Word from his publishers is that Douglas Coupland's new book is called iPod A Novel. We know nothing more, but salute Coupland's dedication to the zeitgeist.
If it's new and achingly fashionable, then the Canadian writer probably invented it. He has consistently surfed on the crest of modern mores from Generation X to Microserfs, at times documenting the here and now before it reaches these shores. In this, he is nothing like Stephen King who has just embodied the greatest evil to attack the world in the mobile phone. A little bit 1980s, surely? Still, Cell, the novel in question is being hailed as a return to form for King. His heyday is long gone and the decade so far has seen him finish series like The Dark Tower or Black House, the sequel to The Talisman. Even his last blockbuster, Dream Catcher, a childish tale of bodily functions, flatulence and aliens that exit their human inhabitation anally failed to impress anyone. Cell is a tribute to George A Romero, director of The Living Dead zombie movies. Its first few chapters were given away in the London Times last month and start with a worldwide pulse sent to all mobile users, that wipes their minds and turns them into the undead that chase down those who are not cell phone users. Next he'll be looking to the horror possibilities of the Soda Stream. Cell has been cautiously greeted by critics – the equivalent of rave reviews for the critically disliked King. His fans are uninfluenced and this vaguely modern morality tale sits atop the hardback book charts on both sides of the Atlantic. King announced his retirement a few years ago but Cell's success and the National Book Award he received last year has obviously helped change his mind. The man who makes James Patterson look unproductive will publish his next novel, Lisey's Story in September.
Flying in for spring
The second issue of the rejuvenated The Stinging Fly magazine was published this week and is available from the usual magazine sellers and online at www.thestiningfly.org. Published three times a year, this is the poetry issue and features the famous like Paula Meehan and Christine Broe with several other young writers unknown to Book Notes. Nick Laird, darling of the Irish poetry scene is also interviewed in depth about both his prose and poetry, earning extra points for not mentioning his more famous partner, novelist Zadie Smith (something Book Notes is unable to resist). Laird was recently nominated for the Poetry Now award. The choice of poetry neatly dovetails with the Dun Laoghaire Poetry Festival which will run from the 23 to the 26 of this month. Anyone interested in subscribing or submitting work to future issues will find details in the magazine and website.
Battle of summer 2006
As Dan Brown leaves his preferred reclusive state to defend his Da Vinci Code against charges of plagiarism in a London High Court, the battle for the beach-read of the summer looks set to be fought out by two female novelists whose books were tipped last Autumn by Book Notes. Kate Mosse's Labyrinth leads the field, already at number one in the charts and selling 50,000 copies weekly following a Richard and Judy recommendation. A hefty thriller by the originator of the Orange Prize for Fiction it sounds like something Brown himself might have written – or borrowed. An archaeological thriller, Labyrinth is set in medieval and modern France and involves a search for the Holy Grail. Why did Indiana Jones have so much trouble tracking this down if every thriller writer seems appraised of its whereabouts? The competition for Mosse comes from America where gothic novel The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova mixes romance with Dracula in a modern retelling of the vampire myth. It follows a daughter's travels throughout Europe to fulfil her father's investigation of an ancient evil. The inevitable movie adaptation is underway but the secrets of the book's massive popularity is available in paperback now.
Devil has the best treks
It has been quite the reading season for food lovers. Many have had a bellyful on the year's biggest selling paperback to date, the pasta and predicament thrills of John Grisham's Italian-set The Broker. The Christmas season saw huge discounting of Jamie's Italy which means many of you are carbing up on the cheeky chappy's carbonara while the snow binds us indoors. A more adventurous alternative to both landed on Book Notes' desk during the week, Taras Grescoe's The Devil's Picnic. It looks like Naomi Klein's No Logo and reads like a food travelogue devised by Louis Thoreau and Jon Ronson. It is a counter-culture trek through prohibition and simply odd dining and drinking of items banned in certain countries like poppy seed crackers in Singapore (even those made by M&S). Like a teenager's defiant web-blog, at times the author reminded us of Dougal in Father Ted, inexorably drawn to the ‘Don't Push' button as he tests his boundaries for that reason alone. Through his battles with French cheeses and Spanish eels, we sometimes find ourselves wishing it will go wrong for this foolhardy fellow. He manages to ask some interesting questions – should we or our government decide what choices we make? One for those who despair of the nanny state.