Tamara Chalabi

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.


Mary Karr

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.


Jonathan Lethem

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.


Edwidge Danticat

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.


Who was the first mystery novelist? Paul Collins solves the case.

Eric Alterman

John Nolan, an editor of the Rochester Times and author of the paper’s police log, has started inserting puns, humor, and poetry into the blotter’s formerly humdrum record of crimes and misdemeanors: “At Halloween, upon a street, where youngsters go for Trick-or-Treat, a worried parent calls the cops. His kid has been handed Hall's cough drops . . . Police check out this plot of terror, and find it was a simple error."

Sick of hearing about David Foster Wallace yet? A cottage industry of work on Wallace is beginning to bloom in academia, as the Chronicle Review notes, “David Foster Wallace studies is on its way to becoming a robust scholarly enterprise.” Wallace guru Stephen Burn says that while he appreciates the attention to his subject, it is a mixed blessing: “there's a real danger . . . that his name will begin to float free of his substantive literary context and become an index for larger cultural fantasies about the tortured artist.”

Tonight at the Broadway branch of Barnes and Noble in Manhattan, Eric Alterman discusses his new book, Kabuki Democracy, and posits why a progressive presidency is impossible today.


Tickets for the World’s Most Literary Rent Party Ever go on sale today at 2. The party, which is raising funds for author Charles Bock and his family, will feature readings and performances by Rick Moody, Mary Gaitskill, Jim Shepard, Tanya Donnelly (formerly of the Throwing Muses), and others.

Martin Amis

“'Congrats' to @tao_lin and @meganboyle on their 'elopement.' News gave me a 'smiling' facial expression, 'restored' my 'faith in love.'” Christian Lorentzen writes Tao Lin’s wedding announcement—in the style of Tao Lin.

Martin Amis is moving to New York, and his new novel is said to be a “withering” critique of the UK. Still, the author feels “incurably English.”

“Today, no poet could outwit any reader who has an Internet connection.” Adam Kirsch argues that Google has made literary allusions more “democratic and more generous” than they were in the age of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”

Tonight at Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore, the “Rumpus Women” read from their new book.


Michael Chabon

MobyLives excerpts a letter in which New York Magazine editor Adam Moss dwells on the importance of finding “wonderful new voices who will keep the magazine fresh and moving forward.” Which prompts MobyLives to ask a good question: “Who are the most exciting young critics currently writing?

Your new book is coming out soon: Design a cool book cover, self-publish, and print-on-demand. Easy! Now you just need to figure out a way to sell them.

Obama is to be the subject of a new work of fiction titled O: A Presidential Novel, due in stores on January 25. Though the author is Anonymous, various reports state that the author is “someone with ‘vast personal experience’ about what President Obama needs to do to win re-election.” Everyone, of course, is comparing the new book to Primary Colors, the novel based on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, which was also attributed to Anonymous. That book’s author, political reporter Joe Klein, was unmasked in 1996 by Vassar College Shakespeare professor Donald Foster, who had developed a computer program that could accurately identify the author of a text. One wonders how long it will take for Foster or some other textual specialist to reveal the O author’s identity.

The new issue of McSweeney’s, which includes a “fragment of Michael Chabon’s lost novel,” comes in a box with a head drawn on it.

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