The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
A new Haruki Murakami book is coming out in English in December. Murakami's just-released Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage has topped The New York Times' hardcover fiction bestseller lists and reportedly inspired some Londoners to wait in line overnight to meet Murakami at a book signing. His next novel, the 96-page The Strange Library, tells the story of a boy who stops at his local library and encounters an old man who holds him captive and forces him to read books, planning to eat his brain in order to absorb his knowledge. With his fellow captives, a girl with some unusual talents and a sheep-man, the boy tries to escape. It will be translated from Japanese by Ted Goossen and published by Knopf.
An unpublished early chapter of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which features disobedient boys being sent to a fudge-pounding room, has been printed in The Guardian, as NPR's Krishnadev Calamur noted yesterday. In the chapter, boys by the names of Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck pay insufficient heed to Willy Wonka's warning not to ride on a wagon down a mountain of fudge, and are transported to the ominously named Pounding And Cutting Room. "In there," Wonka writes, "the rough fudge gets tipped out of the waggons into the mouth of a huge machine. The machine then pounds it against the floor until it is all nice and smooth and thin. After that, a whole lot of knives come down and go chop chop chop, cutting it up into neat little squares, ready for the shops." A worker on the mountain of fudge – a proto-Oompa Loompa– sings, "Eight little children – such charming little chicks. But two of them said 'Nuts to you,' and then there were six." The Guardian says that the chapter was originally "deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral" to be published.
Eleanor Catton, who won last year's Man Booker Prize with her novel The Luminaries, will create a grant designed to give writers "time to read." She announced the grant while accepting the people's choice and best fiction prizes at the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Catton said, "Writers are readers first; indeed our love of reading is what unites us above all else. If our reading culture in New Zealand is dynamic, diverse, and informed, our writing culture will be too."
Henry Holt has acquired the rights to a new biography of Robin Williams, to be written by New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff, who interviewed him a number of times. "Robin Williams was a cultural hero of mine, and in the encounters and interactions I was able to share with him, he was always gentle and generous, humane and thoughtful and hilarious," Itzkoff said in a press release. Henry Holt hasn't announced the book's title or publication date.
For The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance profiles a guy who used to dig through John Updike's trash: "[Paul] Moran has kept thousands of pieces of Updike's garbage — a trove that he says includes photographs, discarded drafts of stories, canceled checks, White House invitations, Christmas cards, love letters, floppy disks, a Mickey Mouse flip book, and a pair of brown tasseled loafers. It is a collection he calls 'the other John Updike archive,' an alternative to the official collection of Updike's papers maintained by Harvard's Houghton Library. The phrase doubles as the name of the disjointed blog he writes, and it raises fundamental questions about celebrity, privacy, and who ultimately determines the value and scope of an artist's legacy."
And in other Charlie and the Chocolate Factory news: In an essay about a jacket design for the book, The New Yorker's Margaret Talbot veers into a discussion of the never-ending will-reading-YA-turn-our-brains-to-mush debate: "That adults are reading young-adult books does not necessarily augur badly for the state of fiction or intellectual life. What does seem discouraging is that this literary debate is one of the liveliest going on these days."
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.