Benjamin Moser

Benjamin Moser has signed on to write the first authorized biography of Susan Sontag, who died eight years ago at the age of 71. Moser agreed to the project after being approached by Sontag’s son, David Rieff, and literary agent Andrew Wylie. He is the author of Why This World, a biography of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (if you’re unfamiliar, read Rachel Kushner’s essay on her fiction) and expects that he’ll finish the book in three to four years.

Bret Easton Ellis explains why, after years of having no interest whatsoever in writing fiction, he “began making notes for a new novel in the last week of January.”

The Paris Review has just released its sixtieth-anniversary issue, with contributions by Vivian Gornick, Frederick Seidel, David Gates, and Deborah Eisenberg.

After scouring Penguin’s end-of-year financial statement, Jason Kottke reports that “Thomas Pynchon's next novel will deal with ‘Silicon Alley between dotcom boom collapse and 9/11’ [and that] the title is Bleeding Edge.”

Celebrity ghostwriter Michael Malice is raising money on Kickstarter to write an “autobiography” of deceased Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

The winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards will be announced today, but before they are, here’s a chance to read excerpts from the nominated books.

John Ashbery

For your John Ashbery fix, PennSound has posted new videos and audio recordings of the poet’s recent readings.

David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida are currently translating the memoir of a severely autistic Japanese boy, the Cloud Atlas author tells the Guardian. Naoki Higashida “tapped out the memoir letter by letter on an alphabet grid on a piece of cardboard” when he was only 13. The couple initially began translating the 2006 memoir for their own purposes—their son is autistic—when they realized it might have a wider appeal. “If I have any influence in the public narrative about autism,” Mitchell told the paper, “I'd like it to be this."

Fifty previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling have been discovered in the U.S. and will be published next month.

For devout readers with Dostoevskian emotional problems, the Center for Fiction is offering a service called “bibliotherapy”—a program “in which writers and editors involved with the center... will give you a 45-minute consultation dealing with the life crisis of your choice and prescribe a year’s worth of reading to help you get through it.”

Junot Diaz is on the shortlist for one of the world’s most remunerative literary prizes for his story “Miss Lora,” which appeared in his 2012 collection This is How You Lose Her. Diaz is competing against five other writers for the $45,000 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank short story award. The winner will be announced on March 22.

An infographic wondering (in so many words) whether Philip Roth is the most brilliant living American writer or the most brilliant American writer ever is generating a lot of irritable comments on New York Magazine’s website.

Chris Hayes

After publicly supporting GOProud, a group of gay Republicans, the liberal MSNBC host and author Chris Hayes has found some unlikely allies, including Daniel Foster of the conservative magazine National Review. “Though I don’t agree with Hayes on much,” Foster writes, “he’s right on this one.”

“It did not feel like Seth MacFarlane was hosting the entertainment world’s most prestigious event, but an Oscar party for his bros in his parents’ basement.” Elissa Schappell, author of the story collection Blueprints for Better Girls, was not amused by the “vile jokes” of the 85th annual Oscars. (Speaking of offensive jokes and the Oscars, the Onion has officially apologized for a Tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis.)

We highly recommend Sean Manning’s new Talking Covers, a surprisingly engaging blog in which authors and designers discuss book-jacket art.

At the NRYB Blog, Colm Toibin ponders the spectre haunting a new exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Swann’s Way: Proust’s mother.

“I do like [Marguerite Duras] very much. I didn’t like the woman—she was impossible. But she was an extraordinary writer.” The Paris Review has posted a thoughtful and entertaining interview with the novelist Marie Chaix.

Poet Simon Armitage

The finalists for the 33rd annual Los Angeles Book Prize were announced last week, and the winners will be awarded on Thursday. In addition to selecting winners in the usual categories, Kevin Starr and Margaret Atwood will be presented with special achievement awards.

In the spirit of Sebald, poet Simon Armitage will attempt to walk all 260 miles of England’s coast this summer with nothing but poems to trade for food and shelter.

Javier Marias’s “introduction to professional writing was facilitated by an uncle who was a maker of soft porn and horror films. During the six weeks the 17-year-old Marķas stayed at his uncle's Parisian apartment he not only watched 85 films but also broke the back of a debut novel, Los dominios del lobo (The Dominions of the Wolf) that was published in 1971 when he was only 20.” In anticipation of the translation of his twelfth novel, The Infatuations, into English, the Guardian profiles the Spanish novelist.

Books by and about Pope Benedict XVI are flying off shelves—and publishers, unprepared for the sales bump, are scrambling to print more.

Sam Lipsyte

Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News anchor who has written bestselling books about the killing of two presidents (Lincoln and Kennedy), is now working on a book about the killing of Jesus, to be published by Macmillan. “Killing Jesus will tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers. O’Reilly will recount the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable, and the changes his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow.”

This week, the New York Times ran an article claiming that short stories will thrive in the digital age. Salon’s Laura Miller has already responded: “Sorry, the short-story boom is bogus.”

On March 8, Sam Lipsyte will read at a party celebrating the launch of his new story collection, The Fun Parts, at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge.

The Millions directed our attention to a recent talk by Geoff Dyer, “The Novelistic Essay and the Essayistic Novel,” which moves from Tolstoy to Thomas Bernhard to Susan Sontag to Thomas Mann to Ryszard Kapuscinski to Rebecca West and beyond.

The cover for Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, which will be released on May 14, has been revealed.

After writing in that New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus is a political conservative, reporter Tom McGeveran has published a long correction in Capital New York: “I made a mistake last week, and not an easily forgivable one.”

Three independent bookstores in New York and South Carolina have filed suit against Amazon and the "Big Six" publishers for allegedly violating antitrust agreements by making it difficult for smaller publishers to break into the e-book market.

Debut novelist and recent Iowa Writer’s Workshop grad Erika Johansen has landed a seven-figure book deal for “Queen of the Tearling, a fantasy trilogy inspired in part by Barack Obama.”

In a new foreword to Orlando, Jeanette Winterson sings the praises of Virginia Woolf's shape-shifting novel. The book “refuses all constraints: historical, fantastical, metaphysical, sociological. Ageing is irrelevant. Gender is irrelevant. Time is irrelevant. It is as though we could live as we always wanted to; disappointments, difficulties, sorrow, love, children, lovers, nothing to be avoided, everything to be claimed.”

What are David Lynch’s favorite photographs?

At n+1, novelist Ned Beauman explores the dangerous virtual territory of Silk Road, an anonymous online marketplace where drugs and arms are available to buy, and everything is “priced in untraceable Bitcoin currency.”

At the Awl, Maria Bustillos talks with George Saunders about the audiobook version of his highly praised short story collection (which Saunders reads himself). And at the Paris Review Daily, Katherine Bernard gchats with him (especially appropriate since Saunders justdid a reading at Google).

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tim O’Brien has left his job as executive editor of the Huffington Post in order to work on historical fiction. O’Brien is now completing “the second installment of his five-book publishing deal." Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington took the opportunity to remind staffers that HuffPost maintains a strict "no book writing" policy. "The policy is that anybody starting a new book must either leave employment or take a sabbatical," a rep confirmed to New York Magazine.

Crime writer Patricia Cornwall has won almost $51 million in a lawsuit against her former financial-management company.

And speaking of crime and intrigue, a new James Bond novel written by William Boyd, will be released in the UK this fall.

The letters of Mark David Chapman, the man who shot and killed John Lennon in 1980, are going up for sale in Los Angeles this week. The highlight of the auction are four letters from Chapman to the police officer who arrested him detailing Chapman’s obsession with The Catcher in the Rye. "Have you read The Catcher in the Rye yet?" Chapman writes in one letter. "I would like you to read it and tell me what you think of it. As you remember, in the copy that was taken from me I had written 'This is my statement.'"

At The New Republic, Adam Kirsch argues that the rise of a certain kind of confessional, first-person writing—i.e. that of John Jeremiah Sullivan, Sheila Heti, Davy Rothbart, and Sloane Crosley—marks the evolution of the essay from a fixed literary genre to a kind of reality TV.

At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Avi Steinberg makes a surprisingly compelling case that comedian Louis C.K. is a latter-day Gogol.

David Markson

HTMLGiant has found a way to complete a David Markson interview that didn’t quite make it into Bookforum.

Haruki Murakami announced this week that he’ll be publishing a new novel in April, and fans are already beside themselves trying to guess what it will be about. The New York Daily News states (probably correctly) that it’s "safe to bet that there will be cats (that may or may not talk) and probably some awkward sex," while another reader proposes that "it will contain ear porn, a lonely man, a teenage/under-age girl, the war in Manchuria [and] some cooking."

Hilary Mantel, whose novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are set during the reign of Henry VIII, ripped into Kate Middleton at a recent talk hosted by the London Review of Books, calling the Duchess of Cambridge a “‘shop window mannequin,’ whose sole purpose is to deliver an heir to the throne.”

This Saturday in Toronto, DT Max, author of Every Story Is a Love Story, will talk about David Foster Wallace in a salon about artists and depression.

Is bad coverage better than no coverage? In light of Camilla Long’s award-winning takedown of Rachel Cusk’s novel Aftermath, the British media is taking a long look at the art of the negative book review. The Irish Times examines the the question, concluding that even if the review is a hatchet job, for most writers, “the possibility of being excoriated is preferable to the horror of being ignored.”

Ayn Rand fans and haters, take note: The Atlantic has launched its Atlas Shrugged book club.

Brian Evenson

Leon Wieseltier, the New Republic’s literary editor, is one of the winners of this year’s Dan David Prize, an award given to people who have made “contributions to humanity.” He will split the award’s $1 million with his fellow winner, the French philosopher Michel Serres.

n+1 has posted a NSFW poem by Valery Nugatov titled “Love. Of Art.”

Jonah Lehrer received $20,000 from the Knight Foundation to give a talk yesterday on plagiarism, a topic with which he is familiar. Slate’s Daniel Engber said the speech “broke nearly every rule of propriety and good taste,” and suggests that Lehrer hasn’t learned his lesson from the scandal that cost him his staff position at the New Yorker. What’s more, even the Knight Foundation regrets having invited the former New Yorker writer to speak at its conference.

On Valentine’s Day, Electric Literature published its first novel, Sam Pink’s Rontel, which is among other things a “love letter to Chicago.” Anyone who bought the book on the February 14 received a temporary phone number for the author. “Text Sam,” the publishers say, “and he’ll sext you back.”

Brian Evenson, the author of avant-horror classics such The Open Curtain, has co-authored a book with Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem.

A novel of love in the age of critical theory.

After listening to Rachel Kushner read at Bookforum’s New Museum event on Tuesday, Choire Sicha is exhorting his readers to pre-order copies of Kushner’s forthcoming novel, The Flamethrowers. (We second his advice.)

The New York Times has reported that Time Warner is in early talks toshed most of its Time Inc. magazine titles—which include People, InStyle, and Real Simple.

At Salon, Ben Nugent argues that novelists like Jeff Eugenides and Ben Lerner have found a new tactic for avoiding the saccharine language that’s often associated with writing about love. These writers “get away with great warmth—courtship stories that aren’t so different from Hollywood romantic comedies, stories that flirt with cheesiness, triviality, sentimentalism—by using a particular cold vocabulary, the vocabulary of theory.”

Blogger Matt Kahn is going to review every novel that held the number one position on the annual Publisher’s Weekly bestseller list going back to 1913. That’s one hundred years and ninety-four books, starting with Winston Churchill’s The Inside of the Cup.

According to research done by the US Census Bureau, bookstore sales for 2012 were $15.21 billion, only a slight decline from the 2011 estimate of $15.28 billion.

John Leonard once wrote that it’s a mistake for writers to describe dreams in fiction. Not true, says Nicholson Baker at the New York Review of Books blog. “In the book I just finished writing, I included a dream in which my narrator finds an old bicycle horn on a set of subway stairs somewhere near Columbia. Why not? It’s a dream I actually had a few years ago.”