The iBookstore is coming to the iPhone, expanding the e-book market to the pocket-sized device. If you put stock in Steve Job's iBook sales numbers, that's very good news for publishing. Yesterday's announcement of the iPhone 4 was measured in comparison to the frenzied hype that welcomed the iPad, since many of the phone's features have been known for a while—thanks to the checkbook journalism of Gizmodo, which purloined an early iPhone 4 prototype and produced the definitive guide to the gizmo.
Literary mixes: New York magazine has asked authors to recommend books for the summer: "the perfect time to dig deep into books, classics and otherwise, you’ve missed." Australian novelist Peter Carey on historical fiction; cyberpunk William Gibson on science fiction; Kathryn Harrison on memoirs; SNL writer Simon Rich on humor; Otto Penzler (owner of The Mysterious Bookshop) on thrillers; and Rebecca Skloot on science—more than fifty books worth reading in all—including classics, recent volumes, and several intriguingly obscure titles.
Meanwhile, on the left coast, the LA Times has cobbled together its own list of essential reading for the summer.
FSG's reading series is back tonight, pairing Lydia Davis, known for her revelatory translation of Swann's Way, last year's collection of stories, and a forthcoming translation of Madame Bovary, with David Means, author of the recent story collection The Spot.
This is Not an Obituary: David Markson has died at age eighty-two. Markson, who began his career writing off-kilter genre fiction, kept the unconventional novel alive long after '60s-era critics and readers had retreated to tamer stuff. In books like Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988), Reader’s Block (1996), and The Is Not a Novel (2001), Markson achieved the grail so many American avant-garde novelists had sought: crafting radical experiments in form that were utterly compelling to read. His conversations about craft were almost as enthralling as his literary output, and proved inspirational for many writers daunted by the blank page (especially David Shields). Here's an interview between Markson and his publisher Dalkey Archive Press from 1989, another interview with Markson from Bookslut in 2005, and one from Conjunctions in 2007. The website HTML Giant has an open thread for Markson mourners. But perhaps the most moving Markson interview is this one from a 2008 edition of the radio show Bookworm, in which he chats about The Last Novel (2007), saying "What I do is essentially leave out most of the baggage of the usual novel: plot, character, dramatic incidents, dramatic scenes, which sounds as if there's nothing much left . . . conveying the nature of the artistic life, most frequently despairs and defeats or sometimes even rotten reviews."
From Times Higher Education: "Drawing the venom from the poison pen of rancorous reviews: Herminio Martins offers a threefold plan to bring order to the 'structural irresponsibility' of academic book reviewing." From Arcade, "If Professors are from Mars, then Journalists are from Pluto: People who cite Derrida often don’t know the work of James Wood, and those who love Wood can’t stand Derrida. Why the divide?" From Open Letters, again with the metacriticism? Time to get on with it: "It has been surprising and exciting to me to realize how blinkered I was about non-academic book culture, and chastening to realize how little use my own specialized reading has been as preparation to join in."
John Waters, who recently published a collection of essays about his heroes, Role Models, offers 10 Best Pieces of Advice for functional freaks, grants an interview at the NYT Magazine, and one at Salon.
The Associated Press, arbiter of clean copy since 1953, has added a new section to its Style Book to accommodate newfangled terms such as "app," "blog," and "click-through," among others. Meanwhile, the Fake AP Style Book continues to amuse with its almost—but not quite right—proclamations on proper style.
Twain saw being interviewed as torture, Hemingway found it akin to hand-to-hand combat, while Nabokov agreed only to be questioned via typewritten transcript (the better to polish his prose before it saw print). In Bookforum's pages, Albert Mobillio, introducing a section on interviewing the interviewers, wrote that interviews are a "high wire act for writers." Michael Silverblatt has been conversing with authors for twenty years, often provoking bouts of astonished silence in the wake of his lengthy questions. In The Believer, Sarah Fay chats with Silverblatt, who talks about crying on-air, being intimidated by guests (especially Susan Sontag), and of interviewing Norman Mailer, who "was like a mellow bull in a pasture, with flowers wound around his horns."
"Seventy years ago, a publisher decided to distract children from the war with intelligent, affordable and beautiful books. It paid off handsomely" for Penguin Books, which is celebrating its young readers' Puffin Books's platinum anniversary this year. Perhaps you can't transform them into "nifty little seats," but Puffins can be found at some of the "best bookstores around the world." Bookstores not anointed into that select few can find inspiration at Bookshelf Porn, a blog of the world's "best bookshelf photos."
Maaza Mengiste. Photo by Miriam Berkley.
On Wednesday night, organizers of the Brooklyn Book Festival announced part of its 2010 line-up at a mingle that took place at stately Brooklyn Borough Hall. As publishing types mixed with writers such as Colson Whitehead, Chuck Klosterman, and others, Johnny Temple (the onetime Girls Against Boys bassist and editor of Akashic Books) introduced curators who named some of the writers confirmed for the fest. As always, it is a stellar bunch: Whitehead, Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Mary Gaitskill, Joshua Clover, Rob Sheffield, Maaza Mengiste, Joyce Carol Oates, Dorothy Allison, Stephen Elliott and more. If you don't live in Brooklyn, book your flight now, if you do, clear your calendar for Sunday September 12th.
Though he decries the "relative ghettoization of non-paper technologies" at BEA, Brian Heater of PCMag says, "Let there be no doubt, the publishing industry is alive and well," noting the booming attendance at this year's conference. Scott McLemee pretty much agrees after returning from visiting another embattled faction at the BEA—university presses.
What do thieves who prowl bookstore aisles like to heist? In the US it has long been standard protocol to stash Beat writers, Charles Bukowski, and, of course, Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book behind the counter, but what about in the UK, where Morrissey once sang "Shoplifters of the World Unite" (then later disavowed the practice)?
Mark English's illustration for John Cheever's "The Geometry of Love."
From the archives of American angst: The Saturday Evening Post has digitized and posted the 1966 John Cheever story "The Geometry of Love." Though the story appears in Cheever's Collected Stories, it is edifying to see a story by "the suburban squire" presented in its original context—a vividly illustrated Post spread, with its eyebrow-raising tag line: "How convenient to reduce your marital difficulties to a mathematical formula! How convenient—and how dangerous!" Though the Post jumped at the chance to publish the story, it was only after the New Yorker passed on it, with New Yorker editor William Maxwell viewing it as definitive proof that Cheever was in decline due to drinking. As Cheever ruefully wrote: "[Bill] looked at me sadly, patted me gently, said that the story was a ghastly failure and implied that I had lost my marbles."
Bret Easton Ellis wonders why there hasn't been a female Hithcock, Scorsese, or Spielberg, and posits a preposterous answer: that men are "aroused by looking, whereas I don't think women respond that way to films, just because of how they're built."
In an inaugural post on the Paris Review's new Daily blog, editor Lorin Stein writes "if the Review embodies a sensibility, this Daily will try, in a casual and haphazard and at times possibly frivolous way, to put that sensibility into words."
Walter Percy was never able to match The Moviegoer, instead penning the loopy Lost in the Cosmos, which is, as Tom Bartlett writes, "honestly great, or possibly terrible, depending on your level of patience for Percy's stew of literary high jinks," Ralph Ellison never published a follow-up to Invisible Man, though this year saw the posthumous publication of his unfinished second novel Three Days Before the Shooting . . . and don't ever ask Harper Lee about To Kill a Mockingbird.
Peter Beinart continues to assail Israel's leadership and its American supporters in an article condemning yesterday's flotilla raid, which killed nine people and resulted in the arrest of more than six hundred activists (including Swedish writer Henning Mankell). Israel and American Zionism are topics conspicuously absent from Beinart's new book The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris (reviewed in Bookforum by Jim Sleeper), but Beinart has had a lot to say about them recently.
Nay Phone Latt
Blogging can be dangerous, at least according to Burmese authorities, who have imprisoned Nay Phone Latt for his posts; poets are still suspect, too—Saw Wei, who was locked up in Burma for writing a poem, has finally been released after more than two years in prison for "inducing crime against public tranquility" with his verse, which had “General Than Shwe is crazy with power” encoded within the poem.
I got a scheme—for a magazine! The beginnings of what Philip Roth dubbed "an imaginative assault upon the American experience" are detailed in an excerpt from a new history of Commentary, showing how early pieces in the magazine, from the likes of Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, and Roth, "helped forge a new literary temper," and "acted as a greenhouse for a new style of literary criticism . . . incubating the first generation of critics to grow from America’s working class."
I'm feeling lucky: novelist Geoff Nicholson writes that "ideas of what’s worth knowing, and even what’s interesting, are constantly changing," and dusts off his "outdated books of supposedly impartial information," such as the flashlight-worthy Guinness Book of Records and the ultimate unimpeachable source, the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as the wonderfully-named—and almost certainly not pocket-sized—Everybody’s Pocket Companion: A Handy Reference Book of Astronomical, Biblical, Chemical, Geographical, Geometrical, Historical, Mathematical, Physical, Remedial, and Scientific Facts, Dates Worth Knowing, World Sports and Speeds Records, Mythological, Physiological, Monetary, Postal and General Information.