Michael Seidenberg, from Freebird Books

It wasn’t corporate bookstores that drove Brazen Head Books underground, but New York City real estate prices. After the secondhand bookstore’s rent quadrupled in 1998, owner Michael Seidenberg took a ten-year hiatus before reopening Brazen Head as an appointment-only shop run out of an unmarked apartment. Since then, Seidenberg, now known as the “secret bookstore guy,” has opened his doors to novelists, bibliophiles, the occasional New Yorker journalist, and, most recently, an Etsy video team, which interviewed Seidenberg and profiled Brazen Head for their blog.

Even without business taxes, Seidenberg acknowledges that running a used bookstore isn’t exactly a profitable enterprise. “If it’s all about money, there are just better things to sell,” he quips. “I should sell crack, that’s a much better business.”

You can watch the Etsy video here.

John Lurie, photo by Sylvia Plachy

The New Republic’s Bradford Plumer wonders why British tabloids play so much dirtier than their American counterparts in spite of the UK’s stricter libel laws.

A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard’s account of eighteen years in captivity with a convicted sex offender, has skyrocketed to the number one bestseller spot on Amazon, a day after her ABC interview drew fifteen million viewers.

The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary trace the first use of "OMG" back to a letter written in 1917 by British Admiral John "Jacky" Fisher.

A douchebag by any other name? In response to a query from her editor at Harper’s, Elif Batuman considers when the term should be used.

Misha Glouberman tells Sheila Heti what it was like to go to Harvard after spending his teenage years in Montreal’s underground arts scene: “The thing I figured out soon after I applied was that, on Gilligan’s Island, it wasn’t the Professor who went to Harvard, it was Mr. Howell, the rich man. That was something of a revelation.” An excerpt from their new book, The Chairs Are Where the People Go, has been posted at the Paris Review Daily.

Novelist Adam Haslett takes a cross-country roadtrip.

We just came across (and enjoyed) Rick Moody’s thorough rebuttal of Tad Friend’s New Yorker profile of John Lurie.


Wayne Koestenbaum

On the heels of its best-of nonfiction roundup—which ended in a tie between Joan Didion and Joan Didion—The New York Times Magazine releases a list of favorite novels as selected by Times staffers. Turns out, the sixth floor’s taste skews to the classics. With Sam Anderson’s blessing, Lolita was crowned the universal favorite, though NYT magazine editor Hugo Lindgren didn’t miss the opportunity to sneak in a DeLillo knock: “I’m sorry, but White Noise is overrated—a great novelist cracking grad-student one-liners.”

In a series of new videos, poet-novelist-critic Wayne Koestenbaum, author of a new study of humiliation, gives advice to the humiliated. “I would really seriously recommend dedicating your next book to this person you've humiliated, naming your next child after this person, or tattooing that person's name on your next-born child..."

Colson Whitehead will be competing in the upcoming World Series of Poker and writing about it for the sports and culture site Grantland.

Philip Roth thinks that fiction is no longer worth reading. Paul Auster does not agree.

James Patterson has signed a twenty-six book deal with Little, Brown to crank out thirteen novels and thirteen children’s books by 2014.

Dwell magazine crowdsources entries for a map of independent bookstores across the country.


With former spokesman and ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson arrested, Prime Minister David Cameron pledges to overhaul British media. "I believe we need a new system entirely,” Cameron asserted this morning. Slate media critic Jack Shafer, however, has a different take: “Cameron is trying to make general problem out of too-cozy press-media relations. It's his specific problem.”

As News of the World editors scramble to get their stories straight, The Guardian quizzes readers on great denials in literature.

Steve Jobs

In April, Simon & Schuster announced plans to publish Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs tentatively titled iSteve: A Book of Jobs, in 2012. Many people derided the title; now, as Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports, the book has been given a new, no-frills name: Steve Jobs. We wonder if perhaps Simon & Schuster had second thoughts because they don’t want to be associated with right-wing blogger Steve Sailer, who goes by the catchy moniker “iSteve” online. In April, Sailer angrily put out a "request for pro bono legal help," stating, “I shall defend my iSteve brand and intellectual property against infringers, especially a well-known billionaire like Mr. Jobs.”

“Pages 200 to 225 made wonderful firestarters when covered in parrafin wax”: Publishers Weekly rounds up scathing and hilarious Amazon customer reviews for several deserving books.

Propublica has enlisted Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, New York Times investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr., and Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison to curate the best reporting on the News of the World scandal and closure. Meanwhile, a newly laid-off NOTW reporter shares the axed staff’s immediate plans with the New York Times: “We’re going to the pub.”

Why did Hemingway kill himself? His longtime friend and biographer A. E. Hochner hazards a theory: The FBI drove him crazy.


Jennifer 8. Lee

Blogger, author, cooking show host, and all-around media phenomenon Emily Gould is about to add another role to her ever-expanding repertoire: niche e-book vendor. The Observer reports that Gould and Ruth Curry, the best friend featured in Gould’s 2008 New York Times Magazine cover story, are discussing launching an imprint with OR Books. EmilyBooks.com is described as a “curated site” that will carry “a small number of hand-selected books.” According to an email Gould sent to OR co-founder John Oakes: “Our goal is to be super-specialized and targeted and to build an audience that trusts us.”

Former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee on the paper’s reluctant embrace of new media: “Like any body with a hardy immune system, it often rejects new presences as foreign.”

At the Paris Review Daily, Anna North reflects on the art of the acknowledgments page and the perils of thanking everybody the writer has known since grade school. “Parsimony,” North suggests, “may be a good strategy here—thanking only those people who, for instance, actually read the manuscript.” For more on the subject, readers are advised to check out Tom Bissell’s blistering appreciation of novelist Elizabeth Wurtzel’s approach to the issue.

Though he’s arguably Argentina’s most famous literary son, Borges also taught graduate seminars at the University of Texas at Austin, and once proclaimed himself “an honorary citizen of Texas.” At Guernica, Eric Benson embarks on an appropriately Borgesian adventure when he heads to the school’s Ransom Center archives in search of the master’s missing papers.


Michael Kimball, author of the deeply sad novel, Dear Everybody, and a master of the micro-biography, has sold his new novel, Big Ray, to Bloomsbury.

In The Believer’s music issue, historian Paul Collins recounts the golden era of cars equipped with record players, including this description of Chrysler’s harrowing road-test: “Horn-rimmed execs swapped records in and out of the player as the auto giant’s president wildly drove a car over a torture-track of cobblestone, speed bumps, and washboard test strips . . . . [The] player performed perfectly, and the car swung into the test garage with music swelling from its windows.” Meanwhile, to promote his debut novel, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, Christopher Boucher is going on tour, driving (or attempting to) a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle from Boston to Los Angeles. “I’ll read to people, roadsigns, potholes, old barns, paramedics, flowers, and railroad tracks.”

With summer in full swing, The Millions unveils its most anticipated booklist for the second half of 2011. Along with new releases by Bolaņo, DeLillo, and Murakami (all in November—mark your calendar), editors flag Nicholson Baker’s erotic novel House of Holes, which allegedly stemmed from a dare with his publisher; Beijing Welcomes You, Tom Scocca’s look at the Chinese capital before the 2008 Olympics; and Paul La Farge’s Luminous Airplanes, a novel that will be accompanied by an online “immersive text.” New work by Helen DeWitt, Lydia Millet, and Jonathan Littell also get shout-outs, as does Nothing, Blake Butler’s take on insomnia, which features the observation, “bad sugar fuels fucked dreams.”

Writer Jen Campbell collects weird things customers say in bookstores [via The Hairpin.]


Jarvis Cocker

French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces allegations of attempted rape from French novelist Tristane Banon just days after a case against Strauss-Kahn for sexual misconduct with a hotel maid seemed to disintegrate.

Brit-pop singer Jarvis Cocker has a new book, Mother, Brother, Lover, being published this fall by Faber & Faber. Cocker, known for his epic and sultry evocations of everyday life in songs such as “Common People,” talks with Faber publisher Lee Brackstone about writing lyrics, and how falling out of a window led to a lyrical breakthrough.

In her eloquent New York Times review of Chester Brown’s Paying for It—an illustrated memoir about his experiences with prostitutes—Annie Sprinkle announces, “As someone who has had sex of one sort or another with more than 3,000 johns myself, I can attest to the fact that all of Brown’s encounters ring absolutely, gloriously true.” And while we’re counting, Brown has calculated his financial cost of consorting with paid ladies: “If I went every two weeks, that would be 26 times a year; 26 multiplied by $160 equals $4,160 a year—that’s quite a bit."

At the online literary review Ugarte, Morten Hoi Jensen talks with poet, translator, and biographer Mark Ford, who has just published his third collection of poems, Six Children, and completed a luminous translation of Raymond Roussel’s New Impressions of Africa, which wasn’t easy: “As for translation, well, never again. It drives you nuts. Translating Nouvelles Impressions was like doing a fiendish crossword puzzle all day every day.”

Simon Van Booy reads from his debut novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, tonight at McNally Jackson.


Alan Hollinghurst

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, a “Tea Party politician on the rise,” has signed a book deal with Sentinel, which will publish her memoir Can’t Is Not an Option: My Story in January 2012.

The Guardian details the disastrous results of the recently announced Booker Prize, which columnist (and Wodehouse biographer) Robert McCrum calls a “car crash.” Meanwhile, another one of Britain’s literary awards, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, has been suspended.

The Rest Is Noise author Alex Ross has been documenting his visit to Italy, including his trip to Venice’s San Michel cemetery, where he pays respects to Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, and others.

At the Book Bench, Elizabeth Minkel takes issue with the way the British press continues to pigeonhole Alan Hollinghurst, whose The Stranger’s Child was just released in the UK, as a gay novelist.

Insider softball: Vanity Fair’s third baseman clearly struck a nerve when he told The Paris Review players to quit their “literary softball bullshit.”

Advertisement