Thursday, February 21, 2013

TCR Spotlight on Theater: Interview with Penelope Niven, Author of "Thornton Wilder: A Life"

Thornton Wilder: A Life by Penelope Niven is a superb new biography of the American playwright, novelist, and man of letters.

A winner of three Pulitzer Prizes and so far the only writer to earn Pulitzers in both fiction and drama, Thornton Wilder stood at the top of the American literary scene for nearly half a century. He gained prominence with his first novel The Cabala, (1926), about a young American in Rome after World War I, and soon moved into the top echelon of writers with his now classic The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), a slim novel that asks profound questions in its examination of the lives of a disparate group of characters killed in a bridge collapse.

Wilder's favorite genre was the theater. He enjoyed critical and commercial success with the plays The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), The Matchmaker (1955) -- which later served as the basis for the musical Hello, Dolly! -- and most famously Our Town (1938). On a nearly bare stage with the proceedings narrated by an avuncular Stage Manager character, Our Town presents the eternal cycle of life and death among ordinary people in an ordinary New England town in the early twentieth century.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Self-Help Books Prescribed by Doctors -- "Reading Well: Books on Prescription" program

The Committee Room turns it attention to self-help books with a look at a collaboration recently begun in England between libraries and the healthcare system. In January 2013, The Reading Agency, a non-profit supporting books, libraries, and literacy, announced the Reading Well: Books on Prescription program.

Beginning in May 2013, titles from a core-list of thirty self-help books on topics such as anxiety, chronic fatigue, depression, and binge eating will be made available in public libraries throughout England. General practitioners and other health professionals will be able to prescribe books from the list knowing that patients will have free access to the recommended titles.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TCR Recommends -- The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books by J. Peder Zane

What do top contemporary writers think is a good book? Journalist and editor J. Peder Zane found the answer by asking one hundred twenty-five leading British and American authors to list ten of their favorite books. The responses were published in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, a modestly-sized but content rich volume.  In addition to the authors' lists, The Top Ten offers a brief summary of each of the five-hundred forty-four titles mentioned by the authors and breaks down its findings into separate lists such as the top ten works of science fiction and fantasy and the top ten works of the twentieth century.

Expanding upon the 2007 book, Zane maintains The Top Ten website which offers lists by prominent authors not participating in the first go round. Readers can also post their own list of favorites.

Authors contributing to the original book run alphabetically from Lee K. Abbott to Meg WolitzerAnnie Proulx noted -- "I find this list of ten books project to be difficult, pointless and wrong-headed" but she provided a list anyway, headed by The OdysseyBarry Hannah's list included his own novel Airships with a parenthetical "Why not?"