L.J. Davis in 2009, photo by Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times.

Greg Morten’s best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, about his experiences performing charitable work in Afghanistan, may be exaggerated. 60 Minutes investigates, with author Jon Krakauer opining: “It's a beautiful story, and it's a lie.”

Author book signings have long been a staple of literary culture. But how do you sign a Kindle? This May, Autography offers a solution.

A round up of tributes to Brooklyn author L. J. Davis, who recently died at the age of seventy. Davis was best known for his prescient 1971 novel A Meaningful Life (reissued by NYRB classics in 2009), which is the ur-text of Brooklyn gentrification (along with Hal Ashby’s 1970 film The Landlord). At the Awl, Evan Hughes revisits Davis’s classic novel, finding it first-rate because it pulls no punches.

The New York Review of Books has been celebrating National Poetry Month by posting an exemplary poem each day. Over at Slate, critic and poet Craig Morgan Teicher reviews David Orr’s Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, which confidently and astutely navigates the gulf between contemporary poets and wary readers (for a different take on Orr, see Michael Robbins's review, which calls the book "superfluous").


Barry Hannah

First, James Frey wrote memoirs (or, you know, “memoirs”). Then he shifted to fiction. Now, apparently seeking out new genre territory to pillage, he’s writing scripture: Next week (on April 22, which is Good Friday), he’ll release his new book, The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. An excerpt at Vice presents a modern-day gospel set in contemporary New York City.

Mother Teresa, George W. Bush, the Bible, and much more come come under fire in this list of Christopher Hitchens’s “most provocative quotes.” Plus: a preview of a video featuring the brothers Hitchens debating Iraq, Christianity, and more.

A couple of years before Barry Hannah’s death, writer John Oliver Hodges toured Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with Hannah—or as Hannah puts it, they went “just toolin’ around” town, looking at the shack where he wrote Ray and telling stories of his drunken days.

The Second Pass revisits Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, a biography poet Donald Hall wrote with the legendary, outspoken pitcher Dock Ellis (1945-2008), who is best remembered for pitching a no-hitter on acid.

Digital text and images meld in fascinating ways in a video demonstration by poet and Ubuweb founder Kenneth Goldsmith, who writes: “Never before has language had so much materiality—fluidity, plasticity, malleability—begging to be actively managed by the writer. Before digital language, words were almost always found imprisoned on a page. How different it is today.”

Sigrid Nunez talks with the Rumpus about her new book on Susan Sontag: “If you mean to suggest that she had two sides, a light one and a dark one, well, that doesn’t nearly cover it. Susan had many sides, just as she had many interests and abilities, and the desire to do many different things. She would have needed more than one life to do all the things she wanted to do, and was capable of doing.”


On Monday we mentioned that the title of Steve Jobs’s new authorized biography, iSteve, might be problematic since “iSteve” is the web name of the well-known far right-wing blogger Steve Sailer. It turns out Sailer might try to stop Jobs’s use of that title; he put out a "request for pro bono legal help", claiming, “I’ve been doing business under the name ‘iSteve’ since the 1990s [and it is] essential to my business strategy.” Commenters at Sailer’s blog are more conciliatory, though, one telling Sailer, “Just think of all traffic you will get when people search for his book.”

Janet Malcolm

Media commentators are weighing in on the class-action lawsuit that unpaid bloggers have filed against the Huffington Post. “Why the Huffpo Class Action Suit Is a Legal Long Shot,” reads one headline. Another: “Why Tasini’s Blogger Lawsuit Against the Huffington Post Makes No Sense.”

WWD reports on the Paris Review’s annual fundraiser fete, which editor Lorin Stein called “the best party in town.” Guests included Robert Redford, Simon Doonan, Gay Talese (“I’m one of the oldest people in this room”), Fran Lebowitz (“I tend to look on the dark side of things”), and James Salter (who won the magazine’s Hadada Award). Not only is the magazine partying hard, it’s also thriving, as Stein announced: “In just one year, our paid subscriptions have gone up 32 percent . . . . Last month alone we sold 1,000 new subscriptions. In the last six months, our Web traffic has gone up almost 500 percent. Our Web site has reached more than 1.5 million in these last six months," so there is plenty to celebrate.

The discerning independent press Dzanc is about to start a new series called rEprint, which will republish books that have recently fallen out of print, giving them a second life as an e-book.

The Guardian is expanding its online literary coverage, adding a massive new books database, and is encouraging readers to help create content: “you can write a review; give a thumbs up or down with a star-rating; add [a] book to a list of your favourites. Or you can . . . tell us why it's a book we ought to be covering, and we'll see if there's anything more we can bring to the table.”

New reviews on Bookforum.com: Janet Malcolm cross-examines a murder trial (by Parul Sehgal) and Meghan O’Rourke breaks a modern taboo in her new memoir of grief (by Matt Shaer).


Rae Armantrout

A group of bloggers—estimated to be more than 9,000—has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Huffington Post and AOL, seeking payment for past contributions to the site. Jonathan Tasini, the lead plaintiff and a former HuffPo blogger, says that he will make Huffington “a pariah in the progressive community.”

Amazon has announced a new Kindle deal: A model that’s only $114, but includes advertisements along with literature. An intrusion, no doubt, but not a new one—as Paul Collins writes, there has been a long history of ads in books.

Today is Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout’s birthday; we suggest ditching your normal duties and spending the day with her multivalent and profound collection Versed.

Peter Osnos remembers the heady days of publishing books in the era before the Internet: “Independent bookstores—according to [an] estimate, there were about 3,500 full-service booksellers, which is twice the number there are today—played a major role, since they had the ability, when enthusiastic, to turn first novels into bestsellers.”

It is not too late to get tickets for BOMB magazine’s 29th annual Gala and Auction, held in late April, and honoring Cecily Brown, Nicolai Ouroussoff, Gabriel Orozco, and Nancy Spector.


Thomas Bernhard

Dale Peck famously wrote that Rick Moody was the “worst writer of his generation.” Tonight, they share the stage at the Austrian Cultural Forum. Things may still get a little bit contentious, but that seems appropriate, given their discussion topic: Thomas Bernhard. Joining them to discuss the brilliantly bilious Austrian author will be translators Susan Bernofsky and Carol Brown Janeway.

Notes on Cairo’s Tahrir Square’s recent book fair: “Indeed these [revolutionary] events don’t just happen. . . . It’s writing that pushed the people out [on to the streets] and vice versa.”

Tax.com explains why the New York Times has had to pay an exorbitant tax rate. [via Poynter].

The Pale King, David Foster Wallace’s posthumously published unfinished novel, has already absorbed a few news cycles, and it hasn’t even been "officially released" yet (though you can buy it online, and it has been on sale at many stores for more than a week now). The latest flurry of outrage and breathless commentary has erupted following a New Yorker essay by Wallace’s friend Jonathan Franzen (in an odd twist, you have to “like” the New Yorker on Facebook to read it, or be a digital subscriber). Franzen writes: “I loved a person who was mentally ill. The depressed person then killed himself, in a way calculated to inflict maximum pain on those he loved most, and we who loved him were left feeling angry and betrayed. . . . A literary establishment that had never so much as short-listed one of his books for a national prize now united to declare him a lost national treasure.”


Rumor has it that an authorized biography of Steve Jobs tentatively titled iSteve: A Book of Jobs will come out in 2012. The title could turn out to be problematic, however, since “iSteve” is the tag name of one Steven Sailer, a self-described "journalist, movie critic for The American Conservative, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute." And just what are VDARE.com and the Human Biodiversity Institute? The Southern Poverty Law Center has described VDARE.com as an anti-immigration "hate site" and the HBI as a "neo-eugenics outfit."

Deb Olin Unferth

Roll Call has a short article about the current members of Congress who write novels. “Sometimes, during a long filibuster,” says Senator Barbara Mikulski, “I would go back to my office and write on legal pads.”

We somehow forgot that last Thursday, April 7, was New York City’s official John Ashbery Day, there will still be opportunities to celebrate the man this year. On May 16, Norton will publish his new translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations. There’s a fascinating interview about it at Rain Taxi.

Every weekend during National Poetry Month, poet and international journalist Eliza Griswold is selecting two poems—one new, the other a classic—to post on the Daily Beast. This week: Jonathan Galassi and W.H. Auden.

You’ve probably read too much about David Foster Wallace of late—perhaps it’s time to read something by him for a change, lest you start treating him, as his widow Karen Green notes, like a “celebrity writer dude.” That said, there is a fine discussion of the author by Deb Olin Unferth, Rivka Galchen, and other deeply original contemporary writers.

In honor of Henry James’s birthday (April 15), Bookslut is devoting its entire Starcrossed column to the “master.”


Shed Simove

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has become the first e-book to sell more than a million copies.

Shed Simove’s book, What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex, made it into Amazon’s top 50 bestsellers. It is a quick read, though, since every page is completely blank. Simove ponders his prank's ramifications for authors and the publishing industry.

When thinking of 1970s punk, places like London and New York come to mind, but perhaps not Cleveland, Ohio. On Saturday, the powerHouse arena in Brooklyn is hosting the Cleveland Confidential Book Tour, revealing a suprisingly vibrant late-70s DIY scene. The panel is moderated by author and critic Luc Sante, and features 70s punk legend Cheetah Chrome of the band the Dead Boys, among other punk pioneers.

The Awl has posted three poems by editor and author Craig Morgan Teicher, the latest addition to the site’s deftly curated poetry section, edited by Mark Bibbins.

Natalie Portman’s father, Dr. Avner Hershlag, has a self-published novel, Misconception, which is reportedly piquing some interest at New York publishing firms. The Observer presents some riveting excerpts.


The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose incendiary blog rants were recently published in the US, was seized by police in Beijing last Sunday. Anyone wondering why he’s being held by the government should go directly to this video of a 2009 talk he gave in Shanghai; it captures one of the many occasions that Weiwei has insistently spoken out against modern China’s corruption and totalitarianism. “Because we’re talking about designing China, I think we need to start from the questions of basic fairness, human rights, and freedom,” he says through his translator. “These are concepts which China, for all its economic development and success, has still not come to a basic understanding of.”

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