Philip Roth has won the 2011 Man Booker International Prize. One of the prize's judges, Carmen Callil, was so underwhelmed by Roth’s work that she quit the judges' panel after the award was announced, saying that the novelist “goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."
Chris Adrian, photo by Gus Elliott.
Newt Gingrich has become a prolific book critic, penning more than one-hundred-and-fifty reviews in the past decade or so, but you won’t find them in the mainstream papers: He has opted to post his opinions at Amazon.com. At Slate, Dave Weigel attempts to divine Gingrich’s politics from these Amazon reviews. As Weigel writes, the 2012 presidential candidate’s taste for thriller fiction and pop-science is more revealing than the unsurprising party-line political books he likes: “It might not make sense when you hear Gingrich warning of the danger of electro-magnetic pulse attacks or making analogies between World War II and multiple current conflicts. It makes more sense when you see what fiction he reads.”
This year, Apple is exhibiting at BookExpo America for the first time.
The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend is writing a memoir, to be published by Harper. Townshend says that writing is far more enjoyable for him than playing music is (which may explain all that guitar smashing), adding: “The year ahead spent writing will . . . trigger the last vital bit of ‘growing up’ required by the now pensionable fellow who once wrote I hope I die before I get old. I want to write a book that is enjoyable to read, but above all, I want it to be honest.”
Tonight at the Russian Samovar, the FSG reading series continues with novelist Chris Adrian, author of the new novel The Great Night, and short story writer Amelia Gray, who recently signed a deal with the publisher.
We’ve been consistently impressed by the White Review, a new journal of politics, literature, and the arts, which recently published its first print issue and publishes great web-only articles. One must-read from their online issue: Filmmaker Alison Klayman, who is working on a documentary called Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, talks about the Chinese artist’s work and his recent arrest.
Five years since James Frey made a disastrous appearance on Oprah, a contrite Frey reappeared on the show yesterday afternoon and said what he hoped Oprah wanted to hear: “Whatever happened on that show and with A Million Little Pieces happened because of me. Because I made bad choices,” Frey said, before comparing himself to Celine, Henry Miller, and Jack Kerouac; all authors who are as notable for their “bad choices” as they are for their books. Today, Frey will be back for part two of the interview.
In the longstanding battle between Time and Newsweek, Time is still on top.
Last week, Christopher Hitchens penned a scorching rebuttal to Noam Chomsky’s recent article on Osama bin Laden, in which Chomsky referred to the al Qaeda leader as an “unarmed victim.” On Monday, Hitchens released an essay on bin Laden’s death entitled “The Enemy,” which was published as a mini e-book in the Kindle Single series (available only on Amazon). Meanwhile, the New Republic has compiled all of its excellent coverage of bin Laden's death, a collection which is also available as an e-book.
The international indie publisher Europa Editions is celebrating the publication of its one-hundredth book tonight at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
The Paris Review’s web editor Thessaly La Force is leaving the magazine for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Starting in July, The New Yorker’s Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn will become a senior editor of the Paris Review and their blog, the Daily.
A visit to Google’s campus in Silicon Valley has become a necessary stop on authors’ book tours. Since 2005, the Googleplex has hosted more than one-thousand author talks, including readings by Tina Fey, Christopher Hitchens, and novelist Junot Diaz. Recently, technology writers James Gleick (The Information) and Evgeny Morozov (The Net Delusion) made appearances, the latter author making an unpopular argument about “the dark side of Internet freedom,” while sitting in the heart of the techno-utopians’ home field. We hope that Siva Vaidhyanathan will be invited to the Plex and initiate a lively debate about his book The Googlization of Everything (And Why we Should Worry).
How do you get your MFA in Tweeting? By studying the greats.
Joyce Carol Oates’s recent memoir A Widow’s Story is an elegy for her long-time husband, Ray. In a review for the NYRB, Julian Barnes writes that perhaps Oates should have mentioned her remarriage thirteen months after Ray’s death, because “some readers will feel they have a good case for breach of narrative promise.” Oates has responded with a tart letter to the editor: “Since nothing seems to arouse reproach in reviewers quite so much as the possibility that the memoirist is less miserable at the time of the writing and afterward than she was at the time of the experience about which she is writing, it is only sensible to include an appendix to remedy this, which I will hope to do.”
A new collection of letters from a fifty-year friendship between author Eudora Welty and editor William Maxwell includes this note about the literary afterlife from Maxwell: “Good writers do not die. They simply pass into their works and go right on living”
Adam Foulds’s last novel, The Quickening Maze, was a historical fiction with prose so lyrical it seemed about to break into verse at any moment, vividly depicting the life of the brilliant and troubled nineteenth-century poet John Clare. Foulds’s new book, The Broken Word, is an epic poem relating a true story—the 1950s Mau Mau uprisings in Kenya.
Who are the real book critics, the paid professionals or the dedicated Amazon amatures? Historian Morris Dickstein, author Cynthia Ozick, novelist Hervé Le Tellier, and Danish novelist Carsten Jensen discuss, with Dickstein opining that “Raw opinion, no matter how deeply felt, is no substitute for argument and evidence. The democratization of reviewing is synonymous with the decay of reviewing.”
Susie Bright reveals the “terrible secret” of women’s memoirs.
Tomorrow night at KGB bar, Sam Lipsyte will read with Michael Kimball, who is known for his ability to write a person’s entire biography on a postcard, and whose novel Us was just published by Tyrant Books. Artist Luca Dipierro made a melancholy but alluring animation from one of the novel’s sentences, making a short and memorable book trailer.
How did the children’s poetry workshops at the White House on Wednesday go? The Washington Post reports that Billy Collins told the students ““You’re probably not that good, but you’ll get better,” while Kenneth Goldsmith said, “You’re trying too hard.” Meanwhile, the Daily Show presents the “Tone Def Poetry Slam,” covering the controversy over rapper Common’s appearance. [via Harriet]
At NYRB, Tim Parks has written an insightful and entertaining blog post about why Swiss author Peter Stamm is interesting to people outside his native country, and why Jonathan Franzen is not. “For the American reader there is the pleasure of recognizing the interiors Franzen so meticulously describes. Not so for the Italian, or German, or Frenchman, who simply struggles through lists of alien bric-a-brac.”
Conde Nast and Hearst have both made deals with Apple to sell magazine subscriptions in the iTunes store. But “why isn’t Time Inc. on board yet?”
The New York Public Library’s main research branch is about to celebrate its one-hundredth birthday, so they’re putting together an exhibition featuring everything wonderful and weird from their vast holdings, with items such as a copy of the Guttenberg bible, Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, and a lock of Mary Shelley’s hair (among many other things) on display. Flavorwire was so inspired by this last bit of ephemera that they’ve cobbled together an online gallery of all the literary hair the NYPL has in various archival collections, with locks from the likes of Walt Whitman, Charlotte Bronte, and others.
FSG has announced its early-2012 list, which will include new novels by Edward St. Aubyn (At Last), Peter Cameron (Coral Glynn), Amelia Gray (Threats) and Sarah Manguso (The Guardians); a memoir by Zakes Mda (Sometimes There Is a Void); and (in April) the second volume of Susan Sontag’s Journals.
Ellen Willis listening and typing in her apartment on Waverly St., early 80s. Photo from the Ellen WIllis tumblr archive.
Critic Caleb Crain has written a fascinating blog post about a photo that captures President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other White House officials as they receive an “update on the mission against Osama bin Laden.” Crain argues, however, that it is possible, even likely, that they are in fact watching bin Laden’s death. The post enlarges four faces from the photo and analyzes them in minute detail: Robert Gates’s “mask of confidence,” Obama’s “grim mouth” and “hungry eyes,” Clinton’s “pure horror,” and Joe Biden thinking: "What's happening is reasonable."
This fall, powerHouse will publish a book version of Joy DeLyria and Sean Michael Robinson’s Internet project Down in the Hole, in which they rewrite the HBO show The Wire as an illustrated Victorian novel.
Last night well-heeled magazine professionals dutifully gathered at the ASME awards gala. Among the notable winners: Christopher Hitchens for his Vanity Fair columns; John Jeremiah Sulivan of the Paris Review for “Mister Lytle: An Essay;” Paul Theroux’s story, "Minor Watt," from the Virginia Quarterly Review; and Poetry magazine, which won the unwieldy-sounding award for “General Excellence, Literary, Political and Professional Magazines.”
Tonight at apexart gallery in New York, poet, professor, and Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio will read from his new poetry collection Touch Wood, along with novelist Marcy Dermansky, author Heather Kristin, and fiction writer Stephen O’Connor.
There’s been a bit of an Ellen Willis revival lately: A collection of her music criticism, Out of the Vinyl Deeps, was published this month by the University of Minnesota Press, her work is being posted on a tumblr archive, and NYU recently held a day-long symposium examining her work. Willis, who died in 2006, was one of the most astute and original writers of her generation, the first New Yorker pop-music critic (from the late-60s though the mid-70s), a groundbreaking feminist, and the founder of NYU’s graduate program of Cultural Criticism and Reporting. At the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog, Sasha Frere Jones (who wrote the book’s introduction) reflects on what made Willis’s writing so distinctive—and why she’s not better known.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have organized a poetry night at the White House, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 11. Readers and performers include Elizabeth Alexander, who read at Obama’s inauguration; former U.S. poet laureates Billy Collins and Rita Dove; musicians Common, Aimee Mann, and Jill Scott; and conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith, whose 2007 book Traffic transcribes twenty-four hours of traffic reports from New York AM radio station 1010 WINS. The participants will also offer a workshop for students.
The Baffler is back. Thomas Frank, who co-founded the magazine in 1988, will step down as editor in chief, with critic and author John H. Summers taking the helm.
Tonight, Adam Levin, author of The Instructions, won the New York Public Library's Young Lion's Award, which was hosted by Ethan Hawke, Billy Crudup, and Martha Plimpton.
Wired magazine mines advice from Write More Good, the mock style guide written by the mysterious group who bring you the @FakeAPStylebook Twitter feed, to tell you “how to write an acerbic book review.”
The New Yorker becomes the first Conde Nast publication that allows you to subscribe monthly to its iPad app.
Daniel Pinchbeck—a cofounder of Open City magazine and the author of the hallucinogen-spiked nonfiction book Breaking Open the Head—is launching Evolver Editions, a new publishing imprint, in July. Pinchbeck’s latest book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, used shamanistic prophecies to predict that a massive shift in human consciousness will occur in about a year and a half (this will somehow involve a feathered serpent), and Evolver Editions will carry on his interest in spiritual transformation in the midst of global meltdown. It’s first title will be Sacred Economics, by Charles Eisenstein. The imprint’s titles will be distributed by Random House.
Justin Vivian Bond, whose new record is out now and whose memoir Tango will be released in the fall, is not happy with Carl Swanson's new profile of him in New York magazine."Wow," Bond writes on Facebook. "I can't even begin to find words about how offensive the Carl Swanson piece in NY Magazine turned out to be. I had him in my house -time to bring out the bleach. I'm so grossed out."