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Sunday, May 23, 2004

A belated Massive Weekend Update 

No doubt you will all understand, but I've been a little bit busy (and a lot social) of late. Ergo, the MWU is delayed till now, as I've only becun to recover some of the inherent fogginess that's been clouding my brain over the weekend. And so it goes:

I must say that it's taking me a little while to get used to the Tanenhaus vision of the NYTBR, but you know what....I kind of like it. If a complete overhaul is what it takes for Marilyn Stasio to actually write reviews that have some degree of clarity, then the new editor is obviously doing something right. I still wish there were five reviews like there once was, but ah, we can't have everything. Anyway, Stasio spends the bulk of her time on Robert B. Parker's new historical baseball novel DOUBLE PLAY, then makes quick work of the latest by Lee Child, (insert author here), and Barbara Seranella (likes it, but wishes Munch would get back some of the edge she had a few books ago; although I thought UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE was quite excellent, I do see Stasio's point here)

Otherwise at the PoR (that's Paper of Record for the jargon-challenged), Emily Nussbaum looks at literary sex writing in some new releases (no doubt Natalee Caple's MACKEREL SKY would have been an excellent candidate, but it's a Canadian-only book), Walter Kirn puzzles over Hari Kunzru's TRANSMISSION, and good lord, that Skurnick woman's a total star. If I were by nature a competitive person, I'd be ridiculously jealous. But frankly, that involves too much effort and negativity and so I'd rather just keep wondering why she's not a weekly fixture at the Book Review. Then I'd totally believe in the Tanenhaus vision...

At Book World, Chris Lehmann waxes enthusiastic about THE HAMILTON CASE, David Liss is genuinely puzzled at the overseas success of Luther Blissett's Q, which he dubs an inordinately long inside joke, and Michael Dirda pokes some (perhaps) well-deserved holes in Lynne Truss's EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES (which I keep wanting to change to HE, SHOOTS HE SCORES)

The Globe and Mail's big interview is with Larry Frolick, who's done a whole lot of travel writing--talk about an apt last name! Also, Julian Fellowes' upper-class novel SNOBS actually gets a good review, a "novel in stories" about Montreal ca. the 1995 referendum gets a mixed reaction, and if you ever wanted to know the inside scoop on how money laundering really works, well, Chris Mathers' book is the one for you.

Over at the Guardian Review, it's all Hay-on-Wye, all the time. The literary festival kicks off a column by Catherine Lockerbie on such festivals as a whole, but she seems to neglect the bottom line: it's all about the alcohol. Otherwise, there's a gigantic profile of John Updike (who'll be at the Hay festival), David Mitchell's fond tribute to the writing of Italo Calvino, and Barbara Trapido confesses that her first novel was a big distraction--from finishing her PhD thesis. Oh yeah, I bet there are a lot of folks who get that, at least the latter part....

Then there's the sister Sunday paper, where Robert McCrum talks about blogs (!) although in the context of using the Internet to write and publicize fiction or something like that. Come on, Robert, why don't you spend an entire column writing about blogs like, well, mine. Or some of the other fine folks I usually mention. Anyway, the rest of the Observer: there's a new book about the battle of Troy (just in time for the crappy movie's release!) Marian Keyes is interviewed about her latest book, a satire on publishing, book tours, and other things that, alas, didn't need 650 pages to tell the story, and Stephen Bayley argues that the amazingly (and artificially, several times over) endowed Katie Price--better known to those Brit folks as Jordan--is a relevant figure in the UK's contemporary culture. Dude, it's a trashy biography, OK? I bet if you went and said this to Jordan, she wouldn't even have a clue what you meant....

Moving north, the Scotsman interviews filmmaker Neil Jordan about his newest project--a novel. It's a ghost story of sorts, but with some particularly weird twists, but considering Jordan's affinity for helming films based on books, I suppose it's not that much of a surprise he returned to writing books. Otherwise, the shortlist for the paper's Short Story contest has been announced, and Percival Everett's GLYPH--narrated from a baby's POV--gets reissued to acclaim.

At the Sunday edition, comedian Jo Brand is just the latest of her field to pen a novel, which gets a reasonably positive review, and spy novelist Henry Porter answers the usual questions.

In other news:

Oline Cogdill's read the new Randy Wayne White novel, TAMPA BURN, and alas, she's not so enthused about it, saying that the pace and plotline doesn't really kick in until the end, when it's too late to save the book. Ouch.

Another of my favorite mystery critics, Dick Adler, is the latest to get in on ConnellyWatch, though he's a bit put off by the "insider cuteness." Hey, a writer has to amuse himself, after all. Other authors getting ink include P.J. Tracy, Boris Akunin, the Rule of Four kids, and Jamie Metzl, who gets a review so glowing that it makes me wonder why I haven't heard of the book--oh wait, because St. Martin's published it and it got lost in the shuffle. Sigh.

Speaking of Akunin, he's the recipient of a nice write-up by Elaine Blair of Newsday, who digs MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN, Akunin's homage to Agatha Christie and locked-room mysteries in general.

Linda Fairstein's new book, THE KILLS, got a lot of good press in both North America and England. Now that it's out in Australia, she's profiled in the Sydney Morning Herald about the origins of her books, how her husband's suggestion changed how she wrote, and being a full-time writer after 30 years on the job as a prosecutor.

The Dallas Morning news presents a rather lengthy crime fiction roundup from Laurie Trimble. Getting nods are Mark Cohen, Barbara Seranella, Dick Cady, Jennifer Patrick, David Housewright and Laura Joh Rowland.

Over at the Wichita Eagle, they concentrate on giving out good reviews to the big guns like Michael Connelly, Lee Child and John Sandford.

The Toronto Star interviews Colm Toibin, whose novel about Henry James is just racking up accolades everywhere. Not surprisingly, the piece focuses primarily on what fascinated Toibin so much to write about the earlier novelist.

Need some beach reads for the summer? Then check out Sun-Times book editor Henry Kisor's list, ranging from the vapid to the stimulating, airport thrillers to literary masterpieces. It's certainly an interesting selection...

The Fayetteville Observer looks at the still-burgeoning phenomenon of book clubs, which are springing up all over the place, catering to almost any whim. I wonder what's next--Book Clubs for Babies? Alert me if such a thing exists, for it would amuse me....

And finally--a picture of Salam Pax? There has been one published before, right, or has there? I can't keep track. Anyway, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the Baghdad Blogger about his new movie deal.

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