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.
Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Roughly a year after launching a redesigned website, the Los Angeles Review of Books is putting out its first print issue.
Pulitzer prize-winning New Yorker staffer Katherine Boo won the New York Public Library’s 2013 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism this week for Behind the Beautiful Forevers, her nonfiction account of life in a Mumbai slum.
Former Bookforum editor Eric Banks has been appointed the new director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. He will be replacing outgoing director Lawrence Weschler.
Massachusetts Senator and all-around badass Elizabeth Warren is going to publish a book about “how Washington is rigged against America’s middle class” and “the conflict... between giant institutions and the needs of everyday citizens” with Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books imprint. Warren's book, which does not yet have a title, is slated to come out in 2014.
Mario Vargas Llosa didn’t pull any punches during an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper last week, going after fellow writers such as Milan Kundera, Paul Auster, and Haruki Murakami, for whom he saved his harshest critique: “An interesting case. He writes easy books, but with the appearance of a complexity that reassures the readers. Let’s be clear: that this type of literature exists seems to me to be a great thing. But if everything becomes like this, there’s little to be tranquil about.”
At the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, Ian Crouch explores the idea that it is perfectly natural to forget many of the books one reads: “Books aren’t just about us, as readers. They belong perhaps mainly to the writer, who along with his narrator, is a thief. I wonder what writers forget about their own books?”
Though it occupies a legal gray area, the whole idea behind fan fiction is that anybody can write it and readers don’t have to pay to read it. At least, that was how things worked until Wednesday, when Amazon unveiled Kindle Worlds: a new system that allows writers to self-publish their fan fiction with the sanction of the original copyright holder. If authors sign up, they give fans permission to riff on their works, and should those book sell, “the fan fiction authors will get 35% of net revenue for full-length books; Amazon and the original copyright owner will split the other 65%.” So far, Alloy Entertainment, the company that owns the Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries franchises have joined, but authors with traditional publishing houses (including E.L. James and Stephanie Meyer) have kept their distance.
Why The Great Gatsby is really about the housing crisis.
The editorial exodus continues at Granta: it was announced this week that Philip Gwyn Jones, the executive publisher of the UK-based literary magazine, would be leaving his post, and that billionaire publisher Sigrid Rausing will be taking over “full operational and executive control of Granta Publications.” The magazine began showing signs of upheaval last month when editor John Freeman resigned, three other longtime staffers left, and Granta closed its New York office.
Penguin has agreed to pay $75 million in damages and “costs and fees to resolve all antitrust claims relating to eBook pricing.”
According to the BBC, the world’s first paperless public library will open this summer in a poor part of San Antonio, Texas. The library, BiblioTech, won’t have any books, but it will be outfitted with dozens of computers, a hundred e-readers on loan, and over ten thousand digital titles.
Lisa Pearson of Siglio Press.
Most people know they they should read between the lines on book blurbs, and a recent, particularly egregious case of blurbing involving Washington Post fiction editor Ron Charles demonstrates why. Despite reviewing Martin Amis’s new novel, Lionel Asbo, so brutally that the review was a finalist for the Hatchet Job award, Charles was surprised to find that a Washington Post blurb ended up on the novel. Problem was, it wasn’t his: “on the new paperback—on the front cover, no less—appears this ringing endorsement from The Washington Post: ‘Amis is a force unto himself... There is, quite simply, no one else like him.’ All true. But caveat emptor. That line is drawn from a review of London Fields that my colleague Jonathan Yardley wrote...23 years ago.”
The Believer has run a great short interview with Lisa Pearson, the founder and publisher of Siglio Press.
To promote their new extended flight routes, Australian airlines Quantas has come up with a novel idea: they’ve commissioned novellas and nonfiction that are supposed to take as long to read as the flight itself. Aussie ad agency Droga5 collaborated with Hachette publishers to work on the series, which “contains a range of varying genres to appeal to the airline's mostly male Platinum Flyers—non-fiction, thrillers, crime-based short stories... City of Evil and Australian Tragic are among the titles.”
James Franco’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying was not well-received at Cannes.
Claire Messud's much-talked-about response to a Publishers Weekly interviewer has inspired The New Yorker to organize a forum on “likeability” in fiction; rounding up writers such as Margaret Atwood, Donald Antrim, Jonathan Franzen, and Rivka Galchen to take on the issue. Our favorite response came from Franzen, who remarked “I hate the concept of likeability—it gave us two terms of George Bush, whom a plurality of voters wanted to have a beer with, and Facebook.”
It Books publisher Cal Morgan has been promoted to senior vice president and executive editor at Harper. Morgan will be replaced by Lynn Grady of Morrow/Voyager/Avon Books.
The New York Times Opinionator blog reads disgraced former BBC broadcaster Jimmy Savile’s biography in light of Lolita and the literary tradition of “female pedagogical pedophilia”—that is, books “fixated on the sexual awakening of schoolgirls.”
Also in Lolita-land, at the NYRB, Mark Ford considers a spate of new Nabokov books, and re-reads the master’s classic with an eye to the question: Was Humbert Humbert Jewish?
A University of Colorado librarian is being sued for millions by an academic publisher for writing a series of blog posts in which he characterized the company of engaging in suspect business practices. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Beall accused OMICS “of spamming scholars with invitations to publish, quickly accepting their papers, then charging them a nearly $3,000 publishing fee after a paper has been accepted.”
Michelle Tea talks with Buzzfeed about her new queer YA novel Mermaid in Chelsea Creek.
After selling more than a million copies of his latest novel in roughly a week in Japan, Haruki Murakami has signed a deal to have the book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, translated into English. Murakami will work with Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin, who translated 1Q84 and is currently at work on another Murakami title, Talking With Seiji Ozawa About Music. "I'm very much interested in this book, which reminds me of Norwegian Wood. But first, I will have to finish translating the book I am working on," Rubin told a Japanese newspaper. The translation is expected to hit shelves in 2014.
Vice runs “Thought and Memory,” a new short story by Ed Park about “two talking crows named for Odin’s information-gathering ravens in Norse mythology, who belong to a mysterious woman with a glass eye and an oddly chosen tattoo,” alongside illustrations by San Francisco-based artist Yina Kim.
Under newly appointed editor Pamela Paul, a series of changes are being implemented at the New York Times Book Review. Among them, the e-book bestseller list will now be online only, book prices will no longer be included for any books, the magazine will have a “bloggier” look, and Paul has introduced a new column, “Open Book,” about readings and panels.
The best thing we read all weekend was Salon staffer Andrew Leonard’s investigation into Wikipedia user Qworty, who is notorious for making thousands of “revenge edits” to the Wikipedia pages of famous writers. Following a tip, Leonard makes a convincing case that Qworty is the pseudonym of a novelist who has moved his real-life grudges against other writers to the realm of Wikipedia.
Scarlett Johansson has announced that she will make her directorial debut with an adaptation of Truman Capote’s first novel, Summer Crossing. Capote famously disowned the novel, which is about a “17-year-old Protestant debutante who embarks on an affair with a Jewish parking-lot attendant while her family vacations in Paris during the summer of 1945.” It was published for the first time in 2004, after it was discovered among Capote’s papers.
The New York Times profiles The People’s Recreation Community Bookstore, a Hong Kong store that has has become wildly popular with visitors from mainland China for stocking “shelves of scandal-packed exposÚs about their Communist Party masters.” Because the books are banned in China and “more than 90 percent of sales come from mainland visitors,” owner Paul Tang tells the Times that “the most frequently asked question is not about the content of books,” but “how they can get the books back to China.”
Since the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, "lean in" has gone from a title to a full-on cultural meme.
In a Tweet last week, the Swedish Academy announced that they have selected the five writers up for the Nobel Prize in Literature. The shortlist is expected to be released sometime soon.
Belle and Sebastian's Stuart David.
Belle and Sebastian founding member Stuart David is writing a memoir. In the All-Night Cafe is slated to be released next year by a UK imprint of Little, Brown, and it will cover the early years of the band: from when Davis met co-founder Stuart Murdoch in Glasgow through the release of their debut album Tigermilk (which includes the many literary lyrics, such as "The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard / He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called The State That I'm In). Davis has written two novels, and once told an interviewer, "I don't feel that working in a band is time-consuming enough. There's always a huge amount of time spent doing nothing in a band—hence all the drugs/alcohol to try and fill up the empty time. I don't really like alcohol or drugs, so I filled up the rest of the time writing books.”
The Observer takes the pulse of the genre known as “street lit.”
The Nation has launched a digital books imprint called eBookNation, which will make Nation pieces available to subscribers with smartphones and tablets. The series will kick off Gore Vidal’s State of the Union, Nation Essays 1958-2005, and will be followed by Victor Navasky’s The Art of Controversy, Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars, and Katha Pollitt’s The Mind-Body Problem.
On Sunday, poets will celebrate the Brooklyn Bridge’s 130th anniversary by reading Hart Crane’s epic The Bridge in its entirety. The event, which begins at 3pm and will take place at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, will feature Mary Jo Bang, Timothy Donnelly, Jorie Graham, Dorothea Lasky, Eileen Myles, Robert Polito, Susan Wheeler, John Yau, and others.
In his forthcoming book You Are Not a Gadget (which Choire Sicha reviews in our summer issue), Jaron Lanier makes a few predictions about the future of book publishing, which Moby Lives has helpfully excerpted: “There will be much more information available in some semblance of book form than ever before, but the quality will go down; book won’t be the same for each person because the information will be updated and the stakes of producing a finished manuscript won’t be as high; Writing a book won’t mean as much, which could be considered democratic or antielitist, but it’s a result of lowering standards; People will pay less to read, but authors will earn less.”