September 19, 2005

Random Booknotes

This month's Book Page had a great feature on Jane Smiley's new book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. This book sounds a lot like what we might have read in Micheline Aharonian Marcom's class at Mills, since she's all about making lazy readers into better writers by requiring them to really dig into some tough novels they might normally just set aside. Smiley's book talks a bit about what makes good novels and what makes escapist novels. She overviews 100 novels that more or less span the history of literature -- from the obscure to the popular, a sort of Best Novels canon. What did she discover? Serious novels, says Smiley, don't allow you to escape. Instead they ask you to reconsider what you were thinking about in a new way. Sounds like a book to look into to me.

Wow, what a rush it must be to be Christopher Paolini. Paolini, just 19, wrote Eragon, the first book he'd ever written, as a first novel in a trilogy when he was just 15. Yeah, this, after having read all the books in his local library and graduating from high school that same year... He finished and self published at 17. Of course, it helps if your parents have a publishing company, but what a rush when you skip college to write a book that not only sells, but sells 1.5 million copies in North America alone, and remains on the bestseller list for eighty-five weeks. An even bigger rush might include the film rights being optioned, and Ed Speeler, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich shooting it in Budapest! It's due to be released in 2006.

But surely - the greatest buzz of all? In its third week on the
NY Times bestseller list, Eldest the second volume in the Inheritor trilogy, has passed the latest Potter epic to take its place at number one. Granted, Harry has been on top for nine weeks, but this is quite a feat for someone under 20, who hasn't yet made it to college, and has only written two books in his life thus far. Go Chris Go! We ain't seen nuthin' yet, obviously!

Carolyn Keene, the imaginary writer who won't die: Strangely located on the Style page of the Chronicle is a review of a new book on Carolyn Keene, the composite pseudonym of several writers behind the celebrated Nancy Drew series. Melanie Rehak, whose first book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, became completely intrigued with the pre-feminist history of this literary character when she heard the NPR obituary of Mildred Wirt Benson on the radio one day. She wanted to know who the 'real' Nancy Drew really was. Fans of the plucky blonde sleuth will thrill with all the attention being paid to the reborn 40's teenager. From a new Manga-styled cover art to more modern character sketches, Nancy Drew seems fated, at 75, to be here to stay...

We have more writers wandering through the SF Bay Area than we know what to do with. Here are a few highlights of who's in town this weekend:

Though this isn't really a YA book, the protagonist of Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide is thirteen, and growing up in a wonderful autumnal coming-of-age book. There's a great luncheon planned in Pleasanton with the author at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday (9/22) It's $10/lunch; $28 lunch and book. Towne Center Books, 555 Main St., Pleasanton. (925) 846-8826.

Wouldn't it be the coolest to have a dad who worked on Alcatraz Island in 1935? Okay, maybe not. But if the warden's daughter was cool... how much fun could you get up to? Okay. Fun is another name for t-r-o-u-b-l-e. But that's the schtick in this well spoken of YA novel of historical fiction called
Al Capone Does My Shirts. Author, Gennifer Choldenko is having a meet-n-greet next Saturday at 2 p.m. Crissy Field Center, Bldg. 603, Mason and Halleck streets, the Presidio, S.F. (415) 561-7752. Also don't forget that Pratchett's in town this week, too!

Autumn arrives this week. Celebrate with a new book!

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