Stephen Burt

Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, Jennifer Egan, and other writers have signed a letter pledging to boycott Arizona until it revokes its new SB1070 immigration law.

Last May, David Biespiel wrote an article for the Poetry Foundation arguing that poets should assume a stronger role in the "the life of American Democracy"—maybe even run for office. Now, Stephen Burt (the author of the excellent Close Calls with Nonsense) offers a rousing reply, explaining why this would be "bad for our poetry," and "bad for our politics."

"I quit being a Christian," says a Facebook post by bestselling author Anne Rice, who became famous as a writer of vampire novels and has more recently been writing about Jesus. "In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist."

The new Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi will sell for just $139.

At his indefatiguable website, Dennis Cooper offers up a typically fascinating list: "15 of the American poems that helped me stop trying to imitate Rimbaud back in the '70s."

Tonight at Brooklyn's Greenlight Books, you can catch Gary Shteyngart reading from his new novel Super Sad True Love Story—and feel relieved that New York hasn't devolved into chaos (yet). Anyone looking for less dystopic fare should check out Jessa Crispin's "happy books for dark times."


Eileen Myles

Agent Andrew Wylie's new ebook imprint, Odyssey Editions, is making publishers angry. Random House is severing ties with the agency, nixing all new book deals, while Macmillan US's chief executive, John Sargent, said he was "appalled" by the deal. Author Matt Stewart gives the most sensible analysis of the battle we've seen: He calls Random House thieves and Wylie a "vicious negotiater," and builds on this point: "Both parties are behaving like assholes." 

If you're in New York tonight, Granta magazine is celebrating the release of its latest issue with a reading by Netherland author (and Obama favorite) Joseph O'Neill and short-fiction author Claire Watkins.

You don't hear much about literary movements these days, but over at the Nervous Breakdown, Angela Stubbs writes about a group of New Narrative authors, specifically Dodie Bellamy (who anticipated the vampire-crazed present in The Letters of Mina Harker), Kevin Killian (who, in addition to being a novelist and the poet laureate of Kylie Minogue has written literally thousands of Amazon reviews), and Eileen Myles (who, in case you didn't know, has a fascinating new novel about a poet in New York City that you can pre-order now).

Christina Stead's 1940 novel The Man Who Loved Children has become one of the most-praised lost classics of 2010. Jonathan Franzen raved about Stead's book in the Times earlier this summer. At almost the same time, John Waters professed his love for the book in his new Role Models (in a chapter that also covers Denton Welch and Ivy Compton-Burnett). If the bizarre Franzen-Waters combo isn't enough to convince you, here are two other eminent Stead fans: Joy Williams, and the late David Foster Wallace.


Andrea Levy

Novelist and critic Tom LeClair has some advice for contemporary writers: Treat your interviewers well. They read your books, and they may have the final word.

“To Jeff Bezos and everyone else who brings books to the world I say: thank you,” concludes Ruth Franklin, writing "In Defense of Amazon" at the New Republic, a response to Colin Robinson’s recent article in The Nation, "The Trouble With Amazon." 

The 2010 Man Booker Prize for fiction's longlist has been announced, and apparently, the Booker judges are feeling wistful for the past. There's a distinct batch of historical fiction in the mix, including some books that must be considered favorites to win: Peter Carey's novel Parrot and Olivier in America, a revisiting of Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous trip to America (Carey has already won the prize twice); David Mitchell's 19th century fiction The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet; Tom McCarthy's early-twentieth century novel C; Helen Dunmore's World War II book The Betrayal; and Andrea Levy's The Long Song, a novel depicting Jamaica's 1832 slave rebellion (among other books set in the more recent past). We'll have to wait until September 7th for the shortlist, and the winner will be announced on October 12th.

In 1987, David Foster Wallace, then an assistant professor of English at Amherst College, wrote this thoughtful student evaluation, posted at Htmlgiant, reminding us that he was a careful reader of not just literature and tennis, but of the young authors he taught as well.


Stan Lee

Novelist David Markson, who passed away in June, was a fan of the Strand Bookstore. Recently, the Strand started selling the author's heavily annotated personal library, which has been "scattered among the stacks." Alex Abramovich reports, while scooping up many of the treasures.

In school we learned that the English novel was born in the hands of Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson. In his new book, The Novel, Steven Moore, a longtime editor at Dalkey Archive Press, offers an alternate history, tracing the form back more than a thousand years. He finds that "Petronius's Satyricon ... [looks] like a Thomas Pynchon novel." Moore's book is hardly stodgy: its opening chapter is, among other things, a celebration of contemporary experimental literature and a rebuttal of an essay by Jonathan Franzen.

Dear Q.M.: we admire your elegantly bad posture, your sturdy dot, your unknowability. Yes, we're writing a love letter to the question mark, and hoping to win a copy of Ben Greenman's latest story collection, What He's Poised to Do (note the curvaceous apostrophe).

Comics Roundup: In San Diego this week, Comic-Con 2010 is in full swing. Lindsay Eanet names eight literary works that deserve a graphic-novel treatment. Drawing Out Reality: How do you create a "sense of place" in comics? Stan Lee, who helped invent countless Marvel Comics characters, has a new line of comic books, and unveils three new superheros at the convention. Cartoonist Paul Madonna discusses the responsibility of a visual artist, the lack of innovation in comics, and the importance of telling stories with pictures. There's a "new spark of interest" in comics and graphic novels in the Middle East, and Ben Schwartz remembers when Los Angeles was a hotbed of alt-weekly comics.


David Means

Ron Rosenbaum, fresh from the fight over the posthumous publication of Vladimir Nabokov's unfinished novel The Original of Laura, steels himself for the "next Nabokov controversy." This time, it is over the poem within Nabokov's novel Pale Fire, ("written" by character John Shade), which Ginko Press plans to publish as a standalone in a lavish edition this fall, blessed by both Nabokov's son Dmitri and biographer Brian Boyd. Rosenbaum is all for it, writing: "I think the Gingko Press edition will provoke an important argument, and more importantly get people to experience the pleasures of the poem with or without its mad annotations." 

Means's Season: An interview with fiction writer David Means from the Rumpus (and one on the Leonard Lopate Show), a video of him reading from FSG's blog Work in Progress, and a review by Jon Raymond of Means's new story collection, The Spot, from Bookforum's summer issue.

Do you wish you were trapped "in the ruins of a public library, with lots of food and all the time in the world" to read all the books you want? Do you see the world through book-colored glasses? Perhaps you wish that video games considered classic literature as inspiration and that books were "performance-enhanced." Then sign up for Alikewise, "a dating site that allows you to find people based on their book tastes." If you get lucky you might find your perfect partner to share The Ark with—and pretty soon you'll be parading around town with matching t-shirts, hand-in-hand back to the library, ahead of the curve on the next pop-culture trend.


Louise Erdrich

To-do list: New Yorker indie-rock and poetry fans, sell your soul to try to gain admittance to the poetry reading by the amazing Silver Jews frontman David Berman, whose cult-classic book Actual Air was one of Open City Books's first publications (along with Sam Lipsyte's classic Venus Drive). Aside from a few poems he published in The Believer, and the cartoons collected in the book The Portable February, Berman has been quiet as a published author for more than a decade. Here's your chance to hear what this armchair surrealist has been up to outside of the studio, where his lyrics, full of skewed wit and slanted insight, have remained exquisite.

Galleycat offers a round-up of coverage of the Andrew Wylie agency's new ebook imprint, which will publish Bellow, Roth, Borges, Updike, and Nabokov, among other literary giants. We can only hope that Wylie plans to make the rights for the Kindle's text-to-speech feature available, so we can hear the robot voice read Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. A stellar line-up to be sure, except for the fact that—so far, that is—the group is almost all dead dudes. Louise Erdrich is one of the few living authors—and the only woman.

The Pop Matters website features a post titled "Has the Inernet Killed Professional Book Reviews?," and then concludes: "old-fashioned book reviews are not dead yet. Well written reviews still have a lot to offer." Thanks, that's Good to know! Here's another question: What, exactly, is a "professional" book review? The New Yorker's James Wood is certainly a professional book reviewer, but is his column, or what he has to say, dead? Daniel E. Pritchard says no, but that online reviews offer just as much. Discuss.

Getting Even: The audiobook merchant Audible.com has a classy splash page for the newly recorded "Woody Allen Collection" narrated by the author, but he probably won't work as a spokesman for them anytime soon. Allen says of recording audio books: "I imagined it would be quite easy for me, and, in fact, it turned out to be monstrously hard. I hated every second of it, regretted that I had agreed to it, and . . . found myself exhausted. The discovery I made was that any number of stories are really meant to work, and only work, in the mind’s ear and hearing them out loud diminishes their effectiveness."


Franz Kafka

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" and ending in "esque"), but we'll refrain from echoing the cliche—we just hope that none of the litigants wake up to find themselves transformed into an insect.

At Salon, Laura Miller has interesting things to say about the complexities of recommending books, and points out a few places where you might find suggestions that are better, and more human, than Amazon's.

Not to beat a dead letter, but Christian Lorentzen offers a cool-headed analysis of the Paris Review's so-called poetry-rejection scandal at the Observer. Also, Blake Butler asks a pointed question: "as a writer do you feel entitled to careful handling?" A footnote: in all of the revisitations of the PR's history of celebrated poetry editors, no one has mentioned the charming and prolific Tom Clark.

With the help of its readers, GalleyCat is wading through the thousands of book publisher pages on Facebook and has started a valuable directory of the best ones. It's a work in progress, so if you think any publishers are missing (like Fantagraphics, Turtle Point Press, Akashic, Wave Books...), just add them to the comments box.

St. Marks Bookshop hosts its latest reading event at Bar 82 tonight, welcoming emerging authors Julia Holmes, Adam Golaski, and Kira Henehan, whose debut novel Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles was reviewed in the spring issue of Bookforum. Henehan's novel of "disjointed prose" and eccentric atmospherics should make for an exciting, if disorienting, evening.


Thomas Frank

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 computer crashes, what do you do? Throw your hands up in frustration, gnash your teeth, cry? You could write a story instead, as Garrett Murray does, and turn the crash report into literary gold.

Red state cinema: Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas?, which details how "conservatives won the heart of America," has been adapted into a film (surely that state's citizens must be sick of the question by now). If you're in New York next week, you can watch Frank discuss the movie with co-director Joe Winston on July 28 and catch a screening on July 30.

Over at Publishers Weekly, Craig Morgan Teicher, the author of Cradle Book and formerly the man behind Galleycat's eBookNewser, has launched an excellent new blog, PWxyz, where he wittily covers all things bookish, including top-notch dispatches from the digital publishing frontier.


Anthony Doerr

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 three months—or as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos eloquently puts it, "The Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format." The numbers exclude the free "bestsellers" that have inflated earlier sales figures.

"Posthumous publication, with the editor inevitably performing the dead person's imagined identity and wishes, delicately balances between invention or hoax and channeling of the departed's spirit," writes Craig Saper in the introduction to a special section on "posthumography" in Rhizome, a journal that publishes "works written in the spirit of Deleuzian approaches." The issue includes an essay by the University of Florida's Richard Burt on Kierkegaard's writing desk, Goethe's files, and Derrida's paper machine. And while an out-of-print chapbook may seem to be the definition of a dead book, they can now ascend to a glorious Flash-based afterlife on the web: Ugly Duckling Presse has announced that it is making its out-of-print books available as free ebooks.

Tonight at Manhattan's McNally Jackson Books, Anthony Doerr will read from his new story collection Memory Wall. After writing a novel and a memoir, Doerr returns to the form that suits him best: short fiction. (His 2003 debut, The Shell Collector, is a story collection). In the Boston Globe, reviewer Steve Almond writes of Doerr's new book: "He refuses to traffic in the hysterical lyricism that infatuates so many modern writers, as they seek to compete with the frantic enticements of screen addiction. Instead, he places his powers of invention in the service of precision." 


Christopher Hitchens

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 access to a seemingly limitless supply of cheap books. So what's the Trouble With Amazon? In The Nation, Colin Robinson, co-publisher of OR Books (which doesn't sell its books on the online giant's site), details the bullying of publishers over prices, the disappearing "buy" buttons that make these publisher's books unavailable, and argues that ultimately Amazon's devaluing of books dilutes literary culture: "a healthy publishing industry would ensure that skilled authors are recompensed fairly for their work, that selection by trusted and well-resourced editors reduces endless variety to meaningful choice and that ideas and artistry are as important as algorithms and price points in deciding what is sold."

The rise of freelancers, a stretched book review staff at many publications, and the glut of books published each year has made it more difficult for editors to spot the hidden grudges and friendships that can cause a conflict of interest in a book review. 

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