Remembering Gil Scott-Heron [via Harriet].

Paul Theroux and VS Naipaul at the 2011 Hay Festival, Photo by Daniel Mordzinski from The Telegraph.

In a weekend op-ed adapted from Jonathan Franzen's recent commencement speech at Kenyon college, the novelist and bird-watching enthusiast Franzen suggests that we should put down our BlackBerries and pick up some binoculars.

A good woman is hard to find, at least if you’re one of the Esquire staff putting together the “75 books every man should read: An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published.” The 2008 list (re-posted for the holiday weekend) includes only one book by a woman novelist, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. In the original preface to the piece, Anya Yurchyshyn wrote “I’m sure everyone’s gonna find something to freak out about . . . not enough women writers . . . oh well. Like we gleefully admit, it’s biased.” But glee or no, the stakes for readers are higher than a dismissive “oh well” merits: As Roxane Gay at HTML Giant writes, “Women writers are being done a disservice [by the list,] but the far greater disservice here is to men. This list not only perpetuates the erasure of great writing by women, it cultivates the erroneous and myopic notion that men only want to read a certain kind of book;” at Joyland, readers have contributed a counter-list of 250 books by women that all men should read. Jacket Copy's Carolyn Kellogg writes that the problem isn’t just that the list's authors are nearly all men, but there’s also a particular type of masculinity that is sorely over-represented: "A kind of constructed male identity of soldiering and confronting nature and, well, dude-itude. Any man who learns about relationships from Carver, Cheever, and Roth is going to need a list of marriage counselors, too."

At the Hay literary Festival, V. S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux have ended a long-standing feud.


Vanessa Veselka

Last week when Hugo Lindgren posted Kurt Andersen’s shortlist of annoying “words we don’t say” from his late-90s New York Magazine days (ie “celeb,” eatery,” “hubby”) readers responded with dozens of words and phrases they find irritating.

Publishers Weekly picks the big books from BEA, and makes this year’s Expo sound almost retro: “Hardcover fiction is back.”

Quirk Books has unleashed sea monsters into Sense and Sensibility and zombies into Pride and Prejudice, but now they’re infesting a book with the most terrifying beast of all. Bedbugs is a novel featuring the nettlesome insects as they haunt the quiet lives of two Brooklyn brownstoners. Are you itching yet?

Colson Whitehead on the zombie movies that influenced his forthcoming novel, Zone One.

Tonight at Word bookstore in Brooklyn, Lynne Tillman will read from her new book, Someday This Will Be Funny, along with another fiction writer published by Red Lemonade/Cursor: Portland novelist Vanessa Veselka, who will read from her new book, Zazen.


BEA Diary, Part 2. Highlights: Flavor Flav arrives at the Javits Center, wearing a crown. Lisa Pearson, the mastermind behind Siglio Press, gives Bookforum editors two of her Georges Perec-inspired paper airplanes, and reading the detailed Publishers Weekly coverage of the Expo, which seems to be produced instantly and almost makes being at the conference seem unnecessary. Lowlight: Making eye contact with a Scientologist dressed in pirate’s garb.

So much time, energy, and money is spent traveling to and attending conferences like BEA, and yet the experience often leaves participants feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied, and bored. Why do these gatherings miss the mark? How can organizers create a better format for like-minded people to network and share ideas? These questions were at the heart of author and professional improv instructor Misha Glouberman’s presentations at BEA on Tuesday and Wednesday, as he promoted his forthcoming book, The Chairs are Where the People Go (written with Sheila Heti). On Wednesday, he encouraged the audience, which included editors from literary magazines, bookstore owners, publicists, librarians, and other book-lovers, to leave the room if they got bored, move all the chairs in the room into better arrangements, and to talk about what they liked about their jobs, rather than dwelling on the book industry’s problems. As Glouberman put it, “There’s no line item in the budget for making conferences not suck,” but a page or two from his book—which is about much more than just meetings—would help accomplish that lofty goal.

Elevator Repair Service, the brilliant New York theater company who last year gave an eight-hour dramatic performance of The Great Gatsby, is now condensing three classics into 22 minutes.

The audio book for Keith Richard’s Life—narrated by Richards, Joe Hurley, and Johnny Depp—took the top award at the Audie Awards ceremony this week.

This week, the New Yorker’s website features a fascinating podcast by writer Rachel Aviv, who discusses her new article about a mentally ill woman named Linda Bishop. What happens, Aviv asks, when people fail to realize that they’ve experienced a psychic break?


Kate Christensen

After taking on the neurotic comedy of Jonathan Ames, HBO is moving on to the harder stuff: The network is planning to air a show written by Sam Lipsyte, author of acerbic, stylish, and deeply felt novels such as The Ask. The “offbeat comedy,” titled People City, will portray the misadventures of a 25-year-old man who is hired by a New York couple to care for their child.

In Elle, novelist Kate Christensen explains what it’s like to write from a man’s point of view.

BookExpo America Diary, Part One: It’s smaller (duh) and Apple wasn’t around. There are fewer clowns, Borat impersonators, and reality TV stars than in years past. Highlights: Colson Whitehead signing advance copies of his new zombie novel, Zone One. Deborah Baker signing her new book, The Convert, and seeing Emma Straub and Simon van Booy and realizing they’re just as cool in real life as everyone says they are on Twitter (ditto for Whitehead). Walking by a woman talking about how there used to be only male werewolves in fiction, and realizing that this woman was, in fact, Margaret Atwood. Lowlights: Despite a blogger’s pavilion and a continued emphasis on e-books, there was poor cell-phone service to be had in the inner depths of the Javits Center (but don’t take our word for it). And we heard about a lot of great new forthcoming indie titles, to wit: New books by Robert Walser (Berlin Stories, NYRB), Miranda July (It Chooses You, McSweeney’s), Sheila McClear (The Last of the Live Nude Girls, Soft Skull), and more.

Tonight’s New York to-do list: Fans of Georges Perec, take note: Anthology Film Archives will screen two films written and co-directed by the late French novelist. At 7pm, the theater will screen Serie noir (adapted from a Jim Thompson story), and at 9:30, Harry Mathews—a longtime friend of Perec’s—will introduce Perec’s Un homme qui dort (the English version was dubbed by Shelley Duval) . . . At McNally Jackson, Lynne Tillman and Paula Fox will read their fiction . . . And at 9:30 at the PowerHouse Arena, Oriana Small (aka Ashley Blue) will read from her brand-new book Girlvert, a clear-eyed and explicit account of her experiences in the porn industry.


Deborah Baker

An article in Prospect argues that more bad reviews would result in better books.

The good news: the New Yorker is putting out a special issue this week, featuring a decade’s worth of highlights from its “Talk of the Town” column. The bad news: Subscribers won’t receive this issue in the mail. Also: Every single ad in the issue is for shows broadcast on the USA network.

The Rumpus online book club recently invited author Deborah Baker to discuss her new book, The Convert, a biography of Maryam Jameelah. Jameelah left America in the late 60s and moved to Pakistan, where she wrote bold books about the emptiness of Western life.

Herman Melville was apparently a bit self-conscious of his height when he filled out his passport application in 1856.

Kobo has announced a new paperback-sized touch e-reader.

When we heard that Michael Azerrad’s great book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 was celebrating its tenth anniversary with a show of contemporary bands covering classic songs from the DIY era, we thought that perhaps the music would be lost in translation—yet another fruitless nostalgia trip. But then we saw a video of St. Vincent playing the Big Black song “Kerosene” this weekend, proving that furious expressions of angst and anger can be timeless.


Oprah Winfrey posing with her favorite post-apocalyptic beach read.

Gary Shteyngart has released the sequel to the popular trailer for his novel Super Sad True Love Story, which has just been published in paperback. In the new video short, Shteyngart and Paul Giamatti “act out their own buddy comedy.”

BookExpo America will turn Manhattan into a publishing mecca this week. While the majority of the conferences will be held on Tuesday through Thursday at the Javits Center, there are a slew of events elsewhere in the metropolis all week long. Today, New York Book Week begins with events at Barnes and Noble, the Symphony Space, the New York Public Library, and the Apple store in SoHo (among many other smaller venues). However, the big news that Apple would be exhibiting at the conference has been retracted—perhaps someone warned Apple how unreliable the conference center’s Wi-Fi can be.

David Sedaris is one of the most popular authors in America, so having him back your latest book would seem to be a jackpot. At Salon, author Tim Johnston writes that while Sedaris’s support helped his career, it also convinced him to wreck his finances on an ill-advised book tour.

Is re-reading the best kind of reading?

As The Oprah Winfrey Show comes to an end later this summer, the LA Times takes a look back at her book club, which Oprah calls “the biggest controversy in [the show's] 25 years." In the fifteen years since she began the club, Oprah launched literary careers, made unjustly forgotten authors household names again, got middle America to re-read the classics (not to mention books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road), and started a squabble or two (remember James Frey?). Publishers who wish to have the Oprah factor back in play can hold out hope: She has expressed a desire to keep the club going on her new network.


Jon Jon Goulian

Stephanie Madoff-Mack is writing a memoir of her experiences with the family of Bernard L. Madoff (she was married to Mark Madoff, who committed suicide after his father's Ponzi scheme came to light). The book will be published by Blue Rider Press in December.

Why did QVC home-shopping channel mogul John Malone offer to buy Barnes and Noble for one billion dollars in cash? It’s an offer that the Wall Street Journal calls “Insane.”

Dale Peck explains why authors and readers need to fight the publishing industry as we know it. “It’s time writers thought of themselves as an army rather than a city under siege.”

“He’s always been a kind of crazy free spirit,” Katie Roiphe tells the New York Times in an article about lit-party fixture and skirt-wearing memoirist Jon Jon Goulian. “When I say crazy, I mean actually crazy.”

Back in the 1920s, an anonymous New Yorker writer lobbied in a series of articles for the right to smoke in the New York Public Library: “Smoking as a habit with both sexes is now a generation old. We always feel that authorities who have not yet recognized this fact are pathetically living in the past.”

Fiction writer Daniel Orozco’s story “Orientation” covers everything you need to know on your first day on the job: “If you have one hour of work in your in-box, you must expand that work to fill the eight-hour day. That was a good question. Feel free to ask questions. Ask too many questions, however, and you may be let go.”

Saturday afternoon at the NYPL, the Believer presents a panel on the art of the interview (sadly, there will be no smoking allowed) featuring the Paris Review’s editor Lorin Stein, TV chat host and columnist Dick Cavett (!), poet and editor Kenneth Goldsmith, and New York Times author Claudia Dreifus. Believer interview editors Sheila Heti and Ross Simonini will moderate the discussion. Later that day, artist and author Chris Kraus will be screening two films and presenting a new text at Real Fine Arts in Brooklyn.


Tonight, a motley assortment of DC rockers and authors will descend upon WORD bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; Sara Marcus, Michael Kimball, Nathan Larson, and Zach Barocas will tell stories of the nation’s capital.

Richard Nash

Adam Rapoport, Hugo Lindgren, Josh Tyrangiel: “Ladies and dudes, meet the Dude-itors.” These editors are “guys who preach a certain carefree editorial attitude.” Laid back as they profess to be, you should think twice before ordering a sparkling wine in their presence.

Jess Row has written a take-no-prisoners essay titled “The Novel Is Not Dead,” in which he rails against the “the aristocracy of critics, editors, publishers, and tastemakers” and calls Benjamin Kunkel “dogmatically bigoted.” Those are “fighting words,” says Kunkel in the Comments section.

New York Times, the TV show.

“Publishing is saddled with this terrible reputation for being reactionary and Luddite,” writes publisher Richard Nash. “This is perverse, truly perverse,” he adds, “since publishing is in fact at the center of two major social revolutions that dramatically disrupted the status quo ante.” Nash, who was once the publisher of Soft Skull Press, is now the mastermind behind the new publishing platform known as Red Lemonade, which just launched.

The New York Public Library has a new iPad app. Title: “Biblion: The Boundless Library.”

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