You guys! We are so VERY excited to be the ones to announce this year’s National Book Award finalists! Check out the full list here.
Nice work, guys.
"I think there are two primary jobs that a jacket has to do: It has to represent a text and it has to sell it. In a way, a book jacket … is sort of like a title that an author comes up with. It’s one thing that has to speak to a big aggregate thing, which is the book itself. And it has to be compelling in some way such that you’re interested enough to pick it up — and perhaps buy it. … It’s like a billboard or an advertisement or a movie trailer or a teaser. …
I think of a book jacket as being sort of like a visual reminder of the book, but … it’s also a souvenir of the reading experience. Reading takes place in this nebulous kind of realm, and in a way, the jacket is part of the thing that you bring back from that experience. It’s the thing that you hold on to.”
- Peter Mendelsund, book jacket designer
Peter Mendelsund is a book jacket designer for Knopf. Tomorrow he joins us to talk about his designs, his creative process, and ‘What We See When We Read.’
A new Hilary Mantel book is an Event with a “capital “E.” Here’s why: The first two best-selling novels in Mantel’s planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, each won the Man Booker Prize—that’s a first. The BBC is filming an adaptation of Wolf Hall for airing in 2015, and Mantel’s original short story, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,” was printed in The Sunday New York Times Book Review a few weeks ago. That story is from Mantel’s new short story collection of the same name. Heads always tend to roll—figuratively and otherwise—in Mantel’s writing. Hers is a brusque and brutal world leavened with humor—humor that’s available in one shade only: black.
Last year, the big debate in the world of books was over the question of whether or not a novel has to feature “likeable” main characters in order for readers to identify with them or make them want to stick with their stories. The debate had a sexist tinge to it: Female characters seem especially burdened with the need to be pleasing. …This year in books brings us a new novel that, to my mind, shoves the “likeability” issue into the dustbin of beside-the-point literary debates where it belongs.
Via Electric Lit.
Not sure if this is more encouraging or daunting, but it’s definitely interesting!
Today Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Corrigan says the novel gives readers “the chance to step out of time for a while and into a world richer and stranger than most of us could imagine.”
She encourages readers to try The Bone Clocks, even if fantasy fiction isn’t your cup of tea:
"David Mitchell is one of those writers I’d follow anywhere—even deep into (what is for me) the often-exasperating genre of fantasy fiction. I don’t naturally gravitate to tales about alternative universes, wormholes, or tribbles; but, there are always exceptions and if Mitchell feels like trying out a semi-futuristic vehicle about immortal soul stealers, I’m willing to take a deep breath, step aboard, and say, in the words of Rod Serling: “Next stop, the Twilight Zone.”
As in Cloud Atlas and some of his lesser-known novels, Mitchell’s new book, called The Bone Clocks, is elaborately constructed, jumping around in time and narrative perspective. A friend of mine, who’s also a Mitchell enthusiast, rightly says that his novels are “postmodernist without all the pretentious metaphysics.” What my friend means is that Mitchell’s technical wizardry is there, not for show, but in service to his themes and characters—he’s a deeply compassionate writer. In fact, despite its experimental edge, the main reason to read The Bone Clocks is an old-fashioned one: the draw of a charismatic character named Holly Sykes.”
When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, it flopped. In fact, it didn’t get its second wind until World War II when it was given to soldiers to carry in their pockets—over 123,000 copies were distributed.
Today we talk about the history of Gatsby and why it endures. Fresh Air’s book critic Maureen Corrigan just wrote a book about this very subject. It’s called “So We Read On,” a reference to the final words of Gatsby, “And So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
In the conversation, Corrigan tells us that Gatsby has quite a few film noir tropes:
"Gatsby almost has the form of a film noir, where you have this voiceover with [narrator] Nick Carraway remembering things that have taken place in the past, things that can’t be changed, events that can’t be changed.
It’s a violent story. There are three violent deaths in Gatsby. It’s a story in which you get bootlegging, crime, explicit sexuality — and remember this is 1925 when it was published, so it’s pretty racy for its time.
… We don’t explicitly read about [sex] but in Chapter Two, Nick is taken along by Tom Buchanan … on a joy ride into Manhattan where Tom takes Nick to … a drunken party in The Love Nest. So we know that there’s infidelity — a lot of innuendo — about people having sex outside of marriage and a lot of drinking.
And, most importantly, film noir, hardboiled detective fiction and The Great Gatsby — they’re all stories that are obsessed with the presence of fate. There’s a very fated feel to Gatsby. Events that occur in the novel, they’re foretold many times. That car crash in which Myrtle Wilson is killed, Tom’s mistress, there are two other car crashes that preceded that car crash. So a lot of events are predicted in this novel.”
Photo: Benn Mitchell
"The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire," and "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins
New York Times correspondent Charlie Savage spoke to Fresh Air about the state of Guantanamo Bay, the efforts to move the remaining detainees and the political obstacles to closing the facility.
Savage also started a tumblr of books in the Gitmo library. “People seem to really be taken with it,” he says. “Because it’s so familiar and yet so alien at the same time to see these books that we’ve read or might be on your kid’s shelf—except it’s circulating among detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”
Here’s what Savage says about the library:
"It has about 20,000 books. …The detainees can’t go there and browse the stacks. Instead, library personnel puts a bunch of books in bins and cart them around to the cell blocks. …
The most popular books are said to be religious books, maybe not surprisingly, but they have a whole room full of western books that you or I would be quite familiar with—ranging from Captain America comic books to The Hunger Games, or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. …
Apparently nature books and nature magazines with photographs [of] ocean or mountain or forest scenes are quite popular, maybe because they never see nature.”
The Art of Dog-Earing: Yes, Terry Reads The Books
Books always had this very powerful effect on me because of some communication, somebody seeming even in a very symbolic or displaced way to understand what I was feeling. And I think that is the miracle of literature, is this private communication between one intelligence and another.
Last week, Africa Is a Country, a blog that documents and skewers Western misconceptions of Africa, ran a fascinating story about book design. It posted a collage of 36 covers of books that were either set in Africa or written by African writers. The texts of the books were as diverse as the geography they covered: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique. They were written in wildly divergent styles, by writers that included several Nobel Prize winners. Yet all of books’ covers featured an acacia tree, an orange sunset over the veld, or both.
"In short," the post said, "the covers of most novels ‘about Africa’ seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.”
Read more.[Image: Wikimedia Commons]