Boris Kachka talks to the Awl about the ouroboric (and very insidery) process of writing and selling a book about the publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Salman Rushdie argued that we currently live in an age of “offendedness”: “Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we’re asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?”
The New York Times profiles internet contrarian and Bookforum contributor Evgeny Morozov, who, after publishing several books and becoming a “public, public intellectual” by his mid-twenties, decided to go back to school to get a PhD in the history of science. To learn more about the follies of what Morozov calls technological solutionism, read his review of a recent book by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.
Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann argues that anybody hoping that Jeff Bezos’s recent purchase of the Washington Post might bode well for the paper’s now-defunct “Book World” section can stop holding their breath: “Consider the company’s rather abusive relationship with its signature product, the book. Bezos launched Amazon in 1995 because he was looking for something that could be quickly shipped via Internet orders and would not perish in transit. It is only because books come in reassuringly uniform rectangular shapes and sizes, in other words, that the Post is now in the possession of a book retailer, as opposed to a cheese kingpin or a baron of Frisbees.”
We’re not sure why Charmin decided to put a Kafka book in a toilet paper commercial featuring animated bears, but it certainly has led to a fun comments thread.
The Daily News has tracked down a pair of Eugene O’Neill’s undies. They’re shrink-wrapped and on sale at an antiquarian bookstore in Salisbury, Connecticut for $1,750.
Amazon Publishing is launching a new biography series called Icons, which will “will focus on canonical figures in the culture, both historical and contemporary,” and will be “written by a range of celebrated authors.” They just announced the first titles in the series, and out of ten books—including ones on Lucian Freud, David Lynch, and Ernest Hemingway—only one, on Hannah Arendt, will be about a woman.
In an interview this week, the editor of V.C. Andrews’s incest thriller Flowers in the Attic, about a pair of twins trapped in an attic by their mother, let slip that the novel is based on a true story.
A cookbook by Andy Warhol called Wild Raspberries (after the Ingmar Bergman film) is going on sale at Christie’s auction house this week for $30,000. The book is for “those who don’t cook” and includes recipes for meals like Gefilte of Fighting Fish, Baked Hawaii, and Seared Roebuck.
Dave Eggers has a new novel coming out in October with Knopf, and he's only announcing it this week. The book is about a woman, Mae Holland, who works for "The Circle"—the title of the book, and also “the world’s most powerful Internet company.” The organization, “run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal e-mails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.” Of course, at this faux-Google, things aren’t as pleasant as they initially seem.
In other big book-release news, the Haruki Murakami novel that’s been selling a million copies a week in Japan, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of His Pilgrimage, will come out in English next year with Knopf.
Sergio de la Pava has won PEN’s Robert W. Bingham Prize for his debut novel, A Naked Singularity. De la Pava, a Manhattan public defender, self-published the 700-page novel several years ago, and it was re-released last year with the University of Chicago press. The book will be coming out in the UK this year, and de la Pava recently sold the film rights.
Our favorite slideshow of the day is David Woolfall’s series of portraits of women who write erotic fiction ... and the very dirty captions that are excerpted from their books.
A woman walks into a bookstore and wonders aloud if the Brian Stelter book she’s picked up is any good. The guy next to her remarks, "Actually it is. I'm Brian Stelter." The New York Times media reporter explains how he shills his book.
Chooseco, the company behind more than 180 “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the '80s ooks into the twenty-first century by turning them into iPad apps.
A forthcoming video game called “The Novelist” puts players in the role of a writer forced to balance the quiet demands of a domestic and professional life. “There’s no winning or losing,” creator Kent Hudson said in an interview. “[M]y hope is that as you’re presented with the same fundamental question ... over the course of the game, that you start to learn about your own values. And by the end ... maybe your guy has written the greatest book ever but his wife left him and his kid is getting in trouble at school all the time. Well, I guess when push comes to shove, you’ve decided that career’s more important than family. Or vice versa.”
The New York Times reviews a theatrical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, which just debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival.
At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Carol Muske-Dukes recalls the time she saw John Cheever read from his acclaimed prison novel Falconer at Sing Sing prison, and what it must have been like for the author when the inmates got angry at him over a group masturbation scene: “I didn’t fully grasp, till I thought about it later, how the Q. & A. at Sing Sing... must have been like facing a roomful of his own characters, suddenly eerily alive, talking back to him, pointing their fingers.”
It’s getting harder and harder for longform journalists to support themselves writing, especially now that big media outlets are tweaking staff writer contracts to make sure that if articles get optioned for movies, magazines get a portion of the payout. This is why Joshuas Bearman and Davis have started Epic, “a kind of online literary platform that will commission and publish big, nonfiction narratives that might also make good movies.” The idea is that the money made over "the entire life" of an article—"magazine fees, sales on Audible.com and Amazon Kindle Singles, ancillary film and television rights"—will go right back in to funding longform journalism.
E.L. James topped the list of the world’s highest-earning writers this year with an income of $95 million, followed by James Patterson, Suzanne Collins, and Bill O’Reilly.
Bookstores are turning to online crowdfunding to afford paying their bills. The turn to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo marks a big change for bookstore owners, who are typically tight-lipped about their financial troubles. “You never tell people your problems,” children’s bookstore owner Peter Glassman told the New York Times. “The worst you say is, ‘Business is a little tight.’ ”
In an essay for the Times, essayist Phillip Lopate worries about worrying about his status as a “midlist” writer and poses the question: “How are we to keep a firm grip on our own sense of worth when the authorities dish out such random responses? How are we to stop obsessing about ‘them,’ the reward-givers?”
John Berger, Vivian Gornick, Wayne Koestenbaum, and others list their all-time favorite essays.
Wired has published the first 104 pages of of the Secret Service file of the late coder and activist Aaron Swartz. The documents were handed over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought forth by Wired staffer Kevin Poulsen.
A still from The Canyons, which was written by Bret Easton Ellis
John Grisham has written a forceful op-ed in the New York Times attacking the Obama administration for its handling of Guantanamo Bay and the ongoing human-rights abuses that have been taking place there. Grisham came to the issue after learning that his books had been forbidden to detainees.
Many months ago, Bret Easton Ellis agreed to review the book of anybody who donated $5,000 to his Kickstarter-funded film The Canyons (starring Lindsay Lohan and James Deen). Last week, Vice ran the first of the reviews, a mainly positive take on Pablo D’Stair’s novel Regard.
Parks and Rec star Nick Offerman has a special treat for students who haven’t finished their summer reading assignments: A video in which he provides one-sentence summaries of classic books. Animal Farm, for example, is “like the movie Babe: Pig in the City, but in the end, it turns out Communism is bad.”
Time profiles a summer camp in Key Largo, Florida, that’s inspired by the Hunger Games series: “While the books focus on the harrowing ordeal of 16-year old Katniss Everdeen who is forced to fight gladiator-style against other teenage killers in a frightening glimpse at a dystopian future, at summer camp, the games are more akin to flag football.”
A book about giving up sex for twelve years that was a bestseller in France is now coming out in the UK. Sophie Fontanel tells theTelegraph that she wrote The Art of Sleeping Alone after coming to the conclusion that “no sex... was preferable to bad sex.”
Every summer, New Yorker staffer Ken Auletta organizes a softball game for artists and writers in the Hamptons to raise money for various Long Island organizations. Auletta talks with the Times about scheduling the game, and the ways to spot a good softball player: “I will get e-mails from people that I don’t know telling me what wonderful softball players they are. Now anyone who tells you they’re a wonderful softball player usually is not.”
Lewis Lapham talks to the New York Times about smoking e-cigarettes in his office all day.
A computer program in development at Drexel University strips texts of their style. Here, for example, is the original opening paragraph of Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him;” and the Anonymouth’d version: “Happy families are all alike. And, every family that isn’t happy, is unhappy in its own way. The Oblonskys’ house was in turmoil. The wife/mother discovered her husband had been having a passionate relationship with a French girl—who used to be a governess in their family. She announced to her husband that she couldn’t continue living with him.”
Buzzfeed imagines what the Anthony Weiner scandal would look like if written by young Philip Roth, old Philip Roth, and contemporary Philip Roth.
The Daily News’s Margaret Eby takes a trip to the South to visit the Georgia home of Flannery O’Connor, and to check in on the three surviving birds from the novelist’s muster of peacocks: “From the peahen and peacock pair that [O’Connor] purchased by mail order in 1952 flourished a cackling crowd of peafowl. They snacked on the fig trees out back, pecked at the roses, and trailed their long, dazzling tails through the red Georgia dirt. In her 1961 essay ‘The King of Birds,’ O’Connor estimated that she had about forty beaks to feed, though ‘for some time now I have not felt it wise to take a census.’”
At the Financial Times, Kevin Silverman makes a case for appointing a writer as the next Federal Reserve chairman: “The Fed’s role... has become largely literary. It doesn’t change rates. It issues statements about its feelings – which are then parsed by the financial community, as if they were passages of the Bible, for signs of policy shifts to come.”
Inspired by England’s recent decision to put Jane Austen on the twenty pound note, ABEbooks imagines what American currency would look like if it featured famous authors. Our favorite is Hunter S. Thompson on the $100 bill.
George Saunders—following in the footsteps of David Foster Wallace, whose 2005 commencement speech to Kenyon College was recently turned into a book—has become the latest author to eternalize his advice to graduates. Random House has announced that it will publish an extended version of the speech he delivered last year at Ithaca's commencement, titled Congratulations, by the Way, in 2014.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million—which BusinessInsider says might be “more than four times the price” that the paper is worth. Meanwhile, is the New York Times going to be next? Rumors are flying about whether the Sulzbergers are looking to sell the storied paper, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been singled out as a potential buyer.
The Awl’s Choire Sicha helps you decide which book you should read next.
A previously unpublished story by seventeen-year-old Steig Larsson will be released next year in a new anthology of Swedish crime fiction, A Darker Shade of Sweden.
Danielle Steel does not like it when men ask her if “she’s still writing.” In a blog post on Monday, Steel wrote, "I think it is something that only men do to only women, and not just to me... What this does is that it immediately puts my writing into the category as a hobby. As in, are you still taking piano lessons, doing macrame, have a parrot? I don't have a huge ego about my work, but let's face it, for me it is a job. Yes, for heaven's sake, I am still writing." In fact, she added, “I finished a book about an hour ago.” That will be her 108th.
Who sent Philip Roth an anonymous letter accusing him of “sexually exploiting an abused, illiterate woman half your age,” and did a photo of that letter end up on the cover of The Human Stain? Gawker follows the trail of Roth biographer Blake Bailey to investigate the author’s mysterious hate mail.
Dan Kois's summer reading
At The New Republic, owner Chris Hughes explains why Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wanted to buy the Washington Post, and speculates about what the purchase might mean for the newspaper: “My bet is that the traditional outlets will assimilate some of the business style of their new owners, but the substance of their journalism will remain grounded in their best traditions.”
Slate’s Dan Kois attempts to read 23 mass-market paperbacks over a week at the beach. Starting with John Gardner’s Grendel, “the first literary novel [he] ever became obsessed with,” Kois is reading everything from genre novels to memoirs to short stories to Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels.
Orhan Pamuk talks with Pankaj Mishra about the protests in Taksim Square, ideology in Turkey, and why TV is replacing the novel.
At the New Inquiry, Tom Cutterham considers what depictions of autism in fiction can reveal about subjectivity in novels.
A new report about book-buying trends finds that women buy more books than men, and that consumers in general are buying more e-books. The Bowker report also found that online booksellers now account for 44 percent of all sales, women buy 58 percent of all books, and e-books make up 11 percent of all book sales—up from 7 percent the year before.
Crime writer Elmore Leonard has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke. The 87-year-old writer is currently convalescing at a hospital in Detroit, and according to his researcher, "he's doing better every day.” Before the stroke, Leonard had been working on his 46th novel.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
John le Carre recently wrote a piece in the Guardian, taking it to task for failing to offer more protections to leaker Edward Snowden. Now, the paper is taken to le Carre to task.
For the next ten days, the Los Angeles Times is “calling all opinionated poets” to contribute poems to their opinion section. While the paper has a policy of not running poetry, on August 25 they’ll make an exception, and will “devote a page of our print section to the best of what comes in.”
Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, will be starring as Allen Ginsberg in the forthcoming Beat film Kill Your Darlings. According to the Los Angeles Times, John Krokidas’s film is the “Muppet Babies version of the Beat Generation, with actors Jack Huston, Dane DeHaan, and Ben Foster taking on the roles of real-life Beats such as Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr, and William Burroughs.”
The Bureau of General Services–Queer Division, aka Manhattan’s last queer bookstore, is looking for a new home. Explaining the store’s curious name, co-owner and art historian Greg Newton told the Daily News, “we’d like it to be some community center... That’s part of the reason we didn’t put the word ‘bookstore’ in our name.”
The summer issue of the Paris Review includes an interview with ailing Hungarian writer Imre Kertész.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and head of Amazon, is buying the Washington Post. He’s spending $250 million of his own money on the purchase, meaning that the Post won’t become part of Amazon. “I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” Bezos told the Post. “This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation.”
And speaking of the Washington Post, book critic Ron Charles is taking a break from reviewing books to write about something sort-of related: how to find a decent mid-priced bookshelf.
J.K. Rowling has accepted damages from a British law firm after one of its lawyers broke a confidentiality agreement and told a friend that Rowling had written a book under the name Robert Galbraith. Upon learning of the pseudonym, the friend tweeted the news to a journalist, outing Rowling and causing Galbraith’s book sales to instantly skyrocket. Rowling was awarded the cost of her legal fees, and the court forced the firm to make a donation to a charity for war veterans.
In the New York Times, Tom Hanks explains why he really, really likes vintage manual typewriters.
At Salon, Michele Filgate argues that for many writers, tweeting and posting on social media is a professional necessity. She then wonders what that means for more conventional forms of literary documentation: “Are tweets and Facebook status updates and Tumblr posts and emails replacing journals and letters? And if so, are we losing something in the process?”
Our favorite Twitter hashtag is currently #OneTweetBookProposals. Samples include “it's like 50 Shades of Gray, but aimed at the 60+ furries demographic” and “disruptive technologies have totally changed publishing, so here's a book about it.”
Over the weekend, the Atlas Review held a marathon reading of Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris in Brooklyn that lasted more than eight hours and featured fifty-five readers, including Marina Abramovic, Sasha Frere-Jones, Justin Taylor, Ariana Reines, Lynne Tillman, and Nelly Reifler. We hope somebody will post a video of the event on the internet, but until then, here’s an interview with Atlas Review contributing editor Dolan Morgan.
Caleb Crain talks with the Daily Beast about his debut novel Necessary Errors, and how at age 46 he learned to be a novelist after going “the necessary socialization for the roles of ‘journalist,’ ‘scholar,’ and ‘critic.’”