Patrick DeWitt

The National Book Critics Circle presented its awards for the best books of 2011 at a ceremony in Manhattan last night. The fiction prize went to Edith Pearlman for her short story collection Binocular Vision; Maya Jasanoff won in the nonfiction category for Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World; Laura Kasischke won in poetry for Space, in Chains; John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan won best biography; autobiography went to Mira Bartók for The Memory Palace; and the award for criticism went to Geoff Dyer for Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews.

In honor of National Proofreading Day (which was Wednesday, did you celebrate?) GalleyCat is directing readers to EditMinion, a robotic copy editor that spots mistakes in emails. But if you’re the kind of person who enjoys enforcing the finer points of grammar without the help of a computer, we recommend Ed Park’s meditation on the Chicago Manual of Style.

How low can e-books go? Google is currently selling Michael Lewis’s Boomerang for $3.99. Not to be outdone, Amazon is matching the price.

Jim Romenesko looks into why the redesigned Chicago Reader website looks like, in the words of NYTimes digital design director Ian Adelman, "a crappy version of the nymag.com & vulture.com sites."

Tonight at BookCourt, Patrick DeWitt reads from his novel The Sisters Brothers.

The Rumpus's Elissa Bassist exhorts women to "join the girls' club," and disrupt the gender disparity in writing and publishing.


NBCC award fiction finalist Teju Cole.

For his next project, Bret Easton Ellis is tapping into the lewder side of Hollywood. The American Psycho author is casting boy-next-door porn star James Deen as the lead of his “micro-budget noir movie,” titled The Canyons.

J. Hoberman, recently laid off by the Village Voice, has become a columnist at Tablet.

At Flavorwire, novelist Adam Wilson—author of the bleak suburban comedy Flatscreen—picks the top ten slacker novels, including Iris Owen’s After Claude, Sam Lipsyte’s Home Land, and the New Testament. In Wilson’s view, Jesus was not just a fictional character but also the first literary slacker: “He drank a lot of wine and never wore pants; he was into holistic healing; he could be preachy and moralistic, but was a good guy deep down. And to think they strung him up for it. Society’s attitude toward slackers hasn’t softened much.”

In Time’s Ideas section, Bookforum contributor Jessica Winter asks: “Are Women People?”

The Morning News is prepping for its eighth annual Tournament of Books with a pre-game primer. The literary bloodsport kicks off tomorrow, when author Emma Straub will deliberate the first bracket: Julian Barnes’s Sense of an Ending vs. Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time.

The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik dwells on “what makes a great essayist,” and names five masters of the form.

The National Book Critics Circle’s annual awards will be announced tonight in New York; all month NBCC board members have been writing about the thirty finalists. A few highlights: David Haglund on Teju Cole’s Open City; David Ulin on Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia; and Benjamin Moser on Amanda Foreman’s A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War. Bookforum recently hosted a roundtable about one of the finalists in nonfiction, the late Ellen Willis, who is being nominated for her posthumously published collection of music criticism, Out of the Vinyl Deeps.


James Atlas

Amazon has hired James Atlaswho wrote the definitive biography of Saul Bellow—to edit a new series of biographies called Amazon Lives, with titles scheduled to start appearing in June 2013. Amazon has been steadily preparing to become a powerful publishing presence. The company is clearly set up to sell its own titles online, but how do you sell books published by Amazon in the competition's bookstores (in Barnes and Nobles, for example)? You change the publisher’s name from Amazon Books to New Harvest Books, and you distribute them through another publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Home Depot has announced that it will stop selling books. The news—for us, at least—was that Home Depot sold books in the first place.

Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Book prize was not awarded this year because none of the one hundred and forty-eight books nominated met the Arabic book prize’s “stringent norms.”

Jonathan Franzen recently called Twitter “unspeakably irritating” spawning the hashtag #JonathanFranzenHates, and inspiring htmlgiant’s Roxane Gay to write a convincing argument for Twitter (or for doing what you want to do, as long as you do it with passion). Still, Franzen’s not a total technophobe. In a 2011 address to graduating students at Kenyon College (to be published in the forthcoming essay collection Farther Away), he waxed poetic about the beauty of his BlackBerry Bold: “I [want] to keep fondling my new Bold and experiencing the marvelous clarity of its screen, the silky action of its tiny track pad, the shocking speed of its responses, the beguiling elegance of its graphics.” (True to form, he went on to complain about the "Like" button on Facebook.)

Publishers Weekly has crunched the numbers and found that the average length of a book is 64,000 words.

The National Book Critics Circle will hold its annual awards ceremony on Thursday evening. Tonight at the New School, they'll gear up with a reading by the finalists, who include John Jeremiah Sullivan, Forest Gander, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Dana Spiotta.


Kate Bolick

Alexander Star, formerly an editor at Lingua Franca and the New York Times Magazine, is leaving his current position at the New York Times Book Review to become a senior editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The Awl recounts how in the late 1950s Saul Bellow helped his closest friend get a teaching job—without realizing this so-called friend was sleeping with his wife.

Canada’s National Post is taking a fast and dirty approach to e-books, publishing as many (and as many different kinds) as possible to see what sells.

Timothy McSweeney—after whom Dave Eggers named his notorious literary magazine and publishing company—was not a whimsical invention but a real person. As Eggers tells the Sacramento Bee, the late McSweeney was an artist who was institutionalized for mental illness. “From there, he mailed odd letters to strangers who shared his last name, believing they were relatives.” One of the recipients was Eggers's mother, whose maiden name was McSweeney.

An Internet archivist who has preserved more than 150 billion webpages now wants to do the same for print. Each week, upwards of twenty thousand books arrive at a warehouse in Redmond, California, to be saved for the ages. “We want to collect one copy of every book,” owner Brewster Kahle tells the New York Times. “You can never tell what is going to paint the portrait of a culture.”

Tonight in Brooklyn, n+1 has invited sociologist Eric Klinenberg and writers Kate Bolick and Daniel Smith to discuss Going Solo, Klinenberg’s new book about “the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone.”

We really enjoyed this meditation on the metaphor.

Jesse Ball’s The Curfew, Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods, Lars Iyer’s Spurious, Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, and Michelle Latiolai’s Widow make up the shortlist of the Believer’s book award. The winner will be announced in the May issue.

Reader, I ...


Sheila Heti

Why does Wall Street appear so rarely in fiction? John Lanchester claims it’s because explaining the intricacies of high finance would bog down good storytelling. Explanation, he says, is “fine in small doses, as a dollop of rationale before the main course of drama, but anything longer and the reader wakes hours later to the familiar clanking noise of the milkman delivering bottles to the front door.”

Salman Rushdie will chair this year’s PEN World Voices Festival, and participants will include Martin Amis, Colson Whitehead, and Marjane Satrapi. We were thrilled to see that Elevator Repair Service, the Downtown theater group who brought us the brilliant staging of The Great Gatsby, will be performing.

The eighteen-room, Greek revival home in Brooklyn where Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s just sold for $12 million—$6 million below the initial asking price.

Marilyn Monroe may be dead, but that didn’t stop The Believer’s Sheila Heti from interviewing her.

At the AWP convention in Chicago last weekend, we saw great events (Eileen Myles and Monica Youn) and lots of new books (finished copies of Edouard Leve’s Autoportrait), but nothing surprised us quite as much as seeing—and touching—Edward Gorey’s fur coat, which the writer notoriously wore to the New York Ballet (with Converse). The writer A. N. Devers, who now owns the coat, would even let you try it on.

The American Scholar explains how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up anticipated the rise of autobiographical essay writing in America.

In case you missed it, Slate’s monthly book review launched last weekend, and it’s pretty awesome.


A review of Andrew Breitbart's Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!.

Roald Dahl

Before his death last December, Christopher Hitchens was known for torching his intellectual adversaries. Vanity Fair interpreted this talent rather literally when they handed out Christopher Hitchens lighters at their Oscar party last weekend. Each quote came engraved with a Hitch quote, including our favorite: “Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where I think it should, in most cases, remain.”

Slate launches the inaugural issue of the Slate Book Review today, a monthly review that will publish on the first Saturday of every month.

To protest a bill passed last year in the Tucson, Arizona, public school system that bans school curriculum “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” a group calling themselves Librotraficante have organized a book caravan to smuggle “contraband” books back into affected schools.

Bookstores are suffering, and so are libraries. But curiously, bookstores in libraries are on the rise.

McSweeney’s imagines the titles of rejected AWP panels, including “How to Explain to Your Parents That Your Novel is Not Based On Them”; “I Love Your Use of Narrative Exposition: Dating Writers 101,” and “So You’re the Person Who Rejected My Story: Proper Editor Etiquette.”

The musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book Matilda has been a runaway success in London, and this week, The Royal Shakespeare Company announced plans to bring the production to Broadway.


Wayne Koestenbaum

In response to the latest VIDA report, Emily Gould posits, at The Awl, an interesting theory about the paucity of women writing or getting reviewed in any of the “top” literary magazines. “Could it be,” she wonders, “that part of the imbalance is caused by the fact that women are choosing not to write for these magazines?”

We just listened to two recent and excellent public-radio interviews, both available online: At L.A.’s Bookworm, host Michael Silverblatt talked with Wayne Koestenbaum about his book Humiliation (which Laura Kipnis wrote about here). And NPR’s Tom Gjelten interviews Timothy Snyder about Thinking the Twentieth Century, his collaboration with Tony Judt, the world-class public intellectual who died of ALS last year. Near the end, Snyder says, Judt lost all the use of his limbs, but “he retained a potent individuality.”

Yesterday, the AWP (which stands for Association of Writers & Writing Programs, so it should be AWWP, but never mind) kicked off its sold-out annual conference at the Chicago Hilton. In addition to bringing in luminaries such as Forrest Gander, Jennifer Egan, Margaret Atwood, and others, the conference promises to drastically increase alcohol sales in the area. Last night’s best off-site event was at the Empty Bottle, where James Greer—who used to write rock journalism, then played bass for Guided by Voices, and now is a novelist and screenwriter—played with his band Detective.

Comedy Central has announced its plans to start publishing books. And no, that is not a joke. The network plans to inaugurate its imprint, Running Press, later this year with a novelty holiday book by Denis Leary. (Though we wonder if the press’s name will stick, as another Running Press already exists.)

The London Review of Books has published a lost short story by Charlotte Bronte that turned up while a contributor was researching the writer at a museum in Charleroi. The story, “L'Ingratitude,” was written in 1842 in French and handed in as a homework assignment for Bronte’s tutor.


VIDA has released their 2011 count of male-to-female ratios in literary magazines. A quick scroll down the page reveals the usual predominance of red: The color denoting the number of male authors who wrote for, or are reviewed by, publications like The Atlantic, Harper’s, and the TLS. Only two of the publications surveyed were not in the red: the Boston Review (9 women reviewed, 5 men), and Granta (34 women, 30 men; thanks in large part to their summer issue dedicated to feminism). Why does this sound so familiar? Oh, yeah. This year, the disheartening charts are adorned with quotes from editors like David Remnick, exhorting the industry to do better next time, and barbs of wisdom from authors such as Roxanne Gay: “Many people want to understand why this disparity exists instead of addressing the disparity itself. I’m not going to do that anymore. There is a problem. I’m comfortable with that making me a bitch who be trippin’. There is work to be done—let’s get to it.”

After debuting at #87,199, Peter Kiernan’s nuanced study, Becoming China’s Bitch, has topped Amazon’s bestseller list. It’s also currently holding the top spot on Barnes and Noble’s bestseller list, and though it was released only yesterday, is already scheduled for a second print run.

Edouard Levé’s Suicide, Mathias Énard’s Zone, and Juan José Saer’s Scars are three of the many excellent books on the list for the University of Rochester’s annual Best Translated Book Award, which was released today. The winner will be announced at the upcoming PEN World Voices Festival (which takes places in New York from April 30 to May 6), and will net its author and translator $5,000 each.

Rapper CeeLo Green has struck a deal with Grand Central Publishing to publish a memoir next year. “After reading my book, there will be no doubt that I am meant to be,” CeeLo explained in his press release. “You will enter into the supernatural, the surreal, and extraordinary. As CeeLo Green, a.k.a. ‘everybody’s brother,’ I will make you a believer.”


Jim Romenesko

A new issue of n+1 film supplement N1FR is out, featuring Damion Searls on Margin Call, Christine Smallwood on Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul (and on Herzognian caves), among other good things. To boot, the editor’s note begins with an apology: “This second edition of the N1FR, n+1’s film review, is very late,” writes A.S. Hamrah. “Its lateness has nothing to do with n+1 or with any of the contributors, or with our generous sponsor IFC Films. It’s entirely my fault.”

Minnesota-based Graywolf Press and literary magazine A Public Space are embarking on a new collaborative publishing effort. According to a Monday press release, “Graywolf plans to publish two A Public Space books per year, with ‘A Public Space Book’ printed on the back cover and in the interior.” The titles will be chosen and edited by A Public Space founder Brigid Hughes, who will announce the first book in the series within the next few months.

After his “messy breakup” with (or “semi-retirement” from) Poynter, Jim Romenesko, the news-aggregating pioneer and media watchdog with nearly 47,000 Twitter followers, is back, flagging an egregious ESPN headline (“Chink in the Armor”—about basketball player Jeremy Lin) and tracking down a statue of Confederacy of Dunces protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly.

Thanks to the recent success of two record-breaking projects, Kickstarter says it will give out over $150 million in fundraising this year—just over the $146 million that the National Endowment for the Arts will distribute in 2012. Does this mean that Kickstarter now offers more arts funding than the NEA?

A good old-fashioned literary feud is brewing in the South: Oxford American founder and editor Marc Smirnoff takes to the pages of his magazine to rail against competitor Garden & Gun, “the fancy ‘lifestyle’/Southern-culture magazine out of Charleston, South Carolina.” Smirnoff explains that when he started OA in the late ’80s, the only “Southern” magazines around “flaunted a South that seemed cordoned off for the private use and pleasure of wealthy white people.” His problem with Garden & Gun (“GAG to its foes; G&G to its partisans”) is “that I perceive in it a similar exclusivity—a similar whitewashing of the South.”

Advertisement