Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust

From the New Directions Paperback Edition of Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust:

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts:
I am in such pain I dont know what to do sometimes I think I will kill myself my kidneys hurt so much. My husband thinks no woman can be a good catholic and not have children irregardless of the pain...

Miss Lonelyhearts answers letters like this one everyday. What began as a lighthearted newspaper job eventually becomes a living hell for Miss Lonelyhearts, who is actually a young man. With the weight of depression era New York City's lost, lonely and mistreated on his shoulders, he becomes disillusioned and hopeless, feeling trapped in his position. The question is, when, and how, will it end? This black hearted-ly humorous novella is short, around 70 pages, but really packs a punch.

Now we head all the way to the West Coast, to sunny Los Angeles. The Day of the Locust is now considered an American classic, and is quite possibly the definitive novel about early Hollywood. The tale centers around a young Hollywood painter/costume designer named Tod Hackett, who becomes involved with a deplorable yet colorful cast of characters - an aspiring and manipulative young starlet, a cowboy, a Mexican cock-fighter, and a pathetically humorous character named Homer Simpson. Yes, Homer Simpson. (Matt Groening might deny that America's lovable doughnut-scarfing family man's name was taken straight from The Day of the Locust, but I don't believe him.) This one has a stunner of an ending. A film adaptation was made in 1975, although having not yet seen it, I cannot vouch for it.

Author Nathanael West's career ended far too soon in 1940. Tragically - and weirdly - he and his wife were killed in a car accident heading to the funeral services of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who happened to be a great admirer of West's.

Author Birthdays: Williams, O'Connor, Stewart

September 17th marks the birthday of authors William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Connor, and Mary Stewart.

William Carlos Williams was an American poet and pediatrician. He is typically regarded as a Modernist, though sometimes as an Imagist. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1963 for his collection Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems.

Williams also wrote Paterson, a five-book poem, often considered his "epic". The 1992 edition contains clarifying notes on the poem. A Library Journal review noted that "By exploring the local, Williams sought to descry the universal and to find in city and landscape symbolic analogues for the essential issues of human life."

Frank O'Connor was an Irish short-story writer who served in the Irish War of Independence; he was published in The New Yorker. One of his autobiographies, An Only Child, was even quoted by JFK in a speech he gave while president.

In addition to his own, O'Connor also wrote a book on the subject of short stories in general, called The Lonely Voice. The book discusses other authors such as Chekhov, Joyce, and Hemingway.

Mary Stewart is an English writer, probably most well-known for her historical fantasy quintet, The Merlin Chronicles, which begins with the book The Crystal Cave.

Stewart has also written mystery novels, most of which have a touch of romance, such as The Stormy Petrel and My Brother Michael.

Oprah's Book Club Pick

In 2008, Time Magazine wrote: "The all-powerful Oprah Book Club is not so much a club as a ruthlessly influential marketing vehicle, with the power to fundamentally alter best-seller lists, Amazon rankings and royalty payments." After much media speculation, the ruthlessly influential marketing vehicle of Oprah has announced her latest, and final, book club selection: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Visit Oprah's website for more about the book, an excerpt to read, a biography of the author, and much, much more.

September Books to Film, Part 2

nevernever

The highly acclaimed novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro has been adapted into film, to be released September 15.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but are not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school and the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them, they must also confront the deep feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to pull them apart.

Kazuo Ishiguro created a remarkable story of love, loss and hidden truths. In it he posed the fundamental question: What makes us human?

The Town is based on Chuck Hogan's Prince of Thieves.

Doug MacRay is an unrepentant criminal, leader of a group of ruthless bank robbers who pride themselves in stealing what they want. With no real attachments, Doug never has to fear losing anyone close to him. But that all changed on the gang’s latest job, when they briefly took a hostage --- bank manager Claire Keesey. Then Claire meets an unassuming and rather charming man named Doug, not realizing that he is the same man who only days earlier had terrorized her. The instant attraction between them gradually turns into a passionate romance that threatens to take them both down a dangerous, and potentially deadly, path.

Cast includes: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, and Blake Lively. In select theaters September 17.

Author Birthdays: Oliver, Diamond

September 10th marks the birthday of two American writers: Mary Oliver and Jared Diamond.

Mary Oliver is an American poet, now 75 years old and still writing. She has written many books of poems, including American Primitive, which won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1984. Parts of her collection The Leaf and the Cloud were included in The Best American Poetry books of 1999 and 2000.

The collection she published in 2006, called Thirst, has been praised by many reviews, including one from Booklist, which stated: "Oliver, one of the country's most popular and highly awarded poets, presents her credo at the outset of her newest collection: My work is loving the world. The poems that follow are what readers expect from Oliver, beautifully tempered lyrics celebrating the splendor of the living world."

Author Jared Diamond is a scientist, currently at UCLA. He has won many awards for some of his books, including the dual-winning The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution And Future Of The Human Animal. This book focuses on inter-species domination (like humans over chimpanzees), as well as humans domination over other humans.

Diamond won a Pulitzer for his book Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies, which discusses Eurasian civilizations' abilities to conquer through the advantages of geography rather than biology; the book was also made into a documentary by National Geographic. Almost all of his books focus on domination in some way, except for Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution Of Human Sexuality, which explains the seemingly peculiar aspects and evolution of human sexuality.

September Books to Film

American ClooneyAmerican Clooney

The American is adapted from Martin Booth's A Very Private Gentleman.

As an assassin, Jack (George Clooney) is constantly on the move and always alone. After a job in Sweden ends badly, Jack holes up in a small medieval town nestled in the mountains of Abruzzo. While there, Jack takes on an assignment to construct a weapon for a mysterious buyer, accepts the friendship of a local priest, and pursues a torrid liaison with a beautiful prostitute, Clara.

Julia Roberts stars in this big-budget, glossy, Hollywood adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's runaway bestseller Eat, Pray, Love : one woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia. It traces the author's decision to quit her job and travel the world for a year after suffering a midlife crisis and divorce - a journey that took her to three places in her quest to explore her own nature and learn the art of spiritual balance.

Flipped is the deligthful adaptation of Wendelin Van Draanen's teen romantic comedy of errors, told in alternating chapters by two fresh, funny new voices.

The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was the second grade, but not much has changed by the seventh. She says: “My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss.” He says: “It’s been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort.” But in the eighth grade everything gets turned upside down. And just as he’s thinking there’s more to her than meets the eye, she’s thinking that he’s not quite all he seemed.

The Odious Ogre

The creators of the long-loved classic The Phantom Tollbooth have gotten back together after an almost 50-year span apart to create a new picture book, the Odious Ogre. Written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, the new book is perhaps simpler, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's only for younger children.

In a NPR interview, Feiffer stated, "I wanted to do the biggest, meanest, filthiest ogre in the history of ogreship — and one who could barely fit on the page. And he does barely fit on the page."

In the same interview, Juster comments on the story itself: "The story means what it means to you. That's the way I look at all these stories. There's no one moral, unless you want to make one for yourself."

To see excerpts, visit NPR.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #221

William Ryan's The Holy Thief** opens in Moscow, 1936, when Stalin’s Great Terror is beginning.

In a deconsecrated church, a young woman is found dead, her mutilated body displayed on the altar for all to see. Captain Alexei Korolev, finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of his success with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia, is asked to investigate. But when he discovers that the victim is an American citizen, the NKVD—the most feared organization in Russia—becomes involved. Soon, Korolev’s every step is under close scrutiny and one false move will mean exile to The Zone, where enemies of the Soviet State, both real and imagined, meet their fate in the frozen camps of the far north.

Committed to uncovering the truth behind the gruesome murder, Korolev enters the realm of the Thieves, rulers of Moscow’s underworld. As more bodies are discovered and pressure from above builds, Korolev begins to question who he can trust and who, in a Russia where fear, uncertainty and hunger prevail, are the real criminals. Soon, Korolev will find not only his moral and political ideals threatened, but also his life.

With Captain Alexei Korolev, William Ryan has given us one of the most compelling detectives in modern literature. Readers will likely draw comparison to Leo Demidov, the hero in Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, another smashing debut when it was published in 2008.

Read Ryan's interview with 10 librarians and get a sense where the sequel will take us.

** = starred reviews

Author Birthdays: Burroughs, Cherryh

September 1st marks the birthday of authors Edgar Rice Burroughs and C. J. Cherryh.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American writer best known for his characters Tarzan (of the series by the same name) and John Carter (of the Barsoom series).

Burroughs also wrote the famous novel The Land that Time Forgot (first in the Caspak trilogy), which was originally published as a serial. The story is much like other famous "lost world" stories, like Journey to the Center of the Earth. The novel has been made into two films.

C. J. Cherryh is an American author of science-fiction and fantasy. Out of her impressive bibliography, two novels have won Hugo Awards for best novel: Downbelow Station and Cyteen. A department of NASA named an asteroid after her (77185 Cherryh), and said, in reference to it, "She has challenged us to be worthy of the stars by imagining how mankind might grow to live among them."

Among Cherryh's works are at least 15 series and a few solo novels. One of the series, called The Gene Wars, starts out with the book Hammerfall, which Publisher's Weekly summed up as "two women with superhuman powers wage psychic and genetic war for control of a civilization."

Author Birthdays: Buchan, Isherwood

August 26th marks the birthday of authors John Buchan and Christopher Isherwood.

John Buchan was a Scottish novelist and Governor General of Canada. He wrote mainly adventure fiction, five books of which contain the manly and MacGyver-like character Richard Hannay. Three other stories by Buchan feature the middle-aged reluctant hero Dickson McCunn, whose adventures start in the book Huntingtower.

Baron Buchan also wrote historical fiction, like the mystery Witch Wood, which features romance and religion in 17th century Scotland, and even a novel about a terminally ill man, his death and redemption, called Sick Heart River.

Christopher Isherwood was an English-born American author. One of his novels, Mr. Norris Changes Trains, was inspired by his life as an expatriate in Berlin in the 1930s. The main characters include the narrator, William Bradshaw, and the masochistic Arthur Norris.

Another of Isherwood's novels is A Single Man, which centers on a middle-aged gay Englishman and his recent partner's loss, which he must learn to cope with. It was recently made into a film by Tom Ford, and it stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

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