01 September 2011

30 Days Hath September

I've been away from you for longer than I like, and, with the help of some advice from my sifu (Anthony Korahais), I'm vowing to do better in this new month. In a number of our qigong classes, he's proposed that we make resolutions for the month of September, things that we vow to do every day for these 30 days. (You'll often hear that if you want to establish a new habit, it's a good idea to repeat the action in question every day for 21 days. Thirty days? All the better.)

So I'm vowing to blog every day this month--and to practice qigong every morning. The first vow is partly an experiment: to see not so much whether I can do it (after all, I have decades of journalling behind me) as what happens when I do.

It may seem like a strange way to begin, but I'd be remiss if I didn't write something about two ebooks that appeared this morning, one in the UK and the other internationally.

What I'm calling the UK ebook is the first English-language edition of Jo Nesbø's novel Headhunters. (The US edition will appear next week.) I've been singing Nesbø's praises for years, usually talking about the Harry Hole series (nine crime novels to date, of which The Snowman was most recently published in the US), which still seem to be the books for which he's most likely to be remembered. But only a handful of the Hole novels are available in the US, and the first two haven't been published in English anywhere. For readers who are ready for something very different, the standalone Headhunters may be the ideal choice. It's been called a 'caper' novel, and I always describe it as 'freewheeling'. The less one knows about the plot in advance the better--but I can say that the title refers to corporate headhunting, that surprising crimes are involved, and that this is one of those novels in which two adversaries face off repeatedly, through all the turns of a shifting game of cat and mouse. It's also an amazing book to have written--in its own very different way almost as daring as Ian McEwan's Atonement. Will you still be thinking about it a week after you finish it? Quite possibly not--for that, read the Harry Hole novels instead. (Not that you have to choose!)

It's also worth mentioning that all of Jo Nesbø's revenues from Headhunters (in Norway and internationally, from the novel and the films based on it) go to the Harry Hole Foundation, for reading and writing programs in the Third World.

More widely publicized is this morning's release, in the US and the UK, of Stephen King's eformat-only novella Mile 81. Again, it would hardly be the one work by Stephen King that I would recommend as a starting place--but with King fewer people are looking for a starting place than with Nesbø: people may not agree about Stephen King, but most people are comfortable with their own take on him, whether they love the entire corpus (and, in some cases, read little else), strongly prefer one phase or genre over another, or view him with considerable condescension. (For the record, I personally champion the King of the later short stories but find that we neglect any of him at our peril.) But if you consider yourself a King fan, you will likely enjoy Mile 81 (which plays both the automobile-horror and the childhood cards) and the appended preview of the next full-length King book, 11/22/63, which is due in November.

I'd like to note one (further?) milestone, as I see it, in the publication of Mile 81: it's an ebook-only publication but no one is harping on the fact. There's no illusion that the novella's eformattedness is news. We've come a long way since Riding the Bullet and The Plant....

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