“Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy,” the third book by Helen Fielding centering on London resident and diary-keeper Bridget Jones, has earned mixed reviews so far.
The novel had already drawn ire from some fans after it was revealed that Bridget’s love interest, Mark Darcy, had died several years before “Mad” began and that Bridget is now a widow.
New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin began her review with the statement, “Bridget Jones, R.I.P.” and called Fielding’s series “once-lovable.”
“You’re not dead yet, but you might as well be,” Maslin wrote of Bridget. “The only conceivable reason to read about [Bridget] is that old habits die hard.”
Washington Post writer Jen Chaney was also not enamored with Fielding’s new book.
“While parenthood and profound loss may have forced Bridget to grow up in some ways, she hasn’t grown up much,” Chaney wrote. “And that’s one of this novel’s key problems…. Despite the addition of children, this seems like a Bridget Jones story we’ve already read, two times before, and that, for all its references to tweeting and texting, seems out of touch with the current moment.”
USA Today reviewer Martha T. Moore found Fielding’s first novel about Bridget to be fun but pointed out that in the years since “Diary” came out, chick lit has covered a lot of the plot points now used in “Mad.”
Moore also found Bridget herself lacking in the newest installment.
“The sharp, fresh eye that Fielding brought to the first two "Diaries" must be sleep-deprived,” she wrote. “Bridget's moxie is MIA....There's a very likable, frazzled, fragile woman who narrates this enjoyable book and she will make you smile. But she's not our Bridge.”
However, Guardian writer Stephanie Merritt found “Mad” enjoyable and said she found the death of Mark Darcy to be “a brilliant solution to the obvious problem of a third book.”
“Bridget chronicles all this in her own inimitable voice,” Merritt wrote of the book. “She is supposed to be ridiculous and often infuriating. But she is also very human, with all her insecurities, and if you don't shed a few tears in the course of this book, you must have a heart of ice.”
However, like Moore, Merritt said chick lit has made many plot points pretty familiar to readers.
“It's hard not to feel that Fielding is hampered by her own legacy,” she wrote.
Fielding’s first book about Bridget, “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” came out in 1996 and the second, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” followed in 1998. The first two books were adapted into movies starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant which were released in 2001 and 2004, respectively.
If your child buys a Happy Meal next month, he or she may open their cardboard box to find a book inside rather than the usual movie tie-in toy.
McDonald’s will give away books in its kids’ meals for two weeks in November and the titles will be books original to the fast food franchise. According to the website Advertising Age, marketing company Leo Burnett created the books, which have titles such as “The Goat Who Ate Everything” and “Deana’s Big Dreams,” for the company. The books’ plots will try to teach children about nutrition, as with one book where a dinosaur becomes taller after eating well.
“We’re excited to invite families to spend time together and celebrate the joy of reading through these fun and original Happy Meal Books,” vice president of marketing for McDonald’s USA Ubong Ituen said in a statement.
The company estimated more than 20 million books would be distributed during the promotion, which will take place from Nov. 1 to Nov. 14.
In addition, the company plans to create one original e-book a month and post it on the McDonald’s app McPlay for kids to peruse. This plan will begin in November as well.
However, some say McDonald's still has a long way to go, including the group Corporate Accountability International, which has disagreed in the past with McDonald's aiming its advertising at children at all.
"Even with the books in Happy Meals, this is still fundamentally about marketing to kids," CAI organizer Sriram Madhusoodanan told NPR. "And it's undermining the authority of parents and health professionals."
As a Nobel Prize in Literature winner, this year’s recipient is unique. Alice Munro is one of the few Canadians, women, and short story writers ever to win the prize. Ms. Munro is often credited with revolutionizing the short story, bringing her experience growing up in rural Canada to her work, including her award-winning “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.” The Nobel committee noted that the Canadian author's “texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning.”
For the compassion, insight, and subtle humor for which her stories are known, Munro is universally loved. Here are five reasons that she won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
1. Quite simply, her work is excellent.
Few writers are so identified with their particular craft as Munro is with the short story. Renowned for perfecting that form, Munro has previously been awarded many honors for her works, including a National Book Critics Circle prize for “Hateship.” She is also a three-time winner of the Governor General’s prize, Canada’s highest literary honor.
Admiration for Munro, known to be a modest, retiring writer, is universal. Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Munro is known for her “fantastic portrayal of human beings,” and that “She has done a marvelous job.”
Salman Rushdie called her “A true master of the form.”
2. Merit trumped politics in this year’s selection.
In recent years political motivations have appeared to play a role in the Nobel Committee’s choice of recipients. For example, last year’s winner Mo Yan was largely seen as a political statement on the Chinese Republic. As the Atlantic notes, “some critics have long charged that the Nobel is awarded for a strange brew of politics and obscurity as opposed to actual literary merit.” By choosing Munro, the Nobel committee chose a universally beloved, renowned, and recognized writer known more for her literary chops than for her political stance.
3. The Nobel capped her career.
At 82 years old, Munro has indicated she is reaching the end of her career. She had told Canada’s Globe and Mail that she planned to retire after “Dear Life,” her 14th story collection. As such, both she and Philip Roth, who also announced his retirement late last year, were under intense speculation for this year’s prize, as The New York Times reported. That is because the Nobel Foundation does not award its prize posthumously.
“Not that I didn't love writing, but I think you do get to a stage where you sort of think about your life in a different way,” Munro said in an interview with the National Post earlier this year. “And perhaps, when you're my age, you don't wish to be alone as much as a writer has to be."
It is, in other words, a fitting finale to a fantastic career.
4. The prize brings attention to Canadian writers.
Munro is the first Canadian writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature since Saul Bellow, who left for the US as a boy and won the award in 1976. As such, she will be credited with bringing the spotlight to a nation not typically known for its literary talent.
(The US, which has not brought home a Nobel in literature since Toni Morrison won in 1993, continues its losing streak.)
In a statement from Penguin Random House, her publisher, Munro, who lives in Clinton, Ontario, said “I’m particularly glad that winning this award will please so many Canadians. I’m happy, too, that this will bring more attention to Canadian writing.”
5. The prize also marks the arrival of the short story.
By and large the literary community tends to value the novel above the short story. Until now. By awarding Munro, known as the master of the short story, the Nobel, the committee has elevated the short story.
“We're not saying just that she can say a lot in just 20 pages – more than an average novel writer can – but also that she can cover ground,” said the Nobel Committee’s Englund. “She can have a single short story that covers decades and it works."
Speaking with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Munro said, “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.”
A recent decision to blacklist a translation of the Quran in Russia is the latest of a slew of bans on religious texts, reflecting a disturbing, yet hardly surprising, trend of religious censorship in that country.
In late September, a court in the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk banned a translation of the Quran by Azeri theologian Elmir Kuliyev which the court said promoted extremism. The ruling called for the Kuliyev translation to be banned and copies of it “destroyed.”
Among the court’s complaints are that Kuliyev’s translation contained “statements about the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims,” “negative evaluations of persons who have nothing to do with the Muslim religion,” and “positive evaluations of hostile actions by Muslims against non-Muslims.”
With that ruling, that edition of Islam’s holy book joins some 2,000 publications banned over the last decade in Russia, reflecting a concerning movement toward state-sanctioned censorship in that former socialist state.
Not surprisingly, the move angered Muslims across the world, including in Russia, where they comprise a significant minority (about 15 percent of the population).
"Russian Muslims are very strongly indignant over such an outrageous decision," Rushan Abbyasov, deputy head of Russia’s Council of Muftis, an Islamic organization with ties to the Kremlin, told the Moscow Times.
A lawyer representing Kuliyev called the move “pure idiocy,” while Akhmed Yarlikapov, an expert on Islam with the Russian Academy of Sciences, said, “This is one step away from banning the [entire] Quran....You could ban the Bible just as easily because it also has passages that talk about the spilling of blood.”
In an open letter to President Vladmir Putin, Russia’s Council of Muftis reminded the leader of the repercussions of past decisions to ban or destroy the Quran, including by American pastor Terry Jones, who threatened to burn the Quran on Sept. 11, 2010.
“Is it necessary to discuss how the destruction of books, especially sacred religious books, has been received in Russia in the past?” it read. “We recall how the burning of just a few copies of the Holy Koran by a crazy American pastor elicited a firm protest not just from Russian Muslims but from our entire society, in solidarity with the stormy and long-lasting anger of the global Muslim community and all people of goodwill.”
As the UK’s Guardian notes, the ban is curious, given the country’s large Muslim minority. “The ban is baffling, as the Russian authorities have little to gain by antagonising 15% of the population, including huge chunks of the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, never mind the restive republics of the Caucasus,” it writes.
Nonetheless, this isn’t the first religious text to be banned by Russia. Since passing the 2002 law On Counteracting Extremist Activity, the country has blacklisted more than 2,000 publications, including all works by Nazis and fascists, as well as ultranationalist, anti-Semitic, and jihadist texts, according to the Guardian. Also banned is Mussolini’s autobiography, the works of Scientology founder Ron L. Hubbard, more than 60 classic Islamic religious texts, and even religious texts of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(Apparently the Hindu religious text the Bhagavad Ghita narrowly escaped the ban.)
If that’s not arbitrary enough, consider this. Among the texts not on the blacklist are those by and celebrating the communist leader of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin, under whose rule hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned in labor camps, deported, and executed.
We suppose that goes to show there is rarely rhyme or reason to book bans.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Websites such as PostSecret have long let Internet users spill their secrets in anonymity. Now librarians are secretly confessing their misdeeds on the Tumblr site Librarian Shaming.
Billed as “a place for those of us in Libraryland to come clean,” the Tumblr has librarians upload pictures of themselves with a confession written on paper held in front of their face, concealing their identity. According to the site, it was inspired by a post on the blog for the Dracut Library in Massachusetts, which had the Dracut librarians hold up their own confessions in front of their faces.
On the main Librarian Shaming Tumblr, secrets include “I prefer using Wikipedia over expensive library research databases,” “I’m a children’s librarian… and I never take my kids to story time,” and “I never return my books on time.”
According to the site, Librarian Shaming is overseen by workers from the Dracut Library as well as other volunteers.
“The purpose is to give library folks a place to get things off their chest anonymously, and enjoy some commiseration from their peers,” the Tumblr reads.
Check out other librarian confessions here.
The BBC, the Weinstein Company, and production company Lookout Point are teaming up to produce a TV miniseries adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel “War and Peace,” according to Deadline.
Lookout Point was behind other miniseries such as this year’s “Parade’s End." "War and Peace" will air in six parts and will be written by Andrew Davies, who wrote for the British 1990 version of the miniseries “House of Cards” as well as the 1995 miniseries adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” among other credits.
“Needless to say, adapting 'War And Peace' is a tremendous but exciting task,” Weinstein Company co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. “There’s no one I’d rather be partnering with than Lookout Point’s Simon Vaughan and the BBC’s Ben Stephenson and Faith Penhale on this production, whose incredible visions are second to none in bringing classic literature to the screen in the most sophisticated way possible.”
The series is expected to air in the UK in 2015.
Davies uttered what Austen fans may consider fighting words when he said in a statement, “The characters are so natural and human and easy to identify with and Natasha Rostova just beats Lizzy Bennet as the most lovable heroine in literature.”
According to Deadline, Davies wants an unknown actress to take on the part of Natasha.
“War and Peace” has been adapted several times before on both big and small screens, including a film version released in 1956 starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda, a 1972 miniseries starring Anthony Hopkins, and as a 2007 miniseries starring “Harry Potter” actress Clémence Poésy and Malcolm McDowell.
Less than a month after its release, plans for a film adaptation of the novel “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent are already well under way.
In addition to reuniting for an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence and “Games” director Gary Ross are set to take on the big-screen version of “Burial,” according to Deadline, with Lawrence presumably starring as accused murderer Agnes Magnúsdóttir.
Lionsgate is in negotiations to release the movie.
“Burial” is set in 19th-century Iceland and follows Agnes, who is charged with killing her master and is sent to live with a family on a farm before her execution. The book has received positive reviews and was named one of Amazon’s best books of September, with Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson calling it “a great historical novel.”
“You get a flavor of the times,” she said. “The writing is really beautiful.”
With their dystopian settings and young adult target audience, it’s perhaps inevitable that the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth and the “Hunger Games” books by Suzanne Collins end up being compared to each other.
But at the moment, it’s the “Divergent” trilogy that’s making headlines. According to Amazon, the last book in the trilogy, “Allegiant,” is outpacing sales for the last book in the “Hunger Games” trilogy during the month before its release by almost five to one. “Allegiant” is due to be released Oct. 22, and Amazon is comparing its current sales numbers to “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” pre-orders for the month before its release.
Despite the fact that it hasn’t come out yet, “Allegiant” is currently number seven on the Amazon bestseller rankings and at number three on the Barnes & Noble rankings.
"Divergent," the first book in Roth’s trilogy, came out in 2011. Today, “Divergent” and “Insurgent,” the second book in the series, occupy the third and fourth slot on the New York Times young adult bestseller list for the week of Oct. 13. “Hunger Games” is holding steady at number two on the NYT children’s series bestseller list for the same week.
“Divergent” is currently being adapted into a film starring Shailene Woodley which will be released this coming March. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the second in a planned film quartet based on Collins’ books, is set to come out on Nov. 22.
Can there be too much Jane Austen?
And now there’s this, a project to rework Austen’s six most popular novels into the present day. The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works. The authors will put a contemporary spin on the characters and setting, leaving the plot largely intact, for a decidedly modern Austen series.
The novels include “Sense and Sensibility,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” “Persuasion,” and “Mansfield Park.” The authors include Joanna Trollope, whose modernized “Sense and Sensibility” is out this October, as well as Curtis Sittenfeld, who will be reworking “Pride and Prejudice”; Val McDermid, who will update “Northanger Abbey”; and the latest author pairing to be announced, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series author, Alexander McCall Smith, who will revamp “Emma.”
Authors for “Mansfield Park” and “Persuasion” will be announced later this year.
What can readers expect? Think light, humorous updates on the characters and their environments. According to the UK’s Guardian, in “Emma,” Mr. Woodhouse is obsessed with vitamins, Jane Fairfax plays the tenor saxophone, and Frank Churchill has been living abroad in Australia.
What won’t change, of course, is the romance.
“One of the issues, of course, is the erotic tension that pervades the original novel Emma,” McCall Smith told the Guardian. “That is there in large measure and will remain there in my version. And Freud will be looking over my shoulder as I write. I can't wait to begin my encounter with these delicious characters.”
Trollope’s reworked “Sense and Sensibility,” which HarperCollins will release later this month, bears this description: “Elinor Dashwood, an architecture student, values discretion above all. Her impulsive sister Marianne displays her creativity everywhere as she dreams of going to art school.”
McDermid’s reimagined “Northanger Abbey,” to be published in spring of 2014, features a CCTV camera and satellite TV dishes on the cover.
No matter the dozens of Austen spin-offs circulating the market, we’re predicting the Austen Project will be popular among the country’s countless Austen fans. To paraphrase one of our favorite authors, it is a truth universally acknowledged that there can never be too much Austen.
Some of the workers at the National Steinbeck Center, based in Salinas, Calif., are currently in the midst of a 10-day road trip from Sallisaw, Okla., to Arvin, Calif. – the same trip taken by the Joads, the family at the center of Steinbeck's novel. During the trip, the center staff plan to interview people daily.
The trip is intended to honor the 75th anniversary of “The Grapes of Wrath,” a milestone which will be celebrated next year.
“Very few works of American literature have inspired social change to the degree that The Grapes of Wrath did," Colleen Bailey, executive director of the National Steinbeck Center, told the Salinas newspaper The Californian. "The National Steinbeck Center hopes to inspire a new generation to read John Steinbeck's work, to understand its relevance, and to take social action to improve the lives of others.”
The center staff will aim to answer the questions “What keeps you going?,” “What do you turn to in hard times?,” and “What brings you joy when times are tough?” during the journey.
The group left on Oct. 4 and is scheduled to finish the trip on Oct. 14. On the journey, they’ll also be organizing meetings to discuss “The Grapes of Wrath” and delivering talks on the time period in which the novel is set.
Answers to the three questions the group posed as they traveled will be displayed at the center next April.
The center is also encouraging others to get involved in the anniversary celebrations with activities on their website, such as a contest in which participants are asked to relate a story of how they got through a tough time. The winner will receive an iPad mini. Another option for those wanting to get involved is the Community Conversation in a Box kit on the center’s site, which gives readers instructions on how to organize a “Grapes of Wrath” talk in their own areas. Others can try the Map Your Story activity, in which participants are invited to show a map of where they live and talk about how the environment has affected them personally.
Check out the center website here.