Marilyn Monroe, photo by John Florea

Zach Seward explains how Google Reader helps Iranians get around censorship—and why the service’s demise will be catastrophic for reading in Iran.

Don’t date an intern, don’t tell other journalists about your relationship, and don’t get involved with somebody working your beat—Ann Friedman lays out the rules for journalists dating other journalists.

A new literary prize is born: In an announcement this week at the British Library, the UK-based Folio Society broke the news that it would sponsor the Literature Prize, a new $60,000 award dedicated to celebrating “the best English-language fiction from around the world.” The inaugural prize will be presented in March 2014.

Meanwhile, Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng has won the 2012 Man Asian prize for his novel, The Garden of Evening Mists.

And on a related note, this seems like an opportune moment to recommend James English’s The Economy of Prestige, a fascinating account of “the remarkable ascendancy of prizes in literature and the arts.” We’re about a hundred pages in and really enjoying it.

According to a Christie’s auction catalog detailing the contents of Marilyn Monroe’s personal library at the time of her death, the actress was a voracious reader, with a liking for European and mid-century American fiction, psychology, religion, and Russian novels.


Barbara Kingsolver, one of the finalists for the Women's Prize for Fiction

The longlist for the Women’s Fiction Prize (formerly the Orange Fiction Prize) was released this week, and Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, Sheila Heti, and Barbara Kingsolver are contenders for the $45,000 prize. The winner will be announced in June.

Given how many enemies Amazon has, why does it now have the best reputation of any U.S. company?

News Corp says that it’s going to pump $2.6 billion into its new publishing arm, which includes more than 170 newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, so that it is debt-free when it separates from the company's more lucrative cable networks this summer.

A senior acquisitions editor at the University of Minnesota Press explains the competing interests of a university press—such as profits, scholarly merit and intellectual interest—and how they end up choosing the books they publish.

As far as list linkbait goes, this one is pretty good: Flavorwire on “Ten Women Who Should be Writing for Harper’s.”

Random House has changed controversial contract terms for three of its digital-only imprints after writers reacted against them. Among the major tweaks is the definition of what it means to be "out of print: in the digital age: According to the new terms, "if sales fall below 300 copies over the 12 months preceding the demand," the author can demand that the rights be returned to them.


An architectural mock-up for Rem Koolhaas's National Library in Qatar

Nick Yarris, a former death row inmate who was exonerated after 21 years in solitary confinement, has filed suit against HarperCollins for yanking his life story, Seven Days to Live, off shelves after he was arrested again for growing marijuana. He’s suing the publisher for breach of contract, and trying to get the book back into print.

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 15.

When individuals escape from a fundamentalist religion or cult and manage to land a book deal, the writer they most often end up working with is Lisa Pulitzer, the “midwife of harrowing memoirs.” Pulitzer has co-authored two books—one having to do with a polygamous sect, the other with Scientology—and is currently working on another about the Westboro Baptist Church. Pulitzer has no personal ties to cults, according to a New York Times profile; she got to where she is in part because “she has a motherly presence that is comforting to women who are about to expose raw truths of a sordid past, allowing her to establish a level of trust with them quickly.”

Rem Koolhaas will be building the new National Library in Qatar.

As cardinals convene in the Vatican to elect a new Pope, Adam Thirlwell, at the Paris Review blog, talks with author Francisco Pacifico about what it means to write a funny Catholic novel, and how to make a book sound “like Ratzinger singing ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’”


Kenneth Goldsmith

How many copies need to be sold before a book qualifies as an Amazon “bestseller”? Amazon won’t say, but Publisher’s Weekly did their own calculations and figured out that “a title in Amazon’s top five averages 1,050 print copies sold across all channels, including other retailers, on a typical day. And because the general industry thinking is that Amazon accounts for about 30% of print sales, that means it likely takes around 300 copies per day to reach Amazon’s top five, depending on the day of the week and the time of year.”

"Should people be writing for free?" Gawker's Cord Jefferson weighs in.

Given that the internet is available to us at virtually all times—as writer Alex Mar discovered while doing a residency at the supposedly “internet-free” MacDowell Colony—are we ever able to avoid it?

Poet Kenneth Goldsmith goes on NPR to talk about uncreative writing and plagiarism in literature.

The Paris Review Daily’s Michael McGrath reports from AWP: “Of course one of the painfully ironic realities of a writing conference is the thousands of introverted attendees who travel great distances, get themselves to the city, out of their hotel room, into the bar basement, on the cusp of an encounter, only to divert eye contact at the last minute, feign a phone call or investigate the bottom of their pint glass.”

Filmmaker Danny Boyle tells the Guardian that he’s working on a sequel to Trainspotting based on Porno, Irvine Welsh’s 2002 followup to his hit debut.


Fyodor Dostoevsky's wife, Anna.

The Slate Book Review’s Dan Kois breaks down how he calculates how much to pay writers. Among more predictable factors (“how much I love or think I will love the piece,” “how little I think I can get away with paying”) is an especially interesting one: “whether the writer has friends who I have also assigned pieces to who might tell her how much I paid them.” Melville House executive editor Kelly Burdick makes the point that “it makes me think that we’ve all discounted gossip as a reliable threat for underpayment.”

Meanwhile, at the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates considers when it’s worth working for free.

With it’s $150,000 prize, can the Donald Windham-Sandy M Campbell Literature Prizes (awarded for the first time this year) compete with the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Billfold breaks down the economics of writing and self-publishing an 70,000-word supernatural romance novel.

The Moscow News has an article about the wives behind the novelists: ”Russia's most celebrated writers—including Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn and Mandelstam—are often depicted as solitary geniuses. But many of their works were the fruits of creative partnerships with their wives. Far from being passive typists, they served as editors, researchers, translators, publishers and more.”

At Salon, Laura Miller writes about a $50 million donation to the University of Michigan’s creative-writing program, and argues that it's money wasted. Though programs can provide supportive environments for promising writers, she argues, they "have difficulty imparting to their students a central truth of most authors’ lives: Nobody cares about your work. When it comes to books, the supply is much larger than the demand.”


Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.

Are literary novelists too embarrassed by the prospect of writing seriously about sex to give it a real shot?

Not only does Amazon want to be the world’s biggest book retailer, it also wants to control the .book internet domain. The Association of American Publishers took Amazon to task for the move in a letter to ICANN, the organization that oversees the distribution of internet domain names. In the letter, a lawyer for the AAP protested the application, concluding, “in short, Amazon makes clear that it seeks exclusive control of the “.book” string solely for its own business purposes, notwithstanding the broad range of other companies, organizations and individuals that have diverse interests in the use of this.”

Does Sherlock Holmes belong in the public domain? A new lawsuit takes up the question.

At The Awl, Choire Sicha notes that the acknowledgements page for Sheryl Sandberg's new book runs to seven-and-a-half pages and thanks more than 140 people. When did elaborate acknowledgements become the norm? According to Claire B. Potter, while they used to be rare (or minimal), “by the 1980's, the acknowledgements section increasingly became a telephone book of family members, one’s graduate student cohort...every person who laid eyes on any piece of the manuscript, ever, from proposal stage to indexing, and everyone who cooked or cleaned for the author.”

Fan letters written to Mark Twain between 1863 and his death in 1910 are going to be published as a book. Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers will include correspondence as well as letters he annotated but never replied to.


Michelle Orange

Where are all the great female cultural critics? The Slate Book Review considers the question in light of Michelle Orange’s new essay collection.

Julian Barnes ruffled feathers among this British literati this week by claiming that compared to their foreign counterparts, Brits are especially bad at writing about sex. Since the ban was lifted on Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Barnes says that there’s "not just a writerly desire, but a commercial obligation to write in a detailed way about sex.” And that, he continues, has created its own set of problems: "Sometimes all that happened was that the misleading old euphemisms were replaced by the misleading new cliches."

Writer Abigail Samoun and artist Elizabeth Haidle have started a Kickstarter project in an attempt to raise $7,450 to self-publish a graphic novel about visionary Serbian scientist and Thomas Edison rival Nikola Tesla.

New York Magazine poses twenty-one questions to Richard Hell, author of the new memoir I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp.

Amelia Gray’s Threats, Laird Hunt’s Kind One, T. Geronimo Johnson's Hold It 'Til It Hurts, Thomas Mallon’s Watergate, and Benjamin Alire Senz’s Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club are the five contenders for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award.

Mohsin Hamid talks to the Atlantic about taking fitness tips from Haruki Murakami.


Banker-turned-novelist Amish Tripathi has scored an unprecedented $1 million advance from an Indian publisher for his forthcoming trilogy. The Guardian explains: “Tripathi is one of a new wave of writers selling huge quantities of books which mix reimagined ancient Hindu myths, history, narrative and spiritual wisdom [to] retell stories often drawn from the everyday experiences of middle-class Indian youth in simple language.”

Citing financial pressures, the Washington Post has announced that starting next Monday, it will begin running sponsored content on its website. Ponyter wryly notes that “the challenges related to publishing sponsored content would almost certainly be a topic addressed by the Washington Post ombudsperson—except the paper eliminated that position last week.”

Philip Roth’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey, is celebrating the writer’s eightieth birthday on March 19 with Roth-themed bus trips around the city. For $35, the tour will take participants to Roth’s old high school, the local courthouse, and “various spots in the Weequahic neighborhood, where Mr. Roth was born and raised.”

The “largest literary conference in North America” kicks off tomorrow in Boston, but if you can’t make AWP this year, Seth Oelbaum at HTMLGiant assures you there’s no need to worry: “AWP has little relation to literature,” he writes in an essay complaining about the event’s existence. “Only around one percent of the attendees make literature.”

Susan Orlean’s next book is about the Los Angeles Central Public Library, and the 1986 fire that nearly destroyed it.

Two hundred flame retardant, asbestos-bound copies of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 are on sale at AbeBooks for $20,000 a pop.


New Yorkers: If you’re free tonight, check out the fourth Double Take reading series, organized by Bookforum’s own Albert Mobilio. The event asks three pairs of writers to read original writing about shared experiences. Tonight’s event will see Rick Moody and Tim Davis singing about the dinner where they met, John Yau and Eugene Lim remembering Robert Creeley’s memorial service, and Charles Bernstein and Elizabeth Willis discussing “the obvious.”

VIDA has released its annual count of reviewer gender ratios in publications ranging from the New Yorker to the Boston Review (sadly, Bookforum was not included). While the numbers remain depressingly skewed toward men, there are a few highlights in terms of gender parity: Tin House is fairly equal; and while the New York Times Book Review remains male-heavy, it is inching closer to the fifty-fifty ratio.

The musical adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude will debut in Dallas this week before eventually making its way to the Public Theater in New York in 2014.

Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press is going to start publishing essay collections and literary nonfiction in addition to fiction and poetry.

The Believer has released its shortlist for the 2012 Believer Book Award. The nominees are (drumroll) Tamara Faith Berger’s Maidenhead, Barbara Browning’s I’m Trying to Reach You, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, Jim Krusoe’s Parsifal, and Sergio de la Pava’s A Naked Singularity. The winner will be announced in the May issue of the Believer.

James Salter and Tom McCarthy are among the ten winners of the inaugural Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes. The award, which comes with a whopping $150,000 bursary, is granted by Yale to "English-language writers at all stages of their careers for outstanding achievement in the fields of fiction, non-fiction and drama."


After a year marred by plagiarism scandals that led him to give up his staff position at the New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer is facing more bad news: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has announced that, “after an internal review uncovered significant problems” with Lehrer’s second book,How We Decide, it will pull the book from shelves. HMH has “no plans to reissue it in the future,” and will offer refunds to people who already purchased the book.

By looking at mutations in language like they do mutations in genes, geneticists have roughly estimated that Homer composed the Iliad in “762 B.C., give or take 50 years.” To pinpoint the date, scientists tracked the linguistic evolution of about two hundred concepts (such as mother, father, blue, and red) that have corresponding words in every language, and calculated when certain terms would have been used by Homer.

Are ISBN numbers on their way out? The rise of digital self-publishing and alternative ID numbers put out by the likes of Amazon and Walmart could spell the end for the publishing codes.

The Page Turner blog explains how Vladimir Nabokov has become controversial again in his home country.

Capital author John Lanchester rides the day’s first train in the London Underground and considers the nature of commuting, the city’s vast public-transit system, and the role of the Tube in literature and film.

In the age of Google, what kind of names make for memorable bylines?

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