Just in time for Halloween, which is like Christmas for wizards (they celebrate Christmas, too, but that's more of a cultural thing), J.K. Rowling has put up six new stories on Pottermore (registration required), including a detailed character study of Ministry of Magic official Dolores Umbridge. In the essay, Rowling reveals that she based Umbridge's love of all things pink and whimsical on a former teacher she particularly disliked. "I have noticed more than once in life that a taste for the ineffably twee can go hand-in-hand with a distinctly uncharitable outlook on the world," she explains. "[Umbridge's] desire to control, to punish, and to inflict pain, all in the name of law and order, are, I think, every bit as reprehensible as Lord Voldemort’s unvarnished espousal of evil."
I have seen some pretty oddball acts of book flakkery in my tenure as literary critic. There was the Fifty Shades knockoff that arrived at my door packaged with lingerie and a lipstick-smudged note; the pitch letter that impugned the intellect of any reviewer who declined to cover the book in question; the loon who implored me, weekly, to join her in discussing her novel in her private chateau in France; the book trailer for Nelson DeMille’s Wild Fire.
But all of these, and many more, were handily trumped in brazenness and bad taste by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s impromptu act of book promotion yesterday. At a press conference about New York and New Jersey’s poorly conceived, poorly executed, much-criticized Ebola quarantine policy, the governor veered weirdly off-message — or on it, from that all-consuming perspective of, you know, the ego. “I'm asking those people who were in contact with infected people: Stay at home for 21 days. We will pay,” the governor said. “Enjoy your family, enjoy your friends, read a book, read my book.”
“The questions are the questions, Jeff. You know that,” South African novelist Lauren Beukes said to me, sitting at the Grey Dog Café on Mulberry Street, right before we were supposed to do a gig at Housing Works Bookstore with critic/novelist Lev Grossman titled “We’re All Mad Here.” Her novel Broken Monsters, a great horror-thriller perfect for the Halloween season, had just been featured on the Today Show. She’d come from doing a radio interview and was expressing worry that Amazon’s war with Hachette was going to eat into sales of a novel she thought was her best yet. As we began to talk, she was fielding TV and movie offers for Broken Monsters on her smartphone.
If you’re still feeling like there isn’t enough Beyoncé material in the universe for you to hear/watch/see/read/wear, take comfort: Today, Grand Central Books announced that it is publishing the “first comprehensive biography” of Beyoncé, which will be released in fall 2015. The unauthorized biography will be written by J. Randy Taraborrelli — who has previously written biographies of of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and the Hilton family — and will not include interviews with Bey herself but will rely on secondary sources. Which means the role of Beyoncé’s authorized biographer is still up for grabs. We believe in you.
"In every epic fantasy, the world is a character" itself, said George R.R. Martin near the beginning of his recent visit to 92Y. That's why he's written a new book about the history and lore of his "Song of Ice and Fire" universe, The World of Ice and Fire, which he hopes will occupy fans long enough that they'll stop asking him when The Winds of Winter is coming out. Martin stopped by 92Y to discuss the book (which he produced in collaboration with superfans Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson), and in the process explained which of his dragons could take on Smaug ("Balerion could give him some trouble, but Smaug still has that whole 'talking' thing"). But the biggest surprise of all has nothing to do with fantasy novels — it's GRRM's delightful North Jersey accent. You'll never think of "da Targaryen kings" the same way again.
While fans anxiously await the arrival of The Winds of Winter, author George R.R. Martin has written a new book to sate their desire for all things Westeros. The World of Ice and Fire, produced in collaboration with superfans Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson, is a massive compendium of the thousand-year history of Martin's fantasy world, all told from the perspective of one Maester Yandel. In an exclusive excerpt from the book, Yandel writes the history of Robert's Rebellion in terms that will certainly flatter the winning side.
As of today, Joan Didion can cross “crowd-funding” off her bucket list. The laconic 79-year-old essayist — who vivisected the '60s, became half of a Hollywood power couple, and more recently wrote two best-sellers about losing her husband and daughter suddenly — will be the subject of a documentary titled (aptly, if unoriginally) We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. Her nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne, who will co-direct it with documentary veteran Susanne Rostock, put the project up on Kickstarter yesterday. It reached its goal of $80,000 at 10:30, roughly 24 hours later.
There's an apocryphal story in Game of Thrones fandom that goes like this: Around 1997, author George R.R. Martin saw Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin, and, like many other people, hated it. Martin's ire was particularly drawn to George Clooney's infamous bat-nipples, and he began looking for a way to get literary revenge. Whether or not the story is true, this much is fact: Starting with 1998's A Clash of Kings, the author introduced a new phrase to the Westerosi lexicon: "as useless as nipples on a breastplate." So far in the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, Martin has used the expression to describe everything from dragonglass knives to Grand Maester Pycelle. It's clear: Despite how much GRRM loves nipples in other contexts, he really does not like them on breastplates.
As you may have heard, that gum you like is going to come back in style (read: Twin Peaks is returning to TV). And to prepare fans for the return of the cult hit 25 years after it first debuted, David Lynch's co-creator, Mark Frost, plans to release a novel titled The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks to catch us up on what has happened to the characters since we last saw them. "This has long been a dream project of mine that will bring a whole other aspect of the world of Twin Peaks to life, for old fans and new,” Frost said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Undeterred by the failure of Animal Practice, NBC is banking once more on the American public's obvious love for adorable animals, giving a put pilot commitment to a TV adaptation of Marley & Me. Or, seeing as the network also ordered another IT Crowd remake, maybe it's just getting in on the ground floor of the sure-to-be forthcoming wave of mid-2000s nostalgia. Both versions of Marley & Me have ended with the death of the eponymous dog, and it's unclear what the story's move to a serialized medium like television means for the beloved pet's longevity. Will Marley die in May sweeps every year, only to return each September as if nothing had changed — or, as in Lost, will the show postpone Marley's fatal case of gastric dilatation volvulus until the show receives a concrete end date? Either way, John Grogan keeps getting those checks.
Michael Chabon says there is still a chance his Hobgoblin project may come to fruition as a television show. “Not by FX, but I hope so,” he told Vulture at the New Yorker Festival party on Saturday. “It’s not entirely a dead parrot,” the author said of the story set in the Nazi era. “We’ll see. It’s almost dead,” he added. There is no action at all on the long-rumored television adaptation of his novel Kavalier & Clay. “I would like to report there was, but no, that one’s still very much dead, as far as I know,” Chabon said. “TV seemed like it was going to be this wonderful new opportunity,” he mused. “So far, it hasn’t been that yet.”
Like so many once-goth teens who grew up in the 1990s, I am a huge Anne Rice fan. Although the last Rice novel that I read was 1998’s The Vampire Armand, I read and reread, often several times, everything she had written before that. Almost all of those books I would heartily give five stars. Since then, though I’ve lost contact with her novels, I have kept up with a lot of her other work, checking in every so often on her website, AnneRice.com.
You can put away your fake third boob, because John Grisham just found an even better way to guarantee that your name will appear in headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons. The best-selling author, who has a new novel coming out next week, told The Telegraph that the U.S. justice system treats people who look at child pornography too harshly. "We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," he said. "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."
The 20 books on the short list for the 2014 National Book Awards were just announced. Just as in the other NBA, they can't all be champions: The winners in each category will be announced November 19.
Neil Patrick Harris — or, NPH as I’ll be calling him — has had an enviable life. The 41-year-old actor has starred on two hit TV shows, first as a child star on Doogie Howser, then as lothario Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. He is a Tony Award–winning actor, an Emmy Award–winning host of the Tonys, president of the Magic Castle, and arguably the biggest out gay male celebrity. You ostensibly get to live all of this amazing life through his new autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, which is written like an adventure book with multiple options. You can hop from page to page or just read it straight through; either way, you will find amusing anecdotes, from the first time he had gay sex to the time Scott Caan tried to get into a “fight” with him.
The Queen of the Tearling — the first installment in a trilogy of novels by Erika Johansen that has already been optioned for a Warner Bros. franchise to star Emma Watson, reuniting her with Harry Potter producer David Heyman — has been called “the female Game of Thrones” and “the lady Game of Thrones.” This is funny, of course, because the female version of Game of Thrones is ... Game of Thrones, which has its own dominating female characters, like Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark, Asha/Yara Greyjoy, Melisandre, and on and on. So while the phrasing in the hype surrounding The Queen of the Tearling (which HarperCollins published in July) is a bit off, some undeniable parallels can be found between the Johansen novel and the George R.R. Martin book series that spawned HBO’s Thrones, and you’ll find references to other fantasy titles as well. Here are a few similarities we found when we finally got around to reading it:
If your first reaction to novelist Patrick Modiano winning this year's Nobel Prize in Literature was to ask, "Who?," then congratulations, you're not French. Almost every announcement of the news has included the note that Modiano is quite obscure outside his home country, so you should feel no guilt for reading this explainer about who Modiano is and what his deal is.