Welcome to another edition of Reading and Writing Around the Web. This time, I thought I’d take a look at some authors who have been in the news and share some interesting articles about each.
Go Set A Watchman and Harper Lee
Everyone seems to have a take on Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman. I’d love to join the conversation, but alas I’ve yet to read it (it’s on my list!). In the meantime, here’s some of the more interesting articles I’ve read on the book this week.
Blogger Jacob Brogan points out what the debate over Harper Lee’s two Atticuses reveals about our literary culture. “Arguments about Atticus have largely supplanted the earlier, more important moral quandary about the new book: the question of whether or not we should be reading it at all,” he says.
Horror novelist Anne Rice counters that Go Set A Watchman is really a story about Jean Louise, who she describes as a strong adult heroine who stands up to Atticus Finch. “I find it discouraging that there is so much talk in the mainstream press about the character of Atticus — is he a bigot or isn’t he —– and so little about the the powerful heroine of ‘Watchman,’” Rice says in her review of the book, posted on amazon.com.
Amazingly, I read Monday that a Michigan book store is offering refunds and apologies to readers who bought Go Set A Watchman, which isn’t quite the “nice summer novel” everyone thought it would be. The bookstore’s full online statement suggests the book be considered as academic insight only. “It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as Harper Lee’s New Novel,” the bookstore states. “This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted.”
I think, and John Mullan of The Guardian seems to agree, most book buyers are pretty savvy people and knew what they were buying when they plunked their money down for Watchman, so the bookstore’s refund offer seems a little overboard.
Finally, here’s an interesting article on Harper Lee’s editor, who was the invisible hand behind To Kill A Mockingbird.
The End of the Tour and David Foster Wallace
Another novelist generating discussion is the late David Foster Wallace, the subject of the new movie The End of the Tour.
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the film, the author, and his life here.
Julie buntin, who had the real-life David Lipsky (portrayed in the movie by Eisenberg) as her MFA professor, shares her take on the movie. Here’s an interesting interview with Lipsky about the original tapes made with Wallace on his 1996 book tour.
Here’s a roundup of other recent articles on DFW. This article provides a list of David Foster Wallace’s formative reading list. New Yorker critic John Wood shares his thoughts on what he’d change about his review of Wallace’s Infinite Jest now that time has allowed him to reflect on it. And Vikram Murthi, in an article on Criticwire, says The End of the Tour renders David Foster Wallace “just like one of us,” but what made him great was that he wasn’t.
James Russell Clark of LitHub asks if anyone has actually read Wallace’s Infinite Jest? At almost 1,100 pages, he admits it is intimidating, but no more so than George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books. Infinite Jest is one of 10 such books to make this dubious list of books people pretend to have read, though they actually should. I came across the book at Books-A-Million over the weekend and flipped through a few pages. I’m curious and may read it some day, but I’ve got such a large reading list already I’m not in any hurry. Congrats to those who have waded through it, but this may be one of those books where I’ll just catch the movie (though I don’t relish the thought of sitting through another performance by Jesse Eisenberg).
Meanwhile, here are seven must-see movies about writers.
Mycroft Holmes and Kareem Abdul Jabbar
I’m looking forward to this book, Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes, you read that right, the basketball player. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan anyway, so even though this one focuses on his brother I expect it to be a good read. Here’s an interview Crimespreemag.com did with Abdul-Jabbar about the book, which hits shelves Sept. 22.
Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, I prefer my Holmes stories to be set in his rightful 19th century Baker Street digs. So, I’m excited to see the TV show Sherlock planning a special episode in the Victorian era this fall or Christmas (an air date hasn’t been announced yet.)
Children’s Literature and Dr. Seuss
The new Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get?, saw record-breaking first-week sales numbers. According to an article from Publishers Weekly, readers bought up 200,000 copies in its first week, making it the fastest-selling picture book in Random House Children’s Books history. Here’s a story about how Dr. Seuss reinvented children’s literature.
While we’re on the subject, here are 10 books every child should read before they leave school. I don’t know if I agree that Harry Potter should be on the list ahead of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And instead of Pride and Prejudice, let’s go with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! (OK, that was a joke. But I do love zombie novels!). What books do you think children should read in school?
Other news in books
Time lists the 10 best books of 2015 so far.
Love spy fiction? The Strand Magazine lists the top 10 spy novels of all time. Bond and Bourne are, of course, on the list, along with author John Le Carre, and some novels new to me that would definitely be worth checking out.
For those interested in horror fiction, editor Ellen Datlow shares her thoughts on the nature of horror and editing horror anthologies.
And finally, Fantasy author Ed Greenwood is launching his own publishing group.