Implementing an RSS reader can be an aggressive step towards organizing the glut of online information, but as the unread count grows, so does the anxiety—and culling feeds can be just as painful as discarding a book.
David L. Ulin, the LA Times book editor for the last five years, is moving from editor to critic.
Slow readers of the world unite! As we spend much of our time skimming websites, text messages, and emails, an English professor at the University of New Hampshire is making the case for slowing down to get more meaning and pleasure out of the written word.
In the New Statesman, Nadine Gordimer says “The World Cup is a big circus. . . . But literature, poetry, novels, stories—these are an exploration of life.” As the world focuses on South Africa for its football, Bookforum focuses on its literature: Lorraine Adams reviews Cion by Zakes Mda, Ian Volner reviews Portrait with Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked by Ivan Vladislavic, Jennifer Egan reviews Other Lives by André Brink, Martin Puchner reviews Summertime by J. M. Coetzee and Siddhartha Deb reviews Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year, Mary Gaitskill reviews Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk, and Caitlin Roper reviews 117 Days by Ruth First.
When Henry Roth died in 1995, he left thousands of manuscript pages behind. The New Yorker published two pieces drawn from the trove, “God the Novelist,” and “Freight,” and a young fiction editor at the magazine, Willing Davidson, shaped the pages into the novel An American Type. At Slate, Judith Shulevitz questions the posthumous edits, writing "the saddest ending of all would be if Roth's amorphous, neurotic . . . 'sense of life' was precisely what got polished out of his work." Meanwhile, at The National, Sam Munson calls Davidson's sculpting of the novel "heroic," while in Harper's (registration required), Joshua Cohen bemoans the "gentrification of Henry Roth."
Elizabeth Streb's Breakthru, 1997
As if the Paris Review's defeat at the hands of n+1 in softball this week wasn't bad enough, the Review blog's recap of the game is being called for a balk, as the Awl takes issue with their blog's "transgression of English."
A. M. Homes chats with the death-defying feminist artist Elizabeth Streb (including a video of Streb behind the scenes), whose "extreme action events" keep audiences wondering when they should duck; author Danielle Dutton reads from her forthcoming novel S P R A W L, and much more from the summer issue of BOMB.
To celebrate Bloomsday, Paris-based blogger Lauren Elkin chats with Keri Walsh, editor of the Letters of Sylvia Beach, and Sylvia Beach Whitman, heir to both Beach's name and (now in a new location on the Left Bank) her bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which first published Joyce's magnum opus in 1922.
When Ulysses were first published in the 1920's, it was confiscated for being obscene. Ninety years later, Apple seemed to take the same tack, asking developers of an illustrated iPad Ulysses app to remove pages that contained nudity, before backing down, just in time for Bloomsday. Today is indeed the day to celebrate all things Ulysses, with Tablet sponsoring a reading featuring Joshua Cohen and Ben Greenman (among others), "putting the Bloom in Bloomsday," and Symphony Space is hosting Bloomsday on Broadway.
What Americans used to read: the Top 10 lists for the years 1990, 1980, 1970, etc., down to 1910.
We all know of the "Bump,” where authors see the sale of their books skyrocket after appearing on The Colbert Report. (Colbert also inspired the creation of Wikiality, "the Truthiness Encyclopedia".) Glenn Beck inspired his own "Beck Bump" after he talked on his show about what he described as “quite possibly the most evil thing I’ve ever read,” The Coming Insurrection, published in 2007, which shot up to #7 at Amazon and #14 at Barnes and Noble back in February after the show aired. Last week, Beck interviewed Colleen Sheehan, a professor in the department of political science at Villanova University, who published James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government. Expect sales of that book to climb this week, too. None of these books, however, will hold a candle to Beck's novel The Overton Window; USA Today interviews Beck about the new book that has his name on it—but did he actually write it? In the interview he says, "there's clearly no way that I'm sitting behind a typewriter or word program and pounding this out. . . . I have my vision and need someone to make sure that vision stays there." Beck at least admits someone else wrote the thing; ghostwriting used to be book publishing’s dirty little secret.
Reading the New York Times can be a soporific (#12) experience, but not when the paper mines its data for the fifty Most Frequently Looked-up Words of 2010. Philip B. Corbett, who is charged with pointing out slips of style, grammar, and usage in the Times with alacrity (#36), muses on some of the "fancy words" that appear in the paper, wondering if its readers know what the heck jejune (#25) means. Meanwhile Clark Hoyt, the Times public editor, departs with praise for the paper, despite having to settle solipsistic (#9) internecine (#11) squabbles between the paper's op-ed polemicists (#42) like Maureen Dowd, whose coining of the word baldenfreude (#6) puzzled nearly 5,000 Times readers. But as the Awl writes, complaining about the Times is a one-hundred year old tradition. You can look it up.
Perhaps you have always wanted to read the hefty 11th century novel The Tale of Genji, but the siren call of today's multi-platform media environment has driven you to distraction. Starting today, the Summer of Genji begins, with The Quarterly Conversation and Open Letters Monthly teaming up to produce a reading group website that provides moral support, commentary, and a discussion platform for readers of the 1,200 page novel.
If you're thinking of buying an ebook reader, you'd better get a lay of the land—the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and the Alex are all vying for attention, each with promises to improve your reading experience. If you're in publishing and want to cash in on newly entranced ebook consumers, start with GalleyCat's interview with Scott Lindenbaum, co-founder of Electric Literature, on building a literary iPad app. Just don't let anyone tell you that publishing is dying, "because they are reckless and hunting for headlines;" what we see now is only a snapshot of what is to come.
Still a Contender: Katherine Dunn has a new story in the summer Paris Review, her first fiction since her Geek Love was nominated for a 1989 National Book Award. (There is also an interview at the blog.) Dunn has spent the past two decades immersed in the boxing world, researching for a follow-up book called Cut Man and reporting on the sweet science for various boxing magazines (collected in the volume One Ring Circus). When she's isn't slugging would-be purse snatchers or reviewing boxing books, Dunn is still at work on her follow-up novel, which she reports will soon be finished.
Stieg Larsson once sent two stories to the small Swedish magazine Jules Verne that have recently been rediscovered. Though the magazine rejected the stories at the time, they have since become hot property.
Literary scouts do not get merit badges for dealing with prickly publishers, exacting editors, or the tricky task of predicting which American book will be a bestseller abroad.
Grumbling about textbook prices—a longstanding campus tradition—may soon become history; for companies that rent textbooks to students, business is booming. And Inside Higher Ed reports that while traditional textbooks are still the norm on college campuses, e-books are often used in online education programs—perhaps a harbinger of things to come.
Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.
The World Cup begins today in South Africa, and the New Republic has enlisted novelists, such as Aleksandar Hemon, authors like Tom Vanderbilt, as well as critics and TNR staff to detail all the action at their blog Goal Post. Of course there's more to life in South Africa than soccer, as novelist André Brink writes: "There's so much constantly to react to in the world in which we live, and in a country like South Africa, that can become a full-time occupation;" from Bookforum's pages, Jennifer Egan reviews Brink's 2008 novel Other Lives.
The Wall Street Journal investigates how digital self-publishing is shaking up the book industry, while Slate recommends the The Shack, a self-published novel about God as an African-American woman, which has sold millions of copies.
Are books the LPs of the future? "Of course, the book has been around a lot longer and is far more deeply entrenched in our vision of culture—both what it is and what we want it to be—than the LP, which turned out to be a disposable format, a means to an end. Yet what the digital revolution in the music industry shows us, I think, is that what people want is music: the format doesn’t matter nearly as much as the product." Do people, then, want nothing outside the text? Actually, long-playing records may be the literal future of books. And just like the passing of LPs signaled the end of the great album cover, the rise of the ebook will surely diminish the importance of book design. In the meantime, book designers shouldn't look to Google for inspiration.
Barbara Kingsolver avenges her loss to Hilary Mantel in the Tournament of Books by winning the Orange Prize for Fiction. We thought The Lacuna showed Kingsolver at the "top of her craft," and wished Mantel's Wolf Hall were "twice as long as its 560 pages," so we're glad to see them both honored. In other prize news, Lebanese-born Amin Maalouf, a writer who has tackled "thorny subjects in novelistic form for decades," is the recipient of the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters; past winners include Paul Auster, Günter Grass, Doris Lessing, Mario Vargas Llosa, Arthur Miller, and Susan Sontag. But don't expect Lionel Shriver or Martin Amis to send their congratulations.
Whether they're for or against prizes, writers shouldn't live to please their readers.
"As the adult-skewing drama becomes an endangered species at the studios, is there any hope for that venerable subcategory, the literary-book-to-screen adaptation?" Variety reports that Hollywood book deals have declined in the past year, and that literary fiction suffered the biggest drop. The news is not bad for all genres, though; action-thriller-suspense, kid's fantasy and—inevitably—vampire and zombie books, along with young adult books, saw increases.
The New Yorker has anointed its twenty young writers under forty who "capture the inventiveness and the vitality of contemporary American fiction," and Farrar, Straus & Giroux has announced it will publish a paperback anthology of the chosen ones. How were they chosen? What are the stories about? Tainted love, mostly. What's the upside? Choire Sicha offers Ten Affirmations. The takeaway? Forty is still young when it comes to writing fiction.
Brenda Wineapple writes that American literature in the 19th century "speaks in the 21st in terms we have not yet abandoned for all our sophistication, technology, globalism, and panache."
A 2007 appearance of the late author David Markson reading at the 92nd Street Y from his The Last Novel, in which he wrote: "When I die, I open a bordello."
From The Nation, John Palattella on The Death and Life of the Book Review: "Newspaper books sections have been ailing for decades, but there's no better time than now for writing about books." (See above: as Sicha says, "You, just like the New Yorker, could have a million subscribers by the end of the month, if you wanted to. So get cracking, buddy.")