Readersforum's Blog

September 30, 2012

The 10 Best Narrators in Literature

By Antoine Wilson

The first-person narrator descends from the ancient storyteller unspooling his tale around the fire for the delight and edification of his people. But on the page, two things transform him. One, we readers can ask “Who is this speaker? Why is he telling us this story, and what isn’t he telling us?” Two, he can go on as long as he wants. The first case invents the so-called Unreliable Narrator, the second gives rise to what I like to call the World Swallower.

Whether insane, overheated, strung-out, or merely young and naïve, Unreliable Narrators always deliver more than their characters intend to. Comic or tragic, serious or absurd, they can tell just about any story while also reflecting our capacity for self-deception, our limited sliver of knowledge about the world, and the limits of language itself.

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Recommending Books for the Characters of BREAKING BAD

  By Paul Montgomery

Frequently grim, but just as often daffy, each season of AMC’s Breaking Bad crystalizes into pure, novelistic TV drama. Like The Wire before it, the show registers as cool and calculated, thoughtfully but not woefully constructed into taut little units that satisfy like the best prose capers. And it all comes down to chemistry.

Former high school chemistry teacher Walter White has taken several wrong turns in and around Albuquerque over the years, uprooting his every relationship and churning up endless despair. It can’t be pleasant to cast along in that turbulent wake, but the extended cast of characters on Breaking Bad are rarely hapless victims. Several have willingly pinned their own fortunes to Walt’s, while others simply stir up their own mire. They each present with their own self destructive tendencies, bad habits and occasional mail-order geode collection. Meanwhile, Walt Jr. just wants his breakfast.

Some of these characters need guidance. Some need nurturing. Others simply require enablement. This is entertainment after all.

Today let’s recommend some books to all those shambling in the wake of Heisenberg’s fallout.

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Little Women, Coleridge, Utopia

Louisa May Alcott

On this day in 1868 Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was published. It was an immediate best seller, bringing the thirty-five-year-old Alcott a popularity she did not expect: “I plod away, though I don’t really enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters, but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it.”


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September 28, 2012

Penguin sues authors over ‘failing to deliver books’

Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel among a dozen writers being taking to court to recoup advances for books that the publisher says didn’t materialise.

By Alison Flood

Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel is one of 12 writers being sued by the publisher Penguin in a New York court for failing to deliver books they were signed up to write.

The Smoking Gun, the investigative American website that unveiled James Frey as a liar in 2006, has found that Penguin filed lawsuits against five authors who have not delivered books for which they were paid significant advances. As well as Wurtzel, the blogger Ana Marie Cox is being asked to return her $81,250 advance (and at least $50,000 in interest) for not writing a “humorous examination of the next generation of political activists”, signed in 2006, and Herman Rosenblat, a Holocaust survivor whose story of how he met his wife turned out to be a fabrication, is being chased for a $30,000 advance (and at least $10,000 in interest).


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Why the embargo on Rowling’s ‘Casual Vacancy’ didn’t hold

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:55 pm

When critics are supposed to abide by rules, the urge to be the first can be irresistible.

By Neely Tucker

The embargo on the J.K. Rowling novel “The Casual Vacancy,” reportedly one of the most draconian non-disclosure agreements in the history of publishing . . . did not quite work. ¶ Thursday is the release date for the first book for adults written by the empress of Hogwarts. Reviews were embargoed until 1 a.m. and book sales until 3 a.m. Since Rowling’s Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, the release of her new book — even though it is set in an unmagical British town called Pagford — is one of 2012’s largest publishing events. ¶ Thus, it is a test case for the common, if unloved, practice of forbidding booksellers from selling the book in advance of the embargo date, and forbidding media outlets from reviewing said tome before the date the publishing company decrees. ¶ The practice generally has several intents: to make sure books are in stores when readers hear about them; to retain the news revelations in nonfiction books; and to try to bottle up interest in big fiction titles, propelling them onto bestseller lists with an unusually high number of immediate sales.

“For franchise authors, you want to drive it to Number 1 by having everyone buy it the first week of release,” said Elyse Cheney, a literary agent in New York.

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Putting Words in Halle Berry’s Mouth

Filed under: film adaptations — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:35 pm

Illustration by Holly Wales


“So how does it feel?” is the question you hear when your book completes the long ascent from production purgatory to movieplex. Well, first there’s a primal kick: actors speak dialogue you wrote years ago, and all those nonexistent people are now real. They find flashes of humor or menace you never spotted, and soon all memory of how you imagined the character before the actor muscled in is gone.

For a playwright or screenwriter, this is a normal day at the office, but the first read-through of the “Cloud Atlas” script will stay with me forever. With three or four actors unable to attend, the film’s directors — Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski, who also wrote the screenplay — divvied up the spare roles. It seemed rude not to volunteer. I hadn’t been in a group-reading situation since my high-school English class, but instead of my 17-year-old classmates slogging through “A Passage to India,” here were Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Jim Broadbent delivering lines that sounded uncannily familiar. The whole experience felt rather like finding Gandhi playing Connect 4 with your plumber in the cupboard under the stairs — it wasn’t so much the individual elements of the scene that were surreal but their juxtaposition.

Yet it soon sinks in that you’ve morphed from being the Creator to the guy who happened to write the original novel. How this makes you feel depends, I guess, on how you feel about the adaptation itself. I’ve never experienced much anxiety in this quarter. I met the three directors in 2008, and their plan to foreground the novel’s “transmigrating souls” motif by having actors perform multiple roles (each role being a sort of way station on that soul’s karmic journey) struck me as ingenious.

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Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie – review

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 12:38 pm

  Salman Rushdie’s account of surviving a fatwa is brutally honest and profound.

By Margaret Drabble

One of the heroes of Rushdie’s memoir is a handsome, tennis-playing, gun-carrying police protection officer called Stan, which may or may not be his real name. His first reaction to the fatwa was simple. “It can’t be allowed… threatening a British citizen. It’s not on. It’ll get sorted.” As we know, it took years to sort and arguments against the dying ayatollah’s death sentence span out of control into impassioned and often intemperate debates about the blasphemy laws, freedom of speech, the nature of fiction, cultural relativism, Islam, the narrowing of national identities and the alleged cost to the British nation of Stan, his colleagues and Operation Malachite. Rushdie’s bold, complex and literary novel, The Satanic Verses, was hijacked by the exterminating angels of wrath, a wrath that still flames around us. Some were killed, many were threatened. It continues.

Rushdie has now told his version of events and it is more gripping than any spy story. Having resisted commercial attempts to fictionalise his life, he has attempted to tell his own truth. It cannot have been easy. He kept a journal, but, being a clever and would-be honest man, he knows we deceive and bowdlerise even in our journals and admits it.

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Piatkus signs erotic mash-up novels

|By  Katie Allen

Piatkus has signed two classic mash-up novels, offering a “really fun” twist on the erotica trend.

Donna Condon, senior editor, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Jane Eyrotica and Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray, from Skyhorse Publishing via Linda Biagi from Biagi Rights Management.

Jane Eyrotica by Karena Rosa, the pseudonym of a student from Kent, will be published as an e-book on 4th October on digital-first list Piatkus Entice, and in print on 1st November. Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray by American author Nicole Audrey Spector will be published by Piatkus Entice on 6th December, with the paperback following on 2nd January 2013.

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Dos Passos and U.S.A.

On this day in 1970 John Dos Passos died at the age of seventy-four. He is now one of the more forgotten Lost Generation writers, but the U.S.A. trilogy (The 42nd Parallel, 1919, The Big Money, published 1930-36) was important reading in the forties and fifties, both for its angry indictment of the “prosperity myth” and its “stream-of-society” style.

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September 27, 2012

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: A Delicious Time Machine to Post-Edwardian England

By Maria Popova

More than 150 recipes from upstairs and downstairs.

With a documented soft spot for cross-disciplinary cookbooks and the intersection of food and fiction, I was instantly adrool over The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding (public library) by baker and writer Emily Ansara Baines, who brings us “more than 150 recipes from upstairs and downstairs.” Whether you’re in the mood for Mr. Bates’ chicken and mushroom pie or Sybil’s ginger nut biscuits, each delicious bite of these surprisingly approachable dishes is a tiny time machine that transports you right back to the post-Edwardian era.

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