Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

Category: Carolyn Kellogg

Jacket Copy URL and feeds to change Tuesday, July 17

In the ongoing evolution of the L.A. Times' new media presence, Jacket Copy will shift Web addresses Tuesday, July 17. It's a change that really doesn't mean much to you, the reader, except that you'll have to find us at a new Web address.

Tuesday at 2 p.m. (that's 5 o'clock for you New Yorkers), Jacket Copy is changing its URL to http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/. Rolls right off the tongue, right?

If you've been kind enough to subscribe to the RSS feed of Jacket Copy, you'll have to update your reader to get our headlines in the future. The new RSS feed link is http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/rss2.0.xml.

The blog formatting will look a little different, but we're still going to bring you book news and the literary latest. So please come along to our new Web home. Did you miss it? I hope not. It'll be http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/. See you there!

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Stephen R. Covey, '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' author, dies

Stephen R. Covey book cover
Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestselling self-help book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," died Monday, his family announced. Covey, 79, had been injured in a major bicycle accident in April.

Covey's signature work was published in 1989 and became a lasting bestseller — in 1994, it had been on the New York Times bestseller list for 220 weeks. Currently its sales are tallied at more than 20 million copies. He went on to write a number of sequels and spinoffs, including "The Third Alternative" (2011) and "The Eighth Habit" (2005). He was also a sought-after management advisor.

Covey was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He got an MBA at Harvard, then returned to Utah to get a doctorate from Brigham Young University, where he taught business management.

The Salt Lake Tribune writes:

Covey’s management post at BYU led to "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," which launched a second career as management guru for companies and government agencies, among them Saturn, Ritz Carlton, Proctor & Gamble, Sears Roebuck and Co., NASA, Black & Decker, Public Broadcasting Service, Amway, American Cancer Society and the Internal Revenue Service.

The books have legions of adherents in corporate America who swear by its principles. But critics tend to see it as part of a cult of the self-help American frenzy of past decades or so that tends to trivialize big problems.

Covey founded a Utah-based management training center that sold books and videos and held training seminars. In 1997 it merged with FranklinQuest, a deal from which Covey was said to have made about $27 million in cash and stock.

"We believe that organizational behavior is individual behavior collectivized," he told Fortune magazine in 1994. "We want to take this to the whole world."


'Encyclopedia Brown' author Donald Sobol has died

Nora Ephron, 71, has died

Science fiction pioneer Ray Bradbury, 91, has died

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Stephen R. Covey in 2003. Credit: Ric Feld / Associated Press.

'Encyclopedia Brown' author Donald Sobol has died

EncyclopediabrownDonald Sobol, author of the beloved children's book series "Encyclopedia Brown," died Wednesday in Miami. He was 87.

Sobol was born in New York and served in World War II. After going to college at Oberlin, he worked as a journalist in New York, then left to pursue a writing career in 1951. Although he was having some success, his "Encyclopedia Brown" manuscript was turned down two dozen times before it found a publisher. 

The first book, "Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective" was published by T. Nelson in 1963. It proved so popular that Sobol was soon following up with more stories about the 10-year-old Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown and his partner, tomboy Sally Kimball. Eventually, there would be almost 30 books in the series, which has never gone out of print.

A fund in memory of Donald Sobol has been set up at the New York Public Library.

Sobol had moved with his wife and family from New York to Florida in 1961; the "Encyclopedia Brown" series was set in the fictional Florida town Idaville. Sobol tried to retain a measure of anonymity; he did not grant television interviews and preferred not to be photographed. "I am very content with staying in the background and letting the books do the talking," he told the Oberlin alumni magazine  in 2011.

Before "Encyclopedia Brown," Sobol had been publishing historical nonfiction aimed at children, with titles that included "The Double Quest" and "The Lost Dispatch: A Story of Antietam." He had a hit with the short column "Two Minute Mysteries," which was syndicated by newspapers from 1959-68.

Sobol, who continued writing into his 80s, used his own experience as a lesson for aspiring writers. "Persevere, and don’t take no for an answer," he said. "And if you really think [the publishers] are right, then look over the manuscript and polish it a little more."


Nora Ephron, 71, has died

Science fiction pioneer Ray Bradbury, 91, has died

Maurice Sendak, author of 'Where the Wild Things Are,' dies at 83

 -- Carolyn Kellogg

Alex Karpovsky from 'Girls' makes book trailer appearance

Book trailers are still having a hard time finding their way into the culture. There isn't yet a standard way to see them -- they don't play to captive audiences before movies start, or appear regularly with television or online advertising.

Usually, a book trailer is created and then left on its own, for overworked marketing departments or individual authors to try to push out onto the Internet, with a faint hope that it might go viral.

Could casting real actors be one way to jump-start the process and bring new eyes to book trailers? Greywolf Press is trying that tactic: Alex Karpovsky stars in the a trailer for the book "Four New Messages" by Joshua Cohen (Caveat: There is drug use and strong language in the trailer). Karpovsky is one of the young stars of the hit HBO series "Girls," in which he plays Ray, a friend of Lena Dunham's main character, Hannah.

Seems like using an actor from "Girls" might well reach a desired demographic -- young, hip cultural consumers -- more than simply using catalog-model types and overheated voiceovers. That's what can be found in some book trailers produced in Hollywood, where one company spends about $50,000 a pop to make book trailers for major publishing houses like St. Martin's and Random House.

Greywolf, an independent based in Minnesota, seems to be coming at things from a different direction, more Sundance than blockbuster. The book trailer above is called "Emission," and it's described as a short film based on a section of "Four New Messages" by Cohen.

In the trailer, Karpovsky plays a drug dealer whose actions are told by a girl at a laptop, smoking. We hear her voiceover reading what she types, and the secondhandness of the storytelling creates an uneasy sense that the narrator is not to be trusted. Or maybe that's the mood of the trailer, with music mixed with talk radio rants, and dark backgrounds filling with smoke.

Joshua Cohen is the author of the 800-plus page novel "Witz," published by Dalkey Archive Press. "Four New Messages" will be his first book since it landed, with a thump, in 2010.


A book trailer worth watching: Ben Marcus' 'Flame Alphabet' [video]

How to make a book trailer for $50,000

The good, the bad and the other bad: The Moby book trailer awards

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Alex Karpovsky in a screenshot from the trailer for the book "Four New Messages" by Joshua Cohen.

Literary Death Match: Henry Rollins not big on spoken word

Henry Rollins at Literary Death Match
For people familiar with the creative oeuvre of Henry Rollins, his statements as judge at Literary Death Match on Wednesday night were perplexing. "It's hard to judge literary merit," he said about two poems performed rousingly by Javon Johnson, declining to give them literary status because they were "basically built for performance." How odd: Premiere spoken word artist Henry Rollins deeming performance unliterary. Who would have guessed?

To back up: Literary Death Match is an antic reading series with heavy doses of competition and comedy. It's orchestrated by host and creator Todd Zuniga, a cheerleader in a lounge lizard getup, who guides four readers, a trio of judges, and the audience through an evening that might end, as last night's did, by shooting Silly String at a poster of T.C. Boyle.

The readers are paired off randomly after the event starts. Only one victor will be declared from each pair, and they'll face off in a final round that has nothing to do with books -- another finale featured a cupcake toss. The first part, however, is fairly literary.

Both readers in the first pair read from their work, and the judges evaluate them on a) literary merit, b) performance, and c) intangibles. Last night, Henry Rollins -- punk rock singer, author, DJ, and performance artist -- was the literary merit judge, actress Tig Notaro judged performance, and comedian Rob Delaney covered intangibles. It's usually a comedian who intagible-izes, riffing, and this is a good thing -- particularly to those who've been to a lot of standard dry bookstore readings. Which this is not.

Continue reading »

Neil Gaiman signs a 5-book deal for the kids

Neil Gaiman signs book deal
Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman has signed a new 5-book deal with HarperCollins, it was announced Wednesday. But adult fans of the author will have to wait for another Gaiman book written specifically for them.

HarperCollins will publish three middle-grade books -- "middle grade" refers to books for children ages  8-12 -- by Gaiman. One will be a sequel to 2009's "Odd and the Frost Giants," based on Norse mythology. One is as yet unannounced; the other is tentatively titled "Fortunately, the Milk," and will feature art by Skottie Young.

Gaiman is also creating two picture books for the publisher, both featuring Chu, a little panda with a big sneeze. The first, "Chu's Day," will be published in January 2013. Gaiman, who has an active Internet presence, posted an image of Chu online in February.

Always prolific, Gaiman has a book for adults on deck, tentatively titled "Lettie Hempstock's Ocean." In June he wrote on his blog:

On the plane to the UK I finished writing the new novel. I'm not sure right now if it's going to be called Lettie Hempstock's Ocean or not. I think it's a good book -- or at least, I think it's a real book, and I'm proud of it, and whether it's good or not will be up to other people to judge. Despite the protagonist being about 7 years old for most of the novel, it's a book for adults. Or at least, I think it is.

Now I'm doing things to it, including worrying that there's a better title and rereading it and making it better and clearer and scarier wherever I can. But it's a new book for adults, one I didn't even know I would write until February, and it makes me happy that it exists.

Gaiman has had success writing for all ages. He won the prestigious Newbery Award for "The Graveyard Book" (ages 10 and up), as well as winning Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards for "American Gods," a novel for adults. "The Sandman" graphic novel series also brought a number of awards Gaiman's way.


Neil Gaiman charms at UCLA

Neil Gaiman sings (sort of) "The Problem with Saints"

Neil Gaiman: From 'Doctor Who' to blog to 'Doctor Who'

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Neil Gaiman with wife Amanda Palmer. Credit: Pixie Vision Productions

Pithy posters for writers


Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner once said, "Civilization begins with distillation," and now you can have that on a poster. It's one of several pithy sayings by authors that have been given visual representation by New York-based artist Evan Robertson.

Robertson has created 15 illustrations to go along with literary quotations. There are novelists, poets, a philosopher, quippers and criticizers. One poster has Molly Bloom's soliloquy from the end of "Ulysses" (spoiler alert!). Here is a selection of quotes:

All truths wait in all things. -- Walt Whitman

That's not writing, that's typing. -- Truman Capote

Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form. -- Vladimir Nabokov

Poets are always taking the weather so seriously. -- J.D. Salinger

Have you ever heard the earth breathe? -- Kate Chopin

How embarrassing to be human. -- Kurt Vonnegut

How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless. -- Paul Bowles

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. -- Edgar Allan Poe

In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile. --  Hunter S. Thompson

The appropriate response to reality is to go insane. -- Philip K. Dick

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Write drunk. Edit sober. -- Ernest Hemingway

Robertson has done his homework; he describes the literary context of each quote on the sales pages of his Etsy shop, Obvious State. For example, Capote had some specific writing (or was it typing?) in mind: He was criticizing the work of Jack Kerouac. Which gives his quote a little extra edge.

Previously, Robertson also had posters with quotes from Mark Twain and Kerouac, but those aren't currently being offered for sale. These are. The digitally created illustrations are, by turns, witty and elegant. Each poster comes as a 13-by-19-inch giclée print with a white border. They're for sale, unframed, for $24 each.


Visions of scripturience (say what?)

Here's a dictionary for warped minds

Considering tweeting about working on your novel? Think twice.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Images: Posters created by Evan Robertson. Credit: Obvious State shop on Etsy

National Endowment for the Arts announces new Big Read grants

On Tuesday, the National Endowment for the Arts announced its 2012-13 Big Read grants totaling $1 million. The Big Read supports community-based reading of a single book. It provides specially produced supplemental materials including CDs, robust historical context, teachers guides and discussion questions. And, of course, funding.

Nine of the Big Read's 78 grants will go to organizations and municipalities in California. Only New York state will receive as many grants from the Big Read in the coming year.

In San Diego, the organization Write Out Loud will be organizing people to read "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, who died in June at age 91. In Burbank and 400 miles away in Marysville, Calif., readers will dig in to the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The Rural California Broadcasting Corp., located between San Francisco and Santa Rosa, Calif., will be taking on poet Emily Dickinson. Patrons of the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library will be invited to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." The Santa Cruz Public Library will be reading "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, who finished the book nearby at his ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Those are all books by classic American writers, as might be expected. But the program also has books from different cultures, including the one that will be the focus of the Big Read as presented by the city of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. That book is "The Thief and the Dogs" by Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, first published in 1961. The Big Read describes the book this way: Spanning the wealthy suburbs and crowded slums of Cairo, this thrilling crime story combines stream-of-consciousness technique with the hard-boiled style of detective fiction to create a harrowing account of crime and punishment.

Organizations may select from one of 31 individual book titles or authors when applying for a Big Read grant. About two-thirds of them will be part of the Big Read in 2012-13. Grants range from $3,500-$20,000.


The Big Read hits the road

Happy birthday, Naguib Mahfouz

Ray Bradbury and the dime-at-a-time typewriter of "Fahrenheit 451"

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Ray Bradbury in 2000. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Happy birthday, Carolyn Keene!


Carolyn Keene, the author of the Nancy Drew mysteries, was not a real person. It was a mantle worn by 28 different women and men during the series' 73-year run. The first, most enduring Carolyn Keene was Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books. Benson was a stunningly prolific writer, publishing more than 130 books, mostly for children and young adults, frequently under pen names. She was born Mildred Augustine in Ladora, Iowa, on this day in 1905.

Girl detective Nancy Drew, as some of her fans know, was a 16-year-old with strawberry blond hair, a sky-blue roadster that matched her eyes, a rather boring boyfriend named Ned, and best friends tomboyish George and pretty, plump Bess. Other fans will be perplexed by this description because as the decades wore on, and the girl detective remained popular, she underwent some changes. Nancy Drew got older, her hair changed color, and she even got a new car. Although I haven't read the latest editions, I hear she now drives a Prius.

The editions I read, thanks to a sympathetic babysitter, were the originals written by Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson. She wrote the first Nancy Drew book, "The Secret of the Old Clock," published in 1930; her last was 1953's "The Clue of the Velvet Mask." Many have connected Benson closely to Nancy Drew -- in our obituary of Benson, who died in 2002 at age 96, The Times wrote, "Benson and Nancy Drew shared many interests: Both flew planes, golfed, participated in archeological digs and radiated self-confidence in the man's world of the early 20th century."

Benson had conflicting feelings about the character she brought to life. "I always knew the series would be successful. I just never expected it to be the blockbuster that it has been. I'm glad that I had that much influence on people," she told the Associated Press in 2001. Eight years earlier, on her way to the first-ever Nancy Drew conference, she had said, "I'm so sick of Nancy Drew I could vomit."

Continue reading »

6 Twitter rules for authors, from Twitter (beginner edition)

TwitterbirdI admit, I'm a chronic early adopter. When my friend Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) insisted I try Twitter, I signed up. That was back in 2008. I didn't get it at first -- it seemed like so much chatter -- but now I truly enjoy the bookish conversation that can be found there.

But not everyone is like me (be glad: that means you don't sleep with your iPhone next to the bed). And so for those writers who are just girding themselves to jump in, Twitter has posted a list of six Twitter rules for authors. Who could be more authoritative about how to use Twitter than Twitter? Here's an abridged edition of their list:

1. Be authentic, be yourself. Twitter offers a direct, instant connection between you and your readers — they want to know what you’re up to.

2. Share your process. Twitter is a place where fans get a deeper connection to artists, performers, scholars ... and authors. Your readers are interested in your process. Tweet a bit about how your work. Invite your followers to a local book signing.

3. Engage with your readers. Twitter is also a place where your fans can directly engage with you, however much you want (it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time). You can see messages from other users in the “Connect” tab on your Twitter homepage. Is there a question in there for you? Answer it.

4. Find influencers. Twitter allows you to send a public message (via the @reply) to anyone else using Twitter. Just use the Search section on Twitter’s homepage to find other users. An idea: Who is your favorite living author? See if they’re on Twitter and tweet a "hello" to them.

5. Search Twitter. Just type what you’re looking for into the search tab to see what people are tweeting about right now. An idea: Is anyone tweeting about a book you wrote? Type the title into Search and find out.

6. Above all, have fun. Twitter is an exceptionally flexible platform that is ripe for creative use. Play around with it. You can live-tweet an event as it happens, or live-tweet a fictional world. You can interview another author or create a completely fictional account based on a character you dream up.

It's true, Twitter can be fun. It's the kind of place where on a lazy summer weekend, people all over might just start altering book titles so they read like drinks. Yesterday #bookdrink titles were so popular that they were a trending topic across the network; some popular fake book titles were "James and the Giant Peach Schnapps," "Tequila Mockingbird" and "Beer and Loathing In Las Vegas."


The New Yorker tries Twitter fiction with Jennifer Egan

The birth of a Twitter trend: #replacebooktitleswithbacon

Twitter is full of readers: 'Why I Read' makes trending topic

-- Carolyn Kellogg


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