According to the Los Angeles Times, “Sleep” is scheduled to hit bookstores sometime in 2013. The book will center on Danny, the son of unhinged writer Jack Torrance, who is now an adult. Danny is disturbed by his childhood traumas, and in “Sleep,” he goes to work in a nursing home in New Hampshire. Danny must rescue a young girl from a group of people called the True Knot, strange nomads who survive off the matter given off by dying children who have the power of the “shining.”
“This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon,” the summary on King’s website reads.
Rumors have swirled that Warner Bros. has been planning a prequel to the classic movie adaptation of King’s novel.
Rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe is the topic of hundreds of books. Instead of throwing another biography onto the pile, a professor in the United Kingdom named Sarah Churchwell did something different: she analyzed what others have written about the biggest sex symbol of all time.
In her 2004 book "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe," Churchwell dives deep into the depths of myths and facts surrounding this deceptively simple woman.
Monroe's death alone – five decades ago this weekend – has spawned an endless array of theories from accident to assassination to suicide. "Each of these endings concludes its own plot," Churchwell writes, "and each plot differs in key respects – yet they all insist that theirs is the true story of Marilyn Monroe's life."
The next few days will bring another onslaught of Monroe stories. (Call it the Fifty-Year Itch.) I contacted Churchwell and asked her to put this extraordinary American phenomenon into perspective.
So here's Marilyn. All about Marilyn, in fact, to borrow (sort of) a phrase.
Q: Here we have a woman who was an actress, who was scorchingly pretty, and whose life was messy, to say the least. That describes countless Hollywood stars and wannabes, both before and since.
What has made her such an object of fascination?
A: I think Marilyn said it best herself, in her final Life interview: "These girls who try to be me, I guess the studios put them up to it, or they get the ideas themselves. But gee, they haven't got it. You can make a lot of gags about it like they haven't got the foreground or else they haven't the background. But I mean the middle, where you live."
She had something special that transcended the fact that she was beautiful, transcended her sexual body (her "foreground" and "background"), and we can't name it or bottle it or sell it. God knows people have tried.
Call it charisma, call it magic. Cary Grant had it. Marilyn Monroe had it. They can be imitated, but it's always a parody. They can't be matched, they can't be equaled, and it comes from something inside them.
Charm, attraction, appeal, fascination: these are all words that say "We don't know why we are so drawn to you, but we are." We just are. It's like love – you can't analyze it, you just feel it.
Q: Did you notice a difference between how male and female biographers view her?
A: I began my book with the expectation that the way she was viewed over time, from her death in 1962 until I finished writing, which was 2004, would have changed according to changing ideas about women – the gradual acceptance of feminism, basically. And how wrong I was.
Not only does the way she is written not become more feminist, if anything in important ways it became more sexist. Female biographers have tended to pity her, to condescend from a very great height, and to patronize her. Male biographers – even openly gay ones – go on and on about how sexual desire is at the core of her appeal, seeming to forget that straight women will respond to her differently.
She coalesces the Freudian idea that we either desire other people, or identify with them: you want to be them, or you want to have them. If that is true, Marilyn epitomizes it.
Q: What are some of the biggest myths about her?
A: The biggest myth is that she was dumb. The second is that she was fragile. The third is that she couldn't act.
She was far from dumb, although she was not formally educated, and she was very sensitive about that. But she was very smart indeed – and very tough. She had to be both to beat the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s.
The head of Fox Studios was incredibly contemptuous of her, and she fought him tooth and nail, and won, in real terms.
She was very witty, with an acidic sense of humor. The dumb blonde was a role – she was an actress, for heaven's sake! Such a good actress that no one now believes she was anything but what she portrayed on screen.
One of my favorite lines of hers came when she divorced Arthur Miller. A journalist asked her if she thought Miller had married her because he was looking for a muse. She said she'd only answer on condition that he printed her answer in its entirety, with no editing. He agreed, and she said: "No comment."
That is not a stupid woman.
Q: Is there a risk of over-analysis here? Could the real Marilyn Monroe be forever lost?
A: Of course the real Marilyn is forever lost. That's what being dead means. I'm not being flippant – no story can recapture a real person. It's an impossibility, and a consoling fairy tale that we tell ourselves, the fantasy that the real Marilyn is accessible to us. No, she's not, she died.
As for over-analysis – well, I am always amused by people who tell me that I've over-analyzed something, because it is so handy that their amount of analysis is the perfect amount of analysis. How nice to know that the amount of analysis you give something is precisely the right amount of analysis it should receive!
Over-analysis is when someone else thinks more than you do. That doesn't mean we can always answer a question, but I think there is too little thinking in the world, not too much.
Q: What are some of the big lessons we can learn from your book, not just about her but overall?
A: The book shows that biography is far more fiction than we think it is, and that our cultural images of people really are made up by our stories about them, and that these stories may have nothing to do with reality.
I also fought hard for the idea that just because Marilyn Monroe is an invented persona, that doesn't make her a fake person. She wasn't artificial – she was made. Made things can still be real – a table isn't a natural tree, but it's still a real table. It's been sculpted.
I wrote an essay once calling her a greater Gatsby, which I really believe. She made her dreams true, and they really did represent the American dream.
Q: After all your exhaustive research, do you like Marilyn Monroe? Is she someone you'd like to visit with over tea?
A: I like her much more after all my research, not less. I like her a great deal, and I would love to talk to her.
I hope she would like talking to me, because I would speak to her with respect, and interest, and I would know how much she has to teach me, and not make the mistake of thinking it was the other way around.
I have a great deal of respect for what she accomplished, against the greatest odds, and for how hard she tried to improve herself and her art. It could make a stone weep, the cruelty of people who continue to sneer at how hard she tried.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Rodman, a former player for the Detroit Pistons who was recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, co-wrote the book with screenwriter Dustin Warburton. It is currently titled “Dennis the Red Bull.”
Rodman dedicated the book “to his children, with the intent to relay a positive message to our countries youth and to his own children,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
A story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that was rejected by The New Yorker in 1936 is running in the magazine this week after Fitzgerald’s grandchildren discovered it in his papers.
The story, titled “Thank You for the Light,” centers on a woman who sells corsets and who loves cigarettes but faces social disapproval for smoking. The woman, Mrs. Hansen, enters a church to smoke, not wanting to do so in public, and has her cigarette mysteriously catch on fire. The story is a page long.
At the time, staff at The New Yorker told Fitzgerald that running the story was “altogether out of the question,” according to the New York Times.
“It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him and really too fantastic,” the editors said.
Fitzgerald had published other works, including three short stories, in the magazine previously. The story was rejected 11 years after “The Great Gatsby” was released. Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood soon after in 1937.
Check out the story here.
E-book consumers are becoming more diverse in their format preferences, according to a new report by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). The percentage of e-book consumers who “exclusively or mostly” bought books in electronic format decreased from nearly 70 percent in August 2011 to 60 percent in May 2012 – that’s a 10 percent drop in exclusive e-reader usage in less than a year.
After the industry – and many readers – wholeheartedly jumped on the “e-“ bandwagon, why the drop? Are folks deliberately moving away from e-books? That doesn’t appear to be the case, according to study results. Instead, it seems, readers are simply becoming format agnostic. According to the BISG report, the percentage of survey respondents who had no preference for either e-book or print formats, or who bought books in both formats, rose from 25 percent in August 2011 to 34 percent in May 2012. In other words, readers don’t feel committed to one format or the other and are comfortable switching from print to electronic books.
The study also tracked device ownership, revealing that Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet has overtaken Apple’s iPad for the first time. Kindle Fire was on fire – ownership of that tablet grew from seven percent of respondents in December 2011 to 20 percent just six months later. By contrast, Apple’s iPad remained static at around 17 percent. (Ownership of other tablets remains pretty low, with only five percent of respondents owning a Barnes & Noble NOOK and eight percent reporting ownership of another Android-based tablet.)
“Device ownership is an important factor in predicting the future,” Angela Bole, BISG's Deputy Executive Director, said in a statement. “In previous studies, changes in levels of device ownership have presaged changes in e book buying behavior. One of the strengths of this study is that it can plot such evolution, preparing publishers for what e-book consumers want and expect from them next.”
As for us, we’re pleased with the news. As it is in society and in financial portfolios, we think diversity is a great thing in reading formats. Literature, and the ways in which one can experience it, is richer for having the diversity of formats – and we’d hate to see a reading future devoid of either format.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Leave it to J.K. Rowling to dream up a way to make back-to-school season more exciting.
We’re betting gads of pint-size Potter fans will be lining up outside their classrooms on October 11, when Rowling will make a virtual tour of US classrooms via live webcast, the first opportunity for the author to answer readers’ questions live since her last book hit shelves in 2007. Through a Scholastic-organized webcast from the author’s home in Edinburgh, Scotland, Rowling will answer pre-submitted questions and discuss all things Potter, including the recently launched website, Pottermore.
The webcast is organized in conjunction with the first official Harry Potter Reading Club, an online portal geared toward educators, librarians, and parents, to encourage budding Potterphiles to read and to explore the world of Harry Potter. The site, which was launched with much less fanfare than Pottermore, appears to be geared toward younger readers.
Scholastic called it a destination for fans of Potter and a tool for parents and teachers to set up book clubs of their own.
“Scholastic has been in conversation with educators, librarians and other book lovers about ideas for bringing the Harry Potter books to new readers in exciting and different ways,” Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade, said in a statement announcing the club.
“The Harry Potter Reading Club is a direct response to that feedback and provides an entry point through which the thrill of these books can be shared with new generations of Harry Potter fans both within and beyond the classroom.”
Though it’s far more basic than Pottermore, the Harry Potter Reading Club comes with some excellent resources for parents and children alike including a guide to starting your own Harry Potter book club, reading and discussion guides, pronunciation aides, a glossary of Hogwarts-related terms, and a cauldron’s worth of interactive activities relating to each of the Harry Potter books. Activities available for this month include a creative writing exercise in which writers must imagine they received a letter from Hogwarts, a “create your own wand” download, and a search for missing Potter objects. Scholastic has said it will add new activities each month. Bookmarks, stickers, and nametags are also available for download on the site.
The Harry Potter Reading Club also features links to purchase print or digital books, to Pottermore.
Consider the Harry Potter Reading Club and Rowling’s upcoming webcast your key to surviving the last weeks of summer with young readers – and a reason to look forward to another school year.
Find out more about the webcast here.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Looking for a book to settle in with as you soak up the last of the summer sun? Each month, Amazon releases its list of the 10 books that its staff thinks are the best of the month. The August 2012 list includes everything from a nonfiction title about sleeping to a tale of poisonous cheerleaders.
“We get together about twice a month to ... yell at each other about what we liked and didn't like,” Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle for Amazon.com, said of the process of selecting the top 10. We talked with Nelson about the August list and what’s caught her eye this month.
The spotlight book for August is “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman, the author’s debut novel, and Nelson said she thinks it’s one to watch for the upcoming month.
“We're really crazy about that book,” she said. “I expect that that's going to be a big player.”
“The Light Between Oceans” tells the story of a man who works as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island where he lives with his wife, Isabel. The two have tried to have a baby but have encountered only miscarriages. Then, one day a boat arrives on the island carrying a dead man – and a living baby. Isabel persuades her husband that they should keep the child and raise it as their own. That decision, however, proves to have consequences the couple could not possibly have foreseen.
“It's this very atmospheric book,” Nelson said of the novel.
Another standout in Nelson’s eyes is the novel “Dare Me” by Megan Abbott, who is the author of previous books “The End of Everything” and “Queenpin,” among other titles. “Dare” centers on cheerleaders in their senior year of high school who find their lives disrupted by a new coach.
“They make the 'Mean Girls' movies look like Disney,” Nelson said of “Dare.” “It's a dark book… I don't have a teenage daughter, but if I did, I'd lock her in the house.”
Nelson said the book “The Double Game,” a thriller by Dan Fesperman, also caught her eye in the fiction category. Fesperman is the author of such titles as “The Amateur Spy” and “The Warlord’s Son.” In “The Double Game,” an ex-journalist receives a mysterious note urging him to look into the life of a spy he once knew. The plot of “The Double Game” references many classics of the thriller genre, said Nelson.
“It's a book for people who love books like 'The Shadow of the Wind’ [by Carlos Ruiz Zafón],” she said.
In addition, Nelson said she was pleasantly surprised by the book “When It Happens to You,” a collection of connected stories by ‘80s star and Brat Pack member Molly Ringwald.
“This book is not a little ditty tossed off by a childhood actress,” Nelson said of the book.
For readers looking for a title more based in real life, Nelson recommends the memoir “Winter Journal” by writer Paul Auster, author of novels including “The Invention of Solitude" and "Sunset Park." In “Winter Journal,” Auster discusses his mother’s death and ruminates on what it's like to grow older.
“[It’s] intensely personal, very disturbingly personal in the sense that it's like he's talking to you,” Nelson said. “There's a kind of joyful acceptance of life and aging.”
(Check out a video of Auster recording the audio book below.)
She said the book “Double Cross,” by “Agent Zigzag” author Ben Macintyre, also appealed to her. “Double Cross" tells the story of the spies who made the D-Day invasion possible.
“It's one of those true life, war books that reads like a novel,” Nelson said.
“No one else in what he calls 'the land of the tin ear' can combine better sentences into more elegantly sustained demolition derbies than Vidal does in some of his best essays,” Thomas Mallon once wrote in the National Review.
Arguably, Vidal’s greatest accomplishment was not to be found among his 25 novels, Broadway plays, more than 200 essays, or even his National Book Award, which the acclaimed writer won in 1993 for his collection of essays “United States: Essays, 1952-1992.” Rather, writes the UK’s Guardian, “his greatest work was, perhaps, his life itself – an American epic which sprawled beyond literature to encompass Hollywood, Broadway, Washington and the Bay of Naples, with incidental roles for almost every major American cultural and political figure of the 20th century.” For who else “gave JFK the idea for the Peace Corps, was called in to rescue the script of Ben-Hur, ran unsuccessfully for both Congress and the Senate, and got into a fistfight with Norman Mailer.”
If nothing else, Vidal lived large – and never apologized for it.
Upon his birth in 1925 in West Point, N.Y., Vidal entered a life of power and privilege. His father was an aviation and aeronautics instructor at the US military academy at West Point and a founder of the airline giant TWA. His mother, a Broadway actress and socialite. His grandfather, Thomas Gore, a Democratic senator for Oklahoma. After completing prep school, Vidal skipped college and joined the Navy at 17, during which time he began writing his first novel. Vidal wrote “Williwaw” while on night watch on a supply ship in an Alaskan port. The title was inspired by the sudden, violent blasts of wind known as the williwaw that sweep down over the mountains and into the Bering Sea, where they can wreak havoc on a ship. The novel was published in 1946.
Vidal went on to write 24 more novels, including “The City and the Pillar,” his third novel which nearly squashed Vidal’s career (and incidentally, shot Vidal to fame) with its then-controversial openly gay character. His prodigious literary output also included the transsexual satire “Myra Breckenridge,” the memoirs “Palimpsest” and “Point to Point Navigation,” and the historical novels “Washington, DC,” “Lincoln,” and “Burr.”
Equally accomplished as a screenwriter, Vidal wrote more than 30 original scripts for film and television throughout the 1950s, which culminated in two Broadway hits – "Visit to a Small Planet" and "The Best Man" – and his role rescuing the script of Ben-Hur. Vidal even acted, taking roles in “Fellini’s Roma,” “Gattaca,” and “Bob Roberts.”
Of course, in life Vidal recognized no limits and the next decades saw the formidable writer enter the political ring. He ran for office as a Democrat in upstate New York in 1960 – under the slogan “You’ll get more with Gore” – and narrowly lost the staunchly Republican district (calling for recognition of Communist China may have had something to do with his loss). In 1982, Vidal made a bid for the Senate seat in California. That, too, he lost.
In between, Vidal lived in self-imposed exile in Ravello, Italy, for more than 30 years with his partner Howard Austen, whose 2003 death Vidal wrote about in his second memoir, “Point to Point Navigation.”
Vidal, who claimed to have slept with thousands of men and was in a relationship with Austen for five decades, always rejected attempts to categorize himself – or for that matter, anyone else – by sexual orientation. “There are no homosexual people, only homosexual acts,” he is said to have responded to questions.
Vidal, who once said he had “met everyone, but knew no one,” was “among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities,” according to NBC News. Among his friends were Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles, Truman Capote, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Eleanor Woodward, and a collection of Kennedys, many of whom are found in anecdotes woven throughout his works. Vidal counted former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and former US Vice President Al Gore among his relatives.
Throughout life, Vidal was known as an outspoken commentator whose quick wit, acerbic tongue, and overall fearlessness garnered him a large audience.
He riled the country when he said “Americans who died on 9/11 were as much victims of US foreign policy as victims of terrorism,” as USA Today reported. He also took as a personal affront George W. Bush’s “stolen election” from Al Gore in 2000 and called the Bush administration “incompetent.”
“I've had hard targets in my lifetime, I've taken on general superstitions, but that's what writers do,” Vidal once said of his controversial comments. “So I certainly wouldn't have changed my modus vivendi one bit.”
Vidal won the National Book Award in 1993 for his collection of essays “United States.”
Vidal said he hoped to be remembered as “the person who wrote the best sentences of his time.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
It’s like déjà vu all over again. Another bright young writer. Another esteemed publication. Another rapid ascent to the pinnacles of the literary world. Another chance discovery of some missteps, followed by a deeper investigation, followed by a devastating admission of fabrication, and a humiliating resignation from said esteemed publication.
And now Jonah Lehrer. The 31-year-old bestselling author, popular speaker, and staff writer for The New Yorker resigned from the prestigious publication Monday after admitting to fabricating quotes in his most recent bestselling book “Imagine: How Creativity Works.”
It was, as the New York Times put it, “one of the most bewildering recent journalistic frauds,” in which Lehrer fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan, one of the most reclusive and closely studied musicians in history – not to mention one who is still alive. (What’s more, a good portion of “Imagine” relies on Dylan’s approach to creativity. The first chapter of the first section is titled “Bob Dylan’s Brain” and centers on the singer-songwriter’s hesitation to parse his own creative process.)
By now, we know the story. Self-described Dylan obsessive and writer for Tablet Magazine Michael C. Moynihan puzzled over the origin of some of the Dylan quotes in Lehrer’s book, quotes like, “'It’s a hard thing to describe,' Bob Dylan once mused about the creative process. 'It’s just this sense that you got something to say.'" He communicated with Lehrer, received bogus lies in response, and finally, an admission to fabricating the quotes. The falsification was revealed on Tablet’s website, Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker under editor David Remnick’s advice, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pulled every copy of “Imagine” it could find from bookstore shelves and e-book sites, and statements were issued all around.
“The lies are over now,” Lehrer said in a statement to the New York Times. “I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers.”
He added, “I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker.”
Editor Remnick said in a statement, “This is a terrifically sad situation. But in the end, what is most important is the integrity of what we publish and what we stand for.”
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said Lehrer had committed “a serious misuse” and promised to “explore all options” and recall print copies of “Imagine."
The 31-year-old Lehrer graduated from Columbia University with a degree in neuroscience and received his masters at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. He began his popular “Frontal Cortex” blog at Wired, where he explained complicated scientific principles and processes in a snappy, culture-oriented approach in the fashion of Malcolm Gladwell. His popular blog then moved to The New Yorker’s website, where Lehrer commenced to write six articles for the magazine. Along the way, he wrote three bestselling books: “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” a surprise hit published when Lehrer was just 26, “How We Decide,” and the now-marred “Imagine: How Creativity Works.” Lehrer had just become a staff writer for The New Yorker in June 2012 before his late July resignation.
Monday’s revelation wasn’t the first. In June, Lehrer was criticized for the awkwardly named offense of self-plagiarism, recycling his own past material in blog posts for The New Yorker. And according to Moynihan’s article in Tablet, questions were raised as early as Lehrer’s first book, “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” in which the young writer was accused of plagiarizing a paragraph from Malcolm Gladwell. Even “Imagine” was criticized for “many elementary errors,” for “borrowing (heavily)” from economist Edward Glaeser, and for its “inaccurate, misleading, or simplistic” exegesis of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” according to the Tablet article.
The question, of course, is what leads a person, and a bright, promising, successful writer at that, to commit such colossal misjudgments, such bald-faced lies, such stupid audacity? Even as he saw his predecessors – similar rising stars – fall for the same lies?
As Jayson Blair, of New York Times fabricating fame, wrote for The Daily Beast, “Part of Jonah Lehrer’s problem had to be his success … success, of course, brings with it the pressure to make each new publication better than the last.”
And for this pressure, writes Roxanne Gay of Salon.com, the media and its breathless adoration of the boy wonder, is to blame. “Consider,” she writes, “how journalists have referred to Lehrer. At NPR, he is a “superstar science writer.” At Tablet, Lehrer is referred to as a “celebrated journalist.” In a Boston Globe article, Lehrer is a “rising star.” The New York Daily News refers to Lehrer as a “promising young pop-science writer.” In the Chicago Tribune, Lehrer is a “seemingly prodigious young writer.” The Atlantic calls Lehrer a “wunderkind writer.” The lavish descriptors go on and on and on as journalists try to find just the right words to capture Lehrer’s promise, his genius, his place as prodigy, to remind us that in that young man, there is (was) greatness.
“The question isn’t really why did Lehrer fabricated those Dylan quotations and then lie about it nor is the question why did he plagiarize himself time and again in his highly visible position as a staff writer for The New Yorker,” Gay writes. “The question that intrigues me most is how this happened at all, how Lehrer was elevated to a position of such prominence. Are we that enamored by bright young things that they can act with impunity?”
This, we imagine, is only the beginning of the agonizing soul-searching that will follow. For writers like Gay, for Lehrer’s readers, for The New Yorker. And of course, for Lehrer himself.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
US Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig, who trained “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Collins to use her bow and arrow to play Katniss Everdeen in the film version of Collins’ first book, said she has seen a huge rise in public awareness of the sport.
American archer Brady Ellison, who is competing in the Olympics, said that he had seen a rise in the sport’s popularity in the US after “Hunger Games” and the release of “Brave,” the new Pixar film about a Scottish princess who loves using her bow and arrow.
“I do feel like this year that with all the movies and stuff that has come out, especially in the States, we are getting a lot more recognition for the sport,” Ellison told the Tribune.
Archery USA, a national group, even wrote a letter to author Collins, thanking her for bringing the sport into the limelight.
“When Katniss Everdeen started brandishing her bow and arrows on movie screens across America, our phones began (literally, began) ringing nonstop,” the letter read.
Peter Jones of the Governing Body of the sport of archery in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, told the Guardian that in the United Kingdom, “Hunger Games” hasn’t had as much of an effect on the sport’s popularity, but that the breaking of two world records by South Korean athlete Im Dong-hyun was bringing archery to the public’s attention again.
“It's a great sport for the family to do together,” he said of the activity’s appeal. “Absolutely anyone can do it.”