Happy Bastille Day, bookworms! While we Americans celebrated our Independence last week, today is France’s national holiday. Once, many years ago, I had the great luck to be in Paris on Bastille Day and, having missed any 4th of July celebrations, ended up celebrating a French independence day. To get in the spirit, I give you Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris singing a song from Les Miserables. (You’re welcome.) Here’s the book news:
- We’re heavy on The Hunger Games news this week, so let’s dive right in. The big news to start is that the roles of Joanna Mason and Plutarch Heavensbee have been cast. Actress Jena Malone will portray Joanna, a cunning, sharp Tribute in Catching Fire who ultimately becomes an ally of Katniss and Peeta. Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman will portray Plutarch, the new gamesmaker (RIP, Seneca Crane). Like most people in Suzanne Collins’ series, Plutarch is both more and less than what he seems. I’m not 100% sure of Jena as Joanna; I pictured someone much more harsh and cold, but I’m willing to give her a chance. The casting of Hoffman, in comparison, seems like a real coup. Filming of Catching Fire, the second book in the series, will begin shortly.
- Meanwhile, in other Hunger Games news, in a move that surprises absolutely no one, Lionsgate Studio announced that it will split up the third and final book, Mockingjay, into two films. The trend of a split book, ever popular since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows first pulled it off, means more movie for fans, but it’s also a blatant attempt by the studios to milk the finite three-book series for more money. Whereas the final books in Harry Potter and Twilight had naturally mid-way points that just seemed to beg for two movies, I’m not sure where the studio will split Mockingjay. I worry that the wrong stopping point will interrupt the momentum of the story, which starts fast and doesn’t let up until the end.
- Since I mentioned Harry Potter, let’s talk J.K. Rowling! Little Brown, Rowling’s new publisher, recently released the cover art for Rowling’s upcoming “adult” novel. The Casual Vacancy. Unlike the whimsical illustrated Harry Potter covers, Rowling’s clearly signaling a new feel and approach for her next book. The minimalist design is also reflective of other literary fiction novels published in recent years. And, at a mere 512 pages, The Casual Vacancy will still be long by most book standard, but positively short by Rowling standards.
- And because I think Jo Rowling is a class act, here is proof: in 2006, a fan of Rowling’s novels wrote to her to thank her for Harry, a character who had helped her through unimaginably rough times in life. Though no doubt inundated with fan mail every day, Rowling still took the time to reply to this fan’s letter, with heartfelt and encouraging words about rising above bullying and finding happy moments after sadness and tragedy. I dare you not to get teary-eyed.
- God save the Queen! Young adult author – and American! – Maureen Johnson was recently named the U.K.’s Queen of Teen. The honor, which is similar to the U.S.’s position of Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, celebrates young adult and teen authors who write and explore real-life issues in an honest way. The winner is chosen via an online poll and reigns for two years. After winning, Johnson acknowledged that Americans had once rebelled against the crown, but as her tweets from the ceremony suggest, she will have no problem adapting to royal life.
- This makes overdue library books look tame. An Argentinian publisher has an interesting approach to enticing readers to try new authors and books: a recent anthology of new Latin American authors was printed with disappearing ink. The special ink starts to fade once it’s been introduced to light and air. The book’s words will last a mere two months. Though I’m not exactly sure how this encourages people to try new authors (even if it does get them to read faster), I’m intrigued. It’s so very futuristic.
- Lastly, a bit of fun: so you think you know your fictional characters? Mental Floss has a list of 17 famous literary folks who originally had a different name. While a rose may still smell as sweet, I can’t really imagine Hermione Granger as Hermione Puckle, can you? Nor, for that matter, does “Puny Pete” have the same emotional impact as “Tiny Tim” in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
As always, happy reading.