Yoko Ono

Hundreds of Haruki Murakami fans waited overnight outside bookstores in Tokyo to get early copies of his latest novel, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. According to a review in Asahi Shimbun, the novel is about “a man who tries to overcome his sense of loss and isolation." The Guardian elaborates: “at high school, protagonist Tsukuru Tazaki had four close friends whose names represented different colours. His did not, and at university he was rejected by his friends. Now 36, Tazaki is looking back on his empty, colourless life.”

After visiting the Anne Frank Museum, Justin Bieber wrote in the guest book: "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber."

After an outcry over the whiteness and maleness and general shortsightedness of the “American Men of Letters” sweepstakes, the Knopf/Vintage Facebook page has removed all traces of the competition, which gave readers the chance to win novels by James Salter, Richard Russo, John Cheever, Richard Ford and Philip Roth. Meanwhile, Riverhead responded with their own contest: the “Global Women of Letters” sweepstakes.

Jack Handey—who in the early '90s provided Saturday Night Live with its "Deep Thoughts" segments—actually exists, and is an accomplished satirist and poet.

When Dickens didn’t meet Dostoevsky: The Times Literary Supplement digs deep to find the source of a bogus anecdote, and unravels a string of surprisingly elaborate lies to get to the bottom of a string of literary hoaxes.

Yoko Ono is putting out a book of “instructional poetry” called Acorn with OR Books.


David Graeber

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2013 Guggenheim fellowships, who include Colson Whitehead, Rachel Kushner, J.C. Hallman, Michael Lesy, Jennifer Homans, Ben Marcus, and Carlin Romano.

To commemorate James Joyce, the Central Bank of Ireland has minted 10,000 special ten euro coins with the author’s face and a quote from Ulysses printed on them. A nice idea, but too bad they misquoted the book.

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Elaine Showalter traces the literature of American anxiety back to its late 19th-century origins.

We’re a little jealous of the New York Times Magazine softball team’s jersey, which was designed by illustrator Christoph Niemann.

When his novels failed to pay the bills, James Salter spent a stretch of the '70s writing celebrity profiles for People magazine. Says Slate: “Between 1974 and 1976, Salter profiled Vladimir Nabokov, Graham Greene, the Chinese writer Han Suyin, General Sidney Berry, and socialite and author Lady Antonia Fraser.” To the New York literati, it might have seemed like he was slumming it, but People did send him to Geneva to meet Nabokov, and it certainly beat his previous job: selling swimming pools.

David Graeber, author of Debt and the forthcoming book The Democracy Project, talks with Gawker about Occupy Wall Street and the state of politics in the U.S.: “One thing that really shocked me is the complete stupidity of something called the liberal classes in America. It's bizarre that they don't seem to have any political common sense, because the right wing has political common sense. Republicans understand you can sell out your radicals on all the policy but not on the existential issues.”


Max Brod and Franz Kafka. | SWR/SAGI BORNSTEIN/DR

The City of New York has settled with Occupy Wall Street over a lawsuit resulting from the destruction of an OWS library during a police raid last year. According to papers filed by the OWS Library Working Group, the city seized 3,600 books last November, and only returned 1,003 of them. The city has agreed to pay the movement $47,000, and will cover $186,350 in attorney fees.

Todd Field, director of Little Children and In the Bedroom, is adapting Jess Walter’s latest novel, Beautiful Ruins.

Deborah Copaken Kogan contributes a brave and frequently shocking essay to The Nation about her “so-called post-feminist life in arts and letters.”

Bernardo Bertolucci’s latest feature is an adaptation of a novel by Italian writer Niccolò Ammaniti. The 73-year-old director is best known for Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist, and most recently, The Dreamers. Me and You doesn’t have a distributor yet—and early reviews at Cannes were far from glowing—but we want to see it anyway.

The Huffington Post excerpts Amazon engineer Jason Merkowski’s forthcoming book about the development of the Kindle: “When thinking about how ebooks are created, it’s best to envision a sausage factory. Meat goes in one end, machinery packages it, and a neatly bundled sausage comes out the other. At the ebook factory, you start in the front with books from publishers. They’re chopped up, reassembled and packaged, and finally made available for sale in digital form.”

Here is a rare photo of Kafka smiling. (h/t Richard Brody).


Margaret Thatcher, the best thing to happen to publishing in the UK since Harry Potter.

Pamela Paul, a features editor at the New York Times Book Review, will replace Sam Tanenhaus as editor of that publication. Tanenhaus, who took over the magazine back in 2004, will now be a writer-at-large for the New York Times, with a focus on “the ideological and historical roots–and emerging character — of today’s roiling political movements.”

Haruki Murakami, Karen Russell, Arthur Phillips, Michel Houellebecq and Julie Otsuka are among the writers on the shortlist for the $130,000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, which will be announced on June 6.

Dwight Garner singles out three books of profiles that were published before “celebrity-industrial complex was fully formed, when a journalist could still push past an artist’s P.R. phalanx and come back with a story that possessed real feeling and offbeat detail.”

Jake Gyllenhaal is narrating the new audiobook version of The Great Gatsby.

Margaret Thatcher’s death has produced a “publishing flurry,” with two biographies coming out this month, and a number of old books being reprinted. It has also generated a number of literary remembrances, including one by Ian McEwan in the Guardian: "Margaret Thatcher: we disliked her and we loved it."

Since the publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s female empowerment/corporate self-help book Lean In, Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith says that at least two women have cited the book during salary negotiations. And he’s not the only one: New York Times editor Jill Abramson told Smith that Timeswomen have also started to lean in. "I do think the book and all the attendant publicity have emboldened some women to speak up more directly about compensation, which is, of course, a welcome development," Abramson said in an email.


Pablo Neruda

The New York Times profiles Mellow Pages, a DIY bookstore in far-flung Brooklyn that stocks around 1,300 books by small presses and mostly unknown writers.

The latest issue of New York Magazine takes stock of the state of the media with a special section dedicated to its past, present and future. Mark Danner interviews NYRB founder Bob Silvers on the magazine’s fifty-year history; Frank Rich assesses the declining profit margins of print newspapers, and Andrew Rice considers the charge that BuzzFeed is nothing more than “a super-big ad tech company with a journalism veneer.”

It’s a big month for the Paris Review: their annual revel is tomorrow, and in two weeks, they’re set to move from their current Tribecca location to a new office in Chelsea.

Moby Lives reads between the lines of e-book pricing.

Amazon will publish a bilingual edition of a Cornish/English children’s book following an outcry over the paucity of languages available on the Kindle Direct Publishing platform.

A team of Chilean scientists began excavating Pablo Neruda’s body yesterday in order to discover whether the poet was poisoned by the Pinochet regime. While Neruda’s official cause of death in 1973 was recorded as prostate cancer, suspicions about foul play arose two years ago, when Neruda’s former driver stated that the poet’s health began to deteriorate after doctors injected him with a mysterious substance. Neruda was considered an opponent of the regime, and was close to ousted president Salvador Allende.


Google Glass: soon to be worn by Gary Shteyngart.

Gary Shteyngart has been invited to join a special pilot program for Google Glass—the Google-designed glasses with a computer built into them. Shteyngart was selected after tweeting that the glasses would help him “dream up of new ideas for the TV adaptation of my novel Super Sad True Love Story.” After becoming one of the chosen few, the author told Buzzfeed that he couldn’t “resist becoming a cyborg anymore—it's clear that all paths lead to me becoming more machine than man. Which is fine, because I never really liked me as a man very much. So I embrace my new machinehood.”

The European Commission has approved the merger of Random House and Penguin. The US, Australia, and New Zealand have already signed off on the merger, and several more regulatory bodies are expected to sign off before the end of the year.

The Dublin Review takes self-flagellation to a new level in their latest issue, inviting writers to share "what they do that causes them dismay, or what they wish they could do but can't." Geoff Dyer confesses that he can't "think up plots" or create characters, and "struggles" to remember facts; Richard Ford says he is unable to "describe how people look"; and Rachel Cusk reveals that "my own sense of shame about my writing" centers on thinking that "I ought to write about sex".

A new issue of the Slate Book Review came out on Friday, featuring reviews by Rebecca Schuman, Dan Kois, and an essays by science writer Dan Engber that tackles the question “If kittens rule the Internet, why do puppies reign in print?”

“Goodreads.com lists over 6,000 prizes on its Web site,” Amanda Foreman observes at the New York Times. “The oldest, the Nobel Prize in Literature, was founded in 1901; the youngest was established yesterday. Ten more will certainly be announced tomorrow.” So given the abundance of prizes for everything from acknowledgements to first novels, do literary prizes still matter?


Roger Ebert

Hillary Clinton has signed a deal with Simon and Schuster to write a book (her third) about “key decisions and experiences from her time as Secretary of State.” The book, which as of yet does not have a title, is slated to come out in 2014—just around the time that Clinton is rumored to announce a possible run for her boss’s job.

Legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert passed away on Thursday at the age of 70. In addition to his incredible body of criticism (much of which is available at the Sun-Times archive), Ebert will be remembered for his very public struggle with cancer and candid writing and tweeting about the experience. For more on Ebert, Will Leitch wrote movingly about his first encounter with the critic for Deadspin. At the New Yorker, Robert Mankoff talks about Ebert’s ultimately successful bid to win a cartoon caption contest. And Salon has posted an essay about death by Ebert himself.

The Atlantic has hired longtime Slate editor (and TNR vet) Ann Hulbert to be their new books and culture editor.

What’s it like being asked to write your first book review for the Times? Like being summoned by God (which is to say: terrifying), says Roxana Robinson at the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog.

Ig Books is launching a new imprint to bring back forgotten YA novels of the past century. The initiative will be spearheaded by Shelf Discovery author Lizzie Skurnick (and ergo called Lizzie Skurnick Books). The lead-off title will be Debutante Hill by Lois Duncan.


For your reading pleasure, Longform has rounded up all the finalists for the 2013 National Magazine Awards in the categories of Features, Reporting, Public Interest, and Essays and Criticism.

At the New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton writes about the intellectual underpinnings of the Digital Public Library of America: “a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world.” The Library is set to launch on April 18.

In anticipation of Junot Diaz’s upcoming reading at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, organizers have commissioned a comic adaptation of Diaz’s short story “Miss Lora,” which just won the Sunday Times Short Story Award.

The centerpiece of the latest issue of The Baffler is a 16,000-word salvo by Bookforum contributor Evgeny Morozov about the pernicious techno-utopianism of O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly.

During a recent reading in Austin, Texas, George Saunders told the audience: "I texted a cousin of mine who was coming with her kids (one of whom is in high school) just to let her know there was some rough language. Afterwards she said she didn’t mind fu*k, but hated—wait for it—moist. Said it made her a little physically ill." Why do we react strongly to some words and not to others? Slate investigates the curious phenomenon of word aversion.


Paula Fox

The Paris Review is running a series of essays paying homage to Paula Fox, who will be honored at the journal’s annual Revel with the Hadada Prize. The first essay comes from Tom Bissell, who got Fox’s classic novel Desperate Characters back into print while still an editorial assistant at W.W. Norton. According to Bissell, the novel (a tale of cat bites, gentrification, and marital dissintigration set in brownstone Brooklyn) “cuts across generations and aesthetic tastes like no other modern novel I know. Postmodernists love it. I love it. Hipsters love it. Academics love it. Realists love it. My mother loves it. Only a year or two after it was republished, Desperate Characters was being regarded as one of the classic Brooklyn novels, one of the classic American short novels.”

Novelist, critic, and musiciam James Greer is helping Steven Soderbergh adapt John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor into a 12-part miniseries. "Kind of like Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz, but with pirates and whores and venereal disease and bumptious alcoholics and someone in almost every episode soiling his or her (usually his) pants. In other words, almost exactly like Berlin Alexanderplatz," Greer recently wrote in the LA Review of Books.

The AP is dropping the term “illegal immigrant” from their stylebook.

The New Yorker launches “Elements,” a new blog about science and tech, with a piece by Maria Bustillos about the financial crisis in Europe and the future of the electronic currency Bitcoin.

At the Boston Review, Claude S. Fischer pens a long essay about how the number of college-educated women joining the workforce has dropped off since the 1990s; meanwhile, at the New York Times’ Dealbook blog, Andrew Ross Sorkin interviews female executives about the lack of women on Wall Street, and how “the problem of the glass ceiling is matched by... “sticky floor” — that is, women who remain in lower-tier jobs because they don’t proactively try to climb the corporate ladder.”

If you work at a media website like Gawker or Buzzfeed, how much of your job is consumed by tweeting? The Awl crunches the numbers.


Margaret Atwood

It’s that time of year again: the nominees for the National Magazine Awards (unfortunately known as the ASMEs) have been announced. While there are too many worthy contenders to name here, we’d like to congratulate Bookforum contributor Daphne Merkin for scoring a nominations in the “columns and commentary” category for her writing in Elle magazine.

More awards news: We now know who will be deciding the next National Book Awards.

For $1,400 a pop, exceptionally dedicated fans of Margaret Atwood can join the Canadian author on a seven-day cruise as she promotes her forthcoming novel <em style="font-size: 10pt;">MaddAdam</em>.

At the Guardian, John Dugdale calls for the end of the campus novel.

Can nasty language anticipate real-world violence? Foreign Policy spotlights Hatebase, a social media and mapping initiative that seeks to predict ethnic violence based on instances of hate speech.

A new Kickstarter project is angling to turn Sigmund Freud’s handwriting into a typeface.

BuzzFeed, generally known as the home of corgi slideshows and left-wing cats, has launched a new section dedicated to longform journalism. With extended pieces about subjects like school shootings and Florida python hunts, editor Steve Kandell acknowledges that that the site is “BuzzFeed for people who are afraid of BuzzFeed.”

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