The Lance Armstrong story is about to become a film. That is – the Lance Armstrong story according to Irish journalist David Walsh.
Walsh’s book “Seven Deadly Virtues,” which covers the reporter's efforts to learn the truth about the athlete, will be adapted into a movie directed by “Philomena” helmer Stephen Frears. Actor Ben Foster, who stars in the film “Kill Your Darlings” and appeared in the movies “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “3:10 to Yuma,” is set to portray Armstrong, according to Deadline. “Bridesmaids” actor Chris O’Dowd will play Walsh.
Actor Jesse Plemons of “Breaking Bad” and “The Master” as well as “The Beach” actor Guillaume Canet are set to play unnamed “key supporting roles,” according to Deadline.
Walsh, who is the chief sports writer for The Sunday Times, is also the author of the book "From Lance to Landis," which also focuses on the doping scandal, as well as co-author of the book "L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong."
Now this is one drone we can get behind.
Australia is set to launch the world’s first book drone, an unmanned aerial drone that would be used to deliver textbook orders to students.
According to Australia’s The Age, Textbook rental service company Zookal has partnered with University of Sydney tech start-up Flirtey to fly rental textbooks directly to users within minutes.
Here’s how it works: Students would order books from rental company Zookal via a smartphone app and one of six unmanned Flirtey drones would immediately deliver the books to students’ doors. Students would be able to track the drones’ progress in real time on a Google map.
The venture is still pending approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority and its backers hope to launch the service in March 2014.
Flirtey plans to use laser range finders and sonar technology to help guide drones and avoid collisions with buildings, birds, and pedestrians – common problems in past drone experiments.
According to The Age, a special delivery mechanism “allows for textbooks to be safely lowered to the customer without the drone having to leave its hovering height of about three metres. If gentle force is applied to the drone's lowering cord, the parcel is released.”
From what we can surmise, this venture has more than just novelty going for it. The drones, which can carry up to 4 and a 1/2 lbs, can reduce waiting times to as little as two to three minutes, according to Zookal, and reduce delivery costs dramatically. Same day postal delivery in Australia can cost as much as $29.95, while Flirtey deliveries will cost $2.99.
Drone usage for civilian and commercial purposes is set to explode in coming years. It’s already been utilized by fire departments for surveying emergency situations, by animal rights activists to monitor abuse, by news agencies to obtain footage, and even to target mosquitoes in Florida.
There are humanitarian uses, as well – Flirtey sees potential in using drones to deliver life vests on beaches and to transport life-saving materials to hospitals.
We’re eager to see drones move away from the battlefield and toward new, peaceful fronts – civilian, humanitarian, and yes, literary.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
As Monitor correspondent Husna Haq wrote earlier this week, a protest ensued when it was discovered that online booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo were selling self-published titles that included themes of incest, bestiality, and rape.
In response, the booksellers began removing such titles from their sites. Kobo went a step further, taking down every book that was self-published on their UK site, while British seller WH Smith took down its entire site while it searched for all the problematic books.
Some readers objected at the time, agreeing with On the Media writer PJ Vogt who argued that, “We outlaw snuff films, child porn and, increasingly, revenge porn, because actual people are harmed during their production. Erotic fiction concerns fake characters who don't exist in real life.”
But now more readers are adding their protests, charging that some online booksellers are removing too much erotic fiction from their sites – including titles that do not fall under the categories considerable objectionable. A petition at Change.org titled “Amazon, Barnes and Noble, KOBO: Leave our self-published and/or Indie authors alone” is addressed to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and claims that taking down the erotic titles that aren’t harmful, by the petition writers’ definition, is a violation of freedom of speech.
The petition notes that the petition creator and its signers do not endorse fiction featuring bestiality, incest, pedophilia, “or other things of such an ‘extreme’ nature.” (Not named specifically in that petition is the theme of rape, which was included in online booksellers’ crackdown, although that could be considered to be implied by the term “extreme nature” in the petition.)
“There is a LARGE amount of people who read this genre as a way to escape their reality,” the petition creator, named only as MIstress Renee, wrote. “We are all consenting adults, you need to own a credit card to be able to purchase said books, so why all of a sudden start 'cracking down' on cont[r]olling such. Why is okay to sell 'adult products' on said websites but not FICTIONAL reads. What happened to freedom of speech?! LEAVE OUR EROTICA ALONE!!”
The petition currently has almost 14,000 signatures.
Signer Tori Turner wrote, “We're all adults, you didn't stop it when 50 Shades was huge because it was making loads of money, so why stop other authors of this genre?”
User Jinni James agreed, writing, “The whole point of creating programs like Amazon's KDP and Nook Press is so Indie authors can publish their own work and now you want to take that away? Why start it in the first place?... As an erotica author myself I say leave well enough alone and if people don't want to read it then they don't have to purchase it.”
Meanwhile, a Kobo spokesperson told Publishers Weekly, “We are additionally taking steps to ensure that compliance to our policies – and international law – is met by all authors and publishers. Content that does comply will be made available online as soon as possible. In fact, we are already returning titles to the Kobo catalogue and expect the large majority will be available by end of week. Additional titles requiring further examination will be reviewed over the next week. Those that meet our content policy, will also be returned to the store.”
Following “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” author Sherman Alexie’s call to fellow authors to work at an independent bookstore on Small Business Saturday, almost 300 writers have signed up to participate.
Alexie wrote a letter in September asking authors to come out and sell books at their local independent bookstore as part of a movement that he's calling Indies First. Indies First is an effort to promote independent bookstores on Small Business Saturday, an annual event begun in 2010 to promote small local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year Small Business Saturday will fall on Nov. 30.
“Now is the time to be a superhero for independent bookstores,” the author wrote at the time. “We book nerds will become booksellers…. The most important thing is that we’ll all be helping Independent bookstores, and God knows they’ve helped us over the years.”
According to the American Booksellers Association – which says that Indies First is "brand new and moving fast" – more than 285 authors have signed up to sell books on that Saturday. Writer Wiley Cash will be working at North Carolina store Pomegranate Books, while James Patterson will be popping up at Florida store Classic Bookshop and writer David Small will be a staff member at the Michigan indie Lowry’s Books and More, to name only a few.
According to the ABA, the website IndieBound.org will soon be posting a map of participating stores so book lovers can find a location near them.
Will the effort have an effect on indies’ sales for the day? We’ll have to wait and see.
Mere weeks after Harper Lee settled a lawsuit in which she alleged she was “duped” into signing over her “To Kill a Mockingbird” copyright, the 87-year-old writer is filing another lawsuit.
This time it’s against her hometown.
Lee filed suit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum on Oct. 10 in Monroeville, Ala., for allegedly exploiting her trademark and personality rights, according to news reports.
Her complaint states: “The town’s desire to capitalize upon the fame of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird ‘ is unmistakable: Monroeville’s town logo features an image of a mockingbird and the cupola of the Old County Courthouse, which was the setting for the dramatic trial in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'."
It continues by targeting the museum: “Its actual work does not touch upon history. Rather, its primary mission is to trade upon the fictional story, settings and characters that Harper Lee created in 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and Harper Lee's own renown as one of the nation's most celebrated authors."
The museum sells aprons, clothing, soaps, magnets, and glassware, among other merchandise, and reportedly generated more than $500,000 in revenue in 2011.
The museum has since responded – strongly – to Lee’s suit.
“Every single statement in the lawsuit is either false, meritless, or both,” Matthew I. Goforth, an attorney for the museum, told ABC News. “It is sad that Harper Lee's greedy handlers have seen fit to attack the non-profit museum in her hometown that has been honoring her legacy and the town's rich history associated with that legacy for over 20 years. Unfortunately for Harper Lee, those handlers are doing nothing but squandering her money with this lawsuit. The museum is squarely within its rights to carry out its mission as it always has.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has sold more than 30 million copies and has been translated into more than 25 languages. It is on required reading lists in most US high schools and is considered an American classic. Lee received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for the book.
As the Hollywood Reporter writes, “It’s not often that a celebrity picks a legal war over a hometown institution that aims to profit on the back of a local icon.”
Is this is a case of an 87-year-old author being exploited for profit or an overzealously litigious favorite American author turning on her hometown?
Either way, it’s a sad story.
“I WANT something to do.”
That’s the opening sentence of “Hospital Sketches,” Louisa May Alcott’s 1863 chronicle of her time as a US Civil War nurse.
In period detail and prose, Alcott tells of her motivations and trepidations. Once past her wardrobe issues, her packing decisions, goodbyes, and halting travels south to Washington, DC, we get to her sketches of the wounded and how they fare.
Alcott was no Clara Barton and so it was easy for me to decide not to assign "Hospital Sketches" to the health science students in the “medical moments” literature-and-film courses I teach at Quinnipiac University. But I would definitely urge it on Veteran Administration hospital officials and politicians dealing with wounded warriors and their healthcare.
Before succumbing to typhoid fever and returning to Boston, Alcott washed the wounded and dressed their wounds, served rations, and provided whatever comforts and assurances were appropriate to a patient’s condition and prospects.
While her military hospital nursing tenure lasted just shy of a month, her letters home detailed her significant patient-care involvements and interactions. The letters described the long and exhausting hours of nurses and physicians.
The "Sketches" are historical in that they do convey a sense of how the patients and their wounds were dealt with at facilities that were understaffed, under-supplied, and unprepared for the toll of war.
I can't help wondering if Alcott’s accounts of the management of the hospital (which she dubbed “Hurly-burly House”) might not ring true at some of our 21st-century VA hospitals: "the circumlocution fashion prevailed, forms and fusses tormented our souls, and unnecessary strictness in one place was counterbalanced by unpardonable laxity in another.”
And of course the pain of seeing others suffer remains completely contemporary, despite the advances medicine has made since Alcott's time. Viewing the rough surgeries of those who were rarely salvageable, obliged Alcott, while on duty, to “cork up” her feelings. She learned “the wisdom of bottling up one’s tears for leisure moments.” Good lesson, good advice.
Further, she observed, “A hospital is a rough school, its lessons are both stern and salutary.” She advised, “One of the best methods of fitting oneself to be a nurse in a hospital, is to be a patient there; for then only can one wholly realize what the men suffer and sigh for; how acts of kindness touch and win.”
Unfortunately, to today's reader, the "Sketches" seem all too prepared, fussed over, occluded with descriptions and ruminations that are flowery and poetical. The book is not likely to engage the 21st-century students whom I attempt to lure to literature, students who spend their mornings and afternoons rushing to physiology lectures, enduring bio-chem labs, cramming for anatomy exams, working in hospitals and ambulances, and who, still in their clinical uniforms, somehow make their way into my evening classrooms.
Alcott can be annoying when, as the book's narrator, she switches back and forth from first person to third person, referring to herself as young nurse Tribulation Periwinkle. And while her accounts of hospital conditions – disarray and lack of preparation – deliver doses of war’s “gories,” some of those injections strike me as officious, self-righteous, and self-congratulatory: (“I finally command.... I make my demand.”). In other words: Louisa May knows best.
And yet, there remains much in this book that touches, with words as unsettling today as the day they were written. Ruing the death of a soldier due to the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg (also know as the Burnside Blunder), Alcott mourned a particular “excellent nature robbed of its fulfillment, and blundered into eternity by the rashness or stupidity of those at whose hands so many lives may be required.”
Reading such observations and condemnations, I can only conclude that Louisa May Alcott was no little woman.
Joseph H. Cooper teaches “medical moments” literature-and-film courses at Quinnipiac University. His “Pauses and Moments” columns appear at PsychologyToday.com.
Students in the New Mexico's Alamogordo public school system may have to wait a while – or longer – to read Neil Gaiman’s novel “Neverwhere".
After a parent complained about sexual content in the book, the Alamogordo High School staff took “Neverwhere” out of the library and is halting its use in classes. Superintendent George Straface stressed that both measures are thus far temporary while the school’s higher-ups look at the text and make a decision.
“I reviewed the language personally,” Straface told the Alamogordo Daily News. “I can see where it could be considered offensive," he said. "The F-word is used. There is a description of a sexual encounter that is pretty descriptive, and it's between a married man and a single woman. Although kids can probably see that on TV anytime they want, we are a public school using taxpayer dollars.”
“Neverwhere” has long been a part of the school’s sophomore English curriculum. The complaint came when parent Nancy Wilmott flipped through her daughter’s assigned reading and saw the scene.
“I really think that the school needs to let the parents know what their students are going to read beforehand, not the day before or after," Wilmott said in an e-mail written to the Alamogordo Daily News. "I am not a closed-minded parent that thinks my kids should hear no evil. Just not something with such graphic detail – a intimate situation between two adults.”
According to Straface, a panel will be created to handle comments from parents about controversial books being taught.
“'I’m also hearing from the other side that says we shouldn't have done that because, while the language that's there may be objectionable, they hear much worse in the student commons area," Straface said. "That may be true – and it probably is – but I don't support it.”
One English teacher at the school, Pam Thorp, says she “cannot and will not condone the censorship this parent is promoting.”
“The implication that we are careless or irresponsible simply is not true,” Thorp told the Alamogordo Daily News. “Presenting challenging material of merit that may contain some foul language or mature situations, in a sensitive and academic manner, is part of our responsibility to our students in order to engage them in evaluating the human condition. I take that responsibility very seriously and strive every day to encourage my students to think … about the world, about their community, about their friends and about themselves. Censorship is the opposite of that.”
Meanwhile, Gaiman himself e-mailed NPR, writing that “I'm faintly baffled by this. NEVERWHERE's a book that's been taught in schools for years: it's an adult novel that kids love (and won the YALSA award as an adult book that Young Adults enjoy). It's an adventure, with themes of social responsibility. I've not seen it described as 'R Rated' before, and mostly worry that anyone who buys it thinking they are in for lashings of Sex and Violence will be extremely disappointed.”
The novel “The Rosie Project” could become a film released by Sony Pictures.
“Rosie,” which was penned by Australian author Graeme Simsion and was recently released in the US, centers on scientist Don Tillman, who decides to methodically search for a wife using strict criteria but finds his search upset by an unusual woman named Rosie.
Sony Pictures has optioned the screen rights for the book and, according to Deadline, Simsion will write the script for the film.
“We love this story,” Columbia Pictures production president Hannah Minghella said, according to Deadline. “Not only does it have tremendous commercial appeal, but a wonderfully interesting, groundbreaking lead character.”
“Rosie” was named as one of the 10 best books of October by Amazon’s editors, with Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson saying of Rosie, "She's the exact wrong person, so of course she's perfect for him."
A new trailer has been released for the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which is based on a short story by writer James Thurber and stars Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig.
Stiller also directed the film and plays Walter, a worker at Life Magazine who has a crush on Wiig’s character Cheryl and who embarks on a quest to find a negative of an important photo after it goes missing.
The story, which was released in 1939, was previously adapted as a 1947 movie which starred actor Danny Kate and Virginia Mayo.
The trailer shows some of the daydreams Walter engages in, including one in which he saves Cheryl’s dog and one in which he is a mountain climber.
“Walter” also stars Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, and Patton Oswalt. It’s set to be released Dec. 25.
Check out the full trailer.
The contenders for the 2013 National Book Award for fiction are now narrowed down to five, with authors including Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri, and George Saunders making the cut.
Pynchon was nominated for his novel “Bleeding Edge,” while Lahiri’s “The Lowland” and Saunders’ short story collection “Tenth of December” were selected. Writer Rachel Kushner made the list for her novel “The Flamethrowers” and James McBride received a nod for his book “The Good Lord Bird.”
Meanwhile, authors including George Packer and Jill LePore made the nonfiction nominees list. LePore received the nod for her work “Book of Ages,” while Packer’s book “The Unwinding” also made the list as well as Wendy Lower’s “Hitler’s Furies,” Lawrence Wright’s “Going Clear,” and Alan Taylor’s “The Internal Enemy.”
For the young people’s literature prize, authors Meg Rosoff of “Picture Me Gone,” Cynthia Kadohata of “The Thing About Luck,” Tom McNeal of “Far Far Away,” Gene Luen Yang of “Boxers & Saints,” and Kathi Appelt of “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp” will be competing for the award.
The poetry contenders are “Stay, Illusion” by Lucie Brock-Broido, “Black Aperture” by Matt Rasmussen, “Metaphysical Dog” by Frank Bidart, “The Big Smoke” by Adrian Matejka, and “Incarnadine” by Mary Szybist. As pointed out by Publishers Weekly, all but Bidart are first-time NBA nominees.
Last year, author Louise Erdrich took the fiction prize for “The Round House,” while “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo won the nonfiction award.
Excerpts of the nominees are available via free e-books for the first time on the National Book Award website. The winners for each category will be announced next month.