January 2009

happy new year from macmillan

  • About the author EB
  • January 12, 2009

The digital marketing team over at Macmillan created this educational and hilarious video to explain how books are made and wish everyone a happy new year:

NYR: alberto rojas and audrey harris

  • About the author EB
  • January 09, 2009

It’s 4:42 pm on Friday. Spend the last 18 minutes of the day reading this new year’s resolutions double-shot, from publicity hotshots Alberto Rojas and Audrey Harris.

What was the best book of the year? 2666
What was the best movie? Slumdog Millionaire
What was the best song/album?Viva la Vida — Coldplay
Favorite Blog? Towleroad
Who was the person of the year? David Axelrod
What is your New Year’s resolution? More fiber
** Bonus question: Where do you see the world going in 2009? To Wal-mart

What was the best book of the year? Family Planning!
What was the best movie? The Diving Bell and the Butterfly!
What was the best song/album?Skinny Love—Bon Iver!
Favorite Blog? Helado y Asado!
Who was the person of the year? Obama!
What is your New Year’s resolution? To use fewer exclamation marks.

NYR: jeanette perez

  • About the author EB
  • January 09, 2009

The new year’s resolutions just keep on comin’. Today’s are from editor Jeanette Perez, whose recent books include Who by Fire and Noise.

What was the best book of the year?

This is a tough question for an editor as I think all the authors I work with were top notch this year. I’ll mention a few of the debut authors and their books, which I think you should all seek out: Who by Fire by Diana Spechler, The Bookmaker by Michael J. Agovino, The Bitter Sea by Charles N. Li, Fat Envelope Frenzy by Joie Jager-Hyman, and The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart.

What was the best movie?

Well, it definitely wasn’t the new Indiana Jones. I’ve been horrible about going to the movies lately, but I can’t wait to see Wendy and Lucy. I also thought The Dark Knight was great.

What was the best song/album?

Song — Single Ladies by Beyonce

Album – In Rainbows by Radiohead

Favorite Blog?


Who was the person of the year?

Obama (of course!) and my new best email friend David Plouffe

What is your New Year’s resolution?

To read more!!

** Bonus question: Where do you see the world going in 2009?

Around the sun again. But seriously, I hope the new year brings some much needed optimism.

Olive Q+A: Karan Mahajan

  • About the author EB
  • January 08, 2009


In Family Planning, a story of a Delhi father with 13 children, lots of problems, and a teenage son with some very strong opinions, Karan Mahajan brilliantly captures the frenetic pace of India’s capital city to create a searing portrait of modern family life. Here, he answers some questions. Tomorrow, he’ll read at KGB in NYC. On the 15th, he’ll read at WORD Books in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with Jessica Anya Blau, author of Summer of Naked Swim Parties

THE OLIVE READER: Certain aspects of your biography—descending from a prominent Indian family, growing up and attending high school in Delhi—match that of Arjun, the main character in Family Planning. Is his character based on you in any way?

KARAN MAHAJAN: Sadly, Arjun and I are nothing alike. I was a timid boring studious kid who spent every afternoon slogging away at homework, and got out only to play cricket. I had no bus romance, a matter of considerable regret. I did, however, listen to Bryan Adams—like everyone else I knew—and considered him to be a major patriotic cause for us Indians.

TOR: When did you start writing, and where would you say you learned how to write?

KM: In addition to reporting for my cricket website, I wrote achingly earnest adolescent poetry from the age of 14 onwards; and for a while, in college, I thought I was going to be a poet. But then I took my first fiction writing class at the end of my sophomore year, wrote a comedic story, and was absolutely addicted. My first real stories were written during my junior year when I was able to mine some of my earlier earnestness without sacrificing absurdity.

TOR: There is—ahem—a lot of sex in Family Planning, which seemed a little unusual to me, especially for a novel about India, which is traditionally conservative. Was it difficult for you to write the sex scenes? And what purpose do you think they serve in the novel?

KM: The sex scenes were some of the easiest parts, to be honest, and mostly because they boast such natural drama that your goal as a writer becomes to underplay them rather than overwrite them. I also think that sex is an astounding way to describe the private lives of people, and one thing Indian novels have lacked in the past is an authentic description of how the internal lives of Indians have altered under the vigorous assault of western popular culture. Sex allows us to look past the public poses of people.

TOR: Mr. and Mrs. Ahuja’s marriage is haunted by the unusual circumstances of their wedding, and particularly the fact that they had never met each other before marrying. What do you think about the practice of arranged marriages? Is it changing now in India, or do you think it’s something that will be around for a long time?

KM: Arranged marriages will persist forever—like all institutions, they can be practical and successful, or downright cruel. I think parts of urban India are moving toward a more tempered form of arranged marriage—where the boy and girl can meet a few times to make up their minds, rather than having to say “yes” or “no” immediately under pressure from their parents.

TOR: Family Planning is about the family of a politician, and details some of the recent history of urban planning in Delhi. Is it a coincidence that you also work in municipal development now in New York? Is your writing motivated by a desire for political change or do you see yourself more as an observer? Do you think writers have a political duty to society?

KM: It’s not a coincidence—I did so much research on urban planning that I wanted, after writing the novel, to get involved in it myself. Besides, I’m obsessed with New York, and think this job will be an excellent way to stoke that obsession.

I do think writers have a political duty, but I’d say that duty is simply to be as honest to the demands of the story itself, rather than to the expectations of society or culture: I’m a little appalled by the fact that scores of writers, who know nothing about war or politics, will write about these subjects anyway to beef up their work with prize-winning drama.

TOR: It seems like you make fun of, among other things, flyovers in the book. Though they are Mr. Ahuja’s “big accomplishment” they seem to worsen traffic conditions and mar the skyline. Do you think that recent development efforts in Delhi have been a complete failure?

KM: Yes. Some flyovers have eased traffic, but Delhi adds so many new cars everyday that it’s only a matter of time before we need to lengthen our roads again to accommodate the growing population. Another recent failure in Delhi was the rapid bus transit corridor, which has taken up entire lanes on crowded roads, and isn’t helping the buses go any faster either.

TOR: There are many failures in Family Planning—the failure of a marriage, the failure of a government, the failure of a father to communicate with his son. It strikes me as a preternaturally mature topic in a way. Are beginnings and endings and attempts and failures something you think about consciously? Is there any wisdom you’ve gained on the subject?

KM: I think what I learned is that most attempts at communication are doomed—and while people optimistically pursue change for most of their life, only a tiny amount is ever affected: people are stubborn and move like pawns on a chessboard, one square at a time.

NYR: diana spechler

  • About the author EB
  • January 07, 2009

Just when you thought it was over, we pull you back in. Here’s another set of resolutions, this time from Diana Spechler, author of Who by Fire.

What was the best book of the year?

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block

What was the best movie?

Burn After Reading

What was the best song/album?

I don’t know…I like the oldies.

Favorite Blog?

Post Secret. Is that a blog?

Who was the person of the year?

If I said anyone but Obama, I would be striving for uniqueness, rather than for honesty. So Obama. But Huckabee is up there, too, because he was so scary. He wound up being a person of the moment, rather than of the year, but it was a scary, scary moment.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

I want to do more selfless acts. Does that sound like a lie? I just read it over and it sounds like a lie.

win a copy of Noise!

  • About the author EB
  • January 06, 2009


Today is the official on-sale date of Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth, “a raucous coupling of music and literature featuring marrow-colored goo, severed hands and abandoned babies, Patty Hearst watching the apocalypse on TV, and other unruly images of the Zeitgeist.” Anthem Magazine has an interview with editor Peter Wild, where you can find out whether he thinks there could ever be “Hit Me Baby One More Time: Fiction Inspired by Britney Spears,” and a contest where you can win your own copy of Noise.

Captain Freedom Speaks Out!

  • About the author MS
  • January 05, 2009

An unprecedented moment here! Actual superhero Captain Freedom weighs in on the recent “unauthorized” account of his life and hijinks, I mean, heroic feats in his memoir (?) Captain Freedom: A Superhero’s Quest for Truth, Justice, and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves. I’ll let the Captain parse that out:

the roaring twenties

  • About the author EB
  • January 05, 2009

Happy new year everyone! We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging, though a few resolutions may still trickle in here and there. It’s time for our first blog recommendation of 2009: The Roaring 20s. Run by academic and library marketing coordinator Kayleigh George, it’s all about “Quarterlife Lit for the TwentySomething Set.” As a fellow member of said twentysomething set, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Kayleigh’s picks.

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