Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Another day, another book makes another year-end best books list. This time it's Eve Pell's We Used to Own the Bronx. Eve's inside story of privilege, wealth, and the American upper crust made the San Francisco Chronicle's list of notable books for 2009.
Friday, December 18, 2009
So, as we near the close of 2009, we've come full circle in a way—back to the book that successfully launched 2009 for us. Congratulations again go out to the book's coeditors, Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
“...a number of novella’s are among the classics of U.S. literature: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, and Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus to name just three. Knife Song Korea may come to join that distinguished collection. It is a lapidary work of exceptional artistry as well as a valuable addition to the body of notable works by physician-writers.” — California Literary ReviewCheck out the Review's full list of top books for 2009 (you'll find Knife Song Korea on the fiction list, just below Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice), then read the entire book review.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
We asked Cecilia Konchar Farr (author and coeditor of two previous books on Oprah's Book Club) to share her thoughts on what's next for the queen of all media, Oprah Winfrey, now that she's leaving her daytime talk show behind in 2011. Read on to see what Cecilia had to say about that as well as Oprah's savvy trendsetting ways, watching shows online, and why we desperately need some exciting discussions of books on TV (something beyond the currently somber affairs broadcast on C-SPAN and PBS).
Oprah is leaving network television. So who isn’t? I grew up in the sixties a walking talking TV Guide for our three TV stations. My first crushes were Peter Tork, Manolito Montoya and John-Boy Walton, in that order; my after school hours were spent not with homework and hovering parents, but with hours of Dark Shadows and Star Trek re-runs. I patterned my early career on Linda Kelsey’s character from Lou Grant. And yet, I can’t remember the last time I tuned into prime-time programming or even the evening news. My nineteen-year-old daughter gets her TV shows on her computer, and my sixteen-year-old son uses his television exclusively for gaming. It isn’t even hooked up to our cable.
Chicken Little media commentators should take this moment to remember that Oprah is nothing if not a savvy first adopter of trends that American women faithfully follow. Not only did she all but invent the latest self-help craze, but she was an early presence on satellite radio, and her website continues to be one of the richest and most accessible on the internet. With that in mind, I’m willing to bet that Oprah’s recently announced retirement from her CBS program and her move to cable TV and her own network (“OWN”—Oprah Winfrey Network—ah, the irony for the woman who, literally, has everything) will mark not the end of her influence but the expansion of it.
In fact, as a book lover and admirer of Ms. Winfrey, I look forward to what’s ahead. Here’s why: Imagine what she can do with all of that programming, without the constraints of a traditional, ad-driven, one-hour talk show format. She might do for cable networks what she did for TV talk shows, contemporary novels and women’s magazines. Based on her track record, I predict she will raise the level of discourse by at least a couple of notches, while being respectfully attentive to the desires of the mostly middle-aged and middle-class women in her audience. When Oprah turns her energies toward cable, maybe fewer women on Oxygen will snap or dash incessantly to the top of the Empire State building because they believe in love. And why not? Most critics agree that Oprah single-handedly stopped the downward spiral of chair-hurling exhibitionism of eighties daytime talk shows. Who better to stop the Meg Ryan re-run insanity and give women the variety and depth they deserve from the television stations that cater to them?
I anticipate that OWN might herald a return to conversations about writing, to indulgent hours spent over food and novels, to the lively exchanges between readers and authors that characterized the first six years of Oprah’s Book Club. I want to hear that old Oprah toast, “Here’s to books!” On Oprah’s network, we could hear it every day. It will be no less valuable for being sandwiched between hours of Drs. Phil and Oz.
Even before Oprah’s Book Club, I had been wishing for a Reading Rainbow for grown-ups, a TV show that captures the joy so many of us find in reading. After visiting many book groups in my research over the past five years, I can’t stop asking why Book TV is so painfully boring. Shouldn’t TV about books be even more engaging than the Discovery, Food or History channels? I blush when I listen to critics, writers and scholars on C-SPAN, PBS and NPR. Why do we get so solemn when we talk about books, modulating our tones and reining in our enthusiasms? This is terrific stuff we’re dealing with. We should sound like Mythbusters Adam and Jamie at the scene of an explosion.
And who better to capture that level of excitement than Oprah? She’s done it before, if only once a month or so for six years. With OWN, she will have the space and time to do it again. And if she builds it, women will come—or is it that she builds where innovative women are already going, pursuing Jon Stewart or Tony Soprano? Either way, it’s OK to say so long to Oprah on CBS. The new OWN might very well launch my generation into the strange new TV world our children are already exploring. I just hope Oprah brings her Book Club along for the ride.
Friday, December 4, 2009
“…Farr doesn’t just present an airtight defense of Oprah’s Book Club as a positive cultural force; she also takes on the Western canon and the critics who create and sustain it … As … Farr sees it, Oprah’s greatest sin, in the eyes of these critics, is her commitment to getting books into the hands of the masses … and encouraging them not only to talk about books as if they matter, but as if their own lives matter, too … [Farr] … presents her views in an eminently rational, plainspoken, and impeccably informed voice ... it’s difficult not to give Oprah some long-overdue props for her impressive achievement.”
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The holidays are in full swing, and we'd like to wish everyone a very merry holiday season. Over at our website we're offering a special holiday discount for the entire month of December: 20% off all titles plus free shipping! So shop 'til you drop—our Excelsior Editions collection offers a nice selection of gift items, from art books to cookbooks to calendars and more!