Friday, March 19, 2010

Not as rhetorical a question as you might have wished

From the promo blurb for My Double Life, by Janette Rallison:

You know how they say everyone has a twin somewhere in the world, a person chance has formed to be their mirror image? Well, mine happens to be rock star Kari Kingsley. How crazy is that?

Not crazy at all, when you, like I, have just spent two days combing through dozens (and dozens) of new YA novels, every other one of which seeming to encapsulate a formula of romance novel plus high-concept commercial hook plus glamorama cover art. In my day we called these paperbacks.

One of the more interesting of post-Harry Potter developments has been the emergence of commercial fiction for young people; that is, books designed to be purchased by kids/teens themselves, written in an undemanding style and with an alluring, quickly graspable premise. Airport books. Except if they were airport books, I wouldn't have to think twice about not reviewing them. And. There. Are. So. Many. And so many that seem to want desperately to be just like some other book that has already been a hit. Little Vampire Women, I'm looking at you.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I heard she moved to California

but I guess she's also gone Hollywood. From a Little, Brown press release heralding Cornelia Funke's Reckless, forthcoming in September:

This sweeping story, which will delight Funke’s legion of fans and garner her new ones, was inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales and developed with film-maker Lionel Wigram, executive producer of the Harry Potter films and producer/co-writer of the recent Sherlock Holmes blockbuster.
I'm assuming she will still write the thing, unless of course she has People For That.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's not forget that the gal had a good point, but

The discussion/flamewar over at Betsy's place about the Amazon Vine program reminds me yet again of the best way to get people to leave comments on a blog post: write something about blogging that implies in even the tiniest way that some practices might be better than others. People love to go all meta on that stuff.

In other words, as Betty Cavanna's Diane Graham (in A Date for Diane) recalls from a teen dating etiquette book she's optimistically memorized, "let a lad talk about himself."

Now, if someone would kindly leave a note in the comments accusing me of accusing Betsy of doing the same thing that I am doing right now, we can all watch the metaverse explode together.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't call me "Baby."

Elizabeth Bluemle has a great lament up about not trusting--and feeding--children's imaginations. The saddest line: "It used to be that naming your new stuffed animal was practically a sacred rite of passage in plush parenting; now, if the tag on the creature doesn't provide a pre-fab name, we're seeing kids at a loss, calling their new dog 'Puppy' and their new cat 'Kitty.'"

(Of course, my little brother did call his blankie "Tag," cause that's where he clutched it.)

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

"The fanboys can be merciless."

This Times article about the gypsies invading the castle of professional film criticism has a lot of import to the kidlitosphere as well, as amateur (I use the word in a strict sense) and independent critics join the established professional players in reviewing new books for children. I like what A. O. Scott has to say: “the paradox is that the Web has invigorated criticism as an activity while undermining it as a profession.” He means, I think, that as more people are embracing criticism as valuable, the notion that particular people can have expertise (worth paying for) becomes devalued: all opinions become equal.

Here's what worries me more. In the recent dustup about the BEA bloggers panel and subsequent debate about first- and second-generation bloggers, a-list and b-list bloggers, whether blog tours do any good and what constitutes pay and payola in the book-reviewing blog world, I kept thinking about my favorite Nora Ephron crack, which I will have to paraphrase as I can't find my copy of Crazy Salad. Writing about her experience with a 70s feminist consciousness-raising group, Ephron noted that in its waning days the conversation had devolved into a discussion about how each woman was going to stuff her turkey that Thanksgiving, and that none of the members was even particularly interested in hearing what the other women had to say, they were just impatient for their turn to talk. (Or as Fran Leibowitz put it, "conversation is not the art of listening. It is the art of waiting.") I worry that Internet 2.0 is turning us all into better talkers than listeners--that's what will kill criticism from wherever its source.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Starring Adam and Kris!

"Strategically placed almost midway between the annual Games, [the Victory Tour] is the Capitol's way of keeping the horror fresh and immediate."--from Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Why aren't they called adults' books

and adults' books editors? In any event, there is a great roundtable discussion among four of 'em over at Poets & Writers.

This past week I had to deal with a new author who was rather over-enthusiastic in his attempts to persuade the Magazine to review his book. I finally had to call in the big guns--his publisher--to get him to back off, but it also provoked a lament on his publisher's part that the rules seemed to be changing, that authors were being pressed by their publishers, their colleagues, the whole media culture, to go out and promote their own books with the time and zeal that used to be spent on writing the next one. So haranguing review editors might have seemed to this writer to have become acceptable--expected--behavior. I hope it's not a trend!

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Here's one more.

And would Jane Eyre Twitter?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Winnie lives

In my new fascination with readers-as-fans, I've been visiting, where readers become writers, choosing their own adventures for Harry, Hermione, and Bella (is that name an hommage to Mr. Lugosi?). While the site has more than 350,000 Harry Potter stories and 32,000 Twilights, who would have thought that Tuck Everlasting would have 182?

Here's a taste:

"Fuck that Amy, Give me the bottle." Beatrice had just downed her third shot that night and was reaching for the entire bottle of Jack Daniels as her drunk friends looked on, laughing their heads off. Her alcoholism had just begun that past month. It was two twenty am and she was already high, getting drunker by the second.

She was a victim of unrequited love.

She had fallen into a downward spiral of depression, and only one man could pull her out.


Winifred Foster went to work every morning, no matter how hungover she was from the previous night. 7:00am at the local diner, close to where the spring used to be. She was now 107 years old. But to her 'friends' and colleagues, she was 17 year old Beatrice Allen, new to the town of Treegap since a year ago, when she had grown tired of Tokyo. Winnie had dyed her naturally chocolate hair black, and bought some hazel contact lenses to hide her vibrant green-blue eyes. She did this in fear that somebody should recognize her, over time. She kept a low profile, and traveled around a lot, blown off lots of replaceable friends, but she did this because she could not risk the secret of Tuck Everlasting.

The spring had survived, she was still the rightful owner of the wood, she refused to sell it. Even if she had wished to, no buyers would be able to track her down. So many years of aliases, and fake IDs. Her actual identity was a mystery to anyone who wanted to find out. She only faintly remembered the 'Man in The Yellow Suit' now, but he was still there, taunting her somehow. Maybe it was her remorse, for not being there when her mother died, for faking her death and leaving everyone behind. It wasn't her fault she had begun getting older and not a thing had changed. She had no choice but to run. She had a new life to expect then. Now? After nearly one hundred years, and still no Tucks. She had no idea what to expect.

And as she poured some water for a kind gentleman in his booth, she wondered if she could make it another day, in her meaningless existence. She contemplated drinking herself into alcohol poisoning; but 'of course', she thought with a bitter laugh she would never die.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Actually, should you even be here?

Is reading on the web going to destroy our children's ability to read books? Does it matter? Here's an excellent article on those questions.

Have you noticed how much the web likes to talk about itself? That's what I find worrying!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I Blame America

For yet another made-up memoir. As a culture we've become convinced that only real stories are true stories, or do I have that the wrong way around?

Tangentially, does anyone else think it's hilarious that the book tour for an addiction memoir is sponsored by Starbucks?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oh, Santa, Please, Please, Please!

I told you Martha and I were writing a book, but apparently somebody, um, beat us to it. More than a century ago.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

And then they were upon her, and with good reason, too.

Fuse8 posts a link to what she accurately characterized as another hand-wringing piece about allegedly depressing YA novels on reading lists, but I am even more depressed by the author (a professor of creative writing, no less) condemning some "young adult fiction", unnamed, where "a town holds a lottery. At first it seems like an innocent exercise, but the author slowly reveals that the winner of the lottery will be sacrificed."

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


So Baby Einstein is actually bad for babies? While this study will probably only provoke more rounds of the coffee-hurts-you-coffee-helps-you kinds of further studies, I'd love to let the Freakonomics guys loose on this one. There are so many other correlations: if the Baby Einstein videos don't do what they promise, it could be because the parents don't use them as instructed (be warned, that link plays plastic classical music over and over again, trying to make you as smart as El Divo) or because dumb parents who think TV is good for babies pass their dumb genes on to their children (harsh, but that's Freakonomics for ya). Always nice to see Disney get a little grief, though.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

He Knows When You're Asleep at the Wheel, Too

Yep, it's 96 degrees out there but we've started pulling together our "Holiday Books" review section for the November issue. We will have some good books to tell you about there, I promise, but meanwhile I thought I would mention three concepts that might need to go back to Santa's workshop for some retooling:

--celebrating Hanukkah with a dreidel piñata

--giving the crippled kid magical legs while the rest of the family gets real presents

--a Santa who can't stop farting

The elves are waiting for your call.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

And here I thought Monday would be timely.

But the New York Times and Baltimore Sun got the jump on us, with reviews today of the new Harry Potter. And bravo to them: while Scholastic is entitled to try and stoke the flames of publicity--I mean, "preserve the magic moment"--by insisting on all kinds of secrecy, it's equally the job of the press to get the scoop. More than equally: by loudly embargoing review copies, swearing booksellers to hide the boxes, and going after bloggers who might or might not have reproduced pages from the book, Scholastic made their own blockade news, practically obliging journalists to get their hands on a copy. (You wouldn't know this from the deeply embarrassing Huffington Post story, though, which, in its stomping around like a little girl, reminds me that we are talking about a book for ten-year-olds.)

Our review, if the owls or whatever get the book to my house on time Saturday, will appear online Monday. Given that Scholastic seems to be insisting that the entire world should and will read the book this weekend, I guess we don't have to worry about spoilers. Except I do think we need to worry about spoilers, or at least be concerned about a willfully infantilized culture of suspense junkies so insistent on "not knowing the ending" that the future is probably going to kick our whiny, self-obsessed ass into oblivion. But that's a topic for another day.

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