book promotion

#RadioBookClub V.5 – Sympathizer 13 Sept 2016

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The time has come again for #RadioBookClub.

This is the 5th such edition we have done and this one should be really fun.

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First, the logistics>>>

Date: 13 September 2016.

Time: 8:00 PM EST

Location: Fairfax Public Access Radio Radio Hotline.

Host: Dennis Price of Home Improvements by Dennis Price.

We will be reading Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

“The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, “The Sympathizer” is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, “The Sympathizer” is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a man of two minds, a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. “The Sympathizer” is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship..”

The group in the studio will be: Jenn, Kristin, Ellen Clair, Heather and myself.

Should indeed be fun…and challenging.

Buy your copy at your local bookstore. I purchased mine from One More Page Books.

Access the audio via the Radio Hotline URL, log into Twitter, use #bookclubradio and call in: 703-560-8255.

Thank you.

Jesse.

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#Bookclubradio v.4 – #Quicksand 22 Dec 2015

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The time has come again for #RadioBookClub.

This is the 4th such edition we have done and this one should be really fun.

quicksand-9781476797823_lg

First, the logistics>>>

Date: 22 December 2015.

Time: 8:00 pm (probably)

Location: Fairfax Public Access Radio Radio Hotline.

Host: Dennis Price of Home Improvements by Dennis Price.

We will be reading Quicksand by Steve Toltz.

The publisher describes it as, “A daring, brilliant new novel from Man Booker Prize finalist Steve Toltz, for fans of Dave Eggers, Martin Amis, and David Foster Wallace: a fearlessly funny, outrageously inventive dark comedy about two lifelong friends.”

The group in the studio will be: Kristin, Ellen Clair, Heather and myself.

Should indeed be fun…and challenging.

Buy your copy at your local bookstore. I purchased mine from One More Page Books.

Access the audio via the Radio Hotline URL, log into Twitter, use #bookclubradio and call in: 703-560-8255.

Thank you.

Jesse.

Review at Harvard University Press

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University of Virginia’s humanities/digital humanities scholar, Jerome McGann, produced a great book in his recently released

A New Republic Of Letters: Memory and Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction

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(image courtesy of Harvard University Press (accessed 18 June 2014))

Harvard University Press released this title in March, 2014 and my review of the title was published in Library Journal in April 2014. I just found out today my review is currently (as of 18 June 2014) at the top of Harvard University Press’ list of reviews promoting the book.

Click here to see the review and the title at Harvard Uni Press.

 

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

 

My Featured SHORT Review

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I learned recently that the blog connected with the Best American Poetry series, an anthology and promotional series that has been running for about 30 years, spotlighted my Library Journal review of Alan Ziegler’s SHORT, a collection of writing from all genres just recently published.

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(click on the image to see the spotlight, thanks)

Thank you Best American Poetry. It takes a collaborative effort to run the empire of literature. 🙂

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(Click on the Best American Poetry image to be taken to information on the current incarnation of their anthology, thanks)

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

The Almost-Book Whole-Review of Mad as Hell

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“The Almost Book – A Review of Dave Itzkoff’s Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies”*

Dave Itzkoff. Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies.

Times Books.  NY, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2014. ISBN: 9780805095692

Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times, writes for their Arts Beat Blog and contributes as a culture reporter, pulls together the topics he usually writes about and delivers an extremely pleasurable item in his new, Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies. He is not at all unfamiliar with popular formats such as film and television. The star, rather the protagonist of Itzkoff’s book, is the screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the screenplay for Network (1976) and previously wrote for popular television programs in his day. Itzkoff uses this background to base his book as he starts in the past, sections the book from about 2 years before Network and ends it not too long afterwards…sort of…

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If I could imagine a container or a shape I felt while reading for the text in this book, it would be a flat road. For example, it took a long while to gather actors to play some of the major roles. There were tensions and expectations around each one. Faye Dunaway, the talent that she is, was not without her troubled baggage before and after the film. Specifically, the character of Howard Beale, the “prophet” of the film who does all the screaming in the role and then eventually gets co-opted into the very system he wanted to undermine was played by Peter Finch who died the year after the film’s release at the young age of sixty. This character is polarizing in his anger and in his profanity.

But if this character is as important to the critical position in the film, and stands-in for the frustration felt by the screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, why should there not be a better direction of the narrative in the book surrounding him? I think there should be. Instead, the book moves along in sections not obviously arranged for dramatic purposes. The stress Chayefsky and the producer closest to him, Howard Gottfried, felt as they sent the script around the globe and did not find anyone for a while should somehow be represented better in the book itself as a form. Yes it’s history. But history is writing and that should show. Instead, Itzkoff’s choice, or maybe the publisher, is to include a slew of sections with bolded text that transition from one to another with no regard to dramatic structure created via chapter breaks. If editing in film is used to create and manipulate drama, breaking a book into better chapter sections can be thought of as an analog.

Instead, while Chayefsky and Gottfried close in on their best picks to play important characters such as Howard Beale, Itzkoff engages in constant sublimation, for example, by opening that last section when Finch is picked to play Beale by simply opening with the words, “Since the Spring…” a full double-space away from the previous section which opened with the words, “On September 24, 1975…” on the picking of William Holden for another major part. The style of these “chapters” reads like a personal diary by someone with little stake in the outcome. The meaningful actor/director choices put together for a film that would go on to win several academy awards are all locked up in a vague title section called, “A Great Deal of Bullshit.” I assume these were words Chayefsky expressed about and through the process of finding each player for the film. But the words themselves do not have much meaning. It is a hard choice though – book titling. It might be interesting to do research into the trends and changes in book and chapter titles for which this little review could be a footnote. I only suggest that a book on such a dramatic persona as Chayefsky make his life’s central work of art find a style and structure that better represents that persona.

According to the book’s narrative, after Network won its awards, Peter Finch died and every other player in the film went onward to other dreams. Chayefsky set to work on a screenplay for another film I like called Altered States (1980). He wanted Sidney Lumet to direct this film, but Lumet had already made other commitments. As a result, Ken Russell, the artist (slightly avant-garde) director of such works as The Devils (1971) and the cult music-crossover film, Tommy (1975) starring Pete Townsend from the English band, The Who, took over the reins and experienced what everyone has who worked with Chayefsky on a film, the locking of bullhorns over control of what happens with a film after a screenwriter has agreed to sign his or her writing over to a crew making a film from it. Chayefsky disagreed with Russell on a number of points. He did not appreciate the set structure and the approach Russell used at all. But it was not in Russell’s contract to be directed by the screenwriter. Russell did not back down. Eventually Chayefsky left the set and never set foot on it again.

In fact, Altered States was the last film he wrote before he died in August 1981. But it is with this section that alters the state for Chayefsky in film that the direction and purpose for Itzkoff’s book truly comes together. During the work for Altered States, which Chayefsky was “selling” as a Jekyll and Hyde novel first, one man, Chayesfsky, gets a lucrative film deal for what would become Altered States, the other man, Chayefsky (note the very subtle difference in the two), gets kicked of the set of that same film and returns to his office in NYC and does not produce another thing for the rest of his life – a life that was to end before the next year was over. It is not clear which was the angry monster and which was the man who created the monster. Even though Itzkoff’s anecdotes are fun to read and historically accurate, they do not themselves direct one toward an emotional catharsis one should expect from a book that revolves around heavy expression, an “angry” driven writer and the film that would make him the most famous.

The section just after the ending of Paddy Chayefsky’s death, however, marks the real catharsis for the book. It is here where Itzkoff collects a series of stinging anecdotes about the state of media today and what it’s like to work in the movie business. He quotes director/actor Ben Affleck who says anyone can still get his or her movie made as long as one if committed enough to it all the way through. He references contemporary stars such as Kieth Olbermann and their statements that Network can be read as a vision for the future (now) in that drama and increasingly niche programming has trumped “hard news.” We won’t bring up the other aspect of this debate, that one between televised news programming and newspapers. The issue has become central to programming on cable, satellite and what is left of the networks – news was considered a public service surrounded by lighter advertisement-filled content such as shows and other dramatic works. These times have changed according to the book. Everything must conform to the bottom line. It is with this examination of the sell-out method of contemporary media that Paddy Chayefsky’s rage can still be directed. As a result, it is precisely here that Dave Itzkoff’’s book comes together as a whole object, a whole history.

Dave Itzkoff’s Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, finds itself mostly unified at the end. It brings together the person Paddy Chayefsky and his most famous character into a more defined purpose.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

*A variant of this review has also been published at LibraryThing as part of Early Reviewers.

Library Journal Review of Tastemaker

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My newest review for Library Journal’s Book Verdict has been published in their February 01, 2014 issue.

The review examines Edward White’s new biographical writing, The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America, on Carl Van Vechten, NYC novelist and arts promoter.

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(please click on the above image to see the review site)

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

Book Club on Radio Hotline – Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch

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Yep, a Book Club on the Radio – hashtag: #bookclubradio

Sponsored by the 21st Century Librarians at Metamedia Management, LLC and the kind booksellers at One More Page Books, located in Arlington, Va / I am mediating a live book chat hosted on Radio Hotline with Dennis Price of Home Improvements by Dennis Price on Radio Fairfax – Northern Virginia’s public access radio station. Thank you Dennis.

One More Page Books

On March 4, 2014 at 8 PM – EST we will be chatting about crime writing and mystery style in Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch. You can order your copy of the book at One More Page Books by calling 703 -300-9746 or your local bookstore. The novel was adapted into film by Quentin Tarantino as Jackie Brown (1997) . Leonard’s style is fun and punchy. There have been several of this books adapted into film over the years and will be really fun to talk about any & all ideas we like about the book, film adaptations, or mystery writing in general. Just bring your thoughts and questions – whatever they are.

The discussion will feature live, in the studio: myself (Jesse), Terry and Ellen of One More Page Books. Even though Jennifer of Jenn’s Bookshelves book blog and #indiethursday was formerly planning to to be there, she will be promoting the event. We expect the chat to move around as we feel – though I will come prepared with a few questions and ideas. We ask that you please call in the radio at any time during the discussion so we can add more and more to the mix. The number to call-in is: 703-560-8255. If you want to join in the discussion on Twitter, you can follow or chat with any of us above under the hashtag #bookclubradio. Our names above are each linked to our Twitter profiles. It’ll be fun. Please join us.

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Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.