Never mind blogging—The Observer’s Emily Witt reports on the new way to land a novelty book deal: “Start a Tumblr or Twitter feed with some combination of puppies, fear of protracted adolescence, horrific Americana, text messages from your friends or photos of your parents; add a dose of nostalgia, regret or chagrin, promote it all over the Internet and wait for the literary agents to find you.”

Farhad Manjoo counters Richard Russo’s New York Times op-ed against Amazon’s small-bookstore killing “price-check” app with an especially Slate-like counter-intuitive response: Amazon may be killing independent bookstores, but independent bookstores are expensive and inefficient. “As much as I despise some of its recent tactics, no company in recent years has done more than Amazon to ignite a national passion for buying, reading, and even writing new books,” writes Manjoo. Meanwhile, the angry replies are pouring in.

Does it pay to be a poet? Not if you’re publishing in magazines. According to New York magazine, the New Yorker pays $460 for a 36-line poem, the Paris Review pays $75 a poem, Ploughshares pays $25 a page, and Poetry Magazine pays $10 a line.

The Atlantic selects Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeveves (a favorite among BF editors) for its December book club.


John Updike's boyhood home.

Huffington Post’s new interactive book club won’t be limited just to HuffPost itself, a spokesman tells the Nieman Lab. In addition to soliciting Twitter and Facebook comments, the club will host Flickr and Instagram pages when it launches on January 3.

John Updike’s four-bedroom boyhood home in Shillington, Pennsylvania is for sale on eBay. Despite being a “fixer-upper,” the opening bid was $249,000, and there’s a $499,000 ‘Buy It Now’ option.

The Boston Globe's Ideas section recommends holiday gifts for the linguistically inclined.

The Oxford American releases its thirteenth annual music issue, this time with a focus on Mississippi.

Tonight at BookCourt, Annie Leibovitz discusses her latest photo project, “Pilgrimage.”


Mop-topped London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Amazon says that Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography was the bestselling book of the year in both print and e-book sales.

Thanks to an Etsy seller with a surplus of books and time, it’s now possible to buy “literary action figures” (aka author dolls) this holiday season.

London Mayor Boris Johnson—who once wondered aloud why girls love “big, epically long, boring books”—supports the idea of opening book swaps in the city’s seven hundred tube and train stations, but he isn’t optimistic about meeting the proposed deadline of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in the city.

Amazon is preparing an on-the-fly update to its Kindle Fire e-reader after widespread complaints about performance and design. While the Fire isn’t a complete bust, as one usability expert remarked to the New York Times, if the update isn’t a success, “then the Fire is doomed to the dust pile of history.”

The Minnesota-based Utne Reader is moving to Kansas. From its archive, an excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre’s (imaginary) cookbook: “Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word ‘cake.’ I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert.”


Things are heating up in the editor’s mailbox at the New York Review of Books: In response to Rita Dove’s 1,720-word “Letter to the Editor,” a critique of her review of Dove’s The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry, Helen Vendler quips, “I have written the review and I stand by it.” Slate duly revisits a history of dismissive replies. The best? Joan Didion’s reply to a letter critiquing her review of Woody Allen’s Manhattan: “Oh, wow.”

Mayor Bloomberg, speaking on John Gambling’s radio show, says of the curtailing of press freedom at Occupy Wall Street: “We didn’t keep anybody from reporting.” He also added that the NYPD did “a great job” of handling the occupation. Are we talking about the same protest?

Amazon.com’s controversial new price check app enrages booksellers. In an open letter to founder Jeff Bezos, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher calls it the “latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide.” Meanwhile, Diesel Bookstore is offering its customers free “Occupy Amazon” coasters and buttons.

Tonight at the Russian Samovar, FSG is hosting an event featuring music critic Will Hermes and novelist-memoirist Ellen Ullman. It’s a good pairing: Hermes’s Love Goes to Buildings on Fire covers a transformation in New York City (and its music) in the 1970s, while Ullman’s By Blood, a novel about psychoanalysis, obsession, and the Zodiac killer, captures San Francisco during the same decade.


A pages of Dickens's Great Expectations

Tomorow at Cabinet magazine HQ in Brooklyn, editor Brian Dillon will be writing a novel in twenty-four hours. From noon to six, Dillon’s literary experiment will be open to observation from the public, bringing to mind a stunt performed by Georges Simenon in 1927.

Super-critic Kerry Howley is blogging about the primaries for Yahoo! News. In the first installment, she reports on Rick Santorum’s visit to an iconic Iowa City diner. Howley writes, “Well after Santorum departed, the reporters continued their search for non-reporters to interview. Robert ‘Ajax’ Ehl, a young dishwasher [. . .], emerged to say that Santorum's visit was ‘annoying’ for the slammed kitchen staff, ‘but not as annoying as his politics.’”

Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday is still a few months away, but in the meantime take a gander at his messy, inky manuscript for Great Expectations. Or, if you happen to find yourself in London, check out the Museum of London’s anniversary exhibition, which opens today.

While receiving painful radiation treatment at the MD Andersen Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, Christopher Hitchens considers the value of the maxim “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

Schmaltzy, gooey, and manipulative: Slate flunks the new trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.


Christopher Logue, photo by Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian.

Bookforum editor and poet Albert Mobilio joins John Yau and Star Black for a visual arts-inspired reading tonight at 7pm at the Melville House Bookstore in DUMBO, Brooklyn, followed by a discussion with artist Susan Mastrangelo, whose collaboration with Mobilio is currently on display there.

The “maverick” political poet and playwright Christopher Logue has died at age 85 in London. The English literati is already paying tribute: Craig Raine calls Logue “one of the liveliest people I've ever known,” the Times Literary Supplement recalls the poet’s upbraiding of T. S. Eliot in its pages in 1957, and the London Review of Books posts Logue’s poem “Preamble,” as well as a poem by August Kleinzahler dedicated to Logue.

In poetry news from across the pond, John Kinsella, and Alice Oswald have dropped out of consideration for the T .S. Eliot Prize in protest of its sponsor, hedge fund Aurum Funds. “The business of Aurum does not sit with my personal politics and ethics,” Kinsella explains.

Chad Harbach, Deborah Eisenberg, Charles Baxter, and Nathan Englander join the expanding “Year of Reading” roster at The Millions.

Why was T. S. Eliot never cast as the lead in “sexy movies”? In a 1961 letter addressed to his “Dear T. S.,” Groucho Marx wondered just that.


David Guterson, photo by Sean Smith.

So far we’re enjoying what HTML Giant is calling its Tournament of Bookshit week, a skewed competition that will play out in NCAA-style brackets between literary (and not-so-literary) topics. This year's topics include “magic realism” vs. “living in Brooklyn,” and “talking shit about the New Yorker while submitting frequently to NYer” vs. “dream sequence w/ talking animals.”

And now, for a dissenting view: Margaret Atwood says Twitter inspires people to write better and read more books.

David Guterson has won the bad sex in fiction award.

Why are long-form profiles from 1995 the latest must-read articles in Washington? Because Newt is back in town: Garry Wills on Gingrich’s feud with Barney Frank from the New York Review of Books, and Connie Bruck’s New Yorker portrait of the politician (registration required) remind us that some things never change. As Wills wrote that fateful year: “Gingrich became what his gurus, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, say the future will make most of us, “a modular person,” an assemblage of “modules” to be adapted, tried out, rejected, recombined in a constant adaptation to new surroundings.”

How should publishers treat book bloggers? Like print reviewers? The LA Times’s Carolyn Kellogg invites you to discuss.


Georges Perec poster in St. Mark's Books, photo by Brendan Bernhard.

Writers Elif Batuman and Aminatta Forna, critics Tim Parks and Christopher Ricks, and novelist Yiyun Li will be deciding who wins the 2013 Man Booker International Prize.

If you haven’t been following The Millions’s “Year in Reading” series (which so far has featured Geoff Dyer, Jennifer Egan, Scott Esposito, and John Williams), Benjamin Hale’s list is a good place to start.

Aside from going to recently rent-reduced St. Mark’s Bookshop in person, this photo-essay is the next best thing.

In its round-up of the best book reviews of December, Electric Literature features, ahem, Dennis Lim’s essay on Haruki Murakami, from our Dec/Jan issue.

Translucent jackets, 3-D covers, and extra heavy paper stock are some of the ways publishers are amping up the material appeal of books to compete with ebooks.

Tonight, we’ll be at the PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn for an event celebrating the publication of The Best Music Writing 2011, edited by The Rest Is Noise author Alex Ross. Contributors Nitsuh Abebe, Franklin Bruno, Jeremy Denk, Wendy Lesser, Chris Norris, and Kelefa Sanneh will read their work.


Susan Sontag

A copy of the Paris Review signed by Johnathan Franzen, high tea with Jon-Jon Goulian, and a ticket (including plus one) to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue preview party are three of the offerings up for grabs at the Paris Review auction.

Books in the Hood, the only bookstore in the South Bronx, and the only independent bookstore in the Bronx, period, is set to close later this month.

Publisher John Wiley is partnering with the Forbes media company to put out a graphic biography of Steve Jobs with a special focus on his relationship to Buddhism—and its impact on Apple products. According to Publishers’ Weekly: “The book is an imaginative recreation of Job’s spiritual relationship with Kobun Chino Otogawa, a Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist Priest, whose maverick approach to his own spiritual tradition was as iconoclastic as Jobs’ revolutionary impact on technology and culture.“

The poem that opens Nabokov’s Pale Fire has typically been thought of as “the grace that must be perfunctorily said before we sit down to the meal of the commentary,” but does it also hold up as good poetry in its own right?

New on Ubuweb: Susan Sontag reads “Debriefing.”

Today at Bookforum.com: Mark Polizzotti studies the chaotic life and art of Alfred Jarry.


Literary scandal-maker Q.R. Markham.

In typical cringe-inducing fashion, the New York Times's Style section profiles online magazine The New Inquiry and its raft of twenty-something editors. With its “breathless descriptions,” “frequent descriptions of clothes,” and “required mention of Ivy League degrees,” Gawker describes the article as “an excellent reminder to never talk to a Style section reporter.”

In the past four years, the New York Public Library’s workforce has been slashed by 27 percent, and its acquisitions budget for books, CDs and DVDs has seen a 26 percent reduction. Still, the NYPL is planning a massive renovation of its flagship 42nd street library, Scott Sherman writes at The Nation, which is projected to cost between $250 and $350 million.

Mass-market paperback sales fell 54 percent from last year, according to the Association of American Publishers. Hardcover sales dropped only 18 percent, while e-book sales doubled.

At The Fix, writer and literary scandal-maker Q.R. Markham writes a mea culpa for plagiarizing large portions of his debut novel, Assassin of Secrets (which was quickly recalled by Little, Brown), and compares his addictive tendency to lift other people’s writing to alcoholism.

Longform website Byliner says that it’s going to start selling fiction in addition to narrative nonfiction pieces. Amy Tan’s short story "Rules for Virgins" will be the site’s first fiction offering.

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