Jane Austen bling. Photograph: The Department for Culture, Medi/PA
England’s Minister of Culture has barred singer Kelly Clarkson from leaving the country with a ring that once belonged to Jane Austen, claiming that the item is a significant part of England’s cultural history. Clarkson bought the ring at auction last year for over $200,000, and it is one of three existing pieces of jewelry known to have belonged to the writer. A temporary export ban is in place until September 30, and may be extended until the end of the year.
Stephen King is not only a brand, but the head of a literary dynasty: The New York Times profiles the King clan, which includes five published novelists and a dog named after Larry McMurtry.
Last May, George Saunders delivered the convocation speech to graduates at Syracuse University. This week, the New York Times found out about it and posted the transcript on their website.
At The Morning News, Doug Mack writes a lovely essay in defense of the travel guidebook, and its often-overlooked role as an instigator of social change: “What struck me most,” Mack says of his favorite of these books, is that “in a very tangible way, Europe on Five Dollars a Day had guided the very path of cultural change itself, its impact manifest in every hostel-lined Amsterdam alley, every Roman trattoria whose tables bore more guidebooks than wine bottles.”
Are Kurt Vonnegut’s novels in line to be adapted into vampire sexcapades? Possibly—Amazon announced this week that writers will now be able to license and sell fan fiction adapted from any of Vonnegut’s novels on the company’s new Kindle Worlds platform. In a statement to the press, a member of the Vonnegut estate described the move as “a natural extension of his legacy and a testament to the enduring popularity of his characters and stories. Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, is going to quickly become a Kindle Worlds favorite.”
Young Neil Gaiman
Because the target audience for Boris Kachka’s history of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux is, well, people who work in publishing, publisher Simon and Schuster has made it clear that if professional book people want to read Hothouse, they’re going to have to pay for it. In a glossy brochure sent out this week, Simon and Schuster announced that “since your requests for Hothouse have left us (gratefully) overwhelmed, we’ve instituted a No Free Copies policy–even if your name’s in the book.”
Westbourne Press, a small publisher based in the UK, is pushing up the publication date of Reza Aslan’s Zealot after a strange Fox News interview rocketed the book to the best-selling spot on Amazon in the US. In the interview—which got more than five million hits on Buzzfeed—presenter Lauren Green repeatedly asked Aslan why, as a Muslim, he felt qualified to write a book about Jesus.
President Obama angered indie booksellers around the country this week by appearing at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee as part of a nationwide jobs tour. In an open letter to the president, American Booksellers Association head Oren Teicher called the appearance “greatly misguided” and criticized the notion that Amazon is good for the American economy. "At a time when Main Street retailers, including indie bookstores, show promise of recovering from the recession,” Teicher wrote, “we are disheartened to see Amazon touted as a 'jobs creator' and its warehouse facility used as a backdrop for an important jobs speech, when, frankly, the exact opposite is true." Obama’s appearance was timed to coincide with news that Amazon is adding 7,000 new jobs across its service centers.
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, has acquired the archives of McSweeney’s, Dave Egger’s fifteen-year-old publishing company. The Ransom Center announced the news in a press release this week, saying that the archive includes “manuscripts of the books, essays and short stories it has published, as well as correspondence from its work with writers like David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, and Heidi Julavits.” The archive will be open to the public as soon as it’s been catalogued and processed.
Also in Dave Eggers news, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the real-life basis of Eggers’s post-Katrina novel Zeitoun, has been found not guilty of attempted first-degree murder after he was accused of hiring a hitman to murder his wife.
Finally, here are some photos of famous authors as teenagers.
Ramdasha Bikceem's "Gunk 4"; from the Riot Grrrl Collection, edited by Lisa Darms
Publishing Perspectives profiles South Korea’s Paju Bookcity—a 24-year-old, 10,000-person town near the border of South Korea that’s inhabited almost exclusively by book-industry employees. “It is as if the book trade has been reduced to a giant board game, laid out on quiet, tree-lined streets, interspersed with wooden benches. It is also a little like walking around a book kibbutz.”
Mary Gaitskill talks with Slant about the contemporary obsession with moms, the ascent of internet porn, and her forthcoming novel, which is “about a young girl learning to ride a horse.”
At the Paris Review blog, The Riot Grrrl Collection editor Lisa Darms explains how the movement “encouraged young women to form their own bands, self-publish personal stories and revolutionary agendas in zines, and carve out safe spaces in a violent, misogynist culture.” She then showcases a few selections from her recent Feminist Press book. For more on Riot Grrrl, read the Bookforum roundtable with Darms, Johanna Fateman, Kathleen Hanna, and Sheila Heti.
London firefighters are blaming the recent uptick in calls related to people getting trapped in handcuffs on the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray. In the past three years, firefighters have freed 79 people from handcuffs—leading one rescuer to dub the problem the "Fifty Shades effect."
Adelle Waldman rounds up her favorite sad young literary men throughout literature, and yes, the protagonist of Keith Gessen’s novel is among them.
If real blurbs aren’t available, it’s common practice for publishers in Russia to make them up. In an interview with a Russian news site, the head of the publishing house Yauza admitted, "advertising is advertising. A lot of books are printed with slogans claiming they had a certain rank on The New York Times Bestseller List, and no one checks whether it's true." And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: the story emerged after it was revealed that a popular “Swedish” novel translated into Russian was probably not written by a Swede, and that the blurbs on its cover from a “Swedish newspaper” had been made up.
Gary Shteyngart in his Google Glass, for The New Yorker
Amazon and Overstock.com fell into a pricing war last Thursday after Overstock ran an ad campaign announcing that it would mark all book prices down ten percent lower than Amazon’s for one week only. Not to be outdone, Amazon then knocked down its book prices, in some cases as much as 50 to 65 percent. As the Christian Science Monitor observes, “it's only the latest skirmish in the drama that has become the e-book pricing wars.”
At the New Yorker, Gary Shteyngart gets to take Google Glass out for a test run.
An opera written by Margaret Atwood about the life of Canadian writer, poet, and actor Pauline Johnson is set to open at the Vancouver Opera House next May. Atwood began writing the opera fifteen years ago, and was drawn to Johnson because "she had courage, brains and beauty, like many of the best operatic heroines. She also led a double life, in which a secret love, a jealous sister and an early death were elements.'' Johnson was born to a Mohawk chief and an English Quaker in 1861, and is a well-known figure in Canada.
Buzzfeed Books brings the listicle to literature with “The expectations versus reality of being a writer.”
Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth become the bestselling book on Amazon yesterday after a bizarre Fox News interview. Speaking with Aslan on Monday, Fox anchor Lauren Green confronted him about failing to disclose his Muslim faith (in fact Aslan reveals his faith on |http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114066/buzzfeeds-reza-aslan-video-fox-news-traffic-bonanza#|page tw|o of his new book), then remarked, “It still begs the question: Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?”
Historians have rallied to Howard Zinn’s defense after it was revealed that former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels emailed a state education official looking for assurance that Zinn’s book, People’s History of the United States, which Daniels described as a “truly execrable, antifactual piece of disinformation” was “not in use” in Indiana classrooms.
Giorgio Agamben in Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew.
Lydia Davis, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Harding, and Justin Torres share their favorite opening lines of novels.
Contrary to Wall Street expectations, Amazon came up short on predicted second-quarter earnings last week, making $7 million less than the quarter before. But Jeff Bezos isn’t concerned. As Forbes reports, though there was a small dip in Amazon’s stock, “this kind of thing isn’t unusual for Amazon, as the company’s margins tend to be razor-thin.”
In honor of the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth in 2016 (the author died in 1990) UK publisher John Murray will be publishing a collection of his letters, edited by Dahl biographer Donald Sturrock. The letters will span Dahl’s childhood in a British boarding school to his time working for Shell in East Africa to his years “working very loosely as a spy" in Washington, D.C. to the end of his life, when he spent up to two hours a day responding to fan mail.
Elle runs at long profile of Marisha Pessl, whose book Night Film, the follow-up to her hit debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, will be released next month.
In light of the news that Michel Houellebecq will be starring in a movie about his own disappearance, Flavorwire rounds up nine highbrow writers who also tried their hand at acting—or at least had quick cameos in movies. Our favorites examples include Susan Sontag and Saul Bellow’s appearances in Zelig, Salman Rushdie in 2007’s Then She Found Me, and George Plimpton’s role as “an uncredited Bedouin” in Lawrence of Arabia. We’d also like to add one more: Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben as Philip the Apostle in Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew.
After having the manuscript of his debut novel rejected forty-seven times, Irish author Donal Ryan was rewarded for his perseverance last week when The Spinning Heart was longlisted for the Man Booker, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. The novel, an account of the economic recession told from the perspective of twenty-one different characters in rural Ireland, was “plucked out of the slush pile” by an intern at Dublin’s Liliput Press, which ultimately published it.
Mispronouncing "Ben-ya-meen": One of Buzzfeed's comp lit fails.
MIT and JSTOR have convinced a federal court to delay the release of 8,000 Secret Service documents detailing the investigation that led to criminal charges against the late internet activist Aaron Swartz. The first batch of documents were supposed to be released on July 20, but thanks to the motion, they’re now expected to be ready in late August. Both organizations say that they need more time to redact the names of employees and descriptions of their computer networks. A U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., approved the release of the documents earlier this month following a Freedom of Information request by Wired editor Kevin Poulsen. Swartz committed suicide last January while fighting criminal charges for releasing millions of JSTOR documents into the public domain. He was 26.
It’s confirmed: Rosamund Pike will be playing the lead in the David Fincher-directed, Reese Witherspoon-produced adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which will be released in fall 2014.
On Monday, Buzzfeed quietly launched a “Books” section, which will be the new home for its books-related content. There’s no dedicated editor for the site, and instead of book reviews, it will publish mostly lists and “book identity features” as well as works in the public domain. One example is George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which was posted in its entirety on Buzzfeed in early July.
Also in Buzzfeed books news, the site has posted a list of “comp lit fails” after Stephen Colbert remarked on his show that he couldn’t wait for Buzzfeed to do a list of literary mishaps.
Margaret Eby, a Bookforum contributor, is now editing the New York Daily News's Page Views blog.
Here’s a list of all the humor pieces Woody Allen wrote for The New Republic back in the 1970s.
Junot Diaz has taken to the site Poetry Genius—an offshoot of the lyric-explaining site Rap Genius—to annotate a section of his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. In the section, Diaz explains everything from bauxite mining operations in the Dominican Republic to how a chance encounter led him to coin the phrase “Glasgow-ghetto”: “Don’t know why I felt I had to put Glasgow on blast except that at Rutgers I met this sister who was in Glasgow in the late 80s doing community work and she said to me If you think we have some big families go to Glasgow and that stuck with me. And that’s the way hearsay makes it into a novel.”
If the phrases “d’you think,” “panting slightly,” and “strode back” all appear in a novel by an author you’ve never heard of, there’s a chance J.K. Rowling wrote the book. At Yahoo, Chris Wilson locates the “15 stylistic fingerprints that link The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith to four novels by J. K. Rowling.”
During a meeting with his lawyer in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Wednesday, Edward Snowden was given a change of clothes and some reading material. In additional to several shirts and a new pair of jeans, Antatoly Kucherena brought Snowden a copy of Crime and Punishment. Kucherena has previously said he thought the book was relevant to Snowden’s situation, and that “it would be pleasant for him to read about just who is Raskolnikov.” “I don’t want to say that their internal conflicts are similar,” Kucherena remarked, “but all the same, I think it’s a world classic and it will be interesting for him.”
Little, Brown is getting set to republish seven books by former Paris Review editor George Plimpton. The books slated to come out in 2015 are Paper Lion, Out of My League, The Bogey Man, Mad Ducks and Bears, Shadow Box, Open Net, and One for the Record.
A New Yorker reader sends Sasha Frere-Jones (or Sasha Freire-Jones, as she calls him) a “concept-driven letter of complaint” that takes issue with the magazine’s excessive use of commas.
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is preparing to publish a memoir titled My Brief History (a play on his scientific opus, A Brief History of Time) about his life and work. In addition to touching on Hawking’s “two marriages and his pioneering work in the field of quantum cosmology,” the book will span “Hawking's early life in London and St Albans, his student years in Oxford and Cambridge, and the onset of motor-neurone disease shortly after his 21st birthday.”
The Bank of England has decided to put Jane Austen’s face on one side of the redesigned £10 note. On the other side of the bill, they’re going to print an Austen quote, but rather than go with one of the author's quips about class or money, the Bank is using this line from Pride and Prejudice: "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!"
Skylight Books owner Jeffrey Tambor
Back in the early days of his career, while working as an in-house reader at publisher Jonathan Cape, James Lasdun passed on a novel by an unknown author named “Jane Somers.” Unfortunately for him, “Jane Somers” turned out to be Doris Lessing, and the incident was quickly turned into a cautionary tale for publishers, and a major embarrassment for Lasdun. After decades of avoiding Lessing’s writing, Lasdun recounts how the incident has haunted him through the years—and how he has finally come around to reading her.
According to the New Republic, the literary equivalent of the hip-hop West Coast/East Coast beef is on: The Los Angeles Review of Books has declared war against the New York Review of Books over a review of Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers.
James Surowiecki reflects on what the demise of the Nook means for the future of Barnes and Noble.
Jim Crace, Tash Aw, Colum McCann, Ruth Ozeki, Colm Toibin and Jhumpa Lahiri are among the thirteen authors longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, which comes with a $58,000 bursary. To be eligible, the author must be writing in English, and a citizen of the British Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The Man Booker shortlist will be released in September, and the winner will be announced this October.
Jeffrey Tambor—who you might know as George Bluth, senior on Arrested Development—is now a part owner of Los Angeles indie bookshop Skylight Books.
Chuck Palahnuik has confirmed that he’s working on a sequel to Fight Club—and that it’s going to be a graphic novel. The author announced the news at a Comic Con panel last Friday, and elaborated on it in a recent email: “It will likely be a series of books that update the story ten years after the seeming end of Tyler Durden. Nowadays, Tyler is telling the story, lurking inside Jack, and ready to launch a come-back. Jack is oblivious. Marla is bored. Their marriage has run aground on the rocky coastline of middle-aged suburban boredom. It’s only when their little boy disappears, kidnapped by Tyler, that Jack is dragged back into the world of Mayhem.”
Norman Mailer's house
FSG's Work in Progress blog has asked six Farrar, Straus, and Giroux authors—Frank Bidart, Nicola Griffith, Jesse Bering, Maureen McLane, Carle Phillips, and Chris Adrian—"what books spoke to them when they were coming out." The answers are fantastic, and so is the Frank Bidart poem "Queer," printed here in full. (Related: Bidart, whose author photo was apparently taken by James Franco, is reviewed at Bookforum.com here.)
The news that Lonely Planet is laying off more than a third of its editorial staff has led to a sad but kind of cool new Twitter hashtag, #lpmemories. Current and former staffers have been chiming in with recollections of their time at the guidebook company, which range from one writer reminiscing about riding an “auto-rickshaw in Kathmandu to deliver travel guide ms to FedEx, delayed by goat sacrifice on airport runway” to another who remembers “swigging champagne in an Orissa jungle hut with Russian backpackers while elephants trumpeted outside.”
The Guardian is now accepting submissions for the second annual Not the Booker Prize. The rules are simple: they’re after “the most vibrant, the most compelling, the most surprising full-length novels written by Commonwealth citizens and scheduled for publication between 1 October 2012 and 30 September 2013—so no Americans, no poets and no arguing.”
At New York, editor Jonathan Galassi reflects on the storied history of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Norman Mailer’s former home in Provincetown, MA, is up for sale for $3.9 million. For the past six years, the red-brick house (which boasts the author’s study and basement boxing gym) has been home to the Norman Mailer Center, but that arangement ended earlier this year, when the organization was unable to come up with the cash to purchase the house.
ICANN, the organization responsible for allocating internet domain names, has decreed that Amazon will not be getting the .amazon suffix after protests in South America.
“Animal Lovers United,” “Misguided Social Media Marketers,” “Those Who Want to Talk About Movies,” and “Those Who Want to Complain About Stuff”: LitReactor assembles a guide to “the strangest and most unexpected Goodreads groups.”
Courtesy of the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator
Could Amazon become the victim of its own success? At Salon, Evan Hughes argues that if the internet behemoth puts bookstore chains out of business, then readers will have a hard time learning about new books. Hughes points out that surveys indicate that “roughly 60 percent of book sales—print and digital—now occur online. But buyers first discover their books online only about 17 percent of the time. Internet booksellers specifically, including Amazon, account for just 6 percent of discoveries. Where do readers learn about the titles they end up adding to the cart on Amazon? In many cases, at bookstores.”
On Saturday, Cormac McCarthy turned eighty. The author of Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy hasn’t released a novel since 2006. That’s because he’s been working on a screenplay for a movie called The Counselor, about an attorney who gets involved in drug trafficking. The film, which was directed by Ridley Scott, will be out this fall, and a print edition of the screenplay will be available in October.
At Flavorwire, Michelle Dean examines the curious phenomenon of the review written by the “white male critic... that seeks to correct certain gender imbalances in literature as a whole, and then ... fails utterly in the attempt.”
A previously unpublished story by a young Joseph Heller, “Almost Like Christmas,” will come out this week in the Strand Magazine.
For your enjoyment: The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator.
A judge in Mississippi has dismissed a case brought forward by the company that controls the rights to Faulkner’s writing against the film studio that released Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris. The case was filed earlier this year over a line in the movie, in which literary time-traveler Owen Wilson remarks, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” While Faulkner Literary Rights alleged that this was an unauthorized use of the ine from Requiem for a Nun, the judge wasn’t buying it, and in his ruling, remarked that he was "thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare The Sound and the Fury with Sharknado.”