The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- E.L. Konigsburg, the author of the 1967 children's book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, about two children who run away from home to live secretly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died Friday. She was 83. Konigsburg won two Newbery Medals, and actresses Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall both played Mrs. Frankweiler — Bergman in a movie adaption called The Hideaways, and Bacall in a TV movie. The book famously begins: "Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn't like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere."
- Alexander Nazaryan writes about the literary significance of the Caucasus for The New Yorker's literary blog: "And the Caucasus ... has always occupied a mystical place in Russian literature. It is a region of rough natural beauty but also a place of exile, where those who ran afoul of the tsar were sent to ponder their fealty to the empire. A place to conquer but also a place before which to stand in awe. If Russia has a cultural subconscious, it lies east of the Don River."
- Listen to Flannery O'Connor read from an early draft of her classic essay "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction" in a rare recording that showcases her wonderful Georgia accent: "Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, especially in our literature."
- On Friday, Canada became the most recent country to approve the merger between publishing giants Penguin and Random House. The European Union and the U.S. have already signed off on the merger, which is expected to take place this year.
- David Wolpe writes about Saul Bellow for the Los Angeles Review of Books: "I knew little about the man except that his sentences sang high and low, and if you found a page of his lying on the street stripped of its title, it would not take more than a moment's reading to recognize the voice of Bellow."
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg writes a poem for "Poem In Your Pocket" day: "I don't write like Whitman, I don't rhyme like Pope / I don't sound like Ezra Pound (or so I hope)."
The Best Books Coming Out This Week:
- Brian Kimberling's Snapper is a collection of elegant and absurd vignettes about an Indiana ornithologist. For a sense of it, read Kimberling's delightful New York Times op-ed about birding: "A bird-watcher is a kind of pious predator. To see a new bird is to capture it, metaphorically, and a rare bird or an F.O.Y. (First of the Year, for the uninitiated) is a kind of trophy. A list of birds seen on a given day is also a form of prayer, a thanksgiving for being alive at a certain time and place."
- The latest novel from Chilean author Isabel Allende, the niece of the deposed Chilean president Salvador Allende, is titled Maya's Notebook and is the story of a young girl who flees a life of drugs and abuse to live on a small island off the Chilean coast.