Charlie Kaufman Goes YA; The Righteous Anger of Jonathan Franzen

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Today in books and publishing: Adaptation screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is adapting Lionsgate's next big YA series, Jonathan Franzen's new essay collection is here, and the "weirdos" of World Book Night had a good time giving away literature for nothing.

Jonathan Franzen's new essay collection Farther Away is out today. It's new in the sense that it's a collection of old Franzen pieces -- commencement speeches, birdwatching stuff, an essay about how Alice Munro is consistently underappreciated -- bound together in the same volume for the first time. Basically, it's like any other essay collection, except that it's Franzen, and it contains "Farther Away," The New Yorker piece he wrote last year about the suicide of David Foster Wallace. In the wake of Franzen's recent public carping about various forms of technology and his willingness to play the role of humorless scold in his writing, "Farther Away" stands out as the one piece in the collection -- and maybe the one short piece in Franzen's career to date -- where he "directs the current of anger that runs through all of his nonfiction at a subject actually worthy of it: the suicide of his best friend," applauds B&N Review critic Amelia Atlas. [B&N Review]

The quest for the next Harry Potter -- which could now reasonably be rechristened the quest for the next Hunger Games -- has now ensnared screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who never really seemed the YA type. Kaufman has reached a deal with Lionsgate to write a script for The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first installment in author Patrick Ness' "Chaos Walking" trilogy. We weren't familiar with the series, but it involves space colonists, all human thought becoming audible (Kaufman will just love that), corrupt space-politician types, and the mystery of why women have (maybe!) died out on the thought-amplifying planet. (It's worth noting that Kaufman did an uncredited rewrite on Kung Fu Panda 2, so it could be he just enjoys writing for younger audiences. The money is also probably nice.)  [The Guardian]

Recommended Reading

A week after stepping aside as women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, word has emerged that Pat Summitt has signed a deal with Random House to write a memoir. Terms weren't available and the book is currently untitled, but the publisher is touting it as a "full life journey" that will cover her road to becoming college basketball all-time wins leader, as well the diagnosis of early-onset dementia she received last summer. Summitt will collaborate on the book with Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins, who she has also co-authored two earlier titles with. The book is slated for a spring 2013 release. [AP]

If somebody gave you a book on the street last night, it wasn't because they wanted to make you a cat's-paw in murky business involving spies, counter-spies, and manuscripts that are more than they appear to be. It was just World Book Night, and you were one of 500,000 people in the United States, Ireland, and England to have a paperback copy of one of 30 highly reputable modern titles -- The Things They Carried, The Kite Runner, etc. -- placed in your hand. For volunteers like Susan Skirboll, a floor manager at Politics & Prose Bookstore in D.C., the skepticism and curious looks as she tried handing out books made sense "because we are city people and we ignore weirdos." But even city people can't say no forever to weirdos bearing paperback gifts. [The Washington Post]

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