Weeklings: Tess Gerritsen, Orlando Figes, Patrick Bateman, Shirley Jackson, and Nancy Pearl

On Murderati, Tess Gerritsen asks, “Why the hell won’t they review my book?!!!” and pretty much answers her own question.

My visit to the Inquirer was a sobering look at how tough newspapers have it these days, trying to keep up with all they have to cover.  Every author wants attention, but one look at the piles of discarded galleys reminded me of just how hard it is to be noticed when you’re fighting for attention along with two hundred other books.  Every single week.

Then the Book Publicity Blog took this idea and ran with it.

Also in book-reviewing news, British historian Orlando Figes (The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia, 2007), who once threatened to sue those who accused him of writing fake Amazon reviews, will now pay damages and court costs to his accusers (“Historian Orlando Figes agrees to pay damages for fake reviews,” Guardian). He may be a good historian, but he’s no criminal genius: his pseudonym for the reviews, which attacked his rivals’ work, was “orlando-birkbeck.” Figes blamed “intense pressure” for his actions.

Also in reputation-rehabilitation news, Sam Jordison calls Patrick Bateman, the hero, er, protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (1991), “one of the funniest comic creations since Bertie Wooster.” (Guardian Books Blog) Not bad for a book-club discussion starter!

Another character, er, writer, not getting the respect she is due: Shirley Jackson (“Is Shirley Jackson a great American writer?” by Laura Miller, Salon).

One thing I do know: If I were stuck in an isolated cabin, with nothing but “Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories” and the equivalent LOA volumes of Roth, Cheever and Carver to choose from, there would be no contest as to which book I’d reach for first, although it would mean dipping into the dreamy menace of “We Have Always Live in the Castle” for the third time.

In the UK, the Guardian reports on a new U.S. experiment in criminal sentencing: making the criminals read (“Novel Approach: Reading Courses as an Alternative to Prison,” by Anna Barker). As the father of two young boys, my gut reaction is that using reading as punishment is no way to promote reading, but things appear to work differently with grownups: early evidence suggests that Changing Lives through Literature works pretty well.

Five years on, he is free from drugs, holding down a job as a building contractor, and reunited with his family. He describes being sentenced to a reading group as “a miracle” and says the six-week reading course “changed the way I look at life”.

And, finally, another article by Laura Miller, on “The Fine Art of Recommending Books.” First, she disses Amazon’s algorithmic approach to making recommendations (always music to my ears), and then she says:

Recognizing that book recommendation may as yet defy science, a couple of literary types are currently offering artisanal advice.

But, as the blood was thundering in my ears and I was shouting, “But that’s what librarians have been doing all along!” Miller did, in fact, turn to the iconic (and action-figured) Nancy Pearl. So it’s a trend story that, in essence, is nothing new. Still, it never hurts to remind people that, sometimes, there isn’t an app for that.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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