May 2008 Archives

Exaggeration or lies?

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Author David Sedaris defends James Frey — who was famously lambasted by Oprah over his "memoir" A Million Little Pieces — in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly:

"His punishment outweighed his crime," says the 51-year-old humorist. "I don’t recall Oprah Winfrey calling George Bush a liar when he was on her show. And those lies cost thousands of people their lives."

David Sedaris

Sedaris himself has admitted to "exaggerating" details of his own life for added effect and has been taken to task for it.

'With some of his stories, especially the early ones ... he's taken every liberty a fiction writer [does]," wrote Alex Heard in an article in The New Republic last spring. "It makes the story very funny, but also makes it something you shouldn't call nonfiction.''

Sedaris pretty much shrugs off the criticism — just in time for his own new book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (Little, Brown, $24.99) — to hit store shelves. (Look for a Sun-Times review in next week's Books pages in the Sunday Show section.)

For the full Entertainment Weekly interview with Sedaris, check out

New Bond book arrives

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The new James Bond book, Devil May Care (Doubleday, 304 pages, $24.95) hit store shelves today all over the world. It is another event in a year full of centenary tributes to the late Ian Fleming, who created the iconic British spy.

Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong, Charlotte Gray) wrote the latest installment of Bond's adventures, which began in 1952 with Casino Royale. Faulks, 55, told the Associated Press he was astonished to be asked to do the job and is hopeful the book will please Bond purists. He describes the book as ‘‘an affectionate homage to a playful character who has brought enormous pleasure’’ to millions of readers.

Sebastian Faulks
‘‘This is not usually how I spend my days,’’ said Devil May Care author
Sebastian Faulks, facing a barrage of cameras and reporters’ questions
at a packed news conference today in London. Yesterday, he had launched
the book aboard a Royal Navy warship, accompanied by a blonde model in
a red catsuit.
| AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth

NOTE: Read the Sun-Times' feature with James Bond analyst Simon Winder, by Jeffrey Westhoff. Also, Westhoff's review of Devil May Care.

Summer reading recommendations

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Last week on "Chicago Tonight," host Phil Ponce led a discussion with local bookworms, who gave their recommendations for summer reading. Panelists included Jessa Crispin, editor of Bookslut; Author and Loyola professor Al Gini, and novelist Kimberla Lawson Roby.

Each panelist recommended several books for the summer but right off the bat Ponce asked for their No. 1 choices. Crispin chose Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall (HarperCollins, $13.95); Gini chose The Blue Star by Tony Earley (Little, Brown, $23.99); Roby chose The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (Hyperion, $21.95).

Daughters of the North The Blue Star The Last Lecture

You can see the entire discussion on video, on

Buy a book, feed the hungry

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This year, After-Words Books' semi-annual book sale for charity will benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository, "a not-for-profit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community."

The sale will take place from noon to 6 p.m. May 25-26 at After-Words, 23 E. Illinois. Bring your own bag or purchase one at the bookstore. For $5 you can fill your bag with books.

For more information: (312) 464-1110.


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A Los Angeles woman, who until recently was known only to the scientific community as "AJ," has come out of the laboratory closet to talk about herself — a subject she knows intimately. Jill Price is an autobiographical Rainman. She can tell you what she had for lunch on any random day 15 or 20 years ago. So precise are her memories that leading experts on human memory have been studying her for eight years.

Price has written a book, with Bart Davis: The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science (Free Press, 263 pages, $26).

The Woman Who Can't Forget

It is the story of an ordinary woman, now 42 years old, whose brain began working overtime when she was 14. Price says her life plays out like a split-screen in her head, with all her memories continually swirling around.

Here is her first television interview:

Another Grisham book to big screen

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John Grisham's latest novel, Playing For Pizza (Doubleday, $21.95), which came out last fall, may be made into a movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Phoenix Pictures picked up the movie rights to the non-legal-themed book about a has-been NFL quarterback who gains a new perspective on life when his agent lands him a gig playing with a semi-pro team in Italy.

Playing for Pizza

Click here to read a review of Playing For Pizza.

Strummin' a tune, writin' a story

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What are country singer/songwriters if not storytellers. Heck, most country songs tell a story with their titles. Who can forget: "I Gave Her the Ring (She Gave Me the Finger)"? Or how about "If My Nose Were Full of Nickels Then I'd Blow It All on You"? Or "My Phone Ain't Been Ringin' So I Guess it Wasn't You."

I'm not sure those are true song titles, but they sound good, don't they?

Robert Hicks, a New York Times best-selling author (The Widow of the South), along with singer/songwriter John Bohlinger and writer Justin Stelter, have put together A Guitar and a Pen (Center Street, 256 pages, $23.99) — a collection of stories by "Country Music's Greatest Songwriters," as the subtitle states. Vince Gill provides the foreword.

A Guitar and a Pen

There are some recognizable names in the bunch — Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson, Hal Ketchum, Janis Ian and Charlie Daniels, to name a few — and some not so recognizable names. If I hadn't seen Bohlinger's name on the book cover, I wouldn't have known who he was. One name, likely recognizable only to Chicagoans and fringe country fans, is Robbie Fulks...

More on meat

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Last month on this blog I wrote about a book titled The Shameless Carnivore, and have since run across a couple other odes to meat-eating. Melissa Lion, who writes reviews on food-related books for Bookslut, checks in this month with a review of Meat: A Love Story (Putnam, $24.95) by journalist Susan Bourette. It may not make you want to buy the book but you'll savor every bit of Lion's wit and biting commentary. Bon Appetit!

Meat: A Love Story

Eloise back at the Plaza

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NEW YORK — Eloise, the Plaza hotel’s most famous fictitious resident, has officially returned to the storied landmark following a $400 million renovation — with a portrait of the mischievous 6-year-old prominently displayed near its famous Palm Court dining room.

‘‘Children of all ages have been asking for Eloise and it is our pleasure to have her call The Plaza home once again,’’ said Shane Krige, the hotel’s general manager.

Eloise, known to fans worldwide from the children’s book by Kay Thompson (illustrated by Hilary Knight), is an endearing fixture at the hotel. An ‘‘Eloise’’ bubble bath, accompanied by milk and cookies, is available to all guests, and a children’s menu, which pictures Eloise on a tricycle, is available in all of The Plaza’s restaurants.


The portrait was returned to its original spot on a wall outside the sumptuous restaurant, whose stained-glass ceiling, covered with plaster in the 1940s, was uncovered and restored during the two-year renovation.

The Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, first opened in 1907. It officially reopened to the public last weekend after its new owners, Elad Properties, converted the hotel’s original 805 guest rooms into 282 hotel rooms and 181 condominiums.


It's no big surprise that J.K. Rowling has won the Children's Choice Book Award for Author of the Year. Who else has enjoyed a bigger following in kid lit this past decade? Her final installment in the Harry Potter series — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — was the most anticipated children's book of last year.

Around 55,000 across the country voted online and at libraries and bookstores in this inaugural event sponsored by the Children's Book Council. The winners in the Book of the Year categories are:

Frankie Stein Big Cats Encyclopedia Horrifica Olivia

Kindergarten to Second Grade: Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry

Third/Fourth Grade: Big Cats: Hunters of the Night by Elaine Landau

Fifth/Sixth Grade: Encyclopedia Horrifica: The Terrifying TRUTH! About Vampires, Ghosts, Monsters, and More by Joshua Gee

Illustrator of the Year was awarded to Ian Falconer for Olivia Helps With Christmas

For more information: or

No more catalogs — yippee!

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Hearing that HarperCollins is planning on doing away with the clunky catalogs they send out throughout the year and switching to an online system instead has me giddy.

‘‘I think we are overdue. We produce thousands and thousands of catalogs, many of which go right into the wastebaskets,’’ HarperCollins President Jane Friedman, who said the switch would likely begin by summer 2009, told The Associated Press.

She's absolutely right — in my case at least. The obvious cost-efficiency and environmental aspects notwithstanding, I get more advance reading copies and finished copies of books sent to me than I'll ever cover in the paper, so I decided early on to not waste time going through the catalogs. If someone wants me to look at their book, they'll have to e-mail me a heads-up or send me a copy directly.

Those who follow publishing all know the story of John Grisham, who as an unknown author started out self-publishing a little book called A Time to Kill , driving around selling it out of the trunk of his car.

While most self-published authors don't see Grisham's kind of success, with a little persistence it can happen. Former Chicagoan John Bernard Ruane is getting a shot with his memoir Parish the Thought: An Inspirational Memoir of Growing up Catholic in the 1960s (Roswell Press, $19.99), which found its way into the book room right about the time I took over the job of Books Editor last year.

Parish the Thought

Anyone who grew up Catholic wlll relate to Ruane's stories of growing up in a Chicago parish, where he served as an altar boy and was schooled under the influence of nuns and priests in the 1960s. (One can't help recall John R. Powers' fictionalized memoirs about growing up Catholic in the '50s — The Last Catholic in America, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?)

Ruane, who now makes his home in Roswell Georgia, printed only 5,000 copies last summer. Most of the hardcovers have sold out and now Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, will publish the paperback edition this fall.

None other than our city's own archbishop, Francis Cardinal George blurbs the book on the back cover:

"John Bernard Ruane writes about a truly memorable parish, St. Bede's in the Archdiocese of Chicago. His witty but moving recall of his years growing up is a marvelous tribute to his mother and father and to the parish itself. Chicago priests and parishes have shaped literally millions of Catholics, and all of us now have reason to be grateful to John."

She's with the band

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The very first entry on this blog featured a book titled American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland (Gotham Books, $26) — a book that appealed to the former Midwestern band geek in me.

Good news! The book's author, Kristen Laine, recently was awarded the L.L. Winship/PEN New England award for nonfiction. The award is given annually to books written by New England authors and/or books on New England topics. While the book is all about Midwestern teenagers, Laine lives in New Hampshire, which allowed her to qualify for the prize. (For a list of all the winners, check out the PEN New England Web site).

Author Kristen Laine

Last year's Winship winner in the nonfiction category was Sebastian Junger for A Death in Belmont.

To learn more about American Band and read more reviews, visit Laine's Web site. The paperback comes out in September.

Prince working on book

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NEW YORK (AP) — Prince the musical auteur is becoming an author.

21 Nights, a ‘‘photographic essay’’ that offers ‘‘a rare glimpse into the life, lyrics, and mystique’’ of the maker of such hits as ‘‘1999’’ and ‘‘Purple Rain,’’ will be published worldwide come fall, according to Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The book, his first, is based on Prince’s 21 sold-out concerts in as many nights at London’s O2 Arena in 2007.

‘‘Juxtaposing his dueling worlds of music and solitude, [the book] will incorporate Prince’s evocative poetry and lyrics to new songs and other selections, and 124 full-color, sumptuous, never-before-published images by celebrated photographer Randee St. Nicholas,’’ Atria announced Monday.

21 Nights will include a CD of after-hours jams, ‘‘Indigo Nights,’’ unavailable from any other outlet.

Spitzer book, Strawberry memoir planned

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The folks that brought you Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room are now giving similar treatment to the Eliot Spitzer scandal.

Peter Elkind, a senior writer for Fortune magazine, and filmmaker Alex Gibney are collaborating on the book version, to be published by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), plus a documentary about the former New York governor who resigned over allegations about his connection to a $5,500-an-hour call girl ring.

‘‘This is not a quickie book," Portfolio publisher and President Adrian Zackheim told The Associated Press. "[Elkind] is going to do what he does best: Come back with a very, very satisfying, in-depth and complicated story.’’

No release date has been set.

Meanwhile, former Major Leaguer Darryl Strawberry (with help from author John Strausbaugh) is writing a memoir, to be published in 2009 by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.

According to the publisher, the book, titled Straw, ‘‘details his life growing up in Crenshaw, Los Angeles, his rise to baseball superstardom as a Met, Dodger, and Yankee, the high life and low life, his brushes with the law, his triumphant battle over cancer, his religious awakening, and his marriage to the love of his life.’’

Poetry winners announced

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The Poetry Center of Chicago announces the winners of the 14th Annual Poetry Center of Chicago Juried Reading at a ceremony here in town last weekend. Poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller was the judge. Winners include:

First place: Sara Parrell of Madison, Wis.

Second Place: Stacey Lynn Brown, Edwardsville, Ill.

Third Place: Susan Elbe, Madison, Wis.

Other finalists, chosen from a field of more than 250 submissions, were: T. Zachary Cotler, Iowa City, Iowa; Brett Foster, Wheaton, Ill.; Elizabeth Hoover, Bloomington, Ind.; Jennifer Perrine, Des Moines, Iowa, and Amanda Rachelle Warren, Kalamazoo, Mich.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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