As Borders goes bankrupt, its top executives may get big bonuses.
The Financial Times profiles Mischief + Mayhem, a writer’s collective including novelists Dale Peck and Lisa Dierbeck (among others) who plan to bypass Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and reach readers through OR Books and some independent bookstores.
Ayelet Waldman tweeted a screed about Katie Roiphe: “Really Roiphe? You seek ‘slightly greater obsession w/ the sublime sentence.’ My husband's sentences are INFINITELY more sublime than yours.” (etc.) The New York Observer is calling it a battle “with no winners,” which is actually a fair description of any Twitter tussle.
So, you’re into Gordon Lish: You’ve read the work he edited for Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Cynthia Ozick, and others. You’ve checked out the claim that he radically altered Carver’s work, and read some of Lish’s own fiction. But you’re not a true Lish obsessive until you’ve visited Gordon Lish Edited This: Forgotten and Ignored Books Edited by Gordon Lish 1978-1994, which even includes a Lish rejection letter. [via HTMLGIANT]
The new film Limitless, in which a writer takes smart drugs and becomes extremely prolific, provides Laura Miller with an opportunity to critique Hollywood’s long-standing stereotype of the blocked writer.
Japanese publishers, after the quake.
As the New York Times’s pay-wall looms, Times fans accustomed to reading online for free are trading slightly panicked queries: If you’re a weekend subscriber, do you get online access? If you pay, can you read articles from more than one computer? And WHY OH WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS? The Times has enlisted Paul Smurl, “vice president for paid products,” to provide chipper answers to all of your digital subscription Qs. Meanwhile, Gawker offers a profile of the people planning to defy the pay wall. As the Times’s publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. described them: "It'll be mostly high school kids and people out of work."
The great Portland bookstore Powell’s is so big and bountiful that there is now a mobile phone app that provides turn-by-turn navigation within the store to a specific title on the shelf.
More than once, HBO’s The Wire—which was written by authors such as Richard Price, David Simon, and George Pelecanos—has been compared to a grand nineteenth-century novel. Now, authors Joy Delyria and Sean Michael Robinson have captured the particular similarities in their pitch-perfect satirical evocation “When It’s Not Your Turn.” In one of the essay’s many hilarious highlights, Jimmy McNulty—The Wire’s morally dubious, hard-drinking, but likable detective—is sketched as a Dickensian protagonist: “He is helpless to incite real and lasting change, his passivity forced upon him as he constantly struggles against it, rather than rising from an internal lack of agency.” The essay is accompanied by amazing faux period illustrations—complete with yellowing pages—including a Victorian re-staging of The Wire’s famous four-letter-word scene, in which Detectives McNulty and Bunk Moreland investigate a crime scene uttering nothing but expletives.
The international-literature fanatics over at 3 Percent have announced the finalists for the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards, which include Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky, Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns, among others.
The Baffler returns! The seminal magazine of culture and politics—which was founded by Thomas Frank in 1988—has often been plagued by intermittent outages (even a disastrous office fire in 2001) and has been “on hiatus” since last fall. But in a tweet yesterday morning, the publication told subscribers to “hang on!”: It will have a new print issue later this year, and new online content soon.
The man who wrote Elizabeth Taylor’s New York Times obituary actually died in 2005.
In the New Yorker, the Nobel-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe writes of the dangers of nuclear power: “This disaster unites, in a dramatic way, two phenomena: Japan’s vulnerability to earthquakes and the risk presented by nuclear energy. The first is a reality that this country has had to face since the dawn of time. The second, which may turn out to be even more catastrophic than the earthquake and the tsunami, is the work of man.” And in Newsweek, Junot Diaz professes his love for Tokyo.
The 11th issue of n+1 comes out today, complete with reports from Egypt and Wisconsin and fiction by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. Tonight at McNally Jackson, Akhtiorskaya, as well as contributors Kent Russell, Gemma Sieff, and Emily Witt read from the issue.
Waiting for Godot, the video game.
In Ishinomaki, a Japanese town wrecked by the earthquake and tsunami, reporters published their newspaper using felt-tip markers and large sheets of paper, as all other technology had failed. A recently penned headline: “We Now Know the Full Extent of the Damage.”
The New York Review of Books blog has published an essay by the late Roberto Bolaņo about the books he remembered best, such as Camus’s The Fall: “I read it, devoured it, by the light of those exceptional Mexico City mornings . . . on a bench in the Alameda, with no money and the whole day ahead of me, in fact my whole life ahead of me.”
Rebecca West’s impassioned call to critics, “Our first duty is to establish a new and abusive school of criticism. There is now no criticism . . . there is merely a chorus of weak cheers,” is as true now as when she wrote it in 1914. Then again, even the most mild-mannered negative review can sometimes lead to charges of criminal libel.
Madison Smartt Bell
In the latest entry in Bomb magazine’s engrossing “Fiction for Driving Across America” series, Madison Smartt Bell reads from his bewitching novel The Color of Night.
Where have we heard that argument for e-books before? Tick a square on the Electronic Publishing Bingo Card every time someone spouts a (usually false) truism such as “printing is the most costly part of publishing.” Did we hear someone yell “Bingo!”?
Literary-minded New Yorkers will wish they could be in three places at once tonight, as there is a trio of stellar events in the city. First up, McNally Jackson Books hosts an NBCC Reads event, “Back in Print,” featuring editors and critcs Michael Miller, Honor Moore, Gary Giddins, and Eric Banks discussing out-of-print books, and nominating some favorites they’d like to see republished. The KGB bar presents “Film Night” with critics J. Hoberman and A. S. Hamrah reading from their recent works of cinema critique, while the New School offers “Work Study: Sex Work and the New School Student”, with guests including authors Audacia Ray, Melissa Febos, and Jennifer Baumgardner.
At the Nervous Breakdown blog, novelist Jennifer Gilmore interviews herself: "Q: Who would you be if you could—finally—escape and become someone else? A: Justin Bond and Zadie Smith, combined, no question.”
James Carroll, photo by Patricia Pingree
Colson Whitehead’s forthcoming postapocalyptic book, Zone One, is a zombie novel.
From CBS News, a video profile of Benedikt Taschen, the print book publisher flourishing by creating luxe volumes in lean times.
At PWxyz, Laura Miller has some intriguing insights into the current state of book reviewing, especially the oft-debated question of the purpose of panning a book: “It’s bad when an author gets a bad review he or she doesn’t deserve, but it’s bad for the overall ecology of book reviews, if a reviewer gives a book an unduly positive review. It establishes a climate of bad faith. . . . That’s one reason that professional reviews are becoming extinct: people don’t trust them.”
Former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson has signed a deal with Penguin Group to write a series of international spy novels.
Is the era of free content coming to an end? After yesterday’s announcement that the New York Times pay-wall was finally happening, came a press release from the Newspaper Guild urging unpaid bloggers at the Huffington Post to withhold their writing in solidarity with a strike by the Visual Arts Source, a writer’s organization who are refusing to provide free work.
Mary Ellen Bute’s mid-sixties film adaptation, Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake (with subtitles, natch), is available on Ubu Web and is an exceedingly odd retro romp, and a pleasure to watch, though we don’t recommend it if you’re nursing a post-St. Patrick’s Day hangover. [via Harriet]
On Monday, March 28 at Housing Works, author Brandon Stosuy, who edited the anthology of downtown-New York writing Up Is Up but So Is Down, will talk with porn icon and Entourage guest star Sasha Grey about her new book of photos and essays, Neu Sex. You can rsvp now.
There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and a new GPS–based audio sharing service, Broadcastr, aims to let you listen to them all—or add one—customized to your location in the city’s grid.
“Was Samsa a bug? Was Kafka Samsa? Does that mean that Kafka was a bug? Can Kafka be Samsa-as-bug without becoming, himself, a bug? Would Kafka have to first become a bug before becoming Samsa? Or could Kafka become a bug first who, then, in an effort to understand his humanity, ‘becomes’ Samsa?” Joshua Cohen, who contributes a story to the new issue of The Paris Review, interviews his interviewer, Moe Tkacik.
PW’s Parul Sehgal had moving things to say about the art of book reviewing in her acceptance speech for the National Book Critic Circle’s Balakian Award.
The great experiment in charging for once free web content begins: The New York Times's long-rumored pay-wall plan was announced today. Beginning on March 28, readers will be able to access twenty articles a month before the Times starts charging, with various e-subscription plans available (an all-access plan will cost $35). Subscribers to the print edition will have free access to all online articles.
Mina Pam Dick
Jonathan Franzen didn’t win the NBCC award in fiction, but his picture still illustrated the LA Times story reporting that Jennifer Egan had won the prize (they later changed it). Was this slip-up sinister or sincere? Most importantly, is it fodder for more Franzenfreude? The Times explains.
The Paris Review has an excerpt from Edouard Leve’s forthcoming Autoportrait, a book Leve wrote while traveling in the US in 2002 taking photographs and musing on, well, absolutely everything. “There are times in my life when I overuse the phrase ‘it all sounds pretty complicated,’” he writes. And: “I am bad at throwing. I have read less of the Bible than of Marcel Proust.” There is a melancholy to these observations, but also a connection to life. Which makes Leve’s final novel, Suicide, all the more disturbing. Just after Leve handed that manuscript into his publisher, he took his own life.
This week Melville House is donating all of its online profits to disaster relief in Japan.
Tonight at Poet’s House, an intriguing trio of authors—Mina Pam Dick, Christian Hawkey, and Wayne Koestenbaum—read and discuss the work of early twentieth century Expressionist poet George Trakl. Trakl, who fought in the first world war, robustly ingested drugs, and died young, was the subject of Hawkey’s recent book, Ventrakl, in which Hawkey imagines himself collaborating with his subject and translating reconfiguring his text: He shoots volumes of Trakl’s work with a shotgun, soaks its pages in water, and generally subjects it to torment that no Kindle could bear, creating an intriguing hybrid portrait of the two poets in the process.
The Millions leaks the first sentence of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, breaking Little, Brown’s request for pre-publication silence.