To make Jane Austen and Bronte more appealing to readers raised on Twilight and the Hunger Games series, publishers are repackaging the classics to give them more sex appeal. Sometimes the references aren’t so thinly veiled—HarperCollins released an edition of Wuthering Heights with the inscription, “Bella & Edward’s favorite book.”
As if a fatwa weren’t enough, Iranian video game designers are continuing their campaign against Salman Rushdie in pixels. They have reportedly “completed initial phases of production” of the game “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict,” according to the Guardian. Though details about the game’s plot haven’t been released, the New York Daily News speculates that “the new video game will have Iranian youth chasing down and killing the author in the West...” (We’d like to note that if a recent profile of the hard-partying Rushdie in the New York Times is any indication, the controversial author’s life doesn’t seem all that stressful.)
According to Janet Groth, a New Yorker receptionist for twenty-one years, there were upsides and downsides to working at the magazine during the sixties and seventies. While women had to deal with office misogyny and daytime drinking was still common, the institution did pay for its employees’ psychoanalysis.
A rare copy of Agatha Christie’s story collection Poirot Investigates (1924) sold for a record-breaking £40,630 at an auction at the Dominic Winter auction house, according to the Guardian. The collection marked the first appearance of detective Hercule Poirot in Christie’s fiction (and this particular edition marked the first time Poirot was depicted on a dust jacket) and sold for at least £35,000 more than predicted.
An ingenious new blog, the Underground New York Public Library, judges subway riders by the books they read on the train.
What has Faulkner really left us? Pulphead author John Jeremiah Sullivan examines the great Southern writer’s literary legacy.
The Supreme Court stood a great deal of conventional political wisdom on its head today by upholding the bulk of the 2010 Affordable Care Act—the landmark law instituting something like universal health care in these United States. Oral arguments over the ruling—National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius for all you case-law geeks out there—strongly suggested that the high court would strike the law down, finding that the “individual mandate” (the requirement for all Americans to purchase some sort of health coverage) was a violation of the Commerce Clause. This outcome indeed seemed so certain among the chin-wagging pundit set that both CNN and Fox News ran early banner headlines erroneously announcing that the Roberts Court had overturned the health care law.
But the court pursued another interpretation entirely—the majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, conceded that the mandate was not in accordance with the Commerce Clause, but went on to argue that the ACA is actually a tax. The penalty that the government will assess on individuals who do not purchase insurance under the act “is not so high that there is really no choice not to buy health insurance,” Roberts reasoned. He went on to argue that “the payment is not limited to willful violations as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected by the IRS by the normal means of taxation.” Thus the most ambitious piece of social legislation enacted over the past 70 years was found constitutional by a sort of exercise in forensic accounting.
In reality, of course, the Roberts decision was issued in a political minefield—and for all the high court’s close readings of legislative intent and efforts to divine an “originalist” message in the Constitution, the Supremes are always mindful of the political nature of the work they do, and the profound and ongoing fallout it can generate. In the new issue of Bookforum, Dahlia Lithwick delivers a prescient look at the politics of contemporary constitutional theory and the Roberts Court.
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Louisa May Alcott, the inspiration for Fifty Shades of Louisa May.
London has just been poetry-bombed. As part of the build-up to the summer Olympics, on Tuesday night, the Chilean art collective Casagrande dropped one hundred thousand poems from a helicopter on the south bank of London.
Summer in New York City can be bad now, but imagine what it was like before air conditioning. Arthur Miller recalls, “people on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.”
The New Yorker remembers contributor Nora Ephron.
Harper Perennial’s Forty Stories, a collection featuring work by Shane Jones, Catherine Lacey, Adam Wilson, Blake Butler, Jess Walter, and Roxanne Gay, is now available to download as a PDF.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies put a camp twist on classic literature, but what if classic literature can put a twist on camp? That’s the proposition OR Books is making with Fifty Shades of Louisa May—a Fifty Shades of Gray-inspired “erotic diary” about Louisa May Alcott’s sex life.
Brazil has implemented an innovative new program to get prisoners reading—by bribing them with reduced sentences. According to Reuters, Brazilian prisoners are now able to slice up to forty-eight days a year off their prison sentences by reading books and writing reports on them.
The earliest printed atlas of the Americas has been restored to Sweden’s Royal Library after being discovered in Manhattan a year ago. The atlas was stolen from the Library by Anders Burius, a senior librarian dubbed “Royal Library Man” by the Swedish media after it was discovered in 2004 that he had been secretly selling off rare books. The atlas’s buyer, a New York map dealer, purchased the map at a Sotheby’s auction in 2003 for $100,000—roughly $350,000 below its estimated value.
In the wake of ongoing investigations into the News of the World phone-tapping scandal, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is considering dividing its “publishing” division, which includes the newspapers the Wall Street Journal, the (London) Times, and the New York Post, from its far more lucrative entertainment segments. According to the New York Times, the papers have long been a financial drag on the $53 billion company, and given the hit that recent scandals have dealt to News Corp.’s reputation, talk is in the air of separating them from the cable channels. News Corp. editors and publishers met in New York on Wednesday, and a decision on the matter is expected any day now.
A federal judge has set June 3, 2013 as the trial date in the e-book price-fixing case. That day, the Department of Justice will face off against Apple and publishers Penguin and Macmillan (which owns FSG, Henry Holt, and Picador) over whether they colluded to rig the prices of e-books. (Simon and Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins, the other three publishers who were initially accused, agreed to an out-of-court settlement). In an odd twist, the trial date is only a day before the beginning of next year's Book Expo.
Novelist, essayist, and journalist Nora Ephron died last night at the age of seventy-one due to complications brought on by leukemia. Ephron wrote the screenplays for When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle, as well as a number of bestselling novels.
The Guardian profiles Swedish author Sven Lindqvist, whose eclectic books Exterminate All the Brutes and A History of Bombing explore the idea that violence is part of a common European heritage. Lindqvist’s 1967 book The Myth of Wu Tao-tzu, about the myth of the Chinese artist trying to seek solace from a “degraded west,” will be published for the first time in English this August by Granta.
A new app raises the question: Would we read books if they announced ahead of time how long it would take to finish them?
Amelia Gray lets slip that Lindsay Hunter—author of the collection Daddy’s—has signed a two-book deal with FSG for a novel and another story collection.
Behind a paywall, but well worth the read: John McPhee covers the history of expletives in The New Yorker, and one famous incident in which editor Robert Gottlieb wore a Post-It with “MOTHERFUCKER” written on it around the office.
The New York Times breathlessly covers the Brooklyn lifestyle of recent transplant Martin Amis, whose move from England they dub “the most stunning infusion of macho literary firepower to the borough since Norman Mailer.” Though Amis has been adapting to the borough—his fancy new home is in Cobble Hill, and his two teenage daughters will attend the private Brooklyn Heights high school St. Ann’s—his work is staying put in Europe. Amis’s next novel, on the heels of his most recent, Lionel Asbo, will be set in a Nazi concentration camp.
To the dismay of local Tea Party politicians, residents of Troy, Michigan, got citizens to vote in favor of a tax hike to support the public library system by threatening to hold a book burning.
The British publishing company Pearson remained the world’s largest publisher for the second year in a row. Of the fifty largest publishers in the world, eleven are based in the U.S.
The Atlantic has posted a short and provocative piece titled “Why Porn and Journalism Have the Same Big Problem.” The problem is getting people to pay in a world where so much porn, and so much journalism, is free. A sample money quote: “ Like the porn studios, big media companies have seen their own profits plummet in the face of free aggregators, amateur bloggers, and the nearly limitless competition supplied by the web.”
At the New York Review blog, Michael Chabon contributes a cranky post about dreams. “Pretty much the only thing I hate more than my own dreams are yours.”
#occupygaddis, a project launched by the Los Angeles Review of Books encouraging readers to plow through William Gaddis’s JR over the summer, has grown into a collective enterprise, drawing in readers from Facebook, Goodreads, and the site Infinite Zombies...
Galleycat reports that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has emerged from bankruptcy.
Recently someone asked us if Vice, who cohosted a party with Paris Review last week, had become literary. Based on Blake Butler’s response to advice given by 10 established writers alone, we would say yes. But if you’re Elmore Leonard, Richard Ford, or Esther Freud, the answer probably remains: No!
451: The next internet error code?
The New York Daily News has sent Alec Baldwin a gift basket full of anger-management books after he punched one of the newspaper's photographers in the face last week.
Error codes “404 Not Found” and “403 Forbidden” are familiar to all internet users, but websurfers may soon be encountering a new one in honor of recently deceased sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury. In a nod to Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, software developer Tim Bray has proposed that the code "451" be designated to websites that are blocked due to government censorship.
The Rumpus’s Roxane Gay is tired of hearing editors ask where they can find writers of color. So she’s composing a cross-genre list of working writers who fit the bill.
Bret Easton Ellis fans with five grand a month to spend on rent are in luck: as of last weekend, the American Psycho author’s East Village loft is still on the market, and he seems desperate to get rid of it.
Fundraising for a book on Kickstarter is harder than it seems, according to newly released data. While 6,445 publishing projects have been listed on the site (and have raised a total of $10.37 million), only thirty-two percent of the projects have actually gotten funding. So which projects made the cut? Most recently, a book on Detroit’s lost landmarks, a thesis on Bruno Schulz, a feminist zine on “loving misogynist art,” and a glossy magazine about soccer are among those that have met and exceeded their financial requests.
In other Kickstarter book news, an aspiring author has launched a campaign requesting $4,000 to write a novel solely through a Facebook timeline.
At The Millions, Garth Risk Hallberg confesses to trying to read Sergio de la Pava’s long novel Naked Singularity. To figure out why he missed the book’s appeal the first time around, and how the self-published author developed his literary sensibility, Hallberg met up with de la Pava for a coffee.
Paris's Shakespeare and Company bookstore
After three years helming The Book, The New Republic’s books site, Isaac Chotiner is leaving the digital realm to become a senior editor at the print magazine. He will be replaced by TNR deputy editor ChloŽ Schama.
Bucking expectations and economic trends, the New York Times reports that bookstores are booming in France. Thanks in part to a system of fixed pricing, book sales increased 6.5 percent between 2003 and 2011, and e-book sales remain a fraction of total sales. Citing the centrality of writers to French culture, the head of a small press told the Times, “there are two things you don’t throw out in France — bread and books.”
The Boston Review has gone to Kickstarter to fund their new “poetry-driven website.” Editor Josh Cohen has made a video explaining exactly what the new site will look like.
The trailer for Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina—as re-written by playwright Tom Stoppard—has hit the internet. The high-drama, high-budget film stars Keira Knightley as Anna, and Jude Law and Aaron Johnson as her lovers.
The Millions points out that thanks to Yale’s Open Courses, it’s possible to watch all twenty-six of Amy Hungerford’s “The American Novel Since 1945” classes, and all of Paul Fry’s “Intro to the Theory of Literature” course. Summer break or not, we can’t think of a better way to procrastinate while avoiding the heat.
One of Germany’s leading experimental theater groups just put on a theatrical adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest that took place over twenty-four hours and eight locations across Berlin. Take that, Gatz.
A new app that pushes writers to reach their goals by threatening blackmail: Now writers can upload incriminating pictures of themselves to Aherk, a “goal-oriented self-blackmailing service.” Once these writers have met their self-defined writing goal, the app asks Facebook friends to vote on whether they think the goal has been met. If they don’t think it has, the photo is exposed for all the world to see. It doesn't sound that persuasive to us. Don't most writers thrive on self-exposure?
Alice Walker has refused to let an Israeli publisher release a translation of The Color Purple in protest of that country’s treatment of Palestinians. In a statement, Walker writes that she has “determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
Reflecting on Bret Easton Ellis’s claim that he wants to make a movie out of Fifty Shades of Gray, Laura Miller considers bad books that have led to good movies.
Can authorial style be broken down by mathematical modelling? Yes, according to mathematician Josť Binongo, who was discussed last week on Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast. Binongo believes that by analyzing writers’ “function words”—i.e. those words that serve a special purpose—it’s possible to identify a “mathematical signature” that correlates to their style.
A recent Forbes study has ranked getting a master’s in library and information science as “the worst master’s degree for jobs right now.”
Picador’s Gabrielle Gantz talks Lapham’s Quarterly editor Aidan Flax-Clark about how the magazine finds its archival content, what topics—like death—have gone uncovered, and why Lewis Lapham is like Morpheus from the Matrix.
On Tuesday, the media went wild after Jim Romenesko caught pop science writer Jonah Lehrer self-plagiarizing. At Slate, Josh Levin tackles the question of why would the newly minted New Yorker staffer stoop to stealing from himself.
In other plagiarism news, Jay-Z is being sued by a writer who claims that a year after his computer was “compromised” in 2009, parts of his memoir mysteriously turned up in Hova’s book, Decoded.
n+1 is launching a series of ebooks that will excerpt selections from their archives. First up, Bad Education, featuring a sampling of “the magazine’s best and crankiest writings about education,” with essays by Christian Lorentzen, Keith Gessen, Astra Taylor, and more.
In its heyday, The Baffler magazine was known mainly for two things: witty cultural criticism and an erratic publishing cycle. Due to an array of problems—most notably a fire in the office in 2001—one could never be sure when the next issue of the “journal that blunts the cutting edge” would arrive. But the revamped magazine is on a roll. The latest issue is going to come out on schedule later this month, and judging from some of the stories listed on their website (Heather Havrilesky on Girls, Chris Lehmann on the Washington Post, a special section on “the anticulture of higher education,” and the first publication of a 1972 Christopher Lasch novel), The Baffler has hit its stride again.
Here is the story of Lu Burke, a legendary New Yorker copy editor who was stern and secretive, liked to read Trollope and listen to Jazz, and donated a million dollars to a small public library—located at 100 Poverty Road—in her will.
At the NYRB blog, Garry Wills takes on Roberto Unger, a professor who taught Obama two classes at Harvard, and who has released a video denouncing his former student for not advancing a progressive enough agenda during his presidency. While Wills acknowledges that Unger’s principles are preferable to Obama’s actions, he argues that voters elect not a single leader, but rather the political party that nominated them. And he makes a stark case for the differences between the Democrats and Republicans, concluding, “Those who think there is no difference between the parties should look at the state that no longer elects any Democrats, the Texas described so well by Gail Collins, with its schools attacking evolution, its religious leaders denying there was ever any separation of church and state, and its cowboy code of justice.”
New York magazine has published a report on the alleged self-plagiarism of author Jonah Lehrer.
For the first time ever, e-books are outselling hardcovers. A new report from the American Association of Publishers finds that in the first quarter of 2012, e-books racked up $282.3 million in sales, while hardcovers trailed behind at $229.6 million. The good news is that sales increased all around: E-book sales went up by 28.1 percent, while hardcovers rose 2.7 percent.
BOMB magazine has received a $15,000 grant from Amazon to expand its literary section, First Proof. And speaking of $15,000 Amazon grants, writer Alan Averill was awarded the retailer’s fifth annual Breakthrough Novel Award for his debut, The Beautiful Land.
Rapper DeStorm Power name checks fifty-two book titles—from The Picture of Dorian Gray to Fifty Shades of Gray—in a single song.
Apropos of Ken Auletta’s article about Amazon and price-fixing, three New Yorker editors sit down to talk about the effect of e-books on writers, editors, and publishers.
Former Paris Review web editor Thessaly La Force is taking a break from her studies at Iowa to guest edit the Review’s blog, The Daily, this week. First up, an interesting G-chat with Sheila Heti (not easy to do, since Heti’s been interviewed nearly a half-dozen times in the past few weeks). Heti’s new novel has already become the most buzzed-about book of the summer (it is just being published in the US today, though it came out in Canada two years ago). James Wood delivered a reserved, somewhat dismissive review in the New Yorker, which will only make Heti’s target audience like it more, while Chris Kraus, Johanna Fateman, Lena Dunham, Miranda July, and many others have given the book unqualified praise; magazines like Triple Canopy and n+1 are reminding us to read Heti’s work in their archives; and the Huffington Post has made it “The Book We’re Talking About.” You might have a chance to talk it over with Heti herself tonight, when she reads at Brooklyn's powerHouse arena.