“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusack, a novel that follows a book-loving girl living in WWII-era Germany, became a publishing phenomenon following its release in 2006. The book received positive reviews and has appeared often on the New York Times bestseller list since then, currently holding the number one spot on the NYT Young Adult bestseller list for Nov. 10.
So it’s probably no surprise that “Thief” was adapted for the big screen. The movie stars actress Sophie Nélisse as Liesel, a young orphan who goes to live with foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson). Liesel also comes to know a young Jewish man named Max when Hans and Rosa shelter him in their basement. The film is directed by Brian Percival, who also helmed several episodes of “Downton Abbey.”
The movie opens in limited release Nov. 8 and will enter wide release on Nov. 15.
What are critics saying so far? Reviews seem to be middling. The Monitor’s Peter Rainer awarded the movie a B-, saying that Nélisse is “a captivating young performer” and that Rush and Watson “give depth to what might otherwise have been mere star turns,” but called the film itself “respectable, safe, intelligent – and a bit dull.”
“[It’s] a shameless piece of Oscar-seeking Holocaust kitsch,” Holden wrote of the film.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times critic Robert Abele was even less enamored, saying he found it odd that the movie “features little discussion of the emotional pull of reading, storytelling or writing” and that the movie “skirts explicitly addressing the fate of that generation's Jews.”
“What director Brian Percival and screenwriter Michael Petroni serve up is just another tasteful, staid Hollywoodization of terribleness, in which a catastrophic time acts as a convenient backdrop for a wishful narrative rather than the springboard for an honest one,” Abele wrote.
Entertainment Weekly writer Adam Markovitz, like Rainer, gave the film a B-, calling it “schmaltzy.”
“Any plot point that wouldn't pair with a swell of violins has been neatly excised,” Markovitz writes, though he calls Rush and Watson’s performances “smart [and] understated.”
Is there a teenage canon? A class of books teenagers typically turn to as a rite of passage, a form of identity, an expression of belonging – or not belonging?
Not only is the teenage canon alive and well, there appear to be multiple teenage canons: An angst canon especially for young men, a social canon especially for young women, a classic canon that spans the generations, and a modern one for today’s youth.
That’s according to a new article by the BBC examining the angst canon, a collection of “disaffected literature for disaffected teenagers.”
“At the age of 17 and 18, readers are often searching for something with a bit of existential angst. And nothing taps into teenage angst quite like the idea of exceptionalism,” writes the BBC. “The books in 'the canon' can provide a feeling of uniqueness – a clandestine understanding of the world that nobody else quite gets.”
The irony, of course, is that everybody else is undergoing the same experience and reading the same literature, books like Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” George Orwell’s “1984,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” and Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.”
Because they command such respect in the adolescent crowd, these are the books no teenager would read only as an e-book, or surreptitiously stuff into a backpack. No, these are the books youngsters tote as a badge of honor, what one might read in a coffee shop, on the subway, even “wear.”
That’s right, “the book itself might be placed conspicuously on show, with the titles poking out of school blazer pockets and tops of satchels,” writes the BBC, with one commenter calling such works “accessory books” and “statement reading.”
Unifying these books is a theme of alienation, a sense of not belonging, of being an outsider – not coincidentally, the very same themes of adolescence.
Curiously, however, the article found a dramatic gender disparity in the teenage canon.
Whereas young men tend to gravitate toward angst-themed works, young women turn to works exploring social mores.
“There’s an absolutely dramatic difference between what girls and boys read at puberty,” Lisa Jardine, a historian who has researched reading preferences of men and women, told the BBC. “Boys read angst books, so they read ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ ‘L’Etranger,’ and books like that. Girls read expanding emotion and sensibility books. ‘Jane Eyre,’ [Dodie Smith’s] ‘Capture the Castle,’ the Brontes…books about difficult relationships.”
And while generations of teenagers and young adults have turned to classics like “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Catch-22,” and “1984,” a new canon appears to have sprung in recent years, one that appears to capture the interest of both young (and not-so-young) men and women.
Forming this canon are such series as Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games,” Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight,” and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter.”
Unique in this canon is its ability to attract the interest of both young men and young women, to simultaneously explore themes of exclusivity and exclusive societies along with explorations of intricate social structures.
And while this modern canon reflects the evolving set of issues today’s teenagers face, the classic canon – “The Stranger,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Catch-22” – has a certain timelessness that makes it a perpetual source of comfort for generations of teens.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The company says it created the program to “empower” indies to sell the company’s e-devices. Stores that are interested can choose to either purchase Kindles from Amazon and receive a 6 percent discount on the devices (and a 30 percent discount on accessories), then receive 10 percent of the money from sales of Kindle e-books and single-issue magazines for two years. (Video content, subscriptions to magazines, and other options don’t qualify for the commission.) This is called the Bookseller Program. In Amazon’s other option, titled the Retailer Program, stores can buy Kindles for a 9 percent discount and a 35 percent discount on accessories.
“Customers don’t have to choose between e-books and their favorite neighborhood bookstore – they can have both,” Amazon vice-president for Kindle Russ Grandinetti said in a statement.
Only stores in certain states can choose which plan they want, however. According to the Amazon website, a list of states including Colorado, Louisiana, and Vermont – 26 in total – are ineligible for the Bookseller Program.
There is also a trial period offered in which stores can return an order they place within six months.
“If you decide that e-readers and tablets aren’t the right fit for your store, we’ll buy back any tablet, e-reader or accessory that was on your first order, no questions asked,” the Amazon website reads.
Locations who wish to participate must have a brick-and-mortar store out of which they operate – no online booksellers allowed – and store staff must be able to offer state resale exemption certificates.
Stores that participate are still allowed to sell other e-readers or electronic devices.
The Amazon Source website includes a “Testimonials” section which currently contains two quotes from stores in Washington, including one from JJ Books co-owner Jason Bailey. According to Publishers Weekly, the two stores quoted were part of a pilot program in which Amazon tested the idea.
“JJ Books is excited to expand our selection to now include Kindle devices for our customers,” Bailey said. “We feel that Amazon is the leader for e-readers, and working with them to bridge the move to electronic books and find a way to create a new model is the means to longer-term viability for independent bookstores. Kindle will help us bridge the evolution of the bookstore into the Internet age.”
Many indie stores are already partnered with Kobo, which sells e-devices. (However, according to Wired writer Marcus Wohlsen, the 10 percent offered by Amazon is reportedly twice what indie stores receive from Kobo when a customer purchases an e-book.)
We reported back in June that some indie bookstores had been receiving calls from people claiming to be from Amazon asking if the stores would be interested in a program in which the stores sold Kindles. At the time, many told the callers they would not participate in such a program.
After the announcement, an Amazon spokesperson, Kinley Pearsall, told the New York Times that “I can tell you anecdotally that the interest we’ve seen since announcing this morning has been very strong.”
But many booksellers still seem unimpressed by the idea now that it’s official, including New England Independent Booksellers Association president Suzanna Hermans, who is also co-owner of the New York store Oblong Books & Music.
“If Amazon thinks indie bookstores will become agents for the Kindle, they are sorely mistaken,” Hermans told Publishers Weekly. “There is no way I will promote Amazon products in my stores after the havoc they have wreaked on our industry as a whole. Sorry, Jeff. I’m not buying it.”
Richard Howorth, owner of Mississippi store Square Books, said he found the idea “offensive.”
“Marie Antoinette might like to go into the guillotine business,” he told Publishers Weekly. “Amazon should be paying fees to independent bookstores for the extraordinary marketing of reading and books that benefits them, rather than devising absurd schemes they claim make us ‘partners’ but actually drive us out of business.”
Seattle Mystery Bookshop worker J.B. Dickey felt much the same.
“We help Amazon grow its business and, in return, get a thin slice of the sale?” Dickey said in an interview with the New York Times. “That’s not cooperation. That’s being complicit in your execution."
Meanwhile, David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Bookstore in Colorado, told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that “if anyone thinks Amazon is going to do you a favor, you better have someone walking behind you so you don't feel the stab. Their whole entire business model is predatory.... I don't see any possible way to live in the same ecosystem as Amazon. They don't want anybody else. They want to be the go-to source for everything in the world.”
Cusack and Jackson will star in a film adaptation of King’s novel “Cell,” according to TheWrap.
King’s book, which was released in 2006, takes place during a crisis in which a signal broadcast to cell phones turned anyone who used one into a zombielike creature. An artist named Clay is in Boston when the event occurs and is separated from his son by the outbreak. Clay tries to find his son as he and others work to evade the cell phone users.
According to TheWrap, Cusack will portray Clay while Jackson will take on the role of Tom McCourt, a former member of the military with whom Clay joins up and escapes the city of Boston.
Tod Williams, who also helmed 2010’s “Paranormal Activity 2,” will reportedly direct the film.
King is behind the script for the film with screenwriter Adam Alleca, who also wrote the horror film “The Last House on the Left.”
Benaroya Pictures, one of the studios behind the movie, said in a statement that “it’s really exciting to have such a great cast continue to come together on this project.”
A release date has not been announced for the film.
Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel “Madame Bovary” is being adapted into a new version for the screen.
“Jane Eyre” actress Mia Wasikowska is starring as Emma Bovary while actor Henry Lloyd-Hughes of “Anna Karenina” is portraying her husband Charles. Actor Paul Giamatti is playing Monsieur Homais, the pharmacist in the town in which the Bovarys reside, while “The Amazing Spider-Man” actor Rhys Ifans is portraying Monsieur Lheureux, a merchant who convinces Emma to live beyond her means.
Sophie Barthes, who previously helmed the 2009 film “Cold Souls” (also starring Giamatti), is directing the film.
“Bovary” has previously been adapted as a 2000 TV miniseries which aired on PBS starring Frances O’Connor and “Downton Abbey” actor Hugh Bonneville and as a 1949 feature film starring Jennifer Jones and James Mason.
It’s not that often that we hear about MacKenzie Bezos and Randi Zuckerberg.
But both relatives of online entrepreneurs – MacKenzie is wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Randi is sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – have recently inserted themselves into the national spotlight, and national controversy, via books.
The result is an intriguing perspective on two of the most influential businesses in the world.
Mrs. Bezos, a novelist whose marriage to Jeff Bezos preceded the birth of Amazon, yesterday posted a one-star review of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” a much-publicized biography of the Amazon founder.
In a 922-word review, she describes “The Everything Store” as “a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon.”
“I have firsthand knowledge of many of the events,” she writes. “Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book,” she adds.
She knocks author Stone, a reporter with Bloomberg Businessweek and former reporter with the New York Times, for using words like “Bezos believed” and “Bezos felt” without ever having interviewed the Amazon CEO. She also says the book uses techniques that “stretch the boundaries of non-fiction.”
The review got so much press that both Amazon and the book’s publisher, Little, Brown, released statements. Reagan Arthur of Little, Brown, told the New York Times the book was “scrupulously sourced and reported,” and had been “reviewed widely and praised for its evenhandedness.” An Amazon spokesperson responded that Stone "had every opportunity to thoroughly fact check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative, but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to."
Clearly, MacKenzie Bezos has firsthand knowledge – as well as significant bias.
But while she uses that to defend her husband, Randi Zuckerberg uses the same intimacy to warn of the dangers of social media such as Facebook.
In two new books, Ms. Zuckerberg, who worked at Facebook as a marketing director for six years, suggests adults and children alike should limit their use of social media such as Facebook.
“Dot Complicated: How to make it through life online in one piece,” has been described as “a cross between memoir and how-to guide,” and shares its name with a newsletter Zuckerberg started. It addresses issues of privacy, social identity, authenticity, and crowd-sourcing, according to a report by the UK’s Guardian.
The second is a children’s book simply titled “Dot,” about a young girl named Dot who discovers the pleasures of the outdoors when her mother confiscates her tablet, cell phone, and other electronic devices.
“Dot is a spunky little girl, obsessed with electronic devices,” reads the book’s blurb. “Dot knows a lot. She knows how to tap ... to swipe ... to share ... online, but she pays little attention to anything else.”
Nonetheless, while “Dot” and “Dot Complicated” advise taking breaks from social media (“Just because we have a megaphone doesn’t mean we need to shout from it all the time,” and “Just because you can document your every waking moment doesn’t mean you should,” Zuckerberg writes) they don’t quite throw Facebook or its founder under the bus.
“Zuckerberg regards living mostly online as normal,” according to a NYTimes review of the books, and “warns those whom she calls ‘Facebook refuseniks’ that they are courting social isolation....”
In fact, Randi Zuckerberg is currently founder and chief executive of Zuckerberg Media, and travels the world extolling social media as a major force for good, one that helps connect people, spread ideas, rally support, and give voice to many – but that can also leave users feeling “overwhelmed, insecure, and confused.”
In her honest comments, Zuckerberg reveals her ambivalence toward Facebook and other social media, simultaneously praising its virtues and lamenting its pitfalls.
It’s a rare treat for users of Amazon and Facebook: In their brief national cameos, Mrs. Bezos and Ms. Zuckerberg offer readers glimpses from the inside, a rare perspective on two of the most influential businesses in the world.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
“The Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins recently spoke out in support of an unusual ad campaign that’s being conducted to promote the upcoming release of the film adaptation of the second book of her "Hunger Games" trilogy, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
In addition to the usual trailers for the film, the movie’s studio Lionsgate also created a fake online magazine titled Capitol Couture that imitates popular fashion publications and features “interviews” with the fictional tributes who are forced to participate in the new Hunger Games to be seen in “Catching Fire.”
The fake publication is in line with the high priority placed on fashion in the superficial Capitol in Collins’s world and the way that the tributes who are chosen for the Games instantly become celebrities.
Cover Girl is also promoting products in tandem with “Catching Fire,” allowing consumers to “choose their district” and creating makeup looks based on the main products of each district. (A customer choosing district four, for example, would be offered blue and green products based on the fact that the district is responsible for much of the fishing done by the country).
Fans can also buy Capitol-inspired looks designed by the movies’ costume designer Trish Summerville through retailer Net-A-Porter.
According to Variety, Lionsgate marketing chief Tim Palen has spearheaded this effort.
Collins told Variety she is impressed by the marketing campaign.
“I’m thrilled with the work Tim Palen and his marketing team have done on the film,” Collins told the publication via e-mail. “It’s appropriately disturbing and thought-provoking how the campaign promotes ‘Catching Fire’ while simultaneously promoting the Capitol’s punitive forms of entertainment. The stunning image of Katniss in her wedding dress that we use to sell tickets is just the kind of thing the Capitol would use to rev up its audience for the Quarter Quell [the name of the games in “Catching Fire”]. That dualistic approach is very much in keeping with the books.”
Lionsgate marketing chief Tim Palen told Variety that he thinks placing the movie tie-ins in Collins’ universe will appeal to “Hunger Games” fans who might be leery of overt product placement.
“There’s a little punk-rock, anti-establishment in the true core fans, the purists,” Palen said of the books’ fan base. “There was always a strong sense we should keep [the campaign] authentic and not overtly gross.”
“Ender’s Game” author Orson Scott Card recently announced he would be penning more books set in the “Ender” universe.
The film version of Card’s novel “Ender’s Game,” the first book of the series, was released on Nov. 1.
Card announced the new books during a video interview at Southern Virginia University, where he is a professor.
“The other thing that I think nobody knows.… this is my first public announcement of it, is a new set of sequels to ‘Ender’s Game,’” Card said during the video. “It's for a YA audience. It’s about what happens to Battle School after the International Fleet loses its purpose of war. It becomes what is called Fleet School and it prepares kids to be commanders, explorers, in the colonies that are going to be forming.”
There are already multiple books which take place in the world of Ender Wiggin, the main character of the novel “Ender’s Game,” which was first released in 1985. Multiple books and short stories have focused on Ender and those living in his world, and the first two books in a planned prequel trilogy, titled “Earth Unaware” and “Earth Afire,” were written by Card and author Aaron Johnston and were released in 2012 and this past June, respectively. The final book in the trilogy is planned to be released in 2014.
In the video interview, Card did not offer a prospective release date for his new series.
The film adaptation of “Ender's Game” topped the box office last weekend but has received mixed reviews, currently holding a score of 51 out of 100 on the review aggregating site Metacritic.
Juicy details about the 2012 presidential election – including some of the reasons that GOP candidate Mitt Romney dumped Chris Christie as a potential running mate – have been revealed ahead of the release of what might be one of the year’s most anticipated political books.
From Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the authors behind the uber-popular “Game Change,” comes “Double Down,” a dramatic account of the 2012 election from both sides of the aisle. “Double Down,” which according to reports reads like a novel ripe with rich dialogue, fleshed-out characters, and detailed scenes, will be released by Penguin Press Tuesday.
Among the salacious morsels revealed ahead of the book’s Nov. 5 release is Romney’s on-again, off-again relationship with New Jersey governor Chris Christie – who is up for re-election Tuesday.
Christie’s ability to eloquently and passionately convey Romney’s message to donors and voters won him favor with Romney’s campaign, which reportedly seriously considered the New Jersey governor as Romney’s running mate.
But a series of concerns kept Christie off the ballot, including his perpetual tardiness to fundraising events (Romney is famously punctual), his demand for lavish travel arrangements, and his personal health, according to Time’s political blog.
According to the book, “Romney marveled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus.... Watching a video of Christie without a suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, ‘Guys! Look at that!’”
In characteristic fashion, Christie fought back. The book describes him as calling Romney’s campaign “a gaggle of clowns who couldn’t organize a one-ring circus.”
More fun morsels: According to “Double Down,” the Romney campaign adopted an aquatic-themed parlance for its vice presidential vetting. The veep search was codenamed “Project Goldfish,” and candidates were codenamed Pufferfish (Christie), Lakefish (Minn. Governor Tim Pawlenty), Filet-O-Fish (Ohio Sen. Rob Portman), Pescado (Fl. Sen. Marco Rubio), and Fishconsin (Wisc. Rep. Paul Ryan).
The book also detailed drama within the Obama campaign, most famously concerns about Vice President Joe Biden. According to the book, the re-election campaign considered swapping then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Biden in an effort to buoy support for the President. Focus groups and polling found no change in support with an Obama-Clinton ticket, so Biden stayed on.
Still, that detail has already put the White House on the defensive, and no doubt created an awkward moment for Obama and Biden.
“Double Down” reveals the source of the claim that Romney evaded taxes for 10 years as Jon Huntsman Sr., father of Jon Huntsman Jr., one of Romney’s GOP primary opponents.
And according to the Washington Post, the book also explains why Obama and Bill Clinton never finished a round of golf at Andrews Air Force base in September 2011. When asked how the unfinished outing with Clinton went, Obama told an aide, “I like him ... in doses.”
We’re expecting more juicy details and plenty more political gossip when “Double Down” hits shelves Tuesday. In the meantime, here's an excerpt.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The movie shows Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio)’s rise to success and his subsequent troubles with the law. The real Belfort was in jail for almost two years for crimes such as stock market manipulation.
“Wolf” also stars “This Is the End” actor Jonah Hill as Belfort’s friend Donnie Azoff and other actors including Matthew McConaughey and Kyle Chandler.
The movie is directed by Martin Scorsese in another team-up between the director of “The Departed” and DiCaprio. There had been rumors that the release date of “Wolf” was being pushed into 2014, but currently the film is set to come out Dec. 25.
The new trailer shows Belfort gaining Azoff as a co-worker (Azoff spots Belfort’s car in a parking lot and is so impressed by how much Belfort makes that he quits his job to go work for Belfort) and Belfort’s business practices as well as his troubles with the law.
“This is my home,” Belfort yells in his office at one point in the trailer. “The show goes on. They’re going to need to send in the National Guard to take me out, because I ain’t going nowhere.”
Check out the full preview.