Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Roughly a year after launching a redesigned website, the Los Angeles Review of Books is putting out its first print issue.
Pulitzer prize-winning New Yorker staffer Katherine Boo won the New York Public Library’s 2013 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism this week for Behind the Beautiful Forevers, her nonfiction account of life in a Mumbai slum.
Former Bookforum editor Eric Banks has been appointed the new director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. He will be replacing outgoing director Lawrence Weschler.
Massachusetts Senator and all-around badass Elizabeth Warren is going to publish a book about “how Washington is rigged against America’s middle class” and “the conflict... between giant institutions and the needs of everyday citizens” with Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books imprint. Warren's book, which does not yet have a title, is slated to come out in 2014.
Mario Vargas Llosa didn’t pull any punches during an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper last week, going after fellow writers such as Milan Kundera, Paul Auster, and Haruki Murakami, for whom he saved his harshest critique: “An interesting case. He writes easy books, but with the appearance of a complexity that reassures the readers. Let’s be clear: that this type of literature exists seems to me to be a great thing. But if everything becomes like this, there’s little to be tranquil about.”
At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Ian Crouch explores the idea that it is perfectly natural to forget many of the books one reads: “Books aren’t just about us, as readers. They belong perhaps mainly to the writer, who along with his narrator, is a thief. I wonder what writers forget about their own books?”
Though it occupies a legal gray area, the whole idea behind fan fiction is that anybody can write it and readers don’t have to pay to read it. At least, that was how things worked until Wednesday, when Amazon unveiled Kindle Worlds: a new system that allows writers to self-publish their fan fiction with the sanction of the original copyright holder. If authors sign up, they give fans permission to riff on their works, and should those book sell, “the fan fiction authors will get 35% of net revenue for full-length books; Amazon and the original copyright owner will split the other 65%.” So far, Alloy Entertainment, the company that owns the Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries franchises have joined, but authors with traditional publishing houses (including E.L. James and Stephanie Meyer) have kept their distance.
Why The Great Gatsby is really about the housing crisis.
The editorial exodus continues at Granta: it was announced this week that Philip Gwyn Jones, the executive publisher of the UK-based literary magazine, would be leaving his post, and that billionaire publisher Sigrid Rausing will be taking over “full operational and executive control of Granta Publications.” The magazine began showing signs of upheaval last month when editor John Freeman resigned, three other longtime staffers left, and Granta closed its New York office.
Penguin has agreed to pay $75 million in damages and “costs and fees to resolve all antitrust claims relating to eBook pricing.”
According to the BBC, the world’s first paperless public library will open this summer in a poor part of San Antonio, Texas. The library, BiblioTech, won’t have any books, but it will be outfitted with dozens of computers, a hundred e-readers on loan, and over ten thousand digital titles.
Lisa Pearson of Siglio Press.
Most people know they they should read between the lines on book blurbs, and a recent, particularly egregious case of blurbing involving Washington Post fiction editor Ron Charles demonstrates why. Despite reviewing Martin Amis’s new novel, Lionel Asbo, so brutally that the review was a finalist for the Hatchet Job award, Charles was surprised to find that a Washington Post blurb ended up on the novel. Problem was, it wasn’t his: “on the new paperback—on the front cover, no less—appears this ringing endorsement from The Washington Post: ‘Amis is a force unto himself... There is, quite simply, no one else like him.’ All true. But caveat emptor. That line is drawn from a review of London Fields that my colleague Jonathan Yardley wrote...23 years ago.”
The Believer has run a great short interview with Lisa Pearson, the founder and publisher of Siglio Press.
To promote their new extended flight routes, Australian airlines Quantas has come up with a novel idea: they’ve commissioned novellas and nonfiction that are supposed to take as long to read as the flight itself. Aussie ad agency Droga5 collaborated with Hachette publishers to work on the series, which “contains a range of varying genres to appeal to the airline's mostly male Platinum Flyers—non-fiction, thrillers, crime-based short stories... City of Evil and Australian Tragic are among the titles.”
James Franco’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying was not well-received at Cannes.
Claire Messud's much-talked-about response to a Publishers Weekly interviewer has inspired The New Yorker to organize a forum on “likeability” in fiction; rounding up writers such as Margaret Atwood, Donald Antrim, Jonathan Franzen, and Rivka Galchen to take on the issue. Our favorite response came from Franzen, who remarked “I hate the concept of likeability—it gave us two terms of George Bush, whom a plurality of voters wanted to have a beer with, and Facebook.”
It Books publisher Cal Morgan has been promoted to senior vice president and executive editor at Harper. Morgan will be replaced by Lynn Grady of Morrow/Voyager/Avon Books.
The New York Times Opinionator blog reads disgraced former BBC broadcaster Jimmy Savile’s biography in light of Lolita and the literary tradition of “female pedagogical pedophilia”—that is, books “fixated on the sexual awakening of schoolgirls.”
Also in Lolita-land, at the NYRB, Mark Ford considers a spate of new Nabokov books, and re-reads the master’s classic with an eye to the question: Was Humbert Humbert Jewish?
A University of Colorado librarian is being sued for millions by an academic publisher for writing a series of blog posts in which he characterized the company of engaging in suspect business practices. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Beall accused OMICS “of spamming scholars with invitations to publish, quickly accepting their papers, then charging them a nearly $3,000 publishing fee after a paper has been accepted.”
Michelle Tea talks with Buzzfeed about her new queer YA novel Mermaid in Chelsea Creek.
After selling more than a million copies of his latest novel in roughly a week in Japan, Haruki Murakami has signed a deal to have the book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, translated into English. Murakami will work with Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin, who translated 1Q84 and is currently at work on another Murakami title, Talking With Seiji Ozawa About Music. "I'm very much interested in this book, which reminds me of Norwegian Wood. But first, I will have to finish translating the book I am working on," Rubin told a Japanese newspaper. The translation is expected to hit shelves in 2014.
Vice runs “Thought and Memory,” a new short story by Ed Park about “two talking crows named for Odin’s information-gathering ravens in Norse mythology, who belong to a mysterious woman with a glass eye and an oddly chosen tattoo,” alongside illustrations by San Francisco-based artist Yina Kim.
Under newly appointed editor Pamela Paul, a series of changes are being implemented at the New York Times Book Review. Among them, the e-book bestseller list will now be online only, book prices will no longer be included for any books, the magazine will have a “bloggier” look, and Paul has introduced a new column, “Open Book,” about readings and panels.
The best thing we read all weekend was Salon staffer Andrew Leonard’s investigation into Wikipedia user Qworty, who is notorious for making thousands of “revenge edits” to the Wikipedia pages of famous writers. Following a tip, Leonard makes a convincing case that Qworty is the pseudonym of a novelist who has moved his real-life grudges against other writers to the realm of Wikipedia.
Scarlett Johansson has announced that she will make her directorial debut with an adaptation of Truman Capote’s first novel, Summer Crossing. Capote famously disowned the novel, which is about a “17-year-old Protestant debutante who embarks on an affair with a Jewish parking-lot attendant while her family vacations in Paris during the summer of 1945.” It was published for the first time in 2004, after it was discovered among Capote’s papers.
The New York Times profiles The People’s Recreation Community Bookstore, a Hong Kong store that has has become wildly popular with visitors from mainland China for stocking “shelves of scandal-packed exposés about their Communist Party masters.” Because the books are banned in China and “more than 90 percent of sales come from mainland visitors,” owner Paul Tang tells the Times that “the most frequently asked question is not about the content of books,” but “how they can get the books back to China.”
Since the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, "lean in" has gone from a title to a full-on cultural meme.
In a Tweet last week, the Swedish Academy announced that they have selected the five writers up for the Nobel Prize in Literature. The shortlist is expected to be released sometime soon.
Belle and Sebastian's Stuart David.
Belle and Sebastian founding member Stuart David is writing a memoir. In the All-Night Cafe is slated to be released next year by a UK imprint of Little, Brown, and it will cover the early years of the band: from when Davis met co-founder Stuart Murdoch in Glasgow through the release of their debut album Tigermilk (which includes the many literary lyrics, such as "The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard / He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called The State That I'm In). Davis has written two novels, and once told an interviewer, "I don't feel that working in a band is time-consuming enough. There's always a huge amount of time spent doing nothing in a band—hence all the drugs/alcohol to try and fill up the empty time. I don't really like alcohol or drugs, so I filled up the rest of the time writing books.”
The Observer takes the pulse of the genre known as “street lit.”
The Nation has launched a digital books imprint called eBookNation, which will make Nation pieces available to subscribers with smartphones and tablets. The series will kick off Gore Vidal’s State of the Union, Nation Essays 1958-2005, and will be followed by Victor Navasky’s The Art of Controversy, Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars, and Katha Pollitt’s The Mind-Body Problem.
On Sunday, poets will celebrate the Brooklyn Bridge’s 130th anniversary by reading Hart Crane’s epic The Bridge in its entirety. The event, which begins at 3pm and will take place at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, will feature Mary Jo Bang, Timothy Donnelly, Jorie Graham, Dorothea Lasky, Eileen Myles, Robert Polito, Susan Wheeler, John Yau, and others.
In his forthcoming book You Are Not a Gadget (which Choire Sicha reviews in our summer issue), Jaron Lanier makes a few predictions about the future of book publishing, which Moby Lives has helpfully excerpted: “There will be much more information available in some semblance of book form than ever before, but the quality will go down; book won’t be the same for each person because the information will be updated and the stakes of producing a finished manuscript won’t be as high; Writing a book won’t mean as much, which could be considered democratic or antielitist, but it’s a result of lowering standards; People will pay less to read, but authors will earn less.”
The New Yorker debuts Strongbox, a secure document-submission system designed by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen that lets users anonymously submit documents to the magazine. Chris O’Shea quips that the service is “basically WikiLeaks for pretentious people.”
Pirated versions of Fifty Shades of Gray have become a runaway hit in China. According to the Telegraph, the contraband editions are replicas of Taiwanese versions of the book, and are being printed en masse in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Despite having a cult following that extends back to eighties babies, Judy Blume is only now having one of her novels adapted for the big screen. Tiger Eyes, her 1981 bestseller about a young woman mourning the death of her father, will be available this summer in select theaters, and on-demand. Blume wrote the screenplay herself, and it was directed by her son Lawrence.
British novelist Howard Jacobson has won his second Wodehouse prize for his comic novel Zoo Time.
Chick-lit is dead, and it’s been replaced by “farm-lit.” As The Atlantic reports: “Thanks to the economy, picket fences and scruffy farm hands have replaced stilettos and cute i-bankers in literature aimed at women.”
Ernest Hemingway lived on and off in Cuba for more than twenty years (between 1939 and 1960) but while he eventually returned to the U.S., the works he wrote during his Cuban period remained on the island. Until now, that is. Thanks to a private American foundation, two thousand of Hemingway’s records have been digitized and sent to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, where they will be available to the American public for the first time ever.
Bret Easton Ellis
Every page of David Wojnarowicz’s journals, covering the years 1971-1991, has been scanned and is available for online perusal at NYU’s Fales Library website. From a supremely unfun outward bound trip he took as a teenager (“I learned the first steps in rock climbing. The man who teaches it hit me on the top of the head for giving a wrong signal at the wrong time. I was really pissed off”), up through heartbreaking confessions near the end of his life (“My life is no longer filled with poetry and dreams. I can smell rust in the air. . .” ), the journals make riveting reading. For more on Wojnarowicz, read Luc Sante’s review of Cynthia Carr’s biography, Fire in the Belly.
In a long rant in Out Magazine pegged to the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins, novelist and lightning rod Bret Easton Ellis went after what he describes as "gay self-patronization in the media." He went on to critique the gay-friendly media for celebrating “the Gay Man as Magical Elf, who whenever he comes out appears before us as some kind of saintly E.T. whose sole purpose is to be put in the position of reminding us only about Tolerance." It’s worth remembering that Ellis was invited to GLAAD’s annual awards ceremony in April, and then disinvited after referring to the TV show Glee as “a puddle of HIV.”
A German labor union has called on the nine thousand Amazon employees in Germany to go on strike in order to protest the company’s refusal to implement collective bargaining agreements. And in other Amazon news, the retail giant has launched its own virtual currency to pay for apps and presumably e-books: Amazon Coins.
The trailer for James Franco’s adaptation of Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying is now up online. The film will screen in the “Un Certain Regard” category at Cannes this year.
Never mind the neuronovel, we’ve now progressed to the neurohumanities, and specifically “neuroscience centers with specialties in humanities hybrids,” which are cropping up at universities across the country.
Among the many excellent takeaways from the Women in Criticism panel that took place last week at Housing Works last week with Parul Seghal, Michelle Dean, Miriam Markowitz, Michelle Orange, Ruth Franklin, Kate Bolick, and Laura Miller is the following piece of advice: “pro tip for young men: No more pitching Martin Amis reviews. Full stop.”
Witold Gombrowicz’s final book will be published in Polish at the end of this month under the title Kronos. The book, considered to be a companion piece to Gombrowicz’s Diary (which Eric Banks reviewed for Bookforum in 2012) covers his life in Poland, Argentina, and Berlin, and is rumored to be a mishmash of everything from his “erotic ventures” to lists of his “finances, travel, meetings, invitations and exchanges of gifts and letters.” At a press conference in Warsaw last week, Gombrowicz’s widow confirmed that this will be the last Gombrowicz manuscript to see publication. "This is the integral text", Rita Gombrowicz told interviewers, "and I tell you there is absolutely nothing more to come."
This is kind of a genius idea: For his latest book, South Park and Louie writer Vernon Chatman commissioned professional cheaters (you know, the people who write term papers for cash) to take on bizarre writing assignments. He then published the collection under the title Mindsploitation: Asinine Assignments for the Online Homework Cheating Industry. Here’s a sample assignment: “My midterm thesis essay paper is an exploration of Alternate Endings To Great Works of Literature. All I need from you is to... provide a new ending to Catcher In The Rye where Holden Caulfield turns into a crawfish and goes into some kind of retail business.”
In a Texan twist on speculative fiction, a number of books have come out lately that imagine a reality in which the Lone Star state breaks away from the U.S.
The French government has proposed a law that would tax smartphones and tablets in order to fund “cultural products” such as books, art, and music. If approved, the law is expected to bring in roughly $112 million a year, and proceeds would be distributed among cultural organizations that operate within France.
Today in Brooklyn book news, the Brooklyn Public Library is starting an oral history collection about community members affected by Hurricane Sandy, and a new tumblr documents the literary (and less-than-literary) finds turning up on stoops across the borough.
Sheila Heti writes a dispatch from the Cúirt literary festival in Ireland, which describes, among other things, having lunch with a Nobel laureate while wearing a nightgown.
The National Theater in London is turning Katherine Boo’s prize-winning account of life in a Mumbai slum, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, into a stage production. For more on the book, read Jonathan Shainin’s review in Bookforum.
Joe Muto, the so-called “Fox Mole” who blogged anonymously for Gawker about his time working as a producer on the <em style="font-size: 10pt;">O’Reilly Factor,</em> pled guilty last weekend on charges of unlawful duplication of computer-related material and attempted criminal possession of computer-related material. Muto was fined $6,000, and ordered to serve ten days in jail and work 200 hours of community service.
Since its publication in Japan last month, Murakami’s latest novel, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of His Pilgrimage, has been selling more than a million copies a week.
The Oxford English Dictionary is appealing to the public to help them track down “a mysterious, possibly pornographic” 1852 book that is the source of more than fifty words in the OED. So far, they haven’t had any luck. The words “extemporize,” “fringy,” and “revirginize” are cited as originating in Meanderings of Memory.
The Great Catsby: an adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic novel, with cats.
The Telegraph skewers Dan Brown’s writing and sensitivity to critics: “Renowned author Dan Brown smiled, the ends of his mouth curving upwards in a physical expression of pleasure. He felt much better. If your books brought innocent delight to millions of readers, what did it matter whether you knew the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb?”