Filmmaker Chris Marker

How GoodReads hides some bad book reviews to keep the site from degenerating into a commenter free-for-all.

Popular science writer Jonah Lehrer has resigned from his position as a staff writer at the New Yorker after confessing to having fabricating several quotes from Bob Dylan in his latest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer was confronted about the quotes in an email from journalist and Dylan diehard Michael Moynihan last week (who was just interviewed by the Observer about the matter) and came clean on Monday morning.

Is there any point to the word “literary?” “It seems to imply some particular formal characteristics,” Rob Horning writes at the New Inquiry, “but that implication only allows the term to serve as an alibi for the status aspirations of the people who use it.”

Filmmaker Chris Marker, whose short films on time and memory have been described as “the cinematic answer to the creative non-fiction essay,” died in France today at the age of 91.

To celebrate William H. Gass’s birthday, John Madera has asked a number of authors to name their “50 Literary Pillars,” in the style of Gass’s own “Temple of Texts.” Contributors include Matt Bell, Paula Bomer, and Kyle Minor, among others.

Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain that recently confirmed its financial support of religious organizations that fight gay marriage, has selected a new item to give away with children’s meals: Berenstain Bears books. The Berenstain family, which holds the copyright, has informed concerned customers to contact Chick-fil-A or the books’ publisher: HarperCollins.

HarperCollins has announced that John Ashbery’s latest poetry collection, Quick Question, will be published on December 4.


At The Millions, Ted Scheinman considers attention deficit in literature—that is, not the representation of ADD in books, but rather how short attention spans can be in the classics. The canonical example of a “jumpy, distracted” book is Tristam Shandy. In Shandy, Scheinman claims that not only is “attention deficit, for Sterne... not something to be feared in the reader—it is the basis for his process of composition.”

It’s the how-to issue of the New York Times Book Review. In this issue, Colson Whitehead explains how to write (among his tips: “Keep a dream diary”); Roger Rosenblatt lays out “how to write great” (great what, we’re not sure); Augusten Burroughs offers a primer on how to write how-tos; and in the grand tradition of M.F.K. Fisher, Kate Christensen explains how to cook a clam.

Erica Jong, Melissa Febos, and others sat down at McNally Jackson in New York last week to discuss Fifty Shades of Graythe cult phenomenon, that is, “not its literary merit.” While panelist Ian Kerner noted that he thinks “it functions as an erotic stimulant,” Roxanne Gay had a different take. “It’s a travesty,” Gay told the audience. “But a fun travesty. I’ve never laughed harder. Every day I would just fall off the treadmill laughing.”

At the Morning News, kids around the world discuss their summer reading assignments.

Indian diplomats are turning to creative writing (and especially poetry) to relieve the stresses of their job.


There are rumors that Newsweek is about to abandon its print version and exist entirely online.

The trailer for the film adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas leaked online yesterday, and though Warner Bros. asked most blogs to take it down, critics are already weighing in. “If you've ever wanted to see [Tom] Hanks as a goateed, balding London gangster, or [Hugh] Grant as a warpainted cannibal, the chance has finally arrived,” IndieWire remarked. The film is directed by Tom Twyker, of Run Lola Run fame, and the Wachovski brothers. It will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on October 26. Aside from Omer Fast’s take on Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, we can’t think of an adaptation we’re more excited about.

Never mind Fifty Shades of Gray: How embarrassing it is to get caught reading smutty Henry Miller books on the subway?

Starting this fall, literary magazine Granta will be available in Chinese.

If you missed the essay by one of Joshua Ferris’s former MFA classmates (and self-described “nemesis”) that complained about Ferris’s successes and the essayist’s lack thereof, you can now read it here, or just read Foster Kamer’s takedown of it at The Observer.

A new issue of Lapham’s Quarterly is out, and available for free online.

This is awesome: The Atlantic Wire’s Jen Doll pays a visit to R.L. Stine on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Goosebumps’ launch. Relatedly, if you don’t already subscribe to R.L. Stine’s Twitter feed, you probably should.


The Man Booker Prize committee has released the longlist of this year’s finalists, twelve novels that, in the committee's description, span “goodness, madness and bewildering urban change.” Nominees include Will Self, Ned Beauman, Jeet Thayil, Deborah Levy, and Hilary Mantel, who is the only previous winner on the list. A full list of the books—as well as excerpts—is available at The Millions.

First there was HBO, now there’s Random House Television. The publisher announced on Wednesday that it’s pairing up with FremantleMedia to launch the new arm, which will “focus on creating and developing television content from Random House books.”

While other publishers are closing, Oxford University Press seems to be on the upswing. The university press topped one billion in sales last year—a ten percent increase from the year before—with particular growth in South America, South Asia, and the Middle East.

Lev Grossman reviews a book that he hates so much he won’t even name it. All he tells us is that “it’s a novel. It’s by a writer who is generally described as Great, but who I’ve always personally felt is Pretty Good When He’s Really On His Game, Which Was Like For One Book, But Generally Speaking He’s Really Not That Good At All.” (What is it? Any guesses?) Meanwhile, Jen Doll considers how book hate-reads are different from internet hate-reads, and whether anybody other than a professional reviewer would finish a book they really, really didn’t like.

All it took was a cease-and-desist letter from Jack Daniel’s to help an unknown author see his sales skyrocket. Patrick Wensink received the warning letter last week, after the whiskeymaker contacted him about changing the cover of his novel, Broken Piano for President, which does bear a striking resemblance to a certain brand of Tennessee spirits. Wensink posted the letter online, it promptly went viral, and his book soon followed. According to the New York Times, it peaked at #33 on Amazon.

Director Mira Nair’s adaptation of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, has been selected to screen out of competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival.


London Mayor Boris Johnson, preparing for his Olympic address

NPR is conducting a poll to name the best YA novel ever written.

The New York Times profiles the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, a week-long program course that draws three hundred librarians, dealers, scholars, conservators, collectors, and aficionados to Charlottesville for five weeks each year. Here’s a taste of what book camp is like: “In a Hogwarts-worthy reading room on an upper floor of the university’s Alderman Library one morning, students in Advanced Descriptive Bibliography were bent over books with tape measures and mini light sabers called Zelcos, scanning the pages for watermarks, lines, and other clues that can potentially trace a given sheet back to a specific paper mold in a specific mill.” We don’t know about you, but that sounds like fun to us.

As a bonus to the book camp article, the Times also wanders into the basement of the special collections library to examine the ominously named Hinman Collator, a 450-pound machine capable of identifying subtle typographical variations that the human eye can’t.

London Mayor Boris Johnson will read a poem in Ancient Greek during a speech to the International Olympics Committee. According to Harriet, via the Guardian: “Johnson commissioned the work to be written in the style of Pindar, a Theban poet who praised athletes at the original Olympic games in ancient Greece.”

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (who you might remember from the contentious 2009 senate election, or alternately, from this) channels Langston Hughes in a two-and-a-half-minute-long campaign video titled “Let America be America Again,” a reference to Hughes’ 1935 poem.

A writer travels to Lake View, Illinois, to search for the inspiration behind Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.


Samuel Beckett

Angela’s Ashes, Remembrance of Things Past, Lolita, and Jaws top the Los Angeles Times’ list of books you definitely don’t want to read at the beach.

HarperCollins is taunting readers with serialized excerpts from the “enhanced e-book” edition of Michael Chabon’s forthcoming novel, Telegraph Avenue. The book—Chabon’s first in five years—is billed as “an intimate epic, a NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style all of its own.” The first serial is be available to download for free today.

At NPR, David Orr reflects on the birth of a genre—the “poetry of parenthood.”

The Millions’ in-house writing instructor offers advice on how to move from scene to scene without resorting to clumsy transitions.

The Cygnus Ensemble has composed three new compositions based on Samuel Beckett’s one-act plays “Footfalls,” “Ohio Impromptu,” and “Catastrophe.” The occasion is a new production, “Sounding Beckett,” which will be performed off-Broadway this September.

Tonight at the Fales Library at NYU, there’s a book launch and reading for Cynthia Carr’s long-awaited biography Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz. As Luc Sante writes in the new Bookforum, “Carr’s book is unimprovable as a biography—thorough, measured, beautifully written, loving but not uncritical.” For the occasion, Fales will display treasures from their David Wojnarowicz archives, such as the Rimbaud mask made famous by Wojnarowicz’s photo series, as well as other photos, artwork, and ephemera from the artist’s life.


Roald Dahl

Electric Literature excerpts part of The Devil’s Treasure, Mary Gaitskill’s novel-in-progress about a little girl wandering through hell.

What are a few ways to land a multi-million-dollar (or even a million-dollar) book deal? You can write a debut novel starring a teenage female protagonist, or try self-publishing your books first. If that doesn’t work, you might want to serialize your novels—per Mark Danielewski—or write a celebrity memoir... Moby Lives considers what we can learn from the six-figure book deals of 2012.

From a Craig Brown's book One on One, an account of how Kingsley Amis advised Roald Dahl on his decision to start writing children’s books: "But if you do decide to have a crack, let me give you one warning. Unless you put everything you've got into it, unless you write it from the heart, the kids'll have no use for it. They'll see you're having them on. And just let me tell you from experience that there's nothing kids hate more than that. They won't give you a second chance either."

A new issue of N1BR, n+1’s book review, is out. Not all of it is available online yet, but excellent essays by Alice Gregory and Benjamin Kunkel are.

At the New York Review of Books blog, Tim Parks wonders: "Does money make us write better?"

To spare passengers the embarrassment of reading it in public, Virgin Atlantic Airways is offering fliers a discreet way to enjoy E.L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Gray—as a nineteen-hour audiobook.

Left-wing journalist and CounterPunch editor Alexander Cockburn died in Germany this weekend at the age of 71, fellow CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair announced on Saturday. The cause of death was cancer. Over the course of his career, Cockburn, who was born in Scotland, covered topics spanning the war in Iraq to U.S. policy in Israel for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the Nation. The author of numerous books, Cockburn was remembered in a New York Times obituary as being an outspoken writer known for “condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it was being timid.”


C.S. Lewis

With 650 votes, the History News Network has crowned historian David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies “the least credible history book in print.” (It narrowly beat Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States by nine votes).

If you live in New York and are interested in the academic and the obscure, we advise you to check out Cabinet’s literary firesale. From their Facebook page: “Cabinet’s bookshelves are overflowing, and we are selling selected items from our extraordinary library. Our eclectic assortment includes academic tomes, art monographs, poetry collections, journal issues, political treatises, fiction, and more. Books will be priced in the $1-$3 range.”

The British government is launching an review into public library ebook lending in the wake of some publishers reluctance to let libraries lend their digital books.

Penguin, the world’s second-largest book publisher, has acquired Author Solutions, one of the world’s largest self-publishing platforms, for $116 million, Forbes reported today.

Now that this whole health-care constitutionality business has been resolved, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has time to go on a book tour.

The C.S. Lewis Foundation is struggling to realize its goal of opening a university based on Lewis’s teachings. After initially failing to raise enough money to buy its dream property, a campus owned by a nineteenth-century evangelist in Northfield, Massachusetts, the foundation is trying again to fundraise for the school, which won’t exactly be a Christian college, but will be based around Lewis’s notion of “mere Christianity”: the “basic beliefs that all Christians hold regardless of denomination.”


What the Library of Immediacy will look like.

Outcry and a debate over the value of academic presses has erupted in response to the University of Missouri’s recent decision to close its publishing house and reinvent it as something different. In an email that went out this week, university officials announced plans to defund the press, and relaunch it as a new publishing operation run by four paid staffers and five grad student interns. In addition to scholarly books, the more than fifty-year-old press has put out collected works by Langston Hughes and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as other general-interest titles.

What do measures to protect independent bookstores look like around the world? In Paris and Israel, they take the form of fixing book prices (and some Parisian municipalities offer subsidies to the stores), while in the U.S., saving local bookstores is usually a community-driven effort. Speaking of which, while it looks like East Village staple St. Mark’s Books will be moving, New Yorkers can still help them out by participating in a “cash mob” this Saturday.

What would be on display at a museum for writers? That’s the question that the American Writers Museum Foundation has been grappling with for a while now, and it looks like they’ve finally come up with an answer: living literary dioramas. After a number of meetings with writers, academics, and museum consultants, it was proposed that the American Writers Museum would be organized around “a series of ‘vignettes,’ essentially stage sets, that will house a variety of exhibitions themed around a particular topic or era.” The vignettes will be arranged around themes, such as “Families,” “Working” and “Conflict.”

Occupy Wall Street’s People’s Library is heading to New York City’s Governors Island, in the form of an art project called “The Library of Immediacy.”

The New Yorker has added Andy Borowitz’s very humorous “Borowitz Report” to its long roster of blogs.

The Observer pins the rise of male escort services on, of course, Fifty Shades of Gray, while a British publisher uses the series as an excuse to rewrite literary classics as erotica.


Anne-Marie Slaughter

After months of warning, Larry McMurtry’s Last Book sale is finally under way in Archer City, Texas. The novelist and famed used-book seller is offloading two-thirds of the inventory from his world-renowned bookstore, Booked Up. Even though McMurtry is shedding 300,000 titles, he’s made clear that he has no plans to close the store entirely.

Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter has landed a book deal to expand upon her much-discussed essay in The Atlantic about the difficulties women face in balancing their domestic and professional lives. "Why Women Still Can't Have It All” was the cover story of the July/August issue and attracted over a million readers online.

In this week’s New Yorker, Jack Hitt reports on “forensic linguistics,” or how linguists can solve crimes that the police can’t figure out. The piece is behind a paywall, but on the mag’s Page Turner blog, Hitt talks with editor Sasha Weiss about fighting crime with words, and “how people unconsciously signal who they are through their language.”

“In birding, as in life in general, don’t be like Jonathan Franzen. Don’t let neurosis, self-involvement, and pride inhibit your enthusiasms.” The birdwatching community goes after Jonathan Franzen.

Stocking up on beach reads meant strong gains for book sellers. Publishers Weekly reports that bookstore sales had their strongest month of the year last May, jumping 5.7 percent to $1.09 billion.

Does Gabriel Garcia Marquez actually have dementia, or is he just getting old? The internet went into mourning last week over remarks from Garcia Marquez’s brother that the novelist’s career was likely over due to dementia. But that might not be the case: According to Jaime Abellos, the director of the Gabriel García Márquez New Journalism Foundation in Cartagena, Colombia, Gabo is doing just fine. “I saw him in April,” Abellos told the New York Times. “He is a man of 85 with the normal signs of his age.”

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