Taksim Square Book Club, George Henton/Al Jazeera
Inspired by the so-called “standing man” of Istanbul’s Taksim Square protests, a number of Turkish activists have formed the Taksim Square Book Club, a movement in which members stand motionless in the square reading books. According to an Al Jazeera slideshow, Orwell, Kafka, and Camus seem to be the movement’s favored authors.
In other Taksim Square news, Can Oz—the head of Turkey’s biggest publishing house, Can Yayinlari—has come out against the government and is now receiving death threats. Though Oz has “long criticized the policies of the Erdogan government... he had never voiced his concerns publicly out of concern for his family and his company,” Maximillian Popp writes in a profile of the publisher for Der Spiegel. Oz recently broke that silence, and in an op-ed in the Guardian, he writes, “in the past few days I have received hate mail and death threats, just because I was publicly part of this passive resistance movement.”
In Slate, Katy Waldman attacks a recent Harper’s essay claiming that American poets are characterized by their “inwardness and evasion” and their failure to take up a “full-scale map of experience.”
If you’ve ever wondered how A Midsummer’s Night Dream would read as a romance novel, you might soon get your answer: Random House’s Hogarth Fiction imprint is commissioning well-known authors to rewrite Shakespeare plays as novels. So far, they’ve commissioned Anne Tyler to rewrite The Taming of the Shrew and Jeanette Winterson to tackle The Winter’s Tale.
The trailer for Cormac McCarthy’s first screenwriting attempt, a Ridley Scott film called The Counselor, has been released. The movie is about “a lawyer who finds himself on the wrong side of the mob after he gets involved with drug trafficking.”
Historians have always known about Hollywood’s collaboration with the Nazis, but a forthcoming book makes the strongest case so far that “that Hollywood studios, in an effort to protect the German market for their movies, not only acquiesced to Nazi censorship but also actively and enthusiastically cooperated with that regime’s global propaganda effort.” The New York Times gets an early look at The Collaboration (which is coming out this fall with Harvard University Press) and profiles its author, scholar Ben Urwand. Though Urwand unearthed a number of disturbing historical details, he told the Times that the only one that made him yell in the archives was “a scrapbook in which Jack Warner (of Warner Brothers) documented a Rhine cruise that he and other studio executives took with an Allied escort on Hitler’s former yacht in July 1945 as part of a trip exploring postwar business opportunities.”
When Shirley Jackson published her short story “The Lottery” in the New Yorker in 1948, the magazine received more mail than it ever had before about a work of fiction. The story, about an unnamed American town that would select one of its residents to be stoned to death each year, also resulted in hundreds of angry letters to Jackson herself, most of which fell into one of three categories: “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse.” Was the story meant to be pure fiction, or scathing political critique? To get to the bottom of Jackson’s intentions, her biographer (and Bookforum contributor) Ruth Franklin visits the archives and speaks with the writer’s contemporaries.
Flavorwire digs up wedding photos of sixteen famous authors, including Roald Dahl, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Mitchell, William Styron, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary McCarthy.
If SparkNotes isn’t your thing (and you don’t actually need to know the details of a book) try ThugNotes, “a popular new YouTube series in which a fellow named Sparky Sweet tells you everything you need to know about classic literature.”
According to a very grim earnings report, Barnes and Noble had a rough 2012, thanks largely to nosediving sales on the Nook e-reader. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company’s digital business sales dropped 34 percent in the last quarter of 2012 compared with the year before, and its overall annual digital sales fell by 16.8 percent.
Book sales may be falling, but e-book sales are on the rise, as demonstrated by the uptick in tablet sales (well, except Nooks) and the launch of a number of digital-only imprints. The interesting thing about many of these imprints, Graeme McMillan observes in Wired magazine, is that many of them specialize in genre fiction. In fact, big publishers are banking on sci-fi, romance, and mystery books to be their big sellers, and “in the case of some genre titles, as much as 60 to 70 percent of the sales are digital.” McMillan explores some of the the reasons behind “genre dominance” in digital publishing.
According to the outgoing head of the Bank of England, Jane Austen is "quietly waiting in the wings" to replace Charles Darwin on the British £10 note.
Big news from the Supreme Court today: In back-to-back rulings on same-sex marriage, judges refused to rule on Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage, clearing the way for gay marriages to resume in the state; and more important, judges ruled 5-4 in favor of extending federal benefits to same-sex couples. That case, which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, concerned a married gay couple from New York, Edith Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer. After Spyer died in 2008, Windsor inherited both Spyer's property and a $360,000 tax bill that Windsor would not have had to pay had the couple been opposite-sex. Windsor sued, and this morning, the court ruled in her favor. The New Yorker's Ariel Levy was at the apartment of Windsor's lawyer Roberta Kaplan when the ruling was handed down: "Kaplan called her mother and said, 'Total victory, Mom: it couldn’t be better.' Windsor said, 'I wanna go to Stonewall right now!' Then she called a friend and said, 'Please get married right away!'”
The Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona has mounted the first-ever retrospective of Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, “Bolaño Archive. 1977–2003,” an exhibition focusing on his time in Barcelona and his final years in the Catalan city of Girona and town of Blanes. The CCCB organized the exhibition in conjunction with Bolaño’s widow, Carolina López, in part to sweep aside the myths that have arisen around Bolaño since his death in 2003 of liver failure (that he was a junkie, an alcoholic, chronically depressed—none of which are true) and to showcase the wealth of manuscripts, letters, and books he left behind. For non-Spanish speaking viewers, the exhibition also clarifies the chronology of Bolaño’s writing. For more on the exhibit, we recommend Lisa Locascio’s excellent essay on it for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Fantasy, horror, and sci-fi novelist Richard Matheson died this week at the age of 87. Cited by Steven King as one of his biggest influences, Matheson wrote The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, and dozens of other works, many of which were later adapted into film.
A fifteen-year-old has landed a book deal to write a memoir. Maya Van Wagenen’s forthcoming Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek will be an account of her efforts “to follow a 1950s self-help book called Betty Cornell’s Teen-age Popularity Guide.” The book will be published by Penguin’s Young Adult division.
A new app called Placing Literature allows users plot literary landmarks on real maps. The app only launched a week ago, but developers say it already has thousands of locations marked, including “wilderness locations near Lake Tahoe where Samuel L. Clemens first wrote about Mark Twain and the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, which was featured in Infinite Jest.”
Today’s weird literary Kickstarter project is the Poetry Drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle that will “drop poem-bombs...in an effort bring the US military's covert drone operations into the spotlight.” They’ve raised $351 of the $10,000 goal and have twenty days to go.
At the Guardian, Kaya Genc notes the parallels between Bartleby the Scrivener and the “standing man” of the Istanbul protests.
Newly released intelligence documents reveal that the FBI and State Department monitored renowned Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes for more than two decades because of his friendship with Fidel Castro, and denied him entry to the U.S. on at least two occasions.
To help support local bookstores, French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti has proposed banning Amazon from offering free shipping and large discounts in France. While Amazon makes enough to be able to afford to lose money on free shipping, competitors have complained that because of their deals, “the competition is unfair.... No other book retailer, whether a small or large book or even a chain, can allow itself to lose that much money.” French law currently prohibits booksellers from discounting books more than five percent below the publisher’s price.
In an appearance on the Charlie Rose Show last week, New York Public Library trustee and head of the investment firm Blackstone Capital Stephen Schwarzman revealed that the NYPL plan to overhaul the library system had been years in the making. Schwarzman explained that before donating $100 million to the NYPL in 2008, he was told exactly what he would get in return: When “the head of the library came over to visit me [about the $100 million]” he told Rose, the NYPL trustees “knew how they were going to spend it...to reconfigure the library system.”
The Moby Lives blog highlights a Kickstarter project for a new book review called Double Blind Book Reviews, which would take a "scientific" approach to identifying literary significance: “Basically manuscripts submitted for review have the name of the author and the title removed and replaced by a number and the genre. This insures no personal bias on the part of the reviewer. Conversely no reviewer is connected to any reviews and all reviews will published only on our website.” So far, the approach doesn’t seem to have attracted many followers—the founders have raised $105 of the requested $20,000.
In an essay addressed to libertarians, Raiders punter Chris Kluwe explains why nobody should read Ayn Rand.
Is it possible to make a living as a freelance writer? The answer is no, for most people. At the Awl, Noah Davis looks at the economics of the new gig economy, and figures out how it can work for writers—they have to work constantly and try to land web assignments—and for magazines, who have typically put more money into their print magazines than their websites. But not all magazines follow that model—Davis singles out the New Yorker, which pays $250 per web piece. “Consider the economics: If NewYorker.com publishes eight pieces a day—not unreasonable at all—they pay out $2,000 a day. That's half a million a year, just in freelance, and also not an insignificant amount of money.”
Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood
Despite interest from the likes of Gus Van Sant and Bret Easton Ellis, British video artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood has been selected to direct the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Gray. Though Taylor-Wood—who, since her marriage, has gone by Taylor-Johnson—has only directed one feature-length film, a biopic about the early years of John Lennon, she is well-known for her photography and video art, which focus on themes of sexuality, death, and madness.
In an essay for the New York Times Book Review, Chloe Schama wonders why there are so many exposed female backs on the covers of new novels.
Over the past few weeks, Australian writer Kathryn Heyman has had an interesting back-and-forth with the editors of the London Review of Books about the paucity of female writers in their pages. After receiving a letter asking her to renew her subscription, Heyman declined, and sent off a hilarious letter bemoaning the LRB's dearth of women writers. In response, senior editor Paul Myerscough wrote a gracious note, commenting, that “despite the distress it causes us that the proportion of women in the paper remains so stubbornly low, the efforts we’ve made to change the situation have been hopelessly unsuccessful.”
In an interview with Canada’s National Post, 81-year-old Canadian writer Alice Munro said that she has more or less retired from writing. Munro told the paper that she’s "probably not going to write anymore." (In the past, Munro has announced her retirement only to later publish new work).
Last week, the Paris-based bookstore Shakespeare and Co. and the London-based White Review (whose editors were interviewed last year for Bookforum) awarded the bi-annual Paris Literary Prize to C.E. Smith for his novella Body Electric. The award, which was established in 2010, grants 10,000 euro to a novella written in English by a previously unpublished author from anywhere in the world. The previous winner was Rosa Rankin-Gee, who won for her book, The Last Kings of Sark.
After coming under fire for a Kickstarter campaign that raised $16,000 for a book critics called called a “manual for sexual abuse,” the fundraising company has decided to ban all so-called “seduction guides” and has announced that they’ve donated $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization.
Protests in Greece after the closure of the ERT, the state-run radio and TV broadcaster.
Sopranos creator David Chase once told one of his assistant producers that “I’ll never be truly happy in life . . . until I kill a man . . . not just kill a man, but with my bare hands.” Ken Tucker reviews Brett Martin's Difficult Men—about the producers of Mad Men, The Wire, and other TV series—in the latest issue of Bookforum.
Brazilian academics have applied techniques of analysis devised for studying online social networks to Homer’s Odyssey and found “good evidence that the Odyssey is based, at least in part, on a real social network and so must be a mixture of myth and fact.” To conduct their study, the team examined the relationships between the 342 characters in the book, and the more than 1,700 relationships between them. They found that, like real-life social networks at the time, the social world depicted in the book was “small, highly clustered, slightly hierarchical and resilient to random attacks.”
A video of a violinist playing in the offices of Greece’s state broadcaster following the government closure of the broadcaster—and the firing of 2,600 of its employees—has gone viral and mobilized international support for Greek journalists.
Who goes to a gun show for reading material? Many gun nuts do, reports Patrick Wensink in a very strange dispatch for Salon. Upon arriving at the annual Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, Wensink was shocked to find “a thriving chapbook culture while surrounded by hollow-point bullets and guys spitting tobacco into Mountain Dew bottles. The gun show’s book booth was four tables long and jammed with racks of chapbooks,” including titles like Improvised Rocket Motors, Homebrew TNT, Combat Knife Throwing, and, our favorite, Poor Man’s James Bond. For more on the topic, read Jeff Sharlet on Dan Baum's Gun Guys from our Feb/March issue.
If, per Roland Barthes’s famous dictum, the author is really dead, then why is our culture so fascinated with literary celebrity?
Book Riot’s readers have voted Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series to the top of their “most hated” book list—with Catcher in the Rye as a close second.
A blogger who successfully raised $2,000 on Kickstarter to publish a book on the "art" of picking up women has come under attack on the internet. New Statesman has described Above The Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women as “a manual for sexual assault” (you can read excerpts here to see why) and raised the question of whether Kickstarter should be more judicious in monitoring publishing projects.
Audiobook narrator Simon Vance
New York mayoral candidate Christine Quinn's new memoir, With Patience and Fortitude, has sold only about 100 copies in bookstores since it was released on June 11.
Palestinian writers Ali Abukhattab and Samah al-Sheikh have been refused Visas to the UK to participate in a two-week festival celebrating contemporary Arabic art. As part of the second annual Shubbak Festival, the couple were supposed to discuss their writing and literature "in the besieged Gaza Strip" at the ICA in London. Palestinian authorities were vague about the reasons for refusing the visas, telling organizers that the festival did not qualify as official “business.”
You can’t buy an e-book version of Stephen King’s novel Joyland, but thanks to book pirates, you can download an illegal version of it—along with every other Stephen King novel in existence.
San Francisco startup Parakweet has received $2 million in funding to develop BookVibe, a book-recommendation service that bases its suggestions on information drawn from social media. According to its creators, "the system taps into hundreds of millions of organic updates on Twitter, Facebook, and more and identifies certain behaviors like 'intent to read,' 'read,' and 'recommend.' It factors in users’ personal interests, their online behavior, and the interests and affinities of people in their social graph..."
In a curt letter to the New York Times responding to a piece about sexism in the literary arts, Jonathan Franzen states gender imalance is worse in New York's theater world than it is in publishing.
At Publishers Weekly, librarian Peter Brantley has put out a call to Kickstart a new library journal.
The Huffington Post interviews audiobook king Simon Vance, winner of ten Audie Awards and the voice of more than 450 audiobooks. Vance talks preparation (he drinks a concoction of lemon, ginger, cayenne, and honey to ready his voice for reading), his early years at the BBC, and how he decides what a character is going to sound like: “My first anchor will be the information given in the text by the author—Dickens is particularly good at painting the picture of a character, giving me some idea of his/her physical characteristics and social status even before they open their mouth.”
In National Geographic, Jonathan Franzen covers the slaughter of migrating songbirds in the Mediterranean.
Vice magazine has a reputation for being shameless about their content, but yesterday, the magazine made the rare move of pulling a photo-essay after it inspired a series of outraged responses. The feature, a fashion spread called "Last Words," re-created the suicides of seven female literary icons: Virginia Woolf, Iris Chang, Dorothy Parker, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sylvia Plath, Sanmao, and Elise Cowen. After being roundly berated, the magazine released a sheepish apology and pulled the feature from their website. The photo spread remains in the print edition, which has already gone on sale.
Bookforum holds a Riot Grrrl Roundtable: Lisa Darms, Johanna Fateman, Kathleen Hanna and Sheila Heti discuss the new Riot Grrrl Collection and take stock of punk feminism.
Granta is currently hosting a literary week in Nairobi, where the magazine will launch its latest issue, "Best of Young British Novelists 4," but the literary magazine continues to show signs of turmoil. After a recent flurry of departures, two more people are leaving the journal: sales and marketing director Brigid Macleod and sales manager Sharon Murphy.
In addition to being a writer, a new book reveals that Ernest Hemingway was also a failed KGB spy. According to the authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, Hemingway was briefly recruited as a "dilettante spy" in 1941 before taking a trip to China. He was nicknamed "Argo," and "repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help" Soviet agents he met in London and Havana. Despite Hemingway's enthusiasm, his work as a KGB spy was short-lived: he failed to "give us any political information" and was never "verified in practical work."
The New York Times profiles Luke Jankow, former rocker and "heir apparent" to the powerful literary agent Morton L. Janklow. Janklow talks with the Times about opening for Ted Nugent, growing up in "the epicenter of literary Manhattan" and the New York publishing industry: "I'm not part of their club... I just showed up. I wasn't an English major at Yale. My summer job wasn't at The New Yorker, even though I am a fan. I'm just a weird Martian to them, I guess."
Ira Silverberg, the director of literature programs for the National Endowment for the Arts, has announced that he’ll be leaving his position on July 11. Silverberg, who has been an influential publisher (at Grove Press) and a literary agent (at Sterling Lord), says he plans to return to New York. He’ll be temporarily replaced by NEA literature program officer Amy Stolls.
Details about Shane Salerno's forthcoming J.D. Salinger documentary, which has been eight years in the making, have been shrouded in secrecy. The Weinstein Company has now released of the film’s trailer, but don't watch it hoping for any major revelations.
And elsewhere in literary film news, The New Yorker runs an excerpt of scenes Cormac McCarthy wrote for the upcoming Ridley Scott film, The Counselor.
In response to the all-male editors cover of Post magazine, Jessica Grose considers the question of why people don’t think women’s magazines run serious journalism.
Yale has acquired a rare collection of six hundred books and manuscripts relating to the cultural and intellectual history of English law. The archive is ten times as large at the Library of Congress’s collection and includes a number of rare and odd finds, including “a pocket-size 14th-century handwritten copy of Magna Carta, the first book on the legal rights of women published in England, letters from the 18th-century jurist William Blackstone and papers belonging to a real-life London lawyer praised by Charles Dickens’s fictional yes-man Uriah Heep.”
For the first time since his debut novel V, Thomas Pynchon has set a novel primarily in New York. The Atlantic looks at Pynchon’s personal history in New York, and contemplates why he’s returning to it with Bleeding Edge.