Last night, a Brooklyn poetry and fiction reading turned into a barroom brawl. The "tipping point," according to BlackBook, occurred when poet Michael Robbins (Alien Vs. Predator) "unfavorably compared the bartender to Billy Joel."

David Mitchell

To the chagrin of college bookstores, when students want to buy textbooks these days, they’re heading straight to Amazon. New studies show that actual course materials are accounting less and less for bookstore sales, dropping to only 54 percent last year. At the rate things are going, writes Mark Athitakis at the New Republic, books might fall by the wayside entirely. “The college store of 2015 is one part Target, one part ESPNU, one ever-shrinking part course materials: There are the requisite team-branded T-shirts, notebooks, and shot glasses, but also computer repair, dry cleaning, grab-and-go sushi, pop-up stores, Wii competitions, poetry slams, train tickets.”

David Mitchell is huge in China. Perhaps too huge for his own good. The Cloud Atlas author was chased down the street by a devoted crowd of fans this week after a reading in Shanghai, many of whom were carrying copies of the book and demanding autographs. “This has never happened before,” Mitchell remarked to a Wall Street Journal reporter. “I have no idea why the book is so popular. If you find out, can you let me know?”

At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Richard Brody—author of the Jean-Luc Godard biography Everything Is Cinema—weighs in on the current debate over niceness and criticism, noting that “criticism, if it’s worth anything at all, is, first of all, self-criticism.”

According to a pro-government Cuban blogger, Fidel Castro is not, as previously reported, on the brink of death, but rather has been squirreled away working on a book that he’s co-authoring with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

It’s that time of the year again: British auction house Ladbrokes has set the odds for the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. Haruki Murakami is the clear favorite, with 10-to-1 odd, while Chinese writer Mo Yan and Dutch author Cees Nooteboom hold 12-to-1 odds, followed by Ismail Kadare, Adonis, and Ko Un at 14-to-1. Here is the full list. (Our favorite cluster: Bob Dylan, Don DeLillo, and Joyce Carol Oates all have 33-to-1 odds.)

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