Yann Martel... Book Two.

From Yann Martel's second letter to the Prime Minister of Canada:
Now that your Flames have been knocked out of the playoffs I guess you’ll have more free time on your hands.
Heh. Martel has chosen Animal Farm as the second book for the Canadian Prime Minister's reading list. Meanwhile, Stephen Harper's response to book one is still "pending." Check up on the suggestions and responses (if any ever come) here.


A28 - National Impeachment Action Day!

That's right, boys and girls. Find a location in your neighborhood and celebrate April 28th as a day when we take action against George Bush and Dick Cheney. Visit A28 for more information!

Mendes to Direct Middlemarch

Sam Mendes (married to beautiful Kate Winslet... and director of a few little films such as American Beauty and Jarhead) will be directing a film adaptation of Middlemarch, the incredibly long novel by George Eliot. I really enjoyed Middlemarch, truly I did, but I also had to cut the book in half so I could take the second part of it along with me on a flight as the whole thing didn't fit into my purse. Not shocking is the fact that Andrew Davies will be adapting the novel for the screen.


Yann Martel is my hero.

Best-selling Canadian author Yann Martel, worried about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apparent lack of interest in the arts, sent him a book on Monday and said he would continue doing so once a fortnight.
Martel, who wrote the novel "Life of Pi," was upset that Harper had paid no attention during a recent parliamentary ceremony to honor Canadian artists.
Harper, whose Conservatives won the January 2006 election, is a rather wooden figure who has expressed little enthusiasm for the arts.
Here's the link for that yahoo story... or if you're interested, you can always go to http://whatisstephenharperreading.ca/ where Yann Martel is posting the name of the book he sends to the Prime Minister, the inscription, and the letter that accompanies each. On the website, Martel writes this:
Who is this man? What makes him tick? No doubt he is busy. No doubt he is deluded by that busyness. No doubt being Prime Minister fills his entire consideration and froths his sense of busied importance to the very brim. And no doubt he sounds and governs like one who cares not a jot for the arts.
But he must have moments of stillness. And so this is what I propose to do: not to educate—that would be arrogant, less than that—to make suggestions to his stillness.
And so, he's sending him a book every two weeks. Amazing. I mean seriously, that's fantastic. Unless he wants to brush off Yann Martel, then Harper (or someone on his staff), needs to read each book and return comments to Martel. I'm just delighted by this idea... The first book that he has sent Harper is Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Check back to his site to see if the Prime Minister responds.


PEN American Center

The PEN American Center World Voices New York Festival of International Literature is coming up! April 24-29. Many of the talks require tickets, but many don't, so peruse the calendar and try to make a few.

... and for anyone else in love with Alain de Botton, he'll be participating in two of the discussions... Voyage and Voyeur: Travel and Travel Writing and What Makes a Home? They also link an interview with Alain de Botton in Wild River Review.


Pulitzer Prizes Announced

History: Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff for The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

Biography: Debby Applegate for
The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

Fiction: Cormac McCarthy by
The Road

General Nonfiction: Lawrence Wright by
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

Drama: David Lindsay-Abaire by
Rabbit Hole

Poetry: Natasha Trethewey for
Native Guard

Music: Ornette Coleman
for Sound Grammar

Special Citations: Ray Bradbury and John Coltrane

Read more in the NY Times, the Guardian, or Publishers Weekly.

Live Earth Tickets

Reminder: you can buy live Earth Tickets for the USA show starting today at 10am EST.


Frasier Reunion Onstage?

Could it be? A Frasier reunion... onstage? More info to be found here.

Thanks to m for forwarding this along!


The New Face of Lancôme

A friend of mine forwarded this article along with the message, "i would let this man f*** me in half a heartbeat."

I heartily concur.


Jan Morris at the NYPL

Looking for something to do tomorrow evening? Jan Morris will be interviewed at the NYPL.
Thanks for the info, Hil!

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, the famous and influential American author, has died at the age of 84 in New York. Read more from the BBC, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian...


Impac Shortlist

From a longlist of 138, we have eight candidates... all of them men. Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie, Peter Hobbs, JM Coetzee, Per Petterson, Jonathan Safran, Cormac McCarthy and Sebastian Barry. Read more about those who were cut and those who are still in the running here in the Guardian.

Live Earth Concerts

... to be held on July 7th.

Here's the Live Earth website for more information.

Hemingway and Dietrich

"What do you really want to do for a life work? Break everybody's heart for a dime? You could always break mine for a nickel and I'd bring the nickel."
So wrote Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich.

Thirty unpublished letters from the famous author to the German singer/actress have been made public for the first time. The letters are in the possession of the Kennedy Library in Boston.

Birds Do it. Bees Do It.

Today, the NY Times is quite flooded with articles about sexual orientation, selection, desire and dating. Here are three articles and three selections from said articles.

From the Health section, "Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes." An intriguing selection from an article otherwise focused on the genetic origin of homosexuality:
Presumably the masculinization of the brain shapes some neural circuit that makes women desirable. If so, this circuitry is wired differently in gay men. In experiments in which subjects are shown photographs of desirable men or women, straight men are aroused by women, gay men by men.
Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”
Dr. Bailey believes that the systems for sexual orientation and arousal make men go out and find people to have sex with, whereas women are more focused on accepting or rejecting those who seek sex with them.

From the Science section: "Birds Do It. Bees Do It. People Seek the Keys to It." A selection:
Sexual desire. The phrase alone holds such loaded, voluptuous power that the mere expression of it sounds like a come-on — a little pungent, a little smutty, a little comical and possibly indictable.
Everybody with a pair of currently or formerly active gonads knows about sexual desire. It is a near-universal experience, the invisible clause on one’s birth certificate stipulating that one will, upon reaching maturity, feel the urge to engage in activities often associated with the issuance of more birth certificates.
Yet universal does not mean uniform, and the definitions of sexual desire can be as quirky and personalized as the very chromosomal combinations that sexual reproduction will yield. Ask an assortment of men and women, “What is sexual desire, and how do you know you’re feeling it?” and after some initial embarrassed mutterings and demands for anonymity, they answer as follows:
“There’s a little bit of adrenaline, a puffing of the chest, a bit of anticipatory tongue motion,” said a divorced lawyer in his late 40s.
“I feel relaxed, warm and comfortable,” said a designer in her 30s.
“A yearning to kiss or grab someone who might respond,” said a male filmmaker, 50. “Or if I’m alone, to call up exes.”
“Listening to Noam Chomsky,” said a psychologist in her 50s, “always turns me on.”

And, again from the Science section, an article on online and speed dating: "Romantic Revulsion in the New Century: Flaw-O-Matic 2.0." A selection:
My early work was done using personal ads, a crude tool (although state of the art in 1995). I found that people looking for love in New York magazine listed far more prerequisites (like polo skills) for a partner than did people advertising in other cities. Based on these numbers, and many dinners with friends who could never find anyone good enough, I concluded that the high percentage of single-person households in New York was due to New Yorkers’ hyperactive Flaw-O-Matics.
This new theory of a neural mechanism did not immediately gain wide acceptance in the social-science literature. By my count, it has been cited a total of one time (in a psychotherapist’s treatise on the “avoidant lover”). But the study of romantic revulsion has expanded because of the rise of online dating services and speed-dating events — gold mines of data.
Instead of asking people about their mate preferences, scientists can now watch mating rituals in real time. They’ve tracked who asks out whom — and who says yes — at online dating services by watching the customers’ clicks and scanning their messages to look for telephone numbers and phrases like “let’s meet.”


Looking Beyond the Brass Ring

As a follow-up to the "Amazing Girls" pieces from the NY Times lately, this is from an opinion article written by Judith Warner:
I do think that figuring out at 18 – and not at 28 or 38 or 48, when the stakes are so much higher – that achievement for achievement’s sake is basically a zero-sum game is a very good thing. That increasing numbers of college-bound seniors are being forced to come to that realization is perhaps the one upside to today’s all-but-random college admissions game.
Many, I think, never figure out how to handle the emptiness that comes when the rush of achievement fades away, or the loneliness — the sense of invisibility — when no one is there to hand out yet another “A.” The fact is: when you are narrowly programmed to achieve, you are like a windup toy with only one movement in its repertoire. You’re fine when you’re wound up; but wind you down, and you grind to a halt.
I think this is partly why so many grown-up amazing girls with high-earning husbands find themselves having to quit work when they have kids. They simply can’t perform at work and at home at the high level that they demand of themselves.
I know exactly how they feel. And soon enough, I fear, this rising generation of superachievers may, too. And they’re not going to solve the problems merely — as optimists say — by doing a better job than my generation has done in advocating for policies that promote work/family “balance.” They’re going to have to balance some things out in their own minds. They’ll have to realize that — no matter what our culture shrieks, no matter what their college counselors push them to do in the name of achieving “well-roundedness” — they can’t be all things to all people, at all times, and still have something of meaning left over for themselves.
Read the whole article here.


Easter at the White House

Now normally, I could care less what the White House is planning for Easter... but this year, a friend and colleague of mine is there to read from her children's book The Library Lion. Go buy it on Amazon and read about her appearing at the White House Easter celebrations here!

McEwan to Return Stones

Author Ian McEwan will be returning the stones that he took from Chesil Beach. McEwan is writing an novel (On Chesil Beach) and was unaware that taking stones from the protected beach was a crime. No one would have ever known had he not mentioned it on a radio program that he took two handfuls to keep on his desk while he worked. Conservationists caused quite a stir and rather than face a fine, McEwan has entrusted the stones to a film crew to return to the beach.

News flash! The stones have been returned. We can all rest easy once more.


Golden Compass Trailer

Thanks to Mariah for forwarding this along -- the trailer/sizzle reel for The Golden Compass.

Remembrance of Things Read

You know you read it... you know that it meant a great deal to you at the time... it's just that now, you just don't remember anything about it. The Guardian book blogs discuss what it takes to remember forgotten books.

Dewey the Iowa Library Cat

From the NY Times:
In a hotly contested deal, the life story of Dewey, a rescued cat who lived for 19 years in a library in a small town in Iowa, has sold for about $1.25 million to Grand Central Publishing.
''Dewey,'' which was sold on the basis of a 45-page proposal with about 10 photos of the fluffy orange cat, will tell the story of how the kitten was found in the late-night book drop of the public library in Spencer, a town in the northwest part of the state, and adopted by Ms. Myron and the other librarians. Slowly, over the course of his 19-year life, Dewey became a town mascot who lifted the spirits of residents hit hard by the 1980s farming crisis. In the process he attracted the attention of tourists, cat-calendar makers and filmmakers. He appeared in ''Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat,'' a 1997 documentary, and another film made by Japanese documentarians. When he died last November, his obituary ran in more than 250 publications, including USA Today and The Washington Post.
Read the whole story about Dewey and his grand book deal here.



Book Sense of the Year Award 2007

From the Book Standard:
The winners of the 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards were announced today by the American Booksellers Association. Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants: A Novel is the winner in the Adult Fiction category while Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck won in Adult Nonfiction. Markus Zusak is the winner of the Children's Literature award for The Book Thief and the Children's Illustrated winner is Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, by Isabella and Craig Hatkoff, Dr. Paul Kahumbu with photos by Peter Greste.
Read the whole article here.

First Ever PEN/Saul Bellow Award To Roth

Read the article here.