The New Yorker debuts Strongbox, a secure document-submission system designed by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen that lets users anonymously submit documents to the magazine. Chris O’Shea quips that the service is “basically WikiLeaks for pretentious people.”
Pirated versions of Fifty Shades of Gray have become a runaway hit in China. According to the Telegraph, the contraband editions are replicas of Taiwanese versions of the book, and are being printed en masse in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Despite having a cult following that extends back to eighties babies, Judy Blume is only now having one of her novels adapted for the big screen. Tiger Eyes, her 1981 bestseller about a young woman mourning the death of her father, will be available this summer in select theaters, and on-demand. Blume wrote the screenplay herself, and it was directed by her son Lawrence.
British novelist Howard Jacobson has won his second Wodehouse prize for his comic novel Zoo Time.
Chick-lit is dead, and it’s been replaced by “farm-lit.” As The Atlantic reports: “Thanks to the economy, picket fences and scruffy farm hands have replaced stilettos and cute i-bankers in literature aimed at women.”
Ernest Hemingway lived on and off in Cuba for more than twenty years (between 1939 and 1960) but while he eventually returned to the U.S., the works he wrote during his Cuban period remained on the island. Until now, that is. Thanks to a private American foundation, two thousand of Hemingway’s records have been digitized and sent to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, where they will be available to the American public for the first time ever.
Bret Easton Ellis
Every page of David Wojnarowicz’s journals, covering the years 1971-1991, has been scanned and is available for online perusal at NYU’s Fales Library website. From a supremely unfun outward bound trip he took as a teenager (“I learned the first steps in rock climbing. The man who teaches it hit me on the top of the head for giving a wrong signal at the wrong time. I was really pissed off”), up through heartbreaking confessions near the end of his life (“My life is no longer filled with poetry and dreams. I can smell rust in the air. . .” ), the journals make riveting reading. For more on Wojnarowicz, read Luc Sante’s review of Cynthia Carr’s biography, Fire in the Belly.
In a long rant in Out Magazine pegged to the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins, novelist and lightning rod Bret Easton Ellis went after what he describes as "gay self-patronization in the media." He went on to critique the gay-friendly media for celebrating “the Gay Man as Magical Elf, who whenever he comes out appears before us as some kind of saintly E.T. whose sole purpose is to be put in the position of reminding us only about Tolerance." It’s worth remembering that Ellis was invited to GLAAD’s annual awards ceremony in April, and then disinvited after referring to the TV show Glee as “a puddle of HIV.”
A German labor union has called on the nine thousand Amazon employees in Germany to go on strike in order to protest the company’s refusal to implement collective bargaining agreements. And in other Amazon news, the retail giant has launched its own virtual currency to pay for apps and presumably e-books: Amazon Coins.
The trailer for James Franco’s adaptation of Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying is now up online. The film will screen in the “Un Certain Regard” category at Cannes this year.
Never mind the neuronovel, we’ve now progressed to the neurohumanities, and specifically “neuroscience centers with specialties in humanities hybrids,” which are cropping up at universities across the country.
Among the many excellent takeaways from the Women in Criticism panel that took place last week at Housing Works last week with Parul Seghal, Michelle Dean, Miriam Markowitz, Michelle Orange, Ruth Franklin, Kate Bolick, and Laura Miller is the following piece of advice: “pro tip for young men: No more pitching Martin Amis reviews. Full stop.”
Witold Gombrowicz’s final book will be published in Polish at the end of this month under the title Kronos. The book, considered to be a companion piece to Gombrowicz’s Diary (which Eric Banks reviewed for Bookforum in 2012) covers his life in Poland, Argentina, and Berlin, and is rumored to be a mishmash of everything from his “erotic ventures” to lists of his “finances, travel, meetings, invitations and exchanges of gifts and letters.” At a press conference in Warsaw last week, Gombrowicz’s widow confirmed that this will be the last Gombrowicz manuscript to see publication. "This is the integral text", Rita Gombrowicz told interviewers, "and I tell you there is absolutely nothing more to come."
This is kind of a genius idea: For his latest book, South Park and Louie writer Vernon Chatman commissioned professional cheaters (you know, the people who write term papers for cash) to take on bizarre writing assignments. He then published the collection under the title Mindsploitation: Asinine Assignments for the Online Homework Cheating Industry. Here’s a sample assignment: “My midterm thesis essay paper is an exploration of Alternate Endings To Great Works of Literature. All I need from you is to... provide a new ending to Catcher In The Rye where Holden Caulfield turns into a crawfish and goes into some kind of retail business.”
In a Texan twist on speculative fiction, a number of books have come out lately that imagine a reality in which the Lone Star state breaks away from the U.S.
The French government has proposed a law that would tax smartphones and tablets in order to fund “cultural products” such as books, art, and music. If approved, the law is expected to bring in roughly $112 million a year, and proceeds would be distributed among cultural organizations that operate within France.
Today in Brooklyn book news, the Brooklyn Public Library is starting an oral history collection about community members affected by Hurricane Sandy, and a new tumblr documents the literary (and less-than-literary) finds turning up on stoops across the borough.
Sheila Heti writes a dispatch from the Cúirt literary festival in Ireland, which describes, among other things, having lunch with a Nobel laureate while wearing a nightgown.
The National Theater in London is turning Katherine Boo’s prize-winning account of life in a Mumbai slum, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, into a stage production. For more on the book, read Jonathan Shainin’s review in Bookforum.
Joe Muto, the so-called “Fox Mole” who blogged anonymously for Gawker about his time working as a producer on the <em style="font-size: 10pt;">O’Reilly Factor,</em> pled guilty last weekend on charges of unlawful duplication of computer-related material and attempted criminal possession of computer-related material. Muto was fined $6,000, and ordered to serve ten days in jail and work 200 hours of community service.
Since its publication in Japan last month, Murakami’s latest novel, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of His Pilgrimage, has been selling more than a million copies a week.
The Oxford English Dictionary is appealing to the public to help them track down “a mysterious, possibly pornographic” 1852 book that is the source of more than fifty words in the OED. So far, they haven’t had any luck. The words “extemporize,” “fringy,” and “revirginize” are cited as originating in Meanderings of Memory.
The Great Catsby: an adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic novel, with cats.
The Telegraph skewers Dan Brown’s writing and sensitivity to critics: “Renowned author Dan Brown smiled, the ends of his mouth curving upwards in a physical expression of pleasure. He felt much better. If your books brought innocent delight to millions of readers, what did it matter whether you knew the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb?”
How Freedom would have been marketed had it been written by a woman.
Fed up with the abundance of gender-specific cover designs, author Maureen Johnson took to Twitter this week to call on readers to “redesign covers by Literary Dudes. Imagine they have been reclassified as by and for women.” The results are pretty excellent.
“I waited until my first book was published to learn the genre, and when Oprah announced ‘It’s literary fiction!’ just seconds after my pub date, I was overcome with joy.” At McSweeney’s, Jessica Francis Kane explains how to throw a “genre reveal party” for your forthcoming book.
The New Yorker’s efforts to focus more heavily on their web content seem to be paying off—more than 10 million people visited the New Yorker’s website in April alone.
The Village Voice’s editor-in-chief and deputy editor resigned on Thursday after being ordered to lay off five members of the Voice’s twenty-person staff. “When I was brought in here, I was explicitly told that the bloodletting had come to an end,” outgoing editor Will Bourne told the New York Times. “I have enormous respect for the staff here and the work they have been doing and I am not going to preside over further layoffs.”
The forthcoming release of a documentary about famously reclusive writer J.D. Salinger has presented Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein with a problem: how to promote a film about Salinger without giving away all of its secrets?
Caleb Crain writes the best thing we’ve read on indie filmmaker Shane Carruth’s inscrutable second feature, Upstream Color, making the case that understanding Thoreau is key to understanding the critically acclaimed film.
The hacker responsible for exposing the world to George Bush’s secret life as a painter has returned to terrorize Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell. Guccifer hacked into Bushnell’s email and Twitter accounts this week, then Tweeted a link to the first fifty pages of Bushnell’s forthcoming novel, Killing Monica. The incident also revealed how inept Bushnell and her publishers are with technology: "i know NOTHING about this but my husband thinks you can cancel a tweet but doesn't know how to do it," Bushnell's publisher wrote in an email with the subject line "emergency!"
Tin House says happy birthday to Thomas Pynchon, who turned 76 on Tuesday.
At her blog Translationista, Susan Bernofsky, best known for her translations of Robert Walser, has brought our attention to the forthcoming anthology In Translation, which includes essays by Haruki Murakami, Alice Kaplan, Elliot Weinberger, Clare Kavanagh, and others.
Even though there are glimmers of seriousness in celebrity literary imprints—Johnny Depp, for example, recently published a long-lost novel by Woody Guthrie with his imprint Infinitum, Nihil and Viggo Mortensen started his press with the goal of publishing more literary fiction—for the most part, the rise in celebrity-led book imprints is a grim sign for publishing and reading, says Alexander Nazaryan at the New Republic.
A fundraising call for Moby Dick card game has already raised $65,000 on Kickstarter, and there are still three weeks left in the campaign.
David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech “This is Water” has been adapted into a short film.
We might soon be paying taxes on books bought online if the Market Fairness Act—which “sailed” through the Senate on Monday with a 69-27 vote—has similar luck in the House. If the bill passes, it will go into effect in 2014.
New York Magazine book critic Katherine Schulz explains why she finds The Great Gatsby “aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent.” Meanwhile, the New York Times tracks down real estate developers who have named their properties after the novel.
Amanda Knox talks with the New York Times Book Review about her reading habits in prison: “Different books helped me through different periods in different ways. For instance, over time the prison grew more and more overpopulated, and at a certain point, I was struggling to cope with a cellmate who became increasingly confrontational and violent. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, was a humorous distraction from the tension.”
Bookforum contributor Jessica Winter is leaving her post as arts editor at Time to become the business and technology editor at Slate.
Our new favorite Tumblr: American Spoken Language, which creates audio files of Gertrude Stein poems by splicing together single words from hundreds of hip-hop songs.
Let’s all welcome the Buenos Aires Review, a new digital, bilingual magazine dedicated to featuring emerging writers from across the Spanish-speaking world.
Dexter star Michael C. Hall is adapting Matthew Specktor’s novel American Dream Machine for a project that will eventually air on Showtime.
While speaking at a conference last week, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson blamed our current financial crisis on the economic policies of Maynard Keynes, then noted that because Keynes was gay and did not want children, the economist lacked foresight and opted for short-term fixes over long-term solutions for economic problems. He has since apologized.
Martin Amis moved to Brooklyn two years ago, and according to the London Evening Standard, he hasn’t been impressed with life in the borough. “He finds it terribly transactional and, ironically given he was viewed as a literary hipster, he views the Brooklyn hipster scene as populated by conventional posers,” an unnamed “man on the corner” told the paper. “He doesn’t go out as much as he did and has developed a reputation as a curmudgeon.”
Slate debuts “The Great Gatsby: The Video Game” with the tagline “can you reach the green light and attain the American dream?”
The Navajo nation has named Luci Tapahonso as their first-ever Poet Laureate.
The Freud Museum in London has launched a fundraising campaign to come up with the five thousand pounds necessary to restore “possibly the most famous piece of furniture in the world”—the couch in Freud’s counselling room.
Library of Congress
How many copies does a self-published author have to sell before their book qualifies as a bestseller?
Famously reclusive author Harper Lee has filed suit against her literary agent for allegedly tricking the To Kill a Mockingbird author into signing over copyright on the novel. The deal took place five years ago, when Lee was in an assisted-living facility after having suffered a stroke. Lee claims that the agent took advantage of her at that time, and “engineered the transfer of Lee's rights to secure himself ‘irrevocable’ interest in the income derived from To Kill A Mockingbird.”
At the New Yorker, Evan Osnos considers how The Great Gatsby has been received in China: “When Chinese readers talk about Gatsby today, some see a cautionary tale of materialism run amok; others point to the potential danger in the gap between riches and power; and still others recognize the dawning realization that that one may never grasp the dream he so desires. ‘After Gatsby was gone, no one cared,’ a Chinese blogger named Xiao Peng wrote not long ago. ‘Not his business partners or his friends or his guests. Once everything became clear, Gatsby’s life evaporated like smoke.’”
T.S. Eliot worked for years in publishing; Wallace Stevens worked in insurance; William Carlos Williams was a doctor: at NPR, David Orr considers the day jobs of poets.
Inspired by E.L. James, retired porn superstar Sasha Grey is now writing fiction. Grey’s first novel, The Juliette Society, is about “a woman’s introduction to a highly secretive sex club.” Unfortunately, says the Independent, it’s “not very good.”
Thanks to budget cuts stemming from sequestration, the Library of Congress is falling behind on cataloguing and digitizing library content.
Paul Thomas Anderson has reportedly started shooting his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, who Anderson worked with on The Master, and is set in an fictional California beach town towards the end of the 1960s.
Less than a month after it was announced that John Freeman was resigning as the editor of Granta, the magazine has announced that it’s closing its New York office following the departure of three of its editors.
How much does winning the Pulitzer affect book sales? It makes a difference—Adam Johnson went from selling 413 copies of The Orphan Master’s Son a week before his Pulitzer win to 2,477 in the two weeks after the announcement—but not as much as you’d think. What really makes a difference, as exemplified by a big spike in <em style="font-size: 10pt;">The Great Gatsby </em>sales, are movie adaptations.
Teaching, editing, advertising: The day jobs of famous novelists.
John Grisham is putting the finishing touches on a sequel to his 1988 bestselling novel A Time to Kill, in which an idealistic white lawyer working in the deep south defended a black man who had killed his daughter’s rapists. Grisham will return to the same town and characters in Sycamore Row, which will come out this fall with Knopf.
And in in job news, political blogger Andrew Sullivan is looking for a personal assistant, and the lazy need not apply: “The job includes everything that you can imagine: from managing my calendar, setting up travel arrangements, dealing with press inquiries, to handling my in-box, helping me manage real estate, occasional dog-sitting and walking, keeping track of my regimen of medications with doctors and insurance companies, and the conventional office-work the job usually entails.”