Ted Berrigan

Tonight, we'll be at Poets House, where Douglas A. Martin and Eileen Myles will read their work. Myles's new book is Inferno, an autobiographical novel about becoming a poet in New York. Like most good autobiographical novels about writers, this one is gossipy (watch for stories about Ted Berrigan) (and even Richard Hell), sometimes cutting (a passage about Kathy Acker comes to mind), but never quite spiteful.

Jonathan Lethem, best known for his novels about Brooklyn (though he's also written about Manhattan) (and about black holes), will set his next book in Queens. Will the Bronx or Staten Island ever make the cut?

Michelle Kerns urges book reviewers—particularly the ones who don't live in New York City—"to take this opportunity to rise up against the oppressive power of the Publishing Dictators of the East." She offers her own Martin Luther-esque "95 Theses; Or, Things to Nail on the Door of Random House." A lot of them complain about New York City, so we're guessing Kerns is immune to novelist and Columbia professor Janette Turner Hospital's celebration of the city's literary supremacy.

Salman Rushdie says that writers who challenge official doctrines are "in more danger perhaps than they've ever been."

Last May, Laura Miller speculated on the generalization that men don't read as much as women do (and on the fact that the book industry is a world with more women than men). Now, Publishers Weekly revisits the issue, wondering: "Does the lack of men in publishing hurt the industry?"


Yiyun Li

The 2010 MacArthur Fellows have been announced, with three authors among the twenty-three winners. Journalist and television-guru David Simon, fiction writer Yiyun Li, and historian Annette Gordon-Reed now all have license to affix the word genius to their name.

Barnes and Noble chairman Leonard Riggio and his group of board of director candidates have withstood a strong challenge from Los Angeles investor Ron Burkle, as shareholders have voted to re-elect Riggio and his supporters. As shareholder Howard Tannenbaum put it: "Riggio and his brother built up the company. What does Burkle know about book selling?" 

In The Guardian, Jonathan Franzen talks about Oprah, being called a Great American Novelist ("It paints a big bullseye on the back of my head,") and writing Freedom, and says that David Foster Wallace's suicide in 2008 angered him into finishing the book: "I was mad. I got motivated by anger at him. 'Well, goddamn it, Dave! I've got one advantage over you, and that's that I'm still alive, and I'm going to show what I can do.'" 

 Tonight at McNally Jackson Books, Darin Strauss reads from his memoir Half a Life.


TALKING TO SARA MARCUS ABOUT RIOT GRRRL

Sara Marcus’s Girls to the Front, an engaging chronicle of the early-’90s punk feminist movement known as Riot Grrrl, is being published today by Harper Perennial. Writing in Bookforum’s music issue, musician and author Johanna Fateman called the book an “ambitious and convincing book that makes narrative sense out of events that had so far been recorded only in mythic, unverified, and fragmentary form.” We recently sat down with Marcus, who is a freelancer at our sister publication Artforum, to discuss her writing process, feminism’s fate in mainstream culture, gender bias in book criticism, and the feminist future.

Q: I imagine that early on in writing Girls to the Front you were confronted with the challenging realization that Riot Grrrl resists definition. How did you deal with this?

A: I figured out pretty quickly that the only way to tell the “story of Riot Grrrl” would be to tell stories of individual people and stories of context, and that through a kind of triangulation, this would yield a sense of Riot Grrrl as a whole while hopefully steering clear of any reductionism. But it’s not true that there’s no common thread, and I parse this in the book: The girls were really careful to say there’s no there there, but there were specificities to the experiences, and to the networks, that are important.

Jason Schwartzman

This week's New Yorker is available in a new iPad version, with a nifty animated cover by David Hockney. In a note to readers, the New Yorker editors write nostalgically about the magazine’s early days, noting the scarcity of pencils, and marveling that founder Harold Ross "could not have imagined a day when the magazine would be available as quickly to a reader in Manchester or Madrid as to one in Manhattan." They assure readers that "print remains, by miles, our most popular form," before telling us how they really feel. "We’re at once delighted and a little bewildered about this latest digital development and our place in it: delighted because of the quality of what the tablet provides and the speed with which the magazine can be distributed, but bewildered, too, because we’d be liars if we said we knew precisely where technology will lead." Readers need not be bewildered, however, as the New Yorker has enlisted tousled actor Jason Schwartzman to explain how to use the new app.

Music writer Nitsuh Abebe is leaving the indie-rock review website Pitchfork to become New York magazine's pop music critic. While you wait to read Abebe's work at his new gig, check out some of his greatest hits from Pitchfork: Reviews of The CureYoko OneDaniel JohnstonStereolab, an essay on "The Decade in Indie," the "Why We Fight" column, as well as his tumblr page, a grammar, which contains this memorable post on female fandom, among other gems.

At Slate, Emily Bazelon offers new details on the suicide of the Virginia Quarterly Review's managing editor Kevin Morrissey this summer, including emails to staff from editor Ted Genoways, who has been accused of workplace bullying. Bazelon writes: “A closer look at what happened at VQR, informed by conversations with Genoways and most of his colleagues and by examining internal e-mails sent in the run-up to Morrissey's death, suggests that while the VQR staff was unhappy with their boss, bullying may not be the right label for his behavior. The accusation that Genoways is to blame for Morrissey's suicide is even more questionable.”

Tonight, the Word in Brooklyn is hosting Indie Press Night.


Don Delillo

This weekend, we witnessed the maiden voyage of the Wall Street Journal's new stand-alone Books section; Publisher's Weekly chats with editor Robert Messenger.

Farenheit 451, 2010: The Pentagon held a book burning on September 20th, destroying 9,500 hundred copies of Operation Dark Heart. The book's author, Anthony Shaffer, told CNN: "The whole premise smacks of retaliation. . . . Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous." And if you can't burn 'em, ban them: September 25th marks the beginning of banned books week; did someone really think it was a good idea to ban Webster's Dictionary from a school library?

The 2010 PEN Literary Awards Winners have been announced. Paul Harding continues his winning streak by taking home the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers for his debut and Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Tinkers. Don Delillo won the Saul Bellow award for Achievement in American Fiction, and granted a rare interview. When asked about digital books and social media, Delillo answered: "The question is whether the enormous force of technology, and its insistence on speeding up time and compacting space, will reduce the human need for narrative—narrative in the traditional sense. Novels will become user-generated. An individual will not only tap a button that gives him a novel designed to his particular tastes, needs, and moods, but he’ll also be able to design his own novel, very possibly with him as main character."

Tonight at Opening Ceremony in New York, film director Spike Jonze will be appearing to sign his book, There Are Many of Us, a companion to his new short film, I'm Here.

Even critics who are lukewarm about the film version of Howl are praising James Franco's portrayal of the Beat icon Allen Ginsberg. It can't be easy to portray a man who was not only a poet but also a "grand guru of the counterculture—chief spokesman of the Beat Generation, shaggy incarnation of flower power, tireless crusader against the war in Vietnam," as John Palattella wrote in Bookforum in 2006. Franco has been preparing for his turn as a real-life writer, too: His book of stories, Palo Alto, will be published on October 19, and has blurbs from the likes of Amy Hempel and Ben Marcus.

Danielle Steel: not a romance novelist.

Vanity presses. Non-traditional publishing. DIY publishers. Publishing solutions. Indie publishers. Edward Nawotka looks at the evolving vocabulary of the book-making profession.


Keith Gessen

Via the Casual Optimist: Design consulting firm IDEO offers three visions for the future of the book, and, unsurprisingly, print isn't on the agenda. IDEO's video outlining their ideas is so blithe and whimsical that we we were swept up for a moment in their somewhat surreal concepts, such as "Alice," an interactive e-book that aims to "[blur] the lines between reality and fiction." As the narrator cheerfully intones, "stories unfold and develop through reader's active participation . . . unexpectedly the reader stumbles upon plot twists and turns, embeded in the stories that are unlocked by performing certain actions, such as being at specific geographic locations, communicating with the characters in the stories, or contributing to the stories themselves." When the spell was broken, we suddenly remembered that perhaps GPS, an iPhone, and an iPad weren't necessarily crucial for engaging with a story.

Why is Lady Gaga wearing meat? Tom Payne, author of Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity, looks to the ancient Aztecs and Greeks for answers.

Forbes wonders: Why does Ron Burkle even care about Barnes & Noble? (Via Pwxyz.)

Tao Lin, Great American Novelist.

At the New York Times Magazine, Elif Batuman gives the definitive report on the ongoing and bizarre trial over boxes of Franz Kafka's unpublished work, which is currently (and controversially) owned by two women in Tel Aviv, one of whom by all accounts has too many cats. A question that Batuman raises early on: Can anyone own Kafka?

Novelist and editor Keith Gessen goes on YouTube to apologize to all readers who were offended by the backwards apostrophes in N1FRn+1's film review magazine.


Jessica Duffin Wolfe, photo by Liz Clayton

AN INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA DUFFIN WOLFE, AN EDITOR OF THE FORTHCOMING TORONTO REVIEW OF BOOKS

Print book reviews have been having a tough time in the past decade, but there are grounds for optimism in the online world. And though the web makes it easy to cross borders, there is still a case to be made for grounding a publication in a specific locale. One example of both that has been getting a lot of attention is the new Los Angeles Review of Books, which is scheduled to launch in early 2011. In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, editor Tom Lutz says “The majority of our contributing editors live on the West Coast, and yes—without entering into any of the LA-NY rivalry, a kind of high culture version of Lakers-Celtics—I think our perch is a little different, we see things a bit differently. But we hope to be of national and international interest, and to cover the national and international book scene.”

This same spirit inspires Jessica Duffin Wolfe, editor of the forthcoming Toronto Review of Books. Its homepage is still in development, but as she points out in the following interview, the TRB will “take online media as seriously as print media—and will do so from an exuberantly Torontonian home base.” The TRB plans to publish its first issue this fall. We recently caught up with Ms. Duffin Wolfe via email to discuss the Canadian book reviewing landscape, what motivated her to start the TRB, and their plans for the first issue.

The name Toronto Review of Books parallels the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. Are you aiming to create a Canadian equivalent?

I think the Literary Review of Canada aims to be the Canadian equivalent of those publications—but that's not really our goal, especially since those are pointedly city-based rather than nation-based publications. By self-consciously mirroring the names of the NYRB and the LRB we'd like to be a Toronto tribute to their traditions of excellent writing on ideas, but we're pursuing a fairly different structure.

Leon Wieseltier

FSG publicity and marketing vice-president Jeff Seroy is pals with the New Republic's literary editor Leon Wieseltier—the two seem compelled to inform people that they went to Columbia together. But when Seroy dismissed TNR's less-than-fawning review (by Ruth Franklin) of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom by saying that Wieseltier "specializes in drawing attention to his pages through consistently negative reviews," the old collegial spirit quickly dissipated. Wieseltier has responded to the charge by penning a rousing defense of the value of negative reviews in a literary world "that is amiable, bland, clubby, pious, careerist, relentlessly cheerful, desperate for numbers, suavely relativizing, and awash in worthless praise." Wieseltier writes, "I was not aware that it is a heresy to hold that Freedom is not a masterpiece. There is something churlish about my friend’s insistence upon critical unanimity. . . . No culture, no literature, ever advanced by niceness."

Civilians will have to wait until next week to read Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars, but the New York Times has managed to get a copy (Woodward's newspaper, the Washington Post, also has an early review). The Times notes that though the book's revelations of differing opinons within the administration over the war in Afghanistan "have become public, the book suggests that they were even more intense and disparate than previously known." Also: "The United States has intelligence showing that manic-depression has been diagnosed in President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan." For readers puzzled by this bombshell, the Times offers a helpful bit of context: "Mr. Karzai’s mood swings have been a challenge for the Obama administration."

Tonight at the New School, the editors of The Best American Poetry 2010 present a reading from the anthology featuring John AshberyThomas Sayers EllisEileen Myles, and more. 

In 1980, Gilbert Rogin, an editor at Sports Illustrated and a well-respected novelist, had already published 33 pieces of short fiction in The New Yorker. Then, the magazine's fiction editor Roger Angell accused Rogin of repeating himself. Rogin hasn't written a word of fiction since then ("That motherfucker literally demoralized me," Rogin says of the Angell episode), but the author is having something of a renaissance, now that indie publisher Verse Chorus Press is bringing him back into print. This week, the Observer delivers a fun, expletive-spiked profile of Rogin, "one of the most irascible (often intemperately so) characters in the history of New York publishing." 


Valerie Martin and Margaret Atwood, photo by Nancy Crampton.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood read from her latest novel, The Year of the Flood, at Monday’s opening night of the 92Y Reading Series, an evening one-on-one discussion series entering its 72nd season.

During the introduction, longtime friend and colleague Valerie Martin said Atwood was so prolific that she’s not sure who writes all of Atwood’s books. (“It might be a Sasquatch double,” deadpanned Martin, a wink at Atwood’s Canadian heritage). When Atwood is not writing, Martin said, the 70-year-old Ontario native is tweeting, blogging, or “on a carbon-neutral, around-the world tour” promoting not only her book, but environmental conservation and Bird Life International. “She’s maybe finishing a new novel backstage,” Martin quipped.

Tonight at 192 Books, Frederic Tuten will read from his new book Self-Portrait: Fictions. Recently, Bookforum's Peter Trachtenberg caught up with Tuten to ask him about cinema, his friendship with Roy Lichtenstein, and his "painterly prose."

Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown, will be released on January 25. The book has been embargoed, so we won't be able to read Rummy's rhetorical twists, revelations about the events leading up to the Iraq War, or recollections of meeting Elvis until the book is in stores. In the meantime, can someone please cook up a book trailer?

The Rumpus presents its second "Culture Death Match"—this one between Tom Bissell (who is represented here by author Salvatore Pane) and Sarah Vowell (Amy Whipple). The battle is in part between Bissell's and Vowell's obsessions—video games and history, respectively—but also about men and women writers. "Think of the guys here on The Rumpus or over at HTMLGiant," Whipple writes. "You get to say what you want to say when you want to say it and it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re right—just so long as you act like you are."

Meanwhile, Franzenfreude lives on. Katha Pollitt offers a good analysis at The Nation. And Salon wonders: Which Freedom character is Franzen?

Laura Kipnis's latest book attempts to help you become better not just at scandalizing people, but at being scandalized.

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