Joan Didion, circa 1970
People have been complaining about the banality of author photos for years (here's what the Times had to say about author-pic cliches back in 1993). Perhaps because the old-fashioned book (along with its carefully designed jacket) is losing its dominance, people are now not just decrying boring photographs but offering advice to writers seeking a publicity shot: Get a makeover. You want our advice? Skip the Estee Lauder and channel the spirit of Joan Didion in her author photo for Play It as It Lays, circa 1970. She is not playing. (Extra credit: seek out nondigitized photos of Jane Bowles with a bird on her shoulder, and Barbara Pym—with a cat.)
Google has counted all the books in the world (there's roughly 130 million). Is there anything those whiz-bang geeks can't do? We'll see, as they're planning to digitize every one of 'em.
This week in California, a judge reversed proposition 8, a ballot initiative that banned gay marriage. To celebrate, the blog Jacket Copy has compiled a list of 20 classic works of gay literature, which is nice; but if they really cared, they probably would have gotten all the author names right (it's Mark Merlis, not Mark Marlis). And while it's an OK start, there are some baffling inclusions and absences (perhaps inevitable on any list of 20). Luckily, you can offer your favorites in the comments section (Alan Hollinghurst and Edmund White—represent!). We'd start by adding Heather Lewis's Notice and Eileen Myles's brand-new Inferno. Then again, maybe we shouldn't: Neither book has much to say about marriage.
To get a sense of how uncertain publishing models are these days, consider this line from Slate: "small presses, already experts at cultivating loyal followings, are positioned to thrive in the march toward digital distribution—but don't count on them making a profit." And this one from The Daily Beast: "Taylor Antrim explores why [novellas] might be perfect for our time." The operative word in that last quote is might. But we do agree that Jean-Cristophe Valtat's 03—a mix of muddled teen angst, Proustian longing, and meditations on bands like Joy Division—is one of this summer's must-reads.
We recommended that you go see David Berman in NYC last week. If you missed it, Jeremy Schmall offers an analysis of the event—a talk in which the musician-poet explained why his conservative PR-man father should stop doing what he's doing.
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