Tonight at 192 Books, Frederic Tuten will read from his new book Self-Portrait: Fictions. Recently, Bookforum's Peter Trachtenberg caught up with Tuten to ask him about cinema, his friendship with Roy Lichtenstein, and his "painterly prose."

Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown, will be released on January 25. The book has been embargoed, so we won't be able to read Rummy's rhetorical twists, revelations about the events leading up to the Iraq War, or recollections of meeting Elvis until the book is in stores. In the meantime, can someone please cook up a book trailer?

The Rumpus presents its second "Culture Death Match"—this one between Tom Bissell (who is represented here by author Salvatore Pane) and Sarah Vowell (Amy Whipple). The battle is in part between Bissell's and Vowell's obsessions—video games and history, respectively—but also about men and women writers. "Think of the guys here on The Rumpus or over at HTMLGiant," Whipple writes. "You get to say what you want to say when you want to say it and it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re right—just so long as you act like you are."

Meanwhile, Franzenfreude lives on. Katha Pollitt offers a good analysis at The Nation. And Salon wonders: Which Freedom character is Franzen?

Laura Kipnis's latest book attempts to help you become better not just at scandalizing people, but at being scandalized.

Frederic Tuten


Since dropping out of high school at the age of sixteen with dreams of becoming a painter, Frederic Tuten has lived in Paris; traveled through Mexico and South America; earned a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century American literature; acted in a short film by Alain Resnais; conducted summer writing workshops in Tangiers with Paul Bowles; and written fictions and essays for the artist’s catalogues of Eric Fischl, David Salle, John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein. He has also written some of the slyest and most beguiling fiction ever to be described as experimental. His five novels include The Adventures of Mao on the Long March (1971), Tallien: A Brief Romance (1988), Tintin in the New World: A Romance (1993), Van Gogh’s Bad Café (1997), and The Green Hour (2002). Recently Bookforum contacted him to ask about his latest book, Self Portraits: Fictions (Norton), a collection of mysterious, funny, sexy, and ineffably melancholy short stories.—Peter Trachtenberg

BOOKFORUM: Your new book has a recurring narrator named Louie who’s in love with a woman named Marie. Do you think of these as separate stories or as episodes in the unfolding story of a single character or set of characters?

FREDERIC TUTEN: The stories seem to revolve around a single love story that recurs eternally; the two lovers appear in different guises, in different places, at different times, before and after death even, and sometimes as different people. It’s perhaps more accurate to describe the book as having principal souls than principal characters, as they are not literally the same persons in each. My characters are transformations of the people I’ve known in my own life—that’s why each story is separately dedicated—and in each story there are traces of these people, including and especially me, in fact and in fantasy. That’s why I began the book with an essay about storytelling and going to the movies with my grandmother. In a sense, all my novels are self-portraits. I am now engaged in an ongoing memoir project and think of this book of interrelated stories as part one in my autobiography.

Zadie Smith

We know where we'll be tonight: At the FSG Reading Series, the semi-regular literary event held upstairs at the Russian Samovar. You know the drill: The Samovar will start serving vodka around 6:30. David Bezmozgis and Rahul Bhattacharya will start reading their work at 7. 

Zadie Smith takes over the "New Books" column at Harper's.

The Paris Review has just launched its redesigned website, which looks as elegant as their new print issue. You'll want to free up the next several days to peruse their interview archives spanning the 1950s to the present, listen to audio clips, and subscribe to their blog, including an intriguing post by Lydia Davis on translations of Madame Bovary.

Barnes and Noble chairman Leonard Riggio was dealt a setback in his fight with investor Ron Burkle for the company's future, as the influential advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services has backed Burkle's slate of candidates for the Barnes and Noble Board of Directors. According to the Times, Burkle says he is not seeking control of Barnes and Noble, just a more independent Board, or as he put it: “I want someone in there who doesn’t say, ‘That’s the most amazing thing I ever heard’ every time Len opens his mouth.” Riggio, who bought the company nearly forty years ago, told the Times that the battle was more than just business: “Lots of people have an emotional stake in books . . . It’s not like what they have with their haberdashers.”

Lee Rourke, author of the Not the Booker Prize-nominated novel The Canalchats with Tom McCarthy, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel C.

Tonight at Film Forum, there's a must-see screening of Stanley Kubrick's harrowing 1957 film, Paths of Glory, introduced by The Wire's creator David Simon. Humphrey Cobb's 1935 novel, on which the film was based, was recently reissued by Penguin classics with a new introduction by Simon, who will sign copies of the book after the film. Simon has cited the movie as a key influence on his work, saying, "If anyone wants to look at Paths of Glory and think it doesn't speak to the essential triumph of institutions over individuals and doesn't speak to the fundamental inhumanity of the 20th century and beyond, then they weren't watching the same film as the rest of us.” The "essential triumph of institutions over individuals" is as good a summary of The Wire as we've ever heard. 

Journalist Howard Fineman is leaving Newsweek after a thirty-year career at the magazine for the greener pastures of The Huffington Post, where, he reports, "the action is." HuffPo founder Arianna H. spoke re Fineman in terms that make it sound as if she'd just purchased a particularly fine wine: "From the day we launched, it was our belief that the mission of The Huffington Post should be to bring together the best of the old and the best of the new. Bringing in the best of the old involved more money than we had when we launched. But now that our website is growing, we’re able to bring in the best of the old."

Via Arts & Letters Daily: The galling incivility of online debate

Not long ago, book publisher's websites were mostly bland promotional fare: author photos, catalog copy, and—if you were lucky—perhaps a reading group guide. But lately, we've been spending more time on the snazzy websites of publishers like FSG, Phaidon, and Verso, which include interviews, multimedia, and blogs. FSG has just updated its very literary Works in Progress site including a chat between novelists Chris Adrian and Rivka Galchen, a feature on book and album pairings by The Thermals' drummer Westin Glass, and a riveting video of Lydia Davis from a recent reading. Phaidon's redesigned site includes interviews with tastemakers like London Design Festival director Ben Evans, galleries featuring Phaidon artists like Jeff Wall, a video interview with Stephen Shore, as well the blog Edit. The indie publisher Verso's site has some of the best radical political reading on the web, with its booksauthors, and events presented in an engaging format, as well as a blog and discussion forum.

Steve Almond

It's official: Oprah Winfrey has chosen Jonathan Franzen's new novel for her book club.

Here's a trailer for Chris Lehmann's Rich People Things, which hilariously uses a scene from Fellini's La Dolce Vita (watch for the cameo from Nico).

Steve Almond takes writerly self-humiliation to glorious heights in a column for The Rumpus, in which he lampoons poems he wrote in his youth. Sample line: "The geese yank his pants with cheddar beaks."

Futurebook offers a crash course on how to use—and not use—Twitter to promote books.

The watchdog group Media Matters has examined how The Wall Street Journal handles conflicts of interest in its books coverage. One easy way to avoid all those disclaimers: Come up with a warning label to put on all questionable reviews.

Elif Batuman

It has been almost nine years since Jonathan Franzen hemmed and hawed about Oprah Winfrey's selection of his novel The Corrections for her book club, but is that long enough for hurt feelings to heal? According to rumors, it is. Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson has reported that Oprah is going to make Franzen's Freedom her latest pick on Friday. Johnson has also posted a photo that seems to prove him right. That Oprah sticker might still make Franzen fairly itch with ambivalence, but he'll be scratching his all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, the Franzenfreude will surely increase, and with good reason: As Meghan O'Rourke writes in Slate, the underlying issue is an important one: "Namely, why women are so infrequently heralded as great novelists."

Susan Lehman (no relation to Bookforum's Chris Lehmann) has been selected to become Jonathan Karp's replacement as the publisher of Twelve books, which has brought us titles such as Sebastian Junger's War and Christopher Hitchens's Hitch-22.

David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel, The Pale King, now has a cover design and a release date. Excited yet?

Letters written by Oscar Wilde to a magazine editor have been discovered. Though the quotes we've seen don't quite merit the term "love letters," they are sweet, and certainly flirtatious: "Afterwards we will smoke cigarettes and Talk over the Journalistic article, could we go to your rooms, I am so far off, and clubs are difficult to Talk in."

Via the Poetry Foundation: Elif Batuman has written an excellent review of Mark McGurl's The Program Era, which studies how MFA writing programs have changed postwar literature.

Tonight at Brooklyn's 177 LivingstonTriple Canopy and Cabinet magazine are hosting "A Hearing on the Activities of the International Necronautical Society," where editors and audience members (as well as novelist Joshua Cohen and critic Christian Lorentzen) will debrief INS founder Tom McCarthy and Chief Philospher Simon Critchley on recent findings. What strides has the INS made toward their goal to "map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit" death? McCarthy's new novelC, is his most emphatic answer to the question yet.

Chuck Klosterman's essays are now available for the iTunes-like price of 99 cents each, which seems about right—Klosterman's best essays have always had the confectionary appeal of a great pop song.

The staff of Knopf looks dapper in their gold Sperry shoes and spiffy whale ties, worn in honor of the newly published book True Prep. We'd love to see the folks at powerHouse Books one-up them by donning threads inspired by the 1960s classic Take IvyLiterary fashion buffs looking to guage the present moment need look no further than the bohemian sartorial elegance on display at last Saturday's launch party for the new Paris Review

We are listlessly reading the Telegraph. We see a headline that must be a joke. We laugh. But it is real. Two British authors criticize the Man Booker Prize shortlist for having too many books written in the present tense.

Last night, The Rumpus's "Summer Shakedown" event at Brooklyn's Death by Audio space (which comedian Michael Showalter described as, if we remember correctly, a "blown-out former dentist's office,") was everything we told you it would be and more—but also a little bit less. We saw Neal Pollack read about his adventures in yoga and then do the "alligator" pose onstage. We saw Sara Marcus read from her new history of Riot Grrrl, Girls to the Front, and actually sing some of the passages. We saw Nick Flynn read a chapter from his memoir The Ticking is the Bomb about Rumpus honcho and emcee Stephen Elliott (which involved a dominatrix), and joke about the venue's very dusty fan that was precariously attached to the ceiling by very dusty bungee cords. And we witnessed an intense spoken-word performance by Corrina Bain. But we did not see Hilton Als, at least not before we left. It appeared, as far as we could tell, that he did not show up.

Sunday's Brooklyn Book Festival, photo by Carolyn Kellogg.

Pictures and video from this weekend's soggy Brooklyn Book Festival, and critic David L. Ulin on the fest's "moral mysteries." At one of the marquee events, John Ashbery chatted with Paul Auster about the poet's first job in New York, at the Brooklyn Public Library: "I did so miserably at that job and was so unhappy at it—though loving Brooklyn of course. I had to punch a time clock and almost every day it was red because I was staying out late in New York." 

Fall book picks from the Daily Beast, the LA Times, and Gawker, who offer this sage advice about Roland Barthes's Mourning Diary: "Read it in English, but pretend to have read it in French."

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Defense Department was negotiating to buy and destroy a 10,000 copy print run of Operation Dark Heart, an Afghanistan war memoir by former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Anthony Shaffer. Now, the book is being sold on eBay, with one copy fetching more than $2,000 yesterday.

Google attempts to eradicate writer's block with Scribe, a predictive typing tool that might just help you finish writing your Great American Novel.

Tonight, the Harry Ransom Center is celebrating its public opening of the David Foster Wallace archive with a reading of the late author's work featuring Elizabeth Crane, Doug Dorst, Owen Egerton, Chris Gibson, and Jake Silverstein. Can't make it to Austin for the event? Watch it on the Ransom Center's webcast at 7pm CST.


Chris Lehmann is a conspicuously over-employed editor and cultural critic. He’s a co-editor of Bookforum, a deputy editor for the Yahoo news blog The Upshot, a columnist for the Awl, a contributing editor for The Baffler, and a guitarist and singer for the band The Charm Offensive. He’s also just penned a book, Rich People Things, which will be published this fall by OR books. We recently caught up with Mr. Lehmann via email to discuss the how his blog column became a book, why he considers himself an economic populist, and what we talk about when we talk about class in America.

Q: Mr. Lehmann, I can’t help notice that your name figures prominently in my Gmail Priority Inbox. In the interest of full-disclosure, we should probably mention that you’re one of the chaps who edits timely and informative articles for Bookforum, and that we sometimes spy you thumbing through galleys here in our New York office, though you’re based in Washington, DC. That is you, isn’t it?

Yes—which is one reason among countless that it’s absurd for you to refer to me as “Mr. Lehmann.” I know your own preferred form of address for me is simply my last name, with maybe an under-your-breath expletive before or after.