• Franz Kafka
    July 22, 2010

    Jul 22, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The Trial: On Monday a delegation of important-looking men representing powerful bureaucracies pried open safe-deposit boxes in Tel Aviv containing a trove of mysterious writings, while an heir laying claim to the boxes shouted, "It's mine, it's mine." Now there's a tangle of legal wrangling to be sorted through in court, and the materials, which happen to be a batch of unpublished Franz Kafka writings (reportedly containing letters, drawings, and manuscripts), may not see the light of day for many years. Apparently, there's only one word to describe the situation (beginning with "K"

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  • Thomas Frank
    July 21, 2010

    Jul 21, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    At The Paris Review, recently hired editor Lorin Stein and poetry editor Robyn Creswell are rejecting some poems that their predecessors had accepted. Daniel Nester is reporting on the debacle, which he's dubbed "The Great Paris Review Poetry Purge of 2010," over at the blog We Who Are About to Die. (Meanwhile, Blake Butler pens a satirical list of Paris Review rejects, and the Poetry Foundation scratches its chin while pondering the matter.) For a glimpse of some authors Stein does like, check out his spirited appraisal of five books that should be in any reviewer's library.  

    When your

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  • Anthony Doerr
    July 20, 2010

    Jul 20, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    This fall the Los Angeles Review of Books will launch an online only review headed by Tom Lutz, chair of the UC Riverside creative writing department. Two years in the making, the Review has signed up some tony contributing editors, including T. C. Boyle, Carolyn See, and Marisa Silver (among others), and Lutz vows it will be "the best-paying book review outlet around." Until he can launch a print edition, that is. The first issue promises Jane Smiley writing about Jessica Mitford and James Ellroy on Beethoven.

    Amazon reports that ebooks outsold hardcovers for the first time over the past

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  • Christopher Hitchens
    July 19, 2010

    Jul 19, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Christopher Hitchens recently canceled the book tour for his new memoir, Hitch-22, in order to undergo a round of chemotherapy treatment for esophagus cancer. So what does the devout atheist think of people praying for him to get well? In a recent interview, Hitchens says, "I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way." 

    Jimmy Carter: President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, peanut farmer, and . . . erotic poet

    Amazon.com built its online business around easy

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  • July 16, 2010

    Jul 16, 2010 @ 5:00:00 pm

    Tonight at Brooklyn's BookCourt bookstore, David Mitchell reads from his new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, reviewed in the latest issue of Bookforum by William Deresiewicz, who writes that after the pyrotechnics of Mitchell's first four novels, "The wunderkind—forty-one by now—is ripening, it seems, into a middle period of subtler effects and sustained emotions."

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  • James Franco as poet Allen Ginsberg (Photo Credit: Sundance Film Festival 2010).
    July 16, 2010

    Jul 16, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    Former poet laureate Billy Collins dislikes the havoc that is wreaked on poems when they are converted to ebooks: "The critical difference between prose and poetry is that prose is kind of like water and will become the shape of any vessel you pour it into to. Poetry is like a piece of sculpture and can easily break."

    Allen Ginsberg wasn't shy about promoting "Howl" as “an all-purpose cultural barometer,” as John Palatella observed in Bookforum in 2006, the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication. In 1967, when asked if his poems would survive, Ginsberg told a packed Berkeley lecture

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  • Ryu Murakami
    July 15, 2010

    Jul 15, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

    The website I Write Like will analyze your prose and tell you if it resembles H. P. Lovecraft, Vladimir Nabokov, Dan Brown, or one of the other forty famous writers in its database. Margaret Atwood gave it a try and found she didn't write like herself; rather, the database pegged her as Stephen King. We can only imagine Nabokov's incredulity at being told by a computer that someone else writes like him, or worse, that he wrote like anyone else (especially Stephen King).

    Ryu Murakami's new novel, A Singing Whale, is the first by a well-known author to go straight to the iPad.

    On the Critical

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  • Jon Thurber
    July 14, 2010

    Jul 14, 2010 @ 9:30:00 am

    Jon Thurber has been named the new Book Review editor at the Los Angeles Times. Thurber (no relations to James) is a thirty-eight year veteran of the paper, and will take charge of all aspects of book coverage, including the online book section, the Jacket Copy blog, and the print book reviews and features. He has filled many roles during his time at the paper and is perhaps best known for his recent tenure as obit editor, which lasted for 11 years and produced many hundreds of articles under Thurber's own byline. Here's hoping he isn't called on to pen one more . . . about the death of the

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  • 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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