Thursday, July 12, 2012

Soup and Salad: Fobbit ARC winner, Matt Bell's new novel, Pulitzer-fail followup, David Cronenberg and Don DeLillo Together Again for the First Time, Stinking Kindles, Thank You For Killing My Novel, Sere Prince Halverson's Sense of Place, Charles Dickens Stamps

On today's menu:

1.  Congratulations to Diana Wagman, winner of the Fobbit prize package.  My sincerest thanks to everyone who entered the contest.  You overwhelmed my inbox with support, love, and anticipation for the book (which officially publishes on Sept. 4).  A little bird at Grove/Atlantic tells me there will be another Fobbit giveaway coming soon; so be of good cheer, all you losers!

2.  Speaking of anticipation, I was excited to see this announcement of Matt Bell's novel (coming from Soho Press in 2013) at his blog.  In addition to possessing one damned fine title ("the longest title in Soho history," according to the publisher's Facebook page) and a kick-ass cover (which, hopefully, will be the final design), In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods has this intriguing plot summary: it's "the story of a newly married couple who take up a lonely existence in the title's mythical location.  In this blank and barren plot far from the world they've known, they mean to start the family the unnamed husband wants so obsessively.  But their every pregnancy fails, and as their grief swells, the husband─a hot-tempered and impatient fisherman and trapper─attempts to prove his dominion in other ways, emptying both the lake and the woods of their many beasts.  As the years pass, the wife changes too, her suddenly powerful voice singing some new series of objects into being, including a threatening moon hung above their house, its doomed weight already slowly falling, bending their now-starless sky.  In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods is about marriage, parenthood, and the dreams parents have for their children─as well as what happens to a marriage whose success is measured solely by the children it produces, or else the grief that marks their absence."  Spring 2013 can't come soon enough for me.

3.  Remember the kerfuffle over the Pulitzer Prize committee's decision to leave the fiction category unawarded this year?  Michael Cunningham--who, along with Maureen Corrigan and Susan Larson, was one of the three jurors who forwarded their recommendations to the committee--writes about his reaction in a two-part essay at The New Yorker:
We were, all three of us, shocked by the board’s decision (non-decision), because we were, in fact, thrilled, not only by the books we’d nominated but also by several other books that came within millimetres of the final cut. We never felt as if we were scraping around for books that were passable enough to slap a prize onto. We agreed, by the end of all our reading and discussion, that contemporary American fiction is diverse, inventive, ambitious, and (maybe most important) still a lively, and therefore living, art form.
While he admits the three jurors faced an almost impossible task ("the attempt to name a 'best' book, as if books were cucumbers at a county fair"), in the end "an American writer has been ill served and underestimated. Readers have been deprived of what might have been a great literary discovery or might have offered them the bittersweet but genuine satisfaction of saying, 'Really? That book? What were those people thinking of?'"  Read Part One here, and Part Two here.

4.  This Recording offers an early critique of David Cronenberg's forthcoming adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel Cosmopolis, starring Robert Pattinson as the bored billionaire who spends the majority of the book and movie riding around in his limousine looking for a good haircut.  It's not a favorable review and is, among other things, critical of how Cronenberg has brought the "dysfunctional language" of the novel to the screen: "This is not the dialogue of Harold Pinter; this was not written to be said out loud."

5.  The Casual Optimist offers this solution for Kindle owners who miss the beautiful, smelly mess of used books:

6.  Janet Maslin reviewed Patrick Somerville's new novel This Bright River for the New York Times.  She panned it, calling it "soggy."  This was a real bummer for Somerville.  But then he read the review a little closer, a little more slowly, and realized that--gasp!--Maslin "had made a simple reading error within the first five pages of my novel.  She'd mixed up two characters.  It was really important to not mix up those characters."  So, going against the long-standing wisdom that authors should not react publicly to bad reviews, Somerville decided to write to the New York Times in order to set the record straight about the error.  What ensued turned out to be one of the classiest author-reviewer responses I've ever seen.  Much better than taking your reviewer's book out to the back yard and shooting it with a pistol.

7.  Sere Prince Halverson, author of the novel The Underside of Joy, recently gave a wonderful TEDx talk on how geography and a "sense of place" has impacted her life. I really love the story about the time she and her husband, urban dwellers, took their son to the mountains for the first time when he was a toddler. The boy reached down, grabbed a handful of dirt and started belly-laughing. Sere's husband turned to her and said: "Man we've got to get this kid off the pavement more often." Here's the 13-minute video (it's worth watching all the way to the end):

8.  I've always liked Charles Dickens, and now I find I can lick him, too.  His characters--Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Bumble, The Marchioness, Mrs. Gamp, Captain Cuttle, and Mr Micawber--are featured on a new set of postage stamps in the UK.


  1. Thanks so much for including me here, David. I'm honored. And along with everyone else, I'm counting the days until September 4th, National Fobbit Day!

    1. I loved your TED talk. What a beautiful subject -- I too spent some time in Sonoma County and absolutely fell in love with the area. Definitely going out to pick up your book now so I can see it through your eyes.

    2. Nikki, thank you for taking the time to watch the talk and letting me know you liked it. And thanks, too, for reading The Underside of Joy. I really tried to capture at least some of what makes Sonoma County so beautiful. I hope the book will bring back more memories of your visit here.

  2. In the House Upon the Dirt... sounds absolutely magnificent -- now for the long wait!

    Great mix of other bookly news and interesting bits, thanks!