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From Harry Potter-style mega-hits to controversy over banned books to hot competition for literary prizes, there is never a dull moment in the book world. Chapter & Verse keeps readers up-to-date on the latest in literary headlines. Check in with us daily to learn about books and their people - those who write them and those who love them.

Emma Watson addressed rumors via Twitter that she would star in a 'Fifty Shades of Grey' movie. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Emma Watson rumors: The star addresses 'Fifty Shades of Grey' stories

By Staff Writer / 03.18.13

Harry Potter” star Emma Watson posted a definitive answer to the rumors that she’ll be starring as “Fifty Shades of Grey” heroine Anastasia Steele in the “Grey” movie adaptation.

“Who here actually thinks I would do 50 Shades of Grey as a movie?” Watson tweeted. “Like really. For real. In real life…. Good. Well that's that sorted then.”

Rumors about who would star as Anastasia and her billionaire boyfriend, Christian Grey, have cropped up frequently since it was announced that the bestselling erotic novel would be adapted for the big screen. Watson’s name came up again when the hacker group Anonymous claimed to have obtained documents belonging to the German film studio Constantin, one of which stated that the actress was attached to star in “Grey.”

Constantin confirmed it had been hacked, but Universal Pictures, which will be one of the studios behind the "Grey" movie, told USA Today that the story was untrue and that no one has yet been cast in the movie.

Watson is best known for starring as brainy witch Hermione Granger in the eight-part “Harry Potter” film series and as high school student Sam in the adaptation of the book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which came out last year. She was recently rumored to be attached to star in the title role of a film version of “Cinderella,” but Variety recently reported that the deal fell through and Watson will not be involved.

“Fifty” author EL James recently told the New York Post that no one has been cast in the film adaptation of her book but that she has some ideas some may consider unusual.

“We don’t even have a filmmaker… so we are still a long way away from casting,” the writer told the Post. “I have some ideas…. but it may not be who people expect.”

The movie adaptation is being written by “Terra Nova” co-creator, writer and executive producer Kelly Marcel.

Mary Robinson became Ireland's first female president in 1990. (Lee Jin-man/AP)

Former Irish president Mary Robinson discusses her new memoir 'Everybody Matters'

By J.P. O'MalleyContributor / 03.15.13

In 1990, Mary Robinson became Ireland’s first female president.

As a progressive liberal, Robinson seemed a very unlikely candidate for the job in what was then a deeply conservative country. 

Throughout the '70s and '80s, she worked as a human rights lawyer as well as a senator, arguing a number of landmark cases that challenged various clauses within the Irish constitution which failed to protect minorities. Robinson fought on behalf of women, who were effectively treated as second-class citizens; homosexuals, who were criminalized for their sexual orientation; and campaigned to change the law on the sale of contraceptives, which were illegal in Ireland without prescription until 1985.

When she became president, Robinson was determined to reinvigorate the role. In 1993, she was the first Irish President to travel to Britain, when she met with Queen Elizabeth II for tea in Buckingham Palace.

Robinson then returned to Britain in 1996 on an official state visit.

From 1997 to 2002, Robinson served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The role proved to have huge political difficulties, particularly in the post-9/11 world. Robinson openly criticized the Bush Administration, much to the chagrin of then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. In 2009, Robinson was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.

In recent years, Robinson has returned to Ireland to live, where she set up The Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice, a center for leadership, education and advocacy for those affected by climate change across the globe.

Robinson’s memoir Everybody Matters recalls a long and dedicated career as a public servant, both at national and international level.

Recently she spoke with me about the difficulties the role of UN High Commissioner presented, how Eleanor Roosevelt provided a life-changing moment, and why she has always been persuaded by those who fight for equality and justice through non-violent methods.

Was it your awareness of middle class privilege from an early age that inspired you to peruse a career that fought for justice in society?

Well, I came from a family that was privileged but not rich. My mother was a very warm, engaging, and open person, but she was also quite snobbish. She thought our family were great because we had a background of a colonial past, and plaques on the wall in the Protestant church in the town of Ballina, County Mayo, because the first Catholic in the family was my grandfather. The more she talked about this, the more I was rebelling the other way.  For me, it was all about fairness.

You talk about reading Eleanor Roosevelt at any early age. What did you see in her worldview that inspired you?

I always loved people who were inspirational. Figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Michael Davitt, Daniel O’Connell, and Martin Luther King. In 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt made a famous speech on the tenth anniversary of 
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and she said: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.” When I read this, I had a lightbulb moment and thought, I really want to be involved in this.

Working as a constitutional lawyer in Ireland in the '70s and '80s, you fought for women’s rights, but didn’t want to be labeled a feminist. Why not?

I was a young lawyer who wanted to change the position of women, so I didn’t want to be catagorized. When I was elected president of Ireland, many years later, I was a broad champion of women, happy to call myself a feminist. That is why in my inauguration speech in 1990, I thanked the women of Ireland, but I thanked them in Irish, calling them "Mná na hÉireann," which at that time was a very pejorative statement, almost like "sheila" is to women in Australia. But I made it a brand of honor somehow. I said I wanted women who were outside of history to be written into history.    

How important was your meeting with The Queen in 1993 for Anglo-Irish relations?

The invitation to take tea at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth II was huge at that time. Then, in 1996, I was invited back again, this time on an official visit by Prime Minister John Major. Along with my husband, Nick, I had lunch with the Queen and Prince Edward. Before that, I inspected a guard of honor, and the Irish national anthem was played. I remember as I stood on the steps of Buckingham Palace, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and saying to myself, I know this is a moment that matters for my country. 

You also met with Gerry Adams that same year in West Belfast; did you feel you would be criticized?

I was aware that it would be unpopular, but I went specifically to meet and support the community groups, not just Gerry Adams. I was criticized for it, but I knew from the moment I went into that hall in West Belfast that I did the right thing.

Did you feel as president of Ireland that you couldn’t publicly express your personal views about the IRA? 

I couldn’t speak out about the IRA, or even about Irish politics, as president, because the President’s role in Ireland is above politics.

Were you sympathetic to the IRA at any stage of the Troubles?

Well, I graduated in Trinity College in 1967, and the civil rights movement began in 1968. Of course we knew about the discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland, and we were speaking out against it. But I had always been strongly persuaded by those who fight for equality and justice but who don’t use violence.

Could you describe your visit to Rwanda after the genocide in 1994?

Even though it was a couple of months after the actual genocidal killing, you could smell the blood, and see it everywhere. You could see the little children’s shoes in every building you went into. There was also a huge prison population, and I talked to a number of widows who had been raped. It was devastating. I was determined the following year, when I was invited by Ireland to represent the country at the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, that I would bring Rwanda to the table of the UN if you like.

But you had difficulty with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, at a later stage?

That was when I went back to Rwanda as UN High Commissioner in 1998. At that stage, I thought, they know me, but when I arrived, I was a UN official, and there was that coldness and distance, because the UN had betrayed Rwanda, and they were hurting.

I was caught up in that, and didn’t fully appreciate the extent of it. But I was also getting briefed about what Rwanda was doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo – understandably trying to catch those who had been responsible for the genocide but subsequently killing civilians in the process. So I had to try and raise that issue at various levels.      

 Did you regret the press conference you gave that year as UN High Commissioner when you condemned the actions of the Rwandan Government?

I sounded at the press conference like a Western person who was giving out to Rwanda, not like somebody who had been deeply supportive, sympathetic and engaged. That’s why, when I was leaving Rwanda on that visit, I was so upset with myself. I think I am regarded as someone who has had a lot of success in life, and I want young people who are reading this book to know that there are going to be times when you are not going to be proud of what you did, but you go on.     

Could you speak frankly about your difficult relationship with Kofi Annan while you worked in the United Nations as High Commissioner for Human Rights?

At the beginning, Kofi Annan was very pleased to have me as his first High Commissioner. But I soon found out that things were difficult in the role, and there were various internal problems with the organization and the office, which was new at the time.

I vented some of that frustration in a speech I gave at Oxford University in 1997. I was surprised when I received a call from Kofi Anan the following morning, saying, “Mary, you must not criticize the UN publicly, you owe me and the UN loyalty.”

I was kind of thinking to myself, "But my speech was constructive criticism." I started to realize afterwards, maybe some of Kofi Annan’s advisers didn’t like an assertive Commissioner for Human Rights who was going to speak out against the United States, China, and Russia, because he had to do business in the Security Council with these countries.

Could you talk about the difficulties the role of UN High Commissioner presents, particularly in areas of conflict – for example, the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict, where most people presume one must take sides?

Well, you have to realize that human rights are not on either the Israeli, or the Palestinian side, they are on both. Having said that, the occupation is a terrible denial of human rights, and so it’s not equating a situation, but it’s also respecting that settlers were being shot at, and killed, and were living in fear. I met these people, and I tried very hard to be as fair as I could. The Palestinians were very pleased, perhaps over-pleased, which meant the Israeli side wasn’t.

You are an advocate for religious tolerance and pluralism, but at the level of church and state, should there be a separation?

It is preferable to separate, but it can be very difficult in the Muslim context. I’m more concerned about an interpretation of a Muslim religion which is more open and empowers women. That is something we have to recognize, that it’s not a monolith, and we have to encourage those in the Muslim world who are keen to promote an interpretation of the Muslim religion. It may not be a complete separation of church and state – that may just be a step too far for them at this moment in time.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned over your career?

That if you want change, it has to happen from within communities, not from the outside, and those from the outside can only support change by being patient and being respectful.

J.P. O'Malley is a freelance writer based in London.

"WOOL" was a New York Times bestseller before it was even released in print form.

'WOOL': Why all the hype?

By Contributor / 03.15.13

It reads like the collective dream of authors everywhere. A writer closing in on middle age self-publishes a serial novel. The book slowly gains traction in the underground of the writerly world, selling for only $1 on e-readers.

Within a year, the writer has already made a million dollars all by himself. That's when the big publishing houses close in on him, trying to buy digital and print rights to the book with big seven-figure deals. But the author is making around $120,000 a month from book sales, so he turns them all down.

Until Simon & Schuster comes along and offers to buy just the print rights – leaving digital sales to the writer – for a six-figure sum. 

Hugh Howey, author of the incredibly popular e-book "WOOL" is the man who got to live this story. (A much more detailed version in the author's own words is available on

"WOOL" is the story of the last remnant of humanity all living together in an underground silo. The only contact they have with the desiccated outside world is through cameras that transmit back to the silo. Sometimes, a member of the community will be sent to his or her death by cleaning the lenses of the cameras. According to the The Wall Street Journal Howey says he got the idea for "a future where people get all of their information from a single, unreliable screen" when he was watching cable news.

Howey seems to be the modern-day William Wallace of the self-publishing world. He refused "life-altering" sums of money in favor of a contract that, in his words, "when read, made [him] feel like a human being." His cry of "freedom" is being closely watched by publishers and authors alike. He has stated that he made a stand on the details of his contract to pave the way for other self-publishers, but that he didn't think any publisher would go along with the idea.

Simon & Schuster released the hardcover and the paperback editions at the same time and positive reviews are coming in from mainstream venues like The Washington Post and The Guardian, perhaps opening the door to a whole new wave of readers.

Howey's taken an unprecedented stand on his contract – refusing to sign the digital rights to his book over to a company that wouldn't necessarily be able to do much more for him than he had done for himself. "In the end," says Howey on IndieReader, "it turned out that it was easier for the publishing industry to change just a little bit, just a smidgeon, in order to accept me just the way I am."

Author Tan Twan Eng won the Man Asian Literary Prize for 2012. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Tan Twan Eng wins Man Asian Literary Prize

By Staff Writer / 03.15.13

Writer Tan Twan Eng of Malaysia captured the Man Asian Literary Prize for 2012, which could be the last of its kind to be given out by the Man Group.

Tan won for his novel “The Garden of Evening Mists,” which follows a survivor of a concentration camp who goes to work for the former gardener of the Japanese emperor. The author’s book “The Gift of Rain” was nominated for the longlist for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. He is the first author from Malaysia to take the prize.

Maya Jaggi, the chair of judges for the award, said “Garden” had “stylistic poise and probing intelligence.”

"Taking its aesthetic cues from the artful deceptions of Japanese landscape gardening, it opens up a startling perspective on converging histories, using the feints and twists of fiction to explore its themes of personal and national honour; love and atonement; memory and forgetting; and the disturbing co-existence of cultural refinement and barbarism,” Jaggi said

Tan told Monitor writer Rebecca L. Weber that he didn’t know much about gardening when he started writing the book.

“I’m not a gardener to start with and I’m not very much into nature,” says Tan. “So when I had the idea for the book, I was reluctant. I had to have the feel of it, so I started some planting too. You have to take your gloves off and feel the soil. It’s very dirty.” (Check out the full interview here.)

Twenty thousand pounds, or $30,000, is awarded to the winner.

The people behind the literary prize announced in October that it was looking for new sponsorship and an announcement about who could be taking on the award is expected in April, according to Reuters.

Timothy Geithner served as United States Secretary of the Treasury from 2009 until this January. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Timothy Geithner will release book on 2008 financial crisis

By Staff Writer / 03.15.13

Former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner will write a book about the 2008 financial crisis and his view of how it was handled, which will be released in 2014.

His book, the title of which has not yet been released, will be released by Crown Publishing, an imprint of Random House.

“Secretary Geithner will aim to answer the most important – and to many the most troubling – questions about the choices he and his colleagues made… Secretary Geithner intends to provide a ‘play book’ that future policy makers can draw on and that the public can use to understand how and why governments act in crisis,” the publisher said of the book.

According to Crown, the book will also provide behind-the-scenes insight into how the situation was handled.

“Secretary Geithner will chronicle how decisions were made during the most harrowing moments of the crisis, when policy makers faced a fog of uncertainty, risked catastrophic outcomes, and had no institutional memory or recent precedent to guide them,” a statement from Crown read.

Geithner served in his position as United States Secretary of the Treasury from 2009 until this past January. He worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as president from 2003 to 2009.

A court has ordered a deposition of Apple CEO Tim Cook. Paul Sakuma/AP

Apple update: Tim Cook to testify

By Contributor / 03.14.13

Apple CEO Tim Cook will testify in the e-book price-fixing case, reports Reuters. Apple argued against the deposition. Eleven Apple executives have been testified or are scheduled to do so. Apple attorney Orin Snyder said, "This effort to depose Mr. Cook, Apple's CEO, reflects the fact the government cannot meet its burden of proof in this case."

The Department of Justice is taking the position that Cook is the "only potential source of  information," because of the close relationship he had with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.

Denise Cote, the US district Judge on the case, cited Jobs' death as a reason for ordering Cook's deposition.

The US Department of Justice has been pursuing a legal suit against Apple since April 2012. Five publishers were accused along with Apple, but as of February, they have all settled with the DOJ.

"Philip Roth: Unmasked" will air March 27 on PBS. Photo: Simon and Schuster

New Philip Roth documentary doesn't quite 'unmask' him

By Husna HaqCorrespondant / 03.13.13

By all accounts, “Philip Roth: Unmasked,” is a wide-ranging and insightful documentary that celebrates the great writer and shines a spotlight on his distinguished career, with one major flaw: there’s very little actual “unmasking.”

The 90-minute film, which is timed to coincide with the author’s 80th  birthday (March 19), will enjoy a weeklong theatrical premiere at the Film Forum in New York (March 13 to 19) before airing nationally March 29 on PBS stations as part of the “American Masters” series.

The film explores the life and work of the Pulitzer Prize-winning, two-time National Book Award winner from his Newark, N.J. childhood to his controversial, often sexually explicit psychoanalytical novels, to his “current status as literary eminence and perennial Nobel candidate,” according to the AP.

In it, Roth friends and admirers reflect on the seminal novelist with reverence (though, it’s been said, not complete candor). Among them are the novelists Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Franzen, and friends Mia Farrow and Martin Garbus. Perhaps the most shining presence is Roth himself, who, for the first time, allowed the film’s crew to spend 10 days interviewing him on camera, both in New York and at his home in rural Connecticut.

The result is a vivid portrait of the novelist at his best: frank, forthright, feisty, funny. But, as many reviews have observed, it stops there. The film falls short of plumbing the more delicate and debated parts of Roth’s life and work (like his rocky relationships with women and his retirement) and ultimately fails to live up to its title.

As the New York Times writes, “He is, for 90 minutes, marvelous company – expansive, funny, generous and candid…Though not unduly self-revealing … those interested in Mr. Roth’s relationships with women will have to await Blake Bailey’s authorized biography or else succumb to the irresponsible, irresistible vice of treating novels as source material.”

As the Hollywood Reporter points out, “..Roth himself won't go down that road to compare himself to his major characters, nor does anyone else venture into his private life, as if it had been placed off-limits as a condition of the interview being granted.”

Apart from that, the film’s other major glaring omission is that it leaves out all mention of Roth’s most high-profile announcement to date – his decision to retire from writing.

As the AP points out, not only does the film omit that major milestone, it depicts Roth as an active writer who declares he’d be miserable if he stopped writing.

“I keep doing it. I never quit,” he says. “My worst times are when I’m not writing. I’m prone then to be unhappy, depressed, anxious, and so on.”

In fact, the prolific novelist, who’s written some 39 books, almost one per year, told a French magazine late last year that’s he’s finished. In subsequent media reports, he has said he’s happy to be done.

“Someone should have told me about this earlier,” he jokingly told the Television Critics Association in January, regarding his retirement.

(According to news reports, the film’s producer knew about Roth’s decision to retire, but didn’t imagine “it would be such big news” and doesn’t actually believe he’s given up writing for good.)

All in all, most reviews agree “Unmasked” is a delightful and insightful look at a great American writer’s life and work – just not quite “unmasked.”

Sarah Palin will be releasing her third book in November, criticizing the commercialism and homogenization of Christmas. ((J. Scott Applewhite/AP))

Sarah Palin will write on 'the war on Christmas'

By Husna HaqCorrespondant / 03.12.13

Just when you thought Sarah Palin had ducked out of the spotlight with the summation of her Fox News career, she’s back in fighting form with a book deal on – what else – the “war on Christmas.”

That’s right, get ready to revisit the Christmas wars, Palin-style.

The nation’s most impersonate-able politician is penning a book titled A Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas, scheduled for publication by Harper Collins in November.

“Amidst the fragility of this politically correct era, it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored,” Palin said in a statement released through her publisher, according to the AP. “This will be a fun, festive, thought provoking book, which will encourage all to see what is possible when we unite in defense of our faith and ignore the politically correct Scrooges who would rather take Christ out of Christmas.”

According to the publisher, the book will explore the “over-commercialism” and “homogenization” of the holiday and advocate “reserving Jesus Christ in Christmas.”

This will be Palin’s third book (after “Going Rogue” and “America by Heart”), and by all accounts, the third time’s no charm.

Things can’t be going well for the nation’s one-time almost-vice president if she’s writing a book about Christmas. In March.

As the Washington Post pointed out, “Christmas books are like Christmas albums: They are not things you make and announce in March when your career is going anywhere good.”

And the “Christmas wars,” really? We thought the nation had moved on – from that manufactured hullabaloo – and from Palin.

It’s certainly not the first time publishers took on dubious book deals.

But whatever doubt we cast and whatever Palin writes about “over-commercialism,” one thing’s for sure: this baby’s gonna sell.

Husna Haq is a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor

"The Invention of Hugo Cabret" was a 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature finalist. The film version of the book – "Hugo," directed by Martin Scorsese – was released in 2011 and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.

'How did they ever make a movie of "Lolita?" '

By Contributor / 03.12.13

It was in 1962 – three years after the novel received a National Book Award nomination – that Stanley Kubrick's film version of Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" was released. Kubrick later said that, had he realized how tough it would be to get past the censors, he probably never would have made the movie.

But he did. And next month his achievement will be honored at the first Novel to Screen Film Festival, created by the National Book Foundation and the Pratt Institute. The inaugural festival will be held on April 4-5 on the Manhattan campus of Pratt, to celebrate Kubrick's "Lolita" and two other movie adaptations of National Book Award nominees. The three movies will be screened and each will be followed by a panel discussion by actors, writers, filmmakers, critics, and scholars who will consider the faithfulness of the adaptation.

On the 4th, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of  Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" will be screened.  Both Warren Miller's "The Cool World" (adaptation by Shirley Clark) and Brian Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" ("Hugo" adapted by Martin Scorsese) will be screened on the 5th.

The film version of "The Cool World" – a 1960 National Book Award nominee – was released in 1964. "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" was a 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature finalist. The film version – Scorsese's "Hugo" – was released in 2011 and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.

Of the three, "Lolita" is the only one for which book's author also wrote the screenplay. Nabokov received an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation.

The National Book Award website says, "All screenings are free and open to the public, but seats are limited. To reserve your seat, send an email to Sherrie Young at with “RSVP for Novel-to-Screen” in the subject line."

It has been pointed out by the DOJ, among others, that the Apple case is a part of a larger problem – the relevance of publishers. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Apple CEO may testify in price-fixing case

By Contributor / 03.11.13

Tim Cook, Apple Inc. CEO may have to testify in the United States Department of Justice's (DOJ) case against Apple over e-book price fixing, if the government is granted its request. US District Judge Denise Cote will consider the request on March 13 says Reuters.

We've blogged on this before, but as a reminder, last April, the DOJ sued Apple and five publishing houses for collusion to fix the prices of e-books. This is a violation of anti-trust law and a successful case for the government would mean that Apple would be severely limited as to how it can conduct its business from now on. The five publishing houses, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and – as of February – Macmillan, have all dropped out of the case, settling with the US government for fines and restrictions on their publishing practices. Only Apple is left, and according to court papers (and Reuters), "the Justice Department is not seeking monetary damages but a judicial decree that Apple violated antitrust law."

Apple has framed the lawsuit as an unfair attack on its business model. The company has said that the only way it could remain competitive in a market dominated by Amazon was to sign contracts with the publishing houses not allowing them to sell their books for less to another distributor (unless they let Apple cut prices, too). This allowed Apple to compete with Amazon as the company found its legs in the market.

Basically, Amazon can buy books from publishing houses at one price and sell them wholesale at whatever price they want. In this case, $9.99, which is actually operating at a loss for Amazon, but it allows them to get many more consumers. This steeply undercuts the physical book market, especially when e-book titles are released the same day as the physical book, but for less money.

Apple, and other publishers, reacted to that by adopting a different business model – selling their books for a little more and allowing the publishing houses to take a direct cut of the profit, instead of selling their books wholesale to the distributor and losing physical book sales. Apple is making the case that this model encourages competition and innovation in the e-book market, even though it is more expensive.

The DOJ says that Apple and the publishing houses met to decide prices, which is an enormous violation of anti-trust law in a supposedly competitive market.

It has been pointed out by the DOJ, among others, that the case is a part of a larger problem – the relevance of publishers. Brick-and-mortar distributors are losing their tenure as e-book popularity grows. With publishing houses facing an uncertain future, Apple's business model seemed likely to give them a larger profit, allowing them to stay in the game.

The effect of a ruling on the Apple case may overturn the market, depending on what the court decides.

Ben Frederick is a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

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