What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'new york times')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: new york times, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 144
1. Important words about memoir, brought to you by Jesmyn Ward.

For any of those who might need just a bit more proof that it pays to, as I say "soften your stance" when approaching memoir, I offer these words from Jesmyn Ward, whose new memoir, Men We Reaped, is high on my reading list (but not read yet).

The story of Ward's memoir is featured in yesterday's New York Times in a piece by Laura Tillman. I excerpt from the middle of the story. I admire and applaud Ward's desire to find the larger story, for it is the larger story, always, that lies at the heart of memoir. She waited to write until she understood. She waited until she could identify meaning.

From the story:
“Men We Reaped,” to be published on Tuesday by Bloomsbury, is as much an existential detective story as it is a personal history, as Ms. Ward searches for a unifying reason that her brother, Joshua, her cousin C. J. and friends Roger, Demond and Ronald — all young black men — died within a four-year period. 

She writes first about Roger Eric Daniels III, who died of a heart attack at 23 while using cocaine.
“They picking us off, one by one,” a friend tells Ms. Ward in the book, as they watch the hearse leave Mr. Daniels’s home. 

Who, she wonders, are “they”? 

“Was there a larger story that I was missing as all these deaths accumulated, as those I loved died?”
“Men We Reaped” is that larger story. With a novelist’s skill, Ms. Ward mines her memories of the men, like the girlhood crush she had on Ronald, or the night she enlisted a friend to wake her sister, who was dating C. J., to break the news of his death. What she finds are threads of the past that linger in the collective present, specifically the role that the South’s legacy of racism has played in how these young men lived and died.


0 Comments on Important words about memoir, brought to you by Jesmyn Ward. as of 9/12/2013 12:06:00 PM
Add a Comment
2. "You might as well be a mensch": Messages from My Father/Calvin Trillin


Yesterday was a celebration of my father on his birthday—a surprise cake among his many friends at his church, a lunch at his favorite, cafe, a somewhat disorderly assemblage of preferred foods from the Farmers' Market, organized into sub-specialty themes (here we have our cheeses and crackers, here our apple fritters, here our quiche, here our pecan pie), tickets to an upcoming high school production of Grease.

None of it being close to enough to honor the man who has always done so much for his wife (whose grave he still visits daily, even in blasts of winter cold), his three children and his three children's children. Kep Kephart has been a stealth benefactor, a man who has given without the slightest expectation a quid pro quo. Where there has been need, he has stepped in. Where there was college to pay for, he did. Where there were little TVs or kitchen pots that might have helped ease the lonesomeness of first studio apartments on Camac Street, say, little TVs and kitchen pots materialized. Where a trip away was precisely the cure for the tedium of too much stuck in a rut, a check arrived in the mail."Your father is a very good man," I was told, time and again, as I planned his surprise moment at the church. "We don't know what we'd do without him."

I was thinking about Kep Kephart, a Penn grad, devoted Presbyterian, retired businessman, and active consultant, while I was reading about Abe Trillin, the Jewish grocer of Kansas City, in Calvin Trillin's memoir Messages from My Father. Trillin's slender memoir never pronounces its guiding questions, its framing themes. Rather, it begins with a declaration—"The man was stubborn."and proceeds to limn the life of a father who may not have made a strong first impression, with his "unprepossessing name," his "prominent nose," and his "negligible chin," but whose manners, values, and behaviors were of presidential caliber and consequence.

The contempt Abe feels "for people who felt the need to pump up their own importance" was encapsulated in a term; "that sort of person was "big k'nocker" (a phrase that would have fit nicely in with the recent New York Times story about parental boasting "A Truce in the Bragging Wars"). The fun he had with simple things—silly phrases, songs, marching tunes—seemed more important, looking back, than anything money might buy. His tenderness in letting an employee go, his admirable work ethic, his decision to be remembered, most of all, by his choice of yellow-tinted ties—all this gentleness, all this manliness, all this fatherliness. Calvin Trillin may have inherited his father's stubbornness, but he noticed, and absorbed, the bigger lessons his father taught.

Perhaps for Abe, and therefore Calvin, it all came down to a single phrase: "You might as well be a mensch." I hadn't seen the phrase before (the word, of course, but not the phrase), but I think I'd like to make use of it now—to seed my thoughts with its power. Here's Calvin in his trademark simply meaningful prose, parsing the line for the rest of us:

Even the words to live by that I have always associated most strongly with him—"You might as well be a mensch."lack grandiosity. The German word Mensch, which means person or human being, can take on in Yiddish the meaning of a real human being—a person who always does the right thing in matters large or small, a person who would not only put himself at serious risk for a friend but also leave a borrowed apartment in better shape than he found it. My father clearly meant for me to be a mensch. It has always interested me, though, that he did not say, "You must always be a mensch," or "The honor of this family demands that you be a mensch" but "You might as well be a mensch," as if he had given some consideration to the alternatives.

I take mensch to mean a sweep of things, and also these essential things: Remember others. Acknowledge others. Be happy for what they achieve. Listen more than you talk, if you can. Don't make too much of your own glory.

For more thoughts on memoirs, memoir making, and prompt exercises, please visit my dedicated Handling the Truth page.

3 Comments on "You might as well be a mensch": Messages from My Father/Calvin Trillin, last added: 2/14/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
3. Erdrich's CHICKADEE and Smith's INDIAN SHOES in NY TIMES

On December 4, 2012, The New York Times published "Books to Match Diverse Young Readers" about books that featured characters who are "black, Latino, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native." Here's a screen capture of the article:



The first book on the second row is Louise Erdrich's Chickadee. If you click on it, you'll be able to read the first words of the book. On the third row, the last image is Cynthia Leitich Smith's Indian Shoes. I heartily recommend Chickadee and Indian Shoes and am glad to see them getting this attention in the Times. 

I am not familiar with The Year of Miss Agnes, but it was not favorably reviewed in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. In it, reviewer Marlene Atleo writes that Miss Agnes is an eccentric and dedicated white teacher of Indigenous children, but that throughout, the message is that "Native people merely survive" and that "white people think..." Atleo's review includes an excerpt:
With Miss Agnes the world got bigger and then it got smaller. We used to think we were something, but then she told us all the things that were bigger than us, the universe and all that, and then all the things that were smaller. To small to even see. So people were sort of in between, not big and small, just in between.
Reading that excerpt, I see the trope of the white teacher rescuing the Indians from their primitive and ignorant ways. It doesn't make one lick of sense to me, though, given that Native peoples view ourselves as part of the world. I'm guessing that Alaska Native children in isolated areas already know that people are "in between." Isn't it, generally speaking, non-Native people who are the ones that need to learn their place in the world as caretakers rather than exploiters of the earth's resources?

If you choose Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, avoid the other Alvin book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties. It features Alvin playing Indian.
 
I'm uploading this post on December 7, 2012. For those of you looking for holiday gifts, put Chickadee and Indian Shoes on your lists. Both are available from Birchbark Books in their "young adult" link.

Buy books from Birchbark Books! Support independent bookstores!


0 Comments on Erdrich's CHICKADEE and Smith's INDIAN SHOES in NY TIMES as of 12/7/2012 12:07:00 PM
Add a Comment
4. NYT Creates Separate Middle Grade & YA Bestsellers Lists

The New York Times will divide its Children’s Bestsellers list for chapter books, creating separate middle grade and YA lists. NYT editor Pamela Paul announced the news last night on Twitter. We’ve embedded her three tweets below.

The newly formed middle grade and young adult lists will account for both eBook and print book sales. However, the picture books list will continue to exclusively spotlight on hardcover titles. What do you think?

The Fault in Our Stars author John Green offered this comment on his tumblr page: “In news that only matters to publishing nerds, the New York Times has changed its bestseller lists to become format neutral (so it counts e-book sales and doesn’t distinguish between hardcover and paperback)…Those of you who follow my tumblr closely may know that for many weeks, I have been chasing Bill O’Reilly and promising to destroy him. But now we have been placed on DIFFERENT LISTS.” (via Publishers Weekly)

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Add a Comment
5. can you tell the truth? (The Night of the Gun)

My respect for David Carr, the New York Times reporter, bestselling author, and (with A.O. Scott) Times video celeb, has been reported here.  What you've not seen on this blog is talk about Carr's reportorial memoir, The Night of the Gun.  By his own admission, Carr was a substance abuser of the very first order—a "maniac" who went from handling whiskey and cocaine (barely) to not handling crack to smacking women he loved with an open hand to raising twins while failing at rehab to carrying a gun he doesn't remember, or didn't remember until he started tracking down his own past. 

Like the scrupulous Times reporter he miraculously became, Carr sought out and interviewed those whose lives intersected his during his wilderness years.  He weighed his idea of things against police records and the recall of old friends.  He sorted, sifted, and spun in an attempt to understand not just who he was, but who he is, and how the was and the is somehow survive inside the same knocked-about skin.

It's fascinating reading, memoir painstakingly stitched. It has a lot to say not just about Carr's life, but about what truth is and what to do with all the stuff we can't rightly remember.  Here's an early paragraph that wisely captures one of my pet peeves (we shall read more about this in Handling the Truth)—memoirs filled with dialogue from hazy childhood days.
I read some of the classics of the genre, debunked and not.  After reading four pages of continuous ten-year-old dialogue magically recalled by someone who was in the throes of alcohol withdrawal at the time, I wondered how he did it.  No I didn't.  I knew he made it up.  It was easy and defendable, really, sublimating and eliding the past in service of a larger Emotional Truth.  Truth is singular and lies are plural, but history—the facts of what happened—is both immutable and mostly unknowable.  Can I somehow remember enough to type my way to an unvarnished recitation of what happened to me?  No chance.
A note for the curious:  I use Lana Roosiparg's gorgeous face as my photo of the day for no other reason than that it is a singular, and therefore, true one.  Lana is one of the four talented and lovely people recently featured in my husband's art.  This is an outtake from the photo shoot that yielded those hallucinatory worlds.

2 Comments on can you tell the truth? (The Night of the Gun), last added: 8/15/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
6. Let's talk about the label-ization of books (and Kristin Cashore)


The other day I pondered my own capabilities as an interviewee and concluded that I still need a bit of work.

A lot of work?  Yes, indeed.  A lot of work.

In this New York Times By the Book interview, Kristin Cashore, author of the esteemed Graceling (which I read and loved) and Fire (and, now, Bitterblue) shows us how a real interviewee chooses words rightly.  For Cashore's unwillingness to cop to easy answers or generalizations, for her range of knowing and wisdom, I respect the whole conversation.  I especially respect Cashore's response to the question, What makes a great young adult book — as opposed to a great book for full-fledged adults? Her answer:
The fact that at the moment the distinction is being made, a young adult, as opposed to an adult, is the one reading it. In other words, I don’t entirely believe in the distinction. A great book is a great book, and it’s impossible to say what part of a person is going to connect to it. Age and experience aren’t always among the most relevant factors.
Perhaps I celebrate this response because I hold this opinion this myself—and have often tried to express it, with varying degrees of eloquence, in interviews and on panels.  Just as I have fretted over the labeling of individuals, the attaching of classifications or lower-case nouns (oh, he's a manic depressive, oh, she's a workaholic), I do not cotton to the label-ization of books, to distinctions between young adult books and adult books, say, or to the assignment of fixed and self-limiting categories.  

What adult, for example, should not read Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again, and what teen should not read the never-officially-stamped-or-stickered To Kill a Mockingbird? Why should the first thing one is told about Julianna Baggot's Pure be that it is a dystopian novel, as opposed to an intelligent and artful and imaginative novel? Shouldn't the readership of Vaddey Ratner's astonishing, forthcoming "adult" novel about a child growing up in the Cambodian killing fields, In the Shadow of the Banyan, be both teens and adults? Doesn't Ilie Ruby's forthcoming The Salt God's Daughter have much to offer any age, and can't we talk about its gentle mysticism, its magic as poetry as opposed to brand or tag?

Certainly, I know how hard this would make things for booksellers and librarians.  I know that commerce requires labels, depends on it.  But wouldn't it be lovely if readers talking to readers dropped the labels and distinctions?  If we said, among ourselves, You must read this book because it is, quite simply, a great book, and because it will transport you. 

5 Comments on Let's talk about the label-ization of books (and Kristin Cashore), last added: 7/6/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
7. Miscellaneous Linkage: Weekend Edition

.

What’s been going on this weekend?

Bronys and pegasisters meet in New Jersey for “BronyCon Summer 2012″!

As Yahoo reports (via AP):

["Friendship is Magic" creator Lauren] Faust told The Associated Press at BronyCon on Saturday that she never imagined the show would be such a hit with teenage boys and young men. She said her main target was little girls, but she hoped to draw in moms and perhaps some boys with strong characters and compelling story lines.

“We live in a society where saying that something is for girls is the equivalent to saying that something is stupid, or saying that something isn’t worthwhile,” Faust said.

“I think that’s awful and I think that kind of attitude needs to be changed,” she said. “And these men are doing it. … They’re proud that they’re forward-thinking and modern enough to look past this misogynistic attitude.”

Faust said she, like the Bronies, is disturbed at the negative images some people have about men who like the show.

The New York Times’s chief movie critics, A. O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, ponder the meaning of an apparently invincible genre.

Scott and Dargis discuss why superhero movies are so popular, and what sort of meaning can be gleaned from the genre.

DARGIS They’re certainly avatars of reaction in how they justify and perpetuate the industry’s entrenched sexism. You just have to scan the spandex bulges in “The Avengers” to see that superhero movies remain a big boys’ club, with few women and girls allowed. Yes, there are female superheroes on screen, like Jean Grey from the “X-Men” series, but they tend not to drive the stories, while female superheroes with their own movies never dominate the box office. Most women in superhero movies exist to smile indulgently at the super-hunk, to be rescued and to flaunt their assets, like Scarlett Johansson’s character in “The Avengers,” whose biggest superpower, to judge by the on- and off-screen attention lavished on it, was her super-rump.

Your weekly article about comics and academia

drc superhero 200x134 Miscellaneous Linkage: Weekend EditionUniversity of North Texas professor Shaun Treat teaches “Mythic Rhetoric of Superheroes” in the UNT Department of Communication Studies.

Half of the University of North Texas students in professor Shaun Treat’s summer class had never read a comic book.

His WordPress blog can be found here.  The amazing syllabus is here!  What’s on the reading list?<

3 Comments on Miscellaneous Linkage: Weekend Edition, last added: 7/2/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
8. slowly extricating myself from The Busy Trap

This beautiful young man is my nephew, a child growing up on the outskirts of London.  He is buoyant, instantly generous, loving, and a fine host at his own party.  I like how he smiles.  I like how he plays, how he relaxes with the hour.  I like how his job, right now, is happiness.

I thought of this happy kid as I read the New York Times Op/Ed piece (penned by Tim Kreider) on busyness, and its many bedevil-ments.  "If you live in American in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are," Kreider begins.  "It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing: 'Busy!' 'So busy.' 'Crazy busy.'  It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint.  And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: 'That's a good problem to have,' or 'Better than the opposite.'"

Kreider was, of course, aiming his pen at me.  (Hey, as a memoirist/narcissist it's a conclusion I'm bound to draw.)  Crazy busy was my theme song.  Overwhelmed was my word du every jourI'd like to, but I can't.  Yes, folks.  That was me.  A lot of it was circumstance, pressures and responsibilities I had not actively chosen for myself.  But much of it stemmed from choices I had made—to endlessly shore up family finances, to write (again), to volunteer (some more), to chase spider webs at midnight that no one but yours truly can see.

Not long ago, I declared my desire for a lesser life—one less crammed with to-do lists, less amenable to busy boasts.  I wanted to, needed to, sleep more.  I wanted to live more.  I wanted to have more time away from the computer, more time in gardens, more time with books, more time to experiment in the kitchen.  I wanted, frankly, more time for walks with my son, more time to scheme up art projects with my husband, more time alone.  I bought close to three dozen books—recent classics I had missed—and set out to read them.  I made time for walks with long-time friends.  I sat and looked at photographs—not in a hurry, and for no applicable reason.

And when client work arrived, as client work must and will arrive, I didn't promise a next-day delivery.  I did the work, best as I could, same high standards in place.  But I didn't do it in a breathless rush when the rest of my timezone was sleeping.

I'm liking me better this way, but I know how hard it will be to avoid relapsing into BusyNess.  I am keeping Kreider's article close, therefore, for when I'm tempted to fall off the wagon.  I share this Kreider paragraph, with the hope that you'll read the whole:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more

4 Comments on slowly extricating myself from The Busy Trap, last added: 7/1/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
9. The Problem With Cartoons: They’re All Racist!

Author Stephen Marche has a problem: he wants to share comics and animated cartoons with his son, but everything is racist. He told the world about his predicament in the most recent issue of the New York Times Magazine. He used the words ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ nine times to describe everything from Asterix to Dumbo to Tintin. Amazingly, Babar gets a pass because, Marche explains, “my son won’t be turned into a more effective colonist by stories of elephants riding elevators.”

Marche seems to lack a fundamental understanding of the cartoon medium, an art form whose essence is rooted in caricature and exaggeration. He finds offensive stereotypes everywhere he looks, including Blue Sky’s Ice Age, DreamWorks’ Madagascar and Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.:

Sulley and Mike, on the way into the office, happen to pass an orange squidlike grocer with a handlebar mustache who kind of talks-a-like-a-this. Perhaps that kind of stereotype is not as gruesome or upsetting as the one in the original Fantasia, but I had the distinct impression, as my son laughed at the scene, that my Italian immigrant grandfather was turning over in his grave.

Asterix gives Marche the biggest headache. As he reads it to his son, he wonders:

What is [my son] going to ask when I explain that for 400 years, white people took black people from their homes in Africa, carried them across the ocean in chains, beat them to death as they worked to produce sugar and cotton, separated them from their children and felt entitled to do so because of the difference in the color of their skin?

Amazingly, this thoughtfulness comes from a man who admits in the article that he told his son, “I don’t know why the pirates have a gorilla,” when his son asked him about a black character in Asterix.

I can only imagine that Marche would have a coronary if he ever watched this piece of animation:

PS – Go here to read a blistering takedown of Marche’s piece.


Cartoon Brew | Permalink | No comment | Post tags: , , , , ,

0 Comments on The Problem With Cartoons: They’re All Racist! as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
10. Summertime! Hallelujah!

Summertime! Hallelujah! I’ve written about the summer slide–don’t get caught in that–and last year gave a list of engaging activities for students and their families, check that out here.

Don’t lose track of the summer reading requirement from Sts. Peter and Paul Salesian School.  Below are a few books in the top of the New York Times Children’s Best Sellers. SSPP Reads will be back come the Summer Solstice June 20, 2012. Happy Reading!

Children’s Picture Books

  1. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean (Harper/Harper Collins) Ages 3-7
  2. The Duckling Gets a Cookie? by Mo Willems (Hyperion/Disney) Ages 2-6
  3. Dinosaur Pet, lyrics by Marc Sedaka, Illustrated by Tim Bowers (Imagine!) Ages 4-7

Children’s Chapter Books

  1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins) Ages 14 and up
  2. Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! by James Patterson and Chris Tebbets. Illustrated by Laura Park (Little, Brown) Ages 8-12
  3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton) Ages 14 and up

Children’s Paperback Books

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins) Ages 14 and up
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf) Ages 14 and up
  3. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion) Ages 10 and up

Children’s Series Books

  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic) Ages 12 and up
  2. Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan (Hyperion) Ages 10 and u0p
  3. Theodore Boone by John Grisham (Dutton/Puffin) Ages 9-12

Graphic from Flickr Creative Commons License momentcaptured1


0 Comments on Summertime! Hallelujah! as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
11. The Lifeboat/Charlotte Rogan: Reflections

By now you know the story of Charlotte Rogan.  Princeton educated, a mother of triplets, the wife of a lawyer, a quiet writer in the quiet hours, Rogan had written several novels and tucked them away before she finally, "practically on a whim," according to the New York Times story, sent what would become The Lifeboat to an agent.  The rest is history.  After twenty-five years of writing in near secret, Rogan has become an overnight success.

I read The Lifeboat yesterday.  I remain in the thrall of its intelligence.  There's not a sloppy sentence in this book, nor an excess line.  Grace, its heroine (?), is masterfully complex, and so are the issues that unwind across these pages.  It is 1914.  A ship has gone down in the Atlantic.  A crowded lifeboat is cast about on open seas.  Easy rescue doesn't come.  Survival is at stake—but whose, and at what cost, and what will the civilized say about the surviving later, in a court of law?  Who is sane, who is acting, what is true, and what are the options if there is no land in sight and water is short and dangerous factions have formed?  Is it possible not to choose a side?  Can we ever adequately explain, even to ourselves, the choices we make in extreme, inhuman moments? 

Rogan further complicates her story by further complicating Grace, the young woman, recently married, who is on trial with two others when the book begins.  Grace has, in some ways, bludgeoned her way into the high society she craves.  She has gained her husband at the expense of another woman.  She may have gained this seat on the lifeboat at the expense of something else.  Is she a good person?  Do we root for her?  Are any of us untainted?

Psychologically taut, finely paced, quietly but masterfully suspenseful, The Lifeboat, despite its setting on the high seas, never leaks from itself, never goes off on a stray tangent.  It's a remarkable debut, as focused a novel as I have read in a long time.   


1 Comments on The Lifeboat/Charlotte Rogan: Reflections, last added: 5/30/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
12. It's Called Living (and I plan to do more of it)

It has been six years since your last novel was published, and I gather you weren’t writing for some of that time. What were you doing? Jack Daniel’s and the “Today” show?
Living, it’s called living. You might call it wasting time, but I just call it living. Going bird hunting, reading books, watching the Red Sox, doing things with my wife that we wouldn’t have time to do if I was writing a book. There’s a whole lot to do once you can get out from under the yoke of working.

— excerpted from "Richard Ford Is a Man Who Actually Listens," Andrew Goldman interview, New York Times

4 Comments on It's Called Living (and I plan to do more of it), last added: 5/21/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
13. A Sad But Celebratory Day!

STATUS: Mixed day! I feel like I'm still catching up on emails.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? REALIZE by Colbie Caillat

It had to happen eventually. Today Jamie Ford is not on the New York Times bestseller list--ending our phenomenal run of 130 consecutive weeks on the list. That is two and half years without dropping off.

Wow. Just wow.

Maybe I shouldn't be having a blog entry announcing this fact but you know what, Jamie? It's an incredible achievement no matter how I talk about it.

So I raise a glass of champagne to you and your wonderful debut novel: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter & Sweet.

For us, there has been no bitter.

And I have a feeling that this week isn't the end and that we will be popping back on in the not-so-distant future.

Cheers!

19 Comments on A Sad But Celebratory Day!, last added: 5/6/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
14. MA GASTRONOMIE in the New York Times Magazine

In this week's New York Times Magazine, Mark Bittman and Thomas Keller tackle classic French cuisine, attempting several recipes out of master chef and La Pyramide founder Fernand Point's seminal cookbook Ma Gastronomie. "Fernand Point was not one of your gym-going, globe-trotting, Ph.D.-equipped chefs. He was a roast-chicken-for-breakfast-eating, two-bottles-of-Champagne-at-lunch-drinking,

0 Comments on MA GASTRONOMIE in the New York Times Magazine as of 4/24/2012 2:10:00 PM
Add a Comment
15. Girls’ star and creator Lena Dunham on her reading habits

Lena Dunham, the creator and star of the hyped and critical darling HBO show Girls, spoke to the New York Times about what she likes to read and where she does it. Currently she is reading “Bad Behavior” by Mary Gaitskill (a collection of stories, one of which became the inspiration for the movie Secretary,) Diane Keaton’s memoir and “Having it All” by Helen Gurley Brown, among other things. It’s not surprising how well read Dunham is since it is evident in her writing.

What are your thoughts on Lena’s reading list? Have you watched GIRLS?

0 Comments on Girls’ star and creator Lena Dunham on her reading habits as of 4/24/2012 1:02:00 PM
Add a Comment
16. Read in Your Lane

It never ceases to amaze me when op-eds appear in newspapers about young-adult (YA) books. Here are the usual flavors:

  • YA books contribute to the degradation of teens.
  • YA books are too dark and scary.
  • YA books have stopped sending messages about morals.
  • This YA book should be banned (even though I have not read it).
  • YA books are turned into movies too much.
  • All YA books are like Twilight and Harry Potter so why are people still reading them?
  • Dude, what is up with YA? I thought it was a fad.

Most of you already know that we have been blessed with another lovely opportunity. Last week in the New York Times, author Joel Stein shared his opinion that Adults Should Read Adult Books.

Of course, he is entitled to his own opinion. In his mind, it is totally not the business for an adult to read anything that resembles teen subject matter. It is embarrassing and as adults, we should only read “adult” things and have the common decency to leave those YA books for the kids. Seriously, grow up ya’ll. LOL.

So with that said, I want to share with you my opinion: Adults Should Read Anything They Want.

I could possibly be a little biased because I’m an adult who writes YA fiction. But even before I dove into this particular type of literature (yes, it is literature), I was an avid reader of YA books.

For me, reading YA novels doesn’t mean that I’m childish or irresponsible. I don’t want to “relive” or “revise” my teen years. I was drawn to these books because I wanted to be engrossed in a fascinating world with dynamic characters who are doing interesting things.

The fact is that adults read books that speak to them. Romance. Science Fiction. Fantasy. Contemporary. Mystery. Horror. Young-adult books have all that covered and then some.

Joel Stein has every right not to read a YA book. Like ever. But it’s sort of sad because I’m thinking he would really like The Fault in Our Stars. :)

For me, I think he missed the most obvious point: Maybe adults are reading YA books because they love good story-telling.

5 Comments on Read in Your Lane, last added: 4/4/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
17. our brains on great literature, with the emphasis on great

Truth be told, I'm still struggling in these parts, and hence the sluggishness of my blog presence.  I do hope to regain my perky self (Was I ever perky? Is it even appropriate at my age to be perky?).  But between now and then, I would like to share two news items (both from the New York Times) that friends have sent my way.  My taste, my interests must be verging on the transparent.

Story number one:  Draft.  This is the new Times Opinionator feature that promises "essays by grammarians, historians, linguists, journalists, novelists and others on the art of writing—from the comma to the tweet to the novel—and why a well-crafted sentence matters more than ever in the digital age."  Jhumpa Lahiri's gorgeous piece "My Life's Sentences" recalled, for the ever-lovely Melissa Sarno, a piece I had written here, about my obsession with the construct.  (Thank you, Melissa, for making me famous today.)

Story number two:  Your Brain on Fiction.  This Annie Murphy Paul essay on reading and the effects it has on our brains reinforces what those of us who have defended lies and lie telling (well, we have defended novels) have been saying all along:  "Reading great literature...enlarges and improves us as human beings."

I personally think the "great" matters in that Annie Murphy Paul essay.  Which takes me straight back to my obsession with crafting fine sentences.  Not easy sentences.  Not obvious ones.  Not the ones you've seen plenty of times before.  But the ones that make us think.

Thank you, Melissa, Mandy, Paul, and Bonnie for making sure I see the good stuff.  Thank you, Melissa, for pairing me with Jhumpa herself.

6 Comments on our brains on great literature, with the emphasis on great, last added: 3/22/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
18. Goldman Sachs and the betrayal and repair of trust

By Robert F. Hurley


Greg Smith’s March 14, 2012 op-ed piece in the New York Times, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs” is a familiar story for those who follow the betrayal and repair of trust. Smith tells a story of his frustration and disillusionment at Goldman changing from a culture that valued service to clients to one that rewarded those who made the most money for the firm even if it betrayed client interests. To be clear, from a trust violation standpoint, Smith suggests that Goldman lacks integrity because it holds itself out to clients as being their servants when in reality the firm is focused on manipulating clients to buy or sell securities that benefit Goldman’s interests more than the clients’. If this is true, Goldman is saying one thing but doing another, which is duplicitous and lacks integrity.

What is interesting about Smith’s resignation letter is that it tells the all-too-common, inside story of how firms lose their way and violate trust. The message here, and one that is consistent with the BP, News Corporation, Toyota, and Lehman violations, is that these betrayals of stakeholder trust have root causes that are embedded in the organizational system. At BP there was rhetoric about safety after the 2005 Texas oil refinery explosion, but real currency of the realm continued to be profit; so they chose to save 7 million dollars to drill a Deep Water Horizon well that they knew was not the safest option. At News Corp, they said that rogue employees were responsible for the first hacking scandals (that it was not inherent in the system), but it was later revealed that hacking was a strategy used in the News Corp system to gain advantage among news outlets. Toyota had a strong quality culture, but a flawed and Tokyo centric recall system that failed to notify US drivers about cars that had been recalled in other countries. Lehman systematically overrode its own risk management practices because growth and profit is what really mattered.

Betrayals of trust by tyrants and government agencies show similar patterns. Time and time again incongruence in the organizational system cause major trust violations, which lead to demonstrations of trustworthiness by some aspect of the system, only for some other aspect of the organization to undermine it. A failure to align all elements of the organization’s architecture toward achieving its stated mission and values is what causes these betrayals of stakeholder trust.

High trust firms like Zappos, Google, Proctor and Gamble, and QuikTrip don’t fall into these traps. They do the hard work of clarifying mission and values, and they align leadership, culture, reward systems, and all of their core processes (product development, supply chain, etc.) toward serving stakeholders’ interests. These stakeholders — customers, suppliers, communities, and employees — know that these firms can be counted on reliably. The data is clear that these high trust firms derive many competitive advantages in lower employee turnover, more customer loyalty, more organizational resilience, and even higher stock price from this service. Doing the right thing and doing it consistently is a virtuous and effective way of doing business.

The good news for Goldman Sachs is that trust failures can be repaired and reputations restored. Mattel recovered brilliantly from its lead paint problem in toys made in China; Bill Clinton went from the disgrace of the Monica Lewinsky scandal to being a leader in global causes and presented as the world’s CEO in the media . But the path is not easy. Real trust repair requires

0 Comments on Goldman Sachs and the betrayal and repair of trust as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
19. New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books 2011

It's not like you haven't seen the list of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books already, since I'm late on the uptake. But for my own records and general comfort level that I'm paying attention to such things, here they are with my little thoughts.

Along a Long Road
Along a Long Road
written and illustrated by Frank Viva
(Little, Brown)
Yeah, I can see why this was chosen. Interesting art, though not one of my favorite books this year.

A Ball for Daisy
written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
(Schwartz & Wade)
Generally I don't love Raschka's art, but I liked it here. The loose style of his work matches the playfulness of a puppy very nicely.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the CreaturesBrother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures
written by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton
(Chronicle)
Simply gorgeous!

Grandpa Green
written and illustrated by Lane Smith
(Roaring Brook)
Clever, touching, and brilliant in concept and illustration.

Ice
written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert
(Enchanted Lion)
Really? The book with the pigs? Okay, I guess.

I Want My Hat Back
written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
(Candlewick)
Still trying to get onboard with the hype on this title. Also, while I like the illustrations I don't think it falls into the best illustrations of the year.

Me...JaneMe … Jane
written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
(Little, Brow

5 Comments on New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books 2011, last added: 11/9/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
20. Giving Where It Works

At First Book, we work hard to make an impact: we put over 8 million new books into the hands of kids in need across the country this year. And we’re mindful of how many amazing organizations there are out there, both nationally and locally, that could use your support.

So we were pleased to see the New York Times Opinionator blog list First Book today as a nonprofit that is making a major difference while staying on the difficult path towards self-sufficiency, describing our work as a “particularly good use of charitable dollars” (we agree) and “proven to work” (also true).

Commenting on the way First Book’s model marries “altruism and profit”, Tina Rosenberg writes:

If you give books to children who don’t have them, good things happen — they become interested in reading, and they read more. Having lots of books in the home is as good a predictor of children’s future educational achievement as their parents’ educational levels.

But good things also happen to the publishing industry: First Book has harnessed its large network of education programs to create a guaranteed market and persuade publishers to make low-cost versions of some 2,000 titles — allowing publishers to reach the 42 percent of American children who were not in their market before. Fifty dollars buys 20 books for a child who has none.

We hope you’ll support First Book this holiday season. Every $2.50 you give provides one new book for a child in need. It’s a great way for you to make sure your hard-earned and well-considered donation goes to support something that works.

0 Comments on Giving Where It Works as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
21. masquerades and pseudonyms: The Dressmaker story

Julie Bosman's New York Times feature on author Patricia O'Brien intrigues us.  O'Brien had sold five novels, the story goes, but could not sell a sixth, entitled The Dressmaker, thanks to the sales of her previous titles.  O'Brien's agent suggested a pseudonym.  O'Brien agreed.  Within just three days The Dressmaker had sold for a very nice sum under a new author name, Kate Alcott.

There was some lingering subterfuge to attend to, of course.  Some funny back and forth—a new email address, scanty personal details—with an editor who believed she had bought the work of a first-time author.  But it wasn't until it was author photo time and the first blurred photo that the author sent was deemed no good that the gig was finally up, the truth spoken.

As one who teaches memoir and advocates for the truth in the form, it's hard to know how to feel about this.  I mean, we're talking about fiction, after all.  And the pseudonym business surely isn't new.  And I'm certainly one of many writers who wishes deeply that the sale of her future books were not so tied to the sale of books she already wrote.  We aren't always responsible for what happens to our books out there—can't insist on publicity, can't do much about where our books sit within our publishing house's priorities, can't dictate whether or not ads will be taken, whether or not a tour will be financed, whether or not the book resonates at this particular time, whether or not a lot of things.

But when I try to imagine keeping the charade going post sale—interacting with an editor under false pretenses, say—I wonder if I would have had the gumption to keep going, editorial letter after editorial letter, conversation after conversation.  I suspect I'd be one of those who would have early on had to blow her cover.  Working with an editor is personal, in the end.  And novel writing can be akin to confession.




5 Comments on masquerades and pseudonyms: The Dressmaker story, last added: 2/24/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
22. Reading to Distraction

Conversations about teens, technology and distraction are nothing new. When mobile phones first started to move from the domain of Important Business People at airports and into the hands of the general public, we worried that their presence in schools would be too distracting for students. (And we still have to tell the cinema-going public–including an awful lot of people over the age of 18–not to text or talk during movies.) Now that more and more schools allow students to bring their own laptops or tablets to classes, we worry about filtering and blocking sites like Facebook or YouTube during school hours.

And now there’s the question of reading on digital devices, and the threat of distraction by the device itself–or, at least, that’s what New York Times business writers Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel would have us ponder. Is tablet reading “more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity”?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a multi-platform reader. I have a (print) book in my car in case I find myself early for an appointment. I have OverDrive on my Android phone and my iPod Touch, so that I can easily check a book out from my local public library if I’m on the go. I have a Nook Color, which I mostly use when traveling (and that my partner has all but co-opted after giving it to me for my birthday). And I’m constantly picking up (print) books at work to read at the desk, many sucking me in enough to get tossed in my bag to read at home.

And here’s my secret: I’m always a distracted reader.
 
Things I have done while reading a book:

Looked up a word I did’t know (sometimes on a built-in dictionary, sometimes online, sometimes in an actual print dictionary)
Looked up an event or a person on Wikipedia when I didn’t get a reference
Responded to a text
Put on music
(Half) listened to NPR
Eaten Chex mix
Attempted to keep my cats from eating Chex mix
Cooked a meal
Flown cross country

Things I have occasionally failed to do while reading a book:

Get off at the right subway stop
Leave for an appointment on time
Check something in the oven before it starts burning
Prep for a class coming in last period
Finish a level in Lego Harry Potter
Feed the cats dinner on time

None of the things I listed apply only to e-reading, by the way. Most of them have happened in the last month with print books, actually. And here’s the thing: once I was done with all those things (or done failing at those things), more often than not I went back to reading my book.

But what say you, reader? Does your Kindle or Nook or iPad make reading a “21st century cacophony”? Do you long for a 20th (or 19th, or 18th) century “solitary activity”? Can your teens relate to those who say the lure of apps and email is just too great when reading on a tablet?

bookmark bookmark

Add a Comment
23. Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life/Ann Patchett: Thoughts on a Helpful Kindle Single

Sleep did not befriend me last night (come on, I thought, what did I do to you?), but I made good use of time of the dark and restless time.  First, I prepared a series of reading/writing exercises for my visit to Villa Maria Academy today in honor of World Read Aloud Day.  We'll read Helme Heine's magical THE MARVELOUS JOURNEY THROUGH THE NIGHT as adults, for example, and then define our idea of paradise.  We'll dwell with the simple words of William Carlos Williams.  We'll write from different points of view and ask ourselves what makes for a first-chapter cliffhanger.

It will be fun, I think.  I'm just hoping that I can locate my speaking voice between now and 9:15 AM.

When I was all finished that, I decided to download one of the Kindle Singles I had read about yesterday in Dwight Garner's New York Times story.  My choice, but of course, was Ann Patchett's Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life, though in about five minutes I'll also be downloading Jane Hirshfield's Heart of Haiku.

In any case, there I was, four A.M., as wide-eyed as my puffy eyes would allow, reading Patchett's primer on writing.  My verdict:  Spend the $2.99.  Please.  It's memoir, it's advice, it's fantastic stuff on Grace Paley and Elizabeth McCracken.  Patchett is realistic.  She's not ashamed of the facts.  Writing is hard work, she reminds us.  And it doesn't get done until you show up to do it.

A sliver:
If you want to write, practice writing.  Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish but because there is something that you alone can say.  Write the story, learn from it, pull away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sentiment:  The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap.  Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama.  We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the fresh water underneath.
 Boy, I needed that.

And on another, final note:  That is not my dining-room table (though it is a restaurant where I tend to take my clients).  But if I did own that table and if I did have that much light, I'd work right there, writing the bad stories down so that I could finally (it's taking long enough) get to the good ones (they must be somewhere).

5 Comments on Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life/Ann Patchett: Thoughts on a Helpful Kindle Single, last added: 3/7/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
24. Whether You Need It Now or Not

 

Many years ago, while at university, one of my professors required that his students write their own obituary. He told us that by writing our obits, we would begin to truly appreciate ourselves and others as individual human beings with innate worth and lasting value. He also said that until we stood back and looked at ourselves as a stranger would see us, we could never really know who we are.

Like most college students, we went along with the program as outlined and did as we’d been instructed. The lesson had interesting consequences for me along the way. I doubt any of us ever forgot what we learned from it.

Trying to look at your image in the mirror, as a stranger would, isn’t an easy task. Self-perception is always influenced by experience and what others have told you of their observations and expectations for you. The physical aspects that have always seemed flawed, or perfect, or questionable are your first impressions.

When you go past the physical to past experience, deeds, and failures with their requisite successes, you dwell on those bits that were less than perfect, less than desirable. Accepting the flawed episodes from a past that can’t be changed is a timely process. Without that acceptance, the successes ring as hollow and lifeless. Small indiscretions overpower small kindnesses. Praise is mitigated by remembered slights. And the cycle continues.

The act of writing one’s personal obituary allows for reflection on the overall picture of a person’s life—yours. The fact is that an obituary is merely a personal profile. It places the person within the framework of their own history.

Family and friends come to the foreground, along with major accomplishments within the person’s life. It’s not concerned with failures, but with successes, relationships, and contributions. It concentrates on those areas of one’s life that reflect the spirit and philosophy of the person.

The amount of detail held within the paragraphs that encompass a person’s life story depends on the purpose of the writer. Make no mistake; the obituary is a telling of a person’s profile or life story in miniature. It can celebrate that life, magnify it, examine it, whatever the writer wishes to convey. It can also bring to light the otherwise unknown deeds of a person, secrets held by those who knew her best.

By the time I finished my assignment, I’d reaffirmed several key points about myself. I’d come away with an acknowledgement of those relationships which mattered the most to me and knew why they did so. My failures up to that point had been assessed and laid to rest. I’d owned all of them, some for the first time, and they could no longer haunt me.

Successes, some of them never properly acknowledged, came to the foreground. I’d never before thought of those times I’d been in a rescue situation as successes. My actions had been necessary to keep another from greater harm. I’d not categorized them as anything other than being in the right place at the right time.

The exercise became a kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario. When approached that way, failures meant nothing, had no value. Only successes counted, and few, if any, of those for me had anything to do with money or personal gain.<

9 Comments on Whether You Need It Now or Not, last added: 3/13/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
25. Whether You Need It Now or Not

 

Many years ago, while at university, one of my professors required that his students write their own obituary. He told us that by writing our obits, we would begin to truly appreciate ourselves and others as individual human beings with innate worth and lasting value. He also said that until we stood back and looked at ourselves as a stranger would see us, we could never really know who we are.

Like most college students, we went along with the program as outlined and did as we’d been instructed. The lesson had interesting consequences for me along the way. I doubt any of us ever forgot what we learned from it.

Trying to look at your image in the mirror, as a stranger would, isn’t an easy task. Self-perception is always influenced by experience and what others have told you of their observations and expectations for you. The physical aspects that have always seemed flawed, or perfect, or questionable are your first impressions.

When you go past the physical to past experience, deeds, and failures with their requisite successes, you dwell on those bits that were less than perfect, less than desirable. Accepting the flawed episodes from a past that can’t be changed is a timely process. Without that acceptance, the successes ring as hollow and lifeless. Small indiscretions overpower small kindnesses. Praise is mitigated by remembered slights. And the cycle continues.

The act of writing one’s personal obituary allows for reflection on the overall picture of a person’s life—yours. The fact is that an obituary is merely a personal profile. It places the person within the framework of their own history.

Family and friends come to the foreground, along with major accomplishments within the person’s life. It’s not concerned with failures, but with successes, relationships, and contributions. It concentrates on those areas of one’s life that reflect the spirit and philosophy of the person.

The amount of detail held within the paragraphs that encompass a person’s life story depends on the purpose of the writer. Make no mistake; the obituary is a telling of a person’s profile or life story in miniature. It can celebrate that life, magnify it, examine it, whatever the writer wishes to convey. It can also bring to light the otherwise unknown deeds of a person, secrets held by those who knew her best.

By the time I finished my assignment, I’d reaffirmed several key points about myself. I’d come away with an acknowledgement of those relationships which mattered the most to me and knew why they did so. My failures up to that point had been assessed and laid to rest. I’d owned all of them, some for the first time, and they could no longer haunt me.

Successes, some of them never properly acknowledged, came to the foreground. I’d never before thought of those times I’d been in a rescue situation as successes. My actions had been necessary to keep another from greater harm. I’d not categorized them as anything other than being in the right place at the right time.

The exercise became a kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario. When approached that way, failures meant nothing, had no value. Only successes counted, and few, if any, of those for me had anything to do with money or personal gain.<

0 Comments on Whether You Need It Now or Not as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts