Thursday, October 15, 2009

On bibliophiles

The one thing everyone knows about Hallie is that she loves books.

Her latest, “The Bibliophile’s Devotional,” out in book stores now, offers the reader an inspiration from literature for every day of the year.

Each day we get an engaging plot summary, great opening lines, and more important the real DIRT – the facts and gossip -- behind the books we’ve always loved.

JAN: Hallie tell us about the book.

HALLIE: I love your description – plot summary, opening lines, and some interesting behind-the-book tidbits. I was limited to just one page per book, so for some books it was particularly challenging. Try summarizing War and Peace in three paragraphs!

JAN: And the process for collecting the many choices and making the selections. Is there any correlation between the book chosen and time of year? Holiday??

HALLIE: Sometimes. Just for example…

January 1, WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith (It opens on New Year’s Day, 1975 with hapless Archibald Jones trying to gas himself; it New Years Eve, 1992, when Archie “accidentally” releases a mutant mouse programmed to do away with the randomness of creation.)

July 4, INDEPENDENCE DAY by Richard Ford (On July 4 Frank Bascombe takes his troubled son on a trip to a sports hall of fame; at a baseball field he’s struck by a lightning bolt.)

September 2, GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell (On September 2, 1864, the Union troops occupied Atlanta. In the ovel that’s where Scarlett, one of literature’s most greedy and self-centered creatures, finds redemption.)

JAN: How long did it take you to research these books and how did you find the gossip and fact behind the stories.

HALLIE: It took the better part of a year. It was a little easier than it might have been because I was just coming off writing 1001 BOOKS FOR EVERY MOOD so I had a tiny head start in the research department.

I found the gossip and facts in newspaper archives, in biographies and memoirs, in the introductions and prefaces of modern editions of old books.

JAN: What’s are some of your favorites?

HALLIE: I had the most fun with this part. Here’s a few –

- Some of Margaret Mitchell 1,000-plus page manuscript of GONE WITH THE WIND was typewritten, some handwritten, some of it scribbled on the backs of laundry lists when she showed it to H. L. Latham, editor at the MacMillan copmany.

- After the publication of Upton Sinclair’s THE JUNGLE with its expose of the meatpacking industry, foreign sales of American meat plummeted. To allay the public’s fears, the meatpacking industry itself lobbied for passage of the landmark federal food safety law which took effect in 1907.

- When Eli Wiesel completed NIGHT--his account of four years in Buchenwald concentration camp, his family’s only survivor--the only holocaust literature published to date was “The Diary of Anne Frank.” More than 15 publishers turned “Night” down before it found a small press willing to take the gamble. It went on to spend 80 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list and started a new genre of holocaust survivor literature.

- Dashiell Hammett loosely based THE MALTESE FALCON on the Sonoma Gold Specie case to which he was assigned as a Pinkerton detective before he became a writer. Within a decade the book had been made into three films.

Today we're talking about books, tomorrow come back to talk about food. It's already cold and dark in New England and Jan will be talking about her favorite winter recipes.


  1. I definitely want to add this book to my Christmas wish list!

  2. so many books, so little time, guess I'll have to make some.

  3. Thanks, Molly - Yes, Rose -- just keeping up with NEW books is challenging. But rewarding, too.

    Me, Roberta, Ro, and Hank are all at Bouchercon in Indianapolis raising...heck.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful gift for all my book loving friends.

    Have fun at Bouchercon!

  5. This really is the perfect gift for booklovers! Thanks, Hallie. (Now if only you could find me the time to read them all...)

  6. Thanks Hallie. Now I know what I'm getting my bibliophile son-in-law for Christmas!

  7. Be very glad that we live here and not Australia where paperback books cost $24.

  8. I so look forward to this book and ... hey ... happy Bouchercon!

  9. i love the back stories and the gossip in Hallie's book most of all.


  10. This is entralling, especially the Gone With The Wind reference. I'd love to see what would come up in the eyes of an agent or major publishing house were such a manuscript to show up today.

    This remind me, has anyone here heard of a little excercise called 55 Fiction? Try writing a novel in 55 words or fewer. And please don't blame me for the mild addiction that will follow.

    BTW, I hope no one took offense at my guest blog of a few days ago. The "affair" is truly a metaphor, not a statement on my relationship!

    Warmest peace,
    Michael Cogdill