Jack Gilbert, 1925-2012

Award-winning poet Jack Gilbert, whose Collected Poems was published in March of this year, has died at the age of 87.

With a list of guests that includes not just publishers but also Molly Ringwald and DJ Rabbi Darkside, the organizers of this year's National Book Awards dinner—which will be held tonight at Cipriani Wall Street—hope "to add more sex appeal to an industry that’s not exactly known for it."

While the merger between Penguin and Random House has mostly been met with cynicism and dismay, the consolidation of big publishing might actually be good news for smaller presses, which are becoming far better equipped to publish poetry, books in translation, and literary fiction. But even so, how will indie presses ever compete against the large advances that big houses offer? One solution, Salon argues, is to instate a national policy that would help smaller presses compete in an increasingly harsh open market. (Meanwhile, business journalist Adam Davidson reflects on the Penguin-Random House merger, the fight with Amazon, and how the publishing industry resembles the envelope industry circa 1900.)

At the Paris Review blog, Julian Tepper recalls Philip Roth’s reaction upon handing Roth a copy of his novel. “Yeah, this is great," said Roth. "But I would quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.” Two weeks later, Roth announced his retirement from writing.

How many biographers have fallen for their subjects? “Plenty,” says Slate. “But few act on it.”

"More than most literary phenomena, names in fiction seem very straightforward until you start to think about them. The simple question, ‘why does a name sound right?’ leads to a whole range of questions. Are there rules about how names are given to characters? Do naming practices differ in different periods? Are they specific to particular genres?" Colin Burrow reviews Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature.

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