The novel, which first appeared in 1952 illustrated by Garth Williams, tells the story of a pig named Wilbur living on a farm, his youthful owner, Fern, and his friend Charlotte the spider, who comes up with an innovative way to save Wilbur from becoming a meal. The book won a Newbery Honor and, with White’s other children’s novel “Stuart Little,” won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal.
Biographer Michael Sims recalled how the novel’s bittersweet ending, in which Charlotte the spider dies, strongly affected White when he was recording an audio book version of the story.
“He, of course, as anyone does doing an audio book, had to do several takes for various things, just to get it right,” Sims told NPR. “But every time, he broke down when he got to Charlotte's death. And he would do it, and it would mess up… He took 17 takes to get through Charlotte's death without his voice cracking or beginning to cry.”
“Web” began receiving positive reviews as soon as it was released, with writer Eudora Welty writing for The New York Times, “As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done.”
It was cited as the highest-selling children’s paperback in history as of 2000 by Publisher’s Weekly. It has been adapted twice for film, once as an animated feature in 1973 with “Singing in the Rain" actress Debbie Reynolds voicing Charlotte and as a well-reviewed live-action version that was released in 2006, starring actress Dakota Fanning as Fern with Julia Roberts voicing Charlotte.
Rocklin High School is considering banning the story collection because of a passage in one of the stories, titled “Apt Pupil,” in which one of the main characters, Todd, rapes a woman. The school took the book off library shelves after a parent objected to the scene. A school committee discussed the complaint and ended by deciding to remove the book from circulation.
Rocklin senior Amanda Wong was on the committee and said she was the only one who supported keeping the book in the library and was also the only one who has read the entire short story collection.
“I thought it was completely wrong of them to do that,” Wong told CBS. “I was really upset… Although I understand this parent’s concerns – I wouldn’t want my little brother reading this – I don’t believe it’s the school’s right to take the entire book out of [the] library just over that.”
Wong took her complaint to the school board in Rocklin, and the book was put back in the library while the issue is debated. A district committee will meet about the issue starting tomorrow.
King’s agent told CBS that the author fully supports Wong’s stand.
“We hope she and those who share her views are not disappointed,” the agent told CBS.
Stories in “Different Seasons” were the basis for the movies “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand By Me,” respectively.
Three other books by King, “Carrie,” “Cujo” and “The Dead Zone,” made the list compiled by the American Library Association of the 100 books most frequently challenged in the U.S. from 1990 to 2000, though none of them made the cut for the list of most challenged books between 2000 and 2009.
With his much-anticipated thriller “Argo” having hit theaters Oct. 12, Affleck has agreed to write and direct his second Lehane story after 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” With another Boston crime narrative, Affleck and his film crew will be back in Beantown in the near future.
Lehane’s new novel, “Live By Night,” takes place in both Prohibition-era Boston and Tampa’s Ybor City. The story centers on the rising of Boston gangster Joe Coughlin. During the time of underground distilleries and speakeasies in the Roaring '20s, Coughlin – the son of a prominent Boston police captain – finds the life of guns, wealth, women and liquor irresistible.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in Lehane’s “Shutter Island,” was originally set to produce after Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the movie. But now DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, will co-produce with Pearl Street, Affleck’s shared company with Matt Damon.
Warner Bros. also bought the rights to “The Given Day,” another Lehane novel that shares the same characters as “Live By Night,” but there are no definitive plans for the movie. Lehane plans to write a third book and tie all three into a trilogy, giving Warner Bros. the potential for a movie trilogy.
Pamela Cyran is a Monitor contributor.
Several Kindle devices are sold at cost, bringing Amazon no profit on the hardware.
“We sell the hardware at our cost, so it is break-even on the hardware,” Bezos told the BBC.
Of course, Bezos isn’t necessarily doing the consumer any favors. That aggressive pricing is part of his goal to get Kindle tablets in as many hands as possible in order to broaden the base of consumers for Amazon’s online content – from books to games to video – which is the real cash cow of Amazon.
That strategy differs starkly from Apple’s. Apple makes a profit on every iPhone, iPad, and other iDevice it sells, with much content thereafter available for free, or “slightly above” break-even on iTunes content.
“Amazon is making a strategic move in both customer acquisition and retention,” writes Forbes.com. “...Amazon clearly just wants to provide a medium to consumers that can help deliver Amazon’s online content – such as books and video – which have much higher profit margins.”
Even better, Bezos has found that Kindle users typically start reading a lot more once they buy a Kindle, all but ensuring lost profit is made up for later.
“What we find is that when people buy a Kindle they read four times as much as they did before they bought the Kindle,” Bezos told the BBC. “But they don’t stop buying paper books. Kindle owners read four times as much, but they continue to buy both types of books.”
What’s the better deal for consumers? A higher-cost tablet that offers a wealth of free and lower-cost content, like an iPad, or a relatively affordable Kindle offering content – from books to games to video – that may cost us more in the end? And who makes out better in the long run – Apple or Amazon?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Former vice-presidential nominee and Alaskan governor Sarah Palin says she will publish a book on fitness and eating well.
“Our family is writing a book on fitness and self-discipline focusing on where we get our energy and balance as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods,” Palin told People Magazine.
She did not mention whether the book had found a publisher or when the book will be released.
“We promise you what we do works and allows a fulfilling quality of life and sustenance anyone can enjoy,” Palin said, calling the future release “our unique and motivating book.”
Palin is the author of "Going Rogue: An American Life," which was released in 2009, and "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag," which came out in 2010.
The classic sci-fi novel “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle has been adapted into a graphic novel by Hope Larson.
The novel, which was released earlier this month and completed with permission from L’Engle’s estate, tells the story of Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin as they all search for Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, who went missing after participating in a government project. The story is told in black, white, and light blue panels drawn by Larson, who also adapted the story.
The writer and illustrator, who was also behind the art and text of the graphic novel "Mercury," told The Los Angeles Times that “A Wrinkle in Time” was one of her favorite books growing up.
“It was definitely an important book for me,” Larson said. “It’s one of those books that I’ve gone back to again and again throughout my life.”
Larson said she believes the story is still fresh today despite being first published in 1962.
“I wasn’t really even aware that it was a story that was published in the ’60s,” she said of reading it when she was younger. “It has this freshness to it. And all the science and everything, it just doesn’t feel like it has aged all that much. It feels that way more now, because we all have cell phones and we all have computers, but in the ’80s and probably the ’90s, you wouldn’t sit down and think, 'Oh this takes place like 50 years ago.' ”
The writer said that she based the illustrations for the first scene, in which heroine Meg is frightened by a thunderstorm in her room, on pictures of L’Engle’s house, which was reportedly the basis for the Murrys’ home.
She hopes the graphic novel will also attract younger readers, said Larson.
“My hope is that kids who are intimidated by the novel may try the graphic novel,” she said. “And if they can get through the graphic novel, they’ll basically have read the novel already because almost all of the text is in there.”
She said the most challenging part of the book for her to illustrate was a scene in which Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin look at “darkness” in space, which is described to them as an evil force that is attacking the universe.
“Larson obviously has great affection for the tale of time and space travel, outsiders, and fascism, and she has created a tender graphic novel from it,” writer Lauren Davis said in a review for the website io9, though she noted that the fast pace of the graphic novel meant readers were better served if they’d already read the original book.
Chinese author Mo Yan became the first Chinese citizen in the Swedish Academy’s 111-year history to win the Nobel Prize in literature when he was awarded the prestigious prize Thursday. (Gao Xingjian, who won the prize in 2000, was born in China but was a French national when he won the award.)
“Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition,” the award’s citation declared, describing him as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary.
Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye (“Mo Yan” is a pen name meaning “don’t speak”), told Nobel organizers he was “overjoyed and scared” when he was told he had won the coveted award.
Once called “one of the most famous, oft-banned, and widely pirated of all Chinese writers,” Mo Yan is known for his depiction of rural Chinese life, particularly its women, which populate many of his novels, short stories, and essays. His novel “Red Sorghum,” about the life of a young woman working in a distillery, was made into a film directed by Zhang Yimou, which became one of the most internationally acclaimed Chinese films.
Other well-known works include “Frog,” “Big Breasts and Wide Hips,” and “Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.” Mo Yan’s most recent novel, “Wa,” is the story about the consequences of China’s one-child policy.
Mo Yan’s unusual biography informs his work: He was born in 1955 in Gaomi, China, the son of farmers who left school at 12 during the Cultural Revolution to work, first in agriculture, then in a factory, according to his Nobel biography. He joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1976, where he began to study literature and write. Hi first short story was published in 1981, in a literary journal.
“In his writing Mo Yan draws on his youthful experiences and on settings in the province of his birth,” the Nobel biography stated.
“He writes about the peasantry, about life in the countryside, about people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing,” Peter Englund, head of the Swedish Academy told the press. “The basis for his books was laid when as a child he listened to folktales. The description magical realism has been used about him, but I think that is belittling him – this isn't something he's picked up from Gabriel García Márquez, but something which is very much his own. With the supernatural going in to the ordinary, he's an extremely original narrator.”
Along with Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, Mo Yan was one of several writers “tipped by bookmakers to break what critics had seen as a preponderance of European winners over the past decade,” writes the New York Times.
He is the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Gao Xingjian, who won in 2000, is now a French citizen, and Pearl Buck, who won in 1938 is an American author.)
The prize is worth 8 million Swedish kronor, about $1.2 million.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
More than 700 people came to the event, which lasted three days at a Marriott hotel. One session included a lecture on how women would have dressed in Austen’s day, an appropriate topic considering many of the conference participants were dressed in Regency gowns and hats.
One attendee, Goucher College associate professor Juliette Wells, said the first time she came to the meeting she was taken aback by the level of fandom exhibited by the JASNA members.
“When I first came, as a graduate student, I was kind of freaked out by the level of ardor,” said Wells, who wrote a study of Austen in pop culture titled “Everybody’s Jane,” in an interview with The New York Times. “I wasn’t sure if I would come back.” But JASNA, she said, “has been very good to me.”
West Virginia University professor Marilyn Francus, who spoke about finances in Austen’s works, said she is always impressed by the level of knowledge exhibited by Austen fans. When she brought up the question of how everyone in the neighborhood knows protagonist Fitzwilliam Darcy’s income in "Pride and Prejudice," one person in the audience informed her that inheritance information sometimes ran in newspapers at that time, while another volunteered the information that men of that era would occasionally record their income so they could get credit.
“I learn so much from these people,” Francus told The New York Times. “I would never dare condescend to a JASNA audience.”
The 1970s-era thriller begins with a description of a man admiring a mountain range from an airplane.
"Far off in the west, the Sierra Nevadas made the horizon a jagged blue-gray pencil line," the author writes in the book's first paragraph. "It reminded Galardi of a sales graph, with Mount Whitney being a very good week."
Who on earth would link natural beauty to something you'd see on a screen in a conference room?
Spiro Agnew, that's who, the man who guaranteed that neither Joe Biden or Paul Ryan will ever become the first vice president to pen a Robert Ludlum-style bestseller. Agnew was there first with 1976's "The Canfield Decision." You remember, "the most controversial bestselling novel of the year."
OK, you probably don't remember the book. And if you're not of a certain age, you may be unfamiliar with Agnew himself. Here's a refresher: He was a disgraced ex-vice president described on the back of the $1.95 paperback edition of the book as "the most outspoken and controversial of the President's men." (The president was one Richard Milhous Nixon.)
I learned about the book while lost in a Wikipedia wormhole, endlessly clicking from one intriguing entry to another. Somehow I landed on the "American politicians convicted of crimes" page, which led me to the article on the late Agnew's life and a mention of "The Canfield Decision."
A few clicks later, a 36-year-old paperback was on its way to my door. It has that delicious musty smell of an old book, several positive and positive-ish blurbs ("Fascinating and exciting" – Merv Griffin; "Interesting" – Harper's), and evidence of a torn-out insert advertisement. No surprise: it was published back in the days when paperbacks came with ads for tobacco companies and didn't cost $16.95.
So how is "The Canfield Decision"? Let's say it's a page-turner because you'll turn the pages in search of something worth reading.
Just look at the first few pages, which is as far as I could get. Join me on this voyage through the mind of an ex-veep:
• The second paragraph in the book – yes, the second one – includes a lengthy description of the 727-E aircraft: "And now the engine modifications and increased fuel capacity of the E model gave it enough range for intercontinental missions. He was glad they hadn't gone supersonic."
This will really grab the one percent of readers who are engineers.
• Who's on the plane? An "affable, hard-working steward." A fortysomething Secret Service special agent with the muscle tone of a younger man. And "newsies" – reporters – most of whom have lost a commitment to objectivity. One, in fact, is a "fourteen-carat pain."
There's no sign, however, of the Agnew-ian "nattering nabobs of negativism."
• A news magazine called "Twiceweek" appears on the plane.
You might have seen it on the newsstands next to "Timely."
• There is, of course a pretty lady on the plane. She's a secretary named Kathy who's "sexy, but more heavenly sexy than earthy sexy."
Say no more. Oh wait. What?
• "I'm tired of falling for the same old baloney just because it's wrapped up to look like porterhouse," says a reporter. Later, he's described as despising his colleagues in TV and radio: "They learned nothing from day to day. They just flitted from flower to flower, intoning resonant banalities."
At least they're not discordant banalities. They're the worst kind.
• The vice president is a man named Porter Newton Canfield, known to his friends as "Newt."
A politician who goes by Newt? Oh come on. That's ridiculous!
Agnew really did have quite the imagination.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
In a departure from years past, this year’s finalists includes some of the country’s most prominent and popular writers, authors, novelists, and poets who have gained literary respect as well as commercial success.
Dominican-born writer Junot Diaz, still spinning from being awarded a “genius” grant by the MacArthur Foundation last week, is nominated for his collection of short stories, “This is How You Lose Her.” (Diaz also won a Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”)
The list also includes the late New York Times journalist and foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid for his memoir, “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East.” Shadid died earlier this year on a reporting assignment for the Times in Syria.
Other non-fiction nominees include “The Passage of Power,” Robert Caro’s fourth book on Lyndon Johnson; “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” Katherine Boo’s account of life in a Mumbai slum; “The Boy Kings of Texas,” by Domingo Martinez; and “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe,” Anne Applebaum’s history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe.
A few themes we’re seeing this year: By and large, the finalists are more well-known and more widely read than in years past when nominations went to relatively obscure works that sold few copies, a source of criticism.
In the fiction category, the works tend to address struggles faced in modern American life such as financial struggle, foreclosure, and rising college tuition in “A Hologram for the King,” and post-traumatic stress disorder and other fallout from the Iraq war, as in debut novels “The Yellow Birds” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
Finalists in poetry include “Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations,” by David Ferry; “Heavenly Bodies,” by Cynthia Huntington; “Fast Animal,” by Tim Seibles; “Night of the Republic,” by Alan Shapiro; and “Meme,” by Susan Wheeler.
In young people’s literature, finalists include “Goblin Secrets,” by William Alexander; “Out of Reach,” by Carrie Arcos; “Never Fall Down,” by Patricia McCormick; “Endangered,” by Eliot Schrefer; and “Bomb” by Steve Sheinkin.
Winners in each of four categories (Fiction, Non-fiction, Young Adult, and Poetry) will be announced Nov. 14 in New York. Each receives $10,000, and, far more valuable, a serious boost in their literary reputation and book sales.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.