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.”


Last night the New York Public Library hotsted its ceremony for the Young Lions Award. After Sloane Crosley and Billy Crudup read excerpts by the five finalists, the top honor was presented to Swampladia! author Karen Russell (she is in Berlin, so her brother accepted in her place). Swamplandia was also one of the finalists for this year's much-dicussed Pulitzer Prize.

How did the new owner of the Harvard Book Store figure out a way to compete with Amazon and “solve consumer’s expectations for instant gratification and delivery”? Answer: He installed an Espresso Book Machine, so that when books aren’t available in the store, they can be printed and bound, on the spot, for customers.

John Cheever would be turning 100 on May 27. To celebrate, Random House is releasing an updated edition of Cheever’s iconic red doorstop, Stories of John Cheever. For an introduction to the book, here’s T.C. Boyle on his own experience reading it, and what it was like to take Cheever’s class at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

How do publishers commission current events books? An editor at Yale University Press explains.

How much of David Sedaris’s monologues are real and how many are “realish”? The Mike Daisey scandal has NPR wondering—and wondering if the question matters when it comes to humor writers.

In just about two weeks the Getty Research Institute will launch a new online art historical database with access to over twenty thousand titles. It will be open to anybody—not just professional academics or art historians.

Jeanette Winterson will return to her hometown to take up a new gig as a professor of creative writing at Manchester University. The position, which involves teaching undergrads and grad students, has previously been held by Martin Amis and Colm Tóibín.


Hari Kunzru peruses Richard Prince’s book collection.

Is getting profiled in the New Yorker the kiss of death for a director or actor’s career? “To put it mildly, there’s something of a New Yorker feature curse going around Hollywood these days,” Salon’s Alec Nevala-Lee writes, “since the beginning of 2010, the magazine has published eight features on artists best known for their work in film. Two are profiles of Clint Eastwood and Jane Fonda that are basically career retrospectives. Of the remaining six, five of their subjects... experienced significant professional reversals soon after the articles appeared.”

The Awl copyedits the last three issues of Copyeditors magazine, and catches ten typos.

Jonathan Lethem talks with NPR about the Talking Heads album “Fear of Music,” which is the topic of his new essay-length book.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has accepted $500 million in financing from Citigroup Global Markets to help the publisher restructure roughly $3.1 billion in debt. According to the Wall Street Journal, HMH has been hit by state budget cuts for K-12 textbooks, which make of the majority of company profits. Those sales have fallen by nearly fifty percent over the past four years.

The managing editor of the Missouri Review literary journal discusses how he got into his line of work, and considers the notion that “no one ever grows up wanting to be an editor.”


Alice Munro

Arts journal Her Royal Majesty has reprinted Alice Munro’s first published story, “Dimensions of a Shadow,” after discovering it in the University of Western Ontario’s college literary magazine Folio. The story isn’t available online, but the first few paragraphs are at the Paris Review Daily.

Caleb Crain considers the evolution of modern slang: “Like poetry and pornography, slang is easier to recognize than to define.”

Today in seventy-year-old scandals: The Guardian has revealed Federico Garcia Lorca’s erstwhile lover to be art critic Juan Ramirez de Lucas. Lorca wrote “passionate verse” to the young critic before the poet was killed in the Spanish Civil War, but his lover’s identity was not revealed until now. In 2010, the critic gave his sister a box of of their correspondence shortly before his death.

John Updike’s childhood home in Shillington, Pennsylvania, which he lived in until he was thirteen, is going to become a museum. The John Updike Society paid $200,000 for the property, which they hope will become “a destination for writers and scholars.”

Manohla Dargis reviews director Cristian Jimenez’s adaptation of Bonsai, a film based on Alejandro Zambra’s novella.

Norton has put together a list of all their editors who use Twitter.

Here’s an audio recording of John Ashbery reading at the 92Y Poetry Center, just before he turned 25.


Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson, former editor in chief of Publishers Weekly and currently on staff at O Magazine, has been hired by Amazon to help “expand content” on the website.

The Irish National Library has digitized rare James Joyce manuscripts and put them online for the first time. The papers, which were closely guarded by Joyce’s grandson, James, entered the public domain last January, and consist of three main parts: The Circe episode of Ulysses, drafts of Finnegans Wake from 1923, and a collection known as the “Joyce Papers,” which span 1903 to 1928. The Irish Times has already provided footnotes: “A reader may well be relieved to learn that the Finnegans Wake documents can be safely ignored, or at least left for much later attention; they are mostly page proofs with some pretty modest corrections... It is in the other two categories, the ‘early notes’ and the Ulysses notes and drafts, that the real meat of the collection is to be found.”

Salman Rushdie, Art Spiegelman, Jonathan Lethem, and seven hundred other writers, scholars, publishers, and artists have sent the New York Public Library a letter letting library officials know that they’re not happy about the $300 million renovation of the 42nd Street flagship branch.

A public memorial for Barney Rosset was held at Cooper Union on Wednesday. Red Lemonade publisher Richard Nash tweeted it blow-by-blow.

After recently leaving PW to become the Books Editor at NPR.org, Parul Sehgal has landed a new job at the New York Times Book Review.

The Buenos Aires Book Fair—the largest fair in Latin America—closed on Monday after attracting 1.3 million visitors. Publishing Perspectives has the full report.

At the Paris Review blog, Alison Bechdel talks about her new graphic memoir Are You My Mother with Peter Terzian.


President Obama

David Maraniss, the biographer who has chronicled the lives of Bill Clinton, Roberto Clemente, and Vince Lombardi, among others, turns his attention to President Obama in a forthcoming biography. The new Vanity Fair has an excerpt from the book that focuses on the future president’s days as a Columbia grad in 1980s New York. And while the article’s headline highlights Obama’s “most serious romance yet,” pundits and political opponents will likely seize on his comments about T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland: “There’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism,” Obama wrote. And, as if on cue, Adam Kirsch opines in the Times: “Mr. Obama speaks respectfully of Eliot’s ‘reactionary’ stance, because he sees that ‘it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance.’ That is, Eliot, like so many of the greatest modern writers, thinks of liberalism as an inherently shallow creed.”

“Your so-called ‘baby’ is most likely an immigrant... who doesn’t contribute to her family’s income and gives terrible, poor-people gifts like HD-DVDs and sand.” Megan Amron impersonates Ayn Rand in a new advice column.

Did you miss Pynchon-in-Public Day? Last Sunday, in honor of their patron saint’s birthday, fans around the world made the distinctly un-Pynchonian move of taking to the streets to read Pynchon novels and engage in activities inspired by his books. Alas, no “screaming came across the sky.”

Ohio State University researchers have found that reading fiction can actually influence real-life actions—although the results (of this study, at least) are pretty local. The study of eighty-two undergrads found that after reading first-person stories about voting, 65 percent of participants voted on election day after reading a story by a fellow university student, whereas only 29 percent voted after reading a story by a student of another university.

UK authors Abigail Tarttelin and Samantha Shannon—who are 24, and 20, respectively—both netted six-figure book deals with US publishers at the London Book Fair last week.

Researchers at the Publishers Weekly blog have discovered that Madame Bovary is 5 percent “ornery countryfolk”; their entire breakdown can be explored in this informative pie chart.

Cheryl Strayed

The Irish National Library has digitized rare James Joyce manuscripts and put them online for the first time. The papers, which were closed guarded by Joyce’s son, James, entered the public domain last January, and consist of three main parts: The Circe episode of Ulysses, drafts of Finnegans Wake from 1923, and a collection known as the Joyce Papers which span 1903 to 1928. And the Irish Times has already provided footnotes: “A reader may well be relieved to learn that the Finnegans Wake documents can be safely ignored, or at least left for much later attention; they are mostly page proofs with some pretty modest corrections... It is in the other two categories, the “early notes” and the Ulysses notes and drafts, that the real meat of the collection is to be found.”

Cheryl Strayed talks with Bookslut about her heroin use, mother's death, the subsequent thousand-mile hike, and what it's like to have Reese Witherspoon buy the rights to your memoir.

Salman Rushdie, Art Spiegelman, Jonathan Lethem, and seven hundred other writers, scholars, publishers and artists have sent the New York Public Library a letter letting library officials know that they’re not happy about the $300 million renovation of the 42nd Street flagship branh.

Rock stars die at 27; publishers die at 82 (Note the sidebar).

A public memorial for Barney Rosset was held at Cooper Union on Wednesday. Red Lemonade publisher Richard Nash tweeted the blow-by-blow.

Congratulations to Parul Sehgal for landing a cool new job at the New York Times Book Review.

The Buenos Aires Book Fair—the largest fair in Latin America—closed on Monday after attracting 1.3 million visitors. Publishing Perspectives has the full report.


Maurice Sendak—the author of the childen's classic Where the Wild Things Are, an inspiration to Dave Eggers, and an artist who collaborated with authors ranging from Randall Jarrell to Tony Kushnerdied on Tuesday at age 83.

Joshua Clover

Poet and cultural critic Joshua Clover (1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About) and eleven University of California students may face up to eleven years in prison and million in damages for their alleged participation in Occupy Wall Street protests that led to the closure of a U.S. bank on the UC Davis campus. According to a press release, "District Attorney Jeff Reisig is charging campus protesters with 20 counts each of obstructing movement in a public place, and one count of conspiracy." Davis students have started a petition urging the administration to drop the charges.

Since no Pulitzer was awarded for fiction this year, the New York Times took it upon itself to query critics about who the award should have gone to. Among the results, Sam Anderson named David Foster Wallace's The Pale King; Maud Newton voted for Mat Johnson's Pym; and John Williams nominated Teju Cole's Open City. This exercise has reignited debate, but perhaps not in the way the Times had hoped: Responding to the list, one commenter snarkily replied, "Having read these alternate suggestions, I'm actually more confirmed in my view that the Pulitzer Committee was right not to make an award this year."

"No, no, the other Shades of Gray..." Due to bad publishing timing, author Ruta Sepetys has been spending a lot of time explaining that her young adult novel, Between Shades of Gray, is about a Lithuanian girl in a Stalinist camp—not the "mommy porn" novel taking the world by storm (and getting banned from a Florida library).

After four decades and posts ranging from clerking to editing, longtime Los Angeles Times books editor John Thurber announced his retirement on Monday.

In other Los Angeles Times book news, Susan Salter Reynolds—who was the LAT's book critic for fifteen years before they fired her, re-hired her as a freelancer, then fired her again—talks with The New Inquiry about book reviewing and the precarious nature of being a professional writer.

A modest proposal for a new reality TV show: America's Next Top Writer.

Here's book designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd—who you may remember from such covers as Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park—delivering a TED Talk about his profession.


David Bowman

The creator of Editor Real Talk, the publishing world’s favorite new time-sucking Tumblr, has revealed herself to be GOOD magazine executive editor Ann Friedman.

A second issue of the Slate Book Review arrives, with essays by Dan Kois, Choire Sicha, Jen Szalai, Paul Ford, Troy Patterson, and Meghan O’Rourke.

Publishers of Poetry of the Taliban, a compilation that was released this month in the UK, are defending their book against charges of “giving voice to terrorists.” The book consisted of 235 poems previously published on the Taliban’s website, including war and love poems. “They would sing and recite poems every night after dinner,” former hostage and Reuters journalist David Rohde said of his captors’ relationship with poetry. “Privately they would sing love poems, but when their commanders were around, they would only sing war poems. It shows the tensions within the movement.”

Farjad Manjoo: “Nobody seems to understand what Jeff Bezos is doing. Does he?”

David Bowman, critic and author of novels such as Bunny Modern and a nonfiction book about the Talking Heads, recently died in Manhattan at the age of fifty-four. Bowman’s novels were a favorite among fellow writers for their bizarre plots and formal experimentation (Characters would frequently die, then reappear). As the NYT describes it, his 1992 debut, Let the Dog Drive is “a satirical blend of detective fiction and buddy-movie in which a hyperarticulate 18-year-old narrator hitchhikes across the United States and Mexico with a Detroit housewife who introduces him to Emily Dickinson, hallucinogenic cactuses, the pleasure of standing six inches from speeding trains, and her husband, a safety engineer who conducts crash tests on dogs.” Here’s Bowman on Steve Erickson in our Feb/March 2005 issue.

“I still haven't read Middlemarch—it's boring,” Salman Rushdie claimed at a PEN “Freedom to Write” lecture.

At the Awl, Jim Behrle has a conversation with his own novel-in-progress.

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