Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood

Despite interest from the likes of Gus Van Sant and Bret Easton Ellis, British video artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood has been selected to direct the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Gray. Though Taylor-Wood—who, since her marriage, has gone by Taylor-Johnson—has only directed one feature-length film, a biopic about the early years of John Lennon, she is well-known for her photography and video art, which focus on themes of sexuality, death, and madness.

In an essay for the New York Times Book Review, Chloe Schama wonders why there are so many exposed female backs on the covers of new novels.

Over the past few weeks, Australian writer Kathryn Heyman has had an interesting back-and-forth with the editors of the London Review of Books about the paucity of female writers in their pages. After receiving a letter asking her to renew her subscription, Heyman declined, and sent off a hilarious letter bemoaning the LRB's dearth of women writers. In response, senior editor Paul Myerscough wrote a gracious note, commenting, that “despite the distress it causes us that the proportion of women in the paper remains so stubbornly low, the efforts we’ve made to change the situation have been hopelessly unsuccessful.”

In an interview with Canada’s National Post, 81-year-old Canadian writer Alice Munro said that she has more or less retired from writing. Munro told the paper that she’s "probably not going to write anymore." (In the past, Munro has announced her retirement only to later publish new work).

Last week, the Paris-based bookstore Shakespeare and Co. and the London-based White Review (whose editors were interviewed last year for Bookforum) awarded the bi-annual Paris Literary Prize to C.E. Smith for his novella Body Electric. The award, which was established in 2010, grants 10,000 euro to a novella written in English by a previously unpublished author from anywhere in the world. The previous winner was Rosa Rankin-Gee, who won for her book, The Last Kings of Sark.

After coming under fire for a Kickstarter campaign that raised $16,000 for a book critics called called a “manual for sexual abuse,” the fundraising company has decided to ban all so-called “seduction guides” and has announced that they’ve donated $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization.


Protests in Greece after the closure of the ERT, the state-run radio and TV broadcaster.

Sopranos creator David Chase once told one of his assistant producers that “I’ll never be truly happy in life . . . until I kill a man . . . not just kill a man, but with my bare hands.” Ken Tucker reviews Brett Martin's Difficult Men—about the producers of Mad Men, The Wire, and other TV series—in the latest issue of Bookforum.

Brazilian academics have applied techniques of analysis devised for studying online social networks to Homer’s Odyssey and found “good evidence that the Odyssey is based, at least in part, on a real social network and so must be a mixture of myth and fact.” To conduct their study, the team examined the relationships between the 342 characters in the book, and the more than 1,700 relationships between them. They found that, like real-life social networks at the time, the social world depicted in the book was “small, highly clustered, slightly hierarchical and resilient to random attacks.”

A video of a violinist playing in the offices of Greece’s state broadcaster following the government closure of the broadcaster—and the firing of 2,600 of its employees—has gone viral and mobilized international support for Greek journalists.

Who goes to a gun show for reading material? Many gun nuts do, reports Patrick Wensink in a very strange dispatch for Salon. Upon arriving at the annual Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, Wensink was shocked to find “a thriving chapbook culture while surrounded by hollow-point bullets and guys spitting tobacco into Mountain Dew bottles. The gun show’s book booth was four tables long and jammed with racks of chapbooks,” including titles like Improvised Rocket Motors, Homebrew TNT, Combat Knife Throwing, and, our favorite, Poor Man’s James Bond. For more on the topic, read Jeff Sharlet on Dan Baum's Gun Guys from our Feb/March issue.

If, per Roland Barthes’s famous dictum, the author is really dead, then why is our culture so fascinated with literary celebrity?

Book Riot’s readers have voted Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series to the top of their “most hated” book list—with Catcher in the Rye as a close second.

A blogger who successfully raised $2,000 on Kickstarter to publish a book on the "art" of picking up women has come under attack on the internet. New Statesman has described Above The Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women as “a manual for sexual assault” (you can read excerpts here to see why) and raised the question of whether Kickstarter should be more judicious in monitoring publishing projects.


Audiobook narrator Simon Vance

New York mayoral candidate Christine Quinn's new memoir, With Patience and Fortitude, has sold only about 100 copies in bookstores since it was released on June 11.

Palestinian writers Ali Abukhattab and Samah al-Sheikh have been refused Visas to the UK to participate in a two-week festival celebrating contemporary Arabic art. As part of the second annual Shubbak Festival, the couple were supposed to discuss their writing and literature "in the besieged Gaza Strip" at the ICA in London. Palestinian authorities were vague about the reasons for refusing the visas, telling organizers that the festival did not qualify as official “business.”

You can’t buy an e-book version of Stephen King’s novel Joyland, but thanks to book pirates, you can download an illegal version of it—along with every other Stephen King novel in existence.

San Francisco startup Parakweet has received $2 million in funding to develop BookVibe, a book-recommendation service that bases its suggestions on information drawn from social media. According to its creators, "the system taps into hundreds of millions of organic updates on Twitter, Facebook, and more and identifies certain behaviors like 'intent to read,' 'read,' and 'recommend.' It factors in users’ personal interests, their online behavior, and the interests and affinities of people in their social graph..."

In a curt letter to the New York Times responding to a piece about sexism in the literary arts, Jonathan Franzen states gender imalance is worse in New York's theater world than it is in publishing.

At Publishers Weekly, librarian Peter Brantley has put out a call to Kickstart a new library journal.

The Huffington Post interviews audiobook king Simon Vance, winner of ten Audie Awards and the voice of more than 450 audiobooks. Vance talks preparation (he drinks a concoction of lemon, ginger, cayenne, and honey to ready his voice for reading), his early years at the BBC, and how he decides what a character is going to sound like: “My first anchor will be the information given in the text by the author—Dickens is particularly good at painting the picture of a character, giving me some idea of his/her physical characteristics and social status even before they open their mouth.”


In National Geographic, Jonathan Franzen covers the slaughter of migrating songbirds in the Mediterranean.

Vice magazine has a reputation for being shameless about their content, but yesterday, the magazine made the rare move of pulling a photo-essay after it inspired a series of outraged responses. The feature, a fashion spread called "Last Words," re-created the suicides of seven female literary icons: Virginia Woolf, Iris Chang, Dorothy Parker, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sylvia Plath, Sanmao, and Elise Cowen. After being roundly berated, the magazine released a sheepish apology and pulled the feature from their website. The photo spread remains in the print edition, which has already gone on sale.

Bookforum holds a Riot Grrrl Roundtable: Lisa Darms, Johanna Fateman, Kathleen Hanna and Sheila Heti discuss the new Riot Grrrl Collection and take stock of punk feminism.

Granta is currently hosting a literary week in Nairobi, where the magazine will launch its latest issue, "Best of Young British Novelists 4," but the literary magazine continues to show signs of turmoil. After a recent flurry of departures, two more people are leaving the journal: sales and marketing director Brigid Macleod and sales manager Sharon Murphy.

In addition to being a writer, a new book reveals that Ernest Hemingway was also a failed KGB spy. According to the authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, Hemingway was briefly recruited as a "dilettante spy" in 1941 before taking a trip to China. He was nicknamed "Argo," and "repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help" Soviet agents he met in London and Havana. Despite Hemingway's enthusiasm, his work as a KGB spy was short-lived: he failed to "give us any political information" and was never "verified in practical work."

The New York Times profiles Luke Jankow, former rocker and "heir apparent" to the powerful literary agent Morton L. Janklow. Janklow talks with the Times about opening for Ted Nugent, growing up in "the epicenter of literary Manhattan" and the New York publishing industry: "I'm not part of their club... I just showed up. I wasn't an English major at Yale. My summer job wasn't at The New Yorker, even though I am a fan. I'm just a weird Martian to them, I guess."


J.D. Salinger

Ira Silverberg, the director of literature programs for the National Endowment for the Arts, has announced that he’ll be leaving his position on July 11. Silverberg, who has been an influential publisher (at Grove Press) and a literary agent (at Sterling Lord), says he plans to return to New York. He’ll be temporarily replaced by NEA literature program officer Amy Stolls.

Details about Shane Salerno's forthcoming J.D. Salinger documentary, which has been eight years in the making, have been shrouded in secrecy. The Weinstein Company has now released of the film’s trailer, but don't watch it hoping for any major revelations.

And elsewhere in literary film news, The New Yorker runs an excerpt of scenes Cormac McCarthy wrote for the upcoming Ridley Scott film, The Counselor.

In response to the all-male editors cover of Post magazine, Jessica Grose considers the question of why people don’t think women’s magazines run serious journalism.

Yale has acquired a rare collection of six hundred books and manuscripts relating to the cultural and intellectual history of English law. The archive is ten times as large at the Library of Congress’s collection and includes a number of rare and odd finds, including “a pocket-size 14th-century handwritten copy of Magna Carta, the first book on the legal rights of women published in England, letters from the 18th-century jurist William Blackstone and papers belonging to a real-life London lawyer praised by Charles Dickens’s fictional yes-man Uriah Heep.”

For the first time since his debut novel V, Thomas Pynchon has set a novel primarily in New York. The Atlantic looks at Pynchon’s personal history in New York, and contemplates why he’s returning to it with Bleeding Edge.


Marie Calloway

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Barton Gellman has signed a deal with Penguin Press to write a book about the expansion of government surveillance programs in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Gellman recently co-authored an article for the Washington Post about the NSA security leak and the existence of a massive internet surveillance program called Prism.

Marie Calloway sits down for the Nervous Breakdown’s Six Question Sex Interview and talks about Silvia Federici, childhood masturbation, and the relationship between social anxiety and unfulfilling sex.

Neil Gaiman is taking a “sabbatical” from social media. Speaking to the Guardian, he announced that he’ll be taking six months off to ”concentrate on my day job: making things up."

The words “tweet,” “e-reader” and “crowdsourcing” are now in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Avril Danica Haines, recently appointed to be the second-in-command at the CIA, may have worked in the White House counsel’s office, but the Daily Beast saw fit to highlight another aspect of her professional history: As Laura Miller succinctly put it at Salon, “If by any chance you were heartened by the news that the new No. 2 official at the CIA is not only female but also used to co-own an independent bookstore (and therefore might harbor some flickering belief in civil liberties), the Daily Beast is on hand to harsh your buzz.”

Greece has shut down its entire public broadcasting system, the ERT, allegedly in response to EU demands to shed 2,000 civil servants by the summer’s end. But as protesters flanked the corporation’s headquarters in Athens, TV and radio journalists refused to go quietly: as of last week, many have continued broadcasting online and on digital frequencies.


Philipp Meyer's comic book for the blind

After going broke on a previous book tour, Colombian poet Raffael Medina Brochero has offered to sell his testicles for $20,000 to fund a “Poetry for Peace” tour through Europe.

Bookforum contributor and newly-minted YA book publisher Lizzie Skurnick has announced the fall list for Lizzie Skurnick Books, which includes re-releases by “Y.A. greats Lois Duncan, M.E. Kerr, Ellen Conford, Lila Perl, Sandra Scoppettone and Berthe Amoss, and MacArthur 'genius' award-winner Ernest J. Gaines."

To celebrate the release of Tao Lin’s latest novel—which landed him a five-figure book dealNew York Magazine’s Rachel White decides to stay up all night and watch the author do adderall: ”Lin sits at a vanity turned desk, decorated with melted candles and lightbulbs covered in wax. His eyes are glimmery, and his DIY haircut is fuzzy and discordant. He is pushing around the 120 milligrams of Adderall he will take at some point tonight.”

A Copenhagen-based interaction designer has created the first comic book for the blind.

New studies find that high schoolers are reading less challenging books than their predecessors did.

The Daily Beast wonders whether big publishing houses still put money behind splashy debuts, or if they just use "independent presses as a farm league to scout for talent."

"The fiction read in summer is almost altogether of the light sort,” a Massachusetts librarian wrote in 1894. “Standard authors and serious writers of modern fiction are rarely called for.” The Boston Globe Ideas section traces the history of summer reading.

New Yorkers: Today is the final day of the amazing exhibition "Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets" at Tibor de Nagy Gallery. The show examines Freilicher's pivotal role among the poets of the New York School, particularly John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara, along with Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler." In addition to paintings, videos of and correspondence by the artist and the authors are on display.


Sotheby’s held a literary auction on Tuesday, and a handful of sales exceeded the auction house’s wildest expectations. Among the notable transactions, a first edition of Montaigne’s 1595 collection Les Essays went for $125,000 (it was estimated to sell for between $10,000 and $20,000); a little-known F. Scott Fitzgerald book, Flappers and Philosophers, went for $118,750 (far more than the anticipated $60,000); and a lot that included an early short story and twenty-one letters by David Foster Wallace went for $125,000—well above the predicted $10,000 to $15,000. One of the rare items that didn’t sell was William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize, was was expected to go for anywhere between half a million and a million dollars.

James Franco has signed on to star alongside Rachel McAdams, Benicio del Toro, and Paul Giamatti in an adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1943 children’s classic, The Little Prince.

Even though sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have spiked dramatically since news broke that the government is collecting vast amounts of citizens’ personal data, legal scholar Daniel Solove makes a subtle and convincing argument in favor of reading Kafka to fully understand the dangers of unchecked government bureaucracy.

In what could very well be a monumental decision on unpaid internships, a Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that Fox Searchlight had broken the law by not paying production interns on the set of the movie Black Swan. Under federal law, internships can only be unpaid if the work is similar to vocational training, if the intern actually benefits from the work, and if the intern’s role doesn’t displace that of regular employees. So is this the beginning of an intern-rights movement? Perhaps: Responding to the news, Intern Nation author Ross Perlin tweeted, “HUGE victory for interns across America.”

On the occasion of New York Review Books releasing a new Sartre collection, Michelle Dean reflects on the philosopher’s legacy as it relates to mansplaining college boyfriends.


Lou Li, founder of Qidian

“The rich kids have better gas masks”; “pepper spray is good for your skin”: as protesters camp out in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, novelist Elif Shafak heads to Gezi Park to read the revolutionary writing on the walls.

“We are entering a new golden age of magazine publishing,” trumpets the summer issue of Port Magazine, though to judge that issue by its cover, very little seems new about either the magazine or our current age of publishing. Of the six editors featured, none are women, and there are only two female contributors in the entire magazine.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic adds to its growing list of ridiculous gender trend stories with a piece on how successful female writers have managed to balance their personal and professional lives by only having one child. “It was only when I was working on a book investigating what it means to have, and to be, an only child that I realized how many of the writers I revere had only children themselves,” writes Lauren Sandler. “Alongside Sontag: Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Willis, and more.” More interesting than the article itself is the comments section, which has already attracted responses from Kate Bollick, Jane Smiley, and Zadie Smith, who argues that “the idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd. What IS a threat to all women's freedoms is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker, or nurse.”

Lou Li, the founder of China’s largest literary website, has been arrested. The site, Qidian, works by allowing writers to post their stories, and to sell them if they become popular enough. It’s still unclear why Lou was arrested, but some sources have said that he was illegally selling copyrighted materal, while others suggested that he was illegally accepting bribes.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Review of Books, here's an interview with New York Review of Books founder Robert Silvers.

Scarlett Johansson has filed suit against a French author for publishing a book featuring a Scarlett Johansson-like character. The Independent reports that “the book in question, The First Thing We Look At... concerns a mysterious woman who looks just like Ms Johansson, who asks for help at the house of a car mechanic in a village in the Somme, in northern France.” The author, Grégoire Delacourt, told the French paper Le Figaro that he is “stupefied” by the suit, and that he’s disappointed about the way things turned out: “I was hoping that she might send me flowers because this book is, in a way, a declaration of love.”


Judy Blume

At the London Review of Books blog, Charles Hartman reflects on what it feels like when a poet discovers that one of his poems has been plagiarized.

The Library of Congress is expected to announce this week that Natasha Trethewey will spend another year as the national Poet Laureate. According to the New York Times, in addition to working on a memoir and also serving as the poet laureate of her home state of Mississippi, Trethewey will spend the year travelling around the country and writing "a series of reports exploring societal issues through poetry that are to appear on 'The PBS NewsHour.'"

We have been deeply enjoying the Los Angeles Review of Books's awesome video interview section, which has recently featured conversations with poets Mary Jo Bang and Stephen Burt.

In an essay for Vogue, Sheila Heti writes about the particular role Judy Blume played in her childhood.

Tin House has run an excellent conversation between Parul Seghal and Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who talks about writing fiction in the U.S. versus Nigeria, and why discussions about race make Americans so uncomfortable.

In case you haven't been following the NSA leak case, here's a roundup of recommended reading. In the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald has a long piece about whistleblower Edward Snowden (who's currently camping out in a hotel room in Hong Kong), while the Washington Post wonders, "Has the US become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum?" To learn more about the machinations of government spying vis-a-vis technology, we also recommend Sarah Resnick's interview with privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum for the OCCUPY Gazette; and for a general overview of the Obama administration's complicated relationship to transparency and spying, read Sarah Leonard on the subject in the New Inquiry.

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