PEN has released a statement criticizing the organizers of the London Book Fair for failing to recognize arrested and censored Chinese authors at this year’s Fair, which opens tomorrow and highlights China as the featured country. PEN estimates that at least thirty-five writers are currently imprisoned in China.
France has classified philosopher Michel Foucault’s archives as a national treasure.
Picador’s new Tumblr has released a literary mixtape that thankfully avoids the cliches of such playlists (for example Guns and Roses’ “Catcher in the Rye;” the 10,000 Maniacs’ “Hey Jack Kerouac”). Instead, we get The Mountain Goats’ “Lovecraft in Brooklyn,” J Church’s “The New York Times Book Review,” and 138 other literary tracks. Although, of course, they do miss a few: The Hold Steady’s “Stuck Between Stations,” which alludes to John Berryman’s suicide; Matmos’s “The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast,” about Ludwig Wittgenstein; Mastodon’s Leviathan, about Moby Dick; Momus’s “Marquis of Sadness,” and Jawbreaker’s “Condition Oakland,” which closes with a recording of a Kerouac poetry reading.
The Rumpus’s Gina Frangello praises a Huffpost article about the ten “awful truths” of publishing, remarking: “Too many people who want to ‘be writers’ aren’t really aware of any truths of publishing at all. They think publishing is an ivory tower and that editors are sitting around in fancy offices taking fiendish pleasure in rejecting them and then going out for lunch with Jonathan Franzen at some private club.” She adds, “the number of editors who have that kind of life is so few it barely merits discussion.”
Tyler Cowen has requested a “Directors Cut eBook” containing the 350,000 words that former Knopf editor Robert Gottlieb cut out of The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s 1,344 page tome on the New York City planner Robert Moses. In a profile this week, the New York Times Magazine described Caro as “the last of the 19th-century biographers, the kind who believe that the life of a great or powerful man deserves not just a slim volume, or even a fat one, but a whole shelf full.”
“I think I was a priest in my previous life. Strangers disclose to me,” says Irvine Welsh. “They confess everything. They do this in bars, supermarket queues, but most of all on public transport, where, as a non-driver, I spend a great deal of time.” The Trainspotting author discusses the stranger aspects of life in Chicago, his forthcoming novel (Skagboys) and film (Ecstasy), and the HBO series he’s currently working on.
Several weeks ago, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak was accused of plagiarizing Zadie Smith’s White Teeth in her new novel Iskender, which was just released in English as Honour. But the real issue isn’t plagiarism, Kaya Genç argues, but Turkey’s discomfort with westernization. As for Smith, she has sent Shafak a letter stating how “ridiculous” she found the accusations.
The shortlist for the Dublin-based IMPAC award was announced on Thursday, and includes Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jon McGregor’s Even the Dogs, and Karl Marlante’s Matterhorn. The winner will be announced on June 13.
Oxford’s Bodleian Library and the Vatican library are undertaking a joint initiative to digitize 1.5 million of their collective “Greek manuscripts, 15th-century incunabula, Hebrew manuscripts, and early printed books,” thanks to a $3.2 million grant.
Details are starting to emerge about J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel, which comes out this fall in the UK. Casual Vacancy is a 480-page “blackly comic” novel about a small town in England that’s “ripped apart” by a local election. It’s also Rowling’s first book since the final installment of her Harry Potter series in 2007.
The New Inquiry excerpts part of Chase Madar’s forthcoming book, The Passion of Bradley Manning. Because of Manning's gender identity disorder, Madar refers to the army private throughout simply as "B. Manning.
Eileen Myles, Sarah Manguso, Peter Maas, Ruth Franklin, Alison Bechdel, John Wray, Arthur Phillips, and Lydia Millet are among the winners of the 2012 Guggenheim fellowship. A full list of the Fellows is available here.
Galleys of Dan Josefson’s novel That’s Not a Feeling arrived this week with a surprising blurb—from David Foster Wallace, who died in 2008. Perhaps anticipating confusion, Josefson’s publisher, Soho Press, has included an explanatory interview with Josefson admirer Tom Bissell in the galley. Bissell explains that in 2008 he sent the manuscript to Wallace, who then dictated the blurb (“...a bold, funny, mordant, and deeply funny debut”) while playing chess. As for why it’s taken so long for the book to see print, Bissell points to the publishing industry’s recent reluctance to take risks: “It seems to me that the big houses today are much more content to poach wirters like Dan after their third or fourth book rather than nurture them from the start.” (In other Wallace news, Publisher’s Weekly has been naming the top 10 characters of Infinite Jest.)
Now that the DoJ has filed suit against Apple and five major publishers for illegally fixing the price of e-books, Amazon is poised to "decide how much an e-book will cost, and the book world is quaking over the potential consequences." Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins agreed to a settlement soon after the charges were filed, and Macmillan and Penguin Group USA are expected to strike a deal by the end of the week. What will happen with Apple, however, is still anybody’s guess.
On Tuesday, Open Letter Publishers announced the poetry and fiction finalists for the 2012 Best Translated Book Awards. The winners will be announced on May 4 at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York.
We’re excited to learn that translator and critic Susan Bernofsky is writing a biography of the fascinating (and frequently institutionalized) writer Robert Walser. As Bernofsky told Bookforum: “I'm writing a biography of Walser insofar as one can write a biography of a person who specialized in not being known. So it's going to be a book of gaps, but I hope to make what's missing from what is known an interesting part of the story.”
Continuing to blur the distinctions between bookselling, publishing, and criticism, Amazon has made a no-strings-attached, $25,000 donation to Los Angeles Review of Books, which launches its new website next week. (In related news, the Seattle Times debuts the final installment of its in-depth profile of Amazon, covering everything from what it’s like to work there to the company’s contentious relationship with the publishing industry.)
Continuing her relationship with Scribner, Jennifer Gilmore sold the North American rights to her new novel, The Mothers, to her editor there, Alexis Gargagliano.
Here’s a tidbit of literary trivia from Salman Rushdie’s forthcoming memoir: After a fatwa was declared against him, Rushdie was known to his police detail as “Joseph Anton,” a pseudonym in homage to his favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. The memoir, Joseph Anton, is about this nine-year period of Rushdie’s life, and will be out this September.
Stephen Burt talks to Publishers Weekly about being a poetry critic and a poet. In both roles, he pays close attention to language, and describes words like “generous,” “lucid,” “courageous,” and “luminous” as “reviewspeak,” or “thrice-steeped teabags.”
Electric Literature takes to Kickstarter to crowdfund its latest entrepreneurial venture, Recommended Readings, which will publish one story a week chosen by a well-known writer or editor, as well as one original story a month. The project will launch once EL reaches the $10,000 mark—enough for eight issues.
What did Emily Gould do with her $200,000 book advance? Some went to travel, some to a solo apartment, and more than 1,000 to clothes she’s never worn—most notably a black leather vest, of which Gould says: “Who doesn’t need a leather vest? Oh wait, I know: everyone. Everyone doesn’t need a leather vest.”
The Rumpus is honoring National Poetry Month by posting a new, original poem on every day of April. Here’s the full line-up.
At The Awl, nine authors and publicists chime in on the do’s and don’ts of book tours. Here’s Shane Jones, author of the surprise hit novel Light Boxes, which has been optioned by director Spike Jonze: “Albany (drove myself; made eye contact with my mom in the audience). Boston (plane; before reading sat in a bar alone and ate a hamburger served on an English muffin). New York City (train; was 100 degrees outside). Portland (plane; during the Q&A a man asked if I was surprised when Spike Jonze bought the film option. I said no, that I expected it. Not sure he picked up on the sarcasm, felt like an asshole).”
Ryan Chapman, the digital marketing director at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, is leaving his post to take over as marketing director at Penguin Press.
There’s a lot to look forward to on the LA Review of Books relaunched site, which will go live in about a week; we’re especially looking forward to reading Grace Krilanovich on cult filmmaker Kenneth Anger; Thomas Sayers Ellis on poverty, photography, and poetry; Hua Hsu on office chairs; and Robert Polito nominating “three poems that would make great movies.”
Two years ago there was an outcry when it was revealed that The Anthology of Rap contained more than a few transcription errors. However, connoisseurs of the forthcoming Snoop Dog book, Rolling Words, need not get excised if they discover an error or two—they can simply tear out the offending page and use it to smoke their misgivings away.
Amazon may be the pariah of the publishing world, but it’s been busy working behind the scenes to make friends. The Los Angeles Review of Books, One Story, Poets & Writers, and Kenyon Review are three of the journals that receive financial support from the online giant, and PEN and the Brooklyn Book Festival are also beneficiaries. These small grants are estimated to cost Amazon around $1 million a year, though the company won’t openly discuss the program. “It’s the bully on the playground handing you a lollipop,” Goosebottom Books publisher Shirin Yim Bridges told Salon. “I mean, what do you do?”
Online magazine publishing service Zeen is nearing completion. The company, which is the brainchild of two YouTube co-founders, lets users “create and discover” their own internet zines.
Stephen King’s real name was Richard Bachmann, Pablo Neruda’s was Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. Flavorwire investigates the reasons why writers change their names.
Coffee-houses have played a major role in literary culture over the past century, but is the new generation of cofficeurs (that is, people who use coffee-houses as their offices) doing the tradition a disservice? “Writing in public feels like a performance, but, when we’re dealing with literature, the performance is not what endures,” Matt Lombardi gripes at The Millions. “To put it another way: the final outcome is the performance. I can’t help but assume when I see the coffice-bound writer as one who privileges persona over results.”
Nothing disappears on the internet, which is why it’s troubling that so few news outlets have policies on removing or altering content. Of over one hundred publishers polled, less than half had a stance on “unpublishing,” though requests to remove names and articles are becoming increasingly common.
“Clearly, this is an issue worth revisiting,” says Geoff Dyer in an article about rereading, which also features short pieces by Hilary Mantel, Marina Warner, and others. Rereading seems to be <a>on people’s minds these days</a>. In the most recent issue of Bookforum, Eric Banks writes about Patricia Meyer Spacks’s On Rereading—and revisits some of his favorite books about horse-racing.
Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, who drew fire from Jon Krakauer last year, has agreed to pay 1 million for “misusing the charity he set up.” The Montana-based charity, which was supposed to promote education in Central Asia, was allegedly also used to promote and buy copies of Mortenson’s book.
Gunther Grass has now been barred from entering Israel due to his controversial poem in which he criticized Germany’s sale of nuclear arms to the country.
Allegations have surfaced that Amazon UK hasn’t paid taxes over the past three years—despite generating between “£7.6 billion and £10.3 billion” in profits over that period. The company based its refusal to pay taxes on two loopholes that it believed applied to it: Amazon UK claimed that it is not a retailer, and that, despite its name, it is not based in the UK.
Classicist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn and his father try—and fail—to retrace the voyage of Odysseus. “In the end, we never got to Ithaca—never followed ‘in the wake of Odysseus,’ as the brochure for the cruise had promised," he writes.
Underworld, The Boys of Summer, and The Southpaw top the New York Times’ shortlist of the best books to read to celebrate the beginning of the baseball season.
An amazing resource is now available via the Burroughs Archive: complete scans of Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts 1961-1965, the raucous magazine put together by legendary Fug and poet Ed Sanders.
The Awl asks writers and critics which cringeworthy books they loved as teenagers. Ayn Rand, unsurprisingly, earned multiple mentions—Sam Anderson, David Grann, Maud Newton, and Boris Kachka admitted to adolescent flirtations—and Kerouac and the Beats also came up several times. Ariel Levy admits an obsession with the Sweet Valley High series, and Lorin Stein confesses he had “no idea what I thought Being and Time was about.”
Harvard professor Robert Darnton announced this week that the Digital Public Library of America is nearing its launch date, and that he has ambitions of competing with Google. In a speech at Columbia, Darnton pledged that the library "will be up and running by April 2013, and its initial holdings will include at least two million books in the public domain accompanied by a dazzling array of special collections far richer than anything available through Google."
Google has decided to end the program through which independent bookstores could sell e-books through the Google platform. Which brings us back to the question: “Are you worried that digital books will ruin your favorite independent bookstore?”
More digital-book news: A new report from the Pew Research Center finds that e-book buyers are reading a third more books than non-digital readers.
The elevator pitch was elevated to an art this week when about a hundred people assembled in London’s Le Baron nightclub to hear nine authors persuade them to financially support their books-in-progress. Described as “a cross between a book slam and election hustings,” the event allotted each writer ten minutes to get people to pledge anywhere from £10 to £250 to their projects, with the additional promise that books which met the fundraising minimum will be published by the event’s host, Unbound Live. But as Lucy Farmer observed at More Intelligent Life, more charismatic readers tended to do the best, and “a good salesman doesn’t necessarily make a worthwhile writer. And equally, good writers aren’t always natural salesmen.”
Aspirin, a framed picture of your cat, and ear plugs: What to pack for your summer writers’ conference.
Yesterday, five major magazine publishers launched a “digital newsstand” called Next Issue Media. Hearst, Conde Nast, Time Inc., Meredith, and News Corp. have joined forces to offer a service for Tablet readers, who, for a flat monthly fee of $9.99 or $14.99, can have unlimited access to all five publishers’ titles. Poynter calls it “a Netflix for magazines...”
Malcolm Gladwell, Zadie Smith, and...Ben Stiller? Photos from Tuesday’s Paris Review revel.
Gunter Grass has provoked international anger by publishing a poem in Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung in which he criticizes Israel’s nuclear capacity and Western hypocrisy over what he calls Israel’s “claim to the right of a first strike” against Iran. Grass, now 84, is a Nobel Prize winner, and politically “left-leaning.” But he has also been at the center of controversy before, admitting, in his 2006 autobiography, that he was an early member of the Nazi paramilitary organization Waffen-SS.
In a video at the Guardian, Ian McEwan recalls the time he helped his son write a school paper about one of his novels. But his knowledge of his own work didn’t amount to much: The paper received a mediocre grade.
After nine years at the helm of the Virginia Quarterly Review, editor Ted Genoways is stepping down to work on his own writing, the University of Virginia announced in a press release on Wednesday. During his tenure, Genoways was credited (at least by UVA) with elevating VQR from an “obscure college literary magazine to one that could compete with the likes of National Geographic and the New Yorker.” But his leadership at the magazine was questioned in 2010 when former managing editor Kevin Morrissey killed himself after weeks of tension with Genoways. Genoways will be temporarily replaced by deputy editor Donovan Webster, and a national search for his replacement will begin in July.
The Blown Covers asks: What might a New Yorker cover about the Trayvon Martin shooting look like?
How does a seven-hundred-page, self-published, totally obscure debut novel get picked up by a reputable publisher? The University of Chicago Press’s Levi Stahl explains how he found Sergio de la Pava’s A Naked Singularity, and why he wants to bring it to a broader audience.
The New Yorker’s Book Bench has posted a translation of “King Goldenlocks,” one of the almost 500 Bavarian fairy tales recently found in Germany.
No book deal, no problem: With financial support from their parents, “hundreds of children and teenagers” are writing and self-publishing their own books, reports the The New York Times.
Soon, we’ll be able to roll e-readers up like newspapers.
The American Society of Magazine Editors has named its finalists for the 2012 National Magazine Awards. While there are some great picks—David Grann, Aleksander Hemon, and John Jeremiah Sullivan all got well-deserved nods—women are conspicuously absent from the Reporting, Features, Profiles, Essays, and Columns categories. As in, they’re missing completely. Women are, however, well represented in the Public Interest category, nabbing four out of five of the nominations. At ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg wonders why. In other ASME news, Vice and Fader both received their first-ever nominations.
After fifty weeks and four hundred essays and reviews, The Los Angeles Review of Books announces plans to launch its new website on April 18.
ABEBooks has set up a dating service for book readers—or, ahem, “lonely lovers of literature.” According to the site, the new matchmaking feature, called BiblioCupid, uses a “specially designed love algorithm that matches bibliophiles according to their purchases on AbeBooks.” During its six-month trial period, it has, according to promotional materials, produced two marriages.
Robert Lowell’s former Upper West Side apartment is on the market for 5,000.
Last night, at a standing-room-only launch party for the revived Baffler, we heard its new editor in chief John Summers talk about how he inherited the magazine from founder Thomas Frank, and how he really, really will end the magazine’s history of fading in and out of print (with some help from its new distributor, MIT Press). Chris Lehmann, an old Baffler hand and current contributing editor (also an editor of Bookforum), talked about the evolution of the magazine from its Chicago days in the ’90s, noting how the Baffler’s trademark salvos against the status quo are still relevant, because complacent Washington thinkers often write with a mind to “move the debate one millimeter to the right or to the left, or more likely, towards the center, or else they’ll be considered ‘out of the debate.’” Anthropologist and OWS-architect David Graeber wondered why we have yet to invent flying cars and robot housecleaners, concluding that bureaucracy is a great hindrance to technological innovation—and that true technological breakthroughs are anti-capitalist (he ended his talk by calling for a Leftist mission to Mars). And Barbara Ehrenreich dispelled the notion that animals are Man’s Best Friend (though she’s an advocate of animal rights), detailing a horrific, and at times hilarious, catalog of unprovoked animal on human attacks—“12,000 years of human dominance has not gone unnoticed,” she quipped. To read the details, you’ll have to subscribe. In the meantime, read Thomas Franks’s “Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly.”
According to Reuters, the Justice Department is nearing a settlement with Apple and five of the six big publishers who have been accused of “colluding to push up electronic book prices.” The decision, according to one source, will benefit companies that want to buy e-books on the “wholesale model” and then sell them for whatever price they like. In other words, it will benefit Amazon.
Variety reports that Ashton Kutcher will play Steve Jobs in the biopic Jobs, which will portray his transformation “from wayward hippie to co-founder of Apple.”
The Awl has an entertaining guide to writing the “great American novel,” although its most persuasive advice concerns what not to do. For instance, “Move out of Brooklyn.” And: “Stop drinking and doing so much coke.”
Lynne Tillman, the author of Someday This Will Be Funny, has stepped down from her position as Fence’s fiction editor. According to the literary magazine’s editor, Rebecca Wolff, the fiction in future issues will be overseen by a series of guest editors, starting with Atmospheric Disturbances author Rivka Galchen.
Wayne Koestenbaum reviews Eduard Leve’s visionary self-portrait.