Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin | Book Pulse

Appreciations for the late Ursula K. Le Guin are pouring in, the Oscars make literary news, and My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout is being adapted into a play.

Literary Passings

Ursula K. Le Guin has died. She was 88. An icon in American literature, her work thrilled and challenged readers and led the way for many authors. As the NYT wrote when she was selected for The Library of America, “The Word for World Is Forest (1976), about malevolent humans brutally invading a planet of peaceful forest-dwelling aliens, anticipated James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), about malevolent humans brutally invading a planet of peaceful forest-dwelling aliens. Planet of Exile (1966) has 15-year seasons, barbarians invading from the north and vicious creatures called snowghouls, all of which might sound familiar to any Game of Thrones fan. And Ms. Le Guin worked out all the details of a school for wizards when J.K. Rowling was 3 years old.” The NYT, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Guardian all have obituaries. John Scalzi writes a tribute in the L.A. Times and Entertainment Weekly rounds up other authors’ tributes.

Helping readers navigate her many works? The NYPL has a reading guide. Want to read something in her honor? The short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is a classic gem. Tor.com offers an examination.

The Chilean poet Nicanor Parra has died. He was 103. The NYT reports he “pioneered the literary movement that became known as anti-poetry” and that upon announcing the news the president of Chile called him “a singular voice in Western culture.”

Briefly Noted

The NYT reviews The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers (Knopf), writing it is “the third in his series of real-life accounts of immigrants to America caught in the jaws of history…a conspicuously PG-13 story of race, religion and manhood…. You can dispatch the book in one sitting. I did, on a snowy Sunday afternoon. It left me warmed, but also wired, and a little twitchy. What is it about Eggers? What accounts for this aftertaste that is equal parts admiration and suspicion?” The Guardian reviews as well. Also in the NYT, a review of Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic by David Frum (Harper), calling it “excellent.” Author Richard Rhodes reviews The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age by David N. Schwartz (Basic Books: Hachette), writing, despite “minor mistakes … All in all, Schwartz’s biography adds importantly to the literature of the utterly remarkable men and women who opened up nuclear physics to the world.”

The Washington Post reviews Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Penguin): “The moody memoirist is in a dour frame of mind…. The short essays that make up this book are, on balance, dull and repetitive.” Also in the paper, Ron Charles offers a set of five reviews, all on books warning against living forever, writing “The coincidence of their arrival is a little creepy, but it suggests the growing relevance of this subject for a generation reviewing itineraries to the undiscovered country with deep ambivalence. In shades of comedy and tragedy, realism and fantasy, these contemporary authors dig up a lot of old conceits and, like Dr. Frankenstein, zap them to life with mixed results.” Related, The Guardian has a piece on books considering how to die.

USA Today reviews Munich by Robert Harris (Knopf), calling it “a crackling and intelligent thriller.”

In a ready-made display idea, Entertainment Weekly offers a list of “15 books to read this Oscar season before you see the movie” and notes that Logan is the “the first film to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay based on superhero comic books.” Vanity Fair looks at the barriers Mudbound broke.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Best American Series names some of its editors for the 2018 year. They include Roxane Gay editing the Short Story volume, Cheryl Strayed helming the Travel Writing collection, Hilton Als editing the book on Essays, and Ruth Reichl overseeing HMH’s debut book on food writing. The books publish in the fall.

Social media sells books. Hank Green posted on Twitter about his new book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (Dutton), putting it on preorder (it publishes in late September), and 18 hours later it was the 26th bestselling book on Amazon, jumping over more than 400,000 other titles. John Grisham posted on his Facebook page about Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know (Ballantine: LJ stars) and in 17 hours it was #62 on Amazon, zooming past more than 1,400 books from its rank the day before. Check your holds; since we listed it as a big book on Monday, holds have increased at several systems and are now topping 5:1 ratios.

The Washington Post evaluates its prospects for book groups, along with several more recent thrillers.

Sylvia Plath’s book collection and typewriter go to auction.

Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is shopping a book idea. Thus far, reports CNN, there are no takers.

Authors on Stage: My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Random House; LJ stars) is being adapted into a play. Variety reports Laura Linney will star in the London theater debut this June.

Authors on Air: Van Jones, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together (Ballantine: Random House), will be on Late Night with Seth Meyers tonight. Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts (Scribner), will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

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