paper trail

Oct 20, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

James Franco

James Franco just published his debut collection of short stories, Palo Alto. Is it any good? The critical deck is surely stacked against him, as Michael Lindgren writes in the Washington Post: "There is no rule that says handsome young movie stars cannot also be gifted writers, but Franco's celebrity hangs like an unspoken rebuke over every word of Palo Alto. . . even if his prose somehow turned out to be staggeringly brilliant, the critics and bloggers and readers who make up the literary establishment would rather die than admit it."

Colson Whitehead reads from his fictional guide, How to Write and the Art of Writing: Writers Write About Writing.

Ludwig Wittgenstein's work has reached a surreal terminus with WittTweets, a project that aims to convey the famously difficult philosopher's life 140 characters at a time. A recent tweet: "I very often now have the indescribable feeling as though my work was all sure to be lost entirely in some way or another."

Alain de Botton, a philosopher who has "always been interested in confronting daily life with big questions and themes," got the chance to do so when he was hired to be a writer-in-residence at Heathrow Airport. His new book, A Week at the Airport, reveals truths that heretofore have only been glimpsed, such as the poignant melancholy that attends buying cheap cigarettes, perfume, and booze: "That is why we shop at airports—duty free is an attempt to flee from our sadness at the brevity and fragility of life." Now that that's settled, what to read on the plane? Graeme Wood on how travel writing has changed for the worse: "The writer goes overseas but brings back news about a tedious inner crisis."

Tonight, FSG's reading series at the Russian Samovar in Manhattan continues with two travel writers who prove the genre isn't dead yet, Eliza Griswold and Ian Frazier.