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Man Booker Longlist 2011

The first list of Man Booker Prize possibilities has been released. This prize goes to writers from the British Commonwealth and Ireland, and most of the titles on the list apparently aren’t available in the U.S. yet. (Just as well for me, since I still have last year’s winner, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, on my TBR list)
A few familiar authors are on the list — Julian Barnes (English), Sebastian Barry (Irish), Alan Hollinghurst (English) — but also four first-time novelists, according to the official press release, and several others unfamiliar to me.
A U.K. blog, The Omnivore, has posted a criticism roundup, with links to current reviews of all the longlisted titles.
If you’re behind like me, and looking to catch up on past winners, check out the perpetual challenge at The Complete Booker, where bloggers sign on to read all winners of the Man Booker Prize (over 40 so far).
And nomadreader has posted the best update for U.S. readers about the 2011 Man Booker Prize longlist that I’ve seen so far: The 2011 Booker Dozen: A U.S. Reader’s Guide.

Waiting on Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Leftovers

Tom Perrotta

Publication Date: August 30

Some writers write with such easy humor and fond understanding of their characters, however absurdly they’re behaving, that I’m willing to follow those writers wherever their muse takes them. Tom Perrotta is one of those writers. If he wants to write about what happens when 100 members of a community disappear in what seems to be some type of Rapture event, then I want to read about it.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Gone Wild — Swim the Fly by Don Calame (AUDIO)

Swim the Fly by Don Calame is a laugh-out-loud funny audiobook. Really! Listening in my car, I literally laughed out loud many times. (Luckily, my commute is mostly highways, so if other drivers noticed me laughing by myself in the car, I didn’t care.)
Narrated by Nick Podehl for Brilliance Audio, Swim the Fly is the hilarious equivalent of Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (narrated by Stina Nielsen for Recorded Books) for boys, or else a definitely PG-13 version of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Teachers, this is NOT one for reading aloud to the class. There is way too much raunchy humor, far too many creative names for male/female body parts, and more than one total gross-out scene — not to mention the bullying, sexting, and other inappropriate teen behaviors the author shamelessly mines for humor.
“Swimming the fly” refers to the 100-yard butterfly race — the hardest event in the swim team championship meet — which Matt finds his scrawny, out-of-shape self raising his hand to volunteer for at the beginning of the summer season, in order to impress the new girl on the team, Kelly. His best friends, Sean and Coop, knowing that Matt can’t even swim one lap of the butterfly without grabbing the side of the pool and gasping for air, derive endless amusement from his predicament, but are more focused on achieving the goal that Coop set for the three of them: to see a live, naked girl before summer’s end. Matt is so focused on Kelly, that his character development over his coming-of-age summer (giving the book its redeeeming social value) happens without his even realizing it.
Swim the Fly
won an AudioFile Earphones Award for excellence in audiobook presentation, and was selected as an 2011 Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults by the American Library Association.
The Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory blog has a recent interview with Don Calame.

Other reviews (all good):

The Book Zone (for Boys)

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

The Overflowing Library

Waiting on Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Magician King

Lev Grossman

Publication Date: August 9

The Magician King is the sequel to The Magicians (Penguin Group, 2009) which was about the college where everyone majors in magic and the Narnia-like land of Fillory, both of which have a nasty underbelly.
I liked The Magicians a lot, and would really like to get my hands on an advanced reading copy of The Magician King. But I suppose I’m going to have to wait till Aug. 9.

Bringing up Benj — The Anti-Romantic Child by Priscilla Gilman

Like Expecting Adam by Martha Beck and Raising Blaze by Debra Ginsberg, The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy (HarperCollins, Apr. 2011) by Priscilla Gilman  is a moving memoir by a devoted mother, who also happens to be a thoughtful observer and an excellent writer.
A former English professor who loves the poetry of Romantic poet William Wordsworth, Priscilla Gilman records her experience of raising a special-needs child and leaving academia. Although much of her experience will seem familiar to many parents, especially those with Asperger’s or some form of autism, she infuses her story with details and relates it to her experience of poetry (quoting it throughout) so that a reader doesn’t have to be a parent to be interested.
The author and her husband (who eventually separate) gradually realize that their first child, Benjamin, while an extraordinarily advanced preschooler in some ways, was extremely different from his peers in other ways, especially when dealing with social interactions and coping with disruptions in routine. At age three, Benjamin precociously reads complex material and recites from memory the poetry of Wordsworth and many others, for example, but can’t navigate stairs without help and never answers to his own name. His obsessive reading aloud — of signs, clothing labels, etc. — which his pediatrician and family had fondly thought of as quirky behavior and a sign of his quick intelligence, is finally labeled hyperlexia, a condition which is characterized by advanced word-recognition skills in conjunction with cognitive, social, and linguistic delays or disabilities.
The reader lives through Benjamin’s childhood with the author — from expectations of parenthood, through revision of those expectations, through denial and acceptance, and through many failures and successes as she puzzles out how to be the right kind of mother to Benjamin, as well as to her second son James.
The Anti-Romantic Child should appeal to readers of memoirs and popular books about cognitive science and psychology, such as books by Oliver Sacks.

Free Audiobook Downloads from Audiobook Community

For fans of YA lit and classic lit, here’s a deal you can’t pass up. Each week from June 23 – August 17, 2011, Audiobook SYNC is offering two free audiobook downloads. No holds. No waiting. No return date. The audiobook pairings will include a popular YA title and a classic that connects with the YA title’s theme and is likely to show up on a student’s summer reading lists.
If you haven’t already installed the Overdrive software for Mac or PC on your computer to download audiobooks through your public library yet, then now’s the time!
To find out when you can download titles to listen to on the run this summer, visit www.AudiobookSync.com or text syncya to 25827. You can also sign up to receive an email reminder each Thursday that the new downloads become available.

Remaining SYNC Titles — Summer 2011

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney
Beowulf by Francis B. Gummere [Trans.]

Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
Rescue: Stories of Survival From Land and Sea by Dorcas S. Miller [Ed.]

Immortal by Gillian Shields
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Storm Runners by Roland Smith
The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Domestic Sturm und Drang: Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope became one of my favorite authors years ago when I first read The Best of Friends or maybe The Men and the Girls (since that was the first of her novels to be published in the U.S.) and then proceeded to read every Joanna Trollope novel I could get my hands on. (She also wrote historical novels under the name Caroline Harvey.) She wrote about young marrieds, or siblings, or May-December couples, or illicit romances with a kind of touched-up realism, showing readers the characters’ faults but never crossing the line into utter ugliness. And the British characters were so smart (in both the English and American senses of the word)! But starting with Friday Nights (2007) and The Other Family (2010) and now with Daughters-in-Law (2011), her characters’ faults came to seem mostly minor and forgivable and their problems too easily resolved by love or money…preferably both. (Yes, I’ve gotten older, but so has the author. Have her books gotten lighter, the more popular they became?)
It turns out that Joanna Trollope is known in England as the “Queen of the Aga Saga“, an offhand but catchy tag from a male literary critic that stuck, relegating her novels of middle-class English country life to a subset of fiction known as the “family saga“. Usually referring to long or multi-volume novels covering multiple generations, such as The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy or The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, the best family sagas eventually get made into public television miniseries, sometimes more than once. (Hey, BBC, what about Penny Vincenzi’s Lytton Family trilogy?)
A few years ago, Joanna Trollope and another popular English female author beat Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner to the punch in wondering why their best-selling domestic dramas weren’t ever even shortlisted for prestigious literary prizes — cleverly labeling the usual prize-winners “grim-lit”. This caused the literary critic who coined the phrase “Aga saga” to wonder why the bestselling novelists couldn’t be happy with the big royalty checks from their books when most literary fiction is quickly consigned to the remainder tables unless it wins recognition from a prize committee.
In Daughters-in-Law, the author examines a mother’s relationship with her three adult sons and their wives, as well as the dynamics of marriages with children. She details the crises of everyday life and the moments when choices between conflicting loyalties must be made. There were moments, reading Daughters-in-Law, when I thought the book might break out of its genre conventions and have the characters not all neatly work out their issues and messy entanglements by page 319, but if it had, the untidy ending probably would have upset more readers than it pleased.
I would recommend this one to women’s book clubs because there are plenty of characters and their motivations to discuss. A reading group guide is included in the softcover edition.

Click here for a funny riff on the family saga and chick-lit labels from a male columnist for The Independent.

Other opinions about Daughters-in-Law (mostly good):
The Hungry Bookshelf
I Prefer Reading
Pickle Me This

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