Today in publishing and literature: the last book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy is headed to paperback after 70 weeks as a hardcover bestseller, Pippi Longstocking is being blamed for "colonial racial stereotypes," and Don DeLillo's short story collection is a good place to start if you don't like DeLillo.
- If you've tried reading Don DeLillo's fiction in the past and found it the literary equivalent of being whacked in the head with a sock full of quarters, his new short story collection The Angel Esmeralda is an ideal way to give him another chance. The Guardian explains: "Minds skid on the glacial beauty of his fictive thought. Perhaps a slower pace, encouraged by the short-story form, will facilitate a better grip." The length of the stories, written between 1979 and 2011, are perfect for a "rich compression of imagery or argument," allowing him to do what he does best as a stylist: "Isolating that stray thought, and mak[ing] of it great art." Writing in The Financial Times, novelist John Banville says it's almost disconcerting how consistent DeLillo's writing is in The Angel Esmeralda, since the collection that spans three dacades. It's like he "sprung fully formed into the world and had no need of or inclination towards progress, or modification, or stylistic innovation," Banville observes. He says the best story in the collection is "Hammer and Sickle," which is set in "an open prison for assorted post-Lehman Brothers fraudsters." The story is topical, funny, and boasts such a wonderful concept that "one might be forgiven for suspecting that the great crash of 2008 is all the invention of this most inventive, elegant and subversive dreamer of contemporary nightmares." [The Guardian and The Financial Times]
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the final book in the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy, will finally be released in paperback in February. Considering that the hardcover edition spent 70 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list before finally dropping off last month, there was no incentive for Random House to release a softcover priced-to-own edition of the book until now. In advance of David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hitting theaters on December 21, Random House is also shipping a whopping 1.2 million movie tie-in copies of the first book in November (by way of comparison, the movie tie-in for last year's Eat, Pray, Love sold a total of 516,000 copies.) [Media Decoder]
- Pippi Longstocking is the latest beloved children's book character fighting off charges of racism. The claim was made against Pippi by Dr. Eske Wollrad, described by The Guardian as "a feminist theologian from Germany's Federal Association of Evangelical Women." Wollrad says the books have "colonial racial stereotypes." Like what? "[T]he black children throw themselves into the sand in front of the white children in the book," she says. Wollrad volunteers she refused to read that passage to her grandson, who is black. Wollrad wants to be clear she doesn't think Pippi's racist: she's not one of those alarmist who goes around accusing pretend things of having hidden motives. The problem is the aforementioned "colonial racial stereotypes" are everywhere you turn. Which is absurd, says Karin Nyman, whose mother Astrid Lindgren wrote the original series. "[Pippi] is not a racist. She is the opposite," Nyman tells The Guardian. "She is not only 'against adultism, grown-ups being in charge, and fiercely opposed to violence against animals' she certainly is also against racism." In fact, Nyman continues, in the passage Wollrad cites, Pippi "refuses to be knelt in front of, who makes a very strong point of the children being all alike, black and white, and enjoying the same games in the two books dealing with the South Seas." As The Guardian points, Pippi is not the first fictional character to be accused of bigotry this year: the Smurfs have had to fight allegations they were racists, communists, and anti-semites, while Tintin is taking similar heat for his appearance decades ago in a comic book with a setting that played up "colonial racial stereotypes," though Tintin wasn't endorsing, embodying, or even really noticing them. [The Guardian]
- Keith Richards won the Mailer Prize for Distinguished Biography for his memoir Life last night in New York. In typical Richards fashion, very little about the event was ordinary. From the Associated Press: "He chuckled. He swore." He also wore "tinted glasses, a long scarf around his neck and a wide red band around his sprawl of salt and pepper hair" and was introduced by former President Bill Clinton. At the end of the evening, Tony Bennett approached Richards, explaining, "I just wanted to thank him." The two musicians exchanged pleasantries and, as Bennett was walking away, he was asked if he had any favorite Rolling Stones songs. "Bennett responded that he had never listened to them." [AP]