How are Goodreads users reacting to news of the forthcoming takeover by Amazon? Not well, says Rob Spillman at Salon: “On the Goodreads Facebook page, sentiment about the acquisition is running 10-to-one against it. Many members felt proprietary about the site and posted with surprising venom that they felt betrayed and were going to delete their accounts. A typical response: ‘You screwed us over. Take your money and run. You know the site you worked so hard on’ will be corrupted by Amazon.”
At the Awl, Jim Behrle has some practical advice for aspiring writers: “The Creative Writing Industry has failed the American Writer by a) not teaching them how to write bestsellers and b) not really preparing them for the life writers really have to live, the things they actually will have to do to get their work ‘out there.’"
Faulkner’s Nobel Prize, as well as several of his lost stories, hand-corrected manuscripts and letters are headed to Sotheby’s for auction in June.
The seventh annual New York Anarchist Book Fair kicks off next weekend.
Thomas Pynchon’s novel V turns fifty this month. At Page Turner, Alexander Nazaryan considers the similarities between the 1963 novel and Pynchon’s forthcoming book, Bleeding Edge, which takes place in “the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11.”
Andrew Motion, England’s former Poet Laureate, is calling on the government to heavily tax second homes in order to preserve local communities and “make owning a second home difficult for all but the very wealthy.”
Goodreads, now brought to you by Amazon.
Citing "a crisis of conscience” after the death of internet activist Aaron Swartz, the the editor-in-chief and the entire editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration have announced their resignation from the publication. The Journal had been working with owner Taylor & Francis towards an agreement which would have removed the paywall surrounding articles, but negotiations ultimately failed, and the final contract would have required contributors to pay $2,995 for each open-access article. In a statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the outgoing EIC remarked, “the math just didn’t add up.”
Amazon has bought book-based social-networking site Goodreads for an undisclosed amount. The retail giant is expected to use Goodreads, which currently has more than 16 million members, as a platform for selling books, though details of the strategy are still up in the air.
How do you know when a book review makes a splash? One way is when the publicist contacts to reviewer to inform them that "there's a special place in hell for you." That's what happened to Kate Losse after Dissent published her smart and sharply critical review of Sheryl Sandberg's techno-utopian, dubiously feminist tract Lean In.
Lisa Darms ranks as our favorite among Flavorwire’s list of the ten “Coolest Librarians Alive.”
James Franco is really not a fan of the Atlantic's blog.
At the Believer, Alice Gregory talks with Renata Adler about cruelty and criticism, seeing her early novels back into print, and her recent work on a third, as-of-yet unpublished novel.
Non-Nobel Prize winner Junot Diaz
A slip of the tongue on the Steven Colbert show this week led the talk show host to mistakenly award Junot Diaz the Nobel Prize—which may in fact be the only prize left that Diaz hasn’t won.
It’s widely speculated that Proust was gay, and the recent publication of his first-ever poem—a piece called “Pederasty,” penned when he was only 17—only corroborates the theory.
At Hazlitt, Sarah Nicole Prickett has an inspired piece about “the gentle art of making enemies” with a focus on Renata Adler and Azealia Banks.
Is literary fiction a standalone genre? The New York Review of Books’ publishing arm thinks so—last year, editor Sue Halpern declared as much when she launched the NYRB Lit e-books series. While the verdict is still out, NYRB Lit is defining what qualifies with its releases, which so far includeKiran Nagarkar's Ravan and Eddie, “a Marathi tale of two boys growing up in Bombay;” Markus Werner's On the Edge, and Yoram Kaniuk's 1948, “a prize-winning Hebrew memoir of Israel's war of independence.”
At the Paris Review Daily, A Map of Tulsa author Benjamin Lytal considers the nuances and difficulties of writing about place: “People pretend the idea of fact-checking fiction is hilarious and a paradox and maybe even scandalously bureaucratic and wrongheaded. But when fiction gets facts wrong, people care. If a novel claims to be about a real place, people say, It should at least get the street names right. If somebody writes a story about Manhattan, and he mixes up the streets, he’s expected to fix it.”
A collection of newly discovered materials by F. Scott Fitzgerald—including an unpublished, six-stanza poem addressed to an eight-year-old—go up for auction online this week. The cache is expected to sell for between $75,000 and $100,000.
Shades of gray are single-handedly keeping Random House in the black.
Tune in to Connecticut’s WNPR station at 1pm today to hear Dushko Petrovich talk to Victor Navasky about the art of making magazines. But before you do, read Petrovich’s Bookforum review of Navasky’s anthology.
Random House posted record profits last year thanks to the staggering success of the Fifty Shades trilogy. The publisher, which will soon merge with Penguin, made nearly $420 million last year—a 75 percent increase from the year before. According to The Guardian, “Fifty Shades accounted for almost one in ten of the 750m books Random House sold globally in print or online across the year.”
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has signed a deal with the Penguin Group’s Sentinel imprint to write a book about his adventures in union busting. Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, which Walker will co-write with Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, is tentatively scheduled to come out in late 2013.
At the New York Review of Books blog, Edward Jay Epstein recalls how fudging his way through a pop quiz in Vladimir Nabokov’s European lit class at Cornell landed him a job watching movies for the master.
Willa Cather’s letters will be published next month in what the editors acknowledge is a “flagrant” violation of her last wishes.
What happens when Jacques Barzun writes to you out of the blue and invites you to write a book? “Had I been an aspiring writer,” Helen Hazen confesses in an essay for the American Scholar, “I would have slumped to the floor and wept. But I wasn’t; I was an aspiring dabbler, and the only thing that happened was that my mind stopped functioning.”
The New York Public Library's Bryant Park Reading Room.
The New York Public Library's Cullman Center has announced the writers, novelists and historians who will be in residence as fellows for 2013-2014. Congrats to novelists Tea Obreht, Rajesh Parameswaran, Paul La Farge, and Damion Searls, and to journalists Arthur Lubow, Elizabeth Rubin, Elif Batuman and David Grann, among others.
Former New Republic senior editor Tim Noah speaks out about his recent firing and his former boss, TNR publisher and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who he suspects might be a “young man with more money than sense.”
Over 100,000 Britons have signed a petition urging Amazon to “pay their fair share of tax in the UK.” The petition was started last fall by two independent booksellers who caught wind of Amazon’s habit of diverting profits to tax havens.
The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has a good-looking lineup this year, with Margaret Atwood, Demetri Martin, Jonathan Lethem, Molly Ringwald, Pico Iyer and Jamaica Kincaid showing up to talk books. A full schedule is available here.
In 1995, a groundbreaking study revealed that a child’s linguistic development is directly related to the variety of words they hear in their household, and that children in lower-income homes tend to hear fewer words than more affluent ones, which put them at a disadvantage when they start school. Now, thanks to a $5 million grant, a new Rhode Island initiative is preparing to outfit small children with voice recorders in the hopes of eliminating linguistic gaps before they become a permanent disadvantage. In what Ben Zimmer calls a “project of unprecedented scope and audacity,” parents who are identified as not teaching their kids enough words will be offered classes on “how to boost their children’s language exposure.”
From the new, animal-themed issue of Lapham’s Quarterly: Ryszard Kapuściński on killing a cobra with his bare hands.
Barnes and Noble are going to radically reduce the number of Simon and Schuster titles they stock after a conflict between the two companies. According to the New York Times, the situation arose after Simon and Schuster rejected the terms of a new contract proposed by Barnes and Noble which would have allowed the bookseller to charge the publisher more to stock their books in exchange. The Times also notes that this is the first time that Barnes and Noble “has used the sale of books as a negotiating tool.”
The cover has been revealed for Donna Tartt’s forthcoming novel (her first in more than a decade). The Goldfinch will be out in October with Little, Brown, and is about "a young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, [who] miraculously survives an explosion that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends' apartments and on the city streets.”
Junot Diaz has won the £30,000 Sunday Times EFG Private Bankshort story prize—the most remunerative story prize in the world—for his story “Miss Lora.”
Brooklyn-based publisher Melville House has announced that they’re opening a London branch, Melville House UK.
Only a day after coming across Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats at a streetside book sale (T.S. Eliot’s foray into cat poetry) we were thrilled to discover, via the Atlantic, The Seven Lady Godivas, Dr. Seuss’s little-known book of cartoon nudes.
The New York Times Magazine runs a four-page profile of brainy British author Kate Atkinson, whose eighth novel Life After Life comes out next month in the U.S.
A graph depicting the rise and fall of mood words in twentieth century fiction
After a short illness, literary legend Chinua Achebe passed away on Friday at the age of 82. Achebe was the author of more than twenty books, including the classic Things Fall Apart, which is the most read African novel in history, and most recently, his 2012 memior There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra. Achebe was driven out of his native Nigeria during the country's civil war in the sixties, and spent much of his life writing and teaching in the United States.
How much do publishing people make on average? The blog Life in Publishing has taken a poll and the somewhat depressing results are in: on a yearly basis, assistants make $31,693; editors make $44,808; publicists make $39,463; and managers make $53,634.
Scott Indrisek has launched a new literary site, with his cats. It’s called Shit My Cats Read: The Evening Interviews. The first participant is Sam Lipsyte...interviews with Chris Kraus, Rick Moody, Keren Cytter, Ragnar Kjartannson, and others will follow soon.
A new academic study of “mood” words throughout twentieth-century fiction finds that on the whole, books are becoming less emotional.
Investigative wizard and New Yorker staffer David Grann talks with the Awl about one of his more recent obsessions—his Twitter feed.
And speaking of the New Yorker, at the Review Review, writer David Cameron shares his successful attempt to get the magazine to reject a story it had already published.
David Bowie has been known to cite the work of William S. Burroughs as a literary influence, but there’s good reason to believe he found his inspiration for songwriting in the lines of T.S. Eliot.
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Benjamin Alire Saenz’s short story collection Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club has won the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
A notable detail from Boris Kachka’s account of crashing a cocktail party with Renata Adler: “I think I’ve written this other novel, it seems,” she says. “It’s in the mail.”
“In the light of history it’s clear that however great Truman Capote’s literary gifts, his promotional genius surpassed them”: Ben Yagoda fact-checks the New Yorker’s fact-checking for In Cold Blood (which was originally published in the magazine as a four-part serial) and finds that large parts of Capote’s “nonfiction novel” were more fiction than fact.
Does the word for “nerd” exist in Chinese? A debate is raging among linguists and writers over whether any of the options—fáwèi de rén (a boring and tasteless person), diànnǎomí (someone too enthusiastic about computers), and shūdāizi (a "bookworm")—come at all close.
David Remnick attends and reports on Philip Roth’s eightieth birthday celebration at the Newark Museum in New Jersey.
When Sheila Heti was sixteen, she began making zines after reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, one of the first feminist books Heti read. Soon after, Heti saw Wolf at a lecture in Toronto and stood up to tell her about how she kept getting in trouble for posting her zines on the walls of her high school. Weeks later, Heti met with Wolf’s Canadian publicist at Random House and began editing a book for them that collected writing and zines from girls all over North America. But when Heti presented the final book, the publisher rejected it. Heti says, “They thought it was too risque and probably disgusting; a lot of the essays and comics and drawings dealt with sexual violence the women had experienced, but also what all zines dealt with: feelings of rage and oppression and body image stresses in the culture and having to behave.” Now the work she collected is a part of the riot grrrl archives at the Fales Library at NYU. Fales senior archivist Lisa Darms says of the material: "I’m really excited about Sheila Heti’s donation to the Riot Grrrl Collection. The zines, writing, and artworks that were submitted, along with the accompanying letters, provide a fascinating snapshot of the issues important to teen girls in the mid-1990s, and show the girls’ passion, sophistication and humor." The project was a formative one for Heti: “I don't feel that I would have written How Should a Person Be? without having gone through that experience—reading all those girls (both riot grrrls and not) writing about feminism, body image, sex relations, expressing themselves in such colloquial but also war-like language. It was probably the hugest cultural influence on the book in terms of its feminism—that and Simone de Beauvoir.”
New Yorkers: If you’re free tonight, the New School is hosting what promises to be an excellent panel about “the cultural phenomenon of the middlebrow.” The event features critics (and Bookforum contributors) Ruth Franklin, Christopher Beha, and Christine Smallwood, as well as New York Times Book Review editor Jennifer Szalai.
Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, an international war over copyright and the right to resell books may have just been averted. In a 6-3 decision on Tuesday, the court determined that a Thai student who had been legally buying cheap copies of American textbooks in Thailand then selling them for a profit to students in the U.S. was protected under what is known as the “first sale” doctrine, which states that a person can do whatever they want with a book after purchasing it.
Philip Roth has turned eighty. Flavorpill celebrates by rounding up ten of his grumpiest quotes.
The innovative indie publisher Richard Nash has penned a smart and comprehensive essay for the Virginia Quarterly Review about the history and evolution of bookselling, and all the business models that have risen and fallen to support it.
The BBC has announced that it will sell its popular Lonely Planet travel guide series to a Nashville-based media company owned by “a reclusive U.S. billionaire.” Originally founded in Australia in the seventies, the BBC bought Lonely Planet seven years ago for more than $200 million—and agreed to sell the series this week for the bargain-basement rate of $77.8 million.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, New America Foundation head, and New Yorker staffer Steve Coll, whose latest book is Private Empire: ExxonMobil and Amercan Power, is replacing Nicholas Lehmann as the Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Obama still has four years to go on his term, but Chicago and Hawaii have already been vetted as acceptable locations for a future Obama presidential library.
Harper’s has revived its dormant Folio section with an excerpt from spy novelist John le Carré's forthcoming novel, A Delicate Truth.
n+1 editor Keith Gessen shares his generally positive thoughts on Dave Eggers and the McSweeney's empire.
The Irish media is quibbling over what constitutes a “perfect bookstore.” Is it, as the Irish Times contends, one with a “certain tattiness, a lived-in, homely quality, with nooks and crannies to get lost in,” or is it, as the Dublin Review of Books claims, a store that has “the best stock and the most knowledgeable staff”?
The Brooklyn Public Library system may start taking its cues from New York City real estate developers: According to the New York Times, developers are eyeing the properties underneath two beautiful public libraries in Brooklyn (one in Brooklyn Heights, another in Prospect Heights) and the Public Library is seriously considering selling the branches to pay for repairs throughout the system.