Philip Gourevitch worked as a bear-skinner, Cynthia Ozick at an accounting firm, and Tobias Wolff as a farmhand—New Yorker contributors reflect on their summer jobs.
Kevin Barry has won the International Dublin IMPAC Award for his novel City of Bohane. Barry beat out Michel Houellebecq, Karen Russell, and Haruki Murakami for the $130,000 prize.
Documentarian Ken Burns has announced that he is going to film a six-hour adaptation of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Burns was inspired to do the project by the memory of his mother, who died of cancer when he was eleven. The documentary is slated to air on PBS over the course of three nights in 2015.
American Psycho star and fictional serial killer Patrick Bateman makes his literary debut with a write-up of M.E. Thomas’s Confessions of a Sociopath in the Slate Book Review: “On the day [Confessions] arrives, a doorman I haven’t seen before hands the package to me as I return to my building at 1 a.m. I take the elevator up to my apartment and wash my hands and sit in my cream leather chair and chase an Adderall with a J&B and read the book in one sitting.”
Small Canadian press Coach House Books gets some love from Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper.
If you are somebody who constantly finds yourself arguing over whether TV shows have any literary value, here’s some new fodder for discussion: The Writers Guild of America has selected their top “101 best written TV series of all time.” The Sopranos leads, followed by Seinfeld.
Library in Istanbul's Gezi Park
Taking a cue from Occupy Wall Street, more than fifteen Turkish publishers (including Sel Publishing House, which has previously faced obscenity charges for publishing books by William Burroughs) have stepped up to donate books to an impromptu library that’s being assembled in Gezi Park—the site of Turkey’s peaceful anti-government protests.
The manuscript of Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy has only been seen by several people other than the author himself, but it’s expected to sell for over a million dollars when it goes up for auction next month. In addition to notes and “extensive corrections,” the six-notebook manuscript includes “lively sketches of [Beckett’s] friend and mentor James Joyce, of himself, and of Charlie Chaplin.”
Joyce Carol Oates gets The Onion treatment: “As an author with a half century of literary success behind me, I can assure you the only way to make it in this industry is to meet as many publishers as you possibly can and then fuck them.”
Kurt Vonnegut thought Little Red Riding Hood was “too simple, too well-known, and too stupidly brutal” to work as a musical, and instead, in a letter to Jed Feuer, proposed setting an adapted version of it in a “backwoods, fundamentalist village run by a Jerry Falwell and vigilantes under his direction.” H/T Maud Newton.
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Aussie cultural critic Clive James argues that while “America does polite literary criticism well enough,” because it’s a country where “consensus is considered normal and controversy is confusing,” the U.S. could never match “the bitchery of British book reviewing and literary commentary.”
Amazon has announced that it will produce Alpha House, a TV show about a handful of “misbehaving senators living together as Washington DC roommates.” The show was written by Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau and will come out later this year.
Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt
A.M. Holmes beat out Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, and a handful of other worthy contenders to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction yesterday at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall in London. After receiving the £30,000 prize for her novel May We Be Forgiven, Holmes noted that this was “the first book award I've won." This might also be the last time the award is given under this name: Beginning next year, the prize will be known as the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, thanks to a three-year sponsorship from the liquer company.
Contrary to the way it is depicted in the new film Hannah Arendt, the friendship between Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt, argues Michelle Dean, was forged not in their discussions of “men and love” but in their sparring over ideas, and in their contentious relationships to the “circle of men who explain things.”
Investigative news outfit ProPublica has launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay an intern $22,000 to spend a semester researching paid and unpaid internships.
The Awl is hiring an editor-in-chief.
Amazon has launched launched a new site in India, though you won’t find any Amazon products on it. Because Indian laws don’t allow online multibrand retailers to sell their own wares, amazon.in will be merely a platform for third-party sellers.
According to Slate, disgraced journalist Jonah Lehrer (Proust Was a Neuroscientist) “is now shopping around a book proposal on the science—and perhaps the redemptive power—of love.”
Kenji Fujimoto, Kim Jong-Il's personal chef
In 1936, James Agee, accompanied by Walker Evans, took a commission from Fortune to write a long essay about sharecroppers in the rural South. The piece came in late and long—it ended up being around 30,000 words—and was never published, though it became the basis for Agee’s 1941 classic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. After being lost for decades, the manuscript was discovered, and is being published this week in its entirety by Melville House. For more on the book as a literary and journalistic artifact, read John Jeremiah Sullivan’s masterful essay on Cotton Tenants in the summer issue of Bookforum.
Military sniper and former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed by another veteran while at a shooting range last February, but that hasn’t stopped the release of Kyle’s second book, American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, which was released this week. For more on Kyle’s death, and his trajectory from military hero to bestselling author to gun-rights icon, read Nicholas Schmidle’s essay on him in the New Yorker.
Alexander McCall Smith, the bestselling author of “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” mysteries, has purchased a small chain of islands off the coast of his native Scotland. The author discovered the islands, known as the Cains of Coll, while on a sailing trip, and paid roughly $460,000 for them. "I intend to look after them and do nothing with them," Smith said. "I am going to protect them for what I hope will be forever."
Only six months after The Millions launched its digital publishing initiative, Boing Boing, the blog and “directory of wonderful things” has announced its own e-book imprint. The first Boing Boing title will be cultural critic Mark Dery’s All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters.
This summer, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento will host a show about San Francisco Renaissance men Robert Duncan and Jess Collins (a/k/a Jess, no last name), highlighting Duncan’s poetry, Jess’s visual art, and the poets and artists that surrounded them in the Bay Area during the '50s.
The new sponsor of the Women's Prize for Fiction.
For the next three years, Baileys liquor will sponsor what used to be known as the Orange Prize. The British-based prize awards nearly $46,000 to the year’s best female fiction writer. This year’s prize will be announced on Monday, and though Hilary Mantel is rumored to be the favorite, she’s up against stiff competition: Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, Kate Atkinson, and A.M. Holmes are also in the running.
Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda died nearly forty years ago. His body was exhumed about two months ago, and yesterday, a Chilean judge ordered police to find the man who may have poisoned him. The ruling is the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation into the poet’s death, and may confirm suspicions that Neruda was murdered by operatives working for then-dictator Augusto Pinochet. According to the Guardian, though Neruda’s cause of death was officially listed as prostate cancer, the story was cast into doubt when testimony surfaced suggesting that a CIA operative working with the Pinochet government may have been at the poet’s bedside when he died.
It’s a paradox: Why, at a moment when there is very little money to be found in writing and publishing, are MFA programs and writing tutorials booming like never before? At the Atlantic, Jon Reiner attributes the shift to the internet, and an unprecedented demand for content—even if there’s no money to support it.
The Justice Department will face off against Apple in court this week in the latest installment of the e-book price-fixing trial. And despite the best efforts of government lawyers, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson won’t be required to testify against Apple.
The New Yorker runs an excerpt of Gary Shteyngart’s forthcoming memoir, Little Failure, and aptly titles it “From the Diaries of a Pussy-Cake.”
Courtesy of The Medium, here’s a little eye candy: an excerpt of Two Rivers, a photo book about Central Asia by Carolyn Drake, with text by Elif Batuman.
Protests in Turkey, from the ROAR Collective
As anti-government protests rippled across Turkey, Elif Batuman went out into the streets to report on the occupation of a small park in the European neighborhood of Taksim by peaceful protesters. "This morning, forty thousand demonstrators are said to have crossed the Bosphorus Bridge from the Asian side of the city, to lend support in Taksim. Hundreds of backup police are reportedly being flown into Istanbul from all around the country... On my street, spirits seem to be high. Someone is playing 'Bella, Ciao' on a boom-box, and I can hear cheering and clapping. But every now and then the spring breeze carries a high, whistling, screaming sound, and the faint smell of pepper gas." For more on the protests as they develop, follow the #occupygezi hashtag on twitter.
The Millions's Bill Morris shares advice he received before attending his first BEA: "When I told my agent I was planning to attend a book fair for the first time in my life, this year's Book Expo America in New York, she said, 'I avoid it like the plague. It's basically a lot of people—primarily made up of aspiring writers—scrambling for free books.... BEA really is a madhouse.'"
It probably won't come as a surprise, but with an annual revenue of $37.9 billion, Google is the world's largest media owner.
The New York Times Magazine profiles National Book Award winer Column McCann, who shares his thoughts on writing a historical novel that "touches the present" and avoids "any stink of stasis."
The Paris Review praises Margarethe von Trotta's biopic of Hannah Arendt, one of the twentieth century's most influential thinkers, praising her for bringing "Arendt's work back into believable—and accessible—focus." For more on von Trotta and her long history of lefty filmmaking, read her interview with the Believer.
Thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali, a resident of New York, won the National Spelling Bee on Thursday for correctly spelling 'knaidel': a small mass of leavened dough.
Don Share has been named editor of Poetry Magazine, a position he will take over from Christian Wiman. A published poet and senior editor of the magazine, Share will be the twelth editor in Poetry’s 101-year history.
On Wednesday, Feminist Press and NYU's Fales Library released The Riot Grrl Collection, an assemblage of ephemera from the feminist underground punk movement that took hold in the nineties. The book was launched with Johanna Fateman, Lisa Darms, and Le Tigre lead singer Kathleen Hanna, who greeted the event with surprise. “It’s really weird to be in an archive right now, reading this ... it’s just really strange and yet totally awesome, because this shit could’ve ended up in garbage bags,” Hanna told the audience.
During a panel at BookExpo, Malcolm Gladwell shared his thoughts on the renovation of the flagship 42nd Street New York Public Library Branch, and they were not positive: “Every time I turn around, there’s some new extravagant renovation going on in the main building. Why? In my mind, the New York Public Library should be focused on keeping small libraries open, on its branches all over the city,” Gladwell remarked, then adding that “luxury condos would look wonderful there. Go back into the business of reaching people who do not have access to books. And that is not on the corner of 42nd and Fifth.”
Amazon has announced that it will open a major London office later this year that will be big enough to accomodate 1,600 employees.
Canadian publisher Arsenal Pulp Press is rushing its translation of the French graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color after the book’s adaptation won the top prize at Cannes last week.
Still from Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt
In a letter that recently went on sale in England, Rudyard Kipling admits that he may have borrowed sections of his story collection The Jungle Book from forgotten sources. Dated 1895 and addressed only to “madam,” Kipling writes, “it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen.” Dealer Andrusier Autographs is selling the Kipling letter for about $3,700.
The city of London has begun its search for the first-ever Young Poet Laureate.
Next year, the National Book Critics Circle will add best debut book to its list of awards, which already includes fiction, general nonfiction, autobiography, biography, criticism and poetry. The new prize will be named for the late critic John Leonard, "remembered...for his life-long encouragement of younger critics and his unwavering attention to debut writers.”
Former Workman publisher and Hyperion founder Bob Miller is starting a new imprint under the auspices of MacMillan. The “standalone company,” which does not yet have a name, will launch in 2015 and start publishing three nonfiction titles a month.
A.O. Scott praises Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt as an intellectual action movie: “in a manner not altogether dissimilar to the way Julie & Julia mastered the art of French cooking, Hannah Arendt conveys the glamour, charisma and difficulty of a certain kind of German thought... There is an undeniable nostalgic thrill in stepping into an era in New York when philosophers lived in apartments with Hudson River views, and smoking was permitted even in college lecture halls.” Hannah Arendt opens today at Film Forum.
Virginia Woolf, with T.S. Eliot.
What Happened to Sophie Wilder, The Group, and The Best of Everything: The Awl rounds up the best recommended reading for newly minted college grads.
Inspired by sites like Groupon and Gilt, Amazon and other online booksellers have started experimenting with flash sales for e-books, cutting prices by up to two-thirds for a day or two and featuring them on homepages. The strategy has been a major boon for publishers, and “at HarperCollins, executives said they have seen books designated as daily deals go from 11 copies sold in one day, to 11,000 copies the next.”
In an essay for Britain’s Daily Mail, Virginia Woolf’s great niece claims that her aunt suffered from anorexia, basing the diagnosis off her own experience with the illness.
Amazon has unveiled plans for its new corporate headquarters in downtown Seattle, which feature three giant five-floor steel and glass domes. The structure, which would take about six years to finish, took inspiration from a number of sites around the world, including “a zoo in Germany and gardens in Singapore.”
At the New York Times Book Review, former editor Sam Tanenhaus is reminded of Henry James’s heroine Daisy Miller while reading Amanda Knox’s memoir about being accused of murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Italy. “Like Knox, James’s American heroine left observers wondering whether her angelic exterior masked ‘a designing, an audacious, an unscrupulous young woman,’ even if she was ‘very unsophisticated,’ as James explains, ‘only a pretty American flirt.’”
Over the past decade or so, Latin American novelists have gained international renown for fiction that explores the long legacies of military dictatorships. But now that many of these countries are now on relatively stable democratic footing, wonders Sam Carter at the New Republic, what does the future hold for the continent’s novelists?
From the BBC comedy "Black Books," about a dysfunctional bookstore.
In 2014, Duke University Press will start publishing TSQ, the first non-medical journal dedicated to transgender issues.
Who says you can’t be a writer while working a totally unrelated day job? At the Billfold, Cassie Alexander itemizes all the weird jobs she held (delivery food driver, aquarium temp) before her novel was published.
Now that he's left the helm of the New York Times Book Review, Sam Tanenhaus has found the time to start tweeting.
After a series of mysterious high-level resignations, the Guardian asks what the hell is going on at Granta. This is what they found: “The situation was described by one insider as a ‘total shit storm,’ and by another as a ‘complete bloody disaster.’ It is understood to boil down to a desire by Granta's owner to save money, as the company continues to make a loss.”
If you’re looking for for book-related procrastination material on these lazy summer days, Galleycat recommends “Black Books,” “a classic British sitcom about a dysfunctional bookstore” that’s now streaming for free on Hulu and Netflix.
In this week’s Modern Love column in the New York Times, author Augusten Burroughs shares the story of marrying his literary agent, a feat he managed despite the fact that his new husband has “has read every word I’ve ever written, only a fraction of which I’ve published. He knows the parts of me that are wholly unsuitable for publication, and he still speaks to me.”
Meanwhile, the Observer wonders what the deal is with Luna Loupe, the Amazon-published author of twenty-five “completely bizarre, out-there paranormal sex novels.” The paper’s attention was piqued after the blog Laughing Squid featured Loupe’s Someone to Cuttle, a novel about a gay man who has a polyamorous relationship with a trio of shapeshifting cuttlefish.