A still from Grand Theft Auto.
Apparently, penning manifestos is terribly fatiguing. David Shields recently dismissed novelist Myla Goldberg’s forthcoming novel, The False Friend, based solely on a short catalog description. "No offense to her; I haven’t read her work." When pressed by interviewer Edward Champion, Shields explained, “I’ve read enough of her other book. I’ve flipped pages. . . . I was like, ‘What does this have to do with the advancement of culture? You know, nothing.’" Is this an example of what Reality Hunger's catalog copy means when it boasts that "Shields takes an audacious stance on issues that are being fought over now and will be fought over far into the future"? Audacious, indeed. Lazy, too.
"Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today," says Tony Judt, in an excerpt from his new book Ill Fares the Land. The London Review of Books' Kristina Bozic interviews Judt to find out why.
Prolific author Tom Bissell's chosen vices were once fairly tame—chewing tobacco, smoking pot, drinking Diet Coke, and the occasional dose of lyric poetry. These gateway drugs quickly turned sinister—he was soon snorting cocaine and playing the gleefully amoral video game Grand Theft Auto.
As tax time approaches, it might help—or hurt—to remember that Kafka made the equivalent of forty thousand dollars working as an insurance company bureaucrat, and that Faulkner's yearly earnings in the early 1920s would add up to roughly eighteen thousand dollars today.
Laura Miller tells Galleycat: "Book reviews have gotten to be a sleepy, dull genre of journalism." (Yawn.)
Bookforum's HQ is jazzed-up over the sunny weather, the arrival of our new print issue, and the apropos sight of Beckett in shades, sandals, and shorts. There hasn't been this much jittery excitement in the office since Stumptown coffee opened a few blocks away.
Signing Statement: Nicholson Baker's Flirty Fan.
Over at the Washington Post: "The least-accurate political memoirs ever written."
Amazon and Apple are in the midst of a high-stakes scrap over e-book pricing. Apple's iPad hasn't been released yet, but the buzz surrounding its hypothetical book app has reduced Amazon to drastic tactics.
Yesterday, the eBook Newser blog provided a pirated version of Roberto Bolano's 2666. We thought we had a literary Napster on our hands, but they quickly removed the link. Now they only proffer legal e-books, which are no less thrilling to read, like G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.
Jonathan Lethem and Patti Smith will share the stage at the PEN 2010 World Voices Festival. We look forward to seven days of similarly edifying encounters, beginning April 26th, between authors from around the globe, including Aleksandar Hemon, Yiyun Li, Karl O. Knausgaard, Shirley Hazzard, Elias Khoury, and more than one-hundred others.
Saturday night Monica Youn will read from her latest collection, Ignatz, a collection of poems that play on George Herriman’s classic comic strip Krazy Kat. This isn't your ordinary chain-bookstore author event: Providing a live soundtrack will be Matmos, the electronic duo that has revealed its literary leanings in songs devoted to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Patricia Highsmith.
Why did Harper's web-wiz Paul Ford quit? The Awl's Choire Sicha investigates; talk of rats, sinking ships, and "consulting" ensues.
Move over David Remnick, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Bob Woodward—there's a new presidential historian in town. Porn-peddler Larry Flynt is writing a book about US presidents' (and first ladies') sex lives. According to the proposal, he will answer questions like: "How did a gay-love affair aid the secession movement?" And: "How did one of Wilson's affairs result in the first Jew on the Supreme Court?" We can't wait to find out.
Though he resembles a disgruntled bar bouncer, Jaron Lanier is a virtual reality pioneer. He's playing the contrarian at the SXSWi Festival, delivering an unpopular message about the depersonalized, "darker side" of the web, as articulated in his recent volume You Are Not A Gadget. Lanier is more concerned with human-to-human connection these days, so if you see him, give him a hug.
Brandon Scott Gorrell reviews the harsh reviews of Tao Lin's novel Shoplifting from American Apparel. Unfortunately, the writer doth protest too much, especially since he's published by Lin's Muumuu House.
John Grisham, who has sold more than 250 million books the old-fashioned way, gives in to e-books.
Brittain's poet Laurette Carol Ann Duffy feels soccer star David Beckham's pain. Her poem "Achilles," compares Beckham, to well... Achilles, and intones "it was sport, not war, / his charmed foot on the ball... / But then his heel, his heel, his heel" Oh, brave billionaire Beckham's fragile heel!
Sylvia Beach, modernism's midwife, recalls meeting James Joyce in her memoir: “He put his limp, boneless hand in my tough little paw.” Now a collection of her charming and erudite letters is being published by Columbia University Press, offering first-hand accounts of her bookstore Shakespeare and Company's founding, Joyce's publication, and the shop's rushed shuttering under Nazi pressure.
Job-juggling Bookforum co-editor Chris Lehmann has become managing editor of Yahoo!'s news blogs, but will continue to edit Bookforum. As the Observer explains: “The initial headline on this post suggested that Mr. Lehmann was leaving Bookforum. In fact, he will be continuing on as an editor at Bookforum in addition to his new role at Yahoo.”
Scholar Tony Judt's book Ill Fares the Land goes on sale tomorrow. It was rushed to print by The Penguin Press (and rushed to review in the Times), presumably because Judt is suffering from ALS, which he has eloquently chronicled in the New York Review of Books. He's also been blogging his memoirs lately, including this intriguing piece about sexual politics in academia, Girls! Girls! Girls!
The Book Examiner Michelle Kerns lists the 20 most annoying book reviewer clichés. Learn them by heart and you, too, could lead the “compelling” and “poignant” life of a literary critic, and host “riveting” bingo games.
A dispatch from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
Emory University is preserving Salman Rushdie's archives, including four of his computers (one sticky with spilled soda). Archivists are struggling with how to preserve the precious zeros and ones within born-digital materials, like John Updike's 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, and Rushdie's virtual Post-It notes.
Sam Lipsyte reads from The Ask in front of a packed house at Brooklyn's Book Court bookstore.
Editor Gordon Lish, photo by Bill Hayward
OR Books will publish Gordon Lish’s Collected Fictions on April 30th. Lish, best known as Raymond Carver’s Svengali, was an editor at Knopf and Esquire, a writing workshop drill sergeant, and a merciless pruner of purple prose. His stories are sure to attract intense scrutiny; we can already hear slighted authors sharpening their red pencils in anticipation.
People still buy books! To celebrate, Publishers Weekly has named San Francisco shop City Lights Books the Bookseller of the Year.
Last year, publishing world veteran Peter Miller endured a barrage of twitter sniping and snarky blogging while presenting at the "New Think for Old Publishers" panel at the South by Southwest Interactive festival. This year he's back, blogging about the festivities for the LA Times. There's still a hint of fanaticism in the air: "In nearly any discussion of books these days, the argument usually devolves into either/or," Miller writes, "Either the publishers get with the program or else. That 'or else' can be a monotonous drum beat at SXSWi that drowns out genuine dialog."
UbuWeb publishes the unpublishable.
Amazon recently bought Audible, but perhaps that was a bad move: the iPad, soon to descend on publishing like the angel of death, might kill audio books, too.
New York Times columnist David Carr
A video interview with New York Times columnist David Carr after Saturday's SXSW panel "Media Armageddon: What Happens When the New York Times Dies." Speaking of media Armageddon, Gawker quotes Carr saying they scoop him “all the time.”
Will Walter Kirn be at the 92nd Street Y next Monday, when critic James Wood will discuss Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace? When Wallace died in 2008, Wood wrote a finely parsed remembrance of Wallace's work on Edward Champion's blog tribute page, and tried to refute Kirn's assertion that Wallace was one of the few "aesthetic villains" of Wood's How Fiction Works.
In this puff piece from the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstein revisits Italo Svevo's novel Zeno's Conscience, which he calls the "best book about quitting smoking." In our experience, though, reading Zeno's rants only triggered vicious nic-fits.
Are we the only ones tired of reading about the zeitgeist-defining tome Reality Hunger: A Manifesto? David Shields was at his best in his 2001 book Baseball is Just Baseball. In that volume, he collected the sage sayings of baseball's coolest player, Ichiro. While Shields seems to have lost his sense of humor lately, Ichiro hasn't.
Over at the American Book Review, a band of intrepid academics takes potshots at "40 bad books," including The Great Gatsby, All the Pretty Horses, and Let the Great World Spin. Sacrilege? No, Revolutionary Road will outlive Sean Bernard's tepid critique: "Why is it bad? Because it’s tricked so many into thinking it’s good." Marjorie Perloff's takedown of poet Frederick Seidel is a great read, however, and her list of ten picks from Ubuweb offers plenty of alternatives to Seidel’s “tell-all nastiness.”
Two of the six books that won the National Book Critics Circle award—Eula Biss's Notes from No Man's Land and Rae Armantrout's Versed—are not available on Kindle. So, you’ll have to get 'em the old fashioned way.