Marie Calloway

Tyrant Books—which has published work by Brian Evenson, Blake Butler, and Sam Michel, among others—had plans to release What Purpose Did I Serve in Your Life, by the much-discussed author Marie Calloway, in June. But this week, Tyrant publisher Giancarlo DiTrapano received bad news from his printer, Sterling Pierce: “Due to the content, we are going to have to pass on printing [Calloway’s] book.”

Christopher Hitchens has only been dead for a little over a year, but he’s still going to be put on trial in a new book coming out in the UK this month. Richard Seymour's Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens will take Hitchens to task for his political views, in particular his move away from the left, and his support of the Iraq War and Bush-era policies. "It is written in the spirit of a trial," Seymour told the Guardian. "I do attempt to get a sense of the complexity and gifts of the man, but it is very clearly a prosecution, and you can guess my conclusion." There are no plans yet to release the book in the U.S.

Writer Janet Coleman is writing a series of reminiscences about what it was like to work at the New York Review of Books in its first years. Coleman worked at the magazine from 1963 to 1966, and explains Robert Silvers’s daily routine: “Mornings, he’d dig from his pockets semi-legible names and addresses on folded blue scraps of his checkbook and attach each of them to a semi-legible assignment draft. He exchanged long chatty calls with Advisory Editor Elizabeth Hardwick and George Plimpton, his best friend. He’d plow through the piles of new books and catalogs that arrived twice a day. He’d take and make calls to writers; sign on to lunches, book parties, social events. Sometimes he’d cop a piece of my bagel.”

At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Maria Bustillos reflects on the pleasures of reading distemperate, or flat-out repulsive, writers.

What’s proper etiquette upon being name-checked in a bad—and factually incorrect—book? Salon’s Cary Tennis advises.


Melville House

The National Book Foundation has announced several changes to the selection and awards process of the annual National Book Awards. There will now be both a long list of finalists announced in September, followed by a short list in October. Also, the judges on the selection committee will no longer be only writers, but will include booksellers, critics, and librarians.

The French Embassy is looking into opening a French language bookstore in Manhattan.

Melville House is hiring a managing editor. They’re asking for at least two years of book publishing experience and a willingness to “tolerate malarky.”

New Yorkers: This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of Triple Canopy’s move to Greenpoint, which they celebrated at the time by holding a marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans. Now, to celebrate, they’re holding... a marathon reading of The Making of Americans: “Over one weekend, an invited list of New York–based artists, writers, publishers, scholars, and other collaborators will gather in Greenpoint to perform the entirety of Stein’s text in a continuous read-in, expected to last 52 hours.” (Bookforum's Michael Miller will be among the readers.)

Williamsburg bookstore Spoonbill & Sugartown has become the second Brooklyn-based literary establishment to get a cameo in the HBO show Girls. (DUMBO-based bookstore PowerHouse also plays a role in the scene: they curated the books.)

What a Washington Post list of recommended books about D.C. (which is not to be confused with a best-of list) says about the city’s literary insecurities.


Poet and biographer Lisa Jarnot

On Thursday in New York, translator Susan Bernofsky will give what promises to be a fascinating lecture on Robert Walser’s microscripts at Artists Space Books and Talks.

After penning an essay titled “Why I Hate MFA Programs” five years ago, poet and Robert Duncan biographer Lisa Jarnot explains why she’s accepted a teaching position in Brooklyn College’s MFA program.

Lawrence Wright’s much-anticipated Scientology expose is out this week, and the Los Angeles Times offers an early look at the book, and the religion’s fascination with the cult of celebrity.

Condé Nast has unveiled new contracts designed to co-opt potential movie and TV profits from articles written by freelancers, the New York Times reports. Under several of the contracts viewed by the Times, if Condé Nast options an article, writers will receive at most $5,000 for a one-year option, and “if an article is developed into a major feature film, writers receive no more than 1 percent or $150,000 toward the purchase price.” Writers for places like The New Yorker and Wired have traditionally been allowed to keep the rights to their work in exchange for foregoing basic employee benefits like health insurance, but under the new arrangement, Condé Nast writers might be forced to accept “bottom-of-the-barrel” prices in order to get their pieces run at all.

New York Times media reporter David Carr does a Reddit "ask me anything" in which he airs his fears about the future of the internet: “I'm really worried that we are going to end up in our own verticals of information... I am always struck by the fact if I write something vaguely critical of Jon Stewart, I get emails written in language that makes even me blush, or if I get linked on Drudge, a whole hoard of people come over the hill trying to fill me with ack-ack. No one really wants to talk, no one is really asking a question, they are just telling me what a worthless idiot I am before moving on to the next drive-by.”


The National Book Critics Circle has announced its finalists for the publishing year 2012.

George Saunders at Greenlight Books. From chowmeyow's Flickr stream.

Cory Doctorow has posted a moving tribute to Aaron Swartz, the deeply innovative tech activist and Baffler contributing editor who committed suicide on Friday. And the Huffington Post details the federal charges Swartz faced for hacking.

With fans unable to get inside, George Saunders got the rock-star treatment at Brooklyn’s Greenlight Books last Thursday: “Though the event wasn’t slated to begin until 7:30, by 6:20, about 30 people had already gathered; by 6:40, staff members were encouraging fans to move to the back; by 10 after seven, the crowd had been warned that copies of Tenth of December were running low, and by the end of the night Greenlight sold out of the 300 they had on hand for the event.

Asked to contribute to a New York Times series on anxiety, Hungarian novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai responds with “a lyrical essay about the terrible meeting between boorishness and aggressiveness,” or better put, “a meditation on a type of violent person who produces in him ‘the deepest personal anxiety.’”

To mark the paperback release of IQ84, Random House UK has released a Haruki Murakami calendar app.

After impressing crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, Fifty Shades of Gray parody “50 Shades! The Musical,” arrived in the U.S. this weekend to sold-out shows in New York and New Jersey.


Marcel Proust

For the next two years, McDonald’s in Britain will give out children’s books with Happy Meals. The campaign is backed by the UK National Literacy Trust, and the chain expects to give out more than fifteen million fiction and non-fiction books by the end of 2015.

On Thursday, Doubleday announced that it is releasing the Fifty Shades of Gray series in hardcover for the first time at the end of the month, giving the trilogy an even more peculiar publication trajectory in the US (going from e-books to paperbacks to hardcovers). The move is timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, and the books will include certain bonus features like “themed endpapers (ties, masks, handcuffs),” “rough front pages” and “red silk ribbon markers.”

Seth Godin asks: "Does Kickstarter work as a platform for books?" Maybe, but not so well. “The Kickstarter platform is a bit of a nightmare for the independent author,” Godin writes.

We’re super psyched about the Morgan Library’s upcoming exhibition in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of the publication of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way. In addition to a “selection of the author's notebooks, preliminary drafts, galley-proofs, and other documents from the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France,” the show will feature “period postcards with depictions of Illiers, which served as the inspiration for Proust's fictional town Combray,” and “several letters between Proust and his mother, Jeanne.” Marcel Proust and Swann's Way opens on February 15, and will be up through the end of April.

The Complete Review wagers that Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone will be the biggest book of 2013—if not in buzz, at least in size. The book weighs in at 2,672 pages, and will be out this July.

If Edward St. Aubyn could force Barack Obama to read any book, it would be Das Kapital. (And if he could meet any character, if would be Isabel Archer—he would ask her to marry him.)


Poet Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco, a gay Latino poet of Cuban descent, has been selected to compose and deliver an original poem for Obama’s second swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol later this month. (Elizabeth Alexander was the president's first inaugural poet.) In an interview with the New York Times, Blanco explains his affinity for the president: “Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background. There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”

Kickstarter raised over $15 million for publishing projects last year, even though only a third of them actually got funded. Among the projects that did get funding, comic books were far and away the most successful: “1,170 comic book projects were attempted, but 542 succeeded–raising $9,242,233 for the year.”

A library in Kentucky offers classes on hog-butchering. Another in Illinois holds an annual “Star Wars Day,” and still another hosts virtual bowling nights. The Wall Street Journal looks at how libraries are struggling to “stay relevant” in the digital age.

Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur is coming to the big screen. An adaptation of the 1962 book—directed by Michael Polish and starring Jean-Marc Barr—will debut at Sundance later this month.

In the wake of Hamilton Nolan’s rant against so-called “confessional journalism,” the New Inquiry publishes a manifesto on how to do it correctly. Meanwhile, at Slate, Katie Roiphe throws in her two cents with pointers on how to write a memoir.


Imre Kertész

Other than the Bad Sex Awards, our other favorite annual prize is the Hatchet Job of the Year award, which is given out by the England-based aggregation site The Omnivore. (Not to be confused with our own Omnivore). The award celebrates the most negative review of the year, and this year’s shortlist features Ron Charles on Martin Amis’s Lionel Asbo and Suzanne Moore on Naomi Wolf’s Vagina. We hope the award goes to Zoe Heller, who took aim at Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton in The New York Review of Books. A sample: “Hindsight, alas, has had no sobering effect on Rushdie’s magisterial amour propre. An unembarrassed sense of what he is owed as an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting pervades his book.”

Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertész is one of Hungary’s most well-regarded novelists, so it came as somewhat of a surprise this week when he announced his plans to house his archive in Germany—particularly since much of Kertész’s writing has focused on his own history as a witness to the Holocaust. At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Hari Kunzru notes that the decision might not be, as some have claimed, “a profound gesture of reconciliation,” but rather an indicator of something more sinister. A Hungarian friend tells Kunzru that the author has “good reasons to believe that in Hungary his legacy wouldn’t be treated with as much respect as in Germany, as he is regarded by the current political elite as an 'unHungarian.'”

In its ongoing quest to ship every product with same-day delivery, Amazon has announced that it’s opening up a one-million-square-foot distribution center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, in early 2014.

Turkey has lifted a ban on more than 23,000 books.

For his latest Digested Read column, John Crace synthesizes all 880 pages of the fourth volume of T.S. Eliot’s letters into a far more manageable 500 words.


Penguin's new cover for George Orwell's 1984.

The Millions has unveiled their annual list of the year’s most anticipated books. In addition to books that we’ve already covered (the new George Saunders and Alejandro Zambra) we’re especially excited about the Renata Adler re-releases, Rachel Kushner, and Fiona Maazel’s forthcoming novels, and the Helen DeWitt novel that we hope will eventually be published. For other year-in-books previews, check out the Google Hangout conversation between Los Angeles Times critics David Ulin and Carolyn Kellogg.

It’s the week of George Saunders. Today marks the release of his short story collection Tenth of December, which made the cover of The New York Times Magazine—with the headline “George Saunders Just Wrote the Best Book You’ll Read This Year,” no less—and has been roundly praised by everyone from Zach Baron in Bookforum to Mary Karr, who told the Times that “I think he’s the best short-story writer in English alive.” Elsewhere, Slate runs a conversation with Saunders and his editor Andy Ward, and The Awl reproduces the New Yorker’s in-house style sheet for editing Saunders stories, which includes mandates like, “Hyphenate compounds made up of nouns of equal value: ‘elf-baby.’” For those who want to revisit Saunders’s older work, we recommend reading the pieces mentioned in the Times Magazine profile—an end-of-relationship essay called “Chicago Christmas, 1984”, and a story on Dubai’s “steroidal capitalism.”

In response to Hamilton Nolan’s takedown of confessional writing as a purely narcissistic endeavor that should be distinguished from journalism (but often isn’t), David Ulin makes an eloquent case for the necessity of thoughtful confessional work: “the paradox is that the more mindless the narcissism with which we are confronted, the more we need relentless confessional work. It’s the difference between art and artifice, between self-expression and self-importance...”

The brilliant new cover for George Orwell’s 1984.

Pablo Neruda lines + cat photos = best tumblr of 2013.


Master blurber (and documentary subject) Gary Shteyngart.

There’s a copy of Rick Moody’s Purple America for sale on E-Bay, and it’s not just any old copy. “THIS BOOK WAS OWNED BY BERNIE MADOFF,” the seller boasts.

The Penguin Press has announced its plans to publish Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, The Bleeding Edge. Publication date TBA. Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that the reclusive author “may be working” with director Paul Thomas Anderson on the director’s forthcoming film adaptation of Pynchon’s 2009 novel, Inherent Vice.

At The Awl, Maud Newton looks to novelist Muriel Spark’s characters for advice for the coming year. Insomniacs, take note of this bit of wisdom from Spark’s Ms. Hawkins: "Insomnia is not bad in itself. You can lie awake at night and think; the quality of insomnia depends entirely on what you decide to think of. Can you decide to think?— Yes you can. You can put your mind to anything most of the time. Who lives without problems every day? Why waste the nights on them?"

Edward Campion has released a short documentary/mockumentary about Gary Shteyngart—his life, career, and weakness for writing book blurbs. (“These are all people I’d be happy to be in a hot tub with,” he says of the writers he has endorsed.) Edmund White, A.M. Homes, Karen Russell, and many others...

The marquee act in the first digital edition of Newsweek is Tom Wolfe, who in “Eunuchs of the Universe” offers a searing indictment of how the world of finance went wrong.

One of the books featured on the back-page ad of this week’s New Yorker is Rosemary Okun’s An Imperfect Life, which is self-published.

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