GalleyCat has created a “mixtape” sampler of links to books nominated for the NBCC awards (announced on Saturday) with free Amazon previews, while the New Yorker’s Book Bench has composed a list of links to profiles, reviews, and other pieces the magazine has run about the finalists.
Tonight at St. Mark's Bookshop, the legendary pandrogynous musician, artist, and writer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge will read from his book Thee Psychick Bible with author Lonley Christopher, whose new story collection The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse was just published by Akashic Books.
Dear Prudence: A collection of my letters will be published in 2012. Sincerely, John Lennon.
At the Financial Times, author Adam Haslett has written a fine article about style guides and “the art of good writing,” calling Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style “a book full of sound advice addressed to a class of all-male Ivy-Leaguers wearing neckties and with neatly parted hair. This, of course, is part of its continuing appeal. It is spoken in the voice of unquestioned authority.” Haslett compares Strunk and White’s classic guide to Stanley Fish’s new book, How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, which Haslett says “offers a far richer introduction to the capacities of English language sentences. Why is this important? Because the form and rhythm of sentences communicates as much meaning as their factual content, whether we’re conscious of it or not.”
On Saturday night a crowd of critics and authors gathered at WNYC’s hi-tech Jerome L. Greene Performance space, where the finalists for the 2010 NBCC awards were announced. (Afterwards, the conversations we overheard were mostly jokes about the shock of the novel Freedom making the cut, and compliments on the strength of the overall list.) Critic and editor Parul Sehgal was awarded the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Dalkey Archive Press won the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement. The rest of the winners will be announced on March 10th, following two days of readings by the finalists. At the Daily Beast, NBCC president Jane Ciabattari explains the “rigorous, demanding, sometimes exhilarating, and often fraught” selection process.
The new issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review is a collaboration with the Charlottesville photography festival LOOK3, and will include an online supplement of multimedia photo projects. The VQR has also created a new website, Assignment Afghanistan, featuring journalist Elliott Wood’s work. VQR’s editor Ted Genoways says he hopes the journal’s web projects will “[Spark] a renaissance among a rising generation of storytellers by finding new audiences for their work and a new business model for publishing a magazine in the digital age.”
Rowan Somerville, whose novel The Shape of Her was the most recent winner of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award, explains why he went to England to accept the dubious honor: “The only way to stand up to bullies is facing them. The bad sex award is a publicity stunt by a struggling publication. These are people who feel there should not be sex in writing. . . . They hope to shame it out of existence by decontextualising sentences and holding them up to ridicule.” And yet Somerville says the award has helped his novel get some much-needed publicity: “I did National Public Radio in the US, and that’s 12 million listeners right there. There are so many books being published in the UK. You need something salient to stay out there.”
Crain’s New York and Galleycat: Bob Dylan has reportedly signed a six-book deal with Simon & Schuster. Andrew Wylie, the artist’s literary agent, was, according to one unnamed editor, seeking an eight-figure offer. Among the six books will be a followup to Dylan’s memoir Chronicles: Volume One.
At the Millions, Colin Marshall has written an informative “primer” about the novels of Jean-Philippe Toussaint. “Toussaint said that ‘what really matters is to pay attention to what is both infinitely small and infinitely large,’ that ‘a book must contain both darts and philosophy, bowling and metaphysics.’”
Dave Berman—the onetime mastermind of the band Silver Jews and the author of the excellent poetry collection Actual Air (more, please!)—has started a blog.
Slate's David Weigel is one of the few journalists who received advance copies of O: A Presidential Novel, the soon-to-be-published roman a clef about Obama's presidential campaign. Spoiler alert: He prints the book's final sentences.
For those who doubt the great march of modernist progress, consider the trajectory of the novel as witnessed by the past century of iconic fiction: Proust, Nabokov, Kerouac, and, now, SnOOki! All that is solid melts into Jersey: “OMG I'm a New York Times Best Selling Author!!! Thank you so much to my fans, family and everyone who made this possible! LOVE YOU ALL !!”
The Results of the NBCC board member election were announced last night: congratulations to Eric Banks, Benjamin Moser, Susan Shapiro, Elizabeth Taylor, David Ulin, Marcela Valdes, Oscar Villalon, and Eric Miles Williamson.
On Bookworm, novelist David Vann discusses the multiple suicides his family has suffered—including Vann’s father taking his own life when Vann was 13 years old—and how they influenced his new novel, Caribou Island, in which a hopelessly unhappy married couple struggles to keep it together in the bleakness of the Alaskan wilderness.
Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and an accompanying excerpt from the book, published by the Wall Street Journal under the headline, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” has caused an uproar in the US, where parents are aghast at the strict discipline and high expectations with which Chua raised her children (she once told her four-year old daughter that a homemade birthday card wasn’t good enough). What do mothers in China think? The Daily Beast finds that many of them are adopting Western ways of child-rearing.
Tonight at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper East side of Manhattan, Tamara Chalabi discusses her new memoir Late for Tea in the Deer Palace, a chronicle of growing up in Iraq as the daughter of the controversial Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi. Just don’t ask Tamara about her father’s role in cheerleading the US into war, a subject she devotes precious little ink to in her story, as Bookforum reviewer Aram Roston found: “it's perhaps too much to ask for honest insights from Tamara Chalabi into her father."
Harper’s literary editor Ben Metcalf was a key figure in the magazine’s recent efforts to unionize its staff. Now, in a strange twist, the publication’s owner, the longtime liberal John “Rick” McArthur, is trying to lay Metcalf off. The union is calling it “retaliation.”
The new edition of FSG’s blog Work in Progress is out, and includes biographers Justin Spring and Wendy Moffat’s video for the “It Gets Better” campaign, which is designed to assure bullied LGBT teens that life will improve as they become openly gay adults. Moffat’s subject, E. M. Forster (who once wrote "How annoyed I am with Society for wasting my time by making homosexuality criminal"), witnessed, according to Moffat, “huge changes in the lives of gay men,” and found a partner whom he stayed with for more than fifty years. Spring’s subject, Samuel Steward, is perhaps more inspirational to teens, as he was a professor turned super-cool tattoo artist, Kinsey sex researcher, author and artist, who, by mid-life, Spring says, “ran a fantastic tattoo parlor in Chicago and had an incredible sex life.”
You can read Lolita, and savor the great novel’s heady mix of sumptuous prose and treacherous morality, or you can do as Natalie Portman did, and just carry it as a chic, runway-ready clutch. Here’s how its done. But please don’t do it.
How Smartphones make us look dumb.
And now, more Stieg Larsson news: Eva Gabrielsson says that she often wrote with the late author Larsson, and now plans to finish the fourth, uncompleted novel of his wildly successful Millennium crime series.
Ignore publicity, shun crowds, refuse recognition, converse only with the classics: Over at the Huffington Post, Anis Shivani offers a new set of rules for writers. It sounds like a gimmick, but he’s serious and sometimes even convincing. “Never for a moment should you think of yourself as successful. You are always a failure, and the better you write, the more you fail, because now the gap between accomplishment and ideal is growing bigger, not smaller.”
The Times’s Paper Cuts blog features a new podcast interview with John Simpson, the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, about how the OED is evolving online. If you haven’t had the opportunity (or the cash) to experience the OED online, you can do so for free until Februrary 5.
Lorrie Moore’s solution to the Huck Finn controversy: Let’s just save it for college.
On Thursday night at the Gramercy Arts Club in New York, Matthea Harvey, Edward Hirsch, Mary Karr, Matthew Rohrer, Gerald Stern, Dara Wier, and others will read at a benefit for poet and teacher Dean Young, who is scheduled to undergo a heart transplant.
Wikipedia turns ten years old this weekend, and The Atlantic has assembled a line-up of “all star thinkers” including Jonathan Lethem, Clay Shirky, and the guy who started Craigslist, Craig Newmark (among others), to share their capital T thoughts about the open-source encyclopedia. There’s a lot to digest in the various pieces, but we especially like Lethem’s take: “The generation of an infinite number of bogusly 'objective' sentences in an English of agonizing patchwork mediocrity is no cause for celebration, even if it eventually amounts to a Borgesian paraphrase of our entire universe.”
A newly discovered Dashiell Hammett story is being published for the first time in Strand magazine.
The best part of waking up? Pynchon in your cup.
Jean-Luc Godard was railing against e-books before they existed, in an interview with Richard Brody in 2000. Of course, people have been worrying about this sort of thing for a long time, as this 1894 article about “The End of Books” shows (via The Literary Detective).
At the KGB bar this weekend, Sunday night fiction with Gary Lutz and Robert Lopez.
The Cerulean Warbler: Celebrity Bird
From n+1's recent self-improvement issue, a long and enlightening essay on a dirty word, elitism: "American political, aesthetic, and intellectual experience can only be glimpsed through a thickening fog of culture war. And the fog, very often, has swirled around a single disreputable term."
OR Books announces its entrant into a quickly growing literary genre, WikiLeaks lit, with the publication of Micah L. Silfry's WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency.
Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom may give a boost to Katie Fallon’s new book about the cerulean warbler, the rare and beautiful blue songbird emblazoned on Freedom's cover. Does this mean the famous red-tailed hawk Pale Male may have a rival in the small, competitive world of bird celebrity?
Sam Anderson names the greatest New York novel ever. After mentioning several possible candidates, Anderson writes: "In the end, however, I decided that the single greatest New York novel is . . . a relatively small book containing absolutely zero diversity."
Bookslut founder Jessica Crispin writes that recent events have made it difficult not to feel bewildered and disheartened by American politics, and recommends five books that might help you stave off political alienation.
Tonight, Gail Collins and Rebecca Traister read at Brooklyn’s Greenlight books.
A new draft of a Federico Garcia Lorca poem has been found at the Library of Congress.
Today marks the anniversary of last year’s earthquake in Haiti, and Edwidge Danticat’s moving essay “A Year and A Day” in this week’s New Yorker reminds us that the country is still recovering. Danticat has also edited the gripping fiction anthology “Haiti Noir,” just published by Akashic books, and as publisher Johnny Temple points out, “‘Haiti Noir’ is totally unapologetic . . . It’s bold, it’s stylized. It’s not like, ‘Give these writers a break.’ They can stand on their own.”
GalleyCat has more on the forthcoming novel by Stephen Elliott and Eric Martin on Donald Rumsfeld, which will be published on February 8, the same day as the former Secretary of Defense’s highly anticipated memoir. Elliott says: “I heard something about Guantanamo one day and I thought, I wonder what would happen if Donald Rumsfeld was in his own prisons. How would he survive? . . . A lot of liberals think Rumsfeld is an idiot, but we didn’t think an idiot would be named CEO to all these major companies and Secretary of Defense twice. So we did a lot of research on Rumsfeld with that in mind. He’s a sympathetic character.”
Iambik is an intriguing indie publisher that releases inexpensive, DRM-free digital audiobooks by authors such as Gordon Lish, Laird Hunt, Lydia Millet, Lynne Tillman and more. We'll be capping off the day listening to The Hour, Bernard DeVoto's lighthearted classic cocktail manifesto.