Essays and Credits and Recs, Oh My! Korelitz Spins Tale Around Secrets of ‘Admission’

AdmissionThe complex process of college admissions is a high-pressured business that few of us will ever see from the inside. With big money on the line and parents pushing their kids to the brink of insanity, applying to college has become a game of high emotional and monetary stakes. Suffice it to say, the days of easy-flow transition from high school to college are definitely a thing of the past.

There are some 37,000 secondary schools in the United States, yet those who attend  posh prep schools up the ante and level of admissions play by deploying an annual mass of glowing curricula vitae to America’s finest universities. Not only do these high caliber students put the squeeze on the competition, but they also turn up the heat for admission officers as they attempt to bring only the best and brightest to their respective campuses.

Author Jean Hanff Korelitz provides a glimpse into the chaotic, mystifying world of university admissions in her engaging novel Admission. Korelitz has firsthand experience with the process of Princeton University admissions where she was a part-time reader for their Office of Admission during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Intimate with student essays, credentials, and recommendations, Korelitz fuels her story with the angst and crush of desperate 18 year olds determined to make a difference.

Main character Portia Nathan, also an admissions officer for Princeton University, takes us inside the big machine of Ivy student acceptance and decline. Hand picking from thousands of applicants across the globe leaves Portia emotionally drained as the future lives of the finest students teeter on the brink of her decision. The “ordinarily qualified, the usually brilliant, and the expectedly talented” are all relative when moving through the towering stacks of mega potential.

The drama surrounding Portia’s personal life is a bit predictable and overdone, but the characters are vidid and certainly entertain. Admission exposes the shocking world of inflated ego, poor parent behavior, privilege, entitlement, and the lengths that people will go to access the ivory tower.

Not everyone was as entertained by Admission as I was, particularly this high school senior who reviewed Korelitz’s “silly novel” for The New York Times. Regardless, should you live in an area of privilege and affluence and think your child is a shoo-in for the ivy league, Admission is a must read and will definitely leave you thinking again.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Rosamund Lupton’s Eerie ‘Sister’ Makes Her Way to the States

Cover ImageIf pacing is the literary equivalent of peeking through fingers at the movies, get ready to make serious tracks with Rosamund Lupton’s hypnotic thriller, Sister. Even if you don’t consider yourself a reader of the mystery genre, Lupton’s edgy novel is an absolute stunner with hooks on all fronts for any literary appetite.

It’s not surprising that author Lupton, who studied English Literature at Cambridge University, was a script-writer for film and television as well. Sister confidently holds elements of Lupton’s former experience, and steadily unspools in eerie sequences of shadow-flecked shots and fractured plays of light. While Lupton’s slick yet elegant prose kicks up the backbeat of anticipation, it also deftly feeds the very humanistic plot that thrums at the heart of Sister.

“With ‘Sister,’ Lupton… enters the highly charged ring where the best psychological detective writers spar, her hands raised in a victory clench,” Liesl Schillinger raves in her NYT review (spoilers). “She encircles her story with electrified ropes: new developments continually jolt her readers, which doesn’t stop them from eagerly – and a little sadistically – awaiting the impact of the next blow… . Lupton builds suspense not only around the causes and details of her story’s brutal denouement, but also around the personalities and motivations of those who lunge and duck.”

Piatkus published Lupton’s Sister (as a paperback) to high acclaim in the UK last September and Crown Publishing Group subsequently snagged the rights to the first US edition. Crown rightfully expects Lupton’s novel Sister to be a hot seller and will release it in hardcover this Tuesday, June 7th.

Publicity is ramping up on other fronts as well. Rosamund Lupton was recently interviewed on NPR’s  The Diane Rehm Show, where she discussed her novel and it’s recent release in the United States. In addition, Sister was chosen as an Indie Next pick for June and selected by The Oprah Magazine as a July ‘Reading Room’ selection.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related

– Rosamund Lupton’s second book Afterwards will be released in the UK by Piatkus on  June 9th, 2011.

‘A Red Herring Without Mustard’ is Oh So Delicious!

Cover ImageAlan Bradley is back at it and his readers couldn’t be more pleased. Flavia de Luce is saucier than ever in A Red Herring Without Mustard, Bradley’s third and latest installment of the Flavia de Luce mystery series.

Bradley’s de Luce books are a bit like a literary Christmas; they come once a year, are full of mystery, and guarantee a wink and a smile when they’re over. If you haven’t yet caught Flavia or Bradley’s clever style in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie or The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (the first and second books in the series), I strongly suggest backing up to the beginning for maximum enjoyment.

Flavia is a wonder to behold. Not only does she fearlessly make her way through the creepiest of spine-tingling situations, but she also knows how to fire it up in her chemical laboratory. It’s in Flavia’s beloved lab that sass turns to spark as she calmly sifts through the bizarre clues she’s collected along the way to solving the latest mystery in England’s Bishop’s Lacey.

A Red Herring Without Mustard is no exception to Bradley’s shrewd yet perky series, and easily falls in with Flavia’s past footsteps of messy murder and mischief. Once again, the cheeky eleven-year-old super sleuth has found herself a fresh body (dead, of course) on the old Buckshaw estate and aims to get to the bottom of things.

“I have no fear of the dead,” quips Flavia. “Indeed, in my own limited experience I have found them to produce in me a feeling that is quite the opposite of fear. A dead body is much more fascinating than a live one, and I have learned that most corpses tell better stories.”

And a good story it is. Though from a comparative standpoint Herring fizzled a touch for me at the end, its ramped-up eerie factor brought about a fine balance making A Red Herring Without Mustard a delicious read.

For those of you who are already hooked on the series, Bradley’s next Flavia de Luce novel is titled I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, and will be released in the United States on November 1, 2011. Yes, just in time for Christmas.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

NLR’s review of The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

– Review of Red Herring from National Post

American Authors Represent on this Year’s Orange Prize Longlist

The longlist for the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction was released last Wednesday. For those of you who haven’t heard of the Orange Prize, it’s the UK’s prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman. The award can be presented to a female author of any nationality for the best eligible full-length novel written in the English language. The novel entries must be published for the first time in the United Kingdom the year prior to the awarded Prize (rules for entry).

This year’s longlist nominees include American contenders Jennifer Egan, Samantha Hunt, Nicole Krauss, Wendy Law-Yone, Tea Obreht (Serbian/American), Karen Russell, and Julie Orringer (a former creative writing teacher at the University of Michigan).

Where does NLR sit with this year’s nominees? Well, the Revue has a lot of reading left to do. While I enjoyed Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, I found it difficult to push as a solid cover-to-cover recommendation. But before the ax falls, I intend to read Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife (which is generating big nods), Egan’s NBCC award winner A Visit From the Goon Squad, and jumping the Canadian border to read author Kathleen Winter’s literary gender-bender Annabel.

This year’s Orange Prize seems to be more significant than ever in light of the VIDA Count of 2010. With the noted discrepancies between male and female writers, many have opined on the merits of women in literature, the purported Literary Glass Ceiling, and the very Orange Prize itself.

Now in its sixteenth year, the Orange Prize celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing throughout the world.”* Outside of increased book sales and prestige, the winner of the award receives thirty-thousand-pounds (nearly forty-four thousand dollars) and a limited edition bronze sculpture known as a ‘Bessie’ created and donated by artist Grizel Niven. The prize is sponsored by Orange which is a UK mobile network operator and Internet provider.

The Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist will be announced on April 12, 2011 and the actual winner will be announced sometime in June. In past years American authors such as Zadie Smith, Marilynne Robinson, and Ann Patchett have taken home the Orange Prize. Author Barbara Kingsolver won the Prize last year for her novel, The Lacuna.

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*Information taken from the official Orang Prize for Fiction site

Related Information

-You can link here for more information on the history, rules, guidelines, and judges of the Orange Prize for Fiction.

-Try this full list of winners and nominees at Goodreads

-Try The National’s article, Books Firing on All Cylinders: Orange Longlist Shows Power of Women Writers

Life With Death – One Good Thing Leads to Another

Cover ImageIf you missed the NYT Book Review this past Sunday, then you missed William Giraldi’s lovely feature highlighting Michigan author Thomas Lynch. Life With Death is certainly a review worth linking to, as William Giraldi’s elegant prose rests in kind compliment to that of the mastery of Mr. Lynch himself.

I recently finished Lynch’s book The Undertaking, and each and every page brought me to my knees. Breathless, I devoured Lynch’s words and marveled at his magical ability to turn the deep, raw sentiments of death into palatable wisps of humor; that he could so artfully craft a work on the death of Death itself. Though I finished The Undertaking weeks ago, I’m still bereft of deserving words for an author I have come to so admire.

It was with great fortune, then, that I fell upon William Giraldi’s review of Apparition & Late Fictions, which not only highlights Lynch’s first work of fiction but also his unique style and life perspective. “Lynch does not recoil from the gruesome facts of his trade or the insights they have allowed him,” notes Giraldi, “but he commands the light as well as the darkness. Nihilism is nowhere in these stories, and love is everywhere embraced.”

As Giraldi praises Lynch for adding “another chapter to one of the most memorable records in American letters,” I found myself thinking much the same of Giraldi. While it’s plain, midwestern truth that I’m far from the caliber of a New York Times reviewer, I can say that crafting even a simple review is not a breezy affair. So, as I endlessly groped in the dark for the ripple of words that might convey Lynch’s spirit, I swooned at Giraldi’s easy capture and fluidity;  “…the stories and novella here are gifts of precision, narratives with the poise to depict entire lives unstrung by the end of things.”

If you fear the talk of endangered book reviews, Giraldi’s review won’t soothe your soul. For those of us who are purists to the book and its circling words, we ultimately rely on the grace of one good work leading to another. Therefore, not only in Thomas Lynch have I found a new literary hero, but I can now pursue the pleasure of seeking out the works of William Giraldi as well.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

RELATED LINKS

Busy Monsters: A Novel by William Giraldi