September 2008 Archives

The People's Bible

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Christian book publisher Zondervan says their next edition of the Bible will be handwritten -- by more than 31,000 Americans.

Zondervan kicked off a 90-city, 15,000-mile cross-country tour today in Grand Rapids, Mich., to mark the 30th anniversary of its popular New International Version translation of the book.

The tour will stop at special events, churches and U.S. landmarks to allow people to write out Bible verses. The collection of handwritten verses will be published and sold after the tour ends in San Diego on Feb. 12.

The Michigan-based publisher says most verses will be written by regular people, although the company hopes to collect a few from President Bush, the Rev. Billy Graham and others.


Find out where the Bible Tour RV is today and where it's going next. It's scheduled to stop in Chicago on Nov. 2-3.

Proper pronunciation primer

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From the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries comes the latest in the "100 Words" series, 100 Words Almost Everyone Mispronounces (Houghton Mifflin, 118 pages, $5.95).


While the book is fun to page through -- especially for someone who's worked with words her entire career -- I'm not sure who would actually plunk down six bucks for it. Some of the other books in the series would be worth buying as stocking-stuffers or gifts for graduates (100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know, 100 Words to Make You Sound Smart).

Two words in the new volume did grab my attention because their mispronunciation falls into the category of "my personal pet-peeves": mischievous and primer.

The first, "mischievous," is often mispronounced as such: mis-chee'-vee-us. There is no third "i" in the word yet lazy readers will see what they want to see and instead of looking up the proper pronunciation simply say it like they think it should sound.

The second, "primer," meaning a book that covers the basic elements of a subject, is commonly mispronounced with a long "i" rather then the short "i." The long-i "primer" is the first coat of paint you put on your walls. The instruction-booklet "primer" should be pronounced like the word "prim," as in prim and proper.

The 100 words are listed on the last page, so I went there first, to test my own knowledge. I did pretty well -- 95 percent. In my defense, I can honestly say I've never uttered in conversation the five words I got wrong. Here they are, in alphabetic order (correct pronunciations in parentheses):

Antipodes (an-tip'e-deez)

Boatswain (bo'sen)

Concupiscence (kon-kyoo'pi-sens) -- Sadly I'd never even heard of this word. It means "a strong desire, especially sexual desire; lust."

Quay (kee)

Quietus (kwi-eet'es)

Spaceman memoir

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Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is working on a memoir about his triumphs in space and the hard times back on Earth.

Magnificent Desolation: The Long Road Home from the Moon will be published next year by Harmony Books, in time for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

Books Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin (AP photo)

''From the pinnacle of Apollo, my greatest challenge became the human one -- overcoming alcoholism and living beyond depression -- a challenge that required more courage and determination than going to the moon,'' Aldrin, 78, said in a statement issued Thursday by Harmony.

''I was 39 years of age, had achieved my grandest goal, and should have been on top of the world, but there were no roadmaps, and few signposts if any along the way that could lead me out of the quagmire into which I had tumbled. For 10 years, I floundered.''

Neil Armstrong and Aldrin were on Apollo 11's lunar module, which landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.


Jackie O: Editor

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Historian William Kuhn is writing a biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that focuses on her years as a book editor, which began in the mid-'70s after the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.

The onetime first lady began her publishing career at Viking and quickly moved on to Doubleday, where she worked until her death in 1994. Naturally, Doubleday will publish the book, which is due out in 2011.

Jackie Kennedy
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
in New York in 1992.

(AP photo)

''My book will mine this critical period in her life, the one in which she became the woman she'd always intended to be,'' Kuhn told the Associated Press.

I'm looking forward to this new look at the famous widow as this was the part of her life that I always found most intriguing -- that she actually went out and got herself a job when by all accounts she never had to work a day in her life. According to Doubleday, Kuhn has interviewed many of the authors she worked with, collaborators and friends. Should be a fascinating read.

Oprah picks debut novel for Book Club

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Oprah had high praise on her talk show today for her latest book club selection, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Ecco, 566 pages, $26.95), saying, "It's everything you want a book to be. I think this book is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written."

It took author David Wroblewski more than a decade to finish the book, which was a best seller over the summer and received much advance buzz and rave reviews. On the surface it's the story of a boy and his dog in rural Wisconsin; on a deeper level it weaves coming-of-age, family intrigue, mysticism and more.

81776338MB016_DAVID_WROBLEW Edgar Sawtelle
David Wroblewski took his time (more than 10 years)
writing The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
(Michael Buckner~Getty Images)

Wroblewski will participate in a live, interactive Webcast with Oprah Book Club members. Details will be announced at a later date on To join the book club (membership is free):

Here is the Sun-Times' review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle ...

Evanston writer wins Rona Jaffe award

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Amy Leach of Evanston is one of six women awarded this year's Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, which is given annually to women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.

Amy Leach
Amy Leach

Leach and the other recipients -- Jennifer Culkin, Joanne Dominique Dwyer, Jolie Lewis, Hasanthika Sirisena and Therese Stanton -- will be honored in a ceremony tomorrow in New York City, where they each will receive $25,000.

Leach is working on her first book, a collection of essays described as addressing "the spiritual and the everyday with a comc's sense of timing to create something entirely original that falls on the boundary between prose and poetry." Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, A Public Space and

The awards program was created by novelist Rona Jaffe, who died in 2005.

Britney's mom's book

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Britney's mom's memoir comes out next week! Does anyone care?

Lynne Spears writes (with Lorilee Craker) about both her famous daughters -- Britney and famous pregnant teen Jamie Lynn -- in Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World (Thomas Nelson, $24.99).

Through the Storm

According to the Associated Press, which got its hands on an advance copy of the book, Lynne Spears "rejects the image that she pushed Britney into show business, and writes that the singer was always focused on achievement and would constantly practice to the music of Madonna, Whitney Houston and others." (If I had a dime for every little girl who sang along with their favorite pop stars...)

Lynne Spears also praises Kevin Federline (Britney's ex-husband) as a "caring daddy" and Britney as "an amazing mother" -- but only when at her best.

This book will likely sit on the best seller list for a week or two, which is a shame because it sounds like nothing more than a mother cashing in on her dysfunctional daughters' successes and failures. Apples don't fall far from the tree, Ms. Spears.

'Crazy Buttocks,' et al.

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Living With Crazy Buttocks is an actual book title. Pretty funny title at that -- and my favorite among the former Diagram Prize winners vying for the oddest book title of the last 30 years. It's a contest organized by The Bookseller, a trade magazine across the pond.

Living With Crazy Buttocks

It didn't win. The winning entry, crowned by an online voting public, is Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, published in 1994 by a British stamp-collecting organization.

Philip Stone, charts editor for The Bookseller, had this to say about the choice: "I sincerely believe that this title provides further proof to the current government that the British public are passionate about the maintenance and continuation of local mail delivery services."

I suppose he's joking here given the whole nature of the contest. And I've always enjoyed the British sense of humor, but come on! Not funnier than Living With Crazy Buttocks. Sorry. Here are some of the other competing titles:

People Who Don't Know They're Dead (runner-up)

How to Avoid Huge Ships (third place)

Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice

How Green Were the Nazis?

Reusing Old Graves

I'm thinking we here in the U.S. can come up with some funnier titles, so I'm going to start collecting them. Suggestions welcome. Send to:

Sarah Palin rhetoric

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My predecessor, Henry Kisor, who served as the Sun-Times literary editor for 30+ years, is now a mystery novelist, and in his spare time he maintains a blog. He writes intelligently and eloquently about whatever's on his mind, be it sunsets and rainbows or the news of the day. Sometimes he writes about books, go figure.

Yesterday he posted a timely item about John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin and her early days in politics. Apparently when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she wielded her power to fire a librarian who vowed to fight Palin in her "rhetorical" effort to ban books. This item was among a few others listed in a New York Times article. Leave it to Henry to flush out the small but significant details.

Former U.S. poet laureate awarded $100,000 prize

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Former U.S. poet laureate Louise Gluck has been awarded the Wallace Stevens Award, a $100,000 prize for ''outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry." Gluck, who served as poet laureate in 2003-04, is known for such books as Averno, The Seven Ages and Vita Nova. Previous winners of the Stevens award include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery and Richard Wilbur.

Louise Gluck