Brian Jacques, 1939-2011: We're belated in noting the passing last weekend of Brian Jacques, the storyteller behind Redwall, the wildly popular series of animal adventures (and the longtime host of "Jakestown"--his last name is pronounced "Jakes"--on his local BBC station). He died in his native Liverpool at the age of 71, after a writing career that began in his late forties when he was working as a milk truck driver and wanted to tell a ripping good yarn to students at a school for the blind on his route and didn't like anything he found in the library. School Library Journal and the NYT have lengthy obituaries.
New Eugenides!: Meanwhile, the news is still too fresh for us to have a page for the book on Amazon yet, but it's true: as I've already heard from a few breathless fans, "Did you hear Eugenides has a new book in the fall?" The novel is called The Marriage Plot, and though his publisher's announcement didn't say much more than that, we did note it last summer when he gave a work-in-progress preview: "A college love story? Maybe.... The book deals, among other things, with religion, depression, the Victorian novel, and Roland Barthes." The Book Case also did some excellent detective work and found a theory he floated in Slate in 2004 about the decline of, yes, the "marriage plot" in Western fiction.
Bolano gets Dickens treatment: The Paris Review has announced that for the first time they are serializing a novel: over the next four issues they will publish Roberto Bolano's "famous lost novel," The Third Reich (in its entirety, it sounds like), which won't appear in book form until 2012 or so. (TPR is now edited by Lorin Stein, who somehow pulled off the feat of making bestsellers out of the thousand-pageexperimental novels of a deceased Chilean/Mexican/Spaniard (i.e. Bolano) when he was still at FSG.) In other news about the Spring '11 TPR: the interviews will be with Ann Beattie and Janet Malcolm--I'm sure any interview with the author of The Journalist and the Murderer will be self-reflexively fascinating.
Moving and shaking: An NPR Morning Edition story on Academically Adrift, whose authors argue that half of college students show no improvement in critical thinking for their first two years in college, has moved it into our overall Top 100 and near the top of today's Movers & Shakers. (Side note: the photo used to illustrate the NPR online article is of the place where I spent most of my grad school years--and I hope learned something!--the lovely Suzzallo/Allen library at the University of Washington.)