• Tony Judt
    August 09, 2010

    Aug 9, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Historian, political theorist, and public intellectual Tony Judt died on August 6 at the age of 62. Much more than a scholar, he was an eloquent and insightful writer, whether he was reflecting on postwar Europe, navigating our current economic and political challenges, or chronicling his experience of living with ALS. Always a vibrant thinker, his literary output only seemed to increase as his health deteriorated. He blogged at the New York Review of Books until last month, and was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR.

    Illness has struck too many intellectuals lately, among them

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  • Joan Didion, circa 1970
    August 06, 2010

    Aug 6, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    People have been complaining about the banality of author photos for years (here's what the Times had to say about author-pic cliches back in 1993). Perhaps because the old-fashioned book (along with its carefully designed jacket) is losing its dominance, people are now not just decrying boring photographs but offering advice to writers seeking a publicity shot: Get a makeover. You want our advice? Skip the Estee Lauder and channel the spirit of Joan Didion in her author photo for Play It as It Lays, circa 1970. She is not playing. (Extra credit: seek out nondigitized photos of Jane Bowles

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  • August 05, 2010

    Aug 5, 2010 @ 9:30:00 am

    Taylor Plimpton, the 33 year-old son of the late, legendary editor and man-about-town George Plimpton, recaptured a bit of his dad's reveling spirit last night at a party and "literary salon" celebrating Taylor's new book Notes From the Night: A Life After Dark.

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  • Geoffrey O'Brien
    August 05, 2010

    Aug 5, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The Awl offers a list of McNally Jackson's most-stolen books, which reveals that either (a) the people shoplifting book is a rapidly aging demographic or (b) young shoplifters need to improve their reading tastes.

    Critic and novelist Janice Harayda lists the 5 Most Overused Put-Downs in Book Reviews.

    If you're in New York tonight, you can catch a reading by Bookforum contributor Geoffrey O'Brien, who will present his new book, The Fall of the House of Walworth, a true story of patricide and madness in Gilded Age Saratoga.

    Separated at birth? The cover for Eric Toussaint and Damien Millet's

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  • Jennifer Egan
    August 04, 2010

    Aug 4, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Barnes and Noble has put itself up for sale as annual profits have decreased dramatically over the past three years, from more than 135 million to about 36 million. Barnes and Noble chairman Leonard Riggio, who founded the chain in 1965 with a single store in New York City, is said to be a possible buyer, though the price is still in question. As analyst James McQuivey put it, "How do you value an asset for the future when the entire market is being essentially turned upside down?"

    Bookslut blogger Jessa Crispin writes a public letter to an author who, in response to a negative review, has

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  • Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore
    August 03, 2010

    Aug 3, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    New York magazine has a feature on the city's indie bookstores, including a breakdown of sales and operating costs for Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore (they actually make a profit of more than $11,000 a month), a poll of some NY authors’ favorite shops (Jonathan Ames praises BookCourt for allowing him to have a knife-thrower at a recent reading), and recommended fall titles from booksellers.

    Always look on the bright side of life: Tim Martin of the Telegraph, granted access to the British Library's recently acquired J. G. Ballard papers, found a cheering note in the manuscript margins of the

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  • Brooklyn Book Festival participant Kate Christensen (Photo: Jon Lewis).
    August 02, 2010

    Aug 2, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Details of next month's Brooklyn Book Festival are starting to be announced. There's a stellar lineup of authors slated to participate in the free September 12th event, including many of the borough's best authors and some national and international recruits.

    Some credulous Californians are suing Apple because its ad copy says "reading on iPad is just like reading a book," but it isn't—especially if you try to read an iPad in the sun.

    Internet doomsayer Nicholas Carr reports that "our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual

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  • Stephen Burt
    July 30, 2010

    Jul 30, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, Jennifer Egan, and other writers have signed a letter pledging to boycott Arizona until it revokes its new SB1070 immigration law.

    Last May, David Biespiel wrote an article for the Poetry Foundation arguing that poets should assume a stronger role in the "the life of American Democracy"—maybe even run for office. Now, Stephen Burt (the author of the excellent Close Calls with Nonsense) offers a rousing reply, explaining why this would be "bad for our poetry," and "bad for our politics."

    "I quit being a Christian," says a Facebook post by bestselling author Anne

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  • Eileen Myles
    July 29, 2010

    Jul 29, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Agent Andrew Wylie's new ebook imprint, Odyssey Editions, is making publishers angry. Random House is severing ties with the agency, nixing all new book deals, while Macmillan US's chief executive, John Sargent, said he was "appalled" by the deal. Author Matt Stewart gives the most sensible analysis of the battle we've seen: He calls Random House thieves and Wylie a "vicious negotiater," and builds on this point: "Both parties are behaving like assholes." 

    If you're in New York tonight, Granta magazine is celebrating the release of its latest issue with a reading by Netherland author (

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  • Andrea Levy
    July 28, 2010

    Jul 28, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Novelist and critic Tom LeClair has some advice for contemporary writers: Treat your interviewers well. They read your books, and they may have the final word.

    “To Jeff Bezos and everyone else who brings books to the world I say: thank you,” concludes Ruth Franklin, writing "In Defense of Amazon" at the New Republic, a response to Colin Robinson’s recent article in The Nation, "The Trouble With Amazon." 

    The 2010 Man Booker Prize for fiction's longlist has been announced, and apparently, the Booker judges are feeling wistful for the past. There's a distinct batch of historical fiction in the

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  • Stan Lee
    July 27, 2010

    Jul 27, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Novelist David Markson, who passed away in June, was a fan of the Strand Bookstore. Recently, the Strand started selling the author's heavily annotated personal library, which has been "scattered among the stacks." Alex Abramovich reports, while scooping up many of the treasures.

    In school we learned that the English novel was born in the hands of Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson. In his new book, The Novel, Steven Moore, a longtime editor at Dalkey Archive Press, offers an alternate history, tracing the form back more than a thousand years. He finds that "Petronius's Satyricon ... [looks]

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  • David Means
    July 26, 2010

    Jul 26, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Ron Rosenbaum, fresh from the fight over the posthumous publication of Vladimir Nabokov's unfinished novel The Original of Laura, steels himself for the "next Nabokov controversy." This time, it is over the poem within Nabokov's novel Pale Fire, ("written" by character John Shade), which Ginko Press plans to publish as a standalone in a lavish edition this fall, blessed by both Nabokov's son Dmitri and biographer Brian Boyd. Rosenbaum is all for it, writing: "I think the Gingko Press edition will provoke an important argument, and more importantly get people to experience the pleasures of the

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