Franklin Foer has ended his tenure as editor of The New Republic with executive editor Richard Just set to take the helm in January. The New York Times explains the hire: “At 31, Mr. Just fits The New Republic’s formula for editors: young, male Ivy Leaguers.”
At Triple Canopy, David Graeber’s essay on debt, “To Have is to Owe,” is ingeniously illustrated by Joanna Neborsky. The result is an intriguing example of innovative online publishing—a reading experience that draws you in like print, with the flash and frisson of the web.
The Millions’s Year in Reading series provides one of the best collections of end-of-the-year book lists we’ve seen, with picks from Lynne Tillman, Emma Donoghue, Anthony Doerr, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Elliott, and more.
New York Times columnist Michiko Kakutani impersonates the voice of a cartoon dog to review Andrew O’Hagan’s new book. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
Grace Krilanovich’s recent novel, The Orange Eats Creeps, earned her the honor of being named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35. At the blog Jacket Copy, she describes six-years of writing, revising, and rejection before the book was published, and the vertiginous euphoria of realizing her improbable happy ending at the big ceremony.
Tonight at Soho’s McNally Jackson books, Poets & Writers magazine is holding its annual Indie Innovators celebration.
Borders, Barnes, and Noble? A large stakeholder in the Borders Group, the investment firm Pershing Square Capital Management, has a plan to merge the struggling bookstore chain with its slightly less beleaguered competitor, Barnes and Noble.
Google launched its long-awaited e-book venture yesterday, cleverly integrating their new e-book shop within the already popular Google Books. “Reading Unbound,” the G-sages branded the service (with a nod to Aeschylus), explaining that “Google eBooks are stored in the cloud, so there is no file to download if you want to read on your computer, phone, or tablet.” The three million e-books already available can be read on most devices that aren’t a Kindle. Google's e-book rating system will be based on reviews from the online bookworm community Goodreads. The American Booksellers Association has partnered with Google, allowing many indie-bookstores their first viable way to sell digital books. So far, no evil, but as the New Yorker’s Book Bench notes, one hazard is that the new e-bookstore will further tangle the cataloging mess that now plagues Google Books. Like many real bookstores, it may be hard to find what you're looking for.
At the blog 3 Quarks Daily, Robert P. Baird writes that the principles that motivated Julian Assange to start Wikileaks in 2006 are similar to those of the Language poets of the ’70s and ’80s: “If, in a favorite Langpo motto, ‘language control = thought control = reality control,’ then it was . . . imperative to fight the battle for a just reality at the level of language. Just as Assange wants to debase the currency of diplomatic secrecy, so the Language poets wanted to debase the clear and orderly functioning of language.”
Jane Austen’s work has been subjected to Zombies and Sea Monsters, but now must suffer an even more terrifying fate: Bad Parody.
Tonight at ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn, Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch will read from Ten Walks/Two Talks, a book praised by novelist Justin Taylor as “deceptively simple . . . it demands little but offers much. They invite us to experience our city with fresh pleasure and renewed awe.” The reading will be followed by a performance by the band Holy Spirits.
At HTMLGIANT Roxane Gay bemoans the lack of diversity in this year’s Best American Short Stories, writing "segregation is alive and well when it comes to what we read," and challenges readers to name five black, Asian, and Latino authors. The Rumpus responds. The Economist, apparently unconcerned with the idea of gender balance, has blithely posted its best books of the year list, with no women authors in the fiction or poetry categories (a remarkable oversight in a year when books like Room, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Inferno, Nox, et al., were published) and with women making up only ten percent of authors overall.
Do editors edit? Do small publishers care more about books than big publishers do? How accurate are bestseller lists? Longtime industry observer J. E. Fishman examines some common “misconceptions about book publishing.” The most frightening is his assertion that e-books will not save book publishers much money, because it is not books' physical characteristics (paper, binding, etc.) that cost so much, but the people who make them. Solution? Cut salaries and outsource the publishing biz, or else "find a really rich guy who's bored with his sports team."
Meanwhile, Cursor mastermind Richard Nash, who's often heralded as the publishing industry's future savior, has declared that a coherent sense of the “publishing world” doesn’t even exist. “The data about the book business is poor because there is no such thing as the book business.”
This weekend, Bob Dylan aficionados will converge on Manhattan’s 14th Street Y for events exploring his watershed work with The Band. There’s a photo exhibition tonight, and a symposium and concert on Sunday. The participants are a freewheelin’ mix, including authors such as Greil Marcus, Christopher Ricks, and Dana Spiotta, filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker, and musicians from the bands The Fiery Furnaces and John Wesley Harding, as well as William G. Scheele, a curator and photographer who worked as the group’s roadie.
Beginning at midnight on Sunday, Kyle Minor of the blog HTMLGIANT will be reading Long, Last, Happy, the new selection of Barry Hannah stories, in its entirety online. He expects the marathon webcast to last “15-25 hours.”
Wrapping up National Novel Writing Month.
At Slate, Christopher Beam looks at the Wikileaks cables as literature, while McSweeney’s brings us Ben Greenman’s “Fragments from WikiLeaks! The Musical,” including this pivotal denouement featuring Julian Assange realizing his destiny: “‘I'll dub myself Mendax/ It means ‘noble liar’./ I'll remake myself as a/ High-tech town crier.’”
Did John Updike do the dishes? Attendees at the first annual John Updike Society conference wanted to know, but the more significant questions that arose were how literary reputations are made and why they endure.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson is planning to adapt Thomas Pynchon's 2009 hippie noir novel, Inherent Vice, for the screen; we're hoping it'll include another clever cameo from the famously reclusive author.
Google’s long-delayed e-book venture, Google Editions, is reportedly gearing up to launch in the next month. “Google Editions hopes to upend the existing e-book market by offering an open, ‘read anywhere’ model that is different from many competitors.” Most notably Amazon.
Michel Houellebecq borrows freely from Wikipedia in his new Prix Goncourt-winning La carte et le territoire. Is it copyright violation? And if it isn’t, is it OK to put Houellebecq’s entire novel online for free? One blogger thinks so...
Critic and poet Stephen Burt’s answer to the question “What can a book review do for a book?” is so spirited and smart that after reading it you’ll applaud too.
Can you name a single work of fiction that takes place on the banks of the Potomac? Christopher Hitchens goes in search of the Washington novel.
If you’re looking for us tonight, we’ll be at Le Poisson Rouge from 7 until 9 to celebrate the publication of Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann’s Rich People Things, which, among other things, analyzes a diverse array of cultural artifacts (Wired magazine, iPads, Malcolm Gladwell) that are like catnip to the wealthy. Before the evening becomes too bacchanalian, Lehmann will talk with fellow writers Thomas Frank and Maureen "Moe" Tkacik.
Stuart Murdoch, the front man for Scottish band Belle and Sebastian, has a new book called The Celestial Café, a collection of diaries and ruminations from 2002-2006. Don’t let Murdoch’s reputation for being insufferably twee—or his disclaimer that his new volume is “very light on the subjects of drug taking, orgies and general debauchery"—dissuade you from reading. Murdoch's lyrics demonstrate a razor-sharp wit and a penchant for self-deflating satire, and is peerless at describing the everyday trials of the self-conscious, literary, and shy; we can't wait to see what he does in prose.
Tonight at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York, Bookforum co-editor Chris Lehmann is moderating a discussion between intrepid journalists from two continents. The subject is “participatory journalism,” and the panelists, Florence Aubenas and Ted Conover, know more than a little about it. Conover is best known for working at Sing Sing as a prison guard for his 2000 book Newjack (in his latest book, The Routes of Man, he undertook an even more dangerous task—riding the world’s worst roads). Aubenas became famous in 2005 when she was kidnapped while working in Iraq and held hostage for five months; for her latest book, Le quai de Ouistreham, she became a day-laborer, chronicling the precarious lives of “the people in France who are going under.”
The Nation is auctioning off kitschy cool ephemera from its history and “chances to connect with The Nation in person” (e.g. lunch with Joe Trippi), as a fundrasier for the magazine, asking “Instead of buying your loved ones holiday gifts that enrich the corporate establishment, why not share your passion for progressive journalism?” If anyone is shopping for us, we’d like the autographed copy of The Mind-Body Problem, please!
The Oxford English Dictionary substantially revamped its online edition yesterday, rolling out new features such as integrating the Historical Thesaurus to the OED, as well as a complete list of sources, which has led British newspapers to brag about their contributions to the mother tongue.
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 site’s escalating financial problems; the Wall Street Journal’s Deal Journal blog profiles some possible suitors.
Tonight at the Broadway Barnes and Noble in Manhattan, eminent historian Edmund Morris will read from Colonel Roosevelt, the new third volume of his lauded Theodore Roosevelt trilogy.
Colin Robinson chats with GalleyCat about his publishing venture, OR Books, whose distribution motto—“No book printed until it’s sold”—could turn the Strand’s remainder tables into a ghost town. He acknowledges advertising’s sway, but asserts that what really sells books online is a variation of the brick-and-mortar bookseller’s greatest skill, "handselling".