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April 2010

Omni Daily News

California's Dreaming:  A federal court will once again review the case against Swedish author Fredrik Colting (a.k.a. J. D. California) and his purported "sequel" to J.D. Salinger's classic, The Catcher in the Rye.

Friday, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the federal court to determine whether Salinger's trust will suffer irreparable harm from the publication of Colting's book.

But in its ruling, the appeals court made clear it expected Salinger's trust to prevail.

"Most of the matters relevant to Salinger's likelihood of success on the merits are either undisputed or readily established in his favor," the court ruled.

Poetic Comedy:  Bill Murray stopped by the construction site for Poet's House in Manhattan to wax poetic for a group of workers (via GalleyCat).

Moving and Shaking: Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists--one of my favorite reads of 2010 (and our Best of April spotlight pick)--is rocketing up our Movers and Shakers list this afternoon.

The Edgars Heart Hart: 2010 Edgar Winners Announced

At the 64th gala banquet of the Mystery Writers of America last night, the winners of the 2010 Edgar Awards were announced, and as if in response to the Wall Street Journal article yesterday that said, about the lack of repeat winners of the prizes, "the first Edgar is often the last," the judges gave John Hart a rare second Edgar, after honoring him just two years ago for Best Novel for Down River:

You can dig down into our long list of this year's nominees, and previous nominees and winners. --Tom

Graphic Novel Friday: DC's Deluxe April

April was a big month for comics fans who prefer their stories told in a classy package. DC Comics released three "deluxe" editions across three imprints--Wildstorm, Vertigo, and DC.  But, for fans who already own these stories in different formats, are the new editions worth a double-dip?

Up first is Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Philip Tan. After the events of Final Crisis, the Batman comics received an overhaul under the banner of Batman Reborn (see also Streets of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens, and the why-do-we- have-to-wait-until-July? release of Batwoman). But Batman and Robin is the flagship title, where a new hero dons the cape and cowl and is joined by Damian, the son of Bruce Wayne, as Robin.

Morrison and Quitely team up after their Eisner-winning run on All-Star Superman, but the reunion is short-lived, as Quitely only stays for the initial three chapters (Philip Tan handles the remaining pages). For fans who could not wait for the collection and instead picked up the first six chapters in single issues, this is still a worthwhile purchase, as it's slightly oversized when compared to the individual comics--as well as the other recent Reborn hardcover collections. Quitely's distinctive art only improves with the increased scope (bring on the Absolute All-Star Superman), and the supplemental material by Morrison et al is a hoot.

There are 16 pages of commentary from writer Grant Morrison, along with cover layouts and character redesigns by Quitely and Tan, plus extensive notes on each. On the new Batmobile: "We didn't want our global warming/recession-era Batmobile to resemble the chrome-piped, gas-guzzling, Techno-Deco road leviathans of the past." And on a particular cover, Morrison states: "This was commissioned as part of DC's 'weird cover month' (as far as I am aware, there were no other weird covers that month, leading us to suspect some elaborate practical joke)."

Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's celebrated Y: The Last Man run reaches its third deluxe collection, housing issues 24-36--notably the "Ring of Truth" and "Girl on Girl" storylines. This is also an oversized hardcover, giving fans' bookshelves a slightly more respectable manner with which to display their favorite end-of-humanity-as-we-know-it comics. Beyond that, however, I'm not sure how sold I am on the double-dip. Volume 3 includes the full script to issue #36, but that's all for extras.

Guerra's art is expressive and appealing, yet I didn't see much of an upgrade in the new format; I did a side-by-side comparison with the paperbacks and had trouble identifying where the extra inches went. Plus, the white matte dustjacket picks up a lot of scuff, especially around the spine. The story, though, is rightfully hailed as one of the more important stories from the past decade in comics. New readers should immediately pass on the paperbacks and head directly to these deluxe editions (Vaughan's plot and subplots are all-consuming, and appetites will be better sated thanks to the increased page counts), but longtime fans may be happy with the well-worn, ten-volume set they most certainly already own.

Lastly, I'm not sure that I am fit to objectively weigh the merits of the Tom Strong: Deluxe Edition Vol. 2 by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, and Jerry Ordway, as I've already documented my long-winded admiration for the series in a previous post. Collecting twelve issues in a hefty hardcover (which is larger than the original hardcovers), this is one handsome tome. It features the introduction of my favorite Strong character, Svetlana X, my favorite plotline ("How Tom Stone Got Started"), plus a new cover by Sprouse, and a sketchbook (which, admittedly, rehashes art from previous collections). Sprouse and inker Karl Story's clean and broad artwork richly benefits from this grander scale. The deceptively simple facial structures convey so much emotion that, to see them enlarged, further illustrates how much of the series' charm is dependent on Sprouse's contributions. This is not meant to take away from the good work by Jerry Ordway, who lends his nostalgia-tinged style to the aforementioned "Stone" arc. Dave Stewart, Alex Sinclair, and Matt Hollingsworth contribute the bright color palette, and it now reads at full volume. I own a few Tom Strong trades, and these deluxe collections are definitely worth it for fans. I envy those who will be reading the stories for the first time in this format.

This collection is just in time for an announcement that made my month: Sprouse and Peter Hogan, who pens a few chapters in this volume, will return to the Tom Strong continuum in Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom in June, and Sprouse will also join Grant Morrison on a chapter in The Return of Bruce Wayne event later this year. 

After April, there is no shortage of high-class collections. Morrison's JLA: Volume 3 and Vaughan's Ex Machina: Volume 3 both receive the deluxe treatment in May. Now might not be bad time to start investing in sturdier bookshelves.


P.S.  Don't forget that this Saturday, May 1st, is Free Comic Book Day.  The annual celebration is a great way to take a chance on new titles as well as rediscover old favorites. My well-worn Batman shirt (yellow oval, natch) is washed and ready for the festivities. 

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award: Announcing the Semifinalists

Earlier this week, we announced the names of 100 semifinalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award--50 in General Fiction, and 50 in Young Adult Fiction. (The Young Adult award is new to this year's contest, but has generated quite a few tantalizing entries.)

Several of our favorite authors are expert reviewers this year, including Tana French, whose highly anticipated Faithful Place is already one of my must-reads for the summer. After the experts weigh in, we'll announce the six finalists (three each in General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction), and we'll open up voting to Amazon customers on May 25th.

Each Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. The contest is in its third year, and it continues to be a great opportunity for aspiring novelists--and one that generates constant chatter in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award community, including one particularly impressive post detailing all the ABNA submissions that have been published or are slated to be published soon.

Omni Daily News

"Tortoise" Wins Canadian First Novel Award:  Author Jessica Grant has won the First Novel Award for her debut work of fiction, Come, Thou Tortoise about a woman who returns home to St. John's Newfoundland after learning that her father has died in an accident. In her Globe & Mail review,  Diane Baker Mason described the work as "a little bit Alice in Newfoundland," and "extraordinary, original and simultaneously both deep and lightheartedly charming." Stuart Woods--head First Novel Award judge and editor of Quill and Quire magazine -called the book "a heartfelt tale full to the brim with warm sentiment and the gentle absurdities of contemporary life."  Check out all four finalists for this year's prize and learn more about past winner's including Joseph Boyden, Nino Ricci, Michael Ondaatje, and Gil Adamson.

Bush in the Hand Is Worth Two Bios:  Michiko Kakutani reviews former First Lady Laura Bush's  memoir Spoken from the Heart (available May 4) in today's New York Times. Kakutani observes that the single volume is actually two very differently conceived and written biographies. The first part, which covers Bush's early years in Texas, is a "deeply felt, keenly observed account."  The second half, which covers the years as a politican's better half, is as one might expect, "filled with the sort of spin and canned platitudes common in political autobiographies."  

11 (Not 10) for 39 Clues:  Although the 10th and final book in the bestselling 39 Clues middle grade series, Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix releases on August 31, fans will have another book to dive into this fall. The 39 Clues:The Black Book of Buried Secrets will be released Oct. 26 (we'll keep you posted when the Amazon page goes live). The new book will feature an introduction by Rick Riordan, who established the story line for the entire series and penned Book 1: The Maze of Bones. The energetic Riordan is very busy these days with the upcoming launches of two new series The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1 (May 5) about ancient Egypt, and his Percy Jackson spin-off, The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1) (available October 12).

Moving and Shaking:  Author Kelly Corrigan exchanges memories on motherhood this morning with Today show-host, Meredith Vieira.  Their heartwarming chat lifts Lift into the #8 spot on our Movers & Shakers list.

China Mieville Wins Arthur C. Clarke Award

China Mieville has won this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award for his novel The City and The City. The annual award is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a list of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year. A prize of £2010 will be awarded to the winner along with a commemorative engraved bookend.

Contacted by Amazon for his reaction, Mieville said, "One of the many reasons this means so much to me is that I tried to draw on different literary inspirations than I had previously done, to write in a different voice, to channel a different kind of 'weird'. Trying to do something different was a huge pleasure and excitement, but of course there's no guarantee that you'll do a good job. To have the effort received like this means an incredible amount."

Clarke Award Administrator Tom Hunter told Amazon, "I have to say that the positive reaction to the whole of this year’s shortlist has been fantastic, and I’ve been very encouraged by both the passion and the generosity of this year’s debate. What’s pleased me most has been the fact that every book shortlisted this year has had it’s camp of enthusiastic advocates, and I don’t think there’s been a list that’s been a tougher call than this for many a year."

The judging panel for the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award consisted of Chris Hill and Jon Courtenay Grimwood for the British Science Fiction Association, Francis Spufford and Rhiannon Lassiter for the Science Fiction Foundation and Paul Skevington for the science fiction news website SF Paul Billinger represents the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Chair of Judges. The winner was announced this evening at an award ceremony held on the opening night of the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival.

Jennifer L. Knox Is Invited, Retroactively, to My Wedding

The mashup and the cover version may be reaching their peak in the digital age, but poet Jennifer L. Knox (whose most recent collection, Drunk by Noon, would certainly have been a contender for Best Cover of the Year in 2007 if we had had such a competition, and if I had known it existed at the time) shows that you can commandeer authorship of a cultural object the old-fashioned way: with a Sharpie and some glue. Apparently (it's hard to separate the spurious from the serious with her), she missed the wedding of two friends and, as a belated gift, prepared for them a doctored version of Mark Bittman's eminently useful How to Cook Everything, with her name substituted wherever possible as author, and a new, foul-mouthed "Acknowledgments" section pasted over the existing one. No sign that she altered any recipes...


And one of the more family-friendly passages from the acknowledgments:

[My father] worked for 53 years as head chemist for Animex, developers of all the animals in Mexico. My father's landmark experiments led to the development of a cow small enough to pack in carry-on luggage--making starvation on airplanes a thing of the past.

(On The Hypothetical Library, via Eat Me Daily and an anonymous tipster) --Tom

Fake Werner Herzog Reveals the Horror Behind Children's Books

From deep in the wilds of Hartford, CT, RyanIverson has been posting videos of legendary film director "Werner Herzog" reading his own interpretations of popular children's books. His Herzog impression is hit-and-miss, but the real beauty of these is the way they recall the intensity of reading these crazy stories as a child, when the world really did feel like a Werner Herzog movie. Paul already posted the Curious George reading a few weeks back, but I think it's worth sharing them all (so far) here.

My favorite, in part because it was my favorite picture book when I was a kid--no doubt exactly because of the crazy undercurrent of horror mixed with love and comfort that "Herzog" unearths: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel ("His affection for the machine was out of proportion with social norms"):

And here's Curious George, which, unsurprisingly, evokes Herzog jungle classics like Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God ("He lived in an obscene, overwhelming jungle where murder is the norm, and also he could not help it: he was a murderer too. Still he was a good little monkey."):

Madeline ("Clavell painstakingly covers up all of her adult femininity before daring to check on the girls"):

And the latest, Where's Waldo ("His naivete will be his undoing, as it will for each of us in turn."):

More, please! How about In the Night Kitchen? --Tom

Omni Daily News

History on Display:  In honor of their 50th anniversary, Amsterdam's Anne Frank House museum has announced that a nearly-complete collection of Anne Frank's famous diary is now available for public viewing.

Now on display are the three parts of the diary, a book of short stories she wrote called "Tales from the Secret Annex," and a notebook of her favorite quotations.

Anne also wrote 360 loose pages written on flimsy paper, mostly revising earlier diary entries with the intention of publishing it after the war. Because of the papers' fragile state, the museum said it will display 40 sheets at a time and rotate them.

Get Ready for Another Book, NationGalleyCat is reporting that comedian/author/defender of liberty Stephen Colbert has just sold a yet-to-be-named follow-up to I Am America (And So Can You!).  Not surprisingly, the book is slated for an election-year release in 2012.

Free Comics This Saturday: provides a great checklist for the comics agnostic in anticipation of Free Comic Book Day this Saturday, May 1. 

Moving and Shaking:  Thanks to a great article yesterday from Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin, Norman Mailer: MoonFire ranks among the top titles in our Movers and Shakers list this morning.

Omni Daily News

Whale watching: Every day after work, Ohio librarian Matt Kish illustrates a passage from each page of his Signet Classic copy of Moby-Dick. This is extremely cool. So far he has made it to page 220. Read more about his project at The Book Bench.

Authors getting younger: Harlan Coben joins the ranks of James Patterson, John Grisham, Kathy Reichs, and more bestselling authors who have started writing mysteries for young readers. His new 3-book series will begin in 2011 and feature guest appearances from notable Coben characters Myron Bolitar and Win Lockwood. [Via GalleyCat]

Roll out the red carpet: Melville House is sponsoring the first annual Moby Awards for best (and worst) book trailers. (The Oscars meet the Razzies, sorta. Minus the traditional celebrities.) Nomination categories seem rudimentary but right, ranging from budget considerations to notable appearances (by authors and others) and "Least Likely to Sell a Book." I think we have candidates for all of those, should we decide to vote!

Moving & shaking: We're all about covers today. The jacket reveal for Glenn Beck's The Overton Window (available June 15) sends this debut thriller to #4 on our list.