When I started a book blog two and half years ago, I had no idea I would be paying such close attention to the activities of Oprah Winfrey, but here I am, again. The truth is, when I worked at a book store a few years ago (and not a very Oprah-friendly one, mind you) her influence on book sales and mainstream book culture in America was evident on a daily basis. With a few reservations, I applauded Oprah's decision to highlight "classic" novels, because it put these essential books into the hands of readers who might not otherwise be drawn to them. Now it appears as though this phase of Oprah's club has ended, and her gaze (which can bestow millions upon an unsuspecting author) has fallen once again upon the living. She says that she was "moved" by a letter signed by various living authors asking her to consider contemporary books once again, but perhaps, with the Summer of Faulkner, the "classics" experiment had simply run its course.Even if it hadn't been preceded by the Faulkner books, the current selection, James Frey's addiction memoir A Million Little Pieces would be a disappointment. While entertaining (I'm told), it's the switch to non-fiction, and more importantly, confessional memoir, that bothers me. Oprah's entire show is a confessional memoir. Her guests are invited on the show to pour out their souls so that viewers can cry along with them, and Oprah joins in. While previous picks, classic or otherwise, take us out of Oprah's world and into a narrative created by the author, books like A Million Little Pieces are indistinguishable from the content of her show, all of which makes this choice seem incredibly self-serving. Perhaps she'll get everyone to read a self-help book next.Several other bloggers have already weighed in: Scott, Annie, Authorstore
The Takeaway hosted two ambitious author panels at last month’s Miami Book Fair International. The first panel covered “love,” and featured Millions contributor Christopher Beha alongside Jami Attenberg and three others. The second panel focused on “death,” and it featured writers and literary figures as well as Benjamin Busch, an Iraq War veteran.
Amazon, whose tense negotiations with Hachette in the past months have led them to slow ship-times for its books, offered last night "to fund 50% of an author pool—to be allocated by Hachette—to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%." Of course, Hachette may find calculating and allocating damages awkward so soon after authors flexed their social-media muscle. Sidebar: Amazon claimed "989 of 1000" items sold would be unaffected by this continuing "business interruption," which might mean a full 1.1 percent of their business comes from just one mid-sized traditional publisher—heartening news from an unlikely source.
Emily Witt checks out Melville House's new Hybrid Books for The New York Observer. The publisher says they are “an innovative publishing program that gives print books the features of enhanced eBooks.”
New this week is Julian Barnes' new collection of stories, Pulse. We also have new novels from Geraldine Brooks (Caleb's Crossing) and Jean Thompson (The Day We Left Home). There's also a new collection available from Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clezio (Mondo and Other Stories). And new in paperback: Millions Hall of Famer Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart and The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis.