Sasha Grey

Is the era of free content coming to an end? After yesterday’s announcement that the New York Times pay-wall was finally happening, came a press release from the Newspaper Guild urging unpaid bloggers at the Huffington Post to withhold their writing in solidarity with a strike by the Visual Arts Source, a writer’s organization who are refusing to provide free work.

Mary Ellen Bute’s mid-sixties film adaptation, Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake (with subtitles, natch), is available on Ubu Web and is an exceedingly odd retro romp, and a pleasure to watch, though we don’t recommend it if you’re nursing a post-St. Patrick’s Day hangover. [via Harriet]

On Monday, March 28 at Housing Works, author Brandon Stosuy, who edited the anthology of downtown-New York writing Up Is Up but So Is Down, will talk with porn icon and Entourage guest star Sasha Grey about her new book of photos and essays, Neu Sex. You can rsvp now.

There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and a new GPS–based audio sharing service, Broadcastr, aims to let you listen to them all—or add one—customized to your location in the city’s grid.

Was Samsa a bug? Was Kafka Samsa? Does that mean that Kafka was a bug? Can Kafka be Samsa-as-bug without becoming, himself, a bug? Would Kafka have to first become a bug before becoming Samsa? Or could Kafka become a bug first who, then, in an effort to understand his humanity, ‘becomes’ Samsa?” Joshua Cohen, who contributes a story to the new issue of The Paris Review, interviews his interviewer, Moe Tkacik.

PW’s Parul Sehgal had moving things to say about the art of book reviewing in her acceptance speech for the National Book Critic Circle’s Balakian Award.


The great experiment in charging for once free web content begins: The New York Times's long-rumored pay-wall plan was announced today. Beginning on March 28, readers will be able to access twenty articles a month before the Times starts charging, with various e-subscription plans available (an all-access plan will cost $35). Subscribers to the print edition will have free access to all online articles.

Mina Pam Dick

Jonathan Franzen didn’t win the NBCC award in fiction, but his picture still illustrated the LA Times story reporting that Jennifer Egan had won the prize (they later changed it). Was this slip-up sinister or sincere? Most importantly, is it fodder for more Franzenfreude? The Times explains.

The Paris Review has an excerpt from Edouard Leve’s forthcoming Autoportrait, a book Leve wrote while traveling in the US in 2002 taking photographs and musing on, well, absolutely everything. “There are times in my life when I overuse the phrase ‘it all sounds pretty complicated,’” he writes. And: “I am bad at throwing. I have read less of the Bible than of Marcel Proust.” There is a melancholy to these observations, but also a connection to life. Which makes Leve’s final novel, Suicide, all the more disturbing. Just after Leve handed that manuscript into his publisher, he took his own life.

This week Melville House is donating all of its online profits to disaster relief in Japan.

Tonight at Poet’s House, an intriguing trio of authors—Mina Pam Dick, Christian Hawkey, and Wayne Koestenbaumread and discuss the work of early twentieth century Expressionist poet George Trakl. Trakl, who fought in the first world war, robustly ingested drugs, and died young, was the subject of Hawkey’s recent book, Ventrakl, in which Hawkey imagines himself collaborating with his subject and translating reconfiguring his text: He shoots volumes of Trakl’s work with a shotgun, soaks its pages in water, and generally subjects it to torment that no Kindle could bear, creating an intriguing hybrid portrait of the two poets in the process.

The Millions leaks the first sentence of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, breaking Little, Brown’s request for pre-publication silence.


Deborah Eisenberg

Publishers Weekly has posted the first review of David Foster Wallace’s posthumously published unfinished novel, The Pale King.

Deborah Eisenberg has won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for her Collected Stories, a compilation of a quarter century of first-rate fiction.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be edited by the top-flight professionals at the Washington Post? Yesterday, the Post accidentally uploaded a version of a story with ALL CAPS EDITOR NOTES (and typos) included.

A new website, Churnalism, can detect the difference between original journalism and regurgitated copy from press releases.

Tonight, performance art legend and NYU professor Karen Finley will read from her new collection, The Reality Shows, at the Union Square Barnes and Noble, with a special introduction by musician and artist Kathleen Hanna.


Maura Johnston

Critic David L. Ulin on nine literary earthquake books, including Haruki Murakami’s collection of stories, After the Quake, written after the 1995 Kobe earthquake: “Although in many of the pieces here the disaster plays only a peripheral part, it reverberates throughout the book like an aftershock.”

Novelist Marie Mutsuki Mockett, author of Picking Bones From Ash, writes a moving meditation on Japan. Before: “If it’s spring, the bento stalls in the station sell cherry blossom-themed meals to eat on the train . . . cakes made of mochi rice paste are cut into flower shapes.” And now: “After 36 hours, I get through to my family at the temple in Iwaki. My relatives are unharmed, but there are new fears of a catastrophic meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, just 30 miles away. . . . They assure me that they can escape at a moment’s notice.”

Rob Harvilla is leaving his post as the Village Voice’s music editor, and has announced that critic extraordinaire Maura Johnston is taking over the job.

The Observer previews a new glossy quarterly called Brooklyn Magazine that the folks behind L Magazine are launching today: “Shelter porn and foodie porn figure prominently. A recurring photo essay will follow a Brooklyn restaurant chef from the farmer's market to the kitchen to plating. Jason Marcus at Traif has the first honor. Another will drop by the domiciles of well-heeled Brooklynites, starting with Jen Menkins, owner of the Bird boutiques.” And supposedly, New Yorker writer Ben Greenman will contribute a column called the “Self-Loathing Gentrifier." Is a Portlandia-style comedy special soon to follow?

Tonight at BookCourt, we’ll be drinking in the intoxicating poetry of Nick Flynn as he reads from his new book, The Captain Asks For a Show of Hands.


Bret Easton Ellis: "You’re completely missing the point if you think the Charlie Sheen moment is really a story about drugs."

James Frey

Coverage of Japan’s earthquake and aftershocks from the London Review of Books blog: A first-person account of the quake and its aftermath by R.T. Ashcroft, and a post from Hugh Pennington, who writes today that the nuclear risk from the stricken Fukushima I power plant is more like Three Mile Island than Chernobyl.

James Frey, never shy about, well, anything really, plans to stoke the flames of controversy once again with a new novel about the second coming of Christ in the Bronx.

Is all publicity good publicity? Only if you’re an unknown writer, says a new study, which shows that a negative review in the Times increases sales by 45% for obscure authors. [Via The Millions.]

The Morning News, the site behind the amazingly entertaining Tournament of Books, has cobbled together “the greatest book review ever.” Meanwhile, at their tournament, the battles continue: The bravura novel of adolescence, Skippy Dies, was just beaten by the newly crowned NBCC winner for fiction, A Visit from the Goon Squad.

John Wyndham once noted that the British were “branded on the tongue;” citizens of the UK are highly attuned to subtle differences in accent and dialect, and the way you speak reveals important information about who you are and where you come from. Americans, meanwhile, will have to rely on the British Library’s multimedia guide to accents and dialects in the UK.


Jennifer Egan, photo by Marion Ettlinger

Last night, the NBCC announced its 2010 award winners, which included Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (fiction), C.D. Wright’s One with Others (poetry), and Clare Cavanagh’s Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics (criticism). We were thrilled to see that Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live won the award for biography; her meditation on French essayist Montaigne is not just intelligent and engaging but probably the best self-help book we’ve ever come across.

The Rumpus Book Club has announced its May selections: Orientation and Other Stories by Daniel Orozco and Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

Daniel Okrent, the author of 2010’s superb Last Call, a study of American Prohibition, is writing the “Week in Culture” diary for the Paris Review’s blog, and he doesn’t even talk about drinking! But he does watch Three Sisters, meet Mark Strand (“much too tall and handsome for his own good. But at least he’s old”), and gripe about the Yankees.

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jay Parini examines Henry James’s legacy. “Why does James attract this attention? And will he enjoy the lasting mystique of someone like Jane Austen?”


NBCC Poetry Award Finalist Anne Carson

Many people say contemporary poetry is an acquired taste—written for people in the know. But Oprah’s O magazine is trying to change that idea. In April, it will run its first poetry issue; a concept hatched during a sleepover with Maria Shriver, who will guest edit the issue. Other contributors include Matt Dillon on Yeats, Sting on Ted Hughes, and Bono in a feature called “Poetic Souls.” [Via the Book Bench]

The National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced tonight at the New School. Here, the Washington Post rounds up the poetry finalists, whose work touches on, among other things, theology, hip-hop, sex, and the death of a brother.

The $139 price tag on the latest Kindle seems pretty reasonable, but according to Kevin Kelly, by this November, Amazon could be giving their e-readers away.

"This might hurt: Which Jonathan Franzen character are you?”

The new Triple Canopy publishes editor Sam Frank’s excellent and unclassifiable work, “The Document,” which is as engaging as the best fiction, but is shot throughout with fragments from real life. Frank’s essay is written in a quietly stunning style and includes thoughts on anxiety, failure, David Markson, fathers, Beckett, reading, writing, and more. And as always, Triple Canopy has made the most of the web’s multimedia publishing possibilities: Among the deft design elements, Frank’s essay includes a footnote that expands into two embedded YouTube videos, documenting a pair of performances based on Frank’s late father Sheldon’s wonderful text “As I Was Saying.”


Georges Perec

The new Newsweek and the redesigned New York Times Magazine: A side-by-side comparison.

Nothing can approximate the “if/then” contortions of OULIPO author Georges Perec’s newly translated volume, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise, but this interactive flow chart hints at the book’s hilarious and inventive office-drone odyssey. Dare you ask your boss for a raise today? You’d better check with Perec first.

The 2011 Morning News Tournament of Books has begun. In the first round of competition, Teddy Wayne’s Kapitoil faced off against Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom—and lost. Judge Sarah Manguso tells you why. Today, Emma Donoghue’s novel Room takes on Marcy Dermansky’s book Bad Marie, judged by novelist Jennifer Weiner.

“Mubarak is gone. Misogyny might be a tougher foe.” The Book Bench’s Jenna Krajeski reports from the Million Women March in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Tonight at the French Institute in Manhattan, Bookforum joins the cultural institute Villa Gillet to present a panel discussion featuring novelists Philippe Forest and Francisco Goldman entitled “Staying Alive: Surviving Survival.”

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