Up in the Air

up in the airup in the air

Jason Reitman's film, Up in the Air, starring George Clooney, comes to local movie theaters on December 25, but you can get a preview of the story that's being hailed as the most timely of the year by reading the book of the same title by Walter Kirn. Reitman spent several years adapting the novel into a screenplay, turning it from a story about a guy who gets paid to lay people off into one man's search for self-realization and fulfillment.

In the film, Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a frequent flyer, motivational speaker, professional firer, and reveler in the superficial pleasures of what Chuck Palahniuk called the "single serve life." All this changes when a new female coworker introduces a cost-cutting idea that threatens to end his flight hopping lifestyle. The film has some local connections too, for several scenes were filmed at Detroit Metro Airport, and one sequence features real-life Detroit residents that have recently lost their jobs.

Other thematically related items at the AADL include the book Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed, created by actress Annabelle Gurwitch, as well as her DVD and CD also called Fired!

Early December Books to Film

InvictusInvictus

A Clint Eastwood film, Invictus is based on John Carlin's Playing the Enemy : Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation.

Set in post-apartheid South African, Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, a rugby captain entrusted by Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) with bringing socially unifying sporting glory to post-apartheid South African during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (Dec. 11th)

The much anticipated The Lovely Bones is based on Alice Sebold's 2002 mega-hit. Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) plays Susie Salmon, a 14 year-old who has been murdered. As she watches over her family --- and her killer --- from heaven, she must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. Also starring Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon.

Academy-award Director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), a pre-eminent maker of fantasy and horror films, manages to bring "a kind of dreamy meditation on the fragile boundary between life and death", unexpectedly "soothing and solemn", visually stunning. Can't wait. (Dec. 11th)

A Single Man is based on Christopher Isherwood's novel of the same title. Set in Los Angeles in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, it is the story of a British college professor who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his long time partner. The story is a romantic tale of love interrupted, the isolation that is an inherent part of the human condition, and ultimately the importance of the seemingly smaller moments in life.

Colin Firth gives an award-worthy performance as George Falconer, and the all-grown-up "incandescent" Nicholas Hoult (cherubic in About a Boy) is Kenny - a lithe, graceful, angel of sorts. (Dec. 11th)

Up in the Air is based on Walter Kirn's 2001 novel about Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and after he’s met a fellow frequent-flyer of his dreams. (Dec. 4th)

Booklist's Top 10 First Novels and Fabulous Fiction Firsts #188

Of Booklist's Top 10 First Novels 2009, 5 of them were blogged here. (Dream House, A Fortunate Age, The Invisible Mountain, Miles from Nowhere, and Precious). Quite a number of them are sitting on the shelves. Perhaps you would give them a second glance now.

And I happened to have just finished a 6th on the list - Grace Hammer : A Novel of the Victorian Underworld by Sara Stockbridge – a gripping and captivating debut novel set amidst the squalor of London’s East End where Grace makes a comfortable living managing her brood of pickpockets. Out of the blue, her checkered past is about to catch up with her. A magnificent ruby necklace might spell her doom. “Fast-paced, racy”, with plenty of intrigue, local color and masterfully realized characters.

Clearly, those folks at Booklist know how to pick them! Highly recommended by my good friend Jen Baker who knows her historical thrillers.

U-M creative writing alum to speak Friday

On Friday at 4 p.m., author and Nigerian priest Uwem Akpan -- a 2006 graduate of the U-M MFA creative writing program -- will speak at Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library about his debut short story collection, Say You're One of Them, which won a 2009 Oprah book award. The five stories in the book, set in five separate African countries, reflect the wisdom and resilience of children, even in horrible circumstances. At U-M, the author is a former Career-in-the-Making Fellow in the Institute for the Humanities.

Looking for a Christmas Read?

In previous years, I've suggested popular fiction for holiday reads. This year I have decided to concentrate on two of my favorite genres: Romance and Mystery.

Recently, I buried myself in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower Series. The final book in this 5 part series is Wallflower Christmas. Once Lillian Bowman and the other Wallflowers are settled with beaus, it's time to find her elder brother Rafe a wife. If romance, action, mystery, and the supernatural meets your interest, try Kerrelyn Sparks' All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire part of the Love at Stake Series. If short stories are your thing try this Christmas compilation: Wish List with stories by Lisa Kleypas, Lynsay Sands, Claudia Dain, and Lisa Cach.

For good Christmas mystery reads try Deck the Halls and it's sequel He Sees You When Your Sleeping co-written by bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. Regan Reilly, Carol Higgins Clark's dynamic young sleuth, meets Alvirah Meehan, Mary Higgins Clark's famous lottery-winning amateur detective, and both embark on a desperate search for Regan's kidnapped father and then reassemble in the sequel to help a family reunite during the holidays. Additionally, there is the short story collection Wolfsbane and Mistletoe with tales by talented authors such as Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, and Carrie Vaughn.

For more suggestions of Romance, Mystery, as well as other Fiction Christmas reads, Check out: http://www.overbooked.org/booklists/subjects/themes/christmas.html

More November Books to Film

Feature film The Blind Side is based on Michael Lewis's sports biography The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.

Teenager Michael Oher, homeless, wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the dead of winter is spotted on the street by Leigh Anne Tuohy who, without a moment’s hesitation, takes him in. What starts out as a gesture of kindness becomes much more as the family helps Michael fulfill his potential, both on and off the football field. Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock, and Kathy Bates star in this inspirational film. (November 20th release)

The Road is based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity. (Starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron , it opens November 25th everywhere).

Newcomer Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Zac Efron star in Me and Orson Welles - based on a romantic coming-of-age novel about a teenage actor Richard Sameuls, who lucks into a role in Julius Caesar as it’s being re-imagined by a brilliant, impetuous young director named Orson Welles at his newly founded Mercury Theatre in NYC, 1937.

Author Robert Kaplow chronicles the roller-coaster week leading up to opening night when the charismatic-but-sometimes-cruel young Welles stakes his career on a risky production while Richard mixes with everyone from starlets to stagehands. When the mercurial Welles casts his eye on the woman with whom Richard himself had fallen in love, all hell breaks loose. (Limited release November 25th).

World Fantasy Awards

DragonDragon
Created in the mid-1970s, the World Fantasy Awards, associated with the annual World Fantasy Conventions were established as a fantasy counterpart to the SF-oriented Hugo and Nebula Awards. If you enjoy reading/watching/writing fantasy or science fiction, the annual conventions are definitely for you! Think about attending the 2010 convention. It will be close by in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of October 28-31. A great way to celebrate Halloween by dressing up as your favorite fantasy character- a Volturi anyone?

Here are the winners for best novel:

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford: In the wake of a classmate's disappearance, a sixth grader and his older brother observe strange events in 1960s Long Island, including the appearance of a man in a large white car and the deteriorating mental state of the school librarian.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: A young woman who has endured unspeakable cruelties is magically granted a safe haven apart from the real world and allowed to raise her two daughters in this alternate reality, until the barrier between her world and the real one begins to break down.

Best Anthology:
Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, by: Ekaterina Sedia, ed.
A collection of urban fantasy stories featuring cities--whether real or imaginary and throughout history--and how they affect the lives and experiences of their inhabitants.

Best Collection:
The Drowned Life by: Jeffrey Ford: In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic.

Teen Stuff: Feed by M.T. Anderson

This weekend at a U of M hockey game I sat behind someone that texted, talked, and googled non-stop on their phone for the entire 2 hour game, not once looking up to follow the live action on the ice. This is not a commentary, merely an observation. But I couldn't stop thinking about M.T. Anderson's novel, Feed, which follows a futuristic group of teenage friends, all of whom have 'The Feed' implanted in their brains from a young age.

The Feed functions like a search engine, complete with instant message capabilities and streaming advertisements catered to (or shaping) their personal interests. The characters live their lives unquestioningly until Violet enters their scene, sans Feed, and illuminates the unsettling cost of information overload. Listening to the book on CD is especially engaging, since part of the narrative is the sound of The Feed, channeled directly to the listener.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #186

Seriously one of the best nordic crime fiction of the year, Anders Roslund's projected new series debut Box 21* is violent, horrific, and strangely gripping.

Over the course of a rainy summer's week in Stockholm, a Lithuanian prostitute viciously beaten close to death, three Stockholm police detectives investigating the case, sundry petty criminals, and a young doctor at the edge of despair cross path when one of them holds the the city hostage at gunpoint. While lives are lost, scores settled, secrets unearthed (Locker no. 21), friendship and honor severely tested, it is shame that drives the well-crafted thriller to its explosive and tragic conclusion.

Students of human nature and readers of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahlöo's Martin Beck series, Henning Mankell, and Karin Fossum - "Norway's Queen of Crime," will find this irresistible and affecting.

* = Starred reviews

The Original of Laura (Dying is Fun)

The Original of LauraThe Original of Laura

Before his death in 1977, Vladimir Nabokov had given express instructions to his wife Vera to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that comprised the rough draft of his work, The Original of Laura (Dying is Fun). Having once saved Lolita from the fire, Mrs. Nabokov could never bring herself to destroy the last remaining work of her husband before her death. So the manuscript was left to her son, Dmitri, the translator of many of his father’s works. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five years old, made the difficult decision to publish this final work, albeit contrary to his father’s wishes.

The story revolves around Phillip and his wife Flora - who was once the inspiration for a novel (Laura) written by a former lover. The story of “Laura” – a nymphet-like creature and ballet dancer - focuses on the relationship between her and a “Hubert Hubert” – her mother’s boyfriend. (Hmm…a distant relative of “Humbert Humbert?”) The character of Phillip appears to mirror some of the feelings of Nabokov himself, a man often preoccupied with death and the afterlife. Sound sketchy? That’s because The Original of Laura seems to be such a fragmented narrative that I have had a little difficulty discerning the clear story from reviews. Should Nabokov's son should be commended for his decision to publish this final work of his father's, or has he done him a disservice? Is Vladimir Nabokov spinning in his grave? After the book's release this month, we readers will be the judge. My hold is placed.

Syndicate content