New Yorkers: Come support the Russian punk band Pussy Riot by attending an event at the Ace Hotel in which Chloe Sevigny, Eileen Myles, Bookforum contributor Johanna Fateman and Mx Justin Vivian Bond read the band members’ courtroom statements. The three members of Pussy Riot were arrested in February on charges of “hooliganism” (which could land them up to seven years in prison) and have been held in custody ever since. Their sentence will be handed down on Friday.

While the scenario is ripe for wordplay, the competitive Scrabble community found nothing funny about the scandal that erupted at the annual Scrabble Nationals this week when a highly ranked, 13-year-old player was found to be cheating.

Jonah Lehrer may have resigned from the New Yorker over the plagiarism scandal involving his latest book, but he’s still got one job at Conde Nast. Buzzfeed reports that Lehrer is keeping his post as a features writer at Wired, and moreover, that the magazine has been retroactively fact-checking all of Lehrer’s old stories, and haven’t yet found any problems.

In an elegant and sharply funny essay that picks up on Jacob Silverman’s recent Slate piece about the epidemic of “niceness” in book reviewing culture, New York Times Book Review-er Dwight Garner makes a case for critics who are actually critical.

Nate DiMeo, the ghostwriter for a fictitious book about Pawnee, Indiana (the setting for the TV show “Parks and Recreation”) is up against New Yorker humorists Patricia Marx and Calvin Trillin for this year’s annual Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Black bears, alligators, and NASA mars rovers—four days’ worth of material from John Jeremiah Sullivan’s diary.

Before he became known as a novelist, Oscar Wilde was an editor at Woman’s World—the 19th century equivalent of Vogue. Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kaya GenÁ trawls the magazine’s archives for connections between Wilde’s writing and his work as an editor. It might be telling that Wilde wasn’t adverse to the occasional stunt: he once asked Queen Victoria to contribute a poem.

Flavorwire unveils their Fall 2012 books preview, featuring new works by Alice Munro, Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, and Chris Ware. Look out for reviews of new titles by Zadie Smith and David Foster Wallace (which both made the list) in our forthcoming fall issue.


Renata Adler and Joan Didion in 1978

According to Random House’s website, the reissue of Renata Adler’s amazing novels Speedboat and Pitch Dark, which will be released by New York Review Books in February, will include an interview between Adler and the ultrasharp-eyed New York Times Style-section reporter Guy Trebay.

"I think you'll find her most unusual and most controversial:" Slate tracks down original footage of Ayn Rand on the Johnny Carson Show.

Rumor has it that Apple may become the sponsor of the UK literary prize formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction. The prize, which recognizes novels written by women, was threatened this May when the cell-phone operator Orange withdrew its sponsorship.

Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yan Martel’s bestselling novel Life of Pi is slated to open the New York Film Festival next month—the first 3D film ever to do so.

The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary gets its annual update: Among the words making their debut in the 2012 Merriam-Webster are “sexting,” “f-bomb,” “craft beer,” “life coach,” “energy drink,” and “gastropub.” The Atlantic Wire has the a full list here, as well as a q&a with Peter Sokolowski, one of the dictionary’s editors.

How to best know a country through writing? By reading many of that country’s stories, and not just one, says Nigerian fiction writer Chimamanda Adichie in this excellent talk.

“Magazines, all kinds of them, don’t work very well in the marketplace anymore,” writes New York Times reporter David Carr.

Roughly half a year shy of its sixth birthday, the “social networking for book lovers” website Goodreads hit the ten-million-user mark this week.


Members of the imprisoned Russian punk band Pussy Riot

Longtime Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown died in Manhattan on Monday. “She was 90,” the New York Times reported, “though parts of her were considerably younger.” After getting her start as an ad copywriter, Gurley Brown, the author of the 1962 bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, edited Cosmo for more than three decades until her retirement in 1997. She is credited with giving the magazine its voice, and introducing candid (if airbrushed) conversations about sex to the American public, as well as coining the term “mouseburger.” To learn more about Gurley Brown, we direct you to Bookforum’s 2009 review of her unauthorized biography, Bad Girls Go Everywhere.

Earlier this year, three masked women stormed a Moscow church and staged an impromptu punk rock performance, in which they sang “Our lady / Chase Putin Out” while playing a cacophony of exhilarating noise. The band, Pussy Riot, were arrested and have been detained for nearly six months; they face three years in prison for the sixty-second song. Though their plight has generated much commentary and an outpouring of support, the women themselves have rarely been heard from. Now, n+1 has translated and posted the band’s closing statements, delivered to a kangaroo court intent on convicting them and making an example of the young women. Pussy Riot are using the platform to excoriate the system that holds them in contempt, and their testimony damns the Russian church and state more than any punk rock song ever could.

Taking a cue from Warren Buffet, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time author Mark Haddon is lobbying English politicians to raise taxes on the wealthy (including himself) to shield members of the lower classes from the UK’s austerity cuts.

Edith Wharton makes the September issue of Voguewith a little help from Colm Toibin and Annie Leibowitz.

The winners of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest have been announced. It is a dubious honor: The contest “challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.”

Liza Klaussmann, a novelist and a great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville, read Moby Dick and thought, "Where was your editor?"


Republican nominee for vice president Paul Ryan has flip-floped on Ayn Rand. According to the LA Times, Ryan once credited Rand as a key inspiration, but now that he's trying to win over a national audience, the young Republican is distancing himself from the godless, supremely self-interested writer. Quoth Ryan: "I reject her philosophy. . . . It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview." (Meanwhile, in a feat of outlandish click-baiting, the New York Times has a blog post entitled "Paul Ryan, Black Panther?")

Ever wondered what the original 1925 ad for The Great Gatsby looks like? Maria Popova dug one up in an old issue of The Princetonian.

"I’ve attended MacDowell twice. It is one of the very few places I’ve ever been that I feel homesick for when I’m not there." A history of, and scenes from, three artists colonies, courtesy of writer Alexander Chee.

The recall of Jonah Lehrer's Imagine gives New York Magazine an opportunity to reflect on the history of book pulping.

On KCRW's Bookworm, the author-interview show hosted by Michael Silverblatt, Sheila Heti chats about her breakout book How Should a Person Be, and reads a passage about how locking a spider in a bathroom is an apt metaphor for the boundaries needed to prevent love and friendship from turning murderous.

What was it like to work with a genius with a penchant for the macabre, a brilliance for creating suspense, and an unmatched genius for the craft of filmmaking? Tonight at the Union Square Barnes and Noble in New York, author Steven DeRosa talks about his new book, Writing with Hitchcock, about the director's collaborations with screenwriter John Michael Hayes.

From the LRB, an essay about George Orwell's widow, Sonia, who managed George's estate, and was often portrayed as "grasping and interested only in the income the estate generated." Hilary Spurling's new biography of Sonia aims to discredit the "venom" that has plagued her reputation.


Award-winning humorist and essayist David Rakoff died at his home in Manhattan last night after an extended battle with cancer, it was reported on Friday. He was forty-seven. Rakoff was a longtime contributor to This American Life, The New York Times, and GQ, and was author of the collections Don’t Get Too Comfortable, Fraud, and most recently, Half Empty. He was renowned for his intelligence, dark humor, and celebration of negative thinking—qualities that were recognized last fall when he was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor. After years working as a translator and publisher, Rakoff caught his break when he showed his work to David Sedaris, who has described Rakoff’s writing as "truly witty, almost in a lost, old-fashioned way." According to his publisher, Rakoff recently turned in his final book, a novel written in verse called Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish that is slated to be published this fall. In the meantime, here are links to videos of Rakoff (including a Daily Show appearance in which he discussed his cancer) and an archive of all his radio stories for This American Life. The show is planning to dedicate a special episode to Rakoff, which will air next week.

With 5.3 million copies sold, Fifty Shades of Gray has beaten out Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code to become Britain’s bestselling book of all time. In other Fifty Shades news, a spoof of the book, The Diamond Club, has also become a bestselling e-book.

James Franco is holding an open casting call in Jackson, Mississippi, for his adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. He’ll need all the help he can get—the novel is narrated by fifteen characters. According to reports from a local TV station, filmmakers are seeking out “white boys 8 to 10 years old, who can play a young-looking, country boy with a slight rebellious and dreamy nature. The producers are also looking for white girls age 16 to 25, who are described as "clean-kept, attractive girls."

Is “hugging, patting and kissing interns on top of their heads” grounds for dismissal? Oxford American founder Marc Smirnoff thinks not. The New York Times offers a measured take on his recent ouster and the magazine’s ongoing sexual-harassment scandal.

Dylan Thomas’s favorite watering hole, the Browns Hotel in Laugharne, Wales, has reopened after a £2 million facelift. Unfortunately, according to locals, the bar’s “sense of anarchy” didn’t survive the renovation.

At the New Yorker Page Turner blog, Marris Norris pens an ode to the eraser.

John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas, has spoken out against a Texas judiciary for using a character in one of his father’s books as grounds to execute a mentally disabled man.


Joan Rivers at Costco

To get Costco to carry her new book, I Hate Everyone... Starting With Me, Joan Rivers decided to chain herself to a shopping cart in a Burbank, California, Costco store and air her complaint that the company won’t stock the book because it has dirty words on the back.

Joy Press—formerly an editor at the Village Voice Literary Supplement and Salon—has just been promoted at the LA Times to become its books and culture editor.

A new startup offers customers the full Fifty Shades of Gray treatment. According to MySecretLuxury’s website: “So you read the book ... but you really want to live the full fantasy. Our concierge can help. My Secret Concierge can work with you to re-create one of Anastasia and Christian’s special moments.”

Kottke highlights the only surviving footage of Mark Twain, which was shot by none other than Thomas Edison in 1909, a year before the author’s death.

Of the top 235 Y.A. titles on a recent NPR best-of list, 147—or 63 percent—were written by women.

David Sedaris’s “C.O.G.” (that’s short for “child of god”) has been optioned for a movie. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the piece, about Sedaris selling rocks in the shape of the state of Oregon at a county fair, is headed to the big screen, with production starting this October.


Lena Dunham touts the New Yorker's new iPhone app.

Novelist Paulo Coehlo picks a fight with the master of modernism. Speaking to a Brazilian newspaper, Coehlo remarked, "one of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce's Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit."

John Banville, or rather, his alter ego, Benjamin Black, will revive Raymond Chandler’s famous noir detective Phillip Marlowe in a new novel set to come out next year. According to publisher Henry Holt, “the book will have an original plot and take place in the 1940s. The setting will remain in Bay City – Chandler’s fictional stand-in for Santa Monica, California – and feature Chandler’s hallmark noir ambience.”

An Authors Guild lawsuit led by writer Scott Turow is demanding that Google pay $750 per author for every book uploaded to Google Books without prior permission. While the suit has been ongoing since 2005—when Google began digitizing millions of books without seeking the consent of authors—a judge has agreed to hear summary judgment motions next month.

Roxanne Gay responds to Jacob Silverman’s recent Slate essay about the epidemic of niceness in online book reviewing culture: “If literary culture is a school, serious criticism can be found in the classroom. Social networks are the cafeteria — what you find there will be loud and gossipy, amusing but not very satisfying.”

Amazon is getting into the textbook rental racket.

The real-life protagonist of Dave Egger’s nonfiction book Zeitoun appeared in a New Orleans court yesterday for allegedly beating his wife with a tire iron outside a lawyer’s office last July. Although the couple divorced earlier this year, Abdulrahman Zeitoun was already on probation at the time for assaulting his wife the year prior. In Zeitoun, Eggers tells the story of Zeitoun’s wrongful arrest and detention in the wake of Hurricane Katrina after he was mistaken for a terrorist.

The New Yorker releases a very long and very star-powered commercial (Lena Dunham! Jon Hamm! Alex Karpovsky!) for the launch of their iPhone app.


Sex and death are everywhere in fiction, but why are there no birth scenes in novels?

Americans are more embarrassed to read President Obama's memoir in public than Fifty Shades of Grey. According to a recent 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll, sixteen percent of people polled said they wouldn't pull out Dreams From My Father in public, while only five percent said the same of the mommy porn phenomenon.

When tracking down sources fails: Language Log uses linguistic analysis to fact-check New Yorker pieces, focusing in on a Jared Diamond's article about a clan war in Papua, New Guinea.

Kindle e-book sales have overtaken Amazon sales in the UK.

The Millions ranks the top ten most difficult books ever published. Finnegan's Wake, Being and Time, The Phenomenology of the Spirit make the cut (of course), as do Nightwood and To the Lighthouse.

Gatsby fans will have to wait a little longer to see the novel treated in 3-D—Warner Brothers announced today that Baz Luhrmann's adaptation has been delayed, and now won't be released until 2013.

Ousted Oxford American editors Carol Ann Fitzgerald and Marc Smirnoff share their side of the story about their recent firings in a very long, and very specific blog post about the affair. The two were kicked out in mid-July, and according to an email Fitzgerald sent to Luna Park, have been denied access to their work computers and not been told why they were fired. "Please excuse the length," Fitzgerald added, "but there was no way to defend ourselves in a tweet.


Blurb king Gary Shteyngart

Errol Morris's book A Wilderness of Error won't be out until September, but it's already gathering attention in the Twittersphere. Morris returns to the murder trial that Janet Malcom made famous in the Journalist and the Murderer and comes to the conclusion—contrasting Malcolm's—that accused killer Jeffrey MacDonald was wrongly imprisoned. "Anyone who read Journalist and the Murderer must read this new errol morris book," tweeted Boston Globe reporter Leon Neyfakh. "Janet malcolm should be ashamed of herself."

Adam Sternberg, a culture editor at the New York Times Magazine, has sold his first novel, Shovel Ready—about a garbageman who becomes a hitman—to Crown Publishing.

Salon inaugurates their new column of audiobook reviews with a review of the audiobook for Dave Egger’s A Hologram for the King. In addition to liking the book, columnist Kyle Minor praises the narrator for pursuing “a kind of accordioning strategy, in which a regularized ramping-up and releasing of vocal tension mirrors each chapter’s pleasing push-pull of scene and narration.”

Is Gary Shteyngart a blurbing whore? A Tumblr dedicated to his prolific blurbing and a Salon slideshow ask readers to decide for themselves.

A new issue of the Slate Book Review is out, with essays by Dan Kois, Troy Patterson, Jacob Silverman, and lots of other good stuff.

An underemployed twentysomething with a Master’s degree in English wanted to see who was beating him out for all the jobs he was applying for. So he made up the most generic job listing he could, posted it on Craigslist, and one day and 653 applications later, wrote about the results for Thought Catalog.

Amazon has come under fire from anti-child-trafficking groups for carrying a self-published book that appeared to promote pedophilia overseas. The book listed the age of consent for countries around the world, and had been available on the site since last October, and available for free download in the Kindle Lending Library. It was taken down late last week.

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