Russian president and man of letters, Vladimir Putin.
In a rambling essay published in Russia Free Newspaper, Russian President Vladimir Putin offers a solution for edifying “the dominance of Russian culture” once and for all: an official literary canon. “Let us take a survey of our most influential cultural figures," suggests Putin, "and |Each self-respecting student was required to read 100 books from a specially compiled list of the greatest books of the Western world.|compile a 100-book canon| that every Russian school leaver will be required to read."
What will happen when physical Barnes & Noble bookstores and their hard-copy products vanish in favor of e-books, and the chain becomes “little more than a cafe and a digital connection point?”
London’s City University now offers the world’s first master’s degree in crime writing.
For readers who have trouble keeping up with the news (or just following stories in detail), the New York Times gives you Deep Dive, a vaguely Orwellian “context engine” that uses a reading history and the Times archive to provide “readers a collection of stories relating to a topic, based on whatever person, place, event or topic of their choosing.”
Where did closeted Hollywood A-listers go for sex in the '40s? According to a forthcoming memoir by former marine and male madam Scotty Bowers, they went to him. In Full Service, Bowers breaks nearly three decades of silence to talk about setting up liaisons for the likes of Cary Grant, George Cukor, and Rock Hudson during Hollywood’s golden age.
The good news: The Chicago Tribune is getting a new stand-alone, 24-page book review section, and a free sample will be available on Sunday. The bad news: It will cost Tribune subscribers an additional $99 a year to get the review, which is being marketed as "premium content."
Edmund White, photo by Fladeboe for Vice.
Do book bloggers matter? Reed Exhibitions thinks so—they’ve just bought the two year-old Book Blogger Convention as a supplement to BookExpo America (BEA).
Children’s author Maurice Sendak had some very adult things to say about e-books during his loopy appearance on the Colbert Report.
Until he began to work for Amazon’s publishing arm, Larry Kirshbaum was a successful literary agent and a big-time industry insider, a BusinessWeek cover story on Amazon’s foray into book publishing reports. Since defecting to the digital world six months ago, Kirshbaum has signed big-name writers like Timothy Ferriss, pop polymath James Franco, and basketball coach Bob Knight with big advances—all the while becoming the scapegoat for the decline of print publishing.
Not safe for work! At Vice, Giancarlo DiTrapano, who edits the New York Tyrant, talks dirty with Edmund White.
Andrew Miller has won Britain’s prestigious Costa Prize for his sixth novel, Pure.
Washington, D.C., has been named the country’s most literary city (New York doesn’t even make the top ten). You go, Pittsburgh, PA (#6)!
William S. Burroughs, in a 1959 letter to his mom and dad: “It strikes me as regrettable that one should reserve a special and often lifeless style for letter to parents.” Burroughs’s selected letters will be published in February.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Last week, novelist Hari Kunzru was advised to leave the Jaipur Literature Festival after he read excerpts of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which remains banned in India. (Rushdie, also present, received death threats.) On Twitter, Kunzru argues that he did nothing wrong: “More Indian legal experts confirm that we broke no law by reading from The Satanic Verses."
Everyone’s talking about Newt Gingrich’s personal life and political record, but what about his books? In addition to a series of novels about WWII, Gingrich wrote a revisionist take on the Civil War—in which the South wins. Since the politician hasn’t been flaunting his literary chops on the campaign trail, one Twitter fan is doing it for him. Since Jan. 23, @gingrichfiction has been tweeting some of Newt’s best lines. Most of these must be fake, but with Newt, it’s hard to say.
Tonight at Manhattan’s 192 Books, n+1 is celebrating the release of their new issue, “Machine Politics,” including essays on the Occupy movement, Elizabeth Gumport’s essay about Chris Kraus, and excerpts from Benjamin Kunkel’s new play. And don’t worry, if you meet somebody at the party and forget to get their number, there are always the n+1 personals.
Laura Kipnis analyzes Michel Houellebecq’s self-parody.
In 1933, F. Scott Fitzgerald penned a letter to his eleven-year-old daughter offering her some fatherly advice about (a) what to worry about and (b) what not to worry about. In the first column: courage, cleanliness, efficiency, and horsemanship. In the second: mosquitoes, parents, boys, and popular opinion.
Justin Stanley, the founder of Uprise Books, explains how his nonprofit group gets kids to read by promoting banned books: “The same teen who would never think to read The Great Gatsby because it was named the best book of the 20th century might be turned on to the book that was challenged for its 'language and sexual references.'"
After putting out her debut, a plague novel titled Last Last Chance with FSG, Fiona Maazel has sold her second novel to Graywolf Press. Described as a “sweeping commentary on loneliness in America,” Maazel’s new book, Woke Up Lonely, features “a cult leader, his ex-wife, and the four people he accidentally takes hostage.” It’s scheduled to come out in Spring 2013. In the meantime, you can read her review of Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet in our winter issue.
To the confusion of the publishers and people who have declared print is on its last legs, recent figures reveal that e-book sales are growing “incrementally,” not “exponentially.” While industry insiders had hoped that sales would increase by 25 percent in 2011, they only jumped 17 percent. Still, it’s an improvement from the year before, which only saw 9 percent of book buyers opting to purchase e-books.
Knopf publicity director Paul Bogaards is a funny man. In addition to his lively Twitter account (sample tweet: “Authors tweet because they covet the followers of other authors”), Bogaards has created a hilarious compendium of publishing-related posts on Tumblr. In 2011, according to a Bogaardian pie chart, this was mostly “Amazon, death of publishing,” “mind-numbing meetings,” “Steig Larssen blah blah blah,” and “drinking.” To usher in the New Year, Bogaards has put out a Top 100 Hierarchy of Book Publishing, which opens with “Brand-name authors (still),” moves through “Laura Miller when she is cranky” to “Laura Miller when she is not cranky,” and ends with “you.” Enjoy.
Graphic novel publishers Drawn and Quarterly have acquired the rights to vintage Pippi Longstocking comics, and will start releasing translations of the books this fall. The stories, written by Astrid Lindgren and drawn by Ingrid Vang Nyman, originally ran in Sweden’s Humpty Dumpty magazine between 1957 and 1959.
Today’s eBay find: Moby Dick typed out on six rolls of toilet paper, with bids starting at $400. “Considering what it’s been through,” the seller writes, “it’s in amazing condition.”
New Rumpus contributor Marie Calloway.
Gearing up for President Obama's State of the Union address, the website RealClearBooks is posting daily "state of" reports. Kicking things off is “The state of American Books,” by Bookforum’s Chris Lehmann.
Was the threat that prevented Salman Rushdie from attending last weekend’s Jaipur Literary Festival real, or was it fabricated by Indian police? That’s the question overshadowing the scandal, which drove several authors home early out of concern for their safety after they read from Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, which remains banned in India. Rushdie says he was threatened by “paid assassins” (the Rajasthan government agrees), but a number of Indian media outlets are reporting that the Rajasthan police force invented the threat to scare Rushdie away. For his part, Rushdie has been tweeting threats made against him.
In a big victory for publishers, on Wednesday the Supreme Court overturned a 1994 ruling and extended copyright protection to a number of foreign books and artworks that had previously been in the public domain. The ruling—which was bitterly opposed by Google—affects texts by J.R.R. Tolkien and George Orwell, and some of Picasso’s paintings.
From the Rumpus’s “Sunday Fiction”: Ten reasons not to sleep with a poet. In other Rumpus news, the website’s “Letters in the Mail” series, which sends hard-copy letters to subscribers, has chosen a new contributor: Marie Calloway, who wrote a much-debated story about sleeping with a New York editor.
Last November, poet Jon Cotner “installed” fifteen lines of poetry along a trail in a Bronx old-growth forest. Audio and images of Cotner’s poetry-walkers are now online, including participants taking nature tips from Heraclitus: “You can’t step twice in the same river.”
Sara Marcus reads from Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans at the inaugural event for online magazine Triple Canopy's new Brooklyn space.
Congratulations to Triple Canopy for inaugurating their new space at 155 Freeman Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with a 48 hour plus reading of Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans.
The announcements for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award finalists were made on Saturday. Topping the list for fiction are Jeffrey Eugenides for The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Alan Hollinghurst for The Stranger’s Child (Knopf); and for nonfiction, Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Maya Jasanoff’s Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War (Knopf), and Amanda Foreman’s A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Random House). Winners will be announced on March 8 at a ceremony in New York.
The Financial Times wonders why American novelists are oh so interested in sports.
After reading from from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil, and Ruchir Joshi were asked to leave India's Jaipur Literature Festival early this week due to an allegeded “threat to their lives, and to the safety of the festival.”
Denmark's EGE Carpets is now selling a line of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired illustrated rugs.
One of Sera Hur's Murakami/Sartorialist mashups
Want to glimpse inside what is soon to become the world’s most expensive book? The Guardian runs a slideshow of images from John James Audobon’s The Birds of America, a book of ornithological illustrations that goes on auction at Sotheby’s tomorrow.
Don’t go into it for the money: According to a New York Times Economix blog breakdown, newspaper writers and editors have a one in 62 chance of breaking into the one percent.
What is the role of criticism today? Hear Elif Batuman, Rivka Galchen, Mark Athitakis, Eric Banks, and our very own Michael Miller discuss how criticism informs, inflects, and even colonizes other forms of writing tomorrow at seven at The Center for Fiction.
Earlier this week, Jennifer Weiner’s revisited the subject of gender disparity in the New York Times Book Review. Her summary, per a tweet: “NYT sexist, unfair, loves Gary Shteyngart, hates chick lit, ignores romance.” Now, Salon’s Teddy Wayne claims she’s got it backwards: “For the majority of male literary authors — excluding the upper echelon of Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Don DeLillo and their ilk, plus a few younger writers like Chad Harbach who have scored much-ballyhooed advances — it’s actually harder than it is for women to carve out a financially stable writing career”.
Murakami, meet the Sartorialist.
The Huffington Post names Dominique Strauss-Kahn's wife as the new editor of newly inaugurated Huffington Post France; meanwhile, Forbes reports that the site is preparing to launch a 24-hour online video news site.
Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of On the Road—starring Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, and Kirsten Dunst, among other newcomers—could hit French theaters by the end of May.
Virginia retailers are not happy about legislation allowing Amazon to skip paying state sales taxes—in spite of the company's "physical presence" in the state.
Mein Kampf returns to German bookstores.
Cormac McCarthy has turned in his first screenplay. According to the Guardian, "The Counselor" is "set in the modern-day south-west" and "depicts a respected lawyer who bites off more than he can chew after foolishly getting involved in the drug business."
Should there be warning labels for shoddy journalism?
Featuring Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis: The Guardian releases an e-book on jazz.
The Mitt Romney word cloud: "smooth, smart, slick; detached, disciplined, dogged; pragmatic, protean, phony; careful, cautious, calculating." Michiko Kakutani reviews The Real Romney, a bio of the likely GOP nominee by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman.
Conde Nast has signed up to take on 133,000 additional square feet of office space at the new 1 World Trade Center site.
Fodder for optimists: at least forty new independent bookstores opened in 2011.