Wednesday, June 27, 2012

OPIUM FIEND: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction Published

Steven Martin's singular memoir (see advance praise) was published by Villard/Random House yesterday, and Austin's favorite bookstore since 1970, BookPeople, has posted a Q&A with Steven on their site.  Canada's weekly current affairs magazine Maclean's favorably reviewed the book on Friday, and io9 excerpted it yesterday, calling it "a kind of alternate history, where addictions of the past erupt into the present unexpectedly."

Atlanta's AM 1690 aired a terrific two-part conversation between David Lewis and the author yesterday.

Zak Pelaccio Talks Grilling with Bon Appetit

Zak's first book EAT WITH YOUR HANDS (Ecco) dropped in April to a firestorm of praise. Serious Eats said the book "is one of those perfect chef-written cookbooks that conveys not only the chef's dishes but also personality and Pelaccio is full of it. ...[It] is unique but also accessible, written in a tone that makes even the most exotic ingredient or unfamiliar technique seem doable, and fun even." The Wall Street Journal and Epicurious chimed in, and The Austin Chronicle said "The chef, food, and book are wildly irreverent, combining an emo ethos with sophisticated technique and innovative flavors to produce an iconoclastic genre of hipster food for the new millennium. ...With this groundbreaking volume, Pelaccio brings us free spirited, passionate food that takes a novel approach to the new American table."  Check out this video portrait from Handpicked Nation:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Steven Martin's OPIUM FIEND in The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town"

In the June 25th issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Nick Paumgarten speaks with Steven Martin, whose memoir OPIUM FIEND:  A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction is being published by Susanna Porter at Random House next week, about how he came to be the global expert on opium-smoking paraphernalia.   For the larger story, you'll have to read the book.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

DARKEST AMERICA by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen Lauded by Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus

It is a rare thing when both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus agree on a book, but that is the case for their reviews of DARKEST AMERICA:  Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen, to be published by W.W. Norton & Company on August 27th.

Kirkus reviews the book thus:
A provocative, compelling exploration of one of the most controversial elements of the black entertainment world. Chicago Review Press senior editor Taylor and Roctober magazine editor Austen explore the long history not only of African-American involvement in minstrel performances, but also of black-derived comedy that utilizes elements from the minstrel act—exaggerated stereotypes of the black experience that hearken back to the minstrel shows of the 19th century. More precisely, the authors examine the debates over these myriad forms of entertainment and the accusations of minstrelsy that have often embroiled black entertainers and intellectuals in fevered debates over the nature and depiction of the black experience. Taylor and Austen deftly argue that African-Americans have taken on perceived minstrelsy in one of three ways. The first has been simply to embrace such forms of entertainment and comedy. The second has been to signify on them—i.e., to engage in self-aware parody and wry utilization of elements of minstrelsy to make a larger point. The third approach involves waging war on such stereotypes, which often leads to heated accusations and counterattacks. The authors take a kaleidoscopic look at their topic, emphasizing a diverse range of individuals and works, including blackface entertainer Bert Williams, writers Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, Stanley Crouch’s attacks on Tupac Shakur as a “thug minstrel,” Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled, and comedian Dave Chappelle’s self-exile when he reached the conclusion that his own work had moved uncomfortably from comedy about stereotyping to enabling the very stereotypes he was combating. An innovative, marvelous book about comedy, stereotypes and the struggle to steer through the sometimes-fierce internal debates over African-American identity in a society still struggling with its racial past.
...and Publishers Weekly:
Taylor (coauthor of Faking It) and Austen (editor of Roctober magazine) provide a comprehensive and perceptive history and critique of black minstrelsy—a tradition that began in the 1840s, where black performers entertained black and white audiences by playing the grinning blackface buffoon, exaggerating the traits white people used to characterize black men. Minstrelsy emerged as the most popular form of entertainment (the ancestor of vaudeville and the variety show) until the turn of the 20th century, when the classic minstrel variety show gradually disappeared. Taylor and Austen argue that minstrelsy’s “Negro caricature” became woven into American culture, reappearing in the 21st century in hip-hop, rap, Mardi Gras Zulu floats in New Orleans, and inspiring the work of artists like Lil Wayne and Spike Lee. The book explores minstrelsy’s long period of popularity; artists such as Bert Williams and Master Juba; its audience’s reactions; and the ways its innovative performances have influenced American culture. According to the authors, black minstrel performers did not simply re-enact degrading stereotypes, but rather satirized those stereotypes to liberate themselves and their audiences. In his performances, Bert Williams expunged some of minstrelsy’s demeaning aspects to highlight its humanity and pathos, while Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles kept minstrelsy’s musical legacy alive through its songs. This well-informed work deepens our understanding of a lasting element of American culture.

ABDICATION by Juliet Nicolson on UK Bestseller List at #3

ABDICATION by Juliet Nicolson, represented by the agency in collaboration with Ed Victor of Ed Victor Ltd., debuted on the London bestseller list on publication day last week at #5, and has now climbed to #3. Ed and Bloomsbury threw an amazing party for Juliet in London on Tuesday, covered by Tatler.

The novel, published by Sarah Branham of Atria in the United States, received a starred Kirkus review:
This story never gets old: the besotted king, his cool American divorcĂ©e, the scheming politicians, and a compliant press keeping a nation in the dark. In this new version. Edward and Wallis are merely supporting players to the two main stars of the show: Evangeline Nettlefold, the maladroit schoolgirl chum of Wallis, and May Thomas, a clever and ambitious recent arrival from Barbados. These two cross paths when May is hired on as a chauffeur and aide to Sir Philip Blunt, a government minister, at the same time that Evangeline arrives in England at the invitation of Wallis and takes up residence in Sir Philip’s household. Famous literary and political figures dot the narrative, which plays out against a backdrop of the Fascist rise to power in Europe and the fringe fascination in England with Nazi sympathizer Oswald Mosley. VERDlCT Anyone requiring a post— Downton Abbey fix could do worse than this beguiling, Thirties-era, class-conscious soap opera, written by the granddaughter of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. Enthusiastically recommended.
And others across the media spectrum:

Elegantly poignant ... Nicolson has an eye for prescient anecdotes.
Ruth Scurr, The Times on THE PERFECT SUMMER: Dancing Into Shadow in 1911

Sweeps across voices and classes to assemble a mosaic of sunlit impressions.
Boyd Tonkin,Independent

An accomplished and engaging piece of social history.
Daily Telegraph

This is a peach of a book. It is full of good things, elegant and often funny. A cleverly crafted story of the hot, frenetic summer of 1911 which works because of the sparkling writing. 
Jane Ridley, Literary Review

Abdication beautifully evokes the troubled thirties, with its high-stakes politics, easy money and social tensions. Juliet Nicolson is an outstanding historian who brings the full panoply of her talent and research to the task of recreating the abdication crisis and its effect on Britain. This is a wonderful novel.
Amanda Foreman

Anyone interested in the 1930's will revel in this richly detailed slant on the abdication crisis.
Daisy Goodwin

With her keen eye for historical detail and intimate knowledge of England's social mores, Juliet Nicolson weaves a juicy and evocative tale of lives caught in the midst of one of Britain's great modern dramas, the abdication of King Edward VIII.
Tina Brown

A vivid reimagining ... a thoroughly absorbing novel. Juliet Nicolson combines a historian's deep knowledge and eye for telling detail with a keen sense of drama, a dash of romance, and an understanding of the complex motivations of human nature. 
Sally Bedell Smith

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Advance Praise for OPIUM FIEND: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction by Steven Martin

The June 26th publication by Random House of Steven Martin's beautiful and harrowing OPIUM FIEND:  A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addition is just around the corner, and the memoir is already garnering some great praise.

Steven Martin’s fascinating memoir runs so much deeper than the standard literature about drugs. Whereas most writers never move beyond obsessive descriptions of physical effects, Martin’s true interests are cultural and intellectual: he connects the urge of the drug addict with the compulsion of the art collector. By the end of this book you’ll have a new sympathy for both kinds of fiend.
– Peter Hessler, author of RIVER TOWN and COUNTRY DRIVING

Steven Martin writes with a wit and style every bit as intoxicating as his subject.  Entwining endlessly fascinating exotic detail with soul-searing personal revelation, this remarkable author has produced a driving, powerful autobiography unlike any of the countless narco-memoirs cluttering the shelves today.  One warning to potential readers: Opium Fiend is the kind of book that makes the rest of the world disappear. It draws you in from the very first page,  until  you stagger out, blinking at the sun,  not sure you ever wanted it to end.... Dim the lights, lock the doors, and prepare to be addicted. The kick's a bitch but the high is like nothing else in the world.
– Jerry Stahl, author of PERMANENT MIDNIGHT

Opium Fiend is the most engaging memoir of the year. What begins as Steven Martin's search into the lost history of opium—whose trade was once as consequential to empires as oil is today—becomes a harrowing exploration of the liberating, enlightening and enslaving ecstasies of a forbidden pipe. It's not so much a tale of addiction, but of self-immolating obsession. While crafting a spellbinding, literary read, Martin never loses focus of his original aim. Opium Fiend stands as a fascinating, never-before told social history of the poppy blossom’s central place in the rise and fall of nations. As addictive as its subject matter, Opium Fiend should come with a warning that it may lead to lost nights and weekends of intensely pleasurable reading.
– Evan Wright, New York Times best-selling author of GENERATION KILL and HELLA NATION

BUTTERFLY IN THE TYPEWRITER by Cory MacLauchlin and MARILYN by Lois Banner are PW Best Summer Books 2012

The agency is happy to have two books on the Publishers Weekly Best Books of Summer 2012 Staff Pick and Non-Fiction lists, MARILYN: The Passion and the Paradox by Lois Banner (Bloomsbury) and BUTTERFLY IN THE TYPEWRITER: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces by Cory MacLauchlin (Da Capo).

MARILYN will be published simultaneously by Bloomsbury USA and Bloomsbury UK in late July, and PW describes it as "….cutting through the endless Monroe-mania is feminist historian Banner's biography that tells the story that will put the rest to sleep." The author has been blogging about the book on the Huffington Post, and the agency has just concluded a three-way auction for the book in Poland.

BUTTERFLY IN THE TYPEWRITER has garnered a terrific amount of admiration, including:

As a fan of Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, I'm looking forward to reading the first biography to make full use of the Toole papers and interviews with the people who knew the creator of that brilliant misfit, Ignatius J. Reilly. An unexpected bonus: the index lists a real-life brilliant misfit, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.
 --Peter Cannon

MacLauchlin has created a book that is literary, erudite and accessible all at the same time. He has married scholarship with storytelling, which is not an easy feat.
--Hunter Murphy, Deep South Magazine
Provocative and lovely…a wonderful book.
--Susan Larson, Pulitzer Prize committee member (2012) and host of The Reading Life—WWNO.

...the most thorough and in-depth account of Toole's sad life and posthumous celebration to date. But here's the best part: in addition to being the most comprehensive and accurate biography about the man so far, it's also a gripping read….If you care for the man, and for his grotesque and beloved creations, read this book.

MacLauchlin builds a convincing case that Mr. Toole’s life is one of the most compelling stories in American literary history.
--Larry Cox, Florida Weekly