This is a week of reading about the exotic and dystopic; gowns, girls, and speaking squirrels; TV talkers and phone callers; and Neverwhere, London, for the LJ and SLJ crew.
Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, School Library Journal
Move over, Woody Allen, I’ve got a new celebrity heartthrob: former TV host Dick Cavett. In addition to watching numerous clips of his show on YouTube, I’ve started reading his 2010 book Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets (Holt). I’ve also immersed myself in his New York Times blog posts, and have I been entertained, from an (admittedly improbable) account of his having a conversation about Noel Coward with John Wayne, a poignant story about meeting comic legend Stan Laurel , and a description of an aging Groucho Marx’s Carnegie Hall performance. There’s also a wonderfully bizarre post about the Ivy League tradition of photographing graduates in the nude (ostensibly to check their posture).
Here’s an excerpt from his piece “Witness for the…Who, Exactly?” on testifying on behalf of John Lennon (when he risked deportation during the Nixon administration).
Here’s Cavett on Nixon:
To those who feel I am too hard on Mr. Nixon, yes, I willingly acknowledge his many gifts, his intellect and his great accomplishments. Of course I have not forgotten his remarkable feat of “opening up” China. Without him, what would we have done for poisoned toys?
Liz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
It’s taken a lot of will power, but I’ve managed to NOT devour/zip through/ruin the enjoyment of Tana French’s upcoming suspense, The Secret Place (Viking). I’m still not quite done, but it’s a keeper for sure. Her gift for dialog improves with every novel; this one had me speaking in Irish accents and colloquialisms (it’s set in Dublin). Couple that talent with a poet’s eye for description and I was in the scenes with the working-class detectives as they face their most terrifying foes in a murder case: teenagers. Rich ones, at that—and female. French puts a whole new spin on girl power in her latest, and I’ve already decided to read it again when I finish.
I was distracted from Irish boarding schools and inter-office politics among the investigating detectives by the arrival of a spectacular, exotic bird. Charles James: Beyond Fashion (Metropolitan Museum of Art), by Harold Koda & Jan Glier Reeder is the gorgeous catalog that accompanies an exhibition of clothing designer James’s work at the Met. I haven’t had a chance to get uptown to see this show (at the newly christened Anna Wintour Costume Center), but this luscious volume took me into another world—a world where gowns are architecture and gossamer and dreams and drop-dead sexy all at once. It was tough to do, but I managed to pry my claws off the book and send it to a reviewer!
Stephanie Klose, Media Editor, LJ
I’m halfway through Josh Malerman’s debut, Bird Box (Ecco: HarperCollins), a sharp, imaginative slow burn of a postapocalyptic horror novel that I would really like to get back to as soon as possible (lunchtime can’t come fast enough!). An epidemic of violence has gone around the world, leaving millions of dead bodies in its wake. The violence—against others, then inevitably against oneself—occurs after the victims see something. A creature? A glimpse of infinity? None of the survivors know for sure. So they nail mattresses over the windows, blindfold themselves when venturing outside, and debate the merits of blinding infants at birth. For the last four years, Malorie has been raising two children who’ve never seen the sky and trying to gather the courage to leave the house where they’ve been staying. Today, Malorie, Boy, and Girl have put on their blindfolds, stumbled their way to the riverbank where she knows there’s a rowboat, and set off…to somewhere. Reports of their trip are interspersed with stories of the outbreak’s early days and the time Malorie spent with a collective of survivors, none of whom are around anymore. Malorie seems to have a destination in mind, but she’s not sharing that information with the reader, who’s left wondering where she thinks they’re going, if there’s anything left there for them, and whether they’ll survive the dangers of the journey to get there at all.
Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I borrowed the office galley of Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming novel Landline (St. Martin’s). Eleanor & Park and Fangirl were two of my favorite books last year, so I was excited to pick this one up—and to see what an adult title by Rowell is like (I haven’t read Attachments, her previous adult novel). Landline is about the epically named Georgie McCool, an L.A. television writer on the brink of having her show picked up by a network. The trouble is she and her writing partner need the scripts done in a week. Over Christmas. When Georgie was supposed to be in Nebraska with her husband Neal and their kids, visiting his family. He takes the kids to the Midwest as planned, and Georgie ends up crashing at her mom’s house, using her old rotary landline to call him. The call connects her with the Neal of 15 years ago, from when they were dating. Rowell is so smart with her writing and I adore this book already. A favorite line so far—Georgie, contemplating what’s happening and whether she’s having a breakdown: She wasn’t a Time Lord, she didn’t want a Time-Turner. Amazing.
Kiera Parrott, Editor, Reviews, SLJ
This week I’m reading Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow Books, out in August.) For years I’ve been saying that I’m not a fan of talking animal stories. And yet, here I am, completely charmed by this tale narrated by a talking squirrel. Jed is snatched up by a hungry hawk. Miraculously, he is unharmed and manages to free himself from the bird’s grasp, but not before being carried a great distance. His friends, watching from the treetops, witness his dramatic fall to earth and set out to find him and bring him home. What ensues is a journey tale, sprinkled with adventure, danger, scary humans with shiny objects that eat trees, footnotes, peanut butter sandwiches, and enormous amounts of courage packed into furry little bodies. Perkins has crafted a super funny story with lots of heart that simply must be read aloud.
Ashleigh Williams, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
Well, this week I’ve stepped, fallen, stumbled and pitched headfirst into Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (HarperTorch). Tardy to yet another literary party, yes, I know. I remain utterly amazed at Gaiman’s ability to keep the reader gnawing their nails at one moment, and squawking with laughter the next. Richard Mayhew’s tumultuous journey through London’s magical, monstrous, subterranean world is a must-read for anyone who likes words—that’s my wholly objective opinion, at least.