Michelle Obama gardening
After watching the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, The Paris Review Daily retreated into the film archives and returned with a rare cinematic Gatsby—silent footage from a 1926 adaptation of the book.
Russian publishers have refused to touch British historian Orlando Figes’s 2007 book about life in Stalinist Russia, but perhaps not for the reasons Figes claims. While Figes says that his book was censored for its political content, in a June article for The Nation, political scientists Peter Reddaway and Stephen Cohen argue that it was more likely passed over on account of Figes’s shoddy scholarship. For starters, a study of Figes’s materials conducted by a Russian human-rights organization found that The Whisperers contains “a startling number of minor and major errors,” and concluded that “its publication ‘as is’ . . . would cause a scandal in Russia.”
Two political wives have books coming out this week: First Lady Michelle Obama, whose American Grown is about the White House organic garden, and Carole Geithner, wife of of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Geithner’s book, Only, is a YA novel about a girl "navigating a landscape of adolescent awkwardness in the wake of her mother’s death."
Forty-five years after publishing his debut novel, The Origin of the Brunists, Robert Coover is preparing a sequel. In a 1966 review of the book, Webster Schott remarked, “Robert Coover writes his first novel as if he doesn't expect to make it to a second.” And yet he did. The follow-up, The Brunist Day of Wrath, will come out in September 2013 with Dzanc books.
In tandem with proQuest and the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford and ProQuest, Queen Elizabeth II has set up a website featuring the complete personal journals of Queen Victoria. After Victoria’s death, her daughter, Princess Beatrice, spent the following three decades transcribing—and redacting—much of the journals.
For your morning amusement: a Robyn/avante-garde poetry mashup.
A roundup of paintings by famous writers. Does anybody else think that Kurt Vonnegut’s cartoon bears more than a passing resemblance to a David Shrigley work?
Saddam Hussein's daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein, is looking for a publisher for his father's memoir
Saddam Hussein’s eldest daughter is looking for a publisher to release her father’s handwritten memoirs.
New York magazine has a buzzy feature on how the New York Times’s business strategy and growth have been the result of a longstanding partnership between Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and advertising executive Janet Robinson—and how with Sulzberger’s recent marriage, Robinson has “found herself caught between her increasingly remote boss and a frustrated family worried over the future of its 116-year-old fortune.”
After her previous nonfiction book got good reviews but sold poorly, author Jennifer Miller enlisted Beltway celebrities to rally behind her debut novel. With the help of her dad, a former State Department official, Miller made her own book trailer, and enlisted Brian Williams, Christiane Amanpour, and former Secretary of State James Baker to star in it.
Were the early years of the Paris Review funded by CIA money? That’s Joel Whitney’s melodramatic claim in an investigative piece for Salon, but critics are pointing out that it’s hardly news. It’s no secret that one of the Paris Review founders, Peter Matthiessen, worked for the Agency, nor is it a revelation that the Congress for Cultural Freedom—a CIA-funded organization dedicated to fighting the spread of communism—funded many magazines, including the Review. “While the piece is interesting for the window it provides into the cultural aspects of the Cold War,” Carolyn Kellogg writes at the LA Times,“that window seems to be installed askance.”
What one HTML Giant contributor learned about writing from reading Victor Shklovsky.
Question: Why have an indie band from Brooklyn, a lawmaker from Maryland, and a married couple from Illinois all picked up a hitchhicking John Waters over the past several weeks? Answer: Because the sixty-six year old filmmaker is hitchhiking around the country to research his book Carsick, forthcoming from FSG.
Late last year, author Edmund White suffered a stroke and recovered; sadly, according to news reports based on the author’s Facebook page, White had another stroke earlier this month. He seems to be on the mend again. Yesterday, a blog post wished him a speedy recovery “so he could continue his work and his feud with Gore Vidal.” White wrote a response: “Gore Vidal and I have buried the hatchet. Thanks for your good wishes.” In February, just a few months after White’s first stroke, he chatted with Michael Silverblatt on Bookworm about his newest novel, Jack Holmes and His Friend.
Jennifer Egan is taking over the New Yorker's Page Turner blog’s twitter feed for the next several nights to publish an original sci-fi story. The story will also be run in the magazine’s forthcoming Science Fiction issue.
Philip Roth wants readers of the Atlantic to know that despite what Joseph O’Neill wrote in his April feature for that magazine, the New Jersey novelist did not have a “crack-up” in his mid-50s—just a bad reaction to some pain medication. In a correction letter to the Atlantic, Roth writes, “After knee surgery in March 1987, when I was 54, I was prescribed the sleeping pill Halcion, a sedative hypnotic . . . that can induce a debilitating cluster of adverse effects, sometimes called “Halcion madness.” My own adverse reaction to Halcion . . . started when I began taking the drug and resolved promptly when, with the helpful intervention of my family doctor, I stopped.”
When Zuccotti park was raided last November during the late-night Occupy Wall street eviction, one of the most memorable images—for book lovers anyway—was Democracy Now reporter Amy Goodman picking up Aldous Huxley's Brave New World Revisited out of rubble that was apparently being carted off to the dump. The dystopian classic was one of about five-thousand titles in the grassroots “people’s library” that gave free books to everyone during the encampment. Now, the destroyed library is becoming a focal point of an Occupy lawsuit against the city. According to the Village Voice, OWS lawyer Norman Siegel has referenced Nazi Germany and the Koran book burnings in Florida, saying, “The bottom line is: You don’t nuke books.” Siegel speculates that the library lawsuit could lead to much broader charges that the raid was unconstitutional.
“Chortle,” “gargantuan,” “obscene,” and “swagger” are now included in standard English, but they entered the language as literary neologisms, thanks to Lewis Carroll, Rabelais, and Shakespeare.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Critic and historian Paul Fussell, author of the the award-winning WWI study The Great War and Modern Memory, has died, the New York Times reports.
The trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby is online, and we have very mixed feelings about it. But if you’re into the idea of a Leonardo DiCaprio-starring, Kanye West-soundtracked take on Fitzgerald—which is also shot in 3-D—this is probably for you. In other adaptation news, New York reports that James Bobin will direct The Confederacy of Dunces, and that Zach Galifianakis will star as Reilly.
Although Richard Brody disagreed with many of Susan Sontag’s opinions on film—particularly vis-a-vis her opinions on Godard and resistance to interpretation—reading her journals has made him realize what was behind her thoughts on movies, and how central they were to her identity.
The London Review of Books has published “The University Poem,” a previously unseen work by Vladimir Nabokov about his time at Cambridge University. The work will be included in Nabokov’s collected poems, which are coming out in the UK in July.
To promote the re-release of seven of Truman Capote’s novels, Vintage has published a handful of Capote’s more famous works—including Breakfast at Tiffany’s—as e-books, marking the author’s breakthrough into digital print.
Hemingway scholar Michael Reynolds has shed light on who the “lady poets” were in Ernest Hemingway’s snarky short piece, “The Lady Poets With Foot Notes.” The “college nymphomaniac” was identified as Edna St. Vincent Millay; the “favourite of State University male virgins” was Sara Teasdale; and Amy Lowell was apparently “big and fat and no fool.”
Tao Lin is “no longer trying” on Twitter, and HTML Giant is tracking his progress.
More than ten million copies of Fifty Shades of Gray have been sold in the U.S. since it went on sale six weeks ago.
One reason why it’s so difficult to predict literary longevity is because of the “high-school popularity problem,” Tom Vanderbilt theorizes, noting that the qualities that make people popular in high school (or the literary world) like being the “radiant prom king, adorned with varsity letters” don’t translate into long-lasting success. So what does make an author last? Getting your book adapted into film, writing at least one best-seller, and becoming central to an intellectual movement.
We’re having a little too much fun procrastinating with grammar-nerd game “I Shot the Serif.”
Triple Canopy runs an excerpt of Ariana Reines’s translation of Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl.
After seventeen years, mobile services company Orange has announced that it will withdraw funding for its annual women’s fiction prize, ending the UK’s longest continuous arts sponsorship. The prize is designed to “celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from around the world,” and grants winners £30,000 “and a bronze figurine known as ‘the Bessie’.” Award founder Kate Mosse says that the prize is currently on the hunt for a new sponsor.
Though word of mouth suggests that fewer publishers will be at Book Expo America this year, this announcement might draw them back: on June 6—the second day of the three-day conference—Patti Smith will be interviewing Neil Young on stage. Young’s memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, will come out in October with Blue Rider Press.
And speaking of Patti Smith, here’s a Spitify playlist of all the songs mentioned in her memoir, Just Girls.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has officially filed for bankruptcy in order to restructure 3.1 billion in debt. But HMH has plenty of plans for the future: For one, it will publish Amazon's new imprint under the New Harvest title.
Tonight at the New School, Eric Banks joins Charles Petersen, Joan Wallach Scott, David Nasaw, Mark Alan Hewitt, and others to discuss the controversial “Central Library Plan” and the future of the New York Public Library.
Thanks to a new initiative by Esquire, “men’s fiction” may be the next obnoxious category seen in bookstores—or at least on e-readers. The magazine is launching a new series of “Fiction for Men” e-books, which will begin with short stories by Aaron Gwyn, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Jess Walter, and coincide with the publication of new fiction by Stephen King and Colum McCann in the summer issue of the magazine. Meanwhile, “men’s fiction” has already become a running joke on Twitter, with Elif Batuman, Jennifer Weiner, and plenty of others weighing in on the label.
“A promising debut...” Translation: “This author already signed a two-book deal.” At Ploughshares, Andrew Ladd deciphers ten adjectives overused by book reviewers.
In honor of the launch of The New Yorker’s new literary blog Page Turner, the magazine features the best of their literary cartoons from over the years.
Exorcist author William Peter Blatty (Georgetown, class of 1950) is taking his alma mater to Catholic court for moving too far away from Church doctrine. Blatty, who is a devout Catholic, says the “last straw” came when the university invited Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius to speak. Sebelius has come under fire from conservative Catholics for backing a measure that requires religious organizations to pay for employees’ birth control.
The Toronto Star has republished Ernest Hemingway’s reporting for that paper, along with annotations from his editor and a number of Hemingway scholars. The articles are divided into seven Hemingway-eseque categories, including “Sport,” “Vice,” “At Home,” and “War.”
New Republic editor Franklin Foer
When HHhH translator Sam Taylor moved to France eleven years ago, he spoke no French, but decided to learn it and become a literary translator in order to supplement his income as a novelist.
Newly minted New Republic owner Chris Hughes has lured former editor Franklin Foer back to edit the magazine. Foer ran the magazine for five years until leaving in 2010. In an interview on Thursday, Hughes told the New York Times that he plans to double the size of the editorial staff (there are currently fifteen employees) and open an office in New York. “I want everyone from Michael Bloomberg to Zadie Smith to Sheryl Sandberg to read The New Republic,” Hughes remarked.
Electric Literature rolls out its “Critical Hit” awards for May’s best book reviews.
New York Times editor Trish Hall revealed some “secrets” about the Grey Lady at a recent talk, including how much the paper generally pays writers for Op-Ed pieces: $150.
John Steinbeck’s son talks about what it was like to receive advice (sometimes in letters as long as eighteen pages long) from his occasionally brilliant, occasionally very absent-minded father.
A previously unpublished essay by William Gass has been released as an iPad only e-book, paired with abstract photos by Michael Eastman. Abstractions Arrive is a 15,000-word about modern art and photography.
Robert Draper, a contributor to the New York Times Magazine and GQ, has has been added to John Edwards’s witness list. Draper responded on Twitter: “To Edwards defense team: not sure why I'm on your witness list, but I'm in Libya all month anyway, carry on.”
Writer Kyle MacDonald, best known for using the barter section of Craigslist to trade his way up from a red paperclip to a house in Saskatchewan, is making headlines again, this time on Etsy. For 5.67, MacDonald is selling a “de-written” edition of the book Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live, by Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes & Catherine McCarthy. (This basically means a copy of the book with a lot of text hidden by scribbles or literally cut out with a scissors. The new title: Be Anything.) According to MacDonald’s Etsy description, it took “5 black felt pens and 100 hours” to create the “more than 352 unique drawings” in his version of the book.
In 1947, Malcolm Cowley told an interviewer that "a man does what he has to do—if he has to write, why then, he writes; and if he doesn't feel the urgent need of writing, there are dozens of professions in which it is easier to earn a more comfortable living." The remark, which was recently quoted in a Paris Review Daily essay on Cowley, inspired a fiery response from Helen DeWitt, who took to the comments section to offer a less romantic take on writing: “The writer who is literally an addict, the writer who can’t help himself, the writer who HAS to write, can never be anything but an amateur, because the industry requires the professional to put writing on hold not just for a day or two, or a week, but for years.”
The New York Times’s Janet Maslin is not a fan of the new Obama exposé by Edward Klein, the former editor of the NYT Magazine. "The Amateur by Edward Klein," Maslin writes, "is a book about an inept, arrogant ideologue who maintains an absurdly high opinion of his own talents even as he blatantly fails to achieve his goals. Oh, and President Obama is in this book too."
What’s the relationship between writing, romantic love, and solitude? Emily Cooke considers the question in a new essay on Susan Sontag, Vivian Gornick, and Alejandra Pizarnik for the New Inquiry.
St. Andrews University in Scotland hosts Britain’s first academic conference on Harry Potter.
“Mommy porn” novel Fifty Shades of Gray was a Mother’s Day hit, selling 443,000 copies—a 40 percent increase—the week before the holiday. If you haven’t read it yet, you might be able to pick up a copy at a bodega near you.
That over-opinionated friend, too much white wine, requesting to read Middlemarch.... Here’s a list of the best ways to kill your book club.
Robert Caro has started a Twitter account. “To be clear,” he writes, “this account will almost certainly never be put to use. It has been reserved, however, ‘just in case.’"
Critic Michael Dirda gets candid with Reddit users in an “Ask Me Anything” interview. Among his responses: while he appreciates self-publishing, Dirda thinks that “if you’ve written something that people actually want to read” it will be published by a reputable house. He then goes on to name the worst book he’s ever read as “Judith Krantz’s Dazzle. Even the sex in the book was boilerplate, a totally meretricious work.”
After publicly complaining about how “there aren’t enough great novels in one year to make a top 10 list,” Lev Grossman admits that “even though it’s only May, I’ve already read enough novels I love to fill up most of my list for 2012.” Edward St. Aubyn’s At Last, Elizabeth Hand’s Available Dark, Mark Leyner’s The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, Hari Kunzru’s Gods without Men, and Laurent Binet’s HHhH all get mentions, but it’s Hillary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies that’s the excuse for the article.
A new study from Harvard Business School finds that Amazon reviews are as likely to reflect a book’s critical reception as professional newspapers. Study authors looked at a hundred non-fiction reviews from forty outlets—including the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian—for their survey, and compared them against Amazon buyer reviews. Overall, they found that although Amazon reviews are far from foolproof, “experts and consumers agreed in aggregate about the quality of a book.”
Chinua Achebe’s memoir about Nigeria’s 1967-1970 Biafra War is in the works with Penguin Press. There’s no publication date set yet, but the book is tentatively titled There Was A Country.
From Brooklyn Heights to Cornelia Street to St. Mark’s Place—W.H. Auden’s many residences around New York City.
How a book is born—one disheartening (but hilarious) infographic.
The New Yorker relaunches Book Bench as Page Turner.
Prolific Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes died at a hospital in Mexico City on Tuesday at the age of eighty-three. One of the most influential members of the Latin American Boom movement, Fuentes was the author of over thirty books, including The Death of Artemio Cruz, The Old Gringo, and The Crystal Frontier, as well as a political columnist and essayist. Though he was never granted a Nobel Prize, France did give him a National Order of Merit, the highest award available to civilians, in 1997, and in 1994 Spain gave him a Prince of Asturias Award for literature.
Despite a Twitter hoax claiming the contrary, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is still alive.
A new study suggests that contemporary writers are paying less attention to their predecessors than they are to their peers. Looking at 7,733 books, essays, and poems that were written after the year 1550, Dartmouth mathematicians found that certain stylistic tics were good indicators of what writers were reading. Their takeaway was that “while authors in the 18th and 19th centuries are still influenced by previous centuries, authors writing in the late 20th century are instead 'strongly influenced' by writers from their own decade.”
Journalist and literary prankster Mike McGrady died this week at the age of seventy-eight. McGrady was best known for publishing the 1969 “suburban sexcapade” Naked Came the Stranger under the pseudonym Penelope Ashe, though the book was actually written by two dozen Newsday reporters. "It was great," McGrady told the Los Angeles Times after the scheme had been revealed. "Everybody sat down and wrote his chapter in one night. It was terrific for morale at the paper. We would all pass our chapters around to see how bad everybody else was writing. The only problem was that we had to send several back for rewriting. They were too good." The following year, McGrady published his second book, this time under his real name. It was titled Stranger Than Naked: Or, How to Write Dirty Books for Fun and Profit.
New York didn’t even crack the top twenty of the country’s best-read cities this year, according to the second annual Amazon ranking. The list was based on total Amazon sales of books, magazines, newspapers, and e-books in cities of more than 100,000 people. While Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, Massachussets, nabbed the second and third spots, Alexandria, Virginia was named the country’s most literary city—as well as the biggest market for romance novels.
The New Yorker has relaunched its literary blog with a new name and logo: Page-Turner. According to its mission statement, the blog is dedicated to “criticism, contention, and conversation about the most important books of the moment.”