Tuesday, July 31, 2007
At Night (Farrar) written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Cowboy & Octopus (Viking) written by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio (Holt) by Lloyd Alexander
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little) written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney
Mistik Lake (Kroupa/Farrar) by Martha Brooks
A Darkling Plain (Eos/HarperCollins) by Philip Reeve
Aunt Nancy and the Bothersome Visitors (Candlewick) written by Phyllis Root, illustrated by David Parkins
The Wall: Growing Up behind the Iron Curtain (Foster/Farrar) written and illustrated by Peter Sís
I wonder when publishers find out that they're all doing the same thing, and how they feel about that?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
“My dad doesn’t like the grammar,” said the Bartells’s youngest, Mollie, 9. “And I guess that’s important, because maybe when you grow up and you’re at work and you say, ‘I runned,’ people will get annoyed at you.”
Mollie, that is so true. In fact, I'm already kind of annoyed at you at nine.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Not by Harry Potter, I hasten to add, but by the mentality of a herd that somehow thinks that its numbers--and the presence of children, cautiously surrounded and protected by the adult bulls and cows--justify a ludicrous degree of entitlement. Is the book's merit so shakily dependent upon plot turns that it is so easily spoiled? Why can't the Times give Harry Potter the same treatment they would give any book? (That is, review it ahead of publication date?) How can Scholastic (admirably) turn the release of a book into news and then complain that it is treated as such? And don't quote "Jo" at me. I haven't met her, neither have you, but in any case respecting--even considering--her wishes regarding the reviewing of her books is both ickily sycophantic and cowardly.
Yes, it's hot here.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
While you're waiting, take a look at this op-ed from a man after my own heart: "Our obsession with spoilers has a diminishing effect, reducing popular criticism to a kind of glorified consumer reporting and the audience to babies."
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Speaking for myself, that Harry provided me an entire chapter in my memoirs, so, thanks, kid.
Our review, if the owls or whatever get the book to my house on time Saturday, will appear online Monday. Given that Scholastic seems to be insisting that the entire world should and will read the book this weekend, I guess we don't have to worry about spoilers. Except I do think we need to worry about spoilers, or at least be concerned about a willfully infantilized culture of suspense junkies so insistent on "not knowing the ending" that the future is probably going to kick our whiny, self-obsessed ass into oblivion. But that's a topic for another day.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
It's interesting that Fine doesn't do the same with her adult books: "I have six adult novels on the shelves, and wouldn't dream of going at those with a red pen just because times have changed." Her reasoning seems to be that children read both more intensely and in greater ignorance, that they don't have a concept of books becoming "dated." (Thus the pressure on Judy Blume to update Forever to include condoms.) But isn't it the natural way of things that old books give way to new books? Not that people won't continue to read a mix of new and old, but what Fine is advocating is a kind of artificial life support for books that might otherwise fall out of fashion or favor. Let 'em.
Friday, July 13, 2007
But if I were running Boyds Mills Press, I would have made the exact same call, although I might have spared myself the embarrassment of expressing interest in the first place. Selling picture books is difficult, selling foreign-born picture books is almost impossible, add some boobs and a little dick to the mix and you might as well just climb up to the roof and throw your money over the side. It's not censorship, as there is no private obligation to publish. It's stupid parents. Again.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
As for another frequent question, I really have no idea whether Harry Potter will be widely read in twenty years. One journalist floated the notion that once All Is Revealed, the series' cultural capital will be spent, but knowing that Frodo succeeds in his quest hasn't stopped fans from reading Lord of the Rings over and over again. There is an interesting comparison there, I think, but more for its differences than similarities: while both Harry Potter and the Tolkien books are multi-volume fantasy tales of an unlikely hero shouldering the weight of the world, Lord of the Rings for years was what you read if you were cool (at least, that's what its readers thought) or if you were a dork (that's what its scorners thought). The mass-market success of the Peter Jackson movies (and a Harry-wrought fantasy-friendly zeitgeist) might have changed that, but Harry Potter has been a crowd-pleaser from the start. You don't read Harry because that's what the cool kids are reading, but because that's what everyone is reading. (And I've never seen popular taste so ferociously defended. Tell people you don't like John Grisham, fine. Tell 'em you don't like Harry, and it's as if you have insulted humanity.)
The review copy of the latest Harry should arrive Saturday morning [correction: the 20th] at my house, from whence it will swiftly be retrieved by the assigned reviewer. When she's done, then we'll have some news.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Do these factors – the small-pond effect, anxiety over blowback, our politeness and deference to authority – contribute to our culture of book reviewing? How could they not? They all help push our reviewing into being more positive. And they come piled on top of the aforementioned doping effect, our consumerist culture’s resistance to criticism, and institutional strictures against being snarky. It is not just the entertainment value that consequently drops off (is there a free-standing book review anywhere as consistently dull as Globe Books?), but the level of critical insight. Reviews become abstract, academic, and non-evaluative. Safe.
Have a look. I'm also interested in what he says about the increased pressure of the marketplace, in that reviewers today are often expected to predict and applaud the bestseller, that a popular book is a good book by virtue of the fact that lots of people like it.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
"Oi, sweetheart!" shouted one, standing behind his friend and pointing at Jinx. "Wanna sit on my face?"
Christ, she thought, what an invitation! Please do excuse me while I strip off right here, right now, delighted by this obviously not to be missed, once in a bloody lifetime opportunity.
"Why?" Jinx drawled, in her very best "I am ever so bored by you" voice. "is your nose bigger than your dick?"
(from Those Girls by Sara Lawrence, Razorbill October '07)
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Not to get Cheryl in trouble or anything, but I feel I need to point out a potential lapse in security that occurred when we were in Germany together on an "editors' trip." Now I know, of course, that this was but a blind for some more secret purpose, and I have to ask:
Cheryl, what is in that bag and how could you leave it so casually untethered?
Monday, July 02, 2007
Also new: assistant editor cum tea-dumping subversive Claire Gross gets all in the (British) government's face with a reading list of books about the events of 1776.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
The other night we took some friends to see Kiki & Herb's "Year of Magical Drinking" show, itself oddly compelling (Kiki on her upbringing: "if you weren't molested as a child then you must have been ugly") but not what I wanted to tell you about. Before the show we had dinner at Sibling Rivalry, a restaurant whose conceit is that its two chef-brothers create dueling recipes with the same main ingredient. The food was fabulous but the menu made me a little crazy. It listed the dishes on offer in two columns, one for each chef, and headlined each row of two with the featured ingredient, so you'll get, say, two choices starring green tomatoes. At the top of the menu was printed something like "Large plates/Small plates/Entrees/Appetizers" but I could find nowhere on the menu anything to tell me which dish was what, although you could mostly guess from the prices. It bugged the hell out of me that the menu would mention that it listed both appetizers and main courses but would not tell you which was which, so I asked the waiter what was going on. "Are you color-blind?" he asked in return, and upon my affirmative response went off to retrieve a copy of the color-blind menu they apparently keep on hand for so disabled guests. This new menu, marked on the back with a piece of bedraggled masking tape with the words "color-blind menu" penciled upon it, looked very similar to the regular menu, save for the fact that some of the items were printed in italic, a distinction that had been made clear to my dining companions by the strategic use of black and red type on the normal-people menu.
Why, Lord, why? Why, Lord, why? If the appearance of color-blind people in your restaurant is an occurrence frequent enough to require you to print and bind an alternative menu exclusively for their use, you might want to rethink your original design, yes?
It's the little things that haunt us.