painters and sculptors)—recognized for their "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States."

A (tiny) sampling of previous recipents includes such luminaries as Saul Bellow, Rene Flemming, Clint Eastwood, Earnest J. Gaines, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Bradbury, Jacob's Pillow Dance, Roy Lichtenstein.

Below is what the White House has to say about the choice of King and Lahiri:

Stephen King for his contributions as an author. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature. For decades, his works of horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have terrified and delighted audiences around the world.

Jhumpa Lahiri for enlarging the human story. In her works of fiction, Dr. Lahiri has illuminated the Indian-American experience in beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging.

Couldn't have said it better ourselves.

This year's winners also include theater director John Baldessari, choreographer Ping Chong, actress Miriam Colon, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, actress Sally Fields, visual artist Ann Hamilton, composer and singer Meredith Monk, tenor George Shirley, the University Musical Society, author and educator Tobias Wolff.

 

Raves for The Fortune Hunter

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 09:17

By Molly Lundquist
Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter just came out in paperback, so given the hype (see NY columnist Liz Smith's review for one) I took a look...and I loved it.

The novel centers on a romantic triangle populated by actual historical characters: an Austrian empress, British heiress, and dashing cavalry captain. Some of Goodwin's story is true, some imagined. Sound like fun? It is.

Young Charlotte Baird is heiress to the Lenox fortune and considered quite a catch during her debut in London. Like many a good heroine, Charlotte defies convention much to her family's dismay. Yet it's that very independent streak that attracts the eye of handsome Captain Bay Middleton.

bay-charlotteUnfortunately, Bay himself catches the eye of visiting royalty: Empress Elisabeth of Austria who has come to Britain for the hunting season. Famed throughout Europe for her beauty, Sisi, as she is known, intoxicates Bay, who is now torn between two women. (Photos left: Charlotte? and Bay)

The story, though, offers more than a standard romance: we get an insider's view of the Victorian class system and the burdens it imposes, not on society's lower rungs but, in this novel, on the upper ones—even on royalty.

empress-sisi For as much as Americans are titillated by all things Downton Abby, Goodwin shows us a darker side. We see the demands for mindless conformity, especially for women. We watch how those not quite up-to-snuff (the untitled) face stinging humiliation by their "betters" (the titled). And we're privy to the tacit understanding that women are mere commodities in a cynical marriage market.

The book holds a particular interest for me. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a 1962 movie with Romy Schneider (anyone remember her?) as Sisi, the lovely 16-year-old girl who captured the heart of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. (Photo right: Empress Sisi)

The Fortune Hunter picks up 22 years after that romantic coupling to show the toll that royal life—with its sycophantic courtiers and stultifying dullness—has taken on Sisi. That part is true, too, and so is this—unhappy at home, Sisi traveled a good deal to remove herself from the rigid confines of the Austrian court.

This is a delightful, engaging read: and it's an easy one, too. Goodwin has drawn her secondary characters broadly; they're rather cartoonish, but that only makes them more fun to loathe. The author has taken more care, however with her leads, lending them a degree of depth. She also writes in wonderful, rich detail when it comes to riding to the hunt, the new-fangled photography, and the beauty regimes of royalty (which involve slabs of veal...I'll say no more).

Read and have fun. I did. Oh, and don't miss our Reading Guide for The Fortune Hunter, complete with discussion questions.


* This review is sponsored by St. Martin's Griffin, publishers of the Fortune Hunter. The content of the review is an objective opinion by LitLovers.


 

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