Famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood,The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84) will come out with a new book in December: a slender, 96-page work called The Strange Library. The book was originally published in Japanese back in 2008, but the English-language version will feature original, specially-designed text and illustrations. The book tells the story of a young boy taken hostage in a library by an old man, who forces him to memorize a number of books with the intention of eating his brain to absorb the information. The boy then plots his escape with the help of a girl and a doughnut-making man dressed as a sheep. In a press release, Knopf chairman and EIC Sonny Mehta called the book "as scary and surprising as anything he has ever written."
Roald Dahl originally had 15 children getting the golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka's super-secret chocolate factory before settling on the now familiar five in his children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This means that, in earlier drafts, there were a lot more rooms and a lot more temptation: As you'll remember, each room was a test of a child's self-control, and each time, some hapless child would succumb to their candy-obsessed (or squirrel-obsessed) selves and get lost. In this previously unseen chapter published by the Guardian, the factory tour, now down to eight kids, makes a stop at the Vanilla Fudge Room. The Guardian says the text was "deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral for the tender minds of British children almost 50 years ago."
Entertainment Weekly reports that Bruce Springsteen is writing a kids' book called Outlaw Pete, based on his 2009 song of the same name. The book, about a bank-robbing baby, will consist of Bruce's lyrics paired with illustrator Frank Caruso's drawings. And Bruce isn't the only boomer icon branching out into kiddie lit as of late — Keith Richards announced he is penning a book called Gus & Me back in March. Dad rock: Now also for kids!
The poet Ben Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, about a neurotically selfish American poet in Spain, was one of 2011’s smartest sideways social critiques — and perhaps its unlikeliest critical hit (James Wood called it “subtle, sinuous, and very funny”). The more mature (and still neurotic) protagonist of his new novel, 10:04 (out September 2), is a Brooklyn author considering fatherhood and his own mortality. Lerner describes this episodic meditation on the New York life — within the book itself — as “neither fiction nor nonfiction, but a flickering between them.”
Hopefully, you've had a few minutes to play around with our Fall Entertainment Generator. But if you're looking for straight and simple lists of things to look out for by medium, we'll be breaking them out separately. Here's a look at this season's books.
New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff is working on a biography of Robin Williams, Entertainment Weekly reported today. Itzkoff has written about Williams in the Grey Lady a number of times over the years, including this 2009 profile, which caught up with Williams shortly after he had heart surgery. “Robin Williams was a cultural hero of mine, and in the encounters and interactions I was able to share with him, he was always gentle and generous, humane and thoughtful and hilarious,” said Itzkoff in a press release today. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell his story.”
It is a beautiful summer afternoon in Ireland, and David Mitchell and I are walking up the High Road above the River Bandon, in the town of Kinsale, talking about supercontinents. One of the pleasures of hanging out with Mitchell is that he is, by self-identification, many kinds of nerd—a Star Trek nerd, a Doctor Who nerd, a map nerd, a taxonomy nerd, a tea nerd, a word nerd, and, for good measure, what you might call a nerd nerd: an enthusiast of nerdery of all kinds. At one point in our conversation, he speaks admiringly of sheep nerds.
Sure, we could have given you a list of 300-some odd things to watch, listen to, read, attend, and experience over these next several months. But where's the fun in being so limited? You're omnivorous and you want it all — Interstellar and the new Ken Burns documentary; the new David Mitchell novel and the new Taylor Swift; the Metropolitan Opera and Bob Seger. So here's our fall entertainment generator. Choose a type (a blockbuster, an indie, or something adventurous or trashy) and a feeling (something to make you laugh, cry, scared, thrilled, inspired, or feel smart) and see what pops forth. Then write down all those options and enjoy as many of them as you can. Happy autumn.
Here is a disconcerting truth: We’re nearly through with August, and those winsome summer Fridays, if you're lucky enough to have them, will soon become a faint memory, just an Instagram of bare feet partly buried in the sand, the spilled remains of a piña colada on a deck, and a grill, once open, now closed. But take heart! There’s still time left to hunker down with some sunscreen, your preferred cold beverage, and a book that’s just the right blend of intellectually stimulating and page-flippingly enjoyable. Here are 12 Vulture-recommended titles to help you relax during the remaining hours of summer.
You can learn a lot about a society by the Utopia it envisions, and right now our Utopia is a reality show on Fox. Specifically, Utopia, a show in which, among others, a patriot, a pastor, an ex-con, a hillbilly, a raw vegan, a glass blower, and a guy from Salt Lake City are thrust together in the wild to build a perfect society from scratch. The show debuts September 9, with the “experiment” (i.e. the 24/7 webcams) going live online on August 29. But from the available trailers and teasers, the show might better be called “Survivor for Polyamorous Libertarians,” or perhaps “Big Brother, If You Had to Also Actually Build the Big Brother House Yourselves.”
With last year’s publication of MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood capped off a trilogy of speculative-fiction novels that is currently being adapted for HBO by Darren Aronosfsky. The paperback just came out and a new collection of her short stories arrives in September, giving Vulture no choice but to call up the Canadian author to discuss how she envisions the adaptation of the postapocalyptic world she created with 2003’s Oryx and Crake and continued into The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam. One of the many questions we had for her was: How will the nude, innocent, hybrid human race known as the Crakers — who have certain body parts genetically engineered to turn blue and who engage in group sex when they are in heat — translate to television? While Atwood didn’t have all the answers to our questions (yet), she was game to chat about the early stages of the HBO show, the appeal of postapocalyptic books, and how to commit the perfect murder.
Today, J.K. Rowling shared a new tale from the Harry Potter universe over on Pottermore. While her last update checked in with the book's heroes, this time we got a deep dive into the life of one of the Wizarding World's lesser-known characters: The singing sorceress Celestina Warbeck. "Celestina is one of my (favorite) 'off-stage' characters in the whole series, and has been part of the Potter world ever since its inception," Rowling wrote. "I always imagined her to resemble Shirley Bassey in both looks and style."
The following is an excerpt from Randall Munroe's new book, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, out September 2.
NEW YORK–STYLE TIME MACHINE
Q. I assume when you travel back in time you end up at the same spot on the Earth’s surface. At least, that’s how it worked in the Back to the Future movies. If so, what would it be like if you traveled back in time, starting in Times Square, New York, 1,000 years? 10,000 years? 100,000 years? 1,000,000 years? 1,000,000,000 years? What about forward in time 1,000,000 years?
So you were in fourth or fifth grade when you had to read The Giver — that book with a gnarly, bearded old guy and a bright-gold medal slapped on the cover. It looked important. The story was about a boy named Jonas living in what seemed like the perfect world where there was no hunger, war, or poverty, who then slowly realizes that it’s one deprived of choice, spontaneity, and most memorably, color. This was a book that made you think about bigger ideas like “society” and “free will” and “totalitarianism.” Okay, maybe not “totalitarianism” per se, but it certainly impressed ideas about what suppressing individualism does. For a kid, it was deep.
If you have not been following the saga of Gone Girl's Third Act, here is your brief recap: Back in January, David Fincher made an offhand comment to Entertainment Weekly about how author Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, had thrown out the original book ending and "started from scratch." People freaked out, so then Flynn told a Reddit AMA questioner that the third-act rumors "have been greatly exaggerated!" (Though she did not mention anything about the actual ending.) Fast-forward to EW's fall preview issue (not completely online yet), in which David Fincher is asked about his original quote.
“So, shall we go to the dump?” Lois Lowry is now a slightly salty 77, with a sort of Elaine Stritch side-mouth speech and no Mother Goose orb about her. It’s a misty morning in late July, and I’m in Bridgton, Maine, watching the young-adult god as she separates cardboard boxes from newspapers and bottles, two days before she heads to Comic-Con, where she’s been roped into a panel with Jeff Bridges to promote the film adaptation of her 1993 classic The Giver—the start of a publicity tour, followed by a major movie release, which will make her dystopian novel, one of the most beloved books of the YA “golden age,” a whole other kind of famous. Bridges, a lead producer, plays the supporting role of the title character; the movie also stars Meryl Streep and Taylor Swift. “There are those, I think, who are attracted to the glitz of celebrity life,” Lowry tells me. “I am not one of them.” She bought the dress she plans to wear to the movie’s New York premiere online, she says, from Neiman Marcus. Then Lowry spots a woman at the dump: “If I were writing a short story, I’d be sure to include that woman over there with the back tattoo and the thong sticking out of her jeans.
Who the hell is Thomas Ligotti? That’s the question many people were asking after a spate of articles last week speculated on plagiarism charges leveled against True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto on an H.P. Lovecraft website. The media attention spiked sales of the book at the center of the controversy — Ligotti’s nonfiction philosophy tome The Conspiracy Against the Human Race — to the point that it began to outsell Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. HBO had to issue a statement refuting the claim, and social media raged (and may still be raging) with discussions of “Hey, just what is plagiarism?” Suddenly, too, Subterranean Press’s new Ligotti books — the rather dry metaphysical story collection The Spectral Link and a riveting collection of interviews with the author, Born to Fear — began to receive renewed scrutiny.
Turns out that amid all the wild, far-fetched fan theories about how Game of Thrones will end, one or two may have hit the nail right on the severed head. "So many readers were reading the books with so much attention that they were throwing up some theories and while some of those theories were amusing bulls — and creative — some of the theories are right," author George R.R. Martin confessed during a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. "At least one or two readers had put together the extremely subtle and obscure clues that I'd planted in the books and came to the right solution."
The Magician's Land, out today, concludes Lev Grossman's realist fantasy series — sometimes described as "Harry Potter but with drugs" — about a group of 20-something magicians who find themselves in charge of a Narnia-like land. These are the books, movies, comics, and bands that inspired Grossman while writing the Magicians trilogy.
Each month, Boris Kachka will offer nonfiction and fiction book recommendations, and you should read as many of them as possible.
Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya (Riverhead; July 31)
As Russian immigrant fiction evolves from novelty niche to full-on genre, every new effort faces a higher bar for originality. Akhtiorskaya vaults that bar with ease. Her characters — chiefly the lanky, brilliant Odessan poet Pasha, who resists his scrappy family’s entreaties to join them in Brighton Beach — inhabit a post-Soviet universe in which you actually can go home again. Or possibly never even leave. And forgive the unoriginal reference, but her vibrant blend of wordplay, wistfulness, and poignantly comic characters immediately conjures Nabokov’s academic farce, Pnin.