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Books, authors and all things bookish
Bob Stanley's 'Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!' is crazy in love with pop music

In 1954, Bill Haley shook, rattled and rolled. In 2003, Beyoncé went crazy in love. That's two pop stars, among the biggest of their time, using similar language (and similar grooves) to describe more or less the same thing.

But think of all that happened over the half-century that separates them: Elvis Presley, rockabilly, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," girl groups, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, "Like a Rolling Stone," Motown, the Beach Boys, the singer-songwriter, punk, disco, heavy metal, "Hotel California," new wave, New Order and new jack swing. And Madonna! And country music! And "We Are the World"!

This absurdly, deliriously vast landscape is what Bob Stanley sets out to map in his sweeping but finely detailed new book, "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The Story of Pop Music From Bill Haley to Beyoncé." And though one of his central points is that credentials rarely matter in pop — which, by the way, he defines usefully as music made for "an audience that the artist doesn't know personally"...

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See the debut trailer for 'Wild' -- Cheryl Strayed is wild about it

Cheryl Strayed's memoir "Wild" is a story of her solo hike along the 1,000-mile Pacific Crest Trail, but it's much more than that. It's about love and grief and getting into trouble and finding a way out.

Oprah Winfrey found the book, a huge international bestseller, so compelling that she brought back her book club to celebrate it.

"Wild" was soon scooped up by Hollywood. The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée ("Dallas Buyers Club") and with a screenplay written by Nick Hornby, is scheduled for release Dec. 5. It will star Reese Witherspoon as Strayed on her arduous journey.

On Thursday, the first trailer was posted online.

And though some authors have a hard time seeing their work translated for the screen, Strayed is thrilled.

"Thanks for all the sweet comments about the Wild trailer! It makes me cry," she tweeted.

And to the Pacific Crest Trail Assn., she tweeted, "I'm so excited for you all to see it. @RWitherspoon gives a stunningly beautiful performance."

Like passing notes in...

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A carnival of books and pop culture at Book Show bookstore

“Are books the new vinyl? I think they are,” Jen Hitchcock says. A 20-year veteran of the music industry, she had seen vinyl records disappear and then return as a viable form. When she was laid off from her job in music publishing, she took that lesson and applied it to something else she loved whose death was predicted: books.

“It just popped in my head: I’m going to open a book shop.” Book Show, the store Hitchcock opened in the Elysian Valley, sells an eclectic combination of used books, zines and new books from tiny independent presses. It will celebrate its first birthday Saturday with a party at 7p.m. with live bands.

Located in the Nomad art compound, the shop is tucked into just 500 square feet. It has a bonus upstairs room with low eaves painted with red and white stripes, like a big top.
Hitchcock’s sensibility saturates the store’s offerings: She adores P.T. Barnum, sideshows and carnivals. There are things from her youth, including photos of the stars of the ’70s and the...

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A grave new world awaits in Edan Lepucki's 'California'

In Edan Lepucki's debut novel, "California," young married couple Frida and Cal must navigate a post-apocalyptic landscape in a broken-down near-future. Lepucki focuses on the complexities of basic human emotions, testing allegiances and letting secrets unravel even the most steadfast of survivors, all while illustrating how impossible it is to change what inherently makes us human.

In the aftermath of an unnamed series of cataclysms, Frida and Cal want to escape "L.A.'s chewed-up streets" and "parks growing wild in their abandonment," with "its people starving on the sidewalks, covered in piss and crying out." Escape they do, to an unnamed section of California full of lush forests and creeks spotted with a few homesteading holdouts.

The young couple settle in a small shed in the woods, nearly idyllic, if not for the slow burn of doom just outside its perimeter. Cal and Frida discover the Miller family homesteading nearby, but the elation they feel about their new allies is cut short...

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George R.R. Martin is not dying, and 'Game of Thrones' leads Emmys

“Game of Thrones,” HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novels, earned a leading 19 Emmy nominations on Thursday in North Hollywood. Meanwhile, over on the other side of the Atlantic, the 65-year-old Martin was responding angrily to the notion that he might not live long enough to finish the seven-book series.

“I find that question pretty offensive, frankly, when people start speculating about my death and my health,” Martin began, in an interview with a Swiss newspaper, before throwing in an expletive directed at his impatient and anxious readers. And lest there be any doubt about how he really felt, he flipped those readers the bird.

“Game of Thrones” is adapted from the series of novels Martin calls “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Six years passed between the fourth and fifth installments in the series, and as yet there is no release date for the sixth book in the series “The Winds of Winter.” The last book, “A Dance with Dragons,” came out in 2011.

As the Guardian points...

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Happy birthday Marcel Proust!

Marcel Proust was born on this day in 1871. Happy 143rd birthday, Marcel Proust!

These days Proust is known as a genius, the author of the brilliant, mammoth novel, known as both "Remembrance of Things Past" and "In Search of Lost Time." But how was he perceived through the years? How quickly was his legend cemented?

We took a quick spin through the Los Angeles Times archives for this snapshot of Proust and his not-always assured literary legacy.

1922: Proust dies. His LA Times obituary, published almost two months later, notes, "So brilliant a psychological study is [his] long work that M. Proust has been called 'the French successor to Henry James.'"

1924: "Within a Budding Grove," a new installment in his multi-volume novel, is published in English. From our review: "Proust has a marvelous talent, but none of those revealing flashes of insight which mark the genius."

1925: The literary club in Highland Park, Los Angeles is treated to a lecture on great modern books, including...

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Letters from camp, letters from home

My daughter left for camp last weekend: four weeks out of the city with a group of friends she loves. The last thing I said before we dropped her off was to ask if she’d be writing any letters; from the look she gave me, I knew not to expect very much. She, after all, is a digital child: 15 years old, wired to her phone as if it were a part of her anatomy. 

Still, one of the appeals of camp (from a parent's point of view, in any case) is that such devices are forbidden — for one month, anyway, my daughter is unplugged. In that sense, if she wants to reach out, she would have to follow the example of Seymour Glass, who in the novella "Hapworth 16, 1924," the last piece of fiction published by J.D. Salinger in his lifetime, sends a long letter home to his parents, detailing his frustrations and his predilections, and asking for a wide array of books.

Of course, writing letters is a two-way process, a correspondence in the truest sense. My wife and I confront this reality (or is it an...

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Man arrested in assault on National Book Award winner Colum McCann

Police in New Haven, Conn., have arrested Michael Mott, the man wanted on suspicion of assaulting Colum McCann, a winner of the National Book Award. There had been a warrant out for Mott's arrest; he turned himself in Monday night and confessed, New Haven police said.

McCann, who won the 2009 National Book Award for his novel "Let the Great World Spin," was in New Haven on June 28 to participate in a conference.

According to reports, McCann was at a hotel called the Study at Yale where Mott and his wife were also staying. After their credit card was turned down at the front desk, the couple began arguing. McCann asked the wife if she was going to be all right, and she said she would.

After McCann stepped outside, he was allegedly assaulted by Mott, who is said to have attacked him from behind. McCann was punched, thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious. An off-duty medical technician called an ambulance, which took him to Yale-New Haven Hospital for "significant" injuries.


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LeaLA, Los Angeles' Spanish language book fair, to return in 2015

After three successful and growing years, the Spanish language book fair LéaLA did not return to Los Angeles in 2014. Launched by the University of Guadalajara USA Foundation and others in 2011, the annual book fair depended, in large measure, on government funding from Mexican sources, book fair officials said.

With the change of administration in Mexico in 2013 -- when a new president assumed office -- LéaLA found itself coming up short in its bid to raise its $2 million operating budget, said Raul Padilla Lopez, the foundation's president.

On Tuesday, LéaLA officials announced the book fair will return in 2015, now as a biennial event.

"We're coming back," said Marisol Schulz Manaut, LéaLA's director. "The Spanish-speaking community of Los Angeles made this book fair their own, and we're going to give it back to them."

The event will take place May 15 to 17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Over its first three years, the event drew a steadily increasing audience, with 85,000...

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Lev Grossman's crowd-sourced book trailer (with Neil Gaiman)

Lev Grossman released a charming book trailer Tuesday for "The Magicians Land," his next novel. "The Magicians Land," out next month, concludes the bestselling trilogy that began with "The Magicians" and "The Magician King."

Grossman solicited trailer participants back in April, inviting fans of his Magicians trilogy to read sentences from the book. He posted those sentences on his blog, and volunteers videotaped themselves reading.

They picked their own locations; one appears outdoors on a serpentine-patterend patio, another in front of a whiteboard, another in a bedroom. One made a computer animation of the described scene, while another animated an embroidery of the words themselves plus an illustration.

Grossman, who reads the last sentence himself, enticed readers to contribute by promising that they'd appear in the trailer with famous authors. And the promise was fulfilled.

Authors who appear in the "Magicians Land" trailer are identified so readers don't miss them. They are:...

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Harry Potter returns! J.K. Rowling reveals boy wizard at age 34

It caused quite a stir at the 2014 Quidditch World Cup when Harry Potter showed up.

The fictional world championship of the fictional sport invented by J.K. Rowling for her beloved series of bestselling books is unfolding in Rowling’s imagination this month in Patagonia, and on her “Pottermore” website (registration required).

“As the crowd stampeded, tents were flattened and small children mown down,” Rowling wrote in the voice of “Rita Skeeter,” the gossip columnist for the newspaper of the wizarding world, The Daily Prophet. Fans were “desperate above all else for a glimpse of the man they still call the Chosen One.”

Rowling wrote her first dispatch from Patagonia this April, in the voice of Potter’s wife, Ginny Weasley, giving us a glimpse of the lives of her characters some seven real-world years after the last of the "Harry Potter" books was published.

On Tuesday, Harry Potter himself was back. In the last Harry Potter book (published in 2007), Harry was a teenager. Now, in...

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Free e-books aren't what they used to be

It used to be that offering an e-book for free was a sure way to get a bump in attention, move up sales ranks and possibly be on the way to bestsellerdom. Now, not so much.

The 2014 Smashwords survey, covering April 2013-March 2014, says free e-books are still good -- but they're not the lure they used to be.

A free e-book at the iBookstore was downloaded 39 times as much as a book with a price, any price, for those books published by Smashwords. That looks good until you see the numbers from the past: The same book in 2013 was downloaded 91 times as much; in 2012, 100 times as much.

One hundred, 91, 39: That's a steep downward trend.

Not that the e-book environment is sick -- it's growing robustly. Overall, e-book sales were up in 2013 by 3.8% for total sales of $1.3 billion.

Smashwords, one of the leading self-publishing platforms with sales through all major e-book retailers, published 276,000 e-books in 2013 -- up from 191,000 in 2012 and 92,000 in 2011.

All those new e-books,...

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