Jane Austen bling. Photograph: The Department for Culture, Medi/PA
England’s Minister of Culture has barred singer Kelly Clarkson from leaving the country with a ring that once belonged to Jane Austen, claiming that the item is a significant part of England’s cultural history. Clarkson bought the ring at auction last year for over $200,000, and it is one of three existing pieces of jewelry known to have belonged to the writer. A temporary export ban is in place until September 30, and may be extended until the end of the year.
Stephen King is not only a brand, but the head of a literary dynasty: The New York Times profiles the King clan, which includes five published novelists and a dog named after Larry McMurtry.
Last May, George Saunders delivered the convocation speech to graduates at Syracuse University. This week, the New York Times found out about it and posted the transcript on their website.
At The Morning News, Doug Mack writes a lovely essay in defense of the travel guidebook, and its often-overlooked role as an instigator of social change: “What struck me most,” Mack says of his favorite of these books, is that “in a very tangible way, Europe on Five Dollars a Day had guided the very path of cultural change itself, its impact manifest in every hostel-lined Amsterdam alley, every Roman trattoria whose tables bore more guidebooks than wine bottles.”
Are Kurt Vonnegut’s novels in line to be adapted into vampire sexcapades? Possibly—Amazon announced this week that writers will now be able to license and sell fan fiction adapted from any of Vonnegut’s novels on the company’s new Kindle Worlds platform. In a statement to the press, a member of the Vonnegut estate described the move as “a natural extension of his legacy and a testament to the enduring popularity of his characters and stories. Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, is going to quickly become a Kindle Worlds favorite.”
Young Neil Gaiman
Because the target audience for Boris Kachka’s history of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux is, well, people who work in publishing, publisher Simon and Schuster has made it clear that if professional book people want to read Hothouse, they’re going to have to pay for it. In a glossy brochure sent out this week, Simon and Schuster announced that “since your requests for Hothouse have left us (gratefully) overwhelmed, we’ve instituted a No Free Copies policy–even if your name’s in the book.”
Westbourne Press, a small publisher based in the UK, is pushing up the publication date of Reza Aslan’s Zealot after a strange Fox News interview rocketed the book to the best-selling spot on Amazon in the US. In the interview—which got more than five million hits on Buzzfeed—presenter Lauren Green repeatedly asked Aslan why, as a Muslim, he felt qualified to write a book about Jesus.
President Obama angered indie booksellers around the country this week by appearing at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee as part of a nationwide jobs tour. In an open letter to the president, American Booksellers Association head Oren Teicher called the appearance “greatly misguided” and criticized the notion that Amazon is good for the American economy. "At a time when Main Street retailers, including indie bookstores, show promise of recovering from the recession,” Teicher wrote, “we are disheartened to see Amazon touted as a 'jobs creator' and its warehouse facility used as a backdrop for an important jobs speech, when, frankly, the exact opposite is true." Obama’s appearance was timed to coincide with news that Amazon is adding 7,000 new jobs across its service centers.
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, has acquired the archives of McSweeney’s, Dave Egger’s fifteen-year-old publishing company. The Ransom Center announced the news in a press release this week, saying that the archive includes “manuscripts of the books, essays and short stories it has published, as well as correspondence from its work with writers like David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, and Heidi Julavits.” The archive will be open to the public as soon as it’s been catalogued and processed.
Also in Dave Eggers news, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the real-life basis of Eggers’s post-Katrina novel Zeitoun, has been found not guilty of attempted first-degree murder after he was accused of hiring a hitman to murder his wife.
Finally, here are some photos of famous authors as teenagers.