Inga Kuznetsova, a PEN American Center World Voices panelist
A curtain call for Ted Willams at the Library of America, as John Updike's classic essay on Williams, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," is republished as a new volume, fifty years after the Splendid Splinter's last at bat, in which he blasted a homer and then didn't tip his cap to the crowd.
Surfing the Voice Literary Supplement's online archives with artforum.com editor-at-large Brian Sholis.
Take a long lunch break—or the day off—and wander over to the PEN American Center's World Voices Festival this afternoon. Among the many edifying events is "Utopia and Dystopia: Geographies of the Possible," with authors Jonathan Lethem, Eshkol Nevo, Andrzej Stasiuk, and Inga Kuznetsova; moderated by Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio. And if you can't get away from your desk, PEN is streaming many of the events live on their website.
"What's in a Tweet?" Researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center are developing new ways to process the torrent of Twitter info; and though the nearly hieroglyphic text blasts are hard for machines to parse, there's a new approach that might help. Meanwhile, book publishers wonder: does Twitter sell books?; The Observer's Paul Young conducts a "quasi-scientific study." Indeed, Twitter may be the best place to share book opinions and gossip, but the L Magazine can't figure out "who to hate most in this NY Times piece about Twitter pedants who obsess over grammar in tweets: the writer (for giving them more attention), the people who actually tweet in all caps, the celebrities who tweet self-serving banalities, or the pedants themselves."
A digest of the publishing industry's April news and moves, including Sean McDonald's decamping to FSG, the NYT's Mokoto Rich's departure from the book beat to the paper's Business Day section, and more.
The 1930s Kindle, Allen Lane's Penguincubator
In the 1930s, publisher Allen Lane installed a book-vending machine, the Penguincubator, in places where books were not supposed to be. What can we learn from Lane?
"Tell all the truth but tell it slant," Emily Dickinson wrote, and scholars have been slanting her life-story ever since. Lyndall Gordon tips the familiar Dickinson myths and spills new revelations in Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feud. Gordon places Dickinson at the center of a "seething Peyton Place of adultery, betrayal and lifelong feuding," and posits that perhaps Dickinson was epileptic.
Getting over the "Anxiety of Influence" of the Dead Poets' Society.
Pico Iyer on Jan Morris and V. S. Naipaul, two "master portraitists" of place.
Tonight at 7pm, the Melville House bookstore will host a "Future of Book Reportage" panel. Time Out NY's Michael Miller, salon.com's Laura Miller, O, the Oprah Magazine's Sara Nelson, Galley Cat's Jason Boog, and eBook Newser's Craig Morgan Teicher will discuss the future of book criticism as part of Melville House's "Publishing in the Age of Blah Blah" series. With this sharp collection of critics, you can be sure there'll be no blather.
Ben Marcus's Smallwork offers an intriguing mix of short fiction excerpts.
Stephen Ambrose liked Ike plenty, but seems to have known him less well than previously thought. The popular historian's apparently faked interviews with Dwight D. Eisenhower have scholars scrambling—how many have cited Ambrose's allegedly fictional footnotes?
A brief on the short story's sinister appeal from this weekend’s LA Times Book Festival.
Archie Comics introduces its first gay character, resulting in "hand-wringing and high-fiving, raised eyebrows and rolled eyes."
Return of the rebel: A long-lost video of James Dean and Ronald Reagan has recently resurfaced, and "metaphysical practitioner" Patricia Leone has enlisted Dean—from beyond the grave—to write The Lost Memoirs.
Luscious and lurid, a Charles Willeford paperback is a sure score whether found in a dusty attic or in an upscale Brooklyn flea market bin. Tonight, Thirty Days Gallery hosts a Willeford symposium. He was known for his crime novels, but wasn't afraid to delve into seedier territory. His 1988 autobiography, I was Looking for a Street, was recently re-released as a Picturebox paperback edition, emblazoned with both a Jonthan Lethem blurb and an introduction from Luc Sante. Resale rates must be skyrocketing; do we hear the Library of America calling?
Michael Foley, author of The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy, picks his top ten absurd classics. And if you're making must-read booklists, peruse our syllabi: Elif Batuman on Dangerous Friends, Sheila Heti on Secret Self-Help, and Louis Bury on Conceptual Poetry.
Bard of the postwar British working-class Alan Sillitoe has died at age eighty-two. Known for the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), and the story collection The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), Sillitoe was pretty mad about being lumped in with the Angry Young Man brand of British literature. He'll be widely eulogized with a quote from the film version of Saturday Night: “Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not.” But it is an earlier line in that scene that's more expressive of Sillitoe’s art: "I'm not barmy, I'm a fighting pit-prop that wants a pint of beer, that's me. But if any knowing bastard says that's me, I’ll tell ‘em I'm a dynamite dealer. "
Heidi Julavits's significant object tells the story of a man who seems rotten to the core.
Catch up with Friday evening's LA Times Book Prize winners in Bookforum back issues; Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun, Rafael Yglesias’s A Happy Marriage, Philipp Meyer's American Rust, David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, and Linda Gordon's Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits.
“Sidewalk booksellers are an essential part of New York street culture, the intellectual wing of an alfresco economy that includes coffee carts, peanut roasters and break-dancing buskers,” writes Simon Akam as he sets out to find which titles are the best second-hand sellers.
Robert Service is not pleased with Orlando Figes's Amazon-rating shenanigans, as Service writes; "it's been quite a fortnight."
Jonathan Lethem has been tapped to fill David Foster Wallace's old teaching gig at Pomona College, while editor Sean McDonald, best known for his work on James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, is heading to FSG to take Lorin Stein's old job, as Stein helms the Paris Review.
Let the buzz begin; Tom McCarthy's forthcoming follow-up novel to his much praised volume Remainder, the one-letter titled C, has already caused a stir in the book world. That's in part because of Peter Mendelsund's striking dot-dot-dash book jacket. The Knopf designer chats with McCarthy and Casual Optimist blogger Dan Wagstaff.
Five Chapters has run an excerpt from Julie Oringer's forthcoming fiction, Invisible Bridge, every day this week. Now catch up on all five.
There are a bevy of book events on both coasts to keep bibliophiles busy this weekend. Out west, the LA Times Festival of Books has a stellar program planned, including "The Art of the Critic" panel, moderated by David Ulin and featuring poet and Bookforum co-editor Albert Mobilio, The Tyranny of Email author John Freeman, The Possessed author Elif Batuman, and Salon critic Laura Miller, author of The Magician's Book. Back east, The London Review of Book's 30th anniversary celebration in New York continues with "The Author in the Age of the Internet;" and starting on Friday in Brooklyn, 177 Livingston is hosting a three-day rereading of Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," by the theater-collective Group Theory, featuring participants including Paul Chan, Lynne Tillman, and Vivian Gornick. We'd prefer not to miss any of them.
Tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Joshua Ferris discusses his new novel The Unnamed with Daniel Menaker. Ferris, whose first novel, Then We Came to the End, won wide acclaim for its mix of office angst and first-person-plural laughs, takes a different tack with The Unnamed, a Beckett-esque fable about the perils of compulsive perambulation.
M. P. Shiel's 1901 work A Purple Cloud is puffy with purple prose, but oddly prescient.
Naked Launch: A frozen moment when you realize that the newly syndicated Barnes and Noble reviews on Salon might be a bit undercooked. Stefan Beck sends Naked Lunch back to the kitchen with a dismissive sniff, provoking scuffles in the comments section—many eloquent, some half-baked; De gustibus non est disputandum. As Charles Poole put it in his 1962 review, "in Naked Lunch . . . the insufferable prig and the insufferable sinner will find a forlorn meeting ground."
In the East African, John Mwazemba writes that for African fiction writers, "Fame and famine meet in an awkward embrace," while in the Daily Nation Evan Mwangi wonders why the region is still considered a "literary dwarf." Last year, James Gibbons explored "a superabundance within the continent’s many literatures," but found that "it is a literature largely of displacement and exile." In South Africa, The Independent proclaims that writers "have discovered levity in the face of gloom, reflecting both the country's dysfunction and its promise."