Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, July 8, 2011

This Week in Books 7/8/11

This week! The books!

Another relatively quiet week in books this week, so just a few quality links for you. Also, on Monday and Tuesday I shall be away from the blog and will be posting blog posts of yore, which will possibly incorporate my new kick of including art from yore.

First up, the big news in the social media world is that Google launched Google+, its direct challenge to Facebook (disclosure: link is to CNET, I work at CNET). My first impression: Awesome! I'm a big fan, and you can find me on Google+ here. I also participated in CNET's hands-on look at Google+ using Google+. Add me to your Circles!

Though I'm also still kind of trying to figure out how to calibrate my Google+ presence. The people following me thus far are mostly techies, so I will probably be sharing mainly social media and tech-of-book posts until I can better target my posts. But so far I'm extremely impressed with the interface and am enjoying re-building my social network from scratch.

Speaking of social media news, the Wall Street Journal has a great article on the social media prowess of author John Green, whose unpublished novel is already #1 on Amazon & B&N. (via SideKick)

Major congratulations are in order to my former client Natalie Whipple, who just announced her new book deal with HarperCollins for her debut novel TRANSPARENT!! If you've been following Natalie's blog you know that this has been a long time coming, and having worked with Natalie for several years I can tell you the book deal couldn't have happened to a more deserving writer! So excited for her.

In other awesome former client news, Jennifer Hubbard has a really cool look at some first lines from great novels. (Jennifer also has a really cool cover for her forthcoming novel TRY NOT TO BREATHE).

Roger Ebert took to his blog to lambast an "intermediate level" version of THE GREAT GATSBY (via Rick Daley), whereas Jessa Crispin took a more measured approach and noted that comic version of great novels aren't so bad. I don't know, I'm in Camp Ebert. Turning this...
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning----

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
into this...
Everybody has a dream. And, like Gatsby, we must all follow our dream wherever it takes us.

Some unpleasant people became part of Gatsby's dream. But he cannot be blamed for that. Gatsby was a success, in the end, wasn't he?, as Ebert says, an obscenity.

And riffing off my post about why you're getting rejections, agent Rachelle Gardner adds one more reason: It's the crowded marketplace.

This week in the Forums (which have a newly simplified security question in case you had trouble registering), the sharing good news thread is still going strong, the New York Observer dumps on literary readings, a peace blogfest scheduled for November, getting swept up in your own story during revisions, and is anyone else struggling with their genre?

And finally, if you want to see more about what Google+ is about, check out this First Look by my colleague Rafe Needleman:

Have a great weekend!


juniperjenny said...

I will add you. So far I only have one friend on there, which makes for a boring time!

bakingepiphanies said...

Wow, yikestown on the Great Gatsby thing. What the heck is that? Sounds like Spencer Pratt From The Hills translating Fitzgerald. Just Plain Wrong.

80s Queen said...

Thank you for all the links. I went and checked out Natalie Whipple's blog and fell in love with her upbeat attitude. I might have to try the google+ thing. I love the idea of having different circles. I never did like the idea of boring my writing friends with stupid updates on my personal life.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jericho Ambrose said...

My favorite link was the Jennifer Hubbard one. I can't explain how much fun it is to craft that first sentence. I know, I know. Too much stock can be put into it and one shouldn't obsess about it.

But there is an art to it that I can't help but have fun with them. I also enjoy seeing other author's first lines because sometimes they do something really unique or entertaining such as the one from Willow that Jennifer listed. I love how it pique's interest and immediately starts with mystery.

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm in the Ebert camp too. Leave the classics alone, or teach them properly. The solution of dumbing-down is a lazy one, a good teacher can make anything interesting.

Must we try to spoon-feed literature to our kids, must we always assume that the Lowest Common Denominator rules? (if as Ebert says at the bottom of the post, this is for ESL students, then they are getting shortchanged on the real thing)

Will check out the new Google social media, but security is the feature I want to know most about, considering all the hack attacks that have happened lately.

Thanks for the links, Nathan, I still have to check a few more. Have a great weekend!

Matthew MacNish said...

That's an absolute hatchet job on old F. Scott there. I'm offended on his behalf.

Kind of reminds of what they did to Little Women, when they made a movie of the real novel, then made a new novel based on the movie. WTF?

This whole phenomenon saddens me because I worry whether as a society we are threatening beautiful literary works in our incessant need for light, fun stories full of plot and action. There are some great new books still coming out, but it feels like it's slowing.

Rick Daley said...

I like this line the best, regarding the Gatsby post:

Fitzgerald's novel is not about a story. It is about how the story is told.

So many writers are afraid to share ideas for fear they will get stolen, but this is case-in-point that the true quality is in the execution.

Wish I had time to share more, but I need to catch a flight to Chicago!

WORD VERIFICATION: mandov. That X-Men guy with wings.

Sean Thomas Fisher said...

Thanks for the heads up, Nathan. Just signed up to be invited to Google+. Hope they let me in. It's like the Salvatore Brothers Founder's Ball all over again. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Alexander Field said...

Great wrap up in publishing news, thanks Nathan!

Anonymous said...

Everyone will jump on me, but I "get" the new Gatsby version. Ebert doesn't get it and never will: he's too old.

Times change; writing changes; communication between people changes and evolves. And what worked many years ago doesn't work the same way today. Younger people have grown up with visuals, unlike previous generations that grew up with radio and books. Where people used to need to be "shown," now they require being "told" so they can visualize themselves. They've been trained to visualize and don't need any help doing it.

This gets complicated, but it's not really that hard to "get." It's all about communications, semiotics, semantics, and how cultures evolve over time.

And I'd bet anything that if Gatsby were submitted to an editor today, it would be rejected.

Nathan Bransford said...


Styles definitely change, but I think the point is that it's better for kids to read new books at their ability level than for publishers to ruin classics.

James Rafferty said...

Useful wrapup as usual.

I'm with you on the Gatsby re-write; just can't go along with dumbing down his prose in the name of better communication with a less literate audience.

The English Teacher said...

I've been hearing about the google plus bit, and it sounds pretty enticing. I love the fact that my work friends won't have to be sending me all the grandkid photos and that kind of thing.

But about the Great Gatsby -- I understand that there is sometimes a need to dumb-down a work of literature for low-level kids so they can have some taste of the greatness they might not otherwise have at all. I've even simplified some Shakespeare myself to use with my lowest 7th graders.
But that Gatsby example has to be one of the worst things I've ever seen. Ugh. Other than using the name Gatsby, it appears to bear no resemblance to the original. Yuck. (And I'm not even a big Gatsby fan.)

Natalie Whipple said...

Thanks, Nathan! We both know it wouldn't have happened without you and your brilliant coaching:)

And Jenn's cover is fabulous! So excited for that book.

lora96 said...

Ick. If you paraphrase the gorgeous prose of Gatsby then it's just some story about a social climber who liked someone else's wife. No thank you.

Meanwhile, I thought the marvel comic of Sense and Sensibility was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks, Nathan. That Gatsby rewrite just put me off my lunch.

Anonymous said...

"Styles definitely change, but I think the point is that it's better for kids to read new books at their ability level than for publishers to ruin classics."

I totally agree. And I want to be careful here when I say this. But "things" have become so *relaxed*. I honestly don't know what it's like in SF, but if you live in the east, near any large city between DC and NY, kids don't even know how to speak anymore. I think publishers are just giving them what they want (or need). Should they be touching classics? Probably not. But it's become so painfully low end no one seems to mind anymore...or notice.

Neil Larkins said...

Sounds like a high school kid's review of the book. Pathetic, if high school kids prefer it.
No, you don't touch the classics. What, are we now to go into the Louvre and tweek the slightly-off perspectives of the masters? Maybe give them a little CG? Or give Beethoven a more up-to-date sound? Oh, wait. That's been done. Oh, my sumintl! We're scroomed! Great post today.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Oh, the Gatsby thing makes me hurt a little, mostly because Fitzgerald's writing is so achingly gorgeous, especially the conclusion. I like that there are junior versions of novels available; reading the junior versions of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS when I was very young prepared me to tackle books like ROBINSON CRUSOE in third grade. (It took me a month to read, but at least I got it!) This adaptation, bears no resemblance to the original, either in tone or, it seems, plot, and inspires me to use inappropriate ellipses.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

I'd already read Rachel's post, but thank you for the others. It was a pleasure to meet a fellow first line blogger and I'm now looking forward to transparent. Happy Weekend.

Roger Floyd said...

Oh, hell. I just got started on Facebook, and now there's another social networking site we all gotta get on in order to promote our books. Will this madness never end? How many more social networking sites will be set up? The more sites, the more unadulterated pap there will be, and how much time are your going to spend filtering through it? If the same people are on all these different sites, they'll just say the same thing on each. I think I'll pick one and stick with it. I have no doubt that eventually there will be people who do nothing all day but sit in front of a computer and network. Networking for the sake of networking. I wonder, can there be too much networking? Is there already?

Anonymous said...

Styles do change, as do the times. Gatsby, like all great novels, gives us a glimpse into another time, when we could stand on docks and stare at white mansions, attend lavish parties, sip gin in the afternoon, drive into town in open yellow cars and admire starlets drooping beneath fragrant trees. It’s a window into a world that has vanished, the time when the Great War had ended and there would never be another. At the same time, what living, breathing human creature has never dreamed of recapturing perfect love with the one we somehow missed? Literature is dated yet universal, reminding us that we are people, and that people, whether they dwelled in mud huts or mansions, lived, loved, thought, made mistakes – just like we do.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:45

Yes. What you said. I agree.

But I just heard they are offering little Ms. Anthony a million bucks for a TV appearance.

There's a book on the bestseller list with F&^K in the title. People. Are. Buing. It.

Nothing surprises me anymore. Society is changing. The standards are lower.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Thanks for linking!
And it was fun to pour the virtual champagne for Natalie.

Also thanks for the Google+ video.

The Gatsby example is not just a simplification of Fitzgerald's words; it has a very different meaning. And this example brought to mind a Bret Easton Ellis interview I read recently, where Ellis said this:

" ... it is the language of the book that carries the book. Stories never matter. Every story has been told a thousand times. It doesn’t matter. This is what I always tell young fiction writers: Write whatever you want to write about, but write about it really well. Style is everything."

I'm not sure I agree with him 100% that "story doesn't matter," but I thought it was an interesting idea, on point here.

(interview excerpt from Three Guys One Book at

Marti said...

I added you at G+ :-)

No one should try to revise or update Gatsby. It stands just fine on its own.

Marilyn Peake said...

Congratulations to Natalie Whipple! How wonderful for her – her dream come true!

As for THE GREAT GATSBY piece – wow, how sad. :(

Himbokal said...

Would have posted earlier but I had to clean the coffee off my keyboard after The Great Gatsby thing.

Thanks for the weekly recap. I end up finding a lot of other blogs to follow (added Natalie Whipple-Congrats! [not on the book signing but for gaining a follower]) from it.

Allen B. Ogey said...

Where is the Comment! of! the! Week!

Did no comment meet the standard for CotW?

Sad.....just like Gatsby being fed into a word processor by one of the mythical millions of monkeys. Shakespeare didn't come out and Gatsby sure as hell didn't either.

Mira said...

So I took down my previous message, since you maybe didn't want it acknowledged, but the good wishes are still there!

Great links, too - I especially want to wish Natalie congratulations! She's a lovely person and very much deserving of a glorious debut! :)

Good article by Jennifer about first lines; I'm not on Facebook, so probably won't be on Google +; re. John Green, I followed a post in the forums to you-tube, and I've recently been discovering what a powerhouse of social networking You-Tube is, especially for the teen and post-teen set, which is fascinating; Re. the Great Gatsby debacle,I admit to being a bit intrigued. There are some possiblities here. For example, I've always wanted Shakespeare re-written so that I could blooming understand it. Who can understand Shakespeare??!! It's completely incomprehensible. On the other hand, the Great Gatsby is comprehensible, so cut it out with the dumbing down re-write stuff. That's just silly. But re-writing Shakespeare - now that's just common sense.

Okey doke. Thanks for the links, Nathan!

Princess Sara said...

"Who can understand Shakespeare??!! It's completely incomprehensible."

Uh, I understand Shakespeare. It's not incomprehensible in the slightest, just poorly taught. Shakespeare should never, NEVER be taught by English teachers, because it is not literature. It is DRAMA. Treating the written script as if it were a complete work of art in and of itself, rather than a blueprint for the creation of a work of art, is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of drama. Shakespeare was never meant to be read, but to be seen. English teachers never get this, and thus end up teaching students that Shakespeare is an incomprehensible mess.

Case in point: Remember that line in Act III, Scene II of Hamlet (the play within a play) where Hamlet asks Ophelia "Do you think I meant country matters?" English teachers invariably explain that line as being a dirty joke, which it is, but their students can't possibly "get" the humor from that.

When I was in college, however, I was involved in a production of Hamlet. When Act III, Scene II rolled around, our Hamlet leered up at Ophelia and sneered: "Do you think I meant CUNT-try matters?" It got a huge laugh every time, because everybody finally understood the joke.

Shakespeare on stage is easy to understand, because you have the context clues necessary to follow it. THAT is how Shakespeare should be taught: as a crafter of visual and auditory art. Would "The Godfather" or "Citizen Kane" have the same impact if you read the screenplay rather than watching the film? Neither does Shakespeare.

Mira said...

Princess Sara,

I stand corrected. :)

although, I still have trouble understanding Shakespeare even in the theatre. But, really, I was kidding. :)

However, what you said about Shakespeare being written to be heard, rather than read, is really interesting!

Princess Sara said...

Sorry Mira, that would be my theater major speaking. :) Nothing personal!

Guilie said...

OK! So we're all on Google+, are we? Looks like fun... Trust the Google people to make it all so user-friendly and... well, Mac-like. Loving it!

Princess Sara, I wanted to share that I was taught Shakespeare by an English teacher, and man, she ROCKED. At the beginning of the semester, when we saw Romeo & Juliet on the syllabus, there wasn't anyone that moaned (and this was an all-girls' school). But Ms. Limon (that was her name, really) got us not only to rediscover the story and TRULY see it, but also to fall in love with the language, the word play, the beauty of the images evoked. I have to disagree in that the only way to appreciate Mr. S is on the stage, although I do agree it's very powerful that way. However, reading it (and taking it apart, understanding and enjoying each phrase as a masterpiece of its own) is powerful, and much more intimate.

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