Sarah Leonard

The French Publishers' Association and the Société des Gens de Lettres, a French society of authors, have dropped a lawsuit protesting Google's book-scanning efforts in that country. The New York Times reports that Google has struck an agreement with French publishers that would allow them to revive thousands of out-of-print books, and let publishers sell digital editions of those works. The search giant claims that this now makes France the only county with an "industrywide book-scanning agreement in place to cover works that are out of print but still under copyright."

According to Ray Bradbury's biographer, a museum for the famed sci-fi writer could be in the works in his early hometown of Waukegan, Illinois. The town already has a park, two festivals, and a library conference room named after the writer, but a nonprofit development group is now planning to convert a shuttered library into a more official pilgrimage site for Bradbury fans.

Clancy Martin continues his engaging series about his father—a schizophrenic and a onetime bodybuilder—at the Harper's website.

A new issue of n+1—themed "the awkward age"—is out, featuring essays and reviews on the New York Public Library, ladyblogs, the "theory generation," and a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart.

Sarah Leonard of the New Inquiry and Dissent talks with Mike Konczal (known on Twitter as @rortybomb) about the roles of left publications.

This week in tragically ironic situations, a man writing a memoir tentatively titled Kindness in America was shot in the face in a "seemingly random drive-by shooting."


Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina; Focus Features

Literary supergroup the Rock Bottom Remainders celebrates their twenty-year anniversary later this month with a concert in Los Angeles. The band currently features authors Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, and James McBride, and at various times has included Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, and many other publishing notables. Is it too much to ask to hope for a battle of the bands between them and lit-crit supergroup the Dog House Band?

It's not light summer reading, but The Los Angeles Review of Books is leading an online book club dedicated to William Gaddis's masterwork J R. Participants in #Occupygaddis—the 2012 equivalent of the Infinite Summer club—will read ten pages a day during the summer, and should be halfway done by the end of July, and finished completely by the end of August. And why J R? According to club coordinator Lee Konstantinou, "this summer seems particularly opportune to read J R, given that this is the first summer since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and given that we're about to enter a crazy presidential election season in which the terrible economy, the crushing burden of individual debt, and Wall Street's role in our political life are going to be central questions." For a better idea of what he means, read Len Gutkin's Bookforum review of the novel.

What books should men read in public to attract literary ladies? The female staff of the Paris Review has some thoughts. If you want to come off as a poseur, "Madness and Civilization; The Power Broker; Zizek (any), and The Brothers Karamazov" are good choices, but men acting in earnest should opt for Patti Smith's Just Kids, or anything by Haruki Murakami or Lydia Davis. One staffer remarked, "extra points for Martin Amis's memoir, minus points for other Martin Amis nonfiction... And a straight man reading Mary Gaitskill would be nearly irresistible to me."

Last week, Tina Fey nabbed the Audio Publishers Association's top prize for the audiobook version of her memoir, Bossypants. Fey beat out Neil Gaiman for his book American Gods, and Walter Isaacson for his biography, Steve Jobs. Other Audies went to William Shatner for his reading of Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large, and Jane Fonda for her audiobook version of her "personal development" book, Prime Time.

New evidence suggests a painting of a teenage woman believed to be Jane Austen may in fact be a portrait of the writer as a young girl. A recent investigation into the painting revealed the author's name and the signature of artist Ozias Humphry on the canvas, corroborating claims that the painting is the first known image of Austen.

We're into The Rumpus's redesigned new website.

Jude Law and Keira Knightley are starring in the latest adaptation of Anna Karenina, which is set to hit theaters in early November.


Natasha Trethewey

Chuck Klosterman has been named the new Ethicist at the New York Times Magazine. Here is his first column.

Condemning books has always been a good way to launch them to bestsellerdom, but the Catholic Church seems to have missed that memo. This week, Sister Margaret Farley’s Just Love jumped from 142,982 to 16 on Amazon’s sales list after the Church denounced the book, a treatise on Christian sexual ethics.

Philip Roth paid homage to the recently deceased Carlos Fuentes on Wednesday when he accepted Spain’s Asturias Award for Literature.

In honor of this week’s reopening of the Algonquin Hotel, the Observer names a number of social luminaries who deserve seats at the literary hangout.

The Atlantic Wire's Jen Doll surveys the state of publishing through this year's Book Expo America. She talks with New York City booksellers about the year's buzzy YA novels and takes the overall industry's pulse. "On our visit, things looked pretty good," she writes. "The booths were indeed packed and there were plenty of people—maybe even more people than books. Still, the sense that better times were in the past is inescapable."

Here's some bizarre BEA news: The prime suspect in the 2004 murder of a Jullliard student was also at the convention this week, shopping around a self-published book he had written about the case.

On Thursday, Natasha Trethewey was named the country’s nineteenth Poet Laureate. The author of three poetry collections and one nonfiction book about post-Katrina New Orleans, Trethewey is the first Southern to hold the post since Robert Penn Warren, and the first black person to receive the award since 1993. Her fourth collection, Thrall, is due out this fall.


Ray Bradbury

A group of “female nonfiction storytellers” took a crack at boosting the number of female bylines last week by holding a story-pitching clinic for lady journalists. The event, titled “Throw Like a Girl,” attracted hundreds of people to a bar in Brooklyn, where the panel—featuring an editor for the New York Times, the founder of the Atavist, a writer for New York Magazine, and the founder of the Op-Ed Project— addressed topics ranging from building up the nerve to pitch, developing a tolerance to rejection, and counteracting the male clubbiness of the magazine world.

The recently laid-off editors of GOOD are in surprisingly high spirits in the wake of last week’s news: “Mostly, we’re disappointed that this editorial team won’t get to continue working together,” they wrote in a group dispatch on Tumblr. “We think we were pretty good at it. And we know we didn’t get a chance to realize the full potential of our collaboration... So we’d like to make at least one more magazine together.”

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury died in Los Angeles on Tuesday at the age of 91. The author of novels Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, and short story collections The Martian Chronicles and The Golden Apples of the Sun, among others, Bradbury was credited with bringing sci-fi to mainstream readers, and most recently contributed an autobiographical essay to the latest issue of the New Yorker. Danny Karapetian, Bradbury’s grandson, first broke the news of his death in a statement to to the website i09. Karapetian then shared one of his favorite of his grandfather’s lines, taken from the book The Illustrated Man: "My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M. So as not to be dead." For the uninitiated, The Los Angeles Times has a helpful roundup of which Bradbury books one should read first.

Driving around New Orleans in a Mustang, reading Westerns and listening to Louisiana jazz are three highlights of George Pelecanos’s week in culture.

In a graduation speech to Princeton’s class of 2012, alum Michael Lewis discussed how he went from being an undergrad who had never published anything ever, to being a sought-after economics writer who gets paid ten dollars a word. According to Lewis, it wasn’t a clear trajectory. After submitting his thesis in art history, Lewis asked his advisor what he thought of the writing, and got this response: "Put it this way" the professor told him, "Never try to make a living at it."

The summer issue of the Paris Review is out, and while the magazine doesn’t do themed issues, the editors note that between interviews with Wallace Shawn and Tony Kushner and pieces on pirates and cannibalism, there is a decidedly dramatic note to this season’s contents.

Via Lapham’s Quarterly, a podcast about Klingon, Esperanto, Dothraki, and other invented languages.


Ray Bradbury—the author of Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, and many other books—has died at age 91.

George W.S. Trow

News from the BEA: New York Review Books has announced that it will launch an e-book series called NYRB Lit in the Fall. Edited by frequent New York Review of Books contributor Sue Halpern, the series, which will include fictino and nonfiction, will release ten e-books a year. The first two will be Lindsay Clarke's The Water Theatre and Zena el Khalil's Beirut, I Love You: A Memoir.

Amazon has bought the backlist rights to more than three thousand titles by Avalon Books, a sixty-two-year-old publishing house that specializes in mystery, romance, and Western novels.

Norman Mailer and William S. Burroughs both violently attacked their wives. Charles Bukowski was a raging misogynist. And yet more often than not, writers are forgiven for their bad behavior. At Litreactor, John Jarzemsky wonders why “we not only excuse our authors from being assholes, we celebrate them for it.”

The story reverberating across Washington D.C. Twitter feeds today is GQ’s account of the financial decline of liberal policy magazine the American Prospect, which needs to raise $1.2 million by mid-June in order to stay afloat. Since announcing its dire situation several weeks ago, the magazine has raised $900,000, but it’s still not enough. The entire staff is preparing to take a temporary fifty-percent pay cut, followed by a weeklong furlough.

Science blogger and author Jonah Lehrer has signed on as a staff writer at The New Yorker. (Also at The New Yorker, Alec Wilkinson pens a lovely remembrance of longtime staffer George W.S. Trow, author of the prescient Within the Context of No Context.)

A minor scandal rocked the world of digital publishing this week when it was discovered that an electronic edition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace put out by Barnes and Noble had replaced all instances of the world “kindled” with “Nookd”—a reference to the company’s e-reader. Ben Greenman wonders how works by Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson would read if the same switch were made.

In response to Christian Lorentzen’s musing in our latest issue about what future Occupy Wall Street novels will look like, The Millions proposes that at least one example already exists—even if the book predated the movement: Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story.


Matt Gineo, winner of the 2011 Hemingway lookalike competition.

Dave Eggers has announced his latest novelA Hologram for the King, which will be released on June 28—in an interview with fellow writer Stephen Elliott.

When he’s not encouraging kids to skip college, Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel has been channeling his energy and resources into an initiative he calls the Seasteading Institute, dedicated to constructing “floating cities” in international zones. Thiel’s latest plan to build one of these libertarian utopias in Honduras was recently ensnared in red tape, but according to a colleague, even though the city doesn't exist yet, you can still read about it: “We have a seasteading book contract with Simon & Schuster,” Patri Friedman told The Observer. “We got a nice advance, and so that’s coming out next year.”

A Book Expo panel on self-publishing revealed that 211,269 books were self-published last year, up from 133,036 the year before. An exec for self-publishing service Bowker also noted that while fiction is the most booming genre for writers, non-fiction books sell the best.

At The Believer, poets Rachel Zucker, Matthew Rohrer, and Wayne Koestenbaum chat about poetry and domesticity. (Bonus: The magazine has posted a list of Zucker’s most recent internet search terms, which are oddly poetic.)

Philip Roth’s novel American Pastoral will be adapted into a movie, and Fisher Stevens has been tapped to direct it.

Amazon has recently spent $52 million installing air-conditioning systems in warehouses across the country, following the Morning Call newspaper's investigative report on working conditions at the company’s Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, warehouse.

There are only two weeks left to enter the thirty-second annual Hemingway lookalike contest, sponsored by Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. Here’s a gallery of past winners.


A scene from the Hay Festival

The new Bookforum is out. Here's Christian Lorentzen's essay on money novels in the 21st century.

Bad news at GOOD: Only a day after releasing its twenty-seventh issue, the mag laid off a large chunk of its editorial staff, including executive editor Ann Friedman, lifestyle editor Amanda Hess, senior editor Cord Jefferson, and associate editor Nona Willis Aronowitz (who edited last year's Out of the Vinyl Deeps, a collection of rock criticism by her mother, Ellen Willis).

To the delight of book publicists everywhere, after a two-year hiatus, Oprah is re-launching her book club (the revived “2.0” book club will be online-only). The former queen of daytime TV announced the news as well as her first selection—Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.

Responding to Arthur Krystal’s argument in the New Yorker that the distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction has become more opaque, Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, counters: “we expect literary revolutions to come from above, from the literary end of the spectrum—the difficult, the avant-garde, the high-end, the densely written. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on. Instead we’re getting a revolution from below, coming up from the supermarket aisles.”

Here's how Germany’s fixed-price bookselling system has kept Amazon at bay. And in other Amazon news, the retailer has just patented e-gifting.

After seventy-two years in the closet, the Green Lantern will come out next week.


A French children's book.

Embarrassing photos may never disappear from the internet, but it turns out that an author's early fanfiction can. When Galleycat went searching for the origins of 50 Shades of Grey (which originated as Twilight fanfiction), they found that all of E.L. James's Twilight-inspired writing had been removed from her website. Galleycat queried the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine about accessing the vanished files, and was told that James had requested that her work not be archived. So what's behind the case of the missing fanfic? Carolyn Kellogg speculates that there might have been a copyright issue.

Excerpts from the ninetieth issue of The Believer are now online, include writing by Geoff Dyer, an interview with Sophie Calle, and Simon Rich in conversation with himself.

Hundreds of people have taken to Facebook to protest the University of Missouri's decision to close its press.

A new study finds that half of self-published authors are making less than $500 a year on their books.

More than two-hundred and seventy Israeli authors have sent letters to the government in support of a proposed bill that would protect author royalties and keep profits from dropping as publishing houses compete with each other—and Amazon—to lower book prices.

Even though we're hearing that many publishers are sitting out Book Expo America this year, Publishers Weekly reports that this BEA 2012 is going to be the biggest in the expo's sixty-five year history.

Why are French children's books so terrifying? Jenny Colgan started a blog featuring the scariest.


Lunch time poet Frank O'Hara.

From the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, a post about Joan Acocella’s recent article about the descriptivist versus prescriptivist grammarian wars, and some sound advice: Don’t go into a bar and ask, “For whom are we rooting today?”

Can you take back poetry? Larkin's and Auden's most well-known lines about love—“What will survive of us is love” and “We must love one another or die”—are anthologized and taught in classrooms all over the world. “But what’s remarkable about them,” Ron Rosenbaum writes at Slate, is that their authors “agonized over them, were conflicted and critical of their own lines. Both Larkin and Auden eventually tried to distance themselves from their original unmediated utterances.”

In honor of former assistant curator Frank O’Hara, the Museum of Modern Art has invited poets Stefania Heim and Wayne Koestenbaum to read O’Hara’s “lunch time” poems during, well, lunch, as part of their Modern Poets series. O’Hara famously used to write poetry during his lunch breaks, now visitors can use theirs to listen to them.

Debut novelist Madeleine Miller has been awarded the last Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel The Song of Achilles, about the love story between Achilles and “exiled princeling” Patroclus. Miller is the fourth debut novelist to win over the past decade, and the fourth consecutive American writer to win the British prize.

For the next week, anybody who “likes” KFC on Facebook is eligible for an unusual reward: an unabridged, downloadable copy of Colonel Sanders’s autobiography. The fried-chicken king’s memoir was discovered in KFC vaults last fall, and was written in 1966, two years after Sanders sold his chicken empire for $2 million. In addition to the Colonel’s life story, Col. Harland Sanders: The Autobiography of the Original Celebrity Chef includes thirty-three previously unpublished recipes.

The Malcolm Gladwell title generator.

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