Thursday, November 3, 2011

NYT Glowing Review for the iBio

After Steve Jobs anointed Walter Isaacson as his authorized biographer in 2009, he took Mr. Isaacson to see the Mountain View, Calif., house in which he had lived as a boy. He pointed out its “clean design” and “awesome little features.” He praised the developer, Joseph Eichler, who built more than 11,000 homes in California subdivisions, for making an affordable product on a mass-market scale. And he showed Mr. Isaacson the stockade fence built 50 years earlier by his father, Paul Jobs.

“He loved doing things right,” Mr. Jobs said. “He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
Mr. Jobs, the brilliant and protean creator whose inventions so utterly transformed the allure of technology, turned those childhood lessons into an all-purpose theory of intelligent design. He gave Mr. Isaacson a chance to play by the same rules. His story calls for a book that is clear, elegant and concise enough to qualify as an iBio. Mr. Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” does its solid best to hit that target. 

As a biographer of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Isaacson knows how to explicate and celebrate genius: revered, long-dead genius. But he wrote “Steve Jobs” as its subject was mortally ill, and that is a more painful and delicate challenge. (He had access to members of the Jobs family at a difficult time.) Mr. Jobs promised not to look over Mr. Isaacson’s shoulder, and not to meddle with anything but the book’s cover. (Boy, does it look great.) And he expressed approval that the book would not be entirely flattering. But his legacy was at stake. And there were awkward questions to be asked. At the end of the volume, Mr. Jobs answers the question “What drove me?” by discussing himself in the past tense.

- Janet Maslin, for The New York Times.

Read the rest of the review here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ready to Rumpus

Maurice Sendak, author of 'Where the Wild Things Are,' is back after 30 years with a new book called Bumble-Ardy.

Bumble-Ardy is the first book Maurice Sendak has both written and illustrated in 30 years. I called him the other day to talk about it, and we were both surprised it had been that long. “Jesus,” he said. “What have I been doing?” We went through a list. He designed operas here and abroad, illustrated dozens of books—by Tony Kushner and Herman Melville and Shakespeare, among many others—and had a best-seller just a few years ago, in Mommy?, a pop-up book about a boy looking for his mother in a haunted mansion.
But in terms of a book completely his own, Bumble-Ardy is the first since 1981’s Outside Over There. Not that he wants to make a big deal out of it. “People from New York have been calling, to see if I’m still alive. When I answer the phone, you can hear the disappointment in their voice.”
Sendak’s sense of humor is pitch-black and ribald, though this fact, and the baroque essence of his work, is often lost on readers now that his books have become canonical. “A woman came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’ I wanted to kill her.” He hates to be thought of as safe or his work as classic, and he won’t tolerate overpraise. “My work is not great, but it’s respectable. I have no false illusions.”
He’s wrong, of course. Sendak is the best-known, and by most measures simply the best, living creator of picture books, and in the stretch of years since his most prolific period—when he made In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, Kenny’s Window, The Sign on Rosie’s Door, and the “Nutshell Library”—his work has only grown in stature. No one has been more uncompromising, more idiosyncratic, and more in touch with the unhinged and chiaroscuro subconscious of a child.
- Dave Eggers, writing for Vanity Fair

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Penguin's Great Food Series

Great Food is an original series that brings together the sharpest, funniest, most delicious writing about food from the past four hundred years. Featuring twenty authors, the series is a heady mixture of recipes, literature and simple pleasures of hearing from distinctive voices from history. This series celebrates food writing as writing, revives forgotten, inspirational chefs and writers whose works will inspire cooks and readers everywhere.

The Great Food series offers something for every food lover: the enthusiastic cook who bites the bullet and makes their own haschiche fudge or mutton with oysters; the armchair foodie, reading for inspiration and pleasure; the social history lover who relishes the chance to peek inside a Victorian kitchen; and everybody who appreciates evocative, intimate and entertaining writing.

See the rest of the series here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rock on

When Sammy Hagar appeared at Left Bank Books in St. Louis in March to autograph copies of his memoir, it was not a typical book signing.

Sammy Hagar's memoir, “Red,” sold at least 61,000 copies in hardcover.
Mr. Hagar, the former Van Halen lead singer, started sipping tequila as soon as the event began. Police officers were hired to provide security. And nervous bookstore employees pleaded with eager female fans not to lift their shirts in front of Mr. Hagar when they reached the signing table.
“Nobody did,” said Kris Kleindienst, the relieved bookstore owner.
Such are the perils of working with the rock ’n’ roll legends who have lined up to write their life stories lately, a group that includes Keith Richards, Ozzy Osbourne, Patti Smith, Pete Townshend, Bob Mould and Gregg Allman.
In a squirrely market for books, the rock memoir has taken off, spurring publishers to pursue more book deals with musicians willing to tell their stories.

- Julie Bosman, New York Times

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Bedtime Will Never Be The Same

The nightly climb up the stairs to Bedfordshire is supposed to be a time of parent-child bonding and sleepy tranquility. The little darlings dress themselves obediently in their pyjamas and clutch hot water bottles dreamily to their chests murmuring: "I love you, Mummy and Daddy."

In reality they want "just one more" repeat of Come Dine With Me. When they have already watched three. And, despite it already being several hours past the time they are supposed to be asleep, they now want you to read to them. You intone the words of Peepo, The Gruffalo or The Smartest Giant in Town as if you were a mass murderer.

Now comes the backlash – in the form of children's bedtime books designed for adults. Goodnight Keith Moon by Bruce Worden and Clare Cross published in the UK this week, is already a cult hit in the US. "Morbidly funny," according to the New Yorker, it's a spoof of the children's classic Goodnight Moon, told through the eyes of the Who's late drummer. A trashed hotel room replaces the sleepy child's bedroom. Instead of the bowl of mush featured in the original, there are pills everywhere: "And some whiskey and fish and some more in a dish, And the ghost of Cass Elliott whispering shhh."

It's already a trend with Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes, on its third print run in the US.

We can expect more of this stuff. There's already Porn For New Moms: photographs of beefcake guys feeding babies in the style of a children's picture book. And there's the "Baby Be Useful" series: Baby Mix Me a Drink, Baby Fix My Car, Baby Do My Banking. My favourite? All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen: "If you're a dinosaur, all your friends are dead. If you're a pirate, all your friends have scurvy." Genius.
- Viv Groskop, The Guardian

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Tiger's Wife: Orange Prize 2011 winner

Weaving a brilliant latticework of family legend, loss, and love, Obreht, the youngest of "The New Yorker's" 20 best American fiction writers under 40, spins a timeless novel about a young doctor who confronts the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather's recent death.

"... highly original, funny and frightening ... Her writing is remarkable, but she doesn't show off, nor does she ask too much of our imaginations. Like the characters in the story, we are easily drawn to the unbelievable elements of this tale because they sweep us away from the real world" - The Economist

Paperback is available for only R99 from Pulp Books.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Man with a Pan

“Man With a Pan,” edited by the cartoonist, writer and New Yorker editor John Donohue, is a rangy, toothsome, timely and occasionally wince-inducing collection of essays by kitchen dads, men who do most of the cooking in their families.
“Man With a Pan” contains essays (and recipes) by marquee names including Stephen King — isn’t it time he set a scary novel in a Hardee’s? — and Mario Batali. But the best pieces here, the line-caught beauties, are by people you’ve probably barely heard of.
 "Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, delivers a piercing essay about his insecure need to give lavish dinner parties, as seen though the prism of his failing marriage. “Cooking had become a distraction and a source of solace in a marriage that no longer offered its own consolations,” he writes. His painful piece is also funny. When he begins dating a vegetarian and becomes one himself, a friend calls this shift a “sexually transmitted eating disorder.” 

 "Wesley Stace is best-known as a singer-songwriter who performs under the name John Wesley Harding, but he’s also written three novels. If his flinty essay here is any indication of what those novels are like, I need to pack one for the lake this summer. He nails the idiotic gender division of labor at some meals, observing about his family: “The men carved what the women cooked (a remarkable piece of last-minute scene-stealing), as though sharp knives were too dangerous for women outside the kitchen.” 

- Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Read the rest of the review here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rocking Reads

Do you sometimes feel like taking copious amounts of drugs, drinking whisky with your cornflakes, wearing too much eye makeup and wrecking your hotel room?

You’re not alone. But instead of ruining your health/breakfast/skin/favourite furniture, you can live vicariously through the ones who do it best.

Bringing you the best of the best rock ‘n’ roll biographies ...  Rock on.

Friday, May 20, 2011

E-readers 'a threat to impressive-looking bookshelves'

ELECTRONIC reading devices are not as good as real books for making you look clever, it was claimed last night.
E-readers like Kindle are rapidly replacing traditional books, but unlike a shelf full of intimidating hardbacks about poetry, string theory and Russian actors who committed suicide, they can never make you look more intelligent than you really are.

Publisher Tom Logan said: "Compared to electronic devices, books have a physicality that is magical and timeless. Plus they can get you blow jobs.

"You go to a coffee shop with a Kindle, intellectual girls don't know whether you're reading Foucault's Pendulum or playing Tetris.

"Tasteful books, especially big thick ones without pictures in, are vital indicators of your brainy sexiness.

"You don't even have to read them, just leave them strewn around the public areas of your house in a seemingly haphazard fashion. It's like having A Levels, but without doing all the essays and shit."

The popularity of electronic reading also threatens the future of high street book shops full of wistful looking young women hoping to strike up a conversation with a sexy stranger who is terribly fond of Balzac.

Logan added: "And without bookshops, pale socially-awkward English Literature graduates will have to work in PR or public sanitation.

"Unable to write florid 'staff reviews' of Alan Moore comics and obscure paperbacks about Japanese sailors with two penises they would be forced to retreat from society altogether, possibly to create a diabolical and short-lived indie music sub-genre."

- from

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Killing Kebble now in its 3rd print

Killing Kebble
Mandy Wiener
Paperback, 386 pages
EAN 9781770101326
Pan Macmillan
Available to order

In September 2005, Brett Kebble, a prominent South African mining magnate, was killed on a quiet suburban street in Johannesburg in an apparent “assisted suicide”.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Read the first chapters of the Orange Prize shortlist

Browse the synopses of the shortlisted titles and read the first chapters here.

- Emma Donoghue
Jack is five and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real - only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside...

The Memory of Love
- Aminatta Forna
Adrian Lockheart is a psychologist escaping his life in England. Arriving in Freetown in the wake of civil war, he struggles with the intensity of the heat, dirt and dust, and with the secrets this country hides. Despite the gulf of experience and understanding between them, Adrian finds unexpected friendship in a young surgeon at the hospital, the charismatic Kai Mansaray, and begins to build a new life just as Kai makes plans to leave.

Grace Williams Says It Loud
- Emma Henderson
This isn't an ordinary love story. But then Grace isn't an ordinary girl. 'Disgusting,' said the nurse. And when no more could be done, they put her away, aged eleven. On her first day at the Briar Mental Institute, Grace meets Daniel. He sees a different Grace: someone to share secrets and canoodle with, someone to fight for. Debonair Daniel, an epileptic who can who can type with his feet, fills Grace's head with tales from Paris and the world beyond.

Great House - Nicole Krauss
During the winter of 1972, a woman spends a single night with a young Chilean poet before he departs New York, leaving her his desk. It is the only time they ever meet. Two years later, he is arrested by Pinochet’s secret police and never seen again. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers a lock of hair among her papers that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer has spent a lifetime reassembling his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis from Budapest in 1944; now only one item remains to be found.
Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, this desk comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.

The Tiger’s Wife - Téa Obreht
A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic - Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.
Years later, in a Balkan country ravaged by conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, is visiting an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home in mysterious circumstances. Remembering fragments of the stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for ‘the deathless man’ a vagabond who was said to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a far-fetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

Annabel - Kathleen Winter
In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador in the far north-east of Canada, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once.
Only three people share the secret – the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to go through surgery and raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows up within the hyper-male hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self – a girl he thinks of as ‘Annabel’ – is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life.
As Wayne approaches adulthood, and its emotional and physical demands, the woman inside him begins to cry out. The changes that follow are momentous not just for him, but for the three adults that have guarded his secret.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Modernist Cuisine (hard to lift, but gobsmacking, delicious)

Hailed as 'revolutionary' and 'the book to end all cookbooks', the Modernist Cuisine is a six-volume, 2,438-page set that is des­tined to rein­vent cook­ing. The lav­ishly illus­trated books use thou­sands of orig­i­nal images to make the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy clear and engaging.

“This book will change the way we under­stand the kitchen.”
— Ferran Adrià

Explore the tome here.

Check out the yummy slideshow here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sex Before the Sexual Revolution

Simon Callow explores life behind closed doors before the pill.

'The book is superb on courtship and premarital sex, which was of course haunted by the universal dread of unmarried pregnancy, and on the elaborate structures and codes of behaviour that governed such matters. Equally absorbing are the criteria for attractiveness. Despite the development through the 1930s of a new body consciousness and a more sexualised public aesthetic, neither beauty nor handsomeness were much cited as reasons for attractiveness: good skin, a fine head of hair, cleanliness, smart clothes were the main draws – that and a sense of essential benevolence in a potential partner. Many of the interviewees had never seen their spouses' naked bodies.'

- Simon Callow, The Guardian

Read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Extreme Book Covers

Setting fire to fields, tangling with tarantulas: it's all in a day's work for a book jacket designer.

I used to think book jacket designers were sensitive, aesthetic types whose idea of sustained physical effort was flicking through the pages of Creative Review with one hand while lifting an espresso to their lips with the other. But I appear to have got things totally wrong.

I recently stumbled over this blog on the Random House website, which reveals that, in fact, today's book jacket creators are an adrenaline-seeking bunch likely to be as au fait with dangerous implements as they are with an Apple Mac.

That zig-zaggy line on the front of Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World, which makes the book look as though it has been rudely torn in half (echoing the motif of the Jorgland Pipe in the novel)? No, not created with a few clicks on Photoshop, but by hacking apart a copy of Mark Twain's diaries with a Stanley knife. Older books have better quality paper so tear better, apparently. Who knew?

The broken violin image for Richard Montanari's forthcoming serial killer thriller The Echo Man? The team took a blowtorch to it. "The blowtorch is the secret weapon in design," say the Windmill designers, sounding like some kind of book-world Heston Blumenthals. "This broken violin instantly looks more sinister once it's been burnt."

And there's more. Deputy art director Glenn O'Neill tells me that the original jacket concept for Robert Harris's Cicero novel, Lustrum, was to feature an image of a raging fire. Not content with plucking any old flame image from a picture library, however, the team set a field in Gloucestershire on fire. (No, it wasn't arson – they had the farm owner's permission). "We created a big bonfire from old crates and torched it," says Glenn. "It was pretty epic. But in the end we went for something a bit more literary – we're still trying to find a book to put the [original] image on."

For the new Kathy Reichs novel, Spider Bones, the jacket clearly needed to feature some spiders and – um – some bones. The bones were straightforward – ordered from America (apparently the place to go if you want to pick some up yourselves) but the team also decided to obtain live-and-kicking spiders from tarantula specialists Simply Spiders (and whoever guessed that was a gap in the market?)

The company originally delivered some "false black widows", presumably less lethal than the real thing. Simply Spiders sent them live through the post, in little film canisters, with flies tucked inside like a packed lunch. "They told us they had the right temperament for a photoshoot and would just sit back and pose, but actually they shot across the studio floor," says Glenn. In the end a more amenable specimen was chosen for a few close-ups – and no spiders were harmed in the making of this cover, Glenn assures me.
So there you go. The spirit of adventure is alive and well among publishers' designers, who will go to any length to get the right jacket image. The look of a book is "all in the execution", Glenn explains. I'm worried that could mean the guillotine.

- Benedicte Page, The Guardian