The author of instant bestseller 'Inferno" incurs wrath for writing unkind things about Manila
Government officials in the Philippines are so indignant about one of Brown's (fictional) character's description of impoverished Manila as the modern day version of Dante's Gates of Hell in his new book "Inferno" that they've combed immigration records and claim to have established that Brown has never been to Manila.
Dan Brown's latest thriller describes Manila as corrupted by a sex trade centered around children, snarled by six-hour traffic jams and filthy with pollution. He's generating much better reviews than usual--"fast, clever, well-informed" according to the Wall Street Journal--and a million copies of the thriller, which features Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon, have already been sold. "Inferno" is expected to dominate book sales for weeks and months to come.
But in Manila, Francis Tolentino, the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Agency--which is charged with improving Manila, reputation and all--is outraged. Manila's largest broadcasting network, ABS-CBN, notes that Tolentino, didn't like the "The Da Vinci Code" either and published a negative essay about it in 2006. (He wasn't alone, Christians worldwide were not pleased with Brown's depiction of nefarious dealings in organized religions). Tolentino wants Brown to come to Manila and see how wrong he is--and as he wrote to the author, come to see the city as he does, as "an entry to heaven."
People in both camps immediately took to Brown's author page on Facebook, starting with a former fan who wrote "I never thought that you're a racist Dan" and said she planned to burn her Dan Brown collection. Others were pleased with him for calling it like it is ("Thanks Dan Brown for rattling my people's pretentious insolence," one wrote).
Veteran Filipino journalist Inday Espina-Varona, who is the head of citizen journalism at ABS-CBN, said while she disagreed with some of Brown's characterizations of Manila and its residents (including one that features people gazing at Brown's aide worker character with eyes of desperation; "This isn't some Sub-Saharan famine scenario, not even Rwanda," she said) she can't dispute that he gets a lot about the city's sex trade right: "Let me tell you, it IS true that prostituted children remain on the streets of Manila. I've covered this since the late 80s... And yeah, that's my own backyard so don't tell me it ain't happening now."
But Espina-Varona wasn't inclined to get worked up about anything in "Inferno." "Please, it's a novel--and it's a fictional character speaking. If all plots involved only "enlightened" and "diplomatic" characters, we wouldn't have classics to speak of."
Bing: More on child prostitution in the Philippines
Brown's American publisher, Doubleday, referred us to Brown's Facebook page for any official comment. Brown's latest post there, from early Thursday morning, was this quote "Some of us find our miracles in the pages of Holy Scripture...and some of us find our miracles in the pages of Scientific American." Also, he had posted a nice picture of the Arno in Florence. He had not replied to either his detractors from the Philippines or his fans.
The actress' first book will arrive next spring
With a new novel and his work in music and film, there's no slowing down for this master storyteller
In this weekend’s issue of PARADE, Ken Tucker catches up with Stephen King, the rare author who has succeeded across genres—he has written best sellers as well as literary fiction—whose books have made the leap to film, TV, and the stage, and who has become a celebrity in his own right.
King, 65, continues to write accessible stories at a remarkable rate. His new novel, "Joyland", a paperback original, is due June 4 and has already been optioned for the screen. A series based on his 2009 novel Under the Dome will air on CBS later this summer, and his musical-theater collaboration with John Mellencamp, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, begins a tour of American cities this fall.
Read a few highlights from the interview below and be sure to check out the full story in this weekend’s issue of PARADE.
On the fact that Joyland, his new book, isn’t a horror novel:
“I’ve been typed as a horror writer … but I never saw myself that way. I just saw myself as a novelist. With Joyland, I wanted to try my hand at the whodunit format.”
On his daily writing regimen:
“I wrote 1,500 words this morning. Five pages a day, that’s usually what I get through.”
On why he and his two novelist sons show their work to his wife, Tabitha:
“She’ll say, ‘Here, you’ve done this before. This sucks. This is dumb.’ There’s no soft landing with Tabby, and that’s fine. [My sons] both dedicated their first novels to her, so it means a lot."
On the current TV shows he enjoys:
“Justified, Bates Motel, The Walking Dead. The best show of the year is The Americans. I don’t watch Mad Men. I think it’s basically soap opera, and if I want soap opera, I watch Revenge. That show is crazy, but they have great clothes.”
On whether he thinks he’ll be popular beyond his lifetime:
“Well, you really can’t worry about it. … Fantasy has a better chance of lasting than a lot of other things. The Hobbit and the Narnia books … because they’re set in a fantasy world, they can remain relevant. So maybe things like Salem’s Lot and The Shining might last, the Dark Tower books. … The idea of posterity for a writer is poison. … You do the best you can.”
On his main reason to keep writing:
“The major job is still to entertain people. Joyland really took off for me when the old guy who owns the place says, ‘Never forget, we sell fun.’ That’s what we’re supposed to do—writers, filmmakers, all of us. That’s why they let us stay in the playground.”
If you're a Stephen King fan, sound off on MSN Movies Facebook and send us your thoughts.
More at PARADE:
Will focus on the major stories the host has covered
Cable news host, journalist, and divisive media personality Piers Morgan has just signed a deal to pen a new book for Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books about his life at CNN, one that he's characteristically already announced will detail a life that is like " ‘The Newsroom’ on steroids.”
The book, to be published in October, is set to be titled the tongue-twisting and mouth-filling "Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God, and George Clooney." In the new book, Morgan will reportedly detail "his adrenaline-fueled life at CNN as host of 'Piers Morgan Live' including the real time drama of covering huge breaking news stories from the killing of Osama bin Laden to the massacre at Newtown; the controversy and danger surrounding his high-profile gun control campaign; the trials and tribulations of anchoring a nightly cable news show in the world’s most ruthless, competitive, and pressurized media marketplace; and the unpredictable, fascinating, and often hilarious challenge of interviewing the world’s biggest stars and world leaders."
While that sounds like quite a bit of material, the book will also be written in an easily digestible diary format. And, as insidery and no-holds as Morgan may say his book will end up being, it's fair to note that he's still employed by CNN, so this will not be the sort of roman a clef that really blows the doors of the news institution.
Gallery Book's Vice President and Publisher Jennifer Bergstrom commented on the new book, "I fully expect 'Shooting Straight' to enlighten some readers and enrage others. Either way, it will be a thought-provoking book that I’m thrilled to publish.” That certainly sounds about right.
The book will be Morgan's eighth, but will likely be most similar to his 2005 book "The Insider," which was also written in a diary style and focused on his year working as a journalist in Britain. [via AP and Simon & Schuster]
J.W. Rinzler's October release is packed with trivia, art, and so much more
The English literary group PEN is raising money by auctioning off annotated books by famous writers
The English version of PEN, the worldwide literary group that campaigns on behalf of writers and their readers, came up with a new fundraising idea they've dubbed First Editions, Second Thoughts. Fifty famous writers were given first editions of their most famous novels and told to go to town on them with pen and ink: notes, drawings (Rowling apparently included some of her sketches of the magical world, including a little drawing of baby Harry on a doorstep).
Bing: More on J. K. Rowling
"The joy of these books is that, so often, the writer has responded in a voice as immediately recognizable as that in the work itself," Rick Gekoski, the curator of the auction, writes in his introduction to the catalog. There are no banal questions--like the kind asked at every author event--he promises, just secret thoughts on the text. His hope is that the marked up edition will stand as the "definitive" edition of the book. He and his colleagues found opening each book as they arrived from the authors as exciting as opening a birthday present.
Sotheby's London is running the May 21st auction. The online catalog is available here, complete with sneak peeks inside many of the volumes (although not, unfortunately, Rowling's). The funny ones, like Nick Hornby, crack jokes about being over protective of specific commas and admits that he couldn't write the book now, because "I'm too old to care about these things as much as I did then." Thomas Keneally, who wrote "Schindler's Ark" (which was the basis for the movie "Schlinder's List") added notes in flowing cursive on 137 pages of his text, and says he was overwhelmed by the book's "drama and terror and ambiguities" as he reread and marked it up. Of one image he'd created, he writes he had "totally forgotten" but that it was "Not bad, if a trifle ornate." The same might be said for some of these writer's handwriting.
No word on how much the very special copy of J. K. Rowling's first "Harry Potter" book or any of the other auction items are expected to fetch since this is a charity auction. Other participating authors include Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan, William Boyd and P.D. James.
Bing: More on the world's most expensive books
8 lessons we learned while living in the no-fun before 6PM food world
For the last week I've been VB6.
That's not a Star Trek term even if it sounds like one. I've been test driving the acclaimed Mark Bittman's new quasi-cookbook "VB6," which has multiple subtitles. I'll just tell you the most important one. "Eat Vegan Before 6." As in 6 pm, not am, which all of us could do in our sleep.
Before this week, my stand on veganism has amounted to this collection of shallow thoughts.
-Once I had a good vegan cookie.
-Those shoes are hideous, even on Natalie Portman.
-If the vegan wasn't going to come to book club I wish she'd have told me before I committed to this thoroughly depressing pasta dish.
Although I understood this was less a cookbook than a guidebook to healthy living, I opted not to download Bittman's book on my Kindle, because it seems foolish to combine electronics and cooking. I even paid full price for it, at my local bookstore, which needs the money. I've gifted Bittman's other books to several bachelor friends (a unscientific survey demonstrates that 83 percent of single men have at least one of Bittman's "How to Cook" series), this was my first Bittman purchase for myself. When it comes to compendiums, I tend to favor old gold standards like "Joy of Cooking" or my more recent favorite, Amanda Hesser's updated "The New York Times Cookbook." And although I do occasionally use Bittman's recipes from the Sunday New York Times Magazine--he liberated me from Thomas Keller's awesome but time-sucking fried chicken recipe--mostly I'm turned off by the presentation. All those boxes with instructions like "take out the ginger and replace it with semolina" just seem so anal. They make me feel like I'm being told the best way to pack a car. (You know what the best way to pack a car is? Open car, put crap in, close door. No one has ever pulled me over to grade me on stacking prowess.) Just give me one good recipe and leave it at that.
Bing: More on Mark Bittman
But from both a political and health standpoint, any move away from animal protein makes good sense. I'd never be able to go vegan all the time, just as I couldn't go purely vegetarian (once I discussed cohabitation with a beloved vegetarian, and he said I wouldn't be able to cook meat in his house and all I could think was, but I love Bolognese. And, not even Osso Bucco?) But it only takes one documentary about our food system to make you think twice and I've probably seen a dozen. Moreover I'd just finished reading Lionel Shriver's upcoming novel "Big Brother," which tackles the American obesity problem and was inspired by her own brother's death from obesity related issues. I was primed to at least give it a try.
Before I made my purchase I noted that the reviews on Amazon were not entirely glowing, marked by a tendency to diss the recipes. Some said that Bittman, who has been living a vegan until 6 pm lifestyle for 6 years, had already written enough about VB6 in The New York Times to make the book extraneous.
My own skepticism revolved mostly around the "before 6" business. Bittman eats vegan for breakfast, lunch and all snacks and then does as he pleases at the dinner hour, including drinking and eating red meat. In moderation of course. But this contradicts what we've been told about the healthy aspect of eating a good lunch and a light dinner. We're not supposed to bulk up as we head toward bed. Yet I went forward with my trial run.
Here's what I learned from being "VB6."
1. I enjoyed feeling virtuous before 6 but being so good during the day led to increased wine consumption with dinner. On day 5, I mixed myself a vodka gimlet at 10 pm. And then another. That makes double the number of vodka gimlets I made myself in the previous six months.
2. However, I think I might smell better.
3. I was snappish (possibly unrelated).
4. Going out to lunch becomes all about the company when you end up eating what is essentially a salad sandwich (see photo below). Maybe that's how it should be anyway.
5. I really like yogurt. It's important to me. Maybe because I grew up in the 70s, when 105 year-old crones always seemed to be emerging from Russian mountains or Greek villages to grin gummily at the world and modestly attribute their remarkable longevity to a diet of yoghurt. I craved yogurt so much that twice I had it for dessert after dinner, with berries and nuts. Normally I'm more of a cookies/brownies/ice cream woman so I see this as a positive, but there's no way I'm going to permanently remove yogurt from mornings forever, because without it in the lineup, my other regular, which is vegan, a steel cut oatmeal-almond milk-sunflower seeds-berry combo, gets a little dull. Bittman does suggest that last night's leftover vegetables can make a fine breakfast. Right.
6. It might just be a splash of milk in my tea, but I need it.
7. Honey is not vegan? Good lord.
8. Bittman's lentil salad (above) is nice although it's nothing that an egg or some feta cheese wouldn't improve. His DIY whole wheat flatbread is disappointing on first taste but grows on you until I found myself, just a minute ago, craving the stuff. (Eating it with a slice of cheddar you feel like a farm hand in a Thomas Hardy novel.) On the other hand, I ate more bread products while attempting VB6 than I would generally for one simple reason: I was hungry.
I'm already fairly clean living. I avoided the middle aisles of the supermarket long before Michael Pollan told me to. We attempt Meatless-Monday in my house although usually it's more like Meatless-Is-It-Wednesday-Already? I haven't put butter on a vegetable in at least 10 years, except for perhaps a holiday brussel sprout. There is whole wheat pasta in my cupboard although generally speaking, it tends to stay there. However, I do slip whole wheat flour into pizza crusts, banana muffins, etc.. And I'll always do that.
So I'm not a complete convert by any means, but I have no regrets over buying Bittman's latest. The opening section is full of useful information about what he's espousing, which is not a "hocus-pocus" diet but a lifestyle change. "I'm betting that VB6 will insure you to make the changes described in the book and stay dedicated to these new habits because you'll genuinely enjoy the food you're eating," Bittman writes. Well kind of, sort of. I'll keep trying his recipes. I'll try to make my favorite wheat berry salad and leave out the tuna and egg. But the 6 pm aspect of it I'm most likely to ignore. He owes the structure of VB6 to his professional life--a guy who writes about food for a living is unavoidably going to have to go out to dinner on a very regular basis. And when he does, he can't be fussing about the animal protein he consumes. There is no reason for those of us who aren't food writers to live that way. I'll aim for more of a VB12 approach. Or maybe VB12-6.
Bing: More on the pros and cons of veganism