• Harvey Pekar
    July 13, 2010

    Jul 13, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Splendid Americans: Harvey Pekar and Tuli Kupferberg—a pair of radical nonconformists whose literary output was perhaps a mere by-product of their grander refusal to fit in—both passed away yesterday. Pekar's death at the age of 70 put us in mind of his most famous public exit—his last appearance on the David Letterman show in 1988, when he ranted at an exasperated Letterman, ending his tenure as a late-80s regular on the show. Pekar also made an appearance in the pages of Bookforum in 2003. Reviewing Peter Kuper's graphic adaptation of Kafka's tale of self-recrimination, "Metamorphosis," he

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  • Denis Johnson
    July 12, 2010

    Jul 12, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Writer Mary Karr says making a book trailer, often a required part of an author's publicity tour of duty, “is, in a word, humiliating.” We've been underwhelmed by most of the quick, awkward videos (John Wray's funny recent trailer for his novel Lowboy, featuring Zach Galifianakis, being an exception) we’ve seen, until now: Behold, the trailer for Gary Shteyngart's forthcoming novel Super Sad True Love Story.

    "You are not supposed to point out that Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists," writes Paul Berman, as he takes on critics of his polemic The Flight of the

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  • July 09, 2010

    Jul 9, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    As the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird's publication is celebrated this weekend, Harper Lee once again has found the spotlight. Meanwhile, her classic novel about the Jim Crow South has sold over thirty million copies, and continues to be patronized. Last year, Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article ("The Courthouse Ring") and more recently, Allen Barra’s Wall Street Journal piece ("What 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Isn't"), criticized the book for what is perceived as its mild-mannered liberalism. We’ve asked Nicolaus Mills, author of The Crowd in American Literature and Like a Holy

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  • A. L. Kennedy
    July 08, 2010

    Jul 8, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    iTunes has made album cover art all but obsolete—could book cover design be next? The Casual Optimist blog doesn't think so—it provides edifying links, interviews, and highlights of the best cover art—all dedicated to the idea that cover design is vital to the book trade. Novelist A. L. Kennedy writes that "these days authors are also judged by their covers." As writers make the rounds of author appearances, TV interviews, and publicity photo shoots, their looks sometimes seem almost as important as their books. As Kennedy notes, this can be a source of author anxiety: "As age and gravity assert

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  • Damali Ayo
    July 07, 2010

    Jul 7, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    William Golding may have had good reasons to write the dystopic Lord of the Flies; John Carey's new biography of the unhappy novelist reveals some of the indignities he had to endure, including this Navy mishap: Golding once "caused an explosion in his pants by placing bomb detonators and a battery in the same pocket."

    Emily Gould continues her critique of her former employer, Gawker Media, writing that sites like Jezebel "tap into the market force of . . . 'outrage world,'" turning women against one another for the sake of the almighty Pageview. Meanwhile, the big-picture thinkers at Ad Age

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  • David Grossman
    July 06, 2010

    Jul 6, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Blurb busters: Nicole Krauss really loved fellow novelist David Grossman's forthcoming To the End of the Land, writing of the novel, "To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being." Bloggers at the Conversational Reading ("The Painfully Wrought Blurb,") MobyLives ("sometimes, a blurb can kill you,") and Bookninja ("When Blurbs Bite,") are all crying foul over Krauss's "overwritten" praise, while The Guardian asks readers: Can you outblurb Krauss? Perhaps Paul Auster already

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  • July 02, 2010

    Jul 2, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Google Editions, the top-secret, soon-to-be-launched e-book label, has just inked a deal with the American Booksellers Association to become the primary source of e-books on hundreds of indie booksellers' websites.

    Our newest Poet Laureate, W. S. Merwin, has made a point of living a quiet Buddhist's life out in Hawaii. It's wonderful then to imagine him brandishing a beer bottle and fending off the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa and his bodyguards as the Tibetan guru tried to force Merwin and a girlfriend to strip during a drunken party. That was the scene thirty-five years ago, in what has

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  • Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin
    July 01, 2010

    Jul 1, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The Library of Congress has chosen the oft-honored W. S. Merwin as the 2010–11 Poet Laureate. The eighty-two year old poet and translator doesn't fancy rousing himself from island life in Maui, as he told the New York Times: “I do like a very quiet life . . . I can’t keep popping back and forth between here and Washington,” though he told the Washington Post "I am very happy to do it at a time when there is someone that I respect so much in the White House." Known for his astute ecological poems, we wonder if Merwin's first official act will be to pen some venomous verse over the recent oil

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  • When J. M. Coetzee is smiling, the whole world smiles with him.
    June 30, 2010

    Jun 30, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Vladimir Nabokov's writing career got its start while he was exiled in Berlin during the 1920s and '30s, when he "described how Berlin's 300,000 Russian émigrés endured life after the Bolshevik Revolution." Lesley Chamberlain parses the "artistically formative" years the great writer spent in the German capital. 

    Final Cut: With the rise of multimedia in e-books and the ubiquity of tablet readers, will book editors become video editors?

    At an apparently slow news day at The Guardian, the paper reports that the usually dour J. M. Coetzee cracked a smile at a recent writers' conference. "It

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  • Ben Sonnenberg's window, from Matteo Pericoli's The City Out My Window
    June 29, 2010

    Jun 29, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    On the Paris Review blog, Lorin Stein pays tribute to the influential editor of Grand Street, Ben Sonnenberg, who passed away last week at age 73. Stein writes "Although Grand Street may never have had more than a few thousand subscribers, it was one of the great literary magazines of our time," and posts an excerpt from Matteo Pericoli's recent book of New York City views featuring Sonnenberg, who describes the vantage from his window with typical eloquence: "Fortunately for my wife and me, the modern buildings of Donald Trump, with their ugly fenestration and hostile immensity, figure only

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  • Feed Magazine co-founder Stefanie Syman
    June 28, 2010

    Jun 28, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The early work of web stars such as Ana Marie Cox and Josh Marshall, novelist Sam Lipsyte, music critic Alex Ross, and Bookforum co-editor Chris Lehmann, as well as many others, has been put online at the Feed Magazine archives, an online webzine launched fifteen years ago by Steven Johnson and Stefanie Syman that ran through 2001.

    The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" writers to watch list has been one of the biggest stories of the summer so far, but half the fun of the list is arguing about it. The latest counter-list comes from Dzanc books, who have polled "nearly 100 independent publishers,

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  • Susan Orlean
    June 25, 2010

    Jun 25, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    On Tuesday, Susan Orlean posted a piece on her New Yorker blog about the publishing world, in which she identified everyone involved by letter instead of name (e.g. Editor A, Publisher W). The Observer thinks it has solved the puzzle, but is there a letter—or a number—missing?

    The Authors Guild versus Google case continues to drag on, more than five years since it began, and four months since a final settlement was supposed to be reached. With so much time on their hands, the litigants may find diversion—if not solace—in reading Bleak House, available for free—and in full—on Google Books.

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