Readersforum's Blog

July 5, 2013

The Shining Girls Is The Time Traveler’s Wife, Plus Stabbing

girlsThe Shining Girls by South African author Lauren Beukes is one of this summer’s hottest books, and was recently optioned for television by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way. The story centers around a violent drifter named Harper Curtis, who stumbles on a house that travels through time. Harper then embarks on a killing spree, murdering women in Chicago throughout the twentieth century. But in contrast to suave Hollywood psychopaths like Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman, Harper is more pathetic than debonair, which Beukes feels is closer to reality when it comes to serial killers.

“A lot of them have major issues with impotence — whether that’s actual sexual dysfunction or just feelings of powerlessness,” says Lauren Beukes in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually just violent losers.”

She also wanted to push back against the tendency of crime stories to present murdered women as sex objects. Each of the victims in The Shining Girls is a unique, well-developed character, and together they convey a fascinating portrait of the lives of strong-willed women. It’s that very promise that puts them in the sights of Harper, who’s drawn to their sense of potential. The murder scenes are gritty and visceral, and all are written from the point of view of the victims, focusing on their horror and outrage.

“I specifically tried to avoid writing torture porn,” says Beukes. “And actually, my editor is one of the leading experts on violence against women in South Africa, so if she said a scene was OK and passed muster, I felt like it was probably OK.”

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January 3, 2013

12 Gay Book Characters Turned Straight for the Movie Version

tumblr_meu67rxlBS1s06ysbo1_500By Brian Abrams

Adapted screenplays may follow books very closely, or may be completely different. When characters are gay or lesbian – or have had some significant same-sex experiences – screenwriters sometimes sidestep those facets of their stories entirely when it comes to the big screen. Here are twelve of those instances.

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November 1, 2012

Lemony Snicket: All the Best Bookstores Have Vomit Contingency Plans

By Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

Daniel Handler is the author of the children’s books A Series of Unfortunate Events, which he writes under the name Lemony Snicket — purported to be a mysterious recluse who hides his face in photos. At book readings, Handler regretfully informs audiences that Lemony Snicket wasn’t able to make it. Still, his legions of young fans are plenty thrilled just to see Handler.

“Some kids got so excited they vomit,” says Handler in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And you know you’re at a good bookstore when they say, ‘So here’s our plan if somebody vomits.’”

Handler’s pseudonymous subterfuge is a great bit of stagecraft that amps up his author appearances. Still, a little bit of kid vomit is far from the only thing that can go wrong at one of these events. At Handler’s first Lemony Snicket appearance, the bookstore set up scores of chairs — but only two adults showed.

“I did my whole shtick, feeling like a moron, a sad moron,” says Handler. “And then the two people came up to me and they said, ‘We’re actually from the other bookstore, and we hate your books, and we just were so curious who in the world could be behind them.’”

Things have improved since then, and Handler’s tour for his new detective noir book Who Could That Be at This Hour? is drawing big crowds, but events constantly conspire to keep him humble.

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August 26, 2012

McSweeney’s Brings Design Magic Back to Children’s Books

Filed under: Children's books — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:53 pm

Playwright Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist book of stories hasn’t been in print since 1970. Images courtesy of McSweeney’s McMullens

By Allison Arieff

Last night as I was reading this to my six-year-old daughter: “No,” says Papa. “Because cheese isn’t called cheese: it’s called a music box. And the music box is called a rug. The rug is called a lamp. The ceiling is called floor. The floor is called ceiling. The wall is called door.”

I was thinking, “Is this too weird?” until I saw confirmation that it was definitely just weird enough. Her eyes were huge; she was absolutely enrapt.

So many kids’ books — not to mention grownup ones — feel too much like afterschool specials or sitcoms. You know … pat narratives where everyone makes a mistake, learns a lesson, makes nice, and in the end, comes away a better citizen.

Yawn.

When you’re exhausted at the end of the day and your kid is, too, but is fighting sleep with every fiber of her being, it’s nice to throw kid lit convention out with the proverbial bathwater. When kids tell stories they pay little attention to plot progression or conflict resolution and the stories they listen to don’t have to either. While it is of course very nice to prepare your child for major milestones by reading comforting tales like Kindergarten Rocks, it’s also equally important to blow their minds.

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November 14, 2011

Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think

CEO of the Internet Photo: Nigel Parry; styling by Alvin Stillwell/Celestine Agency; Grooming by Erin Skipley/Ajentse

By Steven Levy

“What I’m about to show you,” Jeff Bezos says, “is the culmination of the many things we’ve been doing for 15 years.”

The CEO of Amazon.com, in regulation blue oxford shirt and jeans, is sitting in a conference room at his company’s spiffy new headquarters just north of downtown Seattle. It is mid-September, exactly one week before he will introduce a new line of Kindles to the world. He has already shown me two of them—one with a touchscreen, the other costing just $79—but that’s not what’s truly exciting him. It is a third gadget, the long-awaited Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire, that represents his company’s most ambitious leap into the hearts, minds, and wallets of millions of consumers.

Bezos runs through the features that will soon set the tech world ablaze—the $199 price tag, the easy-to-hold size, the seamless access to Amazon’s rich and growing collection of digital media. When the Fire is introduced, analysts will declare it the strongest competitor yet to the iPad. Yet the Fire is not just a rival gadget, but something essentially different. The iPad is the flagship of the post-PC era—in which the desktop is replaced by lean, portable, gesture-driven tablets. As people will learn when Amazon ships it today, November 14, the Fire is an emblem of a post-web world, in which our devices are simply a means for us to directly connect with the goodies in someone’s data center.

While users of the iPad and the Fire will engage in many of the same activities—watching movies, reading books, playing Angry Birds—the philosophy behind the two tablets could not be more different. Apple is fundamentally a hardware company—91 percent of its revenue comes from sales of its coveted machines, compared to just 6 percent from iTunes. The iPad’s design, marketing, and product launches all emphasize the special character of the device itself, which the company views as a successor to the PC—complete with video-chat capabilities and word-processing software. Amazon, on the other hand, is a content-focused company—almost half of its revenue comes from sales of media like books, music, TV shows, and movies—and the fire-sale-priced Fire is designed to be primarily a passport to the large amount of that content that’s available digitally. The gadget comes preloaded with customers’ Amazon account information, and anyone who signs up for Amazon Prime, the company’s $79-a-year shipping service, will be able to access more than 12,000 (and counting) movies and TV shows on the Fire at no extra charge.

Indeed, Bezos doesn’t consider the Fire a mere device, preferring to call it a “media service.” While he takes pride in the Fire, he really sees it as an advanced mobile portal to Amazon’s cloud universe. That’s how Amazon has always treated the Kindle: New models simply offer improved ways of buying and reading the content. Replacing the hardware is no more complicated or emotionally involved than changing a flashlight battery.

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September 20, 2011

Browse the Artifacts of Geek History in Jay Walker’s Library

From King James to James Bond, Chaucer to Sputnik, a personal library like no other. Photo: Andrew Moore

By Steven Levy

Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker’s library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects—on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor—the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer … is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you—a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy.

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August 4, 2011

Facebook buys Push Pop Press e-publishing firm

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:12 am

By Chris Meadows

Today Push Pop Press, the e-publishing firm who produced an interactive version of an Al Gore climatology book, announced today that it has been acquired by Facebook. Facebook has no interest in publishing interactive e-books, and Push Pop has announced it will no longer be publishing anything. Instead, Facebook will be incorporating Push Pop’s technology into its own platform.

As Tim Carmody put it on Wired:

So instead of an independent born-digital press, publishing next-generation multimedia novels (or magazines or textbooks or children’s books or cookbooks), Facebook will probably get marginally better iOS apps.

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January 20, 2011

With the Atavist, E-Reading Goes to Great Lengths

BY David Zax

A new startup digital publishing venture opens up a realm of novella-length stories to journalism. The app launches next week for iPhone and iPad, and stories will also be coming out for e-readers like the Kindle.

In late October of 2009, the freelance journalist Evan Ratliff invited his editor at Wired, Nick Thompson, over to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game at Ratliff’s Brooklyn apartment. The two got to talking over what fun they had had working on a two-article series about what it takes to disappear in an age of ubiquitous digital traces. Ratliff had actually attempted to vanish himself, goading his readers into a digital manhunt, and Ratliff chronicled the story in a feature that Wired permitted to run considerably longer than the typical 4,000-word fare constrained by magazine page counts.

“I brought up the idea,” Ratliff tells Fast Company, “that you have a digital medium that should allow you to do things at any length you want.” Magazine space-constraints limit the feature well; while the economic demands of the publishing-industry all but rule out the short book (people want their $25 worth, when buying a hardback). E-readers, though, should upend this logic, opening a whole new province of novella-length non-fiction. What’s more, the digital medium would allow a suite of multimedia extras to enhance the story. Thompson got excited about the idea, and looped in a designer named Jeff Rabb, who had designed the website for Thompson’s book, The Hawk and the Dove. In that moment, The Atavist–which launches next week across several e-reading devices–was conceived….read more

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