Christian Marclay's "The Clock"
The Guardian has attempted to create a literary version of Christian Marclay’s incredible artwork "The Clock." Marclay’s artwork consists of film clips featuring shots of clocks that are spliced into a 24-hour chronological loop and synched to real time, and the Guardian’s literary clock will do the same thing with text. For example, they’re looking for sentences like this one from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: “'It was 12:56 A.M. when Gerald drove up onto the grass and pulled the limousine right next to the cemetery.” They’re still accepting submissions of quotes, but hurry—the project is scheduled to debut at the Edinburgh international books fair on August 8.
Harvard University Press has bumped up the release of Ben Urwand's The Collaboration—a book about Hollywood’s collaboration with the Nazis—after a New York Times piece described the book as "creating a stir" among historians.
Over the past few months, New York Magazine book critic Kathryn Schulz has shared her distaste for The Great Gatsby, Christian Lorentzen has gone after Alice Munro in the London Review of Books, and Joseph Epstein has wondered in the Atlantic whether Kafka was overrated. At Salon, Laura Miller goes through the history of great literary takedowns.
The Paris Review’s Ted Scheinman reports from the University of North Carolina’s first annual Jane Austen summer camp—a week-long academic program pegged to the bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice.
This is what Star Wars might have been like if it had been written by Shakespeare.
In the smartest response we’ve read to Mark Edmundson’s screed against the state of contemporary poetry in Harper’s, Stephen Burt puts Edmundson’s critique into historical context—“complaints against contemporary poetry arise, like vampire slayers, in every generation”—and addresses his concerns point by point. While conceding that “some American poets today are indeed, as Edmundson complains, difficult, idiosyncratic, private, learned, or just weird,” Burt also makes a convincing case that there are many poets today working towards Edmundson’s ideal: “a clearer and a more public contemporary poetry.”
At the New Statesman, Laurie Penny examines her history as a “manic pixie dream girl” (critic Nathan Rabin’s term for the girl who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures”) and considers the ways in which sexism in storytelling often translates into real life dynamics.
Flavorwire debuts a Google Map of all the places Tao Lin’s protagonist visits in his new novel, Taipei.
A new study of international reading habits finds that Indians on average read more than anybody else, reading an average of ten hours a week. After India, the best-read nations are Thailand (9 hours, 24 minutes), China (8 hours), the Philippines (7 hours, 36 minutes), Egypt (7.5 hours) and the Czech Republic (7 hours, 24 minutes). Americans and Germans both clocked in at 5 hours, 42 minutes, while out of the 30 countries polled, Koreans read the least: just three hours and seventeen minutes a week.
Within the past year, Alice Munro and Philip Roth have announced their retirement from writing, leading a lot of people to wonder why anybody would need to officially retire from a profession that doesn’t have set hours. At Newsweek, Jimmy So explains why being a professional writer is the same as having a day job: “John Updike used to rent a one-room office above a restaurant, where he would report to write six days a week. John Cheever famously put on his only suit and rode the elevator with the 9-to-5 crowd, only he would proceed down to the basement to write in a storage room. Robert Caro still puts on a jacket and tie every day and repairs to his 22nd-floor Manhattan office.”
Twenty-five years after the launch of his award-winning graphic novel series “Sandman,” Neil Gaiman is working on a six-issue prequel. The forthcoming series, “Sandman: Overture” will focus on the character of Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, and the first issue will be released this October. According to The Guardian, “the storyline describes what happened to Dream before the events of the first ever comic, in which he was imprisoned by an Aleister Crowley-ish Satanist.” The original series, which had a 75-issue run, was one of the first graphic novels on the New York Times bestseller list, and won Gaiman six Harvey and nineteen Eisner awards.
As part of a project for the Stockholm museum Magasin 3, for the next twenty weeks, anybody can sign up to receive free weekly emails from Miranda July on topics ranging from love to personal finance. Though the emails are sent by July, each contains forwarded messages written by participants (including Catherine Opie, Lena Dunham, and Kareem Abdul-Jabar) to friends and acquaintances, giving the project an intimate and strangely voyeuristic feel. The first installment was sent out on July 1, and it included correspondence between Sheila Heti and Helen Dewitt, and between Etgar Keret and a man known only as “Pierre.” Explaining the project, July remarked, “I’m always trying to get my friends to forward me emails they’ve sent to other people....How they comport themselves in email is so intimate, almost obscene ....WE THINK ALONE has given me the excuse to read my friends’ emails and the emails of some people I wish I was friends with and for better or worse it’s changed the way I see all of them.”
Last year, a young writer got international attention after sharing an anecdote about how Philip Roth advised him to give up writing in the Paris Review; this week, memoirist Periel Aschenbrand has also tried to cash in on Roth by publishing an account in Salon of how she almost—but didn’t—sleep with the New Jersey novelist. We’re with Flavorwire’s Jason Diamond in his response to the Rothomania: a blog post titled “Nobody Cares About Your Philip Roth Memories.”
Most people have been busy focusing on the Department of Justice's e-book price-fixing suit against Apple (which Laura Miller has very lucidly analyzed over at Salon), but this week many were reminded of a lawsuit against Google Books, in which the Author's Guild has attempted to stop Google's massive library-scanning project. On Monday, Google won a significant victory, when federal appeals court rejected the decision to give the Authors Guild's suit class-action status.
The Rock Bottom Remainders—a '60s cover band made up of Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, and other name-brand writers—broke up in 2012, but they’re immortalizing their work together with an interactive e-book.
Not long after laying off it’s entire photo department, the Chicago Sun-Times has axed its books section. Books editor Teresa Budasi says that the paper will continue to cover books, but will focus more on local authors.
And in other depressing book news, one of Los Angeles’s oldest bookstores, the Williams’ Book Store, is closing after 104 years in business, because the owners can no longer afford to keep it open.
A protestor walking towards Tahrir Square in Cairo
Random-Penguin, Penguin-House—whatever you want to call it, the merger of two of the world’s biggest publishers is officially complete. The company, headquartered in New York, now employs over 10,000 people and will publish roughly 15,000 books a year across 250 different imprints.
Is it still worth a writer’s time to publish in print journals when it’s so easy to post your work online? At HTMLGiant, novelst Shane Jones (Light Boxes) poses the question to “a literary agent at a reputable firm” (who preferred to remain anonymous) and concludes that, contrary to his initial suspicion, “publications do matter, according to this agent, who I respect and has published authors I respect.”
Actors and authors may be struggling to make a living wage, but a recent New York Times article notes that professional audiobook readers seem to be doing fairly well. The Times profiles a classically trained actor who has managed to make ends meet by reading two audiobooks a month: gigs that net her anywhere from $1,000 and $3,000 a book, and allow her to pursuing acting jobs on the side. The field also seems to be growing fairly quickly, and in unusual ways: recent surveys show that audiobook sales been “rising by double digits annually in recent years,” and two years ago, the University of Pennsylvania offered the first audiobook-only course on British fiction and “the rise of the audiobook format.”
As protests once again sweep Egypt, we recommend following @monaelthahawy, @Haithamtabei, and @patrickkingsley on Twitter. And for something more literary, revisit Tom Meaney’s Bookforum essay on literature in exile, the Arab Spring, and Egyptian novelist Albert Cossery.
He’s already got the rights from David Foster Wallace’s estate, and now all director Francesco Marchione needs is $27,000 to adapt one of the late author’s stories into a 25-minute film. (He’s already raised $3,000 of a $30,000 goal on Kickstarter.) If you want some insight into Marchione’s take on “Oblivion,” he describes the story as “a marital conflict over snoring [that] results in sleep deprivation, hallucination, and ultimately revelation.”
In the wake of the mass layoffs at Granta—including the departure of longtime editor-in-chief John Freeman—publisher Ingrid Rausing takes to The Bookseller to explain the recent shake-ups, Granta’s future, and her desire for a “leaner structure” for the magazine.
Moby Lives suggests that Barnes and Noble is selling fewer books because they’re stocking fewer books in their stores.
Since his death, the big question surrounding J.D. Salinger has been whether he kept writing after he stopped publishing, and, if he did, what that writing was like. When some of Salinger’s letters were exhibited at the Morgan Library recently, Slate’s Ron Rosenbaum noticed something he believes might be a clue about the author’s output during his so-called Silent Years: correspondence between Salinger and his guru, the late Swami Nikhilananda.
Social critic and The Pursuit of Loneliness author Philip Slater died two weeks ago at his home in Santa Cruz, California. Slater published the book, a cult work of criticism about the dangers underlying American individualism, in 1970, and subsequently resigned from academia in accordance with the book’s message. In addition to writing several more books of sociological criticism, Slater “took up acting, wrote novels, and began culling his personal possessions down to the two boxes he left when he died.”
James F. English, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and Alexander R. Galloway convene a symposium to discuss Franco Moretti’s new book, Distant Reading, and to question whether big data has a place in critical approaches to literature. For more on the Stanford English professor’s thoughts about the digital humanities, a Financial Times review provides a little background.
Since a group of interns won a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight several weeks ago, the legality of internships, particularly unpaid internships, has become a big question. In the work of magazines and media, a number of former interns have filed suit against places like Gawker, Conde Nast, Hearst, and the Charlie Rose Show. And for those interested in the issue, ProPublica is tracking the status of all these suits.
Buzzfeed profiles Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who, in addition to breaking the Edward Snowden story, was a former “underage South Florida politician, a lawyer at a high-powered corporate firm, Kips Bay’s most combative tenant, and even the legal arm of his business partner’s gay porn distribution company.”
Taksim Square Book Club, George Henton/Al Jazeera
Inspired by the so-called “standing man” of Istanbul’s Taksim Square protests, a number of Turkish activists have formed the Taksim Square Book Club, a movement in which members stand motionless in the square reading books. According to an Al Jazeera slideshow, Orwell, Kafka, and Camus seem to be the movement’s favored authors.
In other Taksim Square news, Can Oz—the head of Turkey’s biggest publishing house, Can Yayinlari—has come out against the government and is now receiving death threats. Though Oz has “long criticized the policies of the Erdogan government... he had never voiced his concerns publicly out of concern for his family and his company,” Maximillian Popp writes in a profile of the publisher for Der Spiegel. Oz recently broke that silence, and in an op-ed in the Guardian, he writes, “in the past few days I have received hate mail and death threats, just because I was publicly part of this passive resistance movement.”
In Slate, Katy Waldman attacks a recent Harper’s essay claiming that American poets are characterized by their “inwardness and evasion” and their failure to take up a “full-scale map of experience.”
If you’ve ever wondered how A Midsummer’s Night Dream would read as a romance novel, you might soon get your answer: Random House’s Hogarth Fiction imprint is commissioning well-known authors to rewrite Shakespeare plays as novels. So far, they’ve commissioned Anne Tyler to rewrite The Taming of the Shrew and Jeanette Winterson to tackle The Winter’s Tale.
The trailer for Cormac McCarthy’s first screenwriting attempt, a Ridley Scott film called The Counselor, has been released. The movie is about “a lawyer who finds himself on the wrong side of the mob after he gets involved with drug trafficking.”
Historians have always known about Hollywood’s collaboration with the Nazis, but a forthcoming book makes the strongest case so far that “that Hollywood studios, in an effort to protect the German market for their movies, not only acquiesced to Nazi censorship but also actively and enthusiastically cooperated with that regime’s global propaganda effort.” The New York Times gets an early look at The Collaboration (which is coming out this fall with Harvard University Press) and profiles its author, scholar Ben Urwand. Though Urwand unearthed a number of disturbing historical details, he told the Times that the only one that made him yell in the archives was “a scrapbook in which Jack Warner (of Warner Brothers) documented a Rhine cruise that he and other studio executives took with an Allied escort on Hitler’s former yacht in July 1945 as part of a trip exploring postwar business opportunities.”
When Shirley Jackson published her short story “The Lottery” in the New Yorker in 1948, the magazine received more mail than it ever had before about a work of fiction. The story, about an unnamed American town that would select one of its residents to be stoned to death each year, also resulted in hundreds of angry letters to Jackson herself, most of which fell into one of three categories: “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse.” Was the story meant to be pure fiction, or scathing political critique? To get to the bottom of Jackson’s intentions, her biographer (and Bookforum contributor) Ruth Franklin visits the archives and speaks with the writer’s contemporaries.
Flavorwire digs up wedding photos of sixteen famous authors, including Roald Dahl, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Mitchell, William Styron, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary McCarthy.
If SparkNotes isn’t your thing (and you don’t actually need to know the details of a book) try ThugNotes, “a popular new YouTube series in which a fellow named Sparky Sweet tells you everything you need to know about classic literature.”
According to a very grim earnings report, Barnes and Noble had a rough 2012, thanks largely to nosediving sales on the Nook e-reader. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company’s digital business sales dropped 34 percent in the last quarter of 2012 compared with the year before, and its overall annual digital sales fell by 16.8 percent.
Book sales may be falling, but e-book sales are on the rise, as demonstrated by the uptick in tablet sales (well, except Nooks) and the launch of a number of digital-only imprints. The interesting thing about many of these imprints, Graeme McMillan observes in Wired magazine, is that many of them specialize in genre fiction. In fact, big publishers are banking on sci-fi, romance, and mystery books to be their big sellers, and “in the case of some genre titles, as much as 60 to 70 percent of the sales are digital.” McMillan explores some of the the reasons behind “genre dominance” in digital publishing.
According to the outgoing head of the Bank of England, Jane Austen is "quietly waiting in the wings" to replace Charles Darwin on the British £10 note.
Big news from the Supreme Court today: In back-to-back rulings on same-sex marriage, judges refused to rule on Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage, clearing the way for gay marriages to resume in the state; and more important, judges ruled 5-4 in favor of extending federal benefits to same-sex couples. That case, which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, concerned a married gay couple from New York, Edith Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer. After Spyer died in 2008, Windsor inherited both Spyer's property and a $360,000 tax bill that Windsor would not have had to pay had the couple been opposite-sex. Windsor sued, and this morning, the court ruled in her favor. The New Yorker's Ariel Levy was at the apartment of Windsor's lawyer Roberta Kaplan when the ruling was handed down: "Kaplan called her mother and said, 'Total victory, Mom: it couldn’t be better.' Windsor said, 'I wanna go to Stonewall right now!' Then she called a friend and said, 'Please get married right away!'”
The Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona has mounted the first-ever retrospective of Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, “Bolaño Archive. 1977–2003,” an exhibition focusing on his time in Barcelona and his final years in the Catalan city of Girona and town of Blanes. The CCCB organized the exhibition in conjunction with Bolaño’s widow, Carolina López, in part to sweep aside the myths that have arisen around Bolaño since his death in 2003 of liver failure (that he was a junkie, an alcoholic, chronically depressed—none of which are true) and to showcase the wealth of manuscripts, letters, and books he left behind. For non-Spanish speaking viewers, the exhibition also clarifies the chronology of Bolaño’s writing. For more on the exhibit, we recommend Lisa Locascio’s excellent essay on it for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Fantasy, horror, and sci-fi novelist Richard Matheson died this week at the age of 87. Cited by Steven King as one of his biggest influences, Matheson wrote The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, and dozens of other works, many of which were later adapted into film.
A fifteen-year-old has landed a book deal to write a memoir. Maya Van Wagenen’s forthcoming Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek will be an account of her efforts “to follow a 1950s self-help book called Betty Cornell’s Teen-age Popularity Guide.” The book will be published by Penguin’s Young Adult division.
A new app called Placing Literature allows users plot literary landmarks on real maps. The app only launched a week ago, but developers say it already has thousands of locations marked, including “wilderness locations near Lake Tahoe where Samuel L. Clemens first wrote about Mark Twain and the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, which was featured in Infinite Jest.”
Today’s weird literary Kickstarter project is the Poetry Drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle that will “drop poem-bombs...in an effort bring the US military's covert drone operations into the spotlight.” They’ve raised $351 of the $10,000 goal and have twenty days to go.
At the Guardian, Kaya Genc notes the parallels between Bartleby the Scrivener and the “standing man” of the Istanbul protests.
Newly released intelligence documents reveal that the FBI and State Department monitored renowned Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes for more than two decades because of his friendship with Fidel Castro, and denied him entry to the U.S. on at least two occasions.
To help support local bookstores, French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti has proposed banning Amazon from offering free shipping and large discounts in France. While Amazon makes enough to be able to afford to lose money on free shipping, competitors have complained that because of their deals, “the competition is unfair.... No other book retailer, whether a small or large book or even a chain, can allow itself to lose that much money.” French law currently prohibits booksellers from discounting books more than five percent below the publisher’s price.
In an appearance on the Charlie Rose Show last week, New York Public Library trustee and head of the investment firm Blackstone Capital Stephen Schwarzman revealed that the NYPL plan to overhaul the library system had been years in the making. Schwarzman explained that before donating $100 million to the NYPL in 2008, he was told exactly what he would get in return: When “the head of the library came over to visit me [about the $100 million]” he told Rose, the NYPL trustees “knew how they were going to spend it...to reconfigure the library system.”
The Moby Lives blog highlights a Kickstarter project for a new book review called Double Blind Book Reviews, which would take a "scientific" approach to identifying literary significance: “Basically manuscripts submitted for review have the name of the author and the title removed and replaced by a number and the genre. This insures no personal bias on the part of the reviewer. Conversely no reviewer is connected to any reviews and all reviews will published only on our website.” So far, the approach doesn’t seem to have attracted many followers—the founders have raised $105 of the requested $20,000.
In an essay addressed to libertarians, Raiders punter Chris Kluwe explains why nobody should read Ayn Rand.
Is it possible to make a living as a freelance writer? The answer is no, for most people. At the Awl, Noah Davis looks at the economics of the new gig economy, and figures out how it can work for writers—they have to work constantly and try to land web assignments—and for magazines, who have typically put more money into their print magazines than their websites. But not all magazines follow that model—Davis singles out the New Yorker, which pays $250 per web piece. “Consider the economics: If NewYorker.com publishes eight pieces a day—not unreasonable at all—they pay out $2,000 a day. That's half a million a year, just in freelance, and also not an insignificant amount of money.”