Books From Start to Finish

August 19th, 2014

Hello readers:

Yes, summer is drawing to a close. As in all times of transition, I am driven to reflect on what these past few months have meant. What have I learned, what of value will I carry out with me?

To begin with, my internship with Beaufort has been a pleasant, informative foray into the world of publishing – for which I am very appreciative. I can predict now what the day to day in a publishing company might bring: the variety of tasks, the encounters with authors, the publicity ups and downs, the mailings, and then again, the mailings… The life of a small, independent publisher is, of course, different from what I would encounter at a larger, departmentalized publishing house – and better, I think, as an introduction to the field; I feel as though I have gotten the broader lay of the land.

My literary summer has been informative in other ways. My past few summer reads have drawn my attention to something interesting: an author’s ability to write a story that is uncannily pre-cognizant of real-world events. I first had this thought after reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Several years into the future, a foreign correspondent named Ed Brubeck reports from Iraq on the increasing sectarian division and violence that has beset the country. In one fell swoop, Brubeck sums up the chain of events that has led to this: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the withdrawal of American troops, the reemergence and rise of the radical Sunni minority. Back in the real world, several weeks pass and I begin to read stories in the paper about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Indeed, it is precisely what Mitchell (via Brubeck) predicted.

TheBoneClocks

ThirtyGirls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another example: Susan Minot’s Thirty Girls. The book begins with the kidnapping and subjugation of thirty young girls from a boarding school in rural Uganda, at the hands of Joseph Kony’s rebel army. Sister Guilia, the leader of the boarding school, determinably sets out to find her girls and bring them home. She will get no help from local authorities, and is accompanied only by a fellow math teacher.  The book is based on the real wave of abductions perpetrated by Kony’s army in the early 2000s, and yet it is also eerily pre-cognizant of what soon came to pass in Nigeria, with Boko Haram. Again I had a moment of intense deja vú: “Nigeria’s Stolen Girls,” reads the title of a recent New Yorker article; had I not just read this exact same story?

These prophetic moments arise, not as a result of authors’ sixth sense when it comes to foreign affairs, but rather as a result of their ability to view events within the wider scope of human history – to take a step back and see a particular moment in time as part of a larger story. No matter how many articles I have read about Iraq, I will now always remember the conflict in the words of Ed Brubeck, and that is because his explanation was woven into a larger story about the cyclicality of violence.

Brubeck’s words will also stay with me because I was invested in him as a character. It is easy to become hardened to the wave of news updates from Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine – there is so much of it, and so much of it is bad. Occasionally long-form journalism can break through the buzz, and hit you with a strong character driven piece that reminds you why you should care. Most often, though, it is a book like The Bone Clocks or Thirty Girls that does the trick.

All this to say that this summer has been a literary education on two fronts: a glance at the behind-the-scenes sweat that gets books published in the first place, and a reminder of what books can do once they are out there.

 

Yours truly, SWS

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Goodbye to All That

August 15th, 2014

I can’t believe today is my last day at the office; the summer went by so fast! Being a Beaufort intern has been such a wonderful experience. I got to attend BookExpo America (which is pretty much the coolest place for book lovers), read submissions, edit manuscripts, and even do rewrites. During my time here I’ve learned a lot about publishing and social media, but mostly team work. I really appreciate that my opinions and ideas were truly valued in the Beaufort office; Megan and Michael were constantly including me in conversations, brainstorming sessions, and meetings. I’m so grateful to them for the amount of trust they put on me as an intern and I hope I made them proud. I also appreciate having been able to participate in the PR aspect of the publishing business. Working with Felicia, drafting press releases, and keeping our social media accounts up to date were a great learning experience for me.

Since everything must end, I’ll make like Joan Didion and say goodbye to all this, but not for good. A new adventure awaits next summer.

Until next time,

Simply Beautanical

Forget-Me-Not

Forget-Me-Not

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Farewell

August 12th, 2014

As today is my last day as a Beaufort intern, I bid you all adieu. This internship has been so wonderful, and has been the perfect introduction to the world of publishing. When you’re working at small company there’s plenty of hands on experience, and I have loved working at a place where reading is part of the job requirement. It’s given me confirmation that this is what I want to do with my life.

This post is going to be short as the clock is ticking on my time here (quite literally), but I just wanted to say thank you to everyone at Beaufort for giving me an amazing opportunity, and providing both an amusing and informative summer.

Farewell-The Red Beaulloon

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G.A.N.: The Great American Novel

August 1st, 2014

Hello readers:

Is there such as thing as The Great American Novel? How should we define the term, and which authors, if any, have produced titles that deserve this crowning accolade? In a recent podcast, writers Elizabeth Gilbert and Adam Gopnik took up these questions with a great deal of perspicacity, discussing the Great American Novel (let’s call it G.A.N.) as it was understood historically and in its modern day iterations.

For starters, a simply great novel– as I see it -should strive to elucidate some essential feature of the human experience, and in particular, human experience in the author’s day and age. But is there an added criterion for the Great American Novel?

Gilbert and Gopnik begin by distancing the G.A.N. from the Great European Novel. The Great European Novel is epitomized in cross-sectional novels such as Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which attempt to catalogue life as it exists at each level of society. This formula does not work in a country like America, where we have no ennobled class and (ostensibly) a more equalized distribution of wealth and privilege. Rather, as a country of immigrants, American society is best understood as a kind of melting pot – a medley of people with disparate backgrounds, cultural mentalities, and beliefs. A G.A.N., then, would be a novel like Moby-Dick or The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – books in which a diverse group of people are forcibly thrown together, stirred up, and let loose.

MobyDick2

KoolAid

From my own reading list, I can see how this melting pot formula applies. Donna Tartt’s recent book The Goldfinch, first instance, utilizes it when the protagonist Theo gets stuck in a crowded museum during a bombing. During this moment of crisis, Theo is drawn to the side of an elderly man named Welty, whose dying request is that Theo steal Carel Fabritius’s painting The Goldfinch and carry it out of the museum;obeying the dying man’s request charters Theo’s course for the remainder of the novel. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto also fits the bill. In an unspecified South American country, a terrorist group holds a group of party guests hostage for a period of several months. The result: relationships are forged not only amongst the hostages, but also across hostage-terrorist lines.

TheGoldfinch

belcanto

There are others, of course. And yet for each novel I determined to meet Gilbert and Gopnik’s criteria, there was one which did not, and which I believed nonetheless deserved the title of G.A.N. Take The Great Gatsby, for instance. An undeniable classic, Gatsby gets at a different type of phenomenon that is uniquely American – the possibility for self-invention. Along with Gatsby, you can throw in works like Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Cather’s One of Ours, and Miller’s Death of a Salesman – all starring ardent, idealistic protagonists determined to make their way in the world according to their own definition of “success.”

greatgatsby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the moment, I happen to be reading a book that qualifies as a G.A.N. along both of these axes: Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. In the summer of 1974, Jules Jacobson – the funny, ambitious protagonist of The Interestings – attends an exclusive summer arts camp called Spirit-in-the-Woods. There she meets and befriends five others campers, all of them talented budding artists who inspire in Jules a mixture of envy, fear and adoration. Dubbing themselves The Interestings and attempting to blanket their ambition in a sheath of irony, the group of six sets out to make their mark on the world.Wolitzer charts their progress across several decades, observing as several achieve the success they once dreamed of, and several others resign themselves to more practical occupations. Through Jules – who struggles to reconcile herself to the latter category – Wolitzer is able to offer a fresh look at the age-old question of success, proposing, ultimately, that we might just find ourselves content with a less-exacting definition.

TheInterestings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So yes, Wolitzer’s book offers us both a colorful and diverse cast of characters – thrown together at an adolescent summer camp – and a conversation about the possibility of self-invention. It is a G.A.N. if there ever was one. And yet waving a flag of greatness over The Interestings seems counter to everything that The Interestings stands for. Instead, I will simply congratulate Wolitzer on producing a touching and important book, and, in the spirit of that work, I will propose that there may not be a best definition of The Great American Novel, and perhaps that is the way it should be.

 

That’s all for now. Make sure to stay tuned for future blog posts from yours truly, SWS.

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The Charmingly Unreliable Narrator

July 23rd, 2014

Recently I finished reading The People in the Trees, a terrific, yet haunting work of fiction written by Hanya Yanagihara. The book is essentially the edited memoir of renowned scientist Dr. Norton Perina, who writes his memoir from prison after he is accused and convicted of committing a heinous crime. Norton’s memoir is made available to the reader thanks to his friend and colleague Dr. Ronald Kubodera, who prompts Norton to write the manuscript and acts as editor and narrator, providing helpful footnotes for the reader’s benefit. In his memoir Norton tells the reader of his childhood, his relationship with his twin brother, his research trip to a mysterious island in the Pacific, his discovery of a turtle that can grant immortality, and his eventual undoing. From the beginning, however, the reader is suspicious of Norton and his account of the events that led to him being in prison. The reader is also suspicious of Ronald, who might or might not be filtering and editing the truth that Norton might or might not be telling. Yanagihara has then given the reader not one, but two unreliable narrators, which I must admit at times was more than I could bear. Was Norton being truthful or was he writing a lie? And was Ronald publishing the truth and nothing but the truth, or simply an edited, less implicating version of it? The ending of the novel, which left me chilled to the bone, provides an answer to these questions.

By Hanya Yanagihara

By Hanya Yanagihara

The book left me thinking about unreliable narrators and the role they play in literature. Yanagihara’s characters join a slew of unreliable narrators that litter the fiction genre, including the lascivious Humbert Humbert in Lolita and self-proclaimed liar Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.

By Vladimir Nabokov

By Vladimir Nabokov

By J.D. Salinger

By J.D. Salinger

Why is the unreliable narrator so popular in literature? My guess is that unreliable narrators are the closest thing we have in fiction to the human psyche. Think this over for a moments: when you’re telling a story to a friend, you’re telling it from your point of view and, whether you like it or not, your truth might be different from someone else’s truth. Maybe the guy sitting next to you saw things a little bit differently than you, but how could you possibly know that? When you’re telling a story, it’s hard to remain objective. The same thing happens with many unreliable narrators. The unreliable narrator in fiction isn’t necessarily an outright liar. He or she might lie by omission, exaggerate something, give an event less importance than it deserves, and so on. Some unreliable narrators might simply be unhinged (Edgar Allan Poe definitely gave us a lot of those in his short stories). In essence, however, the unreliable narrator is someone who is telling a slanted truth. It’s something we all do, albeit subconsciously. Some readers abhor dealing with unreliable narrators, claiming that they are nothing more than an overused literary technique. I respectfully disagree. The unreliable narrator is a mirror image of the human mind, which is always at work on a subconscious level. Yes, there are unreliable narrators who are being deliberately coy and untruthful, but the best type of unreliable narrator, in my opinion, is the one who doesn’t know he or she is sliding towards unreliability, the one that swears he or she is telling the truth and nothing but the truth, the one who suddenly plants a seed of doubt in the reader with masterfully uttered words, the one that, inevitably, lives inside every single one of us.

Until next time,

Simply Beautanical

Sunflower

 

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Greetings

July 15th, 2014

 

Hi there!

I’m Kate, one of the summer interns for Beaufort Books. I shall follow in the tradition of Beau-themed names and from now on will sign my posts as The Red Beaulloon.

I’ve noticed that lately authors haven’t been content with just finishing a series. Usually a series is over once the final book has been published, but today authors have been revisiting the worlds that they’ve created in the form of spin-offs. These spin-offs tend to come in the form of novellas, with the novella telling the story from a new point of view, or exploring aspects of the story previously left up to the reader’s imagination.

It’s wonderful to you hear that your favorite story is going to be expanded upon. Its announcement can be enough to reignite a dying fan base, but are these expansions necessary? Or rather, why are they so popular now? This trend is relatively new (from what I can tell) and seems to be what distinguishes a popular franchise from the rest.

Obviously part of the appeal of writing a new book is the publicity and the money new sales can bring in. Why end a series when you can sell more books?

But what about those authors that have no need to advertise, and have more money than they know what to do with? Of course I’m talking about JK Rowling, who recently published a short story revisiting the Harry Potter universe in the form of an article written by Rita Skeeter. The Harry Potter fandom is one of the biggest in the world, and this story has reawakened the frenzy that ended with its last movie. Part of this is because there is a chance that something more is on its way. This assumption comes from an interpretation of Rita Skeeter plugging her own book in the article (coming out at the end of July) as Rowling hinting at a new Harry Potter book. The timing of all this is perfect. The new amusement park is opening up and I’m sure that this excitement is going to help with sales. But should a new book be necessary to keep the excitement over a series going?

It seems as though it’s no longer enough for authors to tour and promote their own book, they have to be willing to continue the series for as long as they can, and in as many different forms as possible. But what if an author doesn’t want to explore the world anymore? What if they tied up everything neatly in a bow and don’t want to potentially ruin what they worked so hard on to finish and perfect? The only solution seems to lie in what genre the author is writing. Specifically, don’t write Young Adult novels. This phenomenon seems to be localized solely to books for young adults, which shows that the expansion of the original series is not necessarily because the story needs it, but because this specific age group demands it. Young adults refuse to let their favorite series end, either by imagining what else might have happened on their own or begging the author for more until they acquiesce. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

While a fan demands for more from the story, the author might not have anything substantial to give. But with increasing pressure from a fan base an author, and their publisher, will most likely want to satisfy the masses. That doesn’t mean that the resulting book will be any good. Whenever an author releases an addition on a series there is always the chance that it will flop, and therefore lessen the original. The story has been tainted by the expansions, and the only way to counteract this is to ignore that the additions ever happened.

What sequels?

 

This is a trend that started in movies, and is now starting to take over Young Adult books. It’s a trend focused on selling more of a product, which is in no way a bad thing as that is how people make a living. Readers have to understand that if they demand more of a story, what they get has no guarantee as being as good as the original.

So while many readers celebrate whenever an author comes out with some extension to an already finished series, I always worry that it will detract from something that I once loved so much. Why don’t we just see if the author has more they want to tell before demanding it so whole-heartedly?

 

The Red Beaullon

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World War I Centennial

July 8th, 2014

Hello readers:

On June 28, as I imagine it, our nation heaved a collective sigh at the memory of that long-ago blunder we now call World War I. The consequences of The Great War have been manifold, but one that has affected me most personally is the wave of literature published in the post-war years (and a few accounts even earlier, mid-conflict) – memoirs, poetry, and novels that are a testament to the shock, the disillusionment, and also the spiritedness that the first industrial war inspired.

One of Ours, Willa Cather

OneOfOurs

One of Ours does not immediately scream war novel; its first half takes us on a pastoral tour of rural Nebraska, where the young Claude Wheeler is being groomed to take over his father’s farming operation. Claude is underwhelmed by the prospect of such a future, his dissatisfaction manifesting in a constant physical restlessness that leads others to look at him askance. I have always sympathized with Claude’s sentiments in these pages of the novel, having also felt at times that obscure but pulse-quickening anticipation of what else life might have to offer: “He would spring to his feet, turn over quickly in bed, or stop short in his walk, because the old belief flashed up in him with an intense kind of hope, an intense kind of pain, – the conviction that there was something splendid about life, if he could but find it!” When World War I rolls around in the summer of 1914, that purpose is at last discovered, and Claude ships out as a newly enlisted member of the US Army. It is a Gatsby-esque turn of events: we are endeared to Claude’s idealism despite the unworthiness of the cause at which it is directed.

 

Storm of Steel, Ernst Junger

StormofSteel

Storm of Steel - the autobiographical account of young German officer Ernst Junger on the Western Front between the years 1914 and 1918 -is an anomaly within the canon of World War I literature. Despite the savagery he witnesses during the war (and, in fact, bound up with it), Junger finds something sublime in the experience – a transcendent naturalistic force that should be celebrated: “There was in these men a quality that both emphasized the savagery of war and transfigured it at the same time: an objective relish for danger, the chevalieresque urge to prevail in battle. Over four years, the fire smelted an ever-purer, ever bolder warriorhood.” Critics have cast Storm of Steel as a precursor to the Darwinian politics espoused in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but to do so is to pinhole a unique and important perspective on the First World War.

 

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

SunAlsoRises

The Sun Also Rises will always be, for me, the quintessential novel of World War I disillusionment. It all comes down to that final line, succinct and pointed as so much of Hemingway is: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” For those of us swept up in the illusory potential of Jake and Brett’s relationship, this line quickly cuts us down.

 

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

Mrs.Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway is another novel that urges us past our traditional conceptions of war literature. Woolf’s focus is not on the war itself, but on its tremors – those slight, yet significant reverberations sent echoing back to the home front, to the families, homes and societies left behind. She argues, convincingly, that the war’s web of trauma spreads farther than we might imagine, invading even the intimate domestic sphere occupied by Mrs. Dalloway.

 

Regeneration, Pat Barker

Regeneration

Following the lives of several British army officers suffering from shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, Regeneration provides an important portrait of the field of psychology as it was impacted by World War I. Several of Barker’s characters are based on actual historical figures present at the hospital at that time – the war-weary poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as well as the psychologist W.H.R. Rivers, who pioneered treatments of post-traumatic stress disorder.  My favorite poem to emerge out of the First World War, “Picture Show” (And still they come and go: and this is all I know – / That from the gloom I watch an endless picture-show), was written by Sassoon during his time at Craiglockhart.

 

That’s all for now. Make sure to stay tuned for future blog posts from yours truly, SWS.

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New Intern Thinks About Vampires

July 2nd, 2014

Hello all. I’m Joy, one of the multiple new Beaufort interns, and I’ve chosen BigRedBeau as my pseudonym for the summer.

So I love YA. And I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. The hosts of Pop Culture Happy Hour—an NPR podcast—put it best when they stated in one of their live shows, “That’s not guilt it’s shame, and shame is external.” Basically I’m saying I dig YA and I’m trying not to be ashamed of it.

Cited podcast is linked if you click through.

And there’s something I’ve noticed, sitting over here and loving YA. A trend, if you will. These days, one thing you get with YA is vampires. Vampires everywhere. Heck, if you’re a human being during this time in world history, you’re going to encounter vampires. In their many and varying media forms, from your Trueblood to your Twilight, vampires just can’t seem to leave us alone.

Recently, the primary media form I’ve been experiencing Vampires in is The Vampire Diaries.

Perhaps worth noting that most visual media reincarnations of vampires presently running were in fact initially literary.

I started watching it one morning over my bowl of cereal when I realized I was in the mood for something that wouldn’t engage my emotions or my intelligence.

Way back (not that far) when I was in middle school, one of my friends who had previously recommended the Twilight series suggested the Vampire Diaries as a follow up; at the time, I wasn’t interested because I felt the covers of the books were silly. Not to mention I was two kinds of done with Twilight and vampires; literally done, as in I had finished the published books, and emotionally done, as in I wasn’t really into any further exposure to vampires. I’ve had one or two friends ask me never to call them again as they have no desire to further associate with me (jokingly, I think), but so far it’s been pretty good. It’s a much smarter show than I was anticipating. I think it made me cry once? As of now I am almost finished with Season 1.

So obviously vampires are currently one sweeping cultural trend. They’re kind of the thing, the hot topic (I hate this phrase, this joke, but it fits: you can’t deny that). They show up in all kinds of media, and they are seemingly most prevalent in YA books (not to mention books aimed at young girls, but that’s a different discussion). We thought for awhile that maybe werewolves would replace them (you’ve got your Teen Wolf, you’ve got your Liar), then it was—for a cultural blink, if you will—ghosts, with the advent of Being Human. Then it was zombies (with your The Walking Dead) and those terrifying—in a way that zombies really shouldn’t be—attempts to make the undead romantic and sexy somehow (with your Warm Bodies, and I can’t recall the name but there was that series of books about dead kids coming back to life in high school that was popular for, like, a heartbeat). But nothing really comes close to the popularity of vampires

Features high schoolers inexplicably coming back to life and inexplicably still being attractive to their peers somehow?

If you’re looking for a book that will stress you out and lie to your face, pick this one.

I can’t say that I particularly care about vampires, personally. I went through that phase. I’ve done my time. But what I’ve been thinking about is our fascination with them as a society. Why do we care? What is so consistently interesting about vampires that media keeps looping back to them again and again? Why have they become such a stereotypical inclusion in our culture?

Well, I’ve got a theory about that:

Vampires are social short cuts. Vampires are ways to discuss intense human desires in an unfettered context. I’m thinking Lolita levels of desire and intensity, here.

Let me explain.

The central dogma of the vampire myth is that they drink blood. Further, by far the most popular thing in current cultural recreations of vampires is, you know, that one broody dude vampire who is so tortured and doesn’t want to drink human blood because “it’s wrong” and he’s so conflicted and his nature so disgusts him, god, isn’t he tortured.

You know the type.

That guy is what, potentially, makes vampires interesting.

Because you’ve got this undeniable desire for something (in this case, blood). No one can deny that you’ve got that desire when you’re a vampire. That’s your food. It’s what you survive on. But vampires don’t crave blood the way we crave, say, Oreos. I wouldn’t kill a guy for my Oreos (at the very least it’s unlikely). With vampires, this thing they live on, the thing they crave, comes with this stipulation that, probably, you’re going to have to kill someone. And inevitably that desire isn’t just a normal desire; in our media, it manifests as this undeniable need. Vampire blood cravings in most cultural interpretations surpass simple cravings: they go straight into the areas of lust and greed. And you watch every vampire-character struggle with that. Depending on the character, it has differing effects. Depending on the author/creater, it’s more or less relevant to the plot.

Further, vampires skip over these laborious discussions of, “Well, why do you want that thing?” and creaters can go straight into what effect this want has on their individual. I could have the most powerful craving in the world for Oreos. To me, this craving could be life or death, this thing that I want. But people would always ask why I wanted that thing, and question whether I particularly needed that thing. This is where Lolita comes in; you watch a desire twist and morph a character (characters, some would argue). Vampires skip right over the process of having their desires justified. This question isn’t even on the board for vampires. But their desires are automatically vilified. Many forms of vampire literature attempt to find ways to soften this vilification (Twilight with its vegetarian vampires, for example; True Blood with its… Trueblood).

In a way, making a character a vampire is kind of like making a character an orphan; it’s a prevalent social trend and it’s an automatic internal struggle that constantly has the potential to become an external struggle, pre-loaded in your character. It’s a stuggle-in-a-box, an automatic Tragic Past TM.

Everyone’s favorite YA orphan.

So many characters that are vampires go through this struggle with their own nature, and it’s handled by different artists in a variety of ways. But one thing you always return to is this moral struggle: I want this thing, but I shouldn’t be able to have it. That’s the central plot of every vampire-based piece of media I can think of at the moment. That’s the drama.

I think this is an area of human psyche rarely accessed. Part of us that know we can have things we desire but won’t take because of a certain moral standard. I desire Oreos, and I could probably develop an elaborate plan to obtain my Oreos sans a monetary transaction. But the guilt I would feel for this would be too overwhelming for me personally to handle, plus I like to try to make the world around me operate under laws of fairness, so I don’t steal my Oreos. Vampire-characters are this struggle blown up, with increased desire added for drama.

What I’m saying is creating a character that’s a vampire but has an issue with being a vampire is potentially a way to study to severe conflict in the human soul.

And this is sexy somehow?

I’m not sure. I’m still figuring it out.

Until next time…

-BigRedBeau

 

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It’s all in the name… or is it?

July 2nd, 2014

Having just finished The Silkworm, the second novel in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, I find myself thinking a lot about pseudonyms. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Robert Gablraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy. Rowling assumed the pen name last year when she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first novel in the Cormoran Strike series.

Now, being the successful writer that she is, why would J.K Rowling want to write under a pen name? In Rowling’s case, the answer is simple. After seven little books featuring a well-known character by the name of Harry Potter, it’s no surprise that Rowling might’ve wanted some anonymity. The Harry Potter series is arguably one of the most successful in history, spawning a hit film series and a huge fan base. The series’ popularity also made Rowling a literary star. After the series ended, Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy, a well reviewed fiction novel that sold pretty well because, let’s face it, it was written by J.K. Rowling (I myself purchased, read, and loved this book, but I’m not so sure I would’ve picked up if it were written by an unknown author). So, after more than a couple of literary hits, it’s not surprising that Rowling might have wanted some literary obscurity. And so, Robert Galbraith was born.

Rowling is not the first successful author to adopt a pen name. Celebrated writers like Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Michael Crichton have assumed pen names during their literary careers. In Rowling’s case, her pen name has given the world a new crime/detective series featuring Detective Cormoran Strike, an Afghanistan war veteran turned private detective. As Rowling herself explains, the reason why she wanted to write under a pseudonym was because she wanted to revert to simpler times: “I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.” Alas, Rowling’s anonymity was short-lived, because she’s simply too good. Critics and reviewers quickly noticed that The Cuckoo’s Calling was too good to have been written by a rookie, and after some speculation the news finally broke that Rowling was in fact behind this new series.

The fact that Rowling’s secret was revealed so quickly supports my main argument: when you’re a good writer, that will shine through no matter what name you’re using. I believe that when an author publishes under a pseudonym they are looking for reassurance that they are actually good writers, regardless of their celebrity. Through Galbraith, Rowling has proved that she’s more than capable of writing a really good book, wizards and witches set aside.

Until next time,

Simply Beautanical

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Blanket Flower

written by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

The Silkworm, written by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

 

Sources

http://robert-galbraith.com/about/

http://www.vulture.com/2013/07/how-jk-rowlings-pseudonym-was-uncovered.html

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/07/15/famous-authors-with-secret-pseudonyms/slide/ruth-rendell-barbara-vine/

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Hello from SWS

June 20th, 2014

Hello there!

I’m Emily, one of Beaufort’s new summer interns. For the sake of this blog, however, I will be known as SWS, or Septimus Warren Smith, inspired by one of my favorite books of all time, Mrs. Dalloway. Just recently, Ripe Time – an organization that adapts literature for the stage (check ‘em out! – http://ripetime.org/clarissa-dalloday/) – put on a marathon reading of Mrs. Dalloway at several locations throughout Brooklyn. I stopped in just as Septimus was being introduced into the narrative, gazing up at a passing aeroplane. A World War I veteran suffering from PTSD, Septimus’ speech throughout the novel is often garbled and paranoid; and yet several monologues of his are of the most resonant and insightful comments Mrs. Dalloway has to offer.

“So, thought Septimus, looking up, they are signaling to me. Not indeed in actual words; that is, he could not read the language yet; but it was plain enough, this beauty, this exquisite beauty, and tears filled his eyes as he looked at the smoke words languishing and melting in the sky and bestowing upon him in their inexhaustible charity and laughing goodness one shape after another of unimaginable beauty and signaling their intention to provide him, for nothing, forever, for looking merely, with beauty, more beauty!”

For all of you kick starting your summer reading lists, Mrs. Dalloway is a must. I’ll recommend two others as well –

The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner: Ms. Kushner’s most recent book, The Flamethrowers, draws upon an eclectic conglomerate of topics, including motorcycle racing, land art, Minimalism, and the underground political movement in 1970s Italy. Intrigued? Check out this clip from the National Book Award readings and you will surely be convinced: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2013_f_kushner.html#.U6RkivmTXTp

Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin: Possibly my #1 book if I am forced to choose. I have come back to this book again and again and am continually touched by what Baldwin has to say. The story follows American expatriate David as he travels to Paris and engages in an unconventional romance with Italian bartender Giovanni, taboo for many reasons, not the least of which is his engagement to Hella. I was saddened to discover Baldwin’s absence from the list of books suggested for Common Core standards, and now feel a personal responsibility to promote him. So, read Giovanni’s Room! You won’t regret it.

That’s all for now. Make sure to stay tuned for future blog posts from yours truly, SWS.

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