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Friday, August 19, 2005

Waiting For The Great American Novel 2005

Fall is almost upon us, and American publishers are already feeling blue: "Looking across the landscape, there were supposed to be some literary novels that blew everybody away. But for various reasons, they didn't quite perform," says Jonathan Burnham, vice president and publisher of HarperCollins.

John Sterling, president and publisher of Henry Holt, agrees: "I think everyone is still waiting for the book that everyone greets as the big literary book. People thought it would be a strong year for fiction, but it hasn't turned out that way."

At least two anticipated novels of 2005 that received disappointingly mixed responses were Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. But one hope is E.L. Doctorow's The March, a novel based on Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's bloody campaign through the South during the Civil War. "Doctorow's book is possible," Sterling said of the Random House release. "I'm hearing very good advance word on that one. It would be great to see something break through."

Digressing to speak of Julie Powell's forthcoming cookbook-with-a-twist, Julie And Julia, based on her blog, Little Brown's Geoff Shandler says: "The criteria for signing [it] were very similar to what we would use for any book proposal: There was a strong voice, there was a freshness and a novelty to what she was doing."

And then he proceeds to give us this immortal statement: "A great blogger is like an excellent guitar player, but the book is like playing piano. Bloggers have a head start because they know music, but they still have to make the adjustment."


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