It's November 22nd, which means until December 21st, it's Sagittarius season. Just in time, here are the best picks from Sag authors across different genres.
In 2014, the UK’s top literary prize, the Man Booker award, changed its rules. It had previously only nominated novels by authors from Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland. The rule change expanded nominations to include any English-language novel published in the UK.
This includes Americans, and therein lies the problem. In the four awards since the rule change, two Americans have won (George Saunders in 2017 for Lincoln in the Bardo, and Paul Beatty in 2016 for The Sellout). Richard Flanagan, an Australian, and Marlon James, a Jamaican, won the other two years.
Out of fear that the UK’s top prize for books is becoming too global, thirty UK publishers have signed a letter, The Guardian reports, which has leaked, addressed to the organization. In it, publishers say:
The rule change, which presumably had the intention of making the prize more global, has in fact made it less so, by allowing the dominance of Anglo-American writers at the expense of others; and risks turning the prize, which was once a brilliant mechanism for bringing the world’s English-language writers to the attention of the world’s biggest English-language market, into one that is no longer serving the readers in that market … [It] will therefore be increasingly ignored.
Essentially, the fear is UK-based writers will be sidelined by English-speaking Americans. Washington Post critic Ron Charles (an American) weighed in in a piece titled “Dear Britain, please take your Booker Prize back home.” In it, Charles makes the salient point that, by the time the Man Booker is awarded, American writers have already had plenty of opportunity to boast their accomplishments. Charles writes, “As flattering as it is for our nation’s novelists to be invited into the U.K.’s literary arena, Americans don’t need any encouragement to trumpet their own books. As a nation, we’re already depressingly xenophobic when it comes to our reading choices.”
The Man Booker Foundation has responded to the letter with a statement, saying, “The judges … are charged with finding the best novel of the year, in their opinion, written in English. The trustees believe that this mission cannot be constrained or compromised by national boundaries.” They further state four years is not enough time to gather representative data in terms of whether or not the award favors Americans.
What’s your stance on the continued controversy? It does seem appropriate for the UK to have a prestigious UK-centric award, in the same way America has the National Book Award. The Man Booker Prize was once an opportunity to see the best literature published in a certain region. Its message now is more broad, and, personally, not totally on board with it. Even though Lincoln in the Bardo was one of my favorite books of last year, George Saunders is doing okay in terms of being critically lauded—not sure he needed the 2017 Man Booker Prize. But what do you think?
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Sup y’all. So we all know about upcoming adaptations such as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Old news. What you probably didn’t know is that the following rake of rip-rollicking reads are also set for screens great and small. Thanks to Bookbub for the original article that brought these gems to our attention!
1. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Image Via Goodreads
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.
The film will be made by Dreamworks, and Paula Hawkins will executive produce. Jared LeBoff and La La Land‘s Marc Platt will produce.
2. Sleeping Beauties: A Novel by Stephen King and Owen King
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In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep: they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent. And while they sleep they go to another place, a better place, where harmony prevails and conflict is rare.
One woman, the mysterious “Eve Black,” is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Eve a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? Abandoned, left to their increasingly primal urges, the men divide into warring factions, some wanting to kill Eve, some to save her. Others exploit the chaos to wreak their own vengeance on new enemies. All turn to violence in a suddenly all-male world.
Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously dramatic father-son collaboration that feels particularly urgent and relevant today.
The rights have been purchased by Anonymous Content, with Stephen and Owen both co-creating what will be a TV series. Oscar-winning producer Michael Sugarand Ashley Zalta will produce.
3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
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From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s production company, has optioned the book for a television series.
4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
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February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.
From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.
Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally will be producing the movie adaptation along with Saunders.
5. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
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Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
Reese’s Hello Sunshine strikes again, with rumors she will star in the film!
6. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
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Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
E! is developing this Breakfast Club-inspired thriller into a television series.
7. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
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Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.
Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.
With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.
The book has been acquired byby Scott Rudin Productions, but we’re not yet sure if it will be a movie or series.
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George Saunders’ star keeps on rising this year, between winning the Man Booker Prize for his debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo and a new Amazon Prime pilot based on his short story “Sea Oak” dropping on Friday. Sea Oak stars Glenn Close and was written and co-executive produced by Saunders.
George Saunders pointing at a hat he’s wearing. | Image Via Literary Hub
Originally published in Pastoralia, “Sea Oak” follows the story of a woman, played by Glenn Close of 101 Dalmatians and Fatal Attraction fame, who’s killed in a home invasion and is so ticked off that she just decides she isn’t going to die. She’s just going to hang around for a bit and bug her family. Really, though, she’s full of rage about what happened to her and that the life she meant to live was stolen. It’s kind of like The Walking Dead meets, maybe, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?
The pilot is directed by Hiro Murai, who helmed six episodes of Donald Glover’s celebrated Atlanta. Murai is a smart choice for Saunders’ material, which often mixes surrealist elements with dark, dark humor.
Whether or not Amazon will extend the pilot order to series remains to be seen, but Glenn Close’s performance has been praised and Saunders’ name has been garnering some serious clout recently. It’s not the first time Saunders’ work has been optioned for adaptations. Earlier this year, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman scored film rights to Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders has been friends with Mullally and Offerman for a while, both of the comedians providing their voices to the audiobook of Lincoln in the Bardo on Audible.
Image Via Amazon
You can check out the pilot for Sea Oak now on Amazon Prime. Keep your fingers crossed it gets picked up to become a series. Maybe we’ll be seeing some more contemporary literary fiction coming to screens soon!
Feature Image on Amazon
The 2017 Man Booker Prize will be awarded to George Saunders for his debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders was the favorite to win UK’s top literary prize, his competition including Americans Paul Auster and Emily Fridlund, Brits Ali Smith and Fiona Mozley, and British-Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid.
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Lincoln in the Bardo follows the ghost of President Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie as he reckons with his own death. President Lincoln’s visits to his son’s grave are a prominent role in the story as well. One of the things that makes the book unique is Saunders’ voice. Rather, his variety of voices. There are living voices and ghost voices. Dialogue and interior monologue. It’s something like a literary mosaic–a singular story told by a kind of torrent of voices.
Chair of the 2017 judging panel, Baroness Lola Young, said of the novel:
This really stood out because of its innovation – its very different styling and the way in which it paradoxically brought to life these not-quite-dead souls in this other world. There was this juxtaposition of the very personal tragedy of Abraham Lincoln with his public life, as the person who’d really instigated the American Civil War.
Apparently, it took five hours of discussion and debate before the judges came to their unanimous decision. Along with Young, the judges included novelist Sarah Hall, artist Tom Phillips, literary critic Lila Azam Zanganeh, travel writer Colin Thubron.
Since the award began in 1969, it had been only awarded to Commonwealth, Irish, or South African writers until 2014, when it was opened to all novels written in English. Last year, American writer Paul Beatty won for his book The Sellout. It seems the Americans are encroaching on the UK’s literary territory now.
Though Lincoln in the Bardo was Saunders’ debut novel, his short fiction has won a bunch of awards including the Folio Prize in 2014 for Tenth of December, and he was also awarded the MacArthur (‘Genius’) Grant in 2006. Saunders teaches at the MFA program in Syracuse University.
Feature Image Via the Atlantic