(Longtime friend of Litkicks Kelly Nagle and her daughter Allyson are so enthusiastic about a new series based on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective stories that we're running here, for the first time, an article written by a mother-daughter team. Kelly is a librarian in Tampa, Florida, and Allyson is a college student. -- Levi)
Sherlock, the popular BBC series starting this week on PBS, is brilliant, witty, a must-see. It's set in present day London. Sherlock is a little younger than usual – about twenty-something - totally uncivilized and pure genius. He's also a self-admitted sociopath (not a psychopath, as some would have it). Watson, back from the war in Afghanistan, natch, becomes his flatmate and keeper. The rest of the favorite Holmesian characters are here: Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson (Favorite line: "I'm not your housekeeper, dear"), Inspector Lestrade and possibly even Moriarty.
1. After a whole lot of passionate (and incorrect) guessing, Mario Vargas Llosa has won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature (the dapper fellow above just announced it on a live webcast from Stockholm). I must admit that, while I once enjoyed hearing from this Peruvian novelist at a New York reading with Umberto Eco and Salman Rushdie, I don't know much about his work as a whole. I'm looking forward to learning more. And, yeah, I do wish Ngugi wa Thiong'o had taken it. Maybe next year.
2. A Ted Hughes poem dealing directly with his wife Sylvia Plath's suicide has been revealed for the first time.
3. I like Julie Taymor and I really like William Shakespeare's The Tempest, so I'm pretty psyched about a new Julie Taymor film of The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren as a female Prospero, along with the likes of Russell Brand and Alan Cumming in various roles.
1. This image of P. G. Wodehouse's bookshelf is just one of the incidental delights to be found in the BBC's literary video archive, In Their Own Words. Other authors showing their remarkable presence in these historical broadcasts include Virginia Woolf, Kingsley Amis, Muriel Spark, William Golding, Robert Graves and E. M. Forster and J. R. R. Tolkien (via drmabuse).
(Just one minor note about the text accompanying the P. G. Wodehouse interview, in which the shy humorist plays incessantly with his pipe and tries to give honest answers to tough questions: Wodehouse did live in Eastport, on Long Island's East End, but Eastport ain't the Hamptons, not really even close. But what would the BBC know about Long Island?)
2. Jonathan Franzen's upcoming novel Freedom is getting major, major news coverage, including the cover of Time magazine (he's the first novelist on the cover of Time since Stephen King ten years ago). I haven't read the novel yet, but I liked his previous family saga The Corrections and am looking forward to reviewing Freedom for another web publication as soon as my review copy shows up. In the meantime, here's a piece from The Millions about all the other writers who have been on the cover of Time since the magazine was founded in 1923.
1. Here's a really good piece by British novelist Tom McCarthy, one of the brighter literary lights of our time: Technology and the Novel: From Blake to Ballard.
2. Jackson Ellis interviews poet Diane DiPrima.
1. I love it that the "Penguin paperback look" has become a design meme. BoingBoing points out that a set of album covers by Ty Lettau of Sound Of Design resembles the retro Penguin look. This calls to mind a more explicit recent implementation of the same idea by LittlePixel (great work, but there are way too many Simple Minds albums here).
2. Some of my friends in the book business think literary publishing is about to crash like a lead zeppelin. There was a tremendous uproar in the book world today: influential literary agent Andrew Wylie (Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, the estates of William S. Burroughs, John Cheever, John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov) has made a bold, unprecedented e-books deal with Amazon that will give Amazon and its Kindle format exclusive access to many important e-book titles. Exclusive access has (thankfully) never not part of the literary publishing industry tradition, and the major publishers don't like being cut out of the profit equation, which is why CEO John Sargent of Macmillan (who is emerging as an unofficial spokesman for the publishing industry when it battles with Amazon) and spokesperson Stuart Applebaum of Random House are planning to put up a fight. Many of my twitter friends seem to be lining up on the Macmillan/Random House side, objecting to Wylie and Amazon's audacious move. Me? I'll walk the line a little longer. I like audacity, and God knows the e-book marketplace can use a kick in the ass.
I've read a lot of T. S. Eliot in my life, and I write about him rather often too. But I'd never seen the musical Cats, based on his whimsical late work Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, until last week when Caryn took me and my stepdaughter to see a regional production in Northern Virginia.
The fact that I've avoided this extremely popular musical for so long is especially surprising since I also enjoy the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote Evita and, a real old favorite of mine, Jesus Christ Superstar. I suppose I was put off by the proposition of watching grown men and women writhe pretentiously in cat costumes while calling each other Rumpleteazer and Rum Tum Tugger. The play was aggressively marketed as a lush visual marvel when it originally opened in the early 1980s. I disdained it as a sort of feline "Nutcracker Suite" -- precious, pretty and not for me. I suspect that many other T. S. Eliot aficionados out there have avoided the show for the same reason.
2. I don't always finish his books, but I always get a kick out of Chuck Palahniuk. His signature novel Fight Club established him as a guy's guy kind of writer, and he still carries an aura of sweat and blood and testosterone (not to mention soap). Give the guy credit for throwing curveballs at his readers, because several of his follow-up works (like Diary and the new Tell-All) seem to lavish in a feminine sensibility. Tell-All is a send-up of vintage Hollywood, featuring a pampered aging movie actress and the allegedly dubious literary legacy of Lillian Hellman. Honestly, the book baffles me, and I had to stop reading it because I felt I did not know enough about the era it is parodying to understand the references. And yet, even this slap in the face to Palahniuk's sweaty male following does not seem to hurt his sales (nor has the author's revelation that he is gay) I don't always finish Chuck Palahniuk's books, but I will always be fascinated by his mystique, and curious about what the hell weird book he's going to write next.
2. It's very weird that attempted Times Square terrorist Faisal Shahzad left a DVD of the anomie-striven movie Up In The Air to be found in his home. Novelist Walter Kirn, who we recently interviewed about the film of his book, wrote this on Twitter: "times sq. bomber leaving behind copy of 'up in the air' reminds me of chapman, lennon's killer, and catcher in the rye. icky feeling now."
Walter Kirn is back. Owner of the strongest voice among the regular New York Times Book Review fiction critics, he's returned from his Hollywood sojourn to review the latest novel by another confident writer, Ian McEwan (who, for what it's worth, also wrote a book that became a hit movie that didn't win the Academy Award for Best Picture).
But while Walter Kirn seems to be hitting his stride as a novelist, the superb Ian McEwan (whose best books, like Atonement, The Innocent and On Chesil Beach, are worth cherishing) seems to be in that familiar dreaded late phase of literary success, the phase in which an author stops giving his readers what they like best about his work but challenges them to love him anyway. What we love best about McEwan is his gift for excruciating psychological plots in quaint or dramatic historical settings (a grand English mansion in the 1930s, a seedy Berlin apartment in the late 1940s, a disconcerting British beach in the early 1960s). His new Solar deals with climate science and takes place in the unromantic present, and not one of the several reviews I've read has been remotely positive.
The Litkicks Mystery Spot #3 is: Steventon, Hampshire, England, the town that gave Jane Austen to the world.
This brilliant comic novelist was very much a product of her village, and of her large, loving family. Her father was a pastor and a popular figure in town, and he along with several of her older siblings, cousins and neighbors had literary connections in nearby Oxford and London that helped to make her unlikely career possible. When Jane was 21 years old, her father sent an early version of Pride and Prejudice to a London publisher on her behalf (it was rejected, but his belief in her must have given her confidence).