David Rakoff

David Rakoff’s posthumous book Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish will be released this month, less than a year after his death last August. The New York Times remembers the late essayist, and offers an early look at the novel, which “spans decades, from turn-of-the-20th-century Chicago to midcentury Manhattan to San Francisco at the height of the AIDS crisis, and then to the near-present, when a grief-stricken man opens a wrapped box from long ago, and all the years—with the longings and indignities and small, eventful generosities they contain—collapse into a single moment.”

The U.S. government has announced that it will not follow a plan proposed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that would close international tax loopholes for multinational companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon.

How literary sleuthing and authorship attribution software successfully ID’d J.K. Rowling as mystery author Robert Galbraith.

In a recent interview in the Boston Review, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche scandalized the doyens of the African literary establishment by critiquing one of the continent’s top literary prizes. In response to a question about the state of Nigerian fiction, Adiche critiqued the “over-privileging of the Caine Prize,” and remarked that “for me it’s not the arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been.” Those shortlisted for this year’s prize have not been happy about her dismissal.

At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehesi Coates looks at the letter of the law that allowed George Zimmerman to walk after killing sixteen-year-old Trayvon Martin, and comes away with “two seemingly conflicted truths” about the legal system in the U.S. “The first is that based on the case presented by the state, and based on Florida law, George Zimmerman should not have been convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter. The second is that the killing of Trayvon Martin is a profound injustice.”

To recap: on Monday, Juror B37 in the George Zimmerman trial acquired a literary agent, then several hours later, lost that literary agent. But lest we worry that somebody won’t capitalize off the whole tragic affair, the New York Daily News reports that a book written by Zimmerman’s close friend is climbing the charts. Defending Our Friend: The Most Hated Man in America is Mark Osterman’s account of living with Zimmerman in the months before his trial began.


Update: "Zimmerman Juror Drops Her Plans to Write Book."

Michel Houellebecq

It’s been less than a week since George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, but one of the jurors on the case is already angling for a book deal. Galleycat reports that Juror B37 has teamed up with Martin Literary Agency to explain “why the jurors had no option but to find Zimmerman Not Guilty due to the manner in which he was charged and the content of the jury instructions.” The real name of Juror B37 has not been released, but Gawker has posted the courtroom interviews conducted with the woman prior to her jury selection. In them, she refers to Martin as “a boy of color” and explains why she thinks all newspapers are best used “in the parrot’s cage.”

A cottage in West Sussex, England that William Blake lived in from 1800 to 1803 is on sale for just shy of a million dollars. It’s unclear whether Blake wrote any of his more famous poems while living in the cottage, but he did engage in other poetic activities: “When Blake lived there, one friend arrived to discover the poet and his wife in that very summer house, nude. 'Come in!' Blake cried. 'It's only Adam and Eve, you know!' Legend has it the couple were reading John Milton's Paradise Lost to each other, in character."

In 2011, Michel Houellebecq disappeared for a week while he was supposed to be on a book tour in Belgium. Where was he? He hasn’t said, but all will be revealed in <em style="font-size: 10pt;">The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq,</em> a new French film about the disappearance starring the author himself.

Everybody knows why people write positive reviews online (they’re married to the author, they’re being blackmailed, etc.), but what’s the psychology behind writing a negative review? A new study finds that the crankiest reviewers are often the most devoted customers.

New Yorkers, if you’re in the city and want to avoid the heat tomorrow night, there are a lot of good events to attend. To celebrate the publication of the late David Rakoff’s Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish, Barnes & Noble Union Square will be hosting a marathon reading of the novel. Meanwhile, across the river, the Brooklyn Quarterly is celebrating the magazine’s debut with a party at the Cherry Tree bar (the online-only literary journal will come out four times a year and is dedicated to publishing fiction, essays, interviews, and poetry). And at 155 Freeman Street, Triple Canopy is holding a discussion about the work of Bas Jan Ader with Alexander Dumbadze, Matthew Day Jackson, and Xaviera Simmons.

David Carr explains why Barnes & Noble is good for Amazon.


JK Rowling, aka Robert Galbraith

Amazon has announced that it will be launching a new imprint dedicated exclusively to comic books and graphic novels. Jet City Comics will debut this fall with Christian Cameron and Dmitry Bondarenko’s Symposium, and will be followed by an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s story “The Meathouse Man” and the sci-fi novel Wool.

It took less than a year for Arthur Frommer, the 83-year-old creator of the Frommer’s travel guides, to buy his company back after selling it to Google last year. The former G.I. isn’t wasting any more time: he plans to release a new series of guidebooks this October under the name FrommerMedia, and has struck a deal with Publishers Group West to promote and distribute the books.

A group of scholars has filed suit against the New York Public Library “to stop the Library from demolishing the stacks in its flagship 42nd Street building or moving any books off the site.”

JK Rowling has been outed as the author of the UK crime thriller The Cuckoo’s Calling. The book came out last April to positive reviews—though it only sold 1,500 copies—and was published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The gig was up when literary sleuths noticed that Rowling shared the same publisher and editor as Galbraith. Little, Brown confirmed Rowling as the author last week, and said that reprints of the book would carry a disclaimer: “Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.”

Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, is debuting what may be one of the country’s first undergraduate programs in book studies. The eighteen-credit minor will "explore the past, present, and future of the book," and objects of study will range from “the cuneiform tablet to digital media."

A linguist working in remote regions of Australia has discovered that members of an isolated village in the northern part of the continent have invented a new language. Roughly 350 people under the age of 35 speak Light Warlpiri, which is “neither a dialect nor the mixture of languages called a creole, but a new language with unique grammatical rules.”


Geoff Dyer's preferred work chair.

The PEN American Center has announced its shortlist for its 2013 literary awards. This year, the Center will award nearly $150,000 to writers, editors and translators through sixteen different awards and fellowships. A partial list of the finalists: Wiley Cash, Sergio de la Pava, Jac Jemc, Lucila Perillo, and Claire Vaye Watkins made the shortlist for the best debut novel award; Katherine Boo, Donovan Hohn, Victoria Sweet, and Anne Applebaum are up for the nonfiction book prize; and Robert Hass, Jill Lepore, and Daniel Mendelsohn are competing for the award for best essay collection.

Angered by Orson Scott Card’s outspoken opposition to homosexuality, a group called GeeksOUT is organizing a boycott of the adaption of Card’s classic sci-fi novel Ender’s Game, which is set to hit theaters this November.

Inspired by Ryan Chapman’s notion that small publishing should take a cue from indie record labels, Flavorwire comes up with the record-label equivalents for indie publishers.

Geoff Dyer shares his exhausting schedule of daytime sitting: “In the day I'm at my desk in one of those Herman Miller Aeron chairs that make one feel like a mid-level executive with back problems. For a while in the afternoon I move to a red leather chair that tilts back like a prototype of the first-ever business-class airplane seat in order to read, i.e. induce a nap. Having recovered from my nap, I put in a further quarter-hearted shift in my Aeron before moving to the living-room sofa for some real sitting: sitting in the sense of almost lying down with all parts of the body evenly supported.”

Vikram Seth has been asked to return a $1.7 million advance after blowing a deadline. Seth was supposed to turn in A Suitable Girl, the sequel to his 1993 bestseller A Suitable Boy, last June, but the manuscript never materialized. Both Seth and his publisher have refused to comment on the situation, but Seth’s agent told the Mumbai Mirror that negotiations are ongoing: “Vikram has been known to take his time with his books. Our aim is to settle this new date with Hamish [Hamilton].”

At the Columbia Journalism Review, Francesca Borri talks about what it’s like to be a female freelance journalist in Syria.


A page from the manuscript of Samuel Beckett's Murphy

A six-notebook draft of Murphy, Samuel Beckett’s first novel, has sold at auction for nearly a million pounds. Up until its sale to Reading University this week, the manuscript belonged to a private collector and had been shrouded in secrecy. According to the Guardian, “the manuscript has rarely been seen since Beckett gave it to his friend Brian Coffey in 1938 to thank him for his support after the writer was stabbed in a random attack by a pimp in a Paris street as he was revising the proofs.”

At The Millions, Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio explains why Lolita is his choice for the Great American Novel, and considers how, despite being Russian and spending only two decades in the U.S., Nabokov managed to write “a novel that not only speaks more intimately than any book by Fitzgerald, Faulkner, or Hemingway about our conflicted nature, but also enacts, via its high stylization, the great American seduction.”

From books to arts to international culture: women are slowly taking over culture coverage at the New York Times.

Consolidation has always been a part of book publishing, but now that the “Big Six” publishers have been reduced to the “Big Five” (thanks to the Penguin / Random House merger) the effects might be especially pronounced. One potential pitfall, writes Boris Kachka, is that some publishers “either forbid (as at Penguin) or restrict (at Random House) their constituent imprints from bidding against one another for a manuscript. That means not only lower advances, but also fewer options for writers to get the kind of painstaking attention—from editors, marketers and publicists—that it takes to turn their manuscripts into something valuable.”

A federal judge has ruled that Apple broke antitrust laws and “played a central role in facilitating and executing [the] conspiracy” to fix e-book prices by collaborating with five American publishing houses. The company will be forced to pay damages at an upcoming trial.

At Slate, Errol Morris pens an extended reflection on Hamlet, Vietnam, and the 1965-66 mass murders in Indonesia.


304. Apple conspired to raise e-book prices, federal judge rules [AND] A judge says Apple fixed e-book prices. This chart shows how they did it

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

The New Republic’s Isaac Chotiner picks a with fight with Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche by dubbing her an “insufferable interviewee.”

Guillermo del Toro is in talks with Charlie Kaufman about writing the screenplay for the directors upcoming adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. As del Toro told the Daily Telegraph, “Charlie [Kaufman] and I talked for about an hour-and-a-half and came up with a perfect way of doing the book. I love the idea of the Trafalmadorians [the aliens of Slaughterhouse-Five]—to be ‘unstuck in time.'”

At Flavorwire, Jason Diamond evaluates the growing genre of “Brooklynsploitation”—novels that lazily pick up “every bad Brooklyn stereotype.”

A twelve-foot fiberglass sculpture of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice rose out of a lake this week as part of a temporary installation in London’s Serpentine Lake. The artwork takes its inspiration from a scene in a 1995 TV adaptation of the novel (it wasn’t in the book) in which a white-shirted Mr. Darcy, played by Colin Firth, emerges from a lake. According to the AP, the scene “helped turn Firth into a sex symbol and is regularly voted among Britain's most memorable TV moments.” The sculpture will stay in London for several months before going on tour around England, and the Independent has put together a short video of viewers’ reactions.

With all the Bolaņo books being translated into English, a guidebook to the author’s oeuvre is essential. Thankfully, The Millions has now provided one, dividing his books between “essential,” “merely excellent,” and “necessary for completists only.”

Goodreads has revealed its list of the top “most abandoned books,” splitting the list between classics and airport purchases. In the first category, Catch-22 ranks at the top, followed by Lord of the Rings, Ulysses, and Moby Dick, while Eat, Pray, Love, the Fifty Shades of Gray series and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fall into the latter. Goodreads compiled the results by surveying their readers.


Christian Marclay's "The Clock"

The Guardian has attempted to create a literary version of Christian Marclay’s incredible artwork "The Clock." Marclay’s artwork consists of film clips featuring shots of clocks that are spliced into a 24-hour chronological loop and synched to real time, and the Guardian’s literary clock will do the same thing with text. For example, they’re looking for sentences like this one from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: “'It was 12:56 A.M. when Gerald drove up onto the grass and pulled the limousine right next to the cemetery.” They’re still accepting submissions of quotes, but hurry—the project is scheduled to debut at the Edinburgh international books fair on August 8.

Harvard University Press has bumped up the release of Ben Urwand's The Collaboration—a book about Hollywood’s collaboration with the Nazis—after a New York Times piece described the book as "creating a stir" among historians.

Over the past few months, New York Magazine book critic Kathryn Schulz has shared her distaste for The Great Gatsby, Christian Lorentzen has gone after Alice Munro in the London Review of Books, and Joseph Epstein has wondered in the Atlantic whether Kafka was overrated. At Salon, Laura Miller goes through the history of great literary takedowns.

The Paris Review’s Ted Scheinman reports from the University of North Carolina’s first annual Jane Austen summer camp—a week-long academic program pegged to the bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice.

This is what Star Wars might have been like if it had been written by Shakespeare.


Neil Gaiman

In the smartest response we’ve read to Mark Edmundson’s screed against the state of contemporary poetry in Harper’s, Stephen Burt puts Edmundson’s critique into historical context—“complaints against contemporary poetry arise, like vampire slayers, in every generation”—and addresses his concerns point by point. While conceding that “some American poets today are indeed, as Edmundson complains, difficult, idiosyncratic, private, learned, or just weird,” Burt also makes a convincing case that there are many poets today working towards Edmundson’s ideal: “a clearer and a more public contemporary poetry.”

At the New Statesman, Laurie Penny examines her history as a “manic pixie dream girl” (critic Nathan Rabin’s term for the girl who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures”) and considers the ways in which sexism in storytelling often translates into real life dynamics.

Flavorwire debuts a Google Map of all the places Tao Lin’s protagonist visits in his new novel, Taipei.

A new study of international reading habits finds that Indians on average read more than anybody else, reading an average of ten hours a week. After India, the best-read nations are Thailand (9 hours, 24 minutes), China (8 hours), the Philippines (7 hours, 36 minutes), Egypt (7.5 hours) and the Czech Republic (7 hours, 24 minutes). Americans and Germans both clocked in at 5 hours, 42 minutes, while out of the 30 countries polled, Koreans read the least: just three hours and seventeen minutes a week.

Within the past year, Alice Munro and Philip Roth have announced their retirement from writing, leading a lot of people to wonder why anybody would need to officially retire from a profession that doesn’t have set hours. At Newsweek, Jimmy So explains why being a professional writer is the same as having a day job: “John Updike used to rent a one-room office above a restaurant, where he would report to write six days a week. John Cheever famously put on his only suit and rode the elevator with the 9-to-5 crowd, only he would proceed down to the basement to write in a storage room. Robert Caro still puts on a jacket and tie every day and repairs to his 22nd-floor Manhattan office.”

Twenty-five years after the launch of his award-winning graphic novel series “Sandman,” Neil Gaiman is working on a six-issue prequel. The forthcoming series, “Sandman: Overture” will focus on the character of Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, and the first issue will be released this October. According to The Guardian, “the storyline describes what happened to Dream before the events of the first ever comic, in which he was imprisoned by an Aleister Crowley-ish Satanist.” The original series, which had a 75-issue run, was one of the first graphic novels on the New York Times bestseller list, and won Gaiman six Harvey and nineteen Eisner awards.

Advertisement