paper trail

May 24, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

J. G. Farrell

Bookforum's new summer issue maps utopia, and though the word means "no place" in Greek, that absurdity hasn't inhibited a great many dreamers and schemers: History is littered with attempts to realize some portion of heaven on earth, and literature is rife with depictions of worlds gone right and worlds gone very wrong. 

When he died in 1979, J. G. Farrell was hailed as his generation's greatest historical novelist. Thirty years later, the view still holds, at least among the judges of the "lost" Booker award, who granted the prize to Troubles, his wicked 1970 satire of Anglo-Irish relations set during the Irish War of Independence. Matthew Price, writing in Bookforum's fall 2005 issue, found Troubles to be "madcap and blackly comic, shot through with piercing evocations of the Irish landscape."

"If you want to know who might be running for president from the GOP side just check your local bookstore and see who has new books on the shelf," writes Robert Guttman, director of the Center on Politics and Foreign Relations, listing the recent and future publications from the leading lights of the Grand Old Party. The Democrats have an incumbent running in 2012, but that doesn't mean they're not in on the act; Obama book deals are booming, with nine more volumes in the works. Not all political memoirs are meant for the campaign trail; every first lady since Lady Bird Johnson (except Pat Nixon, who was, of course, a special case), has written one, including Laura Bush's new Spoken form the Hearta "pleasantly soporific" read for sleepless nights. 

Bookselling behemoth Barnes & Noble is re-examining its business model as well as entering the self-publishing business with the summer launch of PubIt!, which will allow independent publishers and self-publishing writers to distribute their works digitally.

Stephen Fry, best known for playing the part of Wodehouse's Jeeves, who is now the "king of Twitter," will judge the Guardian Hay festival's Twitter competition for "the most beautiful tweet'" ever written, but he better watch out for the scarlet letters "RT," because retweeting might prove to be plagiarism.