Are you in the mood to read a page-turner? If you’re not afraid to read something in the mystery section at your local bookstore, try Paranoia by Joseph Finder. I keep hearing people talking about it, and it’s getting good reviews. Check out this one at Slate.com (the reviewer gets to it after he reviews John Le Carre’s latest, Absolute Friends).
It's the stuff of fiction. Ian McEwan's mother had an affair with an army officer and became pregnant while her husband was away fighting in World War II. She ended up giving away the baby via a newspaper ad saying "Wanted, home for baby boy aged one month: complete surrender." After her husband was killed in the war, however, she married the baby's father and went on to have Ian, who didn't know about his long lost brother until recently. According to an article in The Independent, McEwan's brother David Sharp is turning the story into a book.
It's either a sign of the impending apocalypse or an easy out for all those aspiring writers trying get their first book written. A business called "Book by You" lets you... Enjoy the adventure of starring in your very own personalized novel! You co-author our books by providing the names, features and places to include in your personalized novel. These novels are full-length, 100 to 199-page books that look and feel just like a classic paperback novel.The fact that this business exists pains me on many levels. (via Sean)
The Paris Review has published some work by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, who died last year. The essay (not available online) covers more of Kapuscinski's travels through Africa, a familiar subject to those who have read his books. What's notable is that this issue also includes some of Kapuscinski's photography, which nicely augments his writing - though those who have read Kapuscinski's work know that he is more than able to conjure up images with his writing.It's a good time for Kapuscinski fans because in addition to The Paris Review essay, a new book by Kapuscinski is on the way. I noted Travels with Herodetus at the end of my "most anticipated books of the year" post, but there were few details available at the time. Now we have a cover (as you can see), as well as the book's description, which tells us that Kapuscinski has written about his years as a young reporter.From the master of literary reportage whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he'd like to go abroad. Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India. Wide-eyed and captivated, he would discover in those days his life's work - to understand and describe the world in its remotest reaches, in all its multiplicity. From the rituals of sunrise at Persepolis to the incongruity of Louis Armstrong performing before a stone-faced crowd in Khartoum, Kapuscinski gives us the non-Western world as he first saw it, through still-virginal Western eyes.The companion on his travels: a volume of Herodotus, a gift from his first boss. Whether in China, Poland, Iran, or the Congo, it was the "father of history" - and, as Kapuscinski would realize, of globalism - who helped the young correspondent to make sense of events, to find the story where it did not obviously exist. It is this great forerunner's spirit - both supremely worldly and innately Occidental - that would continue to whet Kapuscinski's ravenous appetite for discovering the broader world and that has made him our own indispensable companion on any leg of that perpetual journey.Bonus Link: Google video has Kapuscinski's appearance in 2000 on The Charlie Rose Show. (You may need to turn the volume all the way up to hear it.)
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My travels to the East coast last weekend swept away any doubt about the importance of the current wave of bestselling books about the Bush administration. In airport lounges, on planes, and in the New York City subways people everywhere are getting their news, not from the Times or from the weekly newsmagazines, but from a handful of books by people who enjoyed unfettered access to the current administration. I especially noticed an abundance of copies of Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack as well as a handful of copies of Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies, (which, at the moment, come in at number one and number six respectively on Amazon's Top 100). The content of these books is interesting, but so is the phenomenon behind them. According to many who have been following this trend, we are in uncharted territory. In the Times, David K. Kirkpatrick explains why all of this is unprecedented and suggests that the administration's vigilance over the information that ends up in newspapers and magazines has caused a spillover into books. Here is the article.
I have a short article in the latest issue of Poets & Writers.The piece grew out of a post here on the blog a while back about LibraryThing, the Web-based book cataloging community. For the record, I haven't yet put all of my books into LibraryThing, though I probably will at some point. I've been putting it off because I know that once I get started I won't be able to stop and, well, I just don't have the free time at the moment.
WHEREAS… It is a cliché of the creative writing workshop to discourage a writer’s use of cliché; and It is a cliché of the creative writing workshop to say that clichés are too familiar and therefore ineffective; and The first time we heard this cliché against clichés it was a revelation, but with each successive repetition the cliché against clichés became increasingly faded and opaque, i.e., clichéd: a comforting logical fabric (“I’ll say the thing about clichés!”) to throw over a gap where uncertainty lay; a stand-in for new and difficult thinking because you’d have to remember all the way back to the first time you heard this cliché against clichés to actually see, once again, that clichés are ineffective because they prevent you from seeing; but also an efficient shorthand, one soothing for its familiarity, and in its familiarity suggestive of rightness, and in its rightness suggestive of belonging: to the community of those who’ve been through writing workshops and so have been inducted into the Army Against Clichés, which is also an Army Against Genre Fiction and Commercial Fiction and Popular Nonfiction, all of which are what they are (beloved, commercially viable, popular) because they return dependably to clichés of storytelling invented and real; and which may itself be an Army Against the Teeming Masses, who buy mass-produced books for the soothingly familiar stories inside; and which is therefore an Army of Elitism, reproducing clichés of class; but which may also be an Army Against Itself; and WHEREAS… Every word of our language is a cliché, so familiar as to be efficiently, effortlessly understood; and We cling to these clichés (of language, of description, of workshop) for their ease and also for their familiarity, which suggests rightness, which suggests belonging; and Cliché, here, may refer to a bevy of workshop clichés, including: clichés of praise (this is effective, is working, is strong, great, fantastic, amazing, well done), which stand in for consideration of what these terms mean; clichés of condescension (this isn’t working, is ineffective, weak, less well-done), which cover over uncertainty about what these terms mean; clichés of response and suggestion (too heavy-handed, sentimental, familiar; more subtle, restrained, fresh), which assume there is a single aesthetic community to which we all belong; and other such meaningless pandering and avoidance of considerate thought, tics that are contagious because we reach for agreement because we reach for belonging because the truth that there is no rightness is so damn maddening; THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED… That we will use the cliché against clichés against itself, at once ratifying and refusing its meaning: abstaining, in our conversations about new writing, from using workshop shorthand, i.e., from not thinking; abstaining from agreeing with each other too much, i.e., from group-think; granting that, in the process, we will create new clichés; and trusting that we will question and thereby destabilize these clichés along the way. Image Credit: Flickr/Tom Newby Photography.