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ande
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#2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

[ Edited ]
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how book ideas are pitched and then promoted marketed and sold. Sometime during the last year one of the many organizations that keep track of this sort of thing noted that fewer than 4% of books published today are classified as “literature.” That struck me as pretty low, but even if the percentage is greater we’d still have a glut of books about cooking, losing weight, vampires, communing with the dead and the un-dead.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you have been visiting Book Explorers you know I am not a book snob. I have a fairly elastic view about what makes a book worth reading and by now you know that I think the best-book lists have a disconcerting sameness to them (what’s with yesterday’s New York Times Book Review’s Top Ten Book list –- if they’re so worth reading why not run a paragraph describing each one?).

The Book Explorers’ counter-programming is the Just Read it List (see #1). One thing lead to another and my fellow Explorers and I seem to have launched a mini-revolution that I will further encourage: the Just Put It Down List, a no guilt, true-confessions discussion about books we are supposed to read and want to read but we can’t get into. “Everyman” hit the nail right on the head with his thoughts about “classic books” and marketing (loved the reference to MAD magazine).

One reason I’ve been thinking about all this is that I spent last Friday afternoon with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellows at Harvard conducting a seminar called Demystifying Book Publishing: What Every Writer Needs to Know. My colleagues and I at the Literary Ventures Fund (where I am the editorial director) do this a lot in one form or another at book festivals, universities, publishing industry events etc., and three things tend to happen: writers want to know how to get a book published; publishers want to know how LVF chooses and markets the books it supports; and when we mention the continuing popularity of dog books the audience becomes very animated because EVERYONE has an opinion about a particular dog, dogs in general and dog books.

Just to prove that I really am not a book snob I have asked my columnist pal Dog Lady (syndicated and on the web at www.askdoglady.com) to recommend a literary dog book. Here's her response: "My Dog Tulip, the memoir of a cherished Alsatian by J.R. Ackerley. Ackerley, the British man of letters, immortalized Tulip in 1965, long before dogs were poufed and pampered. For 16 years, he loved his dog –- awkwardly, nobly, and memorably. This is dog book as literature, the one to savor under the Christmas tree. Published by New York Review Books Classics, with an introduction by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas."

Please continue to add books to the Just Read It List. Continue to confess and add to the Just Put It Down List.

And tell me: This holiday season, are you giving someone a dog book? A vampire book? A cookbook? A book about connecting with the dearly or not-so-dearly departed? A diet or a self-help book (talk about a lump of coal)? All of the above? None of the above?

What are you giving? And what are you hoping to get?

Ande

Message Edited by ande on 12-10-2007 06:17 PM

Message Edited by ande on 12-10-2007 06:23 PM
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IBIS
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

My Holiday wish list:

The entire alphabet series (From A to T) of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone mysteries. In hard cover.

The UK editions of all 7 Harry Potter books with the UK covers. In hardcover.

The entire Laura Ingalls Wilder LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series. In hardcover.

Giftwrapping not required.

IBIS (Honey, are you paying attention?)
IBIS

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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet


IBIS wrote:
My Holiday wish list:
The entire Laura Ingalls Wilder LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series. In hardcover.



I adore that series! Its setting and circumstances are about as far from my childhood and life as it gets. But its theme of familial bond is pretty universal. And the books taught me how to butcher a pig and to churn butter -- completely fascinating to one who grew up in the city. And it taught me to swear!

I give a set of those books (in hardcover) to friends who have new daughters in their lives -- it’s something for them to look forward to reading together. The set from my childhood are now waiting patiently on my daughter’s bookshelf. For the day she graduates from Good Night Moon.


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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

Speaking of meaningful books for girls: Any suggestions for a very clever and charming four year old. She can't get enough of horses, princesses and unicorns, but I think she could branch out.
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IBIS
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

The LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle..

I recommend this wonderful fantasy novel. It is one of the greats of the 20th Century. It was published in 1968, but it has never been out of print. There is an animated film of it that came out, and it was splendid. Your lovely 4-year old would love the animated film.
IBIS
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet


ande wrote:
Speaking of meaningful books for girls: Any suggestions for a very clever and charming four year old. She can't get enough of horses, princesses and unicorns, but I think she could branch out.




You might have some luck posting your questions in The Family Room. No doubt, there'll be plenty of opinions for you there.

Prompted by reviews of the film and the nasty weather outside, I'm about to dive into Atonement. It's been a long time since I've read a novel in which I found myself completely immersed and have high expectations for Mr. McEwan’s book. I hope this is not a "Just Put It Down" book.


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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

Maria, I did read ATONEMENT last year, and saw the movie adaptation last weekend. I do immerse myself in some of McEwan's writing, and ATONEMENT is one of them. I'm not too fond of his recent book ON CHESILL BEACH.

I don't ordinarily compare film adaptations positively to its literary counterpart, especially if I loved the book. But this is an exceptional case... the film does a fine interpretation. The cinematography is breath-taking; there have been negative reviews about that specific aspect...too arty, too self-conscious, too "oh look at what we can do!"... there is an undercurrent of how "sophisticatedly high-brow" we all are, but it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the film.

The film has inspired me to reread the book. Unfortunately, Cecilia will always be Keira Knightly in my imagination, so will James McAvoy eternally be Robbie to me.

That's the only negatives I can come up with.
IBIS
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

Thank you so much, IBIS.
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

Thanks for the tip, Maria!
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IBIS wrote:
Maria, I did read ATONEMENT last year, and saw the movie adaptation last weekend. I do immerse myself in some of McEwan's writing, and ATONEMENT is one of them. I'm not too fond of his recent book ON CHESILL BEACH.

I don't ordinarily compare film adaptations positively to its literary counterpart, especially if I loved the book. But this is an exceptional case... the film does a fine interpretation. The cinematography is breath-taking; there have been negative reviews about that specific aspect...too arty, too self-conscious, too "oh look at what we can do!"... there is an undercurrent of how "sophisticatedly high-brow" we all are, but it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the film.

The film has inspired me to reread the book. Unfortunately, Cecilia will always be Keira Knightly in my imagination, so will James McAvoy eternally be Robbie to me.

That's the only negatives I can come up with.
IBIS




You might be interested in this article in today's Times about the manor in which it was filmed. I was drawn to reading the book particularly because of reports of the film doing solid justice to the book.


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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

I've purchased Michael Rulhman's "Elements of Cooking" for my husband. There are two weddings in our family next year and as a reaction, I'm reading Cinderella Dreams by Elizabeth Pleck, couldn't quite get into Wedding Complex by Freeman. I've also been on a Danticat reading spree and will be giving Dew Breakers to another relative.

I'm looking for reading group suggestions for Women's History Month. This years theme has to do with Women in the Arts.
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

Maria, thank you for the link to the NYT article about the house used in ATONEMENT.
The house and the grounds were so magnificent, they were characters of their own in the film. It helped define in visual terms what I saw in the novel as the interiors lives of the characters.
IBIS
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet


ande wrote:
Continue to confess and add to the Just Put It Down List.


Two questions:

1) Has anyone read the multi-awarding-winning, grandly-acclaimed, much-blurbed Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson?

2) Do you agree or disagree with B. R. Myers's brutal review in Atlantic Monthly?


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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

I haven't read Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke yet, but I found this excerpt from a recent interview with him extremely amusing. The rest of the Q&A is on the National Book Awards site(www.nationalbook.org/nba2007_f_johnson_interv.html). It reminds us that we shouldn't assume an author is thinking about marketing, publicity or reviews when he/she sits down to write.

Q: What drew you to the story?
DJ: I have no idea.

Q: How does the book compare to other prose you’ve written?
DJ: It’s longer and, despite what anybody says, more conscientiously plotted.

Q: Were there moments in your writing process where you worried the book wouldn’t work? If so, how did you press on?
DJ: Well, I’ve never thought about this before, but now that you ask, it occurs to me I don’t have much interest whether any of my books work or not.
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

The reviews for Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson are terrifying. One reviewer wrote:

Johnson, a poet, ex-junkie and adventure journalist, has written a book that by the end wraps around you as tightly as a jungle snake.

UGH!

Are they deliberately trying NOT to promote the book?

IBIS
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet/Women in the arts

When I think about the books I have read about women artists I realize -- no surprise -- how they lived and worked in the shadows of male artists and/or were tormented by them and/or lived a life outside of the society's definition of a woman's role and behavior. And how often they pushed against and past these barriers to make great art. That applies to everyone from Jane Austen to Suzanne Farrell to those tough and beautiful quiltmakers of Gee's Bend.

A dancer friend suggests any of the recent books by or about Twyla Tharp. And if you haven't read "Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo," by Hayden Herrera, it's a book that will stimulate good conversation -- and maybe a few arguments! Has anyone read the newish book about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas -- "Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice" by Janet Malcolm?
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IBIS wrote:
The reviews for Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson are terrifying. One reviewer wrote:

Johnson, a poet, ex-junkie and adventure journalist, has written a book that by the end wraps around you as tightly as a jungle snake.

UGH!

Are they deliberately trying NOT to promote the book?

IBIS: That might have been a rhetorical question. But I'm glad you asked about reviews and book promotion since it's a really hot topic in the professional circles in which I travel (jounalism and publishing) and an often confusing one for the general public. The reviewer's role should end once the review is published -- or posted or aired on TV or radio. It's a breach of journalistic ethics if reviewers expand their role beyond a reasonable amount of enthusiasm or disgust and get involved in direct promotion or sales. But it's a big and confusing world out there: Blogs and book sites have opened new frontiers in book reviewing and promotion and some are the online extensions of a journalist's usual duties and many others are maintained by reviewers/book enthusiasts who are ruled by their own sets of guidelines.

So in the case of the reviewers who despised Tree of Smoke, that's right, they are saying don't buy it!
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet


IBIS wrote:
The reviews for Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson are terrifying. One reviewer wrote:

Johnson, a poet, ex-junkie and adventure journalist, has written a book that by the end wraps around you as tightly as a jungle snake.

UGH!

Are they deliberately trying NOT to promote the book?

IBIS




Right. That is from David Ignatius's review in The Washington Post.

Another great quote from it: "It is a presumptuous book, in other words, and you may resist for the first several hundred pages."

That said, I have not read the book, so I cannot judge.

By the way, I am loving Atonement.


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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

While we're on the topic of reviews: Did anyone read the review by PJ O'Rourke in yesterday's NYTBR (the book is about Starbucks)? It was very funny and cleverly done -- though if you said it was a bit nasty I wouldn't disagree. The first half of the review was an ugly dissection; the second half was much more encouraging (the review mirrored what O'Rourke saw as the split personality of the book). But I'll bet the author wasn't happy since the opening paragraph was dismissive and even though things got better as the review went on most readers probably never got that far.
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Re: #2 Heaven Scent: The Low Fat Vampire Dog Self Esteem Diet

[ Edited ]
Ande, I did read P.J. O'Rourke's NYTBR review of STARBUCKED. It was cleverly written. there were interesting tidbits about Starbucks that I never knew... for example, that in 1989 there were 585 coffee houses in America. Now there are more than 24,000. Mom and pop outfits account for 57% of them.

Which brings up one of my pet peeves... reviewers who spend 5/6 of their review talking about themselves, and 1/6 actually discussing the subject of the review... In this review, I learned more than I ever wanted to about P. J. O'Rourke, the reviewer himself, his money manager friends who kick themselves for not getting into the Starbucks thing when it first started.

And then I am privy to how the reviewer feels like the "teacher" of the young man (the young author of the book Taylor Clark, whom "he watches...outgrowing the vagaries and muddles of immaturity...and coming into his own as a young man of learning, reason and sense."

When I reached the end of this review, I had to remind myself what the title of the book was that initially attracted my attention.

All in all, it's kinda funny. I'm just saying...

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 12-17-2007 09:56 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."