• Rowan Somerville
    November 30, 2010

    Nov 30, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    We were rooting for Tony Blair's former spin-doctor, Alastair Campbell, to win the prize most writers try to avoid like the Clap: The Literary Review’s Bad Sex award. However, Campbell was outdone in the contest for supreme raunchy ridiculousness by Rowan Somerville, whose book The Shape of Her won the dubious honor. Somerville has joined elite company—including Norman Mailer, John Updike, and Tom Wolfe—in part for a passage that compared an act of copulation to "a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin."

    Salon.com is looking for a possible buyer to help slow the

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  • Jennifer Gilmore
    November 29, 2010

    Nov 29, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    We were cheered to see Justin Spring’s Secret Historian, Jennifer Gilmore’s Something Red, Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, and many other worthy titles on the New York Times's 100 notable books of 2010 list. The omissions, however, were sometimes inexplicable (Tom McCarthy’s novel C), and often indicative of how unadventurous the paper of record’s books section is these days (nothing like Eileen Myles’s Inferno or Joshua Cohen’s Witz in sight). Reading the list, we wondered: Is there a Times quota for mid-century baseball biographies?

    The first batch of Vladimir Nabokov’s love letters to his

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  • Eileen Myles, photo by Leopoldine Core.
    November 24, 2010

    Nov 24, 2010 @ 1:00:00 pm


    “If you’re interested in poetry, I’ll give you lesbianism, and if you’re interested in lesbianism, I’ll give you poetry.”

    Inferno is the latest book by poet, novelist, essayist, performer, and one-time presidential hopeful Eileen Myles. (It’s true, she ran as a write-in candidate in 1992.) Eileen did not call Inferno a memoir, even though it sort of is. Maybe one could call it a remembrance. Eileen calls it a novel. In the process of remembering, she lets go a frantic and enlightened rush of recall, impressions, and wit. Loosely modeled on Dante, the novel traces

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  • Tom Waits
    November 24, 2010

    Nov 24, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The Guardian reports that the sublimely gruff-voiced singer Tom Waits is publishing his first book of poetry, Hard Ground, a collaboration with photographer Michael O'Brien. In a 1975 interview Waits said, "I don't like the stigma that comes with being called a poet . . . So I call what I'm doing an improvisational adventure or an inebriational travelogue."

    The tired thesis that poetry is on the decline is being posited again by Joseph Epstein in Commentary magazine. Why does that sound so familiar?

    Rand Paul has scored a book deal with Hachette Book Group’s Center Street division. The tome,

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  • The Anthology of Rap display at Toronto's Type books.
    November 23, 2010

    Nov 23, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Granta’s brand-new “Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists” is their first fully translated issue.

    There’s more bad news for the beleaguered editors of the Anthology of Rap, who have been criticized over the past few weeks for transcription errors in their volume. Now, some of the book’s advisory board members are trying to distance themselves from the project: “The board lent its credibility to the editors and in turn, the editors did not approach the subject matter with the proper rigor.” And, even worse, Grandmaster Caz, one of the artists who supposedly checked his songs in the anthology,

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  • Listen to This author Alex Ross.
    November 22, 2010

    Nov 22, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Was Gawker’s posting of scanned pages from Sarah Palin’s forthcoming book illegal? Gawker has been court-ordered to take them down, with a trial set for later this month. Denton v. Palin may be the car-crash/catnip trial of the century.

    The Google team has posted an e-book, 20 Things I Learned About Browsing and the Web, which is perhaps a preview of what the long-rumored Google Editions publishing imprint’s product would look like. If so, the format is what we’d expect from the slightly evil geniuses at the G-team: slick and user-friendly, but still an anemic approximation of an actual book.

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  • Jaimy Gordon, photo by Brian Widdis for The Wall Street Journal
    November 19, 2010

    Nov 19, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Vladimir Nabokov dedicated every novel he wrote the same way: "to Vera." This weekend, the Russian magazine Snob is publishing a selection of love letters from Vladimir to his wife over a fifty-year period (she burned her half of the correspondence).

    Literary longshot: Jaimy Gordon's surprising National Book Award win for her horse-racing novel, Lord of Misrule, is perhaps even more inspiring than the Seabiscuit story. The book was ignored before it was nominated for America's most prestigious literary prize, and as the New York Times reports, even afterwards it only received two reviews—one

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  • George Saunders
    November 18, 2010

    Nov 18, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The National Book Awards were announced last night, and the honors for nonfiction went to rock icon Patti Smith for her memoir of Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids. (Read Greg Milner's review. Listen to the Bookworm interview.) "There's nothing more beautiful in the material world than the book," Smith said in her acceptance speech. (Smith will appear again tonight at a tribute for the late novelist Jim Carroll.) We were excited to see that the relatively unknown Jaimy Gordon won for her novel Lord of Misrule. Tom Wolfe won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (a.k.a.

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  • Jonathan Galassi
    November 17, 2010

    Nov 17, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Farrar, Straus & Giroux president Jonathan Galassi has just completed an impressive new translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Canti, the nineteenth-century collection of forty-one poems that Joseph Luzzi characterizes in the new Bookforum as covering a "dazzling variety of styles and themes, from confessions of private pain and humiliation to philosophical satires and grand pronouncements on current events." At the Work in Progress blog, Galassi shares images of his Canti proof pages, offering a fascinating glimpse at the revisions and edits that went into making his musical and faithful en face

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  • Jay-Z at the New York Public Library, photo by Jori Klein.
    November 16, 2010

    Nov 16, 2010 @ 2:00:00 pm

    Bookworms and b-boys (and girls) were buoyant last night at the New York Public Library’s Jay-Z appearance with Cornel West. Fans showed up hours before the 7pm event, giddy with anticipation at seeing the music biz's "number-one supplier." Jay-Z is promoting his lavish new autobiography, Decoded, which mixes memoir and a labyrinthine self-deconstruction of his lyrics. Tickets were notoriously hard to come by, and those lucky enough to have them weren’t above gloating (“We’re all VIPs!” someone in the general admissions line shouted during the long wait to get past the security area). Inside

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  • James Frey
    November 16, 2010

    Nov 16, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Joan Didion once wrote that "a writer is always selling someone out." That phrase takes on multiple meanings in Suzanne Mozes's New York magazine story about author and self-proclaimed rebel James Frey's new publishing company, Full Fathom Five. Frey himself is obviously taking young, ambitious authors for a ride, offering them contracts custom-made to screw artists over. Thankfully, Mozes does a great job of selling Frey out, too, nailing his false charisma and exposing the insidious contractual maneuvers his company has worked hard to keep secret.

    President Obama's new book for kids,

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  • Bertolt Brecht
    November 15, 2010

    Nov 15, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    British professor Stephen Parker has discovered that Bertolt Brecht probably had an undiagnosed rheumatic fever, though doctors thought Brecht was just a hypochondriac (he later died from a heart attack likely caused by the fever). Professor Parker says his discovery provides new insight into the prickly German playwright: "it affected his behavior, making him more exaggerated in his actions, and prone to over-reaction. . . . He carried the problem all his life and compensated for this underlying weakness by projecting a macho image to show himself as strong."

    On Wednesday, the National Book

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