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April 2009

Omni Daily News

Los Angeles Times Book Awards: Authors in nine nominated categories were awarded the LA Times Book Prize on Friday evening "with as much enthusiasm and humor as any of the more grandly produced affairs of recent years." (I like the way that sounds: fond and familiar, like a lot of happy readers in one big room.) The winners are:

One of these things is not like the other: Which of the following books did *not* make Norman Mailer's list of Ten Favorite American Novels? The Big Sleep, Look Homeward, Angel or The Sun Also Rises? (Find the answer over at Paper Cuts.)

Trendspotting: Book-Inspired Playlists:
The Millions has a great post today about how some books beg for a playlist. His examples are clear ones--Our Band Could Be Your Life, The Fortress of Solitude, Please Kill Me (and I'll definitely be taking these for a spin later today on Pandora)--but lately we've seen more authors musing about the music that moves them. I like the idea of thinking about stories and characters in this musical dimension, but, boy, where to begin. Should you have a stroke of book-music-mashup brilliance you've been dying to share, let us know. --Anne

SF Awards Watch on the Nebulas and the Tiptree Award Winners

The long season of science fiction and fantasy awards is upon us, and just this past weekend the Nebula Award and Tiptree Award winners were announced. Ursula K. LeGuin's Powers rightfully won the Nebula for best novel. The Tiptree Award went to a novel and a short story collection: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Filter House by Nisi Shawl.

As ever Cheryl Morgan's Science Fiction Awards Watch was on top of it all, especially with this "streaming" Twitter of the Nebulas. Also, for example, the site features a summary of the salient points of each award.

End-o'-the-Week Kid-Lit Roundup

Quick links from around the kid-lit blogosphere:

Best Olivia homage ever. The two-and-a-half-year-old Olivia fan pictured below has a very fun and clever grandmother. Read the whole story and see more cute pics:

Thanks to Fuse #8, who declared this last Thursday's best thing ever. (And hopefully you saw the Olivia writeup in the Fuse #8 Top 100 Picture Books countdown.)

51YEXVGwZPL._SL500_AA240_The "Top 100 Picture Books" hits the Top 20. Speaking of the Fuse #8 picture-book countdown, we've hit the the Top 20, with great commentary on Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business (#17), In the Night Kitchen (#18), Miss Rumphius (#19), and George & Martha (#20).

The UK looks towards its next Children's Laureate. Interesting speculation (and a helpful historical rundown) from the Guardian. (via achockablog--although as a commenter points out there, where's Eoin Colfer?)

6a00e54ed05fc2883301156f3571f4970b-120wiBattle of the Kids' Books, continued. It was another wild week for the epic Battle of the Kids' Books. Tea Cozy, as ever, has some of the best commentary and highlight reels: No Kat-Fight For You!, Katniss Sinks the Ship, Isabelle Cages the Bears, Octavian Sends Twain Home.

Book dedication revue. Collecting Children's Books pulls together a bunch of poignant, funny, or otherwise noteworthy book dedications by kid-lit authors, from Lemony Snicket and Daniel Pinkwater to Sarah Mlynowski and A. A. Milne. Love this one from Freaky Friday author Mary Rodgers: "This book is dedicated to my small sons, Adam and Alec, without whom I was finally able to finish it." (As CCB points out, Mary is the daughter of Richard Rodgers, and Adam went on to win a Tony for The Light in the Piazza.)

A million kid-comics reviews. Well, not a million--but you'll find links to a couple dozen reviews, along with some news and interviews, from the fine folks at Good Comics for Kids.

"Reviews that Made Me Want the Book." Jen Robinson revisits her recurring feature, with a ton of ideas that range from picture books to YA.

Boyce_1391086fCarnegie shortlist is out. Educating Alice tipped us off to the shortlist for the 2009 Carnegie Medal. Some of these might look familiar: Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Cosmic, Kevin Brooks’ Black Rabbit Summer, Eoin Colfer’s Airman, Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child, Keith Gray’s Ostrich Boys, Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Kate Thompson’s Creature of the Night. (More details in the Guardian.)

Eric Carle in Newsweek. It's another profile of the 80-year-old author and illustrator behind The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this time focusing more on his childhood during WWII. ("Some Nazi official came to the door and said to my mother, 'Your son tomorrow morning has to report to the railroad station, we'll give him a bazooka.' I thought it would be exciting to get a bazooka. But she didn't let me go.") (via 100 Scope Notes)

Duck! Rabbit! trailer. I've mentioned Duck! Rabbit! before here, but 100 Scope Notes just posted an effusive review ("A clever premise, well executed. This one is a must purchase.") and points to the fun trailer:


Vulture Feeds on Wetlands

0802118925.01._MZZZZZZZ_ New York magazine, which has one of the zippiest book sections around, along with their I-wish-they-posted-on-books-more Vulture blog, launched their first Vulture Reading Room book discussion. Did they start with typical book-group fare like Eat, Pray, Love or A Thousand Splendid Suns? Nope, they went right down in the muck with Wetlands, Charlotte Roche's gleefully smutty debut novel, which was a publishing phenomenon in her native Germany but seems to be turning out more midlisty in translation here in the States. Along with their excellent book critic, Sam Anderson, and their writer Adam Sternbergh, they've roped in novelists Ayelet Waldman and Kate Christensen and Bookslut honcho Jessa Crispin. The verdict: nearly unanimous. Some of the only mildly family-unfriendly quotes:

  • Anderson: "There were moments ... when I was 100 percent sure that this was the worst thing I'd ever read."
  • Waldman: "So, cards on the table. I thought this was a loathsome little turd of a novel."
  • Crispin: "So what if Wetlands is a total failure as a novel? I didn’t care about the parents, and no one in the book is slightly believable.... Honestly, I’m very glad Wetlands exists."
  • Sternbergh: "Oh, and did I mention, IT’S SO BORING. Because it’s really, really boring. I had several weeks to finish this slim volume and carried it with me everywhere, yet reopening it filled me with dread every time. I mourned the hours lost during which I could have been reading better books."
  • Christensen: "How did you guys all manage to read the whole thing? This book bums me out. I wanted to find it hilarious, transgressive, honest, and interesting, but I can barely force myself to go on reading it. I'm stuck on page 141. Not because I'm squeamish, which I am not in any way, but because it's so searingly awful, as you've all already and very eloquently and hilariously pointed out: tawdry, pointless, boring, badly written ... eccch."

But then Anderson, despite the moments he mentions above, decided, either from an authentic contrarian spirit or from the necessity of keeping the conversation going for another round, to mount a defense of the book:

This is a genre novel. The genre is: a crazy book that might shock you into thinking about your life differently. Like all genre novels (except the amazingly great ones, which then cease to be genre novels), Wetlands sacrifices "literary" texture and gravitas and subtlety in order to achieve some other end. It wasn't written for people who relish the sophisticated moment-by-moment pleasures of Philip Roth. It was written by an admitted non-reader to (a) make people laugh and then (b) to start, on the wave of that laughter, a big giant global conversation about our totally messed-up relationships with our bodies.

How will that gambit go over? Well, here's the first response, from Waldman:

How dare you insult genre writers? Raymond Chandler is a genre writer. Ursula LeGuin is a genre writer. What genre are you talking about? Scuz-porn?

Regardless of the outcome, may the Vulture return to feed again. --Tom

Omni Daily News

But Would Steve McQueen Go Vegan?:  The authors of the wildly-successful Skinny Bitch diet series are now targeting the fellasSkinny Bastard, a "testosterone repackaging" of Skinny Bitch, goes on sale next week with a goal to help men clean up their diets.  “I think the guys will enjoy it once they have it,” states co-author Kim  Barnouin. “But I think it’s going to be the wives and girlfriends and sisters buying these books.”  In other news, I now know what I'm getting for Father's Day.

False advertising:  I'm certainly not against technology improvements in book production, but calling it the Espresso Book Machine sets the wrong expectations.  My heart jumped at the headline, as I thought there was a Kindle/DeLonghi fusion on the horizon (not sure I'd want to haul that on the bus, however).'s pretty cool.

Happy 40th to a Very Hungry Caterpillar:  Since 1969, Eric Carle's beloved caterpillar has been chowing through a variety of foods (thank heavens for the green leaf), and the LA Times today lists some of the more staggering facts surrounding The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  (For example, every 30 seconds, a copy is sold worldwide.  Amazing.)

Graphic Novel Friday: Hannah Berry's Britten and Brulightly

As a huge fan of noir fiction, I was delighted to receive the nuanced, pitch-perfect Britten and Brulightly, a graphic novel by Hannah Berry. What every great noir needs is the right atmosphere, and the sepia tones of Berry's creation set that mood perfectly. The subtle shifts in those tones, from gray to brown to green work well with panels that contain an amazing amount of texture and detail, without ever seeming crowded.

The second thing every great noir needs is a compelling detective, and in the person of Fernandez Britten, a serious and somewhat troubled Ecuadoran private eye, Berry has this next piece of the puzzle in place. The brooding Britten is known as the "Heartbreaker" for bringing clients bad news. Throw in the mysterious and witty Stewart Brulightly as a partner, and you've got the perfect context for the third thing every noir needs: an interesting and twisty crime to solve. In this case, it's the death of Berni Kudos, ruled a suicide--but not by his fiancee. Of course, Kudos is connected to the rich and powerful because a private eye noir in the tradition of Ramond Chandler isn't complete without Our Hero having to rummage through the garbage and secrets of People Who Matter.


Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Hannah Berry's Britten and Brulightly" »

Omni Daily News

Covering The Da Vinci Code Sequel : A placeholder jacket for The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's sequel to his blockbuster The Da Vinci Code has magically appeared on the book's detail page this morning. Gone are the mysterious eyes of the Mona Lisa with nothing to replace them...for now anyway. Wondering what fans of the series would like to see on the book's jacket?  

A Peek Behind the Wizard's Curtain:  Meghan Cox Gurdon reviews author Evan Schwartz's Finding Oz: How Frank L. Baum Discovered the Great American Story in today's Wall Street Journal.  Hard to believe that Baum's classic American fairytale was published 109 years ago.  Called the Harry Potter tale of its time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was penned by a struggling writer who went from rags-to-riches seemingly overnight.  Remind you of anyone?  [WSJ]

Tori Dishes on Candy and More:  Sona Charaipotra serves up a interview with Tori Spelling on the occasion of the "reality" star's latest book Mommywood, which is hanging out at in's top 100.  Spelling fields such hardball questions as "Did you ever think one day you'd be saying, "Wait, I wanted to change that diaper"?  [Daily Beast]

Lights Out for Twilight:  The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Deseret Books, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will no longer stock Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series on the shelves of its retail stores. [via Shelf Awareness]


J.G. Ballard Tributes and Links

(Author Rhys Hughes' tribute incorporates the elements of the surreal and dark humor that made Ballard's fiction so unique: "My tribute to J.G. Ballard who has just died... This photo cost £2.05 to create [£1 for the toy car, 85p for the firelighters stuffed into its chassis and 20p for the box of matches to ignite the wreck].")

On Sunday, the brilliant author J.G. Ballard passed away at the age of 78. Here at Omnivoracious we ran a tribute in which we wrote in part, "rewired the brains of generations of readers and writers. A member of the largely British New Wave movement of the 1960s, Ballard wrote mind-bending stories that changed reader perceptions of space and time, along with novels that dealt with every conceivable major theme of the twentieth century." Yesterday we also ran Geoff Manaugh's "spatial" appreciation of Ballard.

Here are a few of the other tributes and articles about Ballard and his work that we've found especially unique or eloquent.

Continue reading "J.G. Ballard Tributes and Links" »

The Lost Books of The Stone Reader

B00012YIE6.01._MZZZZZZZ_ I'm not sure what took an Omnivore like me so long, but I finally caught up with The Stone Reader via Netflix recently. It's a little embarrassing to say so--it's like a Broadway hoofer saying, "Oh yeah, I just saw this show called The Chorus Line," about three years into its run. No doubt many readers among you beat me to it, but nevertheless I had a few notes that seemed blog-worthy.

First, if you only saw the movie in the theaters (or rented it but are not the commentary-track fiend that I am), it's worth checking out again on DVD. The movie itself, after all, takes more than two-thirds of its time getting to perhaps its main character, the elusive one-book author Dow Mossman. But if you listen to the commentary track, featuring Mossman and director/main reader Mark Moskowitz, you can have Mossman along with you for the whole movie: commenting on Moskowitz's filmmaking, admiring Leslie Fiedler, endlessly talking books, and giving some perspective on how the movie changed--and didn't change--his life. He's wonderfully articulate, in his roundabout way.

Second, it reminded me what a strange thing it is to talk about books with other readers. Reading is such a solitary activity that I've never really understood book clubs. Book discussions often seem like parallel monologues, where you try and fail to translate your own experience with a book to someone else. There's something about the more shared experiences of movies and music that makes them easier to talk about. But then there are few things more delicious than finding someone who is on the same wavelength with you as a reader--you share enthusiasms back and forth, and you find your own reading extended. (Because what does a reader like more than finding something else to read that might be great, and pointing someone else to a book they might love?) And The Stone Reader shows both of those sides. It's almost comical how hard Moskowitz pushes his enthusiasms--I thought I was an inveterate top-10 lister, but Moskowitz has me beat. The way he actually packs up his favorite books in a box and plunks them down on the desks of whoever he's interviewing just made me laugh (and shudder) in recognition. The reader, as portrayed in the movie, is both a wonderful thing--the reason the books exist--and a bit of a monster. As many people have commented, Moskowitz dominates the movie, sometimes at the expense of the writer he's in search of. But there is such pleasure in finding out some of the books he's loved, and seeing the way he talks books with some of his reading friends, new and lifelong.

And then finally, there are the writers. As much as the book might be the story of one lost writer (and the persistent life of his book, The Stones of Summer), what really struck me was the sense it gave of this whole culture of committed, intelligent writers who are equally as lost to reading history has Mossman (if not as romantically so). There are some of his old Iowa classmates, like Bruce Dobler, whose book-writing career appears to have ended after a promising early start when his third book, Icepick, got what he calls "the second-worst review I've ever seen in the New York Times," or Robert C.S. Downs, who has patiently published a half-dozen novels (and written many more). Or even the authority figures, like Mossman's Iowa teacher William Cotter Murray, who published only two novels, decades ago, long out of print, and John Seelye, whose Times review of Mossman's book first led Moskowitz to it, and who has led what appears to be a fascinating and rewarding writing life but is almost completely out of print too. I hunted down some of their work, which, though unknown to me and forgotten by most, is still out there too, still available to be rediscovered:

Bruce Dobler:

White_Mama Robert C.S. Downs:

Dan Guenther (a friend of Mossman's whose letters and poems on Vietnam were included in The Stones of Summer):

William Cotter Murray:

John Seelye:

And then, for more discoveries, there are the books that people recommend to each other in the movie, many of them classics but others nearly lost:

  • The Territory Ahead by Wright Morris: admired by both Moskowitz and Seelye ("a fabulous book") but out of print
  • The View from Pompey's Head by Hamilton Basso: Mossman's favorite lost book from the '50s
  • Point of No Return by John P. Marquand: Moskowitz's favorite lost book from the '40s
  • Something Happened by Joseph Heller: not out of print, but always overshadowed by Catch-22, though Heller's editor, Robert Gottlieb, thinks it's better. It's the one book the movie most made me want to read (along with Stones of Summer).
  • History of My Life by Casanova: Mossman's favorite book(s): "It's too bad it cuts off when he's 52, because it really would have gotten good. He was starting to get depressed and realistic."
  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Mossman makes sure to tell his old prof Murray, in their first phone conversation in decades, "Chapter 14 is the greatest run on memory I ever read."

The DVD special features also include lists of recommended reading from Dobler, Downs, Murray, Mossman, and more, of course. --Tom

YA Wednesday: Happy Earth Day, Earth

On a recent book tour, YA authors Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski, and E. Lockhart asked readers: What does it mean to be bad?

Battle of the Kids' Books Update

Round 2 Match 1: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom of the Waves wins out over Mark Twain bio The Trouble Begins at 8.

Round 2 Match 2: Coe Booth chooses Chains over Tender Morsels.

Round 2, Match 3: The Hunger Games takes out We Are the Ship.

Graceling goes up against The Lincolns in the final match for this round. It's also catching up to The Hunger Games in the reader's choice vote.

Quick links...
Liz B. at Tea Cozy points out a not insignificant error in the recent Wall Street Journal article, "Scary Green Monsters." The article does have a list of green-themed YA and middle grade books for Earth Day, though, if you're interested.

Roger Sutton: Do book reviews make a difference?

Lauren Myracle starts a ning for her upcoming book Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks. (Via Ally Carter)

House of Night's P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast appear on Rachel Ray. (From Monday, via YA booknerd)

YALSA lists the 25 teen-chosen nominees for the 2009 YALSA Teens' Top Ten List. The Top Ten will be announced in October.

ReformedvampireThis week I'm reading Catherine Jinks's Reformed Vampire Support Group. So far, I'm loving this quirky mystery. It clues us in (finally!) to the "realities" of vampire life (like how they aren't all stunningly beautiful and they don't all live in amazing old houses with big windows). And Jinks adds another twist: the narrator is a vampire who happens to be a successful author of a vampire series. Happy reading.--Heidi