A $25,000 copy of "To Kill A Mockingbird"

Despite an overall decline in book sales, it was a banner year for rare books. According book dealer Abe Books, the site made over $220,330 from the sales of ten books alone, with a copy of Marx’s Das Kapital going for $51,739 (irony!) and a signed first edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird bringing in $25,000.

The Rumpus interviews Marie Calloway, a twenty-one year old writer whose story “Adrien Brody,” a thinly fictionalized account about sleeping with an older New York writer, has been creating a stir among the internet literati. Kate Zambreno has also weighed in on Calloway on her blog.

Philly has named Sonia Sanchez as its first Poet Laureate.

At Splitsider, Rebecca O’Neal rounds up the year’s best humor writing, and Longform rounds up the year’s best sex writing.

Amazon has issued another enigmatic press release about sales of its Kindle e-readers, bragging that customers purchased “well over 1 million Kindle devices per week” throughout December and that the “Kindle Fire is the #1 best-selling, most gifted, and most wished for product” on Amazon. Even so, the company is keeping quiet about how many Kindles they’ve actually sold.


James Salter

After participating in the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests, one demonstrator decided take a job in an Amazon warehouse—and attempted to unionize the company.

For years, presidential candidate Ron Paul sent out newsletters that offered political and financial advice, but “also routinely indulged in bigotry,” as the New Republic writes in a round-up Ron Paul’s most incendiary bulletins.

Amazon has pushed back the launch date of its Japanese e-book site after local publishers refused to agree to the company’s terms.

At the Paris Review Daily, Alexander Chee reflects on sex and the novels of James Salter: “‘A tour-de-force of erotic realism’ the Times reviewer said on the back cover. All right then, I said to myself, and took the book home.”

At the Daily Beast, former Simon & Schuster editor Michael Korda acknowledges that most Hollywood memoirs are pretty terrible.

At Foreign Policy, images from Kim Jong-Il’s funeral.


Dennis Cooper

The multitalented novelist Dennis Cooper has been chosen to participate in the 2012 Whitney Biennial with longtime collaborator Gisele Vienne, with whom he has recently collaborated on a handful of controversial (and in some cases critically acclaimed) theater shows. According to the New York Times, for the show, Cooper will “install a speaking robot."

It’s the economy, stupid: Robert Christgau ranks the best non-specialized books on the economy, naming Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera’s All the Devils Are Here and John Lanchester’s I.O.U. as his top picks.

Wiliam Faulkner’s hot toddy recipe, via his daughter: “He prepared it in the kitchen in the following way: Take one heavy glass tumbler. Fill approximately half full with Heaven Hill bourbon (the Jack Daniel’s was reserved for Pappy’s ailments). Add one tablespoon of sugar. Squeeze 1/2 lemon and drop into glass. Stir until sugar dissolves. Fill glass with boiling water. Serve with potholder to protect patient’s hands from the hot glass.”

And because most of the publishing industry is off this week, Galleycat is keeping the rest of us entertained with user-submitted photos of literary pets.


Mary De Rachewiltz, Ezra Pound's daughter.

Why doesn’t the Federal Aviation Administration allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff? The New York Times’ Nick Bilton challenges the claim that electrical emissions are to blame.

Ezra Pound’s daughter has filed suit to force far-right Italian fascist group CasaPound—a name it chose in homage to her father—to call itself something else.

The Lorax, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Norwegian Wood, and The Hunger Games are only several of the books getting silver screen treatment in Spring 2012.

Anticipating that e-readers will be a popular holiday gift, the New York Public Library is introducing a service to teach readers how to download e-books.

A new Guardian feature showcases “the secret histories of secondhand books."


The Guggenheim's first e-books

The Guggenheim has become the first museum to issue an electronic exhibition catalogue, for the Maurizio Cattelan show. It's also making out-of-print publications available for online browsing, and an e-book version of the kid’s book I’d Like the Goo-Gen-Heim.

Have bestselling books gotten more expensive? At The Awl, Brent Cox looks at hardcover prices decade by decade, adjusting prices to 2011 dollar values. He finds that since 1951, “you can make a pretty strong argument that the adjusted price of a hardcover book has held constant, neither inflating or deflated, and that this price equals roughly thirty 2011 dollars.”

Here’s a last-minute gift idea: For ninety-five dollars, a website is offering a signed copy of a Salman Rushdie book (either Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses, or Luka and the Fire of Life) and a six-course gourmet dinner at an Indian-Latin fusion restaurant (Rushdie appearance not included).

At the TLS, Michael Dirda reviews Christopher Hitchens’s essay collection, Arguably: “Hitchens . . . might have justified his more coloratura pages with the disdainful response of the Indian chief who, devouring everything in sight at a White House banquet, was gently reprimanded for eating and drinking a little too much. The chief responded: ‘A little too much is just enough for me.’”

After making the case last week that Amazon is “a boon for the book industry and ‘literary culture,'” Slate’s Farhad Manjoo returns to explain how independent bookstores can hold their own against the online behemoth.


Jonathan Ames

As of now, all of Michael Chabon’s novels are available as e-books. The author says the deal he struck with digital publisher Open Road Integrated Media is “extremely fair and generous,” but recent remarks suggest Chabon isn’t thrilled about the distribution of e-book royalties: “I agreed to the traditional e-book royalty, which I think is criminally low, because I didn’t really have any legs to stand on. I didn’t want to get left behind in the e-book revolution.”

Drinks were on Jonathan Ames last night in honor of his late HBO series, “Bored to Death”: “I invite all fans of Bored to Death to come to the Brooklyn Inn tomorrow night, Wednesday, and I’ll buy you a drink. John Hodgman will be joining me and perhaps other local New York City actors from the show will be there, and we can all toast Bored to Death and a completely loony and improbable three-year run.”

“It’s not often that I think about why a poem is such a dance, that each line or revolution of my eyes around the cylinder of the page grabbing on like hands – or tongue and groove all of that having likely occurred I’m now disposed to consider vaguely what the poet might be saying”: Eileen Myles praises Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio’s poem, “The Whole of It is Winged,” at Poetry Foundation.

Ponyter reports that October was 2011’s worst month for plagiarism, with nine incidents occuring across magazines, newspapers, wire services and the student press.

Bill Clinton, John Lewis Gaddis, Chris Matthews, Annie Jacobsen, and Dick and Liz Cheney share the dubious distinction of authoring the Nation’s five worst political books of 2011.

At Poetry Foundation, Lucy Ives wonders what exactly poetry editors are doing if they’re not line-editing poems.


Lucía Etxebarria

Spanish novelist Lucía Etxebarria has pledged to stop writing in protest against lax online piracy laws and the proliferation of illegal e-books. Etxebarria, who has won a number of prestigious awards—including two that collectively brought her over 800,000 euros in prize money—says she can no longer afford to spend years writing a novel that will only be downloaded.

With book sales falling and e-book sales on the rise, Evan Osnos argues that the role of e-readers “is reminiscent of the way DVDs transformed the movie business in the 1990s, posing a major challenge for theaters while expanding the market for players to be used at home.”

HBO has cancelled Jonathan Ames’s series “Bored to Death,” which ran for three seasons and starred Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson. Bad news for Ames, but perhaps it’ll give him a long-overdue break: Talking with the LA Times earlier this year, Ames remarked that writing for TV was no easier than working on books. “It's like I'm producing almost a novel every year... But, you know, I can get Ted to say, 'I've been living like a demented god,' and that one line is almost worth three chapters in a novel."

In November 2010, Adam Thirwell attempted to interview Vaclav Havel for the Paris Review. Between the Czech leader’s overburdened schedule—he was filming a movie at the time—and his lack of English, the interview “turned into a melancholy comedy of its own.” Outtakes of the ill-fated conversation are now up on the Paris Review blog.

McSweeney’s is adding a new arm to its publishing empire. Starting in February, the San Francisco-based outfit will launch the McSweeney’s Poetry Series, edited by Dominic Luxford and Jesse Nathan. According to Poets & Writers’ Tess Taylor, the poetry imprint will release “up to four lovingly designed titles each year.”


Kim Jon-Il

In honor of Dear Leader's death, The New York Times's Arts Beat blog compiles a North Korea-themed reading list. While most of the books on the list are about the country, one or two were written by Kim Jong-Il himself, including The U.S. Imperialists Started the Korean War.

The Nieman Lab profiles Owni, "first media outlet in France to sell ebooks as part of its core editorial output." The article is part of a Nieman Reports series on the evolving relationship between journalism and the increasingly tech-friendly publishing industry.

At the Paris Review blog, Shalom Auslander laments the fact that his editor wouldn't let him title his forthcoming novel The Diary of Anne Frankenstein (It's called Hope: A Tragedy instead).

Scholastic is hoping that "Infinity Ring," a seven-book series on time travel (with an online game component) geared for 8-12 year-olds, will be the next Harry Potter.

Actor Viggo Mortenson has started a publishing house dedicated to "showcasing the talents of little-known authors and artists who might otherwise go undiscovered." Perceval Press is based in Santa Monica, California, and in addition to books, also puts out CDs.

In honor of the holidays, Jon Cotner and Claire Hamilton ask twenty-five New Yorkers to share their holiday wishes. The slideshow is up at The Hairpin.


Vaclav Havel

Overseers of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris have decreed that well-wishers will no longer be allowed to kiss Oscar Wilde’s grave.

Rapper Riff Raff gives a strong endorsement to the new issue of the literary magazine The New York Tyrant.

Ian McEwan remembers his friend, the late Christopher Hitchens: “Where others might have beguiled themselves with thoughts of divine purpose (why me?) and dreams of an afterlife, Christopher had all of literature. Over the three days of my final visit I took a note of his subjects. Not long after he stole my Ackroyd, he was talking to me of a Slovakian novelist; whether Dreiser in his novels about finance was a guide to the current crisis; Chesterton's Catholicism; Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, which I had brought for him on a previous visit; Mann's The Magic Mountain – he'd reread it for reflections on German imperial ambitions towards Turkey.”

The European Commission and the Department of Justice are launching a joint investigation into e-book pricing.

Czech dissident, writer, and former president Vaclav Havel has died at 75. The New Yorker has put together a top ten list of Havel’s greatest writing hits, including his contemporaries and writers he admired.


George Whitman in front of Shakesepeare & Company, circa 1980. Photo from The New York Times.

Author, columnist, and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens is dead at 62 from esophagael cancer. An archive of his Atlantic columns are available to read here, and Ian Parker's 2006 New Yorker profile of Hitch is highly recommended.

A genre within the “Best Books of the Year” genre is taking shape: the “Overlooked Books of the Year.” Two notable examples are “Great Fiction Missed by The New York Times” (from The Daily Beast) and Ruth Franklin’s “Five Books I Wish I Had Written About This Year.”

Ever wonder what the secret formula to the publishing phenomenon of Freakonomics was? Andrew Gelman and Kaiser Fung give you the low-down at American Scientist.

The Paris-based Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits has purchased one of six miniature booklets made by Charlotte Brontë when she was just 14 years old. The titanic sum of £690,850 paid by the Musée at Sotheby’s in London successfully ousted the Brontë Patronage Museum, to whom four of the six booklets already belong.

American bookseller George Whitman, acclaimed proprietor of the English-language bookshop Shakespeare & Company in Paris, has passed away at the age of 98. According to a statement on the store’s website, Mr. Whitman will be buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery, the resting place of Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, and Gertrude Stein, among others.

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