Friday, February 27, 2009

Backwards in High Heels: The Impossible art of Being Female

I love this book. It's one of those rare beasts that you want to earmark, scribble in and rush out and buy for all your girlfriends. It contains within its pages everything an intelligent woman might want to know about the nuances of every conceivable topic: big subjects, such as love, motherhood, feminism, politics, grief, ageing, as well as what stupid people often patronisingly refer to as the “shallower” stuff. Except, in this book, as in most women's heads (to say nothing of their lives), the demarcation between the deep and the shallow is so slight as to be barely noticeable. This is a brilliant feat of realism that hasn't been managed convincingly in print before: with this kind of how-to guide, the choice until now was either froufrou delight or slash-your-wrists gloomfest.

- Sarah Knight, The Times Online

Read the whole review here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Post-9/11 Novel ‘Netherland’ Wins Pen/Faulkner Award

Joseph O’Neill’s novel “Netherland” was named the winner of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation said on Wednesday. The honor for “Netherland,” about a Dutch-born equities analyst, his British wife and their son, who live in New York during the Sept. 11 attack and its aftermath, is something of a comeback for Mr. O’Neill, right. The novel, though widely praised, was shut out in the National Book Awards and the National Book Critics Circle awards. The Pen/Faulkner Award, which comes with a prize of $15,000, will be given to Mr. O’Neill at a ceremony on May 9. Four finalists, who will receive $5,000 each, were also named. They are Sarah Shun-lien Bynum for “Ms. Hempel Chronicles,” Susan Choi for “A Person of Interest,” Richard Price for “Lush Life” and Ron Rash for “Serena.”

- Dave Itzkoff, New York Times

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Outstandingly strange competition for odd book prize

A global perspective on soft cheese packaging, the summation of a lifetime's work on monkey-related philosophy, and the long-awaited book-length consideration of Large Sieves are among the books in contention for the Bookseller magazine's annual Diagram prize for oddest title, in a year that judges have declared outstandingly strange.

- Alison Flood,

Read more here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Reading Bridget Jones could improve your love life, new study shows

It's the news we've all been waiting for: reading a good book prepares you for real life. Scientists have found that, far from being a way to avoid reality, burying yourself in the disastrous romantic adventures of Bridget Jones or following Oliver Twist in his journey from rags to riches could make you better able to cope with similar situations in the real world.

- Alison Flood,

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jane Austen Ate My Brain

Quirk Books’s spring catalog features at least one title I’d like to get my hands on: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Like a DVD loaded with extras, the book includes the original text of the Regency classic, juiced up with “all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.”

- Jennifer Schuessler,

Read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How To Review a Book

John Updike, R.I.P.

How to review a book, from a guy who spent a literary lifetime working both sides of the street.

This passage strikes me as especially on the mark:

Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.

Amen. R.I.P.

- by Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Book of Dead Philosophers

Heraclitus, who believed that everything was in a state of flux, died, according to one account, of drowning in cow dung. The philosopher Francis Bacon, that great champion of the empirical method, died of his own philosophy: in an effort to observe the effects of refrigeration, on a freezing cold day he stuffed a chicken with snow and caught pneumonia.

As a philosopher dies, so he has lived and believed. And from the manner of his dying we can understand his thinking, or so the philosopher Simon Critchley seems to be saying in his cheekily titled “Book of Dead Philosophers.”

- Dinitia Smith, New York Times

Read the rest of the review here.

Read the first chapter here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How NOT to write a novel

Plot: Not just a bunch of stuff that happens

As a writer you have only one job: to make the reader turn the page. Of all the tools a writer uses to make a reader turn the page, the most essential is the plot. It doesn't matter if the plot is emotional (“Will Jack's fear of commitment prevent him from finding true love with Synthya?”), intellectual (“But Jack, Synthya's corpse was found in a locked room, with nothing but a puddle on the floor next to her and a recently thawed leg of mutton on the end table!”), or physical (“Will Jack's unconstitutional torture of Synthya Abu Dhabi, the international terrorist, lead to the location of the ticking bomb?”) - as long as it compels the reader to find out what happens next. If your reader doesn't care what happens next - it doesn't.


Read the rest of the article here.