To make Jane Austen and Bronte more appealing to readers raised on Twilight and the Hunger Games series, publishers are repackaging the classics to give them more sex appeal. Sometimes the references aren’t so thinly veiled—HarperCollins released an edition of Wuthering Heights with the inscription, “Bella & Edward’s favorite book.” According to at least one Huntington, New York bookseller, the new editions are doing surprisingly well.
As if a fatwa weren’t enough, Iranian video game designers are continuing their campaign against Salman Rushdie in pixels. Video game designers have reportedly “completed initial phases of production” of the game “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict,” according to the Guardian. Plans for “Stressful Life” were first devised by the Islamic Student Association three years ago, and though details about the game’s plot haven’t been released, the New York Daily News speculates that “the new video game will have Iranian youth chasing down and killing the author in the West…” But we’d like to note that if a recent profile of the hard-partying Rushdie in the New York Times is any indication, the controversial author’s life doesn’t seem all that stressful.
According to Janet Groth, a New Yorker receptionist for twenty-one years, there were upsides and downsides to working at the magazine during the sixties and seventies. While women had to deal with office misogyny and daytime drinking was still common, the institution did pay for its employees’ psychoanalysis.
A rare copy of Agatha Christie’s story collection Poirot Investigates (1924) went for a record-breaking £40,630 at an auction at the Dominic Winter auction house, according to the Guardian. The collection marked the first appearance of detective Hercule Poirot in Christie’s fiction (and this particular edition marked the first time Poirot was depicted on a dust jacket) and sold for at least £35,000 more than predicted.
An ingenious new blog, the Underground New York Public Library, judges subway riders by their book covers—specifically, the ones they’re carrying on the train. The site collects photos of people reading on the subway, as well as information about the books they’re engrossed in.
What has Faulkner really left us? John Jeremiah Sullivan examines the great Southern writer’s literary legacy.
It’s commonly repeated that languages are dying: one disappears every fourteen days, and more than seven thousand are predicted to vanish by the next century. But what does this look like up close? In the summer issue of National Geographic, Russ Rymer travels to Russia and India to witness the real-time disappearances of the languages Tuvan and Aka.
In response to the rise of author productivity apps—like the ominous “write or die,” which deletes words if you stop typing for more than 45 seconds—Jenny Diski makes a case for slow writing.
Grappling with the fact that “much of the great old children’s material, like so much of the great old adult material, is either racist to the core or at least has seriously racist bits,” Stephen Marche wonders if there’s an acceptable way to read these books to your kids.
Goodreads tracks the “anatomy of a book discovery," through the Goodreads stats of Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habit. The editors follow the book from its February 28 publication date to Duhigg’s appearance on NPR to its spike in popularity after receiving editorial attention. They conclude that well-timed ads, word of mouth, and getting early reviews are crucial to a book’s success.
Here's a short scene from the forthcoming adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel, The Life of Pi.
New Hampshire has shot down a bill inspired by J. D. Salinger that would protect an individual’s privacy rights after their death. The bill, which was crafted in part by Salinger’s son Matt, would have allowed individuals to control the commercial use of their identity for seventy years after their death.
The Awl offers a brief history of the decline of book reviewing, spanning Pope to Melville to Connolly to Bloom, and ending on Elizabeth Gumport’s recent n+1 essay: “It is time to stop writing—and reading—reviews. The old faiths have passed away; the new age requires a new form.”
Jonathan Safran Foer
Bret Easton Ellis is severing his real estate ties to New York by renting out his East Village loft apartment, the New York Observer reports. Ellis’s 950 square-foot apartment is available for five grand a month, but those who can’t afford Patrick Bateman level rent are advised to at least check out the American Psycho author’s open house, which is being held later today and this coming Sunday afternoon.
Paul Auster, Francine Prose, Colson Whitehead and Kurt Andersen are several of the participants in this year's Brooklyn Book Festival. A full lineup was announced yesterday.
In a literary/artistic version of the game ‘exquisite corpse,’ Jonathan Safran Foer is teaming up with Yale dean Samuel Messer and ten female artists to curate a retrospective for a fictional character known only as “S—.” Each artist has been asked contribute a painting corresponding to a different phase of S—’s life—she was born in 1950 and the show extends up until 2010—and for each work, Safran Foer will write an accompanying wall text. None of the artists are aware of what the others are doing, though all will respond to S—’s biography.
In response to Martin Amis’s claim last week that women write sex scenes better than men, The Guardian has posted a quiz challenging readers to guess whether excerpts of erotica were written by men or women.
Dot com online booksellers may soon be a thing of the past—Amazon and eight other companies have applied for licenses to register the .book internet domain.
n+1 stirs up social media circles with a provocative essay on Twitter’s effect on language. Among other things, the piece names David Foster Wallace as the progenitor of a “blog-style” of writing that Twitter has helped counteract. (On Twitter, Adam Sternberg notes that Maud Newton made this same observation nearly a year ago). The argument goes that while blogging led to a proliferation of the personal—per DFW—due to its spatial limitations, Twitter “has brought about a surprising revival of the epigrammatic impulse in a literary culture that otherwise values the merely personal and the super-colloquial as badges of authenticity.”
Penguin Press has signed Iowan Tracey Garvis Graves to a two-book deal after her self-published debut, On the Island. A variation on Lord of the Flies for those interested in teacher-student romance, the book is about a teenage boy who gets stranded on an island with his thirty-year-old teacher. Since it was released in March, the book has sold over 340,000 copies and been optioned for a movie. Penguin will reissue Island and publish its follow-up, Covet, in December 2013.
Telephone Press founder Paul Legault
Bret Easton Ellis is taunting Twitter readers with threats of adapting “mommy porn” series Fifty Shades of Gray into a film, and is using the microblogging service to speculate about cast and crew. "I think David Cronenberg is a great idea for directing Fifty Shades of Gray and we worked together on American Psycho in its initial phase," Ellis tweeted. "I'm putting myself out there to write the movie adaptation—This is not a joke. Christian Grey and Ana: potentially great cinematic characters."
British art publisher Phaidon Press is for sale, owner Richard Schlagman has announced. Despite revenue increasing by 17 percent last year, Schlagman said he’s seeking an owner who wants to “to lead its transition from print to digital.”
Also in the UK, Sainsbury’s, Britain’s third largest supermarket chain, has bought a sixty-four percent stock in Anobil, a social networking site for readers—a move that Moby Lives speculates could mean that the company is setting itself up to compete with Amazon. Though Anobii is relatively unknown at the moment, it’s “similar to Goodreads,” and has 600,000 international users and 60,000 e-books.
Telephone Press founder Paul Legault has “translated” 1,789 poems by Emily Dickinson into what he calls “basic English,” and some of the results are available online.
On the occasion of last weekend’s LOOK3 photo festival in Charlottesville, Virginia, Geoff Dyer engaged in an “illustrated conversation” with photographer Alex Webb.
What do digital publishing outfits Byliner and The Atavist suggest about the the state of longform journalism? Smithsonian magazine investigates.
Penguin Press has announced that Thomas Pynchon’s full back catalog will soon be available in ebook form.
The New Yorker’s Ben Greenman has announced the winners of his literary/corporate mashup contest. After considering “Remembrance of Things Pabst,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips Ahoy,” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Plenty,” Greenman and his crew of judges settled on “Bayerwulf.” The challenge was inspired by the discovery that a version of War and Peace in the Barnes and Noble’s e-bookstore had replaced every instance of the word “kindle” with “nook.”
It is Krugman v. Tanenhaus over at the New York Times, where Krugman’s new book, End this Depression Now! received a not-entirely-positive review in a forthcoming Sunday Times review that Krugman previewed and is already complaining about. Krugman says, ”The New York Times Book Review is run by Sam Tanenhaus, who is very much a neocon, and makes a point whenever a progressive comes out with a book to find someone who will attack it,” before dialing it down, “It’s not really an attack, but the reviewer is shocked at the lack of respect I show for ‘highly respected people.’” (The book was also called “distressingly thin” by Felix Salmon in the Times daily book coverage.)
Poet Jennifer Benka is leaving her post as the director of development and marketing for 826 National—the education program launched by Dave Eggers—to become the executive director of the Academy of American Poets.
Toronto author Sheila Heti’s new novel, How Should a Person Be?, is coming out next week, and people have questions (Heti is The Believer's interviews editor, so perhaps turnabout is fair play). They want to know if the book’s protagonist, Sheila, is “interchangeable” with the real Sheila. They want to know about her creative process. They want to know if she must torture herself to write. They want to know if the book falls into more of a philosophical than a literary tradition. And they want to know—you’ve guessed it—how should a person be? To this last query, Heti offers only these words: “Oh my God.” Heti will read from the book next Tuesday, June 19 at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena, and the novel is reviewed in the summer issue of Bookforum by Johanna Fateman.
Tonight at the Strand, the Paris Review begins its series of literary salons at the bookstore with a reading by Wallace Shawn and Martha Plimpton.
Critics Scott Esposito and Lauren Elkin have a new book on the movement of novelists, poets, and mathematicians known as Oulipo. The volume is called The End of OULIPO: An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement, and is due out this fall. Elkin recently described the book to us: “In his half, Scott looks at some contemporary inheritors to Georges Perec: Edouard Levé, Tom McCarthy, David Shields, Christian Bok. And in my half I look at the unserious, bourgeois, macho strand of the Oulipo that finds its fullest expression in the work of Hervé Le Tellier, who I suggest does not live up to the standard of philosophical seriousness that you find even in Perec's most ludic moments.”
The people will have have their say about e-book pricing (until June 25th).
The French Publishers’ Association and the Société des Gens de Lettres, a French society of authors, have dropped a lawsuit protesting Google’s book-scanning efforts in that country. The New York Times reports that Google has struck an agreement with French publishers that would allow them to revive thousands of out-of-print books, and let publishers sell digital editions of those works. The search giant claims that this now makes France the only county with an “industrywide book-scanning agreement in place to cover works that are out of print but still under copyright.”
According to Ray Bradbury’s biographer, a museum for the famed sci-fi writer could be in the works in his early hometown of Waukegan, Illinois. The town already has a park, two festivals, and a library conference room named after the writer, but a nonprofit development group is now planning to convert a shuttered library into a more official pilgrimage site for Bradbury fans.
Clancy Martin continues his engaging series about his father—a schizophrenic and a onetime bodybuilder—at the Harper’s website.
A new issue of n+1—themed “the awkward age”—is out, featuring essays and reviews on the New York Public Library, ladyblogs, the “theory generation,” and a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart.
Sarah Leonard of the New Inquiry and Dissent talks with Mike Konczal (known on Twitter as @rortybomb) about the roles of left publications.
This week in tragically ironic situations, a man writing a memoir tentatively titled Kindness in America was shot in the face in a “seemingly random drive-by shooting.”
Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina; Focus Features
Literary supergroup the Rock Bottom Remainders celebrates their twenty-year anniversary later this month with a concert in Los Angeles. The band currently features authors Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, and James McBride, and at various times has included Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, and many other publishing notables. Is it too much to ask to hope for a battle of the bands between them and lit-crit supergroup the Dog House Band?
It's not light summer reading, but The Los Angeles Review of Books is leading an online book club dedicated to William Gaddis's masterwork J R. Participants in #Occupygaddis—the 2012 equivalent of the Infinite Summer club—will read ten pages a day during the summer, and should be halfway done by the end of July, and finished completely by the end of August. And why J R? According to club coordinator Lee Konstantinou, "this summer seems particularly opportune to read J R, given that this is the first summer since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and given that we're about to enter a crazy presidential election season in which the terrible economy, the crushing burden of individual debt, and Wall Street's role in our political life are going to be central questions." For a better idea of what he means, read Len Gutkin's Bookforum review of the novel.
What books should men read in public to attract literary ladies? The female staff of the Paris Review has some thoughts. If you want to come off as a poseur, "Madness and Civilization; The Power Broker; Zizek (any), and The Brothers Karamazov" are good choices, but men acting in earnest should opt for Patti Smith's Just Kids, or anything by Haruki Murakami or Lydia Davis. One staffer remarked, "extra points for Martin Amis's memoir, minus points for other Martin Amis nonfiction... And a straight man reading Mary Gaitskill would be nearly irresistible to me."
Last week, Tina Fey nabbed the Audio Publishers Association's top prize for the audiobook version of her memoir, Bossypants. Fey beat out Neil Gaiman for his book American Gods, and Walter Isaacson for his biography, Steve Jobs. Other Audies went to William Shatner for his reading of Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large, and Jane Fonda for her audiobook version of her "personal development" book, Prime Time.
New evidence suggests a painting of a teenage woman believed to be Jane Austen may in fact be a portrait of the writer as a young girl. A recent investigation into the painting revealed the author's name and the signature of artist Ozias Humphry on the canvas, corroborating claims that the painting is the first known image of Austen.
We're into The Rumpus's redesigned new website.
Jude Law and Keira Knightley are starring in the latest adaptation of Anna Karenina, which is set to hit theaters in early November.
Condemning books has always been a good way to launch them to bestsellerdom, but the Catholic Church seems to have missed that memo. This week, Sister Margaret Farley’s Just Love jumped from 142,982 to 16 on Amazon’s sales list after the Church denounced the book, a treatise on Christian sexual ethics.
Philip Roth paid homage to the recently deceased Carlos Fuentes on Wednesday when he accepted Spain’s Asturias Award for Literature.
In honor of this week’s reopening of the Algonquin Hotel, the Observer names a number of social luminaries who deserve seats at the literary hangout.
The Atlantic Wire's Jen Doll surveys the state of publishing through this year's Book Expo America. She talks with New York City booksellers about the year's buzzy YA novels and takes the overall industry's pulse. "On our visit, things looked pretty good," she writes. "The booths were indeed packed and there were plenty of people—maybe even more people than books. Still, the sense that better times were in the past is inescapable."
Here's some bizarre BEA news: The prime suspect in the 2004 murder of a Jullliard student was also at the convention this week, shopping around a self-published book he had written about the case.
On Thursday, Natasha Trethewey was named the country’s nineteenth Poet Laureate. The author of three poetry collections and one nonfiction book about post-Katrina New Orleans, Trethewey is the first Southern to hold the post since Robert Penn Warren, and the first black person to receive the award since 1993. Her fourth collection, Thrall, is due out this fall.
A group of “female nonfiction storytellers” took a crack at boosting the number of female bylines last week by holding a story-pitching clinic for lady journalists. The event, titled “Throw Like a Girl,” attracted hundreds of people to a bar in Brooklyn, where the panel—featuring an editor for the New York Times, the founder of the Atavist, a writer for New York Magazine, and the founder of the Op-Ed Project— addressed topics ranging from building up the nerve to pitch, developing a tolerance to rejection, and counteracting the male clubbiness of the magazine world.
The recently laid-off editors of GOOD are in surprisingly high spirits in the wake of last week’s news: “Mostly, we’re disappointed that this editorial team won’t get to continue working together,” they wrote in a group dispatch on Tumblr. “We think we were pretty good at it. And we know we didn’t get a chance to realize the full potential of our collaboration... So we’d like to make at least one more magazine together.”
Science fiction author Ray Bradbury died in Los Angeles on Tuesday at the age of 91. The author of novels Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, and short story collections The Martian Chronicles and The Golden Apples of the Sun, among others, Bradbury was credited with bringing sci-fi to mainstream readers, and most recently contributed an autobiographical essay to the latest issue of the New Yorker. Danny Karapetian, Bradbury’s grandson, first broke the news of his death in a statement to to the website i09. Karapetian then shared one of his favorite of his grandfather’s lines, taken from the book The Illustrated Man: "My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M. So as not to be dead." For the uninitiated, The Los Angeles Times has a helpful roundup of which Bradbury books one should read first.
Driving around New Orleans in a Mustang, reading Westerns and listening to Louisiana jazz are three highlights of George Pelecanos’s week in culture.
In a graduation speech to Princeton’s class of 2012, alum Michael Lewis discussed how he went from being an undergrad who had never published anything ever, to being a sought-after economics writer who gets paid ten dollars a word. According to Lewis, it wasn’t a clear trajectory. After submitting his thesis in art history, Lewis asked his advisor what he thought of the writing, and got this response: "Put it this way" the professor told him, "Never try to make a living at it."
The summer issue of the Paris Review is out, and while the magazine doesn’t do themed issues, the editors note that between interviews with Wallace Shawn and Tony Kushner and pieces on pirates and cannibalism, there is a decidedly dramatic note to this season’s contents.
Via Lapham’s Quarterly, a podcast about Klingon, Esperanto, Dothraki, and other invented languages.