Robert Silvers of The New York Review of Books, David Remnick of The New Yorker, and other editors respond to the recent discussions about the “dearth of female bylines.”
Apple is planning to unveil the iPad 2 on March 2, leaving less than a week for breathless speculation about what the new features will be. We’re pretty sure that whatever they come up with will be dubbed “revolutionary.”
In anticipation of David Foster Wallace’s forthcoming The Pale King, you can listen to the BBC’s recent radio doc about the novelist (via Flavorwire), which feature interviews with Don DeLillo, Rick Moody, and others. “This isn’t Sylvia Plath, this isn’t someone who just created this work around a melancholy, this is someone who created something almost Joycean,” says author Mark Costello of Wallace’s work. “So you have to be very reductive” to look at Wallace’s work only in terms of his suicide.
“Harper’s Bizarre”: The New York Observer gives an overview of the magazine’s saga.
NYC to-do list: Tonight at the New School, the National Book Foundation presents “Lineage: American Poetry Since 1950,” a panel including Elizabeth Alexander, Tony Hoagland, and the excellent poet-critic Stephen Burt, who will discuss some of the best poets from the past sixty years. If you want to hear some actual poetry, we suggest heading out to Queens’s Space Space, where Dara Wier, Christian Hawkey, and Douglas Piccinnini will read their work.
Kenneth Slawenski, the author of an acclaimed new J. D. Salinger biography (and the great website Dead Caulfields), is a bit like his hero: There’s no author photo on the book, a minimal “about the author” note, and he’s granted only a few interviews. But Salinger fans, rest assured, Slawenski is no phony: “I know it's inevitable that they are going to draw a correlation between me and Salinger, but this isn't a stunt . . . This is just the way I am."
Why is James Franco planning to adapt Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying for the screen? Doesn’t the actor/author/Oscar host/college student have enough to do (and some sleep to catch up on)? We’d like to ask him, but we’ll settle for the next best thing: Christian Lorentzen’s “Internal Memo,” James Franco edition.
Yesterday the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists were announced, leading us to play the old “one of these things is not like the other” game: Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids—which takes place decades ago—is oddly shoehorned into the “current interest” section along with an Obama biography, a book about Afghanistan, and two books about the recent financial crisis.
Jonathan Safran Foer
Thanks to McNally Jackson Books' always enlightening Twitter feed, we’ve discovered the New Yorker’s primary documents digital archive, which contains fascinating reading material from recent articles, including a trove of “Documents From Legal Cases Involving Scientology,” an excerpt from Teju Cole’s novel Open City, and a heavily annotated draft of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address.
Note: We’re going to miss marginalia.
Do you know your Joshua Ferris from your Jonathan Safran Foer? Show your stuff with The Guardian’s Brooklyn books quiz.
We’re looking forward to the 2012 Olympics in London—and not just for the chance to see the weirdest Olympic mascots in the Games’ history in action—because they’re planning an international literary event in addition to the usual sports. The Globe theater is performing each of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight plays in a variety of languages, including The Taming of the Shrew in Urdu, The Tempest in Arabic, and Love’s Labour's Lost in sign language.
The Morning News’ Tournament of Books kicks off in two weeks: The slate of sixteen books from 2010 includes heavyweights such as Freedom, A Visit From the Goon Squad, and the Booker Prize winner, The Finkler Question, as well as some lesser known sleeper titles competing head-to-head, NCAA Basketball style. May the best book win.
Wells Tower’s 2009 story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, was met with nearly universal critical praise, the capstone being Edmund White’s glowing front page review in the Times book review, an enviable accomplishment for an author who had already made a name for himself as an ace magazine reporter (he has since been deemed one of the New Yorker's twenty best writers under 40). Now, in the Brooklyn Rail, Paul Maliszewski has written a much-discussed, mostly negative review of Tower's work, noting a curious inertness in his fiction, and finding that it is too much like his detail-obsessed yet oddly detached journalism: “When the stories most need a character expressing something difficult, Tower just creates another chilly narrator, an aloof observer who registers minutiae but cannot feel.”
Meehan Crist has stepped down as The Believer's book reviews editor (presumably to focus on writing her forthcoming book, Everything After), and Daniel Levin Becker is taking over the section, with intriguing plans to recast it entirely. In a recent letter to contributors, Becker writes: “We're planning to move away from the one-review-per-page format, which will leave room for longer pieces about multiple books and miniature blurbs about things that bear only minimal consideration. We're also going to review more than just books: forthcoming reviews already include discussions of song lyrics, ad copy, a sitcom episode, and the wording of the 2010 U.S. Census.” Becker notes that conventional book reviews will be rare; instead the magazine will “prefer to run completely cockeyed appraisals of books, or relatively close readings of specific elements, details or themes.”
"Did you read . . . ?" The IFC sketch comedy Portlandia hilariously sends up the daunting task of keeping up with everything.
Geoff Dyer, photo by Jason Oddy.
Wonkette has a hilarious takedown of “literary detective” Jack Cashill’s horrific-sounding book Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President. Published this week, the volume argues—among other things—that Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s book Dreams from My Father, and derides the president for claiming to be influenced by Langston Hughes and Richard Wright (because they were communists!).
The Times blames “strategic missteps, executive turnover and a failure to understand the digital revolution” for Borders' bankruptcy, in an article detailing the chain’s forty year rise and fall, from its humble beginning as a single used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to this week’s billion-dollar bankruptcy filing for more than six hundred stores.
HTML giant editor Blake Butler gets “catty,” posting an email exchange between himself and a writer. Though the unnamed writer seems to have no idea what the literary website Lamination Colony is, he or she practically insists on submitting work there anyway.
The Millions alerts you to two more highly anticipated publications, by Haruki Murakami and Helen DeWitt.
New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren has hired Andrew Goldman of Elle Magazine to take command of the “Questions For” column, formerly helmed by Deborah Solomon.
At The Rumpus, Jessica Probus imagines what it would be like to have sex with a list of books, beginning with Kafka’s Metamorphosis. And in the comments section, readers name the book that, were it human, they’d like to pick up in a bar.
Are e-books more permanent than print? Now that Borders is filing bankruptcy, Kobo has had to reassure its customers on the company’s FAQ page: “The Borders e-book experience is powered by Kobo, an entirely separate company from Borders. Kobo is financially secure and will continue to maintain your e-book library no matter what happens.”
At the Paris Review poet Kevin Young talks about his poetry volume Ardency, based on the true story of a nineteenth-century slave ship mutiny, and narrated in a dazzling mix of letters, songs, and poems. In Bookforum Craig Morgan Teicher writes: “It's powerful stuff, some of the prolific Young's best, driven by his ventriloquistic skills and sense of loss.”
Sean Walsh of McSweeney’s has gamely provided the Sparknotes to a children’s classic: “In Goodnight Moon, Brown explores the relationship between a young bunny and his material possessions set against the backdrop of the Cold War. . . . Plot Overview: A bunny says goodnight to the moon and other things.” Themes include “search for the masculine self.” And the possible essay questions...?
NYC to-do list tonight: author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts reflects on the past, present, and future of Harlem. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Irish fiction writer Colm Toibin reads from his excellent new book of stories, The Empty Family.
Meet the alleged ghostwriter of Julian Assange’s forthcoming memoir: Novelist and critic Andrew O’Hagan, whose significant list of accomplishments include conducing a public interview with Norman Mailer and writing a novel from the point of view of Marylin Monroe’s dog.
James Wolcott reports that he’s received an alarming email from Martin Amis, asking Wolcott to provide him and his wife a place to crash, because he’s “being persecuted in his native land and their new place in Brooklyn isn't ‘move-in ready.’” Why the persecution? It seems Amis’s recent comments about children’s books have not been taken kindly in England, Wolcott reports, adding wryly: “Entire villages have risen up in wrath and occupied Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square too, demanding that he recant or face witch trial for being conceited.”
Apple has added magazine subscriptions to the app store (until now you could only buy one e-issue at a time). Apple will take a 30 percent cut of revenue from new subscriptions, while publishers will keep all the money from existing subscriptions—for now, at least.
What’s your top score in the Great Gatsby Nintendo game, old sport?
Borders is going bankrupt.
Why do English-language readers of Thomas Bernhard like him in a way that German-language readears don’t? Gideon Lewis-Kraus explains at n+1: “I suspect the chief reason we’ve taken to Bernhard in a way that surprises German-speakers is that we have long been accustomed to the great pleasures of what the English writer Geoff Dyer has called ‘the literature of neurasthenia, of anxiety, fretting, complaint.’”
Senior editor Donovan Hohn has left Harper’s magazine to become a features editor at GQ.
Tonight at the Barnes and Noble in Manhattan's Union Square, Physicist Brian Greene will read from his latest work about string theory, The Hidden Reality, which posits an almost infinite number of universes, as well as strange alternate dimensions. Charles Seife reviewed the book in the latest Bookforum, writing, “This is not an elegant universe; it's a byzantine mess with enormous philosophical implications.”
Whoopi Goldberg is angry with the New York Times, because they didn’t mention her in an article about black actors who have won Oscars. When she complained, the Times offered its most unapologetic “correction” ever: “The error lies with those who are reading the story incorrectly.” Almost as good as our all time favorite NYT correction: “A review on July 19 about Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, by Kiran Desai, misspelled the name of the novel's hero. It is Sampath, not Sanpath. The same review incorrectly identified the character who falls into a vat of broth; it is a spy from an atheist organization, not a monkey or Sampath in the form of a guava.”
Wait, we almost forgot: It’s Valentine’s Day! Over at The Independent, John Walsh wonders if we’ve “lost the art of writing love letters”? And at FiveChapters.com, Lynne Tillman offers part one of her story “Love Sentences,” which (so far) examines the evolution of love letters, and introduces us to a character who seems especially attuned to the gap between feeling and text: “I want ecstasy, not evidence.”
Ahmed Fouad Negm, photo by Dana Smillie/Polaris, for the New York Times
The Paris Review’s poetry editor Robyn Creswell has a fascinating essay in yesterday’s Times about the role of authors in Egyptian society and in the January 25th revolution. Creswell notes that “for the crowds in Tahrir, now is above all a time for poetry, and the muse of the moment may be Ahmed Fouad Negm,” the dissident poet who has spent many years in jail, and wrote this oft-chanted poem: “They are the rich, and the government is on their side. / We are the poor, the governed. / Think about it, use your head. / See which one of us rules the other.”
The much-anticipated Los Angeles Review of Books has a new launch date (April), a bigger budget, and a strong lineup of writers.
Novelist Tao Lin on bad press: “Extreme negative reviews are helpful and fun.”
At the Book Bench, Macy Halford explains why Zadie Smith, the new book critic at Harper’s, “will help to create a brave new world of reviewing.”
After a long stretch of living in and writing about Brooklyn, where he was a fixture of the borough’s literary scene, Jonathan Lethem is settling into his new teaching gig at Pomona college in southern California (where David Foster Wallace taught). Lethem is at work on what he calls a “big crazy” book entitled the Ecstasy of Influence (named after his notorious Harper’s piece), which will be published this fall. Is it a novel, a collection of essays, or something else? All of the above, and more, as Lethem describes the new volume to Jacket Copy’s Carolyn Kellogg: “it has fiction and nonfiction, and even a poem, and then lots of new interstitial material. Some of it provocative, bragging, self-flagellating—this is going to be a very messy collection of stuff.”