VS Naipaul: Satish Bate/Hindustan Times
Political journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann have signed with Penguin Press to publish a book about the 2012 election, with the working title Double Down: Game Change 2012. (This is not to be confused with their earlier book, Game Change). The book will come out next fall, and has already been optioned for an HBO series. In case they’re in need of an early blurb, here’s one from Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann: “An important addition to the growing list of reasons to pray for the Mayan apocalypse.”
At eighty, V.S. Naipaul is as irascible as ever. The now-retired writer sits down for an interview with The New Republic.
A bill that’s making it’s way through Britain’s House of Commons could make it illegal for employers to advertise for unpaid internships. Moreover, if it passes, the bill could give the government the power to prosecute companies that do so. “This idea, particularly at a time of high unemployment, that you are exploiting and taking advantage of young people is just not acceptable,” remarked Hazel Blears, the representative backing the bill. For more on the subject, read Roger Hodge’s review of Ross Perlin’s Intern Nation, from our Summer 2011 issue.
New Yorkers: If you're free on Wednesday, stop by the ISA in Williamsburg for "Bookshopped," a talk with four independent booksellers about "the inner workings and psychologies behind these establishments." From the press release: "Kate Garber from the Strand will present some of the ways that bookstores can use interesting retail tactics to manipulate customers into buying things; Daniel Nelson and Sandeep Bhuller of McNally Jackson will give an overview of bookshop life; Jenn Northington from Word will randomly draw topics submitted by guests for a live, in person, totally off-the-cuff anti-Google search; and Marissa Levin from Book Court will do a geographically-oriented talk on the writers (present and past) who have made their mark on the literary landscape in both Book Court’s neck of the woods (Boerum Hill) and ISA's (Williamsburg)."
“I should explain—if nothing else, explanation is my birthright”: from “Fat,” a new short story by Bookforum contributor Joshua Cohen at Tablet magazine. And while you’re there, read “Gregory’s Story,” another original work by fellow Bookforum contributor Justin Taylor.
Federal judges have ruled that the six-toed cats that roam Ernest Hemingway’s Key West estate must be properly regulated by the house’s caretakers. After a ten-year legal back-and-forth, officials stated this week that the animals must be locked in cages, or confined to the property—which is now a Hemingway museum—at night. “One added irony in the cat case,” notes the Christian Science Monitor, “is that Whitehead Street [where the home is located] bisects a section of Key West well known for the large number of chickens and roosters roaming freely through the streets.”
A young Franz Kafka
Simon and Schuster joins HarperCollins and Hachette in dropping protections on its e-book pricing, and working with e-retailers to set prices.
Bids are starting at 42,000 euros for a letter in which an especially neurotic Franz Kafka describes his “naked fear” of mice: “it's certainly related to the unexpected, unwanted, unavoidable, sort of mute, grim, secret-purposeful appearance of these animals, with the feeling that they have dug hundreds of tunnels through the walls around me and are lurking there..." The letter, which was sent to Max Brod, goes on sale this week in Germany.
At Poetry, Elliott Holt enrolls in an “massive open online course” (or, a MOOC) on modern American poetry, and reports on what it’s like to be one of 36,000 students in a virtual classroom. The professor and the teaching assistants “are like reality-show TV contestants: regular people who suddenly have a huge audience. They don’t seem to be aware of the camera, of the more than 30,000 people watching them discuss poems.”
Zadie Smith names Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams as her best book of 2012.
Amazon is gearing up to sell “millions” of tablet readers in Brazil—even though none are available at the moment, and when the WiFi Kindle does go on sale within the next few weeks, it’s going to be more than twice as expensive as it is in the U.S.
The Missouri Review digs up and reprints an early David Foster Wallace essay about “serious rap,” and why it appeals to middle-class white guys. “The music's paranoia, together with its hermetic racial context, helps explain why from the outside it appears to us just as vibrant and impassioned as it does alien and scary.”
Aspiring screenwriter Vladimir Nabokov
King Wenclas, the former leader of the Underground Literary Alliance, is gearing up to publish his new book, The McSweeney’s Gang, which is “a satire of today's literary world.” Wenclas has been an outspoken critic of perennial award-winners and the publshing elite, and his book will feature fictionalized versions of Dave Eggers (whose novel Hologram was just named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times), Vendela Vida, George Saunders, Jennifer Egan, and others.
Salman Rushdie has called Chinese writer and Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan a “patsy of the regime” for failing to support a petition supporting the release of imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo.
American Psycho author and prolific tweeter Bret Easton Ellis stuck his foot in his mouth again last week by tweeting that The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow is "overrated" because she’s a "very hot woman." When pressed on the issue, Ellis remarked, "I still believe that if The Hurt Locker had been directed by a man it would not have won the Oscar for best director."
For anyone who wants to know exactly what Lena Dunham’s $3.7 million book proposal looks like, Gawker has leaked a copy. While Gawker calls the soon-to-be-book as “literary lifecasting,” the Atlantic Wire predicts that it will give readers “exactly what they want.” We suspect neither is wrong.
Eloise Klein Healy has been named Los Angeles’s first-ever Poet Laureate.
Courtesy of the American Reader, here’s an excerpt from a movie pitch that Vladimir Nabokov sent to Alfred Hitchcock: "A girl, a rising star of not quite the first magnitude, is courted by a budding astronaut. She is slightly condescending to him; has an affair with him but may have other lovers, or lover, at the same time. One day he is sent on the first expedition to a distant star; goes there and makes a successful return. Their positions have now changed. He is the most famous man in the country while her starrise has come to a stop at a moderate level. She is only too glad to have him now, but soon she realizes that he is not the same as he was before his flight." Hitchcock passed on that, and on Nabokov’s other idea: a Cold War-era film about a man who defected to the U.S.
E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Gray and the patron saint of Random House bonuses
Thanks to the breakaway success of Fifty Shades of Gray, Random House employees were notified at their holiday party this week that they’ll be getting “5,000 shades of green.” CEO Markus Doyle announced to a cheering crowd Random Housers on Wednesday that every full-time employee who’s been with the company longer than a year will get a $5,000 bonus, while people who have been there less time will get a pro-rated gift.
Yes, bedbugs can hide in library books.
This week, Hachette kicked off the e-book price wars after it abandoned the agency model of e-book pricing. As soon as the set prices were dropped, retailers started lowering costs, and as of Thursday, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest was going for $4 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s website, and the iTunes store.
Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein has donated $1.5 million to the Library of Congress to fund three new literary awards which will be given out over the next five years. The prizes will include the following: “the David M. Rubenstein Prize for a groundbreaking contribution to the sustained advancement of literacy by any individual or entity worldwide; the American Prize, honoring a project developed and deployed in the United States during the preceding decade with special emphasis on combating aliteracy; and the International Prize, which would honor the outstanding work of an individual, a nation or a non-governmental organization (NGO) working in a specific country or region.”
Insert your punchline here: Dick Cheney and his cardiologist are writing a memoir about the former VP’s faulty heart.
From zilch to $75,000: Jonathan Evison walks The Stranger through the book deals, piddling advances, movie options, and bar tabs that make of the financial calculus of an aspiring novelist.
Housing Works, home of the annual Gin Mingle
What inspires people to start a literary magazine these days? That’s the question the Observer posed to the editors of the American Reader, which celebrated its first issue last week with a flashy launch party in the West Village. With a masthead featuring Ben Marcus, Dean Young, Jeff Dolven, Scott Hamrah, the magazine, whose editor in chief is the 25-year-old Uzoamaka Maduka, is off to a promising start.
Speaking of holiday publishing parties, New York media celebrated itself (and the joys of gin) at the annual Gin Mingle at Housing Works on Tuesday. While most details of the evening were probably lost in the mix, we do know that writer and “physical specimen” Jon-Jon Goulian was on hand to tease New York Daily News with info about his next book-in-progress: “'It’s gonna be non-fiction,'” Goulian said, above the sounds of Devo’s 'Whip It.’ ‘I’ll give you two of the themes—it’s about ballet, and football.’”
R. Kelly tells Fast Company that his brilliant, multi-part "hip-hopera" Trapped in the Closet is going to be adapted into a book.
In the latest issue of the Times Literary Supplement, Christopher de Bellaigue reviews Iranian psychoanalyst Gohar Homayounpour’s Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran. The book foregrounds attempts to explain how and why “the talking cure has found itself taken to the heart of the Iranian national character.”
Galleycat puts together a “literary mixtape” of the most overlooked books of 2012, complete with free audio samples of the winning books.
CreateSpace has announced the 2013 Amazon “Breakthrough Novel” contest. Any unpublished or self-published work of fiction is eligible. The company will start accepting submissions in January, and winners of the Grand Prize and the First Prize will receive, among other things, “a full publishing contract with Amazon Publishing to market and distribute your Manuscript as a published book.”
On the occasion of the Oxford American’s 79th issue—and the first edited by new EIC Roger Hodge—Dwight Garner reassesses the magazine’s role over the past twenty years and it’s origins as “The New Yorker with a side of hot sauce, a tub of Duke’s mayonnaise, and a bib... The New Yorker in muddy boots rather than penny loafers.”
Nancy Huston has been awarded the 2012 Literary Review’s “Bad Sex” prize for her novel Infrared. For your enjoyment, here’s the passage that earned her the win: “When our bodies unite for the third time we leave all theatres behind. What happens then has as little to do with the libertinage prized by the French (oh the blasphemers, the precious precocious ejaculators, the nasty naughty boys, the cruel fouteurs and fouetteurs) as with the healthy, egalitarian intercourse championed by Americans (who hand out bachelors degrees in G-points, masters in masturbation and Ph.Ds in endorphines)."
Portrait of the economist as a young sci-fi nerd: At the Guardian, Paul Krugman reveals his early love for Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, and talks about how Asimov’s fiction offers “the possibility of a rigorous, mathematical social science that understands society, can predict how it changes, and can be used to shape those changes.”
The Millions kicks off its annual “Year in Reading” with entries by Jeffrey Eugenides, Choire Sicha, Emma Straub, and others on the best books they’ve read this year.
Eric Obenauf, one of the materminds at Two Dollar Radio press, has written an elloquent essay about the pleasures of writing (and publishing) outside of New York.
The Supreme Court is about to rule on a case that could make selling used books illegal.
New York Magazine runs a seven-page profile of Chris Hughes, the 29-year-old Facebook co-founder and recently seated owner of the New Republic. While his mission for the magazine isn’t totally clear yet, he does intend to be more hands-on, and to distance himself from his internet roots. “Hughes wants to produce what thoughtful people ought to read,” writes Carl Swanson, “as opposed to churning out what most people like to ‘like.’”
Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only magazine The Daily has folded. Alexis Madrigal speculates about why the virtual general-interest magazine never managed to get off the ground.
Is Zoe Heller’s New York Review of Books essay on Salman Rushdie’s biography—which she claims is suffused with "an unembarrassed sense of what he is owed as an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting"—the literary hatchet job of the year? The Guardian weighs the case.
Turns out that story about an Oxford English Dictionary editor deleting thousands of words from the OED was wildly exaggerated. What actually happened, writes Ben Zimmer, is that “the former editor, in compiling material for four supplements to the O.E.D., had not seen fit to include everything that was in a previous supplement to the dictionary’s first edition, published in 1933, including thousands of words borrowed from foreign languages.”
Gang Leader for a Day author and Columbia sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh is under investigation due to financial dealings that transpired while he was head of the university’s social science research center.
New Yorkers: If you're free tonight, join Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio for the third installment of "Double Take," the reading series in which three sets of authors read original work about a shared experience. Tonight, Susan Daitch, Chris Beha, Richard Price, Lorraine Adams, Jennifer Gilmore and Joanna Hershon will be reading at apexart at 7.
We don’t know if you’ve been following the incredible story of tech millionaire/sex fiend/bath salts junkie John McAfee, but if not, we recommend you pick up the trail while he’s still on the lam in Belize. It’s only a matter of time before it’s turned into a book, movie, or both. VICE, naturally, is already hot on the trail.
A scene from the 1962 newspaper strike
Amazon’s Larry Kirshbaum has been promoted to head all of the company’s U.S. publishing endeavors, just as the company prepares to launch a new publishing arm in Europe.
The Guardian unveils its list of the year’s top women in publishing, giving props to Hilary Mantel, E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, Amanda Hocking, Julia Donaldson, and Kate Mosse. Nice list, though we have to ask: What about Katherine Boo, Sheila Heti, Lisa Cohen, or Cheryl Strayed?
A down-and-out church in Boston is considering selling a first edition of the first book published in America to pay for the church's upkeep. The Bay Psalm Book was first published in 1640 as a new translation of psalms done by a group of prominent Puritan ministers. It's expected to attract between $10 and $20 million if it goes up for auction.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the infamous 1962 New York City newspaper strike, Vanity Fair revisits the standoff that shut down seven papers, permanently closed four, and helped launch the careers of journalistic icons like Robert Silvers, Nora Ephron, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, and Pete Hamill.
What has happened to unhappy endings? At Salon, Laura Miller argues that they’ve largely disappeared in our “post-tragic age.” Contemporary audiences aren’t interested in art that isn’t affirmative, and “the film and television industries, with a nervous eye on the bottom line, try first and foremost to please the audience, whether or not the audience knows best. Nobody wants Romeo and Juliet to die, after all.”
At the Atlantic, novelist Ann Patchett reflects on how she became the unofficial spokeswoman for independent bookstores after opening her own in Nashville.
New Yorkers: the first meeting of the Public TransLit Book Club will be held on Dec. 11 at the Lolita Bar on Broome Street. And what’s the TransLit club? It’s a mass-commuter reading group (a variation of Seattle’s Books on the Bus Club) in which participating straphangers read designated books. The inaugural book will be Andy Greenberg’s book on WikiLeaks, This Machine Kills Secrets.
Kevin Powers has won the Guardian’s first-book award for Yellow Birds, his novel about a gunner in Iraq. Powers spent two years serving with the army in Iraq, and took the title of his novel from a marching song he learned there: "A yellow bird / With a yellow bill / Was perched upon/ my windowsill / I lured him in / With a piece of bread / And then I smashed / His fucking head."
At the New York Review of Books, Gabriel Winslow-Yost accesses Chris Ware’s collected works, and makes a compelling case for the triumph of the “comic-book novel.”
Mergers are not good for publishing, André Schiffrin, author of titles such as The Business of Books and A Political Education, argues at the Nation. While proponents usually argue that bigger publishers will be better equipped to battle Amazon, Schiffin counters that over the past few decades, the rise of mergers has meant the disappearance of independent bookstores and the decline in independent books.
On the heels of Flavorwire’s list of New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers (spoiler alert: Philip Roth is number one), HTML Giant offers up its list of New York’s 100 Most Important Rats Living in the Subway System.
Bob Saget, who used to host America's Funniest Home Videos, is writing a dirty book. We’re kind of excited about it.
Edgar Allen Poe House
The Observer crashes Tao Lin’s graduate seminar on the short story, and gets pretty much what you’d expect: a discussion of George Saunders and casual prescription-drug use.
Despite how many books are being published these days, writers and publishers are often bad at promoting them, argues Impossible Mike at HTML Giant. But then, precisely because of the number of books coming out, most forms of advertising don’t seem to work: traditional promotion is often ignored, and social media is overrated. “I’m just wondering,” he writes, “what the hell is the best way to sustainably advertise books? Reading tours? Book trailers? Posting your shit on Tumblr? Linking your books to your friends and family?”
“You might wonder how a ten-year career becomes worthy of commemoration, and so would I. Yet no one openly questioned why we were attending a 'roast' of, rather than a reading by, Gary Shteyngart”: Michelle Dean reports from an event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
What’s the status of e-reading in China? Some statistics: According to the Atlantic’s Peter Osnos, “some 220 million people read electronic media. Of these, almost 120 million people use their mobile phone to read. And almost 25 million people only use their cellphones to read books."
An international streak of literary vandalism continues with the desecration of the Edgar Allen Poe House in Baltimore. Within the past month, vandals have graffitied the side of the building, and stolen the house’s wooden steps.
This week’s shameless linkbait: Flavorwire’s list of the New York’s “100 Most Important Living Writers.”