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Mark Flanagan

Contemporary Literature


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World Book Night 2014

Wednesday April 23, 2014

World Book Night 2014

Today, 25,000 book givers will give away half a million free books in 6,000 communities across the United States. Launched in 2012 in the U.S., World Book Night coincides with similar efforts in the United Kingdom which celebrate and promote reading with the distribution of free books.

If you happen upon a World Book Night giver, you may be handed one of 38 different World Book Night 2014 titles chosen by an independent panel of booksellers and librarians. Each of these books is paperbacks printed especially for World Book Night, and each World Book Night volunteer is shipped a box of 20 of his or her chosen book to hand out to individuals in the community. All of this is facilitated by the authors, who waive their royalties, publishers, who pay the production costs for the books, and bookstores and libraries, who coordinated delivery of the books to the individual book givers.

My teen daughter and I participated in World Book Night 2013, when we gave away 20 copies of David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day (Rowan was hoping for The Lightning Thief, but givers don't necessarily get their first choices). This year, we're handing out Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Learn how you can be a World Book Night book giver in 2015 at WorldBookNight.org.

Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Sean Pidgeon's Finding Camlann is a sparkling literary thriller that combines history, literature, archaeology, geography, geology, mapmaking, creation myths, and even a believable love story in revealing the origins of the legend of King Arthur.

Review of Finding Camlann

Photo: W.W. Norton

Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

Thursday April 17, 2014

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Autobiography of a Corpse compiles eleven irreverent short stories from early 20th-Century Russia that combine the madness of Nikolai Gogol with the philosophical crises of existentialism.

Review of Autobiography of a Corpse

Photo: New York Review Books

Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down

Sunday April 13, 2014

If anybody can write a feel-good novel about suicide, it's Nick Hornby. That novel was A Long Way Down, Hornby's 2005 story of four people - a talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl and a mother - who find each other on New Year's Eve on the roof of Topper's House, a well-known jumping-off point for the suicidal in London.

A Long Way Down will be a movie this year, as happens to novels when you're Nick Hornby, and I'll be interested to see if they do it justice (hint: read the book first). As you may or may not know, Hornby was also tapped to adapt Cheryl Strayed's Wild for the screen, another film out this year.

2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist

Friday April 11, 2014

This week, the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist of six was announced with the following books contending for the 30,000 award, to be announced at a ceremony in London on June 4:

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) was formed in 1991 when a group of journalists, reviewers, agents, publishers, librarians and booksellers noticed a distinct lack of women in the Booker shortlist. Learn more about the prize and its history at womensprizeforfiction.co.uk.

Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

Monday April 7, 2014

Ben Marcus's new collection Leaving the Sea reads like a compilation of demos and false starts, of stories that Marcus has not yet expanded towards the length of a novel. Marcus's cryptic, aggressive prose will appeal to fans of The Flame Alphabet, but might also reveal an author struggling to emerge from a tonal rut.

Review of Leaving the Sea

Photo: Knopf

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

Monday March 31, 2014

After the death of his son, Thomas Tessler locks himself in his room for three years, surfacing only late at night to buy food at the 24-hour store. His wife, desperate for his return, hires a "rental sister" to coax him out of his reclusive state, but she may have signed up for more than she bargained for when Megumi and Thomas begin to get close.

Review of Hikikomori and the Rental Sister

Photo: Algonquin

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura

Sunday March 30, 2014

Minae Mizumura's A True Novel is an homage to the frame tale, the literary technique in which one story is told within another, as with Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel Clarissa or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. All the tropes of a nineteenth-century British novel are at work here and sing in harmony with a different kind of story, one of mid-twentieth century Japan.

Review of Minae Mizumura's A True Novel

Photo: Other Press

The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson

Saturday March 29, 2014

When Anders Hill retires and divorces within the same year, he is faced with the curious task of growing up and facing looming moral responsibility late in life.

Review of The Land of Steady Habits

Photo: Little Brown and Company

Equilateral by Ken Kalfus

Friday March 28, 2014

Ken Kalfus' novel Equilateral is the story of Sanford Thayer, a well-regarded British Astronomer whose great obsession is the construction of an enormous equilateral triangle in the Egyptian desert, a perfect geometric signal to the Martians of their neighbors on the planet Earth.

Review of Equilateral

Photo: Bloomsbury

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