December 2009

what our writers do when they’re not writing books

  • About the author EB
  • December 10, 2009

They’re in movies!

60 Writers/60 Places “is about writers and their writing occupying untraditional spaces, everyday life, everywhere.” It’s a film of writers reading on subways and in laundromats and on baseball fields, and I found the trailers to be unexpectedly compelling. I will admit that I occasionally have a hard time paying attention at traditional readings, but the unusual settings here definitely helped hold my interest.

So who’s in it from harper perennial, you ask? There’s Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, a coming-of-age fave. There’s Justin Taylor, author of the forthcoming provocative short story collection Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever. And there’s Blake Butler, who we discovered through a little site called, where we’ve featured The Copy Family and The Gown from Mother’s Stomach. Blake is also featured in the trailer below, which is supremely awesome:

As is this one, though perhaps not for the faint of heart (don’t say I didn’t warn you—that’s Giancarlo DiTrapano, who I had never heard of before but will definitely check out now):

Also! There’s two screenings this weekend in New York City. Friday December 11 at Pratt and Saturday December 12 at PPOW Gallery. Hit up the site for more info.

the olive reader holiday grab bag: barb johnson

  • About the author EB
  • December 08, 2009

Our latest holiday grab bag guest post comes from Barb Johnson, author of More of This World or Maybe Another, a recently published collection of short fiction about outsiders whose lives intersect on the streets of New Orleans. It’s one of my favorites this year, and, I’d also add, would make a great gift for the short story lover in your life.

We’re very lucky to have Barb sharing her unique and educational holiday wish list with us:

“This year for Consumerist Gorge, I’d like a new laptop, the kind with the 20” screen that folds up to fit in a shirt pocket. I would like to receive notice that Amelia Earhart is alive and is hoping we will all reconsider taking control of our own destinies. And I would like to find a small weekly insert in every newspaper in America urging Americans to care about the difference between comprise and compose. I would wish for peace on earth, too, but if I received even one of the above, I feel certain that global goodwill would already have busted out all over.”

(For the uncertain: comprise—to include or contain. compose: to make or form by combining things.)

the olive reader holiday grab bag: austin kleon

  • About the author EB
  • December 07, 2009

This December on the Olive Reader, we’ve given some of our authors free reign to talk about the holidays: holiday crafts, holiday mishaps, holiday happiness, holiday hangovers, holidays on heroin—we’ve got it all. I am delighted to share the first of these posts, from Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout, coming this April from Harper Perennial. If you like this poem, be sure to check out the book when it comes out.


Harper Perennial Pets Presents… Leo!

  • About the author CS
  • December 04, 2009


This week’s HP Pet is Leo, kitty of Greg Olear, author of Totally Killer.

Here’s what was published in Leo’s kitty yearbook.
Lee, Fleo…molehunter, mush…likes whining at the door, walking on laptops, eating squirrel, climbing trees, watching TV in Daddy’s lap, making the rounds with his girlfriend Barbara…dislikes fleas, being locked in the basement because he has fleas…future plans include napping…voted Best Looking and Prettiest Eyes…will always remember vet salvation and his late brother Steve (RIP, you eater of edamame and spaghetti)…GL Dom ’23 and Prue ’24.

“You just gotta keep on livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.“—Wooderson

shelf discovery challenge #1: a ring of endless light

  • About the author EB
  • December 03, 2009


It’s finally time for our first Shelf Discovery Challenge Post—A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle.


When I was younger, I read A Wrinkle in Time twice. The first time was on my own, and I’m a little ashamed to say I hated it. There was too much fantasy, too much science. The second time I read it was in my sixth-grade English class, and with the help of my teacher, I was able to focus more on the characters and the bonds among the family, and I enjoyed it more. But not enough to ever consider reading another L’Engle book.

Book Club Girl was horrified by this. They’re not all that fantastical, she told me. There’s lots of romance in this one, she told me. So I chose A Ring of Endless Light as my first shelf discovery pick—but cautiously. And now I’m still amazed by how much I loved, LOVED this book.

A Ring of Endless Light is like A Wrinkle in Time crossed with Boy-Crazy Stacey (the babysitter’s club book.) It’s the story of Vicky, a teenage girl spending the summer in a small waterfront community with her family, navigating life, death, and three different boys. She also talks to dolphins, something that would normally be an intense turn-off for someone like me. Yet the writing was so beautiful, and Vicky so compelling and realistic, that I was able to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy it.

The word that comes to mind most when I think about A Ring of Endless Light is “refreshing.” I tend to read books about crazy, messed-up families, and it was lovely to take a break and read about a family that loves and supports each other, even while struggling with illness and tension and jealousy. I want to be a member of the Austin family!

I’m now eager to read the rest of the books about them. So as far as I’m concerned, this shelf discovery challenge has already been a success!

(And please note that I did NOT read it with this terrible cover. The only other one I could find online was a poster for the disney channel movie featuring mischa barton.)

mental floss trivia night this sunday!

  • About the author EB
  • December 02, 2009

You’ve been to other trivia nights . . . now come to the best trivia night!

It’s the first ever Mental_Floss Bar Quiz and Trivia Show!

Sunday December 6 at 7 pm
Galapagos Art Space
16 Main Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn

Be there or be lame!


nabokov dreams of butterflies and book covers

  • About the author CS
  • December 01, 2009

Lolita is one of my favorite books of all time, and thanks to lovely marketing maven Janina Mak’s facebook post (where I found this), here’s a very excellent l’il feature from the Wall Street Journal of Nabokov’s redesigned backlist. To celebrate the publication of the author’s posthumous novel, The Original of Laura, artists and authors like Dave Eggers, Chip Kidd, and Peter Mendelsund (my personal favorite of the batch) have reimagined the author’s previous covers, all with a nod to Nabokov’s love of butterflies in framing them in specimen boxes. (speaking of specimen boxes and butterflies, for an incredibly terrifying pyschological suspense novel, I recommend John Fowles’s The Collector.)

in a perfect world on book club girl on air!

  • About the author EB
  • December 01, 2009


Hope everyone out there had a happy Thanksgiving! One of the things I was thankful for this past weekend was having selected two great books to bring home from the office. One of them, The Queen of Palmyra, won’t be out until the summer (but if you liked The Secret Life of Bees or The Help, you should definitely keep an eye out for it, as it also perceptively deals with a young girl and race relations in south in the 60s). But the other one is out now.

I finished In a Perfect World this morning on the subway and it was SO AWESOME. It’s the story of Jiselle, a young flight attendant who thinks her life will be perfect once she marries the handsomest man she’s ever met and becomes the stepmother of his three children. But things don’t go exactly as Jiselle has planned, especially since the country is being ravaged by a mysterious flu and the world is changing right before her eyes.

Laura Kasischke, the author, is a poet, and it shows. The language in this book was just astonishingly beautiful, and the story was so compelling I finished in two days. Lucky for me (and for all of you!), Laura will be appearing on Book Club Girl on Air tomorrow, December 2nd, at 7 pm to discuss the book! Tune in here to listen live during the show.

(If you’ve read the book, you should absolutely tune in, but come by even if you haven’t. If we discuss the ending, which we probably will since I think it’s been fairly polarizing, we’ll let you know to stop listening for a few minutes.)

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