BBC1's new PG Wodehouse adaptation, Blandings.
The BBC is turning to P.G. Wodehouse to steal fans of Downton Abbey. This Spring will see the premiere of “A six-part BBC run of Blandings, based on Wodehouse's much-loved accounts of the fictional life and times of Blanding Castle's 9th earl. Set in 1929, with a starry cast, Blandings will follow the fortunes of the amiable, befuddled Emsworth, played by Timothy Spall, and his beloved pig, Empress.” If you’re not already familiar with Wodehouse, we recommend reading Ed Park’s review of his letters from our Dec/Jan issue.
At Slate, Ron Rosenbaum considers whether one should go to grad school, and reflects on his work as a Shakespeare scholar outside the academy.
What’s the happiest word in the English? According to a new study conducted by linguists at the University of Vermont, out of ten thousand of the most commonly used English words, ‘laughter’ was deemed the happiest, while ‘terrorist’ came in last.
“Hey shitbag, try some of my moonshine”: London Review of Books editor and Bookforum contributor Christian Lorentzen on going home for the holidays.
The latest stats from the Pew Research Center on American reading habits are out this week. According to the report, roughly three-quarters of Americans read at least one book last year, and the median number of books that most Americans read was six. Eighty-one percent of women read at least one book last year, while only seventy percent of men did.
To celebrate the pre-sale of his first book, Bookforum columnist and Awl mastermind Choire Sicha reflects on the grim process of bookmaking: “There is something about the publication of a book that feels to me like the going to the airport and being manhandled by security and then heading down the long cold lonely ramp until, at last, the book is poured into InDesign or whatever they use now, which is when they slam the pressurized doors shut and then there's nothing you can do but sit there with yourself.”
Flavorwire rounds up the year’s top innovations in literary magazines.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s next project is an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 L.A. noir novel Inherent Vice. Per the New York Times, Anderson’s found some odd inspiration for his latest project: “The book is a stoner private-eye saga, and Mr. Anderson has found an invaluable ‘research bible,’ he said, in the underground comic strip the 'Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.'”
Dennis Lehane’s beagle, Tessa, has run away, and the crime novelist has taken to Facebook to find her. And that’s not all: “Her Daddy, author Dennis Lehane, has offered to name a character in his next book after the person who brings her home.”
Contrary to popular belief, writers live in places other than Brooklyn. At Tin House, Roxanne Gay gives literary credit where credit is due.
Lubeck's Gunter Grass Haus
Philip Roth biography Blake Bailey confirmed yesterday that a Twitter account purporting to belong to the Portnoy’s Complaint author is actually a hoax. “The real Philip Roth–yes, him–would have it known that he has NO twitter account, and it is MOST unlikely he ever shall,” Mr. Bailey tweeted. The account has been traced to Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti.
The New York Times covers the literary history of Lübeck, Germany, a city with only 212,000 residents but a storied literary history. In addition to having a public library that’s nearly four hundred years old, Lübeck is also the home of the Thomas Mann and Günter Grass museums, which share the distinction of being far more tech-forward than most author museums. At the Günter Grass museum, visitors vote on a touchscreen for future exhibitions, and visitors to the Buddenbrookhaus museum are greeted by excerpts of Thomas Mann’s postcards, which scroll down a giant flat-screen monitor... set in the speech-bubble shape familiar from text messages.”
Next spring will see the publication of correspondence between authors Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee. The two met in 2008 and spent the following three years writing letters to each other, prompted by Coetzee’s suggestion that they might "strike sparks off each other." According to the UK publisher, the letters span “sports, film festivals, incest, politics, the financial crisis, family, art, marriage, friendship and love.”
Did you get a Kindle or e-reader for Christmas? Here’s a cheat sheet on how to use it and what to read.
How’s this for a dismal prediction for the future of books: according to Smashwords founder Mark Coker, “In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales.”
Random House held its first-ever public open house last week. For a twenty-five dollar entrance fee, participants got to listen to editors talk about the making of a bestseller, listen to Kurt Andersen and Emily Bazelon discuss current affairs, and sit in on a panel about giving books as gifts.
Did you know Bill Gates has his own book review website? Moby Lives flagged it first, and even after careful scrutiny, we’re still struggling to believe that it’s not a spoof.
Jon Cotner, the poet laureate of the stroll and co-author of Ten Walks/Two Talks, has posted a slideshow about another one of his interactive jaunts, this time asking strangers on the street: What do you want for the holidays?
June Thomas talks with Fred Bass, the owner of the legendary Strand Bookstore, on the latest edition of Slate’s Afterword podcast. Among other interesting factoids to come out of the conversation, Bass reveals that tote bags now make up fifteen percent of the Strand’s sales.
The Oxford English Dictionary has issued an apology for choosing “bloodbath” as its word of the day only four days after the Newton school shootings. In a statement on its website, the OED apologized “unreservedly” for the decision, adding, "the OED word of the day is selected months in advance by an editorial committee, and is distributed automatically each day. The timing … is a coincidence of the worst kind, and we apologise for any distress or upset caused by what might seem to be a highly insensitive choice.”
Penguin has followed the lead of Hachette, Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins and struck a deal with the Department of Justice over e-book pricing. The deal is almost exactly the same as the arrangement struck by the other houses, only in this case, there was added incentive for Penguin to do it. From the New York Times: “It is in everyone’s interests that the proposed Penguin Random House company should begin life with a clean sheet of paper.”
The Queen James Bible
On Wednesday, New York Public Library president Anthony Marx unveiled plans for the Norman Foster-led redesign of the NYPL flagship branch at Byrant Park. The plan will raise the amount of public space in the library from thirty to seventy percent, and will incorporate additional “light-filled reading areas.” The big downside is that the library will house fewer books: More than three million volumes are being moved off-site, and many writers have protested that they no longer feel welcome to work at the library. “Scholars are people, too, and we are beginning to feel, well, if not threatened, increasingly crowded out,” author Edmund Morris recently told the New York Times.
Introducing the Queen James Bible, a gay-friendly bible that attempts to "long-standing interpretive ambiguity in key Bible passages regarding homosexuality."
The publisher Hachette has filed suit against Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ben Cramer for failing to deliver two books he was commissioned to write. According to the Smoking Gun, Cramer signed a $1.5 million contract in 2006 to write two books, one of which was to be a behind-the-scenes account of New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. Cramer never turned anything in, and in late 2011, Hachette terminated the contract and demanded that he return the $550,000 they had already paid him.
In an essay for Margaux Williamson’s blog, Sheila Heti responds to criticism that any writing about the process of making art is fundamentally “privileged, narcissistic, and childish." But, she responds, "Artists should think about art, and should talk about it together, the same way people agitating for social change should talk about social change together. Would Occupy Wall Street have happened if people didn’t finally decide to put their collective grievances into a public space and talk about them? Art is not frivolous. Art is not a luxury. It moves the world forward."
A seventeen-year-old has landed a book deal with Random House after her self-published online romance series “The Kissing Booth” racked up 19 million views.
The punchline practically writes itself: David Brooks is teaching a class on humility at Yale.
A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism author Peter Mountford makes a well-reasoned (and predictably unpopular) call for publishing houses to cap advances for “artful literary” books at $50,000.
New Yorker book critic James Wood rounds up the highlights of 2012, which include Joshua Cohen’s Four New Messages, Zadie Smith’s NW, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, anthropologist Kirin Narayan’s Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov.
Salman Rushdie was not the only member of the literary elite to be outraged by Mo Yan’s Nobel victory several weeks ago, but he was among the most vocal. Rushdie called Mo a “patsy” for his ties to China’s communist regime, and willingness to toe the party line. That comment was grounds for Pankaj Mishra to go after Rushdie in theGuardian this week. Mishra targets what he called an “unexamined assumption lurking in the western scorn for Mo Yan's proximity to the Chinese regime: that Anglo-American writers, naturally possessed of loftier virtue, stand along with their governments on the right side of history.” Rushdie responded to the article in characteristic fashion: by calling it “garbage” in a letter to the Guardian.
Thirty-four books by sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke—including his most famous title, 2001: A Space Odyssey—will soon be available as e-books.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are now available digitally.
Mother Jones maps out all of the mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S. since 1982, and reports that sales of kids’ body armor have “gone through the roof” since the Newton shootings. Meanwhile, the always excellent Jason Kottke turns his blog over to gun control coverage.
Emily Gould, the onetime Gawker writer and the author of the essay collection And the Heart Says Whatever, has sold her novel Friendship to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (and specifically to editor Miranda Popkey). According to Gould's agent, Melissa Flashman, the novel is about “‘an eventful year’ in the lives of two best friends, both 30, who find their friendship is being tested as they get older.”
ProPublica rounds up the best reporting on guns from the past several years.
Flatscreen author (and Bookforum contributor) Adam Wilson makes The L Magazine’s list of the year’s “Breakout Brooklyn Book People.”
Actor, fiction writer, and grad student James Franco has signed a deal to publish his first book of poetry with Minnesota’s Graywolf Press. The collection, titled Directing Herbert White, will be released in 2014, and according to Graywolf's Jeffrey Shotts, it is "a series of portraits of American successes and failures from within Hollywood.” Elaborating on the concept in an interview with MTV, Franco remarked that he was interested in “the idea of L.A. as a place where people’s dreams can come true, but also L.A. as a place that eats its young.”
Flavorwire selects the best breakup letters from famous writers.
A film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children has made it past India’s censorship board without any alterations. “India here we come—intact! Great news,” tweeted the film’s director, Deepa Mehta. “Salman Rushdie and I thrilled.” The film, which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last September, will be released in India early next year.
"Although it is not a popular opinion, I believe that library e-book borrowing erodes ebook sales, at least modestly." At PWXYZ, Peter Brantley weighs in on the advantages and challenges facing libraries that "lend" e-books.
The Algonquin roundtable is gone, Bookstore Row vanished '80s, and all the writers have decamped to Brooklyn. The New York Times’ book critic Dwight Garner goes searching for what remains of literary Manhattan, and what—library-themed hotels, Virginia Woolf-themed bars—have cropped up to replace the old. Garner also solicits advice from Paris Review editor Lorin Stein (Cafe Loup “really is the closest thing I know of to a writer’s hangout in the old-fashioned sense”) and n+1 editor Mark Greif, who’s not a fan of hotels repurposing their lobbies for literary appeal: “Whenever I’m invited to meet anyone in a hotel bar or lobby, it means I’m in for a rough hour, because it means my host has more money than sense.”
On a related note, Tin House resolves the age-old mystery of what writers drink in Paris when they are not writing about drinking in Paris.
The latest issue of the Milan Review consists entirely “Travels in Central America”—a 66-part novella by Clancy Martin about “ sleeping with somebody other than your husband/wife. It is also (principally) a love story and it is also (largely) about drinking too much and also (slightly) about Central America.” For this reason, the editors have started calling their publication The Milan Review of Adultery.
In 1967, the invasion of thirty Black Panthers into the California statehouse in Sacramento launched the modern gun rights movement. An article written forty years later for The Atlantic surveys what happened after, and what the debates look like today.
Slate traces the origins of children’s literature before Hans Christian Andersen.
The New York Times is teaming up with Byliner and Vook to publish longform journalism e-books that will run between 10,000 and 20,000 words. The books will be written by Times reporters, and will span culture, science, business, sports, and health topics. The first title, John Branch’s Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, comes out next week. In related news, Byliner struck a deal with Ingram to release its e-books in print.
Editor Nan Graham has been named Scribner’s new publisher.
Following Dalkey Archive Press’s remarkable job posting yesterday—which more or less stated that anyone with a personal life or ambitions of getting paid need not apply—outgoing publisher John O’Brien has written a response to the Irish Times noting that “the advertisement was written in a manner he viewed as appropriate with Irish literature: that of Swift, Joyce Beckett and, perhaps most pertinently, Flann O’Brien." Adding satire to the alleged satire, a fake Twitter account for the tortured Dalkey Intern has already been created.
Via her lawyer, Lena Dunham has asked Gawker to take down her $3.7 million book proposal, which the site leaked a few weeks ago. Gawker obliged, but refused to take down twelve lines from the proposal, which it annotated with its own snarky commentary.
Buzzfeed asks forty-seven women in publishing what the best book they read this year was. (The book didn’t have to be published in 2012—just read during it). Not to rank "best of" lists, but this is the best one we’ve seen so far.
Danish scholars believe that they’ve found the first story ever written by Hans Christian Andersen. “Tallow Candle” was found hidden in an archive, and is thought to have been written before 1829—the year of Andersen’s official literary debut. The story is about “a little candle, dirtied by life and misunderstood, which eventually finds happiness after a tinder box sees the good at its heart and lights it.”
Jim Hodges' special limited edition of Lynne Tillman's Someday This Will Be Funny
In a post on its website, Dalkey Archive Press announced on Wednesday that it has “begun the process of succession” away from being a Champaign, Illinois-based house led by founding publisher John O'Brien to being a press based in London. The site also lists new job openings: The press is seeking an editor, publicist, assistant to the publisher, office manager, web editor, marketing manager, and fundraiser. Dalkey has long been an important press, but be careful to read the fine print before applying: For all these positions, “the pool of candidates... will be primarily derived from unpaid interns in the first phase of this process, although one or two people may be appointed with short-term paid contracts.” Additionally, employees must not “have any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the Press (family obligations, writing, involvement with other organizations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio, etc.)...”
Joe McGinness has a new e-book out about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder trial in which he reiterates his belief in MacDonald’s guilt. We second Laura Miller in wondering whether Errol Morris—author of a new book investigating MacDonald's case—will have something to say about it.
Indie press Red Lemonade has released a special limited edition of Lynne Tillman’s story collection Someday This Will Be Funny designed by artist Jim Hodges. The book (or books, as each copy includes a set of twenty-one books, with each one sheathed in plexiglass) can be seen here. Reviewing Someday for Bookforum, Michael Wood wrote: "Her works often have a relation to the visual arts, but not because of any obvious visual effects in them. They use words, rather, to construct a take on the world the way a painting or an installation might, and she herself speaks of "writing fiction as an analogue to art.'"
Amazon may be cheaper for bestselling books, but you won’t find many deals on other titles: “a new study has found that Amazon is only the cheapest option on its top 20 bestsellers, with books further down the chart costing 14% more than competitors.”
The New York Daily News is arguing with the Los Angeles Times over whether Los Angeles has a literary culture.
Always up on the hottest trends, Target has shelved Leo Tolstoy in the “emerging authors” section of their bookstore.