Roald Dahl

Electric Literature excerpts part of The Devil’s Treasure, Mary Gaitskill’s novel-in-progress about a little girl wandering through hell.

What are a few ways to land a multi-million-dollar (or even a million-dollar) book deal? You can write a debut novel starring a teenage female protagonist, or try self-publishing your books first. If that doesn’t work, you might want to serialize your novels—per Mark Danielewski—or write a celebrity memoir... Moby Lives considers what we can learn from the six-figure book deals of 2012.

From a Craig Brown's book One on One, an account of how Kingsley Amis advised Roald Dahl on his decision to start writing children’s books: "But if you do decide to have a crack, let me give you one warning. Unless you put everything you've got into it, unless you write it from the heart, the kids'll have no use for it. They'll see you're having them on. And just let me tell you from experience that there's nothing kids hate more than that. They won't give you a second chance either."

A new issue of N1BR, n+1’s book review, is out. Not all of it is available online yet, but excellent essays by Alice Gregory and Benjamin Kunkel are.

At the New York Review of Books blog, Tim Parks wonders: "Does money make us write better?"

To spare passengers the embarrassment of reading it in public, Virgin Atlantic Airways is offering fliers a discreet way to enjoy E.L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Gray—as a nineteen-hour audiobook.

Left-wing journalist and CounterPunch editor Alexander Cockburn died in Germany this weekend at the age of 71, fellow CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair announced on Saturday. The cause of death was cancer. Over the course of his career, Cockburn, who was born in Scotland, covered topics spanning the war in Iraq to U.S. policy in Israel for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the Nation. The author of numerous books, Cockburn was remembered in a New York Times obituary as being an outspoken writer known for “condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it was being timid.”

C.S. Lewis

With 650 votes, the History News Network has crowned historian David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies “the least credible history book in print.” (It narrowly beat Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States by nine votes).

If you live in New York and are interested in the academic and the obscure, we advise you to check out Cabinet’s literary firesale. From their Facebook page: “Cabinet’s bookshelves are overflowing, and we are selling selected items from our extraordinary library. Our eclectic assortment includes academic tomes, art monographs, poetry collections, journal issues, political treatises, fiction, and more. Books will be priced in the $1-$3 range.”

The British government is launching an review into public library ebook lending in the wake of some publishers reluctance to let libraries lend their digital books.

Penguin, the world’s second-largest book publisher, has acquired Author Solutions, one of the world’s largest self-publishing platforms, for $116 million, Forbes reported today.

Now that this whole health-care constitutionality business has been resolved, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has time to go on a book tour.

The C.S. Lewis Foundation is struggling to realize its goal of opening a university based on Lewis’s teachings. After initially failing to raise enough money to buy its dream property, a campus owned by a nineteenth-century evangelist in Northfield, Massachusetts, the foundation is trying again to fundraise for the school, which won’t exactly be a Christian college, but will be based around Lewis’s notion of “mere Christianity”: the “basic beliefs that all Christians hold regardless of denomination.”

What the Library of Immediacy will look like.

Outcry and a debate over the value of academic presses has erupted in response to the University of Missouri’s recent decision to close its publishing house and reinvent it as something different. In an email that went out this week, university officials announced plans to defund the press, and relaunch it as a new publishing operation run by four paid staffers and five grad student interns. In addition to scholarly books, the more than fifty-year-old press has put out collected works by Langston Hughes and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as other general-interest titles.

What do measures to protect independent bookstores look like around the world? In Paris and Israel, they take the form of fixing book prices (and some Parisian municipalities offer subsidies to the stores), while in the U.S., saving local bookstores is usually a community-driven effort. Speaking of which, while it looks like East Village staple St. Mark’s Books will be moving, New Yorkers can still help them out by participating in a “cash mob” this Saturday.

What would be on display at a museum for writers? That’s the question that the American Writers Museum Foundation has been grappling with for a while now, and it looks like they’ve finally come up with an answer: living literary dioramas. After a number of meetings with writers, academics, and museum consultants, it was proposed that the American Writers Museum would be organized around “a series of ‘vignettes,’ essentially stage sets, that will house a variety of exhibitions themed around a particular topic or era.” The vignettes will be arranged around themes, such as “Families,” “Working” and “Conflict.”

Occupy Wall Street’s People’s Library is heading to New York City’s Governors Island, in the form of an art project called “The Library of Immediacy.”

The New Yorker has added Andy Borowitz’s very humorous “Borowitz Report” to its long roster of blogs.

The Observer pins the rise of male escort services on, of course, Fifty Shades of Gray, while a British publisher uses the series as an excuse to rewrite literary classics as erotica.

Anne-Marie Slaughter

After months of warning, Larry McMurtry’s Last Book sale is finally under way in Archer City, Texas. The novelist and famed used-book seller is offloading two-thirds of the inventory from his world-renowned bookstore, Booked Up. Even though McMurtry is shedding 300,000 titles, he’s made clear that he has no plans to close the store entirely.

Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter has landed a book deal to expand upon her much-discussed essay in The Atlantic about the difficulties women face in balancing their domestic and professional lives. "Why Women Still Can't Have It All” was the cover story of the July/August issue and attracted over a million readers online.

In this week’s New Yorker, Jack Hitt reports on “forensic linguistics,” or how linguists can solve crimes that the police can’t figure out. The piece is behind a paywall, but on the mag’s Page Turner blog, Hitt talks with editor Sasha Weiss about fighting crime with words, and “how people unconsciously signal who they are through their language.”

“In birding, as in life in general, don’t be like Jonathan Franzen. Don’t let neurosis, self-involvement, and pride inhibit your enthusiasms.” The birdwatching community goes after Jonathan Franzen.

Stocking up on beach reads meant strong gains for book sellers. Publishers Weekly reports that bookstore sales had their strongest month of the year last May, jumping 5.7 percent to $1.09 billion.

Does Gabriel Garcia Marquez actually have dementia, or is he just getting old? The internet went into mourning last week over remarks from Garcia Marquez’s brother that the novelist’s career was likely over due to dementia. But that might not be the case: According to Jaime Abellos, the director of the Gabriel García Márquez New Journalism Foundation in Cartagena, Colombia, Gabo is doing just fine. “I saw him in April,” Abellos told the New York Times. “He is a man of 85 with the normal signs of his age.”

David Wojnarowicz, photographed by Peter Hujar.

Guernica and Interview are running excerpts of Cynthia Carr’s excellent new biography of downtown artist David Wojnarowicz (that’s pronounced Voy-nar-o-vitch). And if you haven’t read it already in print, check out Luc Sante’s equally excellent review of the book from our summer issue.

A devotional choral work by sixteenth-century composer Thomas Tallis has raced to the top of the UK classical music charts after getting a mention in the sadomasochistic mommy porn trilogy, 50 Shades of Gray. Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Adam Sternbergh muses about whether it’s creepy to see somebody reading 50 Shades on the subway.

It’s especially difficult to judge a book by its cover when covers are all starting to look alike. The Atlantic wonders why handscripted titles over blocky, simple illustrations are all the rage in book cover design.

Oxford American founder and editor Marc Smirnoff and managing editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald have been abruptly ousted from their jobs at the magazine following an internal investigation. Publisher Warwick Sabin refused to comment on the matter, but local news sites in Arkansas—where the magazine is based—are reporting that Smirnoff and Fitzgerald were locked out of their offices last Wednesday.

The Days of Yore, a website that interviews writers about how they got their start, talks with former Believer editor and current Amazon Publishing editor Ed Park about his days as a Village Voice copyeditor. (See also Park's classic Bookforum review of the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.)

In the Baffler, Steve Almond takes on John Stewart, "the most trusted man in America": “Our lazy embrace of Stewart and Colbert is a testament to our own impoverished comic standards. We have come to accept coy mockery as genuine subversion and snarky mimesis as originality. It would be more accurate to describe our golden age of political comedy as the peak output of a lucrative corporate plantation whose chief export is a cheap and powerful opiate for progressive angst and rage.”

A still from the BBC's Jane Austen videogame.

Graywolf releases the trailer (which is really more of an epic short video) for Josh Cohen's forthcoming book, Four New Messages. "Emission" stars Girls actor Alex Karpovsky, and was directed by Brian Spinks. The book will be out in early August.

A blogger for Boston-based literary journal Ploughshares has been reprimanded for critiquing other publications on the magazine’s website, and retaliated by leaking an email from the magazine managing editor to the Observer. “After some upsetting conversations regarding the nature and tone of the opinions I’ve expressed over my nine posts, the managing editor has asked me not to blog any longer,” poet Sean Bishop said of the incident.

Thanks to Google’s Ngram feature, which tracks the usage of words over time, linguists can now quantify the rise of American narcissism through literature. A new study focusing on the recurrence of certain words in books over the past fifty years has found that “language in American books has become increasingly focused on the self and uniqueness in the decades since 1960.”

A Goodreads user has compiled a list of authors known for throwing “temper tantrums” in response to negative reviews of their work. We’re wondering what’s behind the fact that most of the authors listed work in the fantasy or sci-fi genres.

A number of brick-and-mortar bookstores (including those owned by Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million) have decided not to carry books put out by the new Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint New Harvest on the grounds that the books are paper editions of e-books that have been acquired and published by Amazon. New Harvest launches on August 1.

The BBC’s entertainment division has teamed up with Legacy Games to release a Facebook game about Jane Austen. The objective of “Jane Austen’s Rogues and Romances” is to track down Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet—the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice—and “convince them to return to their newlywed life.”

Why does The New Yorker publish so many pieces about The New Yorker? Slate investigates.

William Gibson

Little, Brown has paid a jaw-dropping seven-figure advance to Australian writer Hannah Kent for her debut novel Burial Rights. Kent, 27, works at the literary magazine Kill Your Darlings. Her novel is about the last woman to be publicly beheaded in 1830.

Twenty years ago, William Gibson wrote a poem, put it on a floppy disk, and coded it to self-destruct after one reading. Now, a PhD student studying cryptology has created a replica of the coded poem and challenged hackers to crack it. To sweeten the deal, whoever does so first will get a complete set of William Gibson books.

To get around paying state sales tax, Amazon has employed a fairly simple strategy. They set up distribution centers in low-residency states like Kentucky or Nevada (where taxes are lower) and ship mainly to people in high-residency states like New York or California (where taxes are higher). This has gotten them into more than a few legal entanglements with states who want Amazon’s tax money, but according to Slate, the company is giving in, and embracing a new strategy that could be disastrous for local retailers. Amazon now plans to relocate distribution centers to states where most of their customers live, and to pour millions into free next-day, and in some cases, same-day delivery. Another odd detail about the plan is that consumers who live in New York, Seattle, or the UK will soon be able to pick up their Amazon items in automated “lockers” set up in drug stores.

In the spirit of longtime biker George Plimpton, the Paris Review is offering a fancy bicycle to anybody who can best describe a cartoon of a wolf chasing a woman in the style of Elizabeth Bishop, Ray Bradbury, Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, or P. G. Wodehouse.

The Atlantic considers why award-winning memoirist Mary Karr can get away with releasing a country music album (which she did last month) and what it takes for a successful creative type to make the leap to a different field.

A new study by Publishers Weekly names Kickstarter as the fourth largest publisher of graphic novels, behind Marvel, DC, and Image. The crowdfunding site raised more than $4 million for graphic novels in a three-month period between February and April. During that time, seven projects raised over $40,000, while one—Rich Burlew’s comic The Order of the Stick—raked in more than a million dollars.

Neil Gaiman

A two-volume e-book claiming to contain images of one hundred previously undiscovered drawings by Caravaggio has been pulled from Amazon in the wake of suspicion over its scholarly legitimacy. While art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli say that they found the lost sketches at a castle archive in Milan, archivists contended that they had no record of working with the pair. “A serious scholar doesn't produce an e-book,” said former archive director Maria Teresa Fiorio.

Serious scholars may not produce e-books, but apparently the Vatican does.

Neil Gaiman has signed a five-book deal with HarperCollins, and will publish three novels and two picture books over the next several years.

In case you were wondering, David Foster Wallace voted for Reagan—at least according to details leaked from D.T. Max’s forthcoming biography.

The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog recounts how Mavis Gallant and W. Somerset Maugham’s literary agent Jacques Chambrun—a man described as “grandiose and very French”—swindled thousands of dollars from his clients, and in some cases, managed to continue working for them even after they learned of the con.

MobyLives predicts that 50 Shades of Gray will single-handedly cause Random House’s profits to double this year. And they’re not being glib: So far, the books have brought in $145 million and account for “one in five adult-fiction physical books sold in the U.S.” While one Random House staffer told MobyLives that he wasn’t sure about the exact figures, “let’s just say we could take the rest of the year off and still make our numbers.”

The TLS differentiates the Jonathans—Franzen and Lethem—with the help of film critic Manny Farber’s distinction between “elephant” and “termite” art.

The Garden of Lost and Found author Dale Peck

After optioning E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Gray last March for a staggering $5 million, Universal and Focus Pictures have finally attached some names to the project: Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, who have been hired as producers. The film, however, is still in need of a director. (There’s no word on whether the studios will pick up Bret Easton Ellis, who has been vying for the job via a very enthusiastic Twitter campaign.)

At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Michael Cunningham completes his white-knuckled, blow-by-blow account of why the Pulitzer Prize committee failed to award a winner this year.

A trailer for Dale Peck’s new novel, The Garden of Lost and Found, spoofs a certain Bob Dylan video and pays homage to a series of now-defunct book publishers—including Carroll and Graf, which was initially supposed to put out the novel. The book is now being released by Mischief & Mayhem.

Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath, will be about “what happens when underdogs confront the powerful.” It’s scheduled to come out sometime next year.

This week, Margaret Atwood celebrated the launch of Fanado, a new app that “allows artists and fans to meet, talk, interact and sign stuff—paper books, e-books, cards, t-shirts—over the internet.” Atwood began fundraising for the project this summer, and actually auctioned off spots in her forthcoming novel to raise money for the app. All donors who gave $10,000 or more had the option of getting name-checked in the book.

The New Republic challenges readers to guess whether quotes on excess and the American upper-crust come from Mitt Romney’s recent Hamptons fundraising speeches or from The Great Gatsby.

Unsatisfied with writing Yelp reviews, Cormac McCarthy is now trying his hand at Seinfeld scripts.

Zadie Smith's next novel NW comes out in September.

The Guardian “discovers” literary Brooklyn in a breathless essay that name checks every Brooklyn-based writer from James Agee to Martin Amis, and then goes on to detail their weekly soccer games and favorite coffee shops. For readers without the time or patience to read the article, Moby Lives provides a snarky summary, which ends by naming every Brooklyn author named in this “invaluable work of reportage.”

Nathan Englander beat out Etgar Keret, Sarah Hall and Kevin Barry to win the 25,000 euro Frank O'Connor prize for his short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.

Anne Rice is jumping on the E.L. James bandwagon, or rather, her publishers are. This Thursday, Plume will re-release Sleeping Beauty, a trilogy of erotic thrillers Rice wrote in the 1980s under the pen name A. N. Roquelaure, with a 50 Shades of Grey slant. The new editions—which will published under Rice’s real name—come with new covers and are emblazoned with the phrase “if you liked 50 Shades of Grey, you’ll love the Sleeping Beauty trilogy.”

This is the first paragraph of Zadie Smith’s novel NW, which comes out in the U.S. this September: “The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lampposts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line—write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.”

At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Pulitzer Prize juror Michael Chabon offers a blow-by-blow of why the board failed to award a winner this year—and why the decision was as much a shock to the three jurors as anybody else.

Next year’s Book Expo America has been bumped back a week to lower hotel costs for attendees. The 2013 conference will take place from May 30 to June 1 at the Jacob Javits center in New York, and thanks to the schedule shift, is expected to cost ten to twenty percent less.

From gorgonize to yonderly: a visual thesaurus of unusual words.