Seen and Heard

As if all the holiday book gift guides and new releases weren’t enough to keep us busy, it seems to be award season in the literary world … and so close to Thanksgiving. Perhaps it’s a sign that there are a lot of turkeys about. Heavyweights Tom Wolfe, Philip Roth, Alice Munro and even Dave Eggers have recent volumes out and are getting some buzz just in time to possibly be stuffed in someone’s stocking, but sometimes the more interesting news is a little on the less obvious side.

— Tom Hanks is rumored to be the top pick to star in the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s wildly popular The Da Vinci Code. No word yet on how they’ll work in Meg Ryan or the oversized piano keyboard stunt. The Da Vinci Code continues to be a sensation across the world — not only is there a movie in the works, but the dramatic novel has inspired a revival in the sport of graverobbing as well. Tom Hanks, graverobbers, Mary Magdalene — I don’t know about you, but I smell an Oscar.

— Okay, so maybe no one will pull a knife at the National Book Awards ceremony this Wednesday in New York, but that’s not stopping many literary critics and editors from voicing their beef with this year’s nominations. Accusations that the fiction nominations lack diversity, that the poetry collections are hardly inspiring and the debate on whether The 9/11 Commission Report should even be considered ‘literature’, seem to be the tip of the scandal iceberg here. We can only hope that Garrison Keillor, the master of ceremonies for the event, is ready for anything.

— In other award news, several authors and illustrators recently snagged honors for children’s literature in Canada and over 140 books are on the long list (very long list) of nominees for Ireland’s 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Said to be one of the richest prizes in literature (worth $184,000), the IMPAC award honors a single work of fiction published in English. With nominations representing over 45 countries, the current long list will be shortened in March, with the winner being announced in June.

— Jay Parini, who’s written biographies of such literary notables as Robert Frost, John Steinbeck and Theodore Rothke, has tackled William Faulkner as his latest subject. One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner, the latest biography of Faulkner is reported to be somewhat of a glossing over compared to previous biographies, but may be a good starting point for readers interested in learning more about the man behind two of America’s most powerful novels, The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.

— The Paris Review has collaborated with to auction off such literary treasures as signed manuscripts and art related to the publication. Ever wanted to ‘drink and discuss politics with polemicist extraordinaire and Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham’? Come now, who of us hasn’t had that fantasy? Well, you finally have your chance — for a price, of course. The auction runs through Thursday, November 18 and proceeds go to the Paris Review Foundation.

— I caught the end of the movie ‘Sylvia’ this weekend … while (granted) there wasn’t a surprise ending, the film seemed to have a bigger impact in light of the latest Plath publication. Frieda Hughes, the daughter of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, defends her father while promoting her mother’s legacy with a new edition of Ariel, available November 25. The restored version of Ariel contains the entire list of poems in the original order that Plath left them at the time of her suicide. Though Plath’s death and the subsequent publication of her final poems by Ted Hughes were rife with controversy, the strength and craft of the poems transcend any debate. You can read an edited version of Frieda Hughes’ foreword to this new facsimile edition of the original manuscript here.

These are just a few of the stories moving and shaking around the publishing world this week. Seen or heard anything interesting about your favorite publisher, author or literary genre? Making some news of your own? We want to hear about it.

38 Responses

  1. Da VinciYet another movie
    Da Vinci

    Yet another movie ruined by that insufferable canned ham, Tom Hanks. Blah! I’m just glad they somehow missed casting him as Ted Hughes in “Sylvia” as well.

  2. Oh, come on. “Run, Dr.
    Oh, come on. “Run, Dr. Langdon! Ruuuuunnnnnnn!!!!” doesn’t sound like quality entertainment to you?

  3. The BookI haven’t seen the
    The Book

    I haven’t seen the book yet. I tried to buy one through Amazon on-line last night, but got frustrated by the process. It looks like ordering through a bookstore is in my future.

    I am just honoured to be included in the book. The funny thing is that the piece that was selected was the last piece I would have thought that qualified. It was just something I scribbled while in a certain state. The fact that it was selected over other stuff that I worked very hard on, and thought was better, tells me a lot.

    I like the new Litkicks layout. I don’t have a lot of time to play here; work and study has bought up most of my time. But at some point in the future my schedule will permit more. Possibilities of returning to sea next summer may facilitate that.

    At any rate, I appreciate all the good work you folks do. I’ve always said I found Litkicks at an opportune time, and that the site helped keep me sane during a difficult period. The fact that I continue to dabble here now that that period is behind me speaks volumes of what I think of the community and the idea.

  4. Thanks Knip. You’re actually
    Thanks Knip. You’re actually answering yesterday’s question but that’s okay. And yeah, it’s funny that many people are telling us the pieces we selected for the book were the last ones they would have thought of. In almost every case, we went for the more personal, simple, quirky writings over the more labored, grandiose works. And I think we made the right choices. Looking fwd to seeing you here whenever you get a chance to pop by.

  5. Tom Hanks has been in some
    Tom Hanks has been in some mediocre films palying unchallenging roles, to be sure, but he is an amazingly skilled actor.

    Tom Hanks showed in Forrest Gump an ability to create a character on screen that we love on an emotional and logical level, and in Cast Away he managed to carry an entire story, even when there was none.

    For those who are still unconvinced of his skills, I would recommend investigating Joe Versus the Volcano, his first film with Meg Ryan. It is written and directed by playwright-novelist John Patrick Shanley, and is his only work as a director, thanks to its poor box office performance. But the movie is an absolute masterpiece.

    Tom hanks goes in stages from depressive-hypochondriac who finds out that he is dying, to a man trying to live his life at the last opportunity given to him, to the simple little man lost at sea trick.

    The point is, the movie is brilliantly performed by a man who has several times proved himself as an artist, and I think we can assume he is capable of lending himself to light, thriller-fare such as Da Vinci.

  6. Another bit of newsThank you
    Another bit of news

    Thank you to Caryn Thurman for this excellent news resource. I think I will learn a lot by becoming a devoted reader.

    One new publication you might have mentioned is a new book about the career of Frank Zappa by Beat-chronicler Barry Miles, just published by Grove Press. I haven’t read this book yet but I plan to. Barry Miles has written biographies of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and according to the review I read this book puts Zappa’s work into serious literary context. It’s about time we got some attention for the wordsmith who came up with song titles like ‘My Guitar Wants To Eat Your Mama’, ‘Don’t Eat Yellow Snow’ and ‘Help, I’m a Rock’.

  7. My Three DreamsMy wife’s
    My Three Dreams

    My wife’s cousin is such a smart-ass.

    He told me, “I heard on NPR that five people are living your dream.”

    “Oh,” I said, “You mean the five winners of the National Book Awards?”

    “Well,” he said, “I forgot you also write. I meant that they all live in New York and they are all women.”

    p.s. firecracker, I like the wittiness of this column. Garrison Keillor would be proud of your vote of confidence.

  8. Well, you know they’re so
    Well, you know they’re so certain of the Da Vinci magic that they’re saying “we don’t actually need Hanks (for box office draw), but we think he’d be great in this role”. It would be nice, however, if some of these movies would go beyond the safe choice to actually pick actors who would become the story of the novel instead of becoming the story of themselves. Of course, I wasn’t really a fan of Paltrow in Sylvia. Aren’t there other people out there? Do we have to keep dragging out the same old chestnuts again and again?

    In any case, keep in mind that we’re talking turkey here, and not ham.

    Thanks for your comments.

  9. Thanks for your thoughts on
    Thanks for your thoughts on this — I think this is probably the biggest literary news happening right now, but I just didn’t want to seem too self-centered. If only there were some way to get Tom Hanks to play the role of Levi in the LitKicks movie.

    And now I’ve said too much.

  10. Very interesting, thank you,
    Very interesting, thank you, Rog. I appreciate your comments and this little scoop. I hadn’t heard about this one, so I hope you’ll tell us what you think about it once you’ve read it. If we can’t get some recognition in this world for guitars eating our mamas, I don’t think that’s the kind of world I want to live in.

  11. Three ThingsFirst of all, I
    Three Things

    First of all, I haven’t read the Di Vinci Code. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I’m sure it is probably a quick read, but damn it, I can’t do it.

    Second of all, what is with Kurt Vonnegut’s web site? is awful. The guy is obsessed with his paintings and almost totally ignores his novels. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any information about his novels on Vonnegut’s own site.

    Finally, Chuck Palahniuk is having an on-line book discussion this month at But I can’t access it from my office. And I’m too busy at night to check it out at home. Damn you Barnes & Noble with your nefarious schemes!

  12. Three words why I will never
    Three words why I will never totally hate Tom Hanks —

    Saving Private Ryan.

  13. Thanks, Bill, this is really
    Thanks, Bill, this is really funny. I think it is interesting that all five nominees are women and relatively unknown. I think this is both good and bad in some ways. I’ve read through some of the descriptions of their novels, and while I’m not sure I’ll be picking any of them up soon (the novels, that is), the storylines seem interesting and I’m sure the writing is well-crafted.

    How do you feel about the 9/11 Commission report being classified as literature? Agree? Disagree? Abstain?

  14. Hey there — I haven’t read
    Hey there —

    I haven’t read it either — I think it’s on the list of things I’m boycotting for no good reason. Which is probably a shame, because I do love me some Mary Magdalene. There was another book that came out before Da Vinci code about her history/legend (the title escapes me now) that I think I’d rather read over Dan Brown’s game of Clue.

    Vonnegut website — yeah, someone really needs to fix the way the links work over there, because they don’t actually even take you to the books. Or maybe that’s the intention.

    Chuck P. — I never really did “get” the whole B&N discussion/course thing. Wasn’t he originally doing these from his own site? Has he become too big for his britches? Or is he getting a healthy kick-back from Barnes & Noble?

  15. David Sedaris – King of
    David Sedaris – King of Powell’s

    According to the bestseller list (if you don’t know, Powell’s is the world’s largest seller of new and used books), David Sedaris holds four spots on its 20-item bestseller list: spots 2 (for his latest, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim), 7 (for Me Talk Pretty One Day), 12 (for Holidays on Ice), and 17 (for Naked), respectively. He is the only repeat writer on the list, and four spots — well, that’s pretty impressive.

  16. To answer your question — I
    To answer your question — I think it’s pretty insulting to the ever-forgotten poets, short story writers and novelists of the world to give a literary award to a government commission report.

    One of my regular complaints in life (I have several regular complaints in life) is that the New York Times Book Review pretends to be a literary publication but actually pays more attention on a regular basis to books about politics, government and sociology than books of fiction or poetry. I sense that the editors are political journalists at heart, more connected to the rest of the NY Times journalistic community, and clocking time at the Book Review while they wait for better assignments within the paper.

    Naming the 9-11 Commission Report a work of literature seems like more of the same trend. I’m sick of political journalists crowding our literary territory. Go away!

  17. I should also say, though —
    I should also say, though — yeah, Bill, Caryn is witty and you are too.

  18. Yeah, I hated the Da Vinci
    Yeah, I hated the Da Vinci Code. (Although I also hate this one writer you really like, whose name escapes me at present, so you might want to take my opinion with a grain of salt. Ahem.) The story itself was okay, although the entire plot had this obvious “this is being written so it will be turned into a movie” feel to it. The writing itself was painfully stilted, and the dialogue was pretty fake and hokey. But I did read it all the way to the end, so I guess that counts for something.

    That said, it’s my hope that the screenwriters can come up with some memorable catchphrases that will seep into the popular culture’s consciousness… something along the lines of, “There’s no CRYING in the Louvre!” or “Mama always said DaVinci’s art was like a box of chocklits…”

    Yeah, I can envision the t-shirts now.

  19. The King of Powell’s. That’s
    The King of Powell’s. That’s quite a title. Of course, it’s no Poet Laureate of eBay, but I think Sedaris should be proud. Do you know how these rankings compare to other lists? And why he has such a commanding presence on Powell’s list over (I’m assuming) others?

    Would you say that Sedaris is to the Best Seller list as Tom Hanks is to the Top Box Office Earnings list?

  20. Okay, yeah, Saving Private
    Okay, yeah, Saving Private Ryan was a good movie, and he also wasn’t too terrible in That Thing You Do, which I believe he directed.

    But I must agree with Caryn that we gotta stop dragging out the same names over and over. I read “Da Vinci Code”, and there is nothing about the character that resembles Tom Hanks at all. This probably means that Hanks will either phone in a dull and lifeless performance, or that he’ll “Hanks it up” and add all kinds of sweet, vulnerable, lovable touches to the character. I don’t like either outcome. I liked this book and I would like the main role to be played by somebody who fits the part (young, scholarly, quiet) instead of somebody who guarantees box office draw.

  21. In the “really basically
    In the “really basically irrelevant but I’ll say it anyway” department … I was walking to a morning meeting around 45th Street and 3rd Avenue about two weeks ago when I noticed that the skinny old man shuffling down the sidewalk in front of me was Kurt Vonnegut.

    I don’t know what’s up with his website but I will say that he looked kind of sad. I assumed it was the war in Iraq that was getting him down, but maybe it’s also his lousy website.

  22. Well no, I’m not sure about
    Well no, I’m not sure about how the Powell’s list compares to other lists. I’m sure I could find out, but that would take research, and who has time for that? I do know that the Powell’s list is based on sales within Powell’s, but since it’s a pretty big store (the largest in the WORLD! or so they say), my guess is that placement on the list is a pretty big deal.

    In any case, I think I heard that instead of Sedaris doing his own appearances and commentary (like he does for NPR), Tom Hanks will be playing the role of David Sedaris for public engagements from here on out.

  23. Interesting, being King of
    Interesting, being King of Powell’s does seem like a pretty big deal. I’m just curious why he’s on their list four times and if it has anything to do with certain advertising, customer base, etc. I should do a little research and present it here next week.

    If Sedaris really did send a doppleganger to do all of his appearances, that would probably up his ‘cool’ factor even more; sort of like when Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse his Oscar. But did you mean to say Tom Hanks or Tom Selleck?

    Either way, I think if more literary darlings would pull stunts like this, literature and reading would become a higher priority in society.

  24. E.T and Action
    E.T and Action Poetry

    According to Reuters, some Swedish poets are beaming their poems into outer space.

    “I can’t think of anything more adequate than poetry to communicate what it means to be human,” said Daniel Sjolin, editor of Swedish poetry magazine Lyrikvannen and organizer of the live reading at a Stockholm observatory.

    Sharing poems with spacemen; I smell a new Litkicks production in the offing.

  25. Thanks for that info. I was
    Thanks for that info. I was reading an old interview with Zappa a few days ago and it was interesting. He said that when he started writing music, he wasn’t even thinking of the instruments playing, he was just writing the notes to look good on paper! Asked if he ever heard that music performed, Zappa said, yeah, it sounded terrible. So then he started writing with more attention to how it would sound. Isn’t that bizarre?

    I want to read that book about him.

  26. I think Tom Hanks is a great
    I think Tom Hanks is a great actor but, when I read the Da Vinci Code, I pictured one of those Baldwins I think.

    Maybe Ali G could make a film called Da The Vinci Code.

  27. You mean if I ever become a
    You mean if I ever become a famous writer I still might be sad sometimes? Damn the universality of the human race!

  28. Actually that comment made no
    Actually that comment made no sense, since Caryn Thurman couldn’t very well play Jamelah Earle if Meg Ryan is playing Caryn Thurman. I apologize.

    Oh yeah, how about Jeff Foxworthy as Billectric?

  29. What about the big guy?I’m a
    What about the big guy?

    I’m a little surprised that there has been no discussion about the new Shakespeare biography. Will in the World by Stephan Greenblatte is up for a National Book Award. There was a special about him and his book on NPR this morning, you can find the sound bite on the web. What I find interesting is that we know so little about Will and Greenblatte was able to compose a very unique work from careful observation of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. I believe that anything we learn about this remarkable mind is very valuable for all readers and writers. Have a look.

  30. Not bad…My cereal bowl
    Not bad…

    My cereal bowl collection does have “Cool Whip” on the side on each bowl…

  31. DJ Alien (cuttin’ up some
    DJ Alien (cuttin’ up some old-school funk)

    Each of the Voyager spacecraft launched in the 1970’s was equipped with a 12-inch gold-plated phonograph record including samples of natural and manmade sounds, greetings in 55 languages, and portions of 27 musical pieces. The disks are encased in aluminum jackets with a cartridge and a needle. “Instructions explaining … how to play the disk are engraved onto the jacket.”


  32. Thanks, Abraham, that’s good
    Thanks, Abraham, that’s good literary content and worthy of our attention. I believe brooklyn is a big Will Shakespeare fan.

  33. Litkicks – the movieI see
    Litkicks – the movie

    I see Levi being played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Caryn by Jennifer Jason-Leigh, and Jamelah by Cristina Ricci.

    I also saw kreddible Trout play Iago tonight – he was awesome and definitley stole the show. A keeper.

  34. Thank You, must have been
    Thank You, must have been weird times, and strange ways of performing: sometimes beautifully vulgar, and men starring as women, etc. – and straight talk, with all that timeless meditation included, coming so (seemingly) easy. (Just got the complete works themselves, in (too) small print for my old eyes..)

    Billy Wobbledagger ? someone in our German house called him, yes – the one with the American wife ..
    must be enlightening to read about his intentions. Thanx

  35. When I read the DaVinci Code
    When I read the DaVinci Code I couldn’t picture anyone, so I really thought it wouldn’t be made into a movie.

    Instead of being critical of Tom Hanks in the movie, I think we should be critical of the book. All the hype that this was such an innovative book, and the theory was so original. Well, the structure of the book is quite convential, especially when they get to Langdon’s old teacher living in the country & the double crosses ensue! If that isn’t one of the most stock characters I don’t know what is. & the book really is nothing more than a car chase with allusions.

    & the theory I read it in the 70’s, & its been bouncing around art history classes for years, I guess we should give him credit for thinking of a way to utilize it.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!