The young Franz Kafka
A suitcase full of tens of thousands of previously unpublished documents by Franz Kafka might soon be made public, thanks to a recent ruling by a Tel Aviv judge. The papers—which include Kafka’s notebooks and letters—have been under dispute since the death of their final owner in 2007. Kafka left the papers to his executor after his death in 1924, and in 1939, Max Brod transported them to Palestine, where he left them to his secretary, who bequeathed them to her daughters. Despite protests from the daughters, this week’s ruling was made on the grounds that Brod stipulated in his will that his archive be left to the Library of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Joseph Ratzinger, aka the Pope, has signed a book deal to complete his trilogy on the life and times of Jesus. After covering his death and baptism, the final book in the cycle will be a “penetrating and theologically rich exploration of the infancy and early life of Jesus,” and will be out in the U.S. this December.
Meet Oyster, the Spotify for books.
Thousands of people who bought Hachette, HarperCollins, or Simon & Schuster e-books off Amazon or Apple in the past few years might be in for a small digital refund. Under the terms of a recent Department of Justice settlement (which has yet to be finalized) the publishers agreed to return between $0.30 to $1.32 per digital book to customers rather than go to court to face accusations of price-fixing.
Despite being a challenging fiction writer, David Foster Wallace used to make his students read mass-market authors—Joan Collins and Mary Higgins Clark and Thomas Harris. At the Rumpus, Michelle Dean considers why serious readers find comfort in bad books.
Geoff Dyer, Hari Kunzru, A.M. Homes, Andrew O’Hagan, and others try their hand at writing a novel in a single tweet.
New Yorkers: What are you doing tonight? It can’t be better than coming to the event we're co-hosting! "The Naked Truth," a panel on female sexuality in fiction, will feature Lynne Tillman, Chris Kraus, Emilie Noteris, and Wendy Delorme, and be moderated by How Should a Person Be? author Sheila Heti. The panel will be held at the New School as part of the Villet Gillet's Walls and Bridges series, and more details are available here.
None other than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has confirmed that Kindles still aren’t making the company any money, though they are poaching potential customers from Apple. "We sell the hardware at our cost," Bezos said of the Kindle Fire HD and Paperwhites, and adds: "What we find is that when people buy a Kindle they read four times as much as they did before they bought the Kindle."
More than sixteen thousand books have come out about Abraham Lincoln, and at least twenty more will be published in the U.S. before next summer (not to mention a Steven Spielberg biopic). What is it about the sixteenth president that is so alluring to the publishing industry?
Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin “spent a good portion of their time at Oxford abusing the literature they were supposed to study,” writes Keith Gessen in his introduction to the NYRB re-release of Lucky Jim. “They invented a game called ‘horsepissing,’ in which they’d replace words from classic literary texts with obscenities—’I have gathered up six slender basketfuls OF HORSEPISS,’ for example—which they’d write in their own and each other’s copies of famous books. It was a game they never tired of or, indeed, outgrew.”
The Fall issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, on “the female conscience,” is out, with contributions by Roxane Gay, Stephen Burt, Joyce Carol Oates, and Judith Warner.
Robert Atwan, the editor of the Best American Essays series, picks his ten favorite essays written since 1950. Many of them—Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” Mailer’s “White Negro,” and Phillip Lopate’s "Against Joie de Vivre"—are available to read online.
The publishing map of the world
A bestselling thriller writer slash marketing executive sits down to crunch the numbers on Lena Dunham’s $3.7 million book advance, and concludes that in terms of how much Dunham might actually earn, the deal is not as crazy as it’s been made out to be.
"Underwear is definitely pants." So starts novelist Alexander Chee's "21 Lies Writers Tell Themselves (and How They Can Stop Lying to Themselves and Become Awesome!)
Here is a map of the world adjusted to the size of book publishing markets.
At the New York Times Opinionator blog, Catherine Chung reflects on being labeled a “Brooklyn writer to look out for” while living in Manhattan.
Following a public outcry, the University of Missouri announced this week that it will not be closing the University of Missouri Press, and moreover, that it will reinstate the Press’s former editor-in-chief, Clair Willcox.
Universities that participated in a massive book-digitization project with Google are protected under fair-use laws, a New York judge ruled this week. The suit, which was brought by the Authors’ Guild and several other writers’ guilds, had accused universities of copyright infringement for allowing Google to scan books in their libraries without rights holders’ permission. The deal was struck in 2005, and since then more than 10 million volumes have been scanned.
Emir Kusturica, the former Yugoslavia’s most famous director, is currently undertaking one of his most ambitious projects yet—and it’s not a film. After visiting the Bosnian city of Visegrad, the setting of Serbian novelist Ivo Andric’s novel The Bridge on the Drina, Kusturica became obsessed with building “a town within a town” around that 16th-century bridge. When the town is completed, Kusturica told the Guardian, the town will have roughly fifty buildings, including “an Ottoman caravanserai, an Austro-Hungarian academy of fine arts, an Orthodox church, a bookshop, a new town hall, a hotel, a marina, a helipad and an opera house in which Kusturica plans to stage the premiere of a work he is writing, based on Andric's masterpiece.” It’s scheduled to be finished in 2014.
Defying Ladbroke's predictions of a Murakami victory, Chinese novelist Mo Yan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Mo (a pen name that means "don't speak") is the author of six novels that have been translated into English, as well as multiple short story collections. In grantating the prize to Mo, the Swedish Academy described him as a writer "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary.” Artist Ai Weiwei, however, did not agree: “Giving the award to a writer like this is an insult to humanity and to literature. It’s shameful for the committee to have made this selection which does not live up to the previous quality of literature in the award.”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti has turned down a 50,000 euro prize from the Hungarian PEN chapter after learning that the Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize was partially funded by the Hungarian government. In a letter to the Hungarian PEN club, Ferlinghetti explainined his decision, stating, "Since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept the Prize in the United States. Thus I must refuse the Prize in its present terms."
Robert Caro, Anthony Shadid, Katherine Boo, and Anne Applebaum are the nonfiction nominees for the National Book Award, while Junot Diaz, Ben Fountain, Louise Erdich, Kevin Powers, and Dave Eggers are up for the fiction prize. A full list of the nominees are available here.
Is the Daily Beast becoming a landing site for disgraced journalists, wonders the Observer? Over the past several months, the Newsweek affiliate has published the likes of Jayson Blair, Jonah Lehrer, and, most recently, Mike Daisey, who was publicly outed for falsifying a “This American Life” story about working conditions in Chinese Apple factories. On the one-year anniversary of Steve Jobs’s death, Daisey wrote a memorial on the Daily Beast for the Apple founder.
Forty-six years after the musical adaptation famously flopped on Broadway, a new adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s will hit the stage again this spring.
Authors, with the exception of E.L. James and erotic novelist Sylvia Day, awoke to an unpleasant surprise on Wednesday: the introduction of Amazon Author Rank. The feature ranks the top one hundred most popular authors in different literary genres based on their Amazon sales. The rankings change every hour, but as Carolyn Kellogg points out at the Los Angeles Times, there may be some glitches in the system. “Wednesday morning, Dr. Seuss appeared to be ranked 56th and 64th simultaneously. Neil Gaiman also held two simultaneous spots, 84th and 88th.”
A never-before-seen epic poem by J.R.R. Tolkien about the last days of King Arthur will be published next year by HarperCollins. "Though its title had been known from Humphrey Carpenter's Biography and JRR Tolkien's own letters, we never supposed that [“The Fall of Arthur”] would see the light of day," said acquiring editor Chris Smith.
Listen to Wallace Shawn reading Denis Johnson’s incredible story “Car-crash while Hitchhiking.”
Three pairs of Philip Larkin’s eyeglasses are now on display at a British eye clinic. “I wouldn’t say Philip Larkin himself would be quite so chuffed with being associated with the National Health Services," quipped one local politician. "He was a hypochondriac."
The Massachusetts-based Paris Press has announced plans to re-release Virginia Woolf’s 64-page essay “On Being Ill,” which considers illness, alongside “love, battle, and jealousy [as one of] the prime themes of literature.” The essay will be run alongside “Notes from Sick Rooms,” an essay by Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen, and will be released this November. Read Francine Prose's thoughts on the essay from the Spring 2003 issue of Bookforum.
Billionaire private-equity CEO Leon Black has bought the art-book publisher Phaidon Press.
After no new sponsors were willing to back the Orange Prize, private donors have stepped in to cover the costs—and ensure the continuation—of the UK’s only fiction prize for women. Earlier this year, mobile services company Orange announced that it would cease to fund to the prize, which started seventeen years ago and has been awarded to Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Orange Prize officials said this week that while they were still looking for long-term corporate sponsorship to cover the six-figure costs, enough money had been raised to temporarily sustain what will now be known as, simply, "the women’s prize for fiction."
TV writer Kelly Marcel has been chosen to adapt Fifty Shades of Gray into a screenplay, and Bret Easton Ellis (who was really, really angling for the job on Twitter) is none too pleased about the decision.
The annual meeting of the Jane Austen Society convened in Brooklyn for three days last week to celebrate their good sense and sensibility and listen to lectures on the late muse. More than seven hundred people turned out for the affair, which included talks by authors (Anna Quindlen on male condescension to Austen) and afficionados (Cisco Systems co-founder Sandy Lerner on cash in Austen novels). “This is a place where people can let their Jane Austen freak flag fly,” remarked an attendee who founded an Austen-themed tea company.
Introducing the Paris Review app.
Soon-to-be-memoirist John Cleese.
Lena Dunham’s forthcoming advice book, Not That Kind of Girl, has sold for $3.7 million to Random House. In addition to chapters on love, friendship, and work, the book will also include “an account of some radically and hilariously inappropriate ways I have been treated at work/by professionals because of my age and gender.”
Riot Grrrl fans and library nerds take note: for their October issue, The Believer asked Lisa Darms, a senior archivist at NYU’s Fales Library, to curate a selection of her favorite documents and ephemera from the library’s Riot Grrrl collection. The good stuff is behind a paywall, but it’s worth picking up a copy of the issue for.
Contrary to one rumor, critic Clive James is not only alive and well—he’s also translating Dante’s Inferno.
When he’s not working on essays, Nicholson Baker has been writing and performing protest songs in his barn in rural Maine. His most recent releases are about military involvement in South Korea and Libya, NATO involvement in Afghanistan, and Army whistleblower Bradley Manning.
Monty Python co-founder John Cleese is writing a memoir, which was sold to Random House on Monday. The author, now 72, remarked that “it’s the perfect moment to look back on my life in anticipation of the next fifty years.”
The Merchant of Venison, The Things They Curried, Consider the Red Lobster and A Good Flan is Hard to Find are three of our favorite suggestions for the Twitter hashtag #literaryrestaurants.
At Slate, Noah Gallagher Shannon dives into the Cormac McCarthy archives, turning up letters, an early draft of Blood Meridian, and a recipe for gunpowder.
The Guardian’s poetry doctor is in: Tell William Sieghart what ails you, and the Forward Prize-winning poet will prescribe you a lyrical cure.
Justin Cronin is an Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, PEN/Hemingway Award-winner, and all-around literary guy who just happened to get swept up in the vampire-novel craze. It’s made him a millionaire. Still, he's not ready for you to use the word vampire in his presence.
The New Yorker festival is in full swing, and the magazine’s blog is posting video highlights featuring the likes of Lena Dunham, Alison Bechdel, and Ben Stiller, as well as a panel on rereading David Foster Wallace, and an explanation for why Obama’s debate performance was so bad.
An e-book scanner
After seven years of litigation, Google and the Association of American Publishers have settled the dispute over Google’s practice of scanning books, and both sides are agreeing to play nice. According to Publishers Weekly, Google will “acknowledge the rights and interests of copyright-holders,” while U.S. publishers can “choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project.” Because the settlement is private, few of the conditions were made public. But some experts suspect that much more happened behind closed doors than either side is willing to let on. "The publicly described terms sound indistinguishable from the terms Google has offered to its print partners for years," said New York Law School Professor James Grimmelmann. "If that's all, it's hard to understand why this deal took so long."
Bidding on Lena Dunham’s unwritten book, Not That Kind of Girl, has reached $3.6 million.
Despite stating that they would not, under any circumstances, carry any Amazon-published books, Barnes and Noble is having some trouble getting rid of the damn things. Moby Lives reports that Amazon books are showing up in Barnes and Nobles across the country—in New York, one “Amazon-affiliated” book was even placed on a featured table. When reached for comment, the chain blamed local stores for stocking the books, and ordered them to remove any Amazon books from their shelves.
Steve Jobs’s high school girlfriend and the mother of one of his children is going to write a memoir about the late Apple founder. Chisann Brennan met Jobs at Cupertino High School in California, and in an article for Rolling Stone, noted that even “at 17, Steve had more than a touch of the cool sophistication of a Beat poet.”
At the New York Review of Books blog, Tim Parks reflects on the singular weirdness of having a book adapted not just for the screen but for an entirely different culture.
Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who died this week, has a new book coming out this spring. Publisher Little, Brown says that Hobsbawm turned in the manuscript for his final book three months ago, and that Fractured Spring will be released in March. The book is about "the history of the 'classical' arts and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries... taking in subjects as diverse as religion, manifestos and the myth of the American cowboy."
Amazon is not only publishing books, it’s now optioning them, too. The company announced on Wednesday that Amazon Studios (which we were not aware existed until this announcement) has optioned the movie rights to Ania Ahlborn’s horror novel SEED. It's not Amazon's first sign of interest in the novel: After it was self-published in 2010, SEED was released again by Amazon’s sci-fi imprint last July.
A Kansas Attorney General has blocked the sale of documents relating to the murder trial that was the basis for Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood. This week, Judge Derek Smith prevented family members of Harold Nye, one of the investigators in the 1959 murder trial, from putting fourteen boxes of documents relating to case up for auction. In his ruling, Smith noted that the papers belonged to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and “should not be auctioned off, particularly for personal gain.”
At The Los Angeles Review of Books, Tom Dibblee reconciles Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City, with Jay McInerney, professional wine critic.
New York readings tonight: Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon; an intriguing event in celebration of the brilliant comic writer Charles Portis; and David Means, author of the book Assorted Fire Events, will in conversation with fellow fiction writer Donald Antrim.
Tin House advises on how to apply to an MFA program.
Lena Dunham is shopping around a book proposal, and word has it that the manuscript isn’t going to go for any less than a cool million. According to a leaked email from her literary agent, the Girls creator is currently taking bids on the book, and will stop accepting publishing house suitors by the end of the day on Wednesday. The book is titledNot That Kind of Girl: Advice by Lena Dunham, and according to David Haglund at Slate, will include chapters on “losing her virginity, trying to eat well (detailed diet journal included), obsessing about death, and so on, along with tips about how to stay focused on work, how not to ruin a potential relationship, and . . . various ways in which older men continue to be condescending and sexist.”
Dinaw Mengestu, Junot Diaz, and journalist David Finkel are the three writers in this year’s class of MacArthur “genius grant” fellows. The $500,000 prize will be paid out to the twenty-three winners over the next five years with no strings attached. If you're not familiar with the winners, the Millions has a rundown of these new literary geniuses, and we highly recommend checking out Sam Anderson’s profile of Diaz in last week’s New York Times Magazine.
We’re deeply upset to learn that we missed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s surprise book signing at the McNally Jackson bookstore in Manhattan on Monday. The Terminator and former governor of California descended upon the store that afternoon to promote his autobiography, Total Recall, and by the end of the visit manager David Reeves told the Guardian that the store had sold out its entire stock.
Longtime New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor for his book Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff. If you haven’t read Trillin before, an archive of his New Yorker writing is available here.
Paris Review editor Lorin Stein reflects on his early days climbing the ranks at Farar, Straus & Giroux: “I don’t think I distinguished myself, I think I just happened to be the secretary of the most powerful editor in the building.”
At Poetry Magazine, Abigail Deutsch wonders why people are so excited about Alien vs. Predator author Michael Robbins.
Tonight at 6:30pm at Art in General, Jill Magid reads from her new book Failed States, her meditation on "coincidence and poetics amid the barriers and bureaucracy of governmental power." The book was inspired, in part, by the artist's witnessing of a sniper attack in Texas.