Meehan Crist and Tim Requarth highlight some problems with Jonah Lehrer’s theory of creativity, and explain why his “mash-up” technique of arguing through anecdotes and science reporting falls flat in his new book, Imagine. As they note: “If dubious interpretations of scientific data appeared only once in Imagine, it might be a worrisome fluke; but they appear multiple times, which is cause for real concern.”
After a raucous book party and drunken agreement, the New York Observer goes on a New Jersey pilgrimage with Gideon Lewis-Kraus. On a related note, here’s a survey of the history of travel literature, “from the book of Exodus to Joan Didion.”
Speaking of Joan Didion, the Blue Nights author canceled a UCLA event yesterday “due to injury,” but fans are assured that there’s no cause for concern. She was at lunch and "banged her leg," Knopf publicity director Paul Bogaards told the Los Angeles Times.
Amazon Publishing has released Jeff, One Lonely Guy, in which Jeff Ragsdale reprints conversations he had with strangers after hanging flyers in New York City urging people to call him. In an interview with author Nick Flynn, Ragsdale notes: “I became a relationship counselor, a sex therapist, a probation officer, a confession booth. I found that people just need someone outside their inner circle to talk to, who’ll just listen and won’t judge.”
The Rumpus is soliciting submissions for their latest “Rumpus Readers Report.” The theme: “Friends with Benefits.”
Amsterdam Stories—published by New York Review Books, translated by Damion Searls, and featuring an introduction by Joseph O’Neill—should bring the Dutch writer known as Nescio a broad American audience.
More than 15 years have passed since Mark Leyner appeared on Charlie Rose with fellow novelists David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen. This weekend, the New York Times Magazine profiles Leyner on the occasion of his new novel, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, which is being released into a culture that has become so “grotesquely Leyneresque ... that you might wonder (he certainly has) if there is a place left in it for Mark Leyner.”
An in-house scoop: Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann has informed us that the ink has dried on his book deal with Metropolitan Books. The working title of Lehmann’s latest—a follow-up to his 2010 Rich People Things—is The Money Cult and will be edited by Sara Bershtel. Lehmann says the book is “an effort to account for the missing reform tradition in American Protestantism, while also accounting for the more irrational, quasi-spiritual features of our civic worship of the market economy.” Lehmann adds: "I'm delighted to be taking this project on, since it combines two long-standing obsessions. And I'm really excited to be working with Sara, an impassioned and exacting editor who's helping to sustain the best traditions in American publishing. Just knowing that she's working on this project makes me feel like a better writer than I probably am."
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may be winding down, but military memoirs written by former soldiers—such as Chris Kyle’s bestseller American Sniper—are gaining momentum. “I’ve been doing these kinds of books for 15 years, but it’s not until recently that they have really taken off,” said Marc Resnick, an executive editor at St. Martin’s Press, told the New York Times. The paper notes that the last time this genre was so big was in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Why isn’t Mike Daisey like John D’Agata? Simple, says Slate: Because Daisey wasn’t up front with his audience—or his editors. At the New Inquiry, Aaron Bady weighs in on fact/fiction blends: “If we only emphasize the lies in these accounts, we thereby overlook the extent to which they were saying true things.” And what about David Sedaris’s 1999 book Naked, about which he once said: “I mean, I exaggerate. But all the situations were true.”
The Paris Review talks with New York Review of Books editor and founder Bob Silvers about his stint at the Paris Review, his decision to found his own magazine, and how he got the country’s top thinkers and reviewers to write for him for free: “The essays were simply model book reviews—they made the book review form not just a report on the book and a judgment of the book, but an essay in itself. And that, I think, startled everyone—that a book review could be exciting in that way, could be provocative in that way.”
After dismissing Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl in an early round of The Tournament of Books, Edith Zimmerman and Zambreno sit down to talk things over, and to take a second look at the novel.
Move over, vampires. In light of the success of Fifty Shades of Gray, the sleeper “mommy porn” hit that has become an international bestseller, publishers say that we can expect to see more “female-targeted erotica packaged for the mainstream reader.” As one insider told Forbes, “Every major publisher will be taking the genre seriously now.”
Starting on April 10th, the numer of New York Times's articles available for non-subscribers to read online goes from twenty to ten a month.
Harper’s has hired Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn as their new senior reviews editor. Foley-Mendelssohn, who currently works at the Paris Review, comes to Harper’s via The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.
Have you ever wondered how top-shelf chefs manage to run their restaurants and find time to publish cookbooks and memoirs? Simple: They use “food ghosts” and “writer-cooks.”
At the NYRB, Bookforum contributor Eric Banks weighs in on the New Museum triennial: “From a title like ‘The Ungovernables,’ one might further expect a willfully chaotic installation. In fact, the work on view finds an admirable coherence as an exhibition, with various other threads connecting disparate art in a range of media. The Triennial is a tidy, clean, professional-looking affair, much less rowdy than the average international biennial, and despite an admirable number of far-flung return addresses, much of it seems almost domesticated by the rigid floor plan of the New Museum itself.”
Reddit has added a new section for literary videos, which includes poetry videos, short story videos, live readings, spoken work performance videos, animated storytelling videos, documentaries about writers, book trailers, author interviews, and anything else involving the written word.
The brief reopening of the OWS Library in Zucotti Park.
Charles McGrath reports on a question that literary journalists and editors have been asking for years: Who will replace Robert Silvers as the editor of the New York Review of Books? The answer probably won't be coming anytime soon: According to Silvers, the question of who will succeed him is “not one that is presenting itself.”
The recent fact/fiction/journalism debates have focused mostly on John D’Agata’s book About a Mountain, but it also hit radio waves last week after it was revealed that This American Life’s most popular episode ever—about the conditions of workers at an Apple factory in China—was partially fabricated by its creator, monologist Mike Daisey. TAL dedicated an entire episode to retracting the story on Sunday, and host Ira Glass apologized in a statement: “Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story,” Glass said. “That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.” Daisey, who is currently starring in the one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” took a more mealy-mouthed approach: “This American Life is essentially a journalistic—not a theatrical—enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations,” Daisey wrote. “For this reason, I regret that I allowed This American Life to air an excerpt from my monologue. What I do is not journalism.”
The Baffler returns: copies of the revived journal were sent to subscribers last week.
Is the literary establishment a myth? Geoff Dyer says it is. “I don't detect anything monolithic or impregnable about this literary establishment,” he writes, “except a belief in the importance of spelling and punctuation.”
At the Los Angeles Review of Books, a writer reflects on the difficulties of getting self-published books reviewed by mainstream publications.
The Morning News’ annual Tournament of Books proceeds apace. In this round, The Hairpin editor Edith Zimmerman didn’t like The Marriage Plot. But she does like it better than Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl.
Amanda Knox, the American student who was accused of murdering her British roommate in Italy, has signed a seven-figure book deal with HarperCollins, but she won’t have the first word. Raffaele Sollecito, Knox’s former boyfriend, has sold his own book about the murder trial and acquittal, the not-so-subtly titled Presumed Guilty: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox, to Simon & Schuster. Sollecito’s book will appear this fall, clearly looking to get a jump on Knox’s title, due out sometime next year.
Congratulations to Artforum on releasing its fantastic new iPhone app! Everybody should download it immediately.
A new collection of David Foster Wallace essays, Of Flesh and Not, will be released this fall.
November 13 is the release date for the next “new” Bolaņo, notes blogger and critic Scott Esposito. Bolaņo’s work features a number of recurring characters (including the author’s stand-in Arturo Belano), and Woes of the True Policeman—his final, unfinished novel—focues on two figures from 2666: Amalfitano and Arcimboldi.
Tin House attempts to answer a somewhat loaded question: “Why do we hate short stories?”.
John Barr, the current and inaugural president of the super-wealthy Poetry Foundation, has announced his plans to retire.
Before there was John D’Agata, there was Truman Capote. Jack Shafer writes: “Both love ‘real’ facts, but when blocked by journalistic convention from the literary effects they desire, they willingly leapt that fence to create whatever rules they needed to enhance their work.” The difference between them, however, is that while Capote steadfastly resisted suggestions that some of his journalism was fictionalized (despite ample evidence to the contrary), D’Agata is up front about blurring genres, and gets around the problem of fact-bending by calling himself an “essayist.”
Amazon has renewed its $25,000 grant to the Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, which will be held this summer in Lost Angeles.
The striking similarities between Marilynne Robinson and Terrence Malick.
Writer and psychic Amie Barrodale offers some hilarious, tarot-tinged advice to writer and philosopher Clancy Martin.
An Italian human-rights group is protesting Dante’s Divine Comedy for being “racist, antisemetic, and Islamophobic,” and demanding that it be removed from classrooms.
Ever wondered what’s in New York Times reporter (and Night of the Smoking Gun author) David Carr’s backpack?
Here’s a list of seventeen books that Ernest Hemingway said he would rather read again for the first time than have a yearly income of a million dollars.
Christopher Walken, audiobook reader for "Where the Wild Things Are."
Consider the interrobang. When ad executive Martin Speckter debuted the half question mark-half exclamation point in 1962, the punctuation point earned write-ups in the Wall Street Journal and Time, and was canonized in several American dictionaries. And then it disappeared. The Millions met up with Speckter’s widow to discuss its rise and fall in popularity, and address the question—what happened to the interrobang‽
There’s no point in finishing bad books, but should we feel obligated to finish good ones?
“The Internet,” Harper’s publisher John MacArthur claims in an op-ed, is basically “a gigantic Xerox machine (albeit with inhuman ‘memory’), and [so poses] the same old threat to copyright and to the livelihoods of writers and publishers alike.” Well, not exactly... Alexis Madrigal responds.
Excerpts from Urban Dictionary’s guide to literature—“Chaucer: The end of a joint;” “Eggers: One who often steals golf carts and random cans of soda;” “Seuss: Name affectionately given to dogs believed to be reincarnated versions of other dogs.”
Novelist Christopher Bollen recalls the four years he spent in a grimy Williamsburg apartment, working on the novel he never ended up writing.
The most recent VIDA report proved that not only are venerable magazines (Harper’s, The London Review of Books, The New Republic, etc.) reviewing fewer female authors, but that they’re also using fewer female reviewers. Does the problem start there, or does gender discrimination trace back to book publishers? The Huffington Post looked at books published by a handful of literary publishing houses—Knopf, Crown; Little, Brown; and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux—and found that “the gender ratios of books published by these imprints are in a few cases almost identical to those of the publications cited in Vida's survey.”
Here’s Christopher Walken reading Where the Wild Things Are.
At htmlgiant, Lily Hoang asks: Is the NEA punishing writers who have published books at BlazeVox, which in some cases has required authors to pay a percentage of their own publishing costs?
A twelve-hundred-page erotic novel some are calling “mommy porn” has landed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for combined print and ebook fiction. Fifty Shades of Gray, which originated as Twilight fan fiction, reimagines “the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington, with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections.” So far, the book has been hard to find in print: published by a small press in Australia, it has sold 90 percent of its copies to ebook readers. But this week, it’s everywhere: Vintage Books is publishing the book after buying it for a reported seven figures.
Slate close-reads the trailer for the first movie adaptation of Kerouac’s On the Road.
Fifty hours in the life of a book critic: The Los Angeles Times’ Carolyn Kellogg gives an insider’s look at the National Book Critics Circle: the meetings, the dinners, the awards ceremony.
Publishing used to be a closed-off and enigmatic world . . . until Twitter arrived. Ceri Radford on how online feuds and publising hashtags are changing the nature of literary conversation.
Literary magazine Hoot keeps it short and sweet. Very short, in fact—the newly launched monthly magazine fits entirely on a postcard.
Launched this week, Random House’s new Author Portal allows writers to obtain more information about their book sales. The portal, which is open to RH authors, “allows access to weekly consumer purchase data, as well as copies shipped into the marketplace over the last 10 years, broken [down] by sales channel and publishing format.” Unless you're a best-seller, it sounds like torture...
Twenty-eight-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has just bought The New Republic, and has assumed the dual role of the magazine’s publisher and editor-in-chief. Hughes plans to bring the ninety-eight-year-old magazine into the digital age, the New York Times reports, and wants to focus on “distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad.”
Gawker chief Nick Denton has a new approach to the “problem” of nasty online comments, he announced today during a panel at South by Southwest. Gawker commenters are notoriously snarky, and reining in “hateful behavior” has long been a problem for the site. But the “core of the Gawker idea that we're building,” Denton said of the new and improved site, which is to be introduced in six weeks, “is that everyone owns the thread they start.”
At the National Book Critics Circle ceremony last Thursday night, author Daniel Mendelsohn presented New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers with an Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Pointing out Silvers’s intense devotion to the magazine, he recalled how the editor once tracked him down on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, to discuss a semicolon.
Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Michael Chabon have just been named to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
If the previous entry just made you shudder, take note: Bret Easton Ellis is sick of all the Franzen haters. “The Corrections and Freedom are the two best novels that came out of my generation, so man-up and deal with it, guys.”
At htmlgiant, Blake Butler offers a breakdown of the typical Murakami novel.
In Bookforum, Christopher Sorrentino reviews Hari Kunzru's novel Gods without Men.