paper trail

Feb 7, 2012 @ 4:00:00 am

Today marks the re-release of William Gaddis’s classics The Recognitions and J R, published in 1955 and 1975, respectively. Once described by Cynthia Ozick as “the most overlooked important work of the last several literary generations,” The Recognitions was a commercial flop when it first came out, prompting a book (Jack Green’s Fire the Bastards!) bemoaning the novel’s weak critical reception. It was only upon the publication of J R, Gaddis’s novel about an eleven-year-old boy “motivated only by good-natured greed,” that Gaddis came into wider success. Still, despite rapturous reviews and two National Book Awards, Gaddis never found a popular readership. The title of his 1998 New York Times obituary read as follows: ”William Gaddis, 75, Innovative Author of Complex, Demanding Novels, Is Dead.”

Is Amazon planning to expand into brick-and-mortar stores? According to Gawker, “the e-tailer turned tablet maker turned publisher is said to be planning a physical store in Seattle with an eye toward building a national chain.”

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon has some harsh words about the “reinventedNew York Observer one year after editor Elizabeth Spier’s appointment: “The Observer’s inimitable voice is gone, replaced by a barrage of bloggish posts by a group of writers so young that many of them can’t even remember a time before Gawker.”

We’re nerdishly excited about Lexicon Valley, Slate’s new language podcast that will cover topics ranging from “linguistic pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, and the death of languages.”

“Football isn’t thuggish,” Susan Orlean explained to the New York Times during a chat with fellow writers Chad Harbach and Donald Antrim about the appeal of sports. “It’s just very bone-crunching and physical. In other words, a lot like eating chicken wings.”