Graphic novelist Daniel Clowes

Early reviews of J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel are starting to come in, and they're not good. Meanwhile, over at Amazon, customer reviews were wildly mixed, even though many reviewers admitted tonot having read the book.

A new study finds that 55 percent of books labeled Young Adult are actually purchased and read by people over eighteen. And these readers aren't just people in their early twenties, either—a full 28 percent of all YA books were sold to people between the ages of thirty and forty-four.

To launch his novel Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan is interviewing dozens of people (Jason Kottke, Jenna Wortham, DJ Rupture) over a twenty-four hour period, and streaming the whole thing online.

Barnes & Noble has gone paperless.

Graphic novelists Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez discuss comics, sci-fi, and art school for a Rolling Stone roundtable.

The National Book Foundation has named Jennifer duBois (A Partial History of Lost Causes), Stuart Nadler (The Book of Life), Haley Tanner (Vaclav & Lena), Justin Torres (We the Animals), and Claire Vaye Watkins (Battleborn) as this year’s top five authors under 35.

In November, Michael Zapruder will release Pink Thunder, a record on which all the songs are inspired by poets, including James Tate, Travis Nichols, Dorothy Lasky, and poet-songwriter David Berman.


That charming man: Morrissey.

The Penguin Group has filed suit against writers Elizabeth Wurtzel, Ana Marie Cox, Rebecca Mead, "Hip-Hop Minister" Conrad Tillard, and Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat to recoup tens of thousands of dollars (up to $81,000, in one case) spent on book advances (and interest) for manuscripts that were never turned in.

n+1 has posted an impressive remembrance of Shulamith Firestone, the author of The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, with testimonies from Kate Millet, Chris Kraus, Nina Power, and others.

Could book bloggers be hurting literature? Peter Stothard, a Booker Prize judge, says that "if the mass of unargued opinion chokes off literary critics, ... then literature will be the lesser for it."

Singer and legendary gentleman Morrissey was spotted at the Strand bookstore in NYC last week, aiding a woman who fainted in the claustrophobic confines of the Strand’s stacks. After Morrissey helped the woman to her feet and collected her dropped belongings, he politely offered to get her some water. We imagine he’s getting in the habit of courting potential readers: His 600-plus page autobiography is due out from Penguin UK this winter.

The New York Review of Books blog runs a moving essay by Charles Kaiser about being gay and working as a journalist in the seventies, and how after years of homophobia, The New York Times finally came out of the closet.

Frequent Bookforum contributor Heather Havrilesky is dispensing wise advice under the pseudonym Polly Esther at The Awl. First up: What to do when you stop liking your friends.

Inspired by Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants, Neil Patrick Harris has announced that he’s just sold a book of “imaginative nonfiction” to Random House imprint Crown. Harris says that to save time, he’s going to take Fey’s book, and "reprint those exact stories but change the names to people that I knew."


Tom Sawyer, from smithsonian.com

At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Christine Smallwood reflects on Norman Mailer’s brief career as an auteur (he specialized in films that “that bartenders play on silent to create ambiance”) and what it suggests about his fiction.

The real-life inspiration for Tom Sawyer: a hard-drinking, Brooklyn-born, volunteer firefighter.

Is former New Yorker journalist Jonah Lehrer angling for a book deal about his fall from grace? That’s what it sounds like according to an essay in Los Angeles Magazine. "I’m extremely tempted to correct many of the false accusations that have been made about my work in recent weeks," he wrote in a recent email to a journalist.

Does Mitt Romney need a campaign poet, and if so, who are his politically compatible options?

What is Junot Diaz’s “niftiest literary trick?” According to Michael Bourne, it’s his use of the second person: Three of the nine stories in his new collection This is How You Lose Her are written in the second person, and another is addressed to “you.” Bourne argues that by confessing his crimes to “you”—as in you, the actual reader—Diaz makes his readers complicit in his narrator’s bad behavior. “You, my friend, are a player, a Latin chick-magnet, a sucio, and all you did was open a book and start reading.” To get a better idea of what Bourne's talking about, read Diaz's story "Miss Lora" on the New Yorker website.

Elsewhere on the internet, we’re loving Bookforum contributor Adam Wilson’s Los Angeles Review of Books essay on Louie C.K. and the rise of the “laptop loner.”


The MTA's Kindle collection

Digital Book World asks: “Can you go to jail for writing a fake book review?

Okay, we know everybody is sick of hearing all about Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, but you should still make time for the Millions’ "feminist hate-read book club" on the topic. And while you're at it, check out Natasha Vargas-Cooper's takedown of Vagina from our current issue.

Anybody want to buy Tao Lin’s juicer, bed frame, or MacBook? The novelist is running low on cash (he’s awaiting a paycheck from Sarah Lawrence College) and is hoping to make ends meet by selling all his stuff on Twitter.

Yesterday was National Punctuation Day, and to celebrate, the Atlantic Wire’s Jen Doll asked writers about their favorite punctuation marks. While R.L. Stine and Ben Zimmer are partial to the em-dash, Miles Klee and Kurt Loder prefer the ellipses.

Leaving a book on the subway is bad, but leaving a Kindle on the subway is way, way worse. Anybody looking to pick up a Kindle (or twenty-five) can buy them directly from the lost-and-found of the New York City MTA.


The owners of Village Voice Media are selling all their publications, which include The Village Voice, SF Weekly, the LA Weekly, among others.

David Markson

Among the things we learned about J.K. Rowling from reading the New Yorker profile of her in this week’s issue are that: she’s worth nine hundred million dollars, she worked for Amnesty International, and is “shy and thin-skinned.” Also, the reason she’s venturing into adult fiction is because “there are certain things you just don’t do in fantasy. You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.”

The first issue of Huffington, the Huffington Post’s new weekly iPad only magazine, is dedicated to literature, and features poetry and fiction by Aimee Bender, John Matthias and Terrence Holt.

In the wake of Naomi Wolf’s widely panned new opus, the New York Times wonders if vaginas (the subject of the book) will soon become appropriate dinner-party conversation. “In 2012 we’re still living in the Victorian age when it comes to sexuality,” Wolf told the Times. “Vagina has to be a household word. It should be a topic discussed at the dinner table when you’re having a dinner party.” Read Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s take on Naomi Wolf’s Vagina in our Fall issue.

The European Commission has agreed not to continue its price-fixing investigation into Apple and publishers Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre, and Holtzbrinck so long as the companies agree not to set agency prices or give preferential treatment to certain European countries. At Moby Lives, Kelly Burdick summarizes the effects of the decision: “consumers will benefit from lower prices in the short term, but the book trade, especially independent publishers and booksellers, will almost surely suffer as a result of the settlement.”

Salon names the audiobook version of Jess Walter’s novel Beautiful Ruins—narrated by Eduardo Ballerini—the best audiobook of the year.

“Dear David Markson...” Twelve years ago, Bookforum asked Ben Marcus to interview the author of Wittgenstein’s Mistress. Markson died before it was completed, but Marcus has posted the fragments on his website.


The Brooklyn Book Festival is this Sunday, and like the run-up to the presidential election, it only seems to get bigger every time it comes around. We’ve sifted through the day’s events (all eighty-plus of them) to choose our favorites. If you can only make it to one panel, it should be Bookforum editor Michael Miller talking to LRB editor Christian Lorentzen and novelists Elissa Schappell and Clancy Martin about money in fiction. A full list of events is available here, and our staff picks are below.

10:00 A.M. The London Review of Books presents The Novel and the City.
A conversation about literature and the urban imagination with Mexican novelist Alvaro Enrigue and cultural writer Christine Smallwood. Moderated by Adam Shatz, London Review of Books.

11:00 A.M. Ice or Salt: The Personal in Fiction.
W.B. Yeats once wrote, “All that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt.” Authors Siri Hustvedt (Living, Thinking, Looking), Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård (My Struggle) and Sheila Heti (How Should a Person Be?) will consider how writing technique—“ice or salt”—transforms the personal into art that connects to a broad audience. Moderated by Phillip Lopate.

12:00 P.M. Rewriting History.
Jamie Manrique (Cervantes Street), Esmeralda Santiago (Conquistadora), and Ellis Avery (The Last Nude) read and discuss their historical novels, filled with vivid characters ranging from Avery’s Parisian lovers and Santiago’s nineteenth-century love triangle to Manrique’s fictional account of the life of Miguel de Cervantes. Moderated by editor and poet Albert Mobilio.

12:00 P.M. Who? New!
The Brooklyn Book Festival picks five of the year’s most impressive debut novelists: Ayad Akhtar (American Dervish), Kathleen Alcott (The Danger of Proximal Alphabets), Catherine Chung (Forgotten Country), Bill Peters (Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality), and Laurie Weeks (Zipper Mouth). Moderated by Anthony W. Crowell, board chair of the Brooklyn Public Library.

12:00 P.M. The Politics of Identity—Do They Still Matter?
As America grows more diverse, “minorities” will soon be the majority and this shift in demographics will affect our culture and the ways we think about it. Can—and should—we move beyond the idea of race in America? Baratunde Thurston (How to Be Black), Rebecca Walker (Black Cool) and Wesley Yang (author of the New York magazine article “Paper Tigers,” and a forthcoming book on Asians in America) will interrogate the stereotypes we still have of each other, both positive and negative, and examine the ways we run from and cling to various aspects of identity, race, and heritage. Moderated by Amitava Kumar.

1:00 P.M. From the Ruins of Empire.
Leading Indian writers Pankaj Mishra (From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia) and Siddhartha Deb (The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India) read from their books and discuss the modern world and the East, and the movements and personalities that helped shape both. Moderated by Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review.

1:00 P.M. The Nation Presents the Twilight of the Elites.
Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another—from Wall Street to Congress, from the Catholic Church to Major League Baseball—imploded under the weight of corruption. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions. How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. A conversation with MSNBC host Chris Hayes and author Michelle Goldberg, moderated by Richard Kim.

2:00 P.M. Bookforum Presents Money in Fiction.
Gatsby's millions; Darcy’s £1,000 a year: wealth was once a major concern of fiction. Given the stark contrasts of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, how do novelists grapple with the topic of money in the 21st century? Christian Lorentzen, Elissa Schappell (Blue Print), and Clancy Martin (How to Sell) discuss. Moderated by Michael Miller, Bookforum.

4:00 P.M. Creative Life in NYC - Art, Music and Creative Culture in the 70’s 80’s and Beyond.
James Wolcott (Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York), Nile Rodgers (Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny) and Cynthia Carr (Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz) discuss art, music, and creativity in NYC through the decades. Moderated by Will Hermes (Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever).

4:00 P.M. On Truth (and Lies) in Conversation.
Co-Presented by BAM and the Onassis Cultural Center NY. What is the truth? Simon Critchley, one of today’s leading contemporary philosophers turns the tables on Paul Holdengräber, the director/founder of LIVE from the NYPL, to examine the art of conversation, digression, and sustained dialogue. Holdengräber—an expert in what he calls “cognitive theater” and a seasoned interviewer of major cultural and political figures, from Jay-Z to Zadie Smith and Patti Smith to Slavoj Zizek—joins Critchley to discuss how truth emerges from conversation.

5:00 P.M. The Poet Novelist.
Poets and novelists Ben Lerner (Leaving the Atocha Station), Eileen Myles (Inferno: A Poet’s Novel), and Sapphire (The Kid) explore the boundaries, possibilities, divergences and intersections of poetry and prose. Moderated by Camille Rankine, Manhattanville College.

5:00 P.M. Marriage and Monogamy
With marriage equality on everyone’s lips, it still seems valid to ask the question, “Why marriage?” and “Why monogamy?” Our authors weigh monogamy, marriage, its alternatives, and what it all means for how we live today. Syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage (The Commitment) has advocated “monogam-ish” relationships; anthropologist Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. (Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality), argues that monogamy isn't inherent to humans; Kristin Davis (The Manhattan Madam’s Guide to Sex), aka “The Manhattan Madam,” will provide her insights into the tangled web of sex and commitment; and Eric Klinenberg (Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone) examine what these changing attitudes look like at a societal level. Moderated by Kate Bolick (upcoming Among the Suitors: Single Women I Have Loved).

5:00 P.M. The Fragility of Electability: Campaigns, Character and Messing with Texas.
A conversation with Gail Collins (As Texas Goes . . . How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda), Jodi Kantor (The Obamas) and John MacArthur (The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America, or, Why A Progressive Presidency Is Impossible). Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

5:00 P.M. Enduring Unlikable Women.
Elissa Schappell (Blue Print), Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Dana Spiotta (Stone Arabia) write difficult, complex female characters. Join these authors in a reading and discussion that looks at the bad boy and the unlikable woman in literature and how they are reviled or celebrated by their audience and creators. Moderated by Meredith Walters, Brooklyn Public Library.

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New Yorkers: If you're not already enrolled in an institution of higher learning (or even if you are) we encourage you to check out the course listings on offer from the Brooklyn Institute. The Institute was started in 2011 as a way of taking liberal arts courses out of the classroom—many of their seminars are conducted in the back room of a Boerum Hill restaurant—and span subjects from Spinoza to Freud to realism in literature. This Fall, they're offering classes on the history, theory, and literature of zombies ("'Zombi' and the Politics of Representation"), a survey on the role of the female body across politics, history, and literature ("Writing on the Body"), and another on Kafka, Benjamin, and Max Brod. Podcasts and videos of previous classes are available on their website.

Anatole Broyard

Two weeks ago, Philip Roth took Wikipedia to task in an open letter on the New Yorker’s website for not letting him correct an error in a entry about one of his novels. The alleged error was about the inspiration for The Human Stain, which Roth claims—contrary to Wikipedia—was not based on editor Anatole Broyard. But in another open letter posted on Facebook, Broyard’s daughter responded to Roth, noting that “there was a legitimate reason that many reviewers of the book and movie drew the comparison to my dad’s life.” She added, “I don’t think it’s reasonable that Roth gets to dictate what conclusions other people draw about his characters, which is effectively what he was trying to do with his objection to Wikipedia’s description of the book as ‘allegedly’ having been inspired by my dad.”

Monica Lewinsky has reportedly landed a $12 million deal for her forthcoming tell-all about her affair with Bill Clinton. The book is supposed to contain three things that an earlier book about the scandal didn’t: “more salacious details about Lewinsky and Clinton, ostensible complaints by Clinton about his wife,” and previously unpublished love letters from Lewinsky to Clinton. As if all that weren’t gross enough, Slate points out that Lewinsky is getting only $3 million less than Bill Clinton was paid for his memoir.

New York Times Book Review editor, Bookforum contributor, and critic extraordinaire Parul Seghal reflects on her life in reading.

Neil Young has quit drugs and alcohol to finish his forthcoming memoir, Waging Heavy Peace.

Meanwhile, at Tablet, Bookforum contributor Daphne Merkin remember how high holidays and Manishewitz wine first taught her how to drink.

“Today I visited the cenotaph to Baudelaire, who sleeps at the center of Paris—in the shade of maples, ash, laurels, and conifers—at the Montparnasse Cemetery. I think I would like to be more Baudelairean, which is to say unafraid of the grim.” Poet Henri Cole keeps a diary for the New Yorker.


Bob Dylan

In response to protests from writers, artists and scholars, the New York Public Library has altered plans on the $300 million renovation of the flagship Fifth Avenue branch. Rather than move millions of volumes into the library into off-site storage in New Jersey, an $8 million donation has made it possible to build enough storage space in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to keep 3.3 of the library’s 4.5 million books in the building, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Film producer Scott Rudin, publishing veteran Frances Coady, and IAC chairman Barry Diller have formed a partnership with the startup company Atavist to form a new publishing venture. They will start off with a line of e-books.

Despite what British betting organization Ladbrooke’s thinks, literary insiders are guessing that Bob Dylan will probably not win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Apropos of Michael Chabon’s new novel, Slate wonders whether white authors can write effectively about black characters.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times wonders whether writing improves when it’s done in the buff.

Four months before Amanda Knox’s memoir is expected to hit shelves, ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito has released his own book about the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher while the girls were studying abroad in Perugia, Italy. According to the Guardian, the book “makes a slew of new claims about what he says was sloppy police work leading up to his conviction and what actually happened that night,” including several that contradict Knox’s.

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