Chocolate: The key to reviving in-store book sales.
Glenn Greenwald, the Brazil-based Guardian journalist who has been working with Edward Snowden and report on the NSA security leaks, just signed a deal with Metropolitan to write a book about about NSA surveillance. The book, which is slated to come out in March 2014, will “contain new revelations exposing the extraordinary cooperation of private industry and the far-reaching consequences of the government’s program, both domestically and abroad.”
Researchers in Belgium have discovered that infusing bookstores with a subtle smell of chocolate encourages shoppers to stick around longer. Specifically, “customers were 2.22 times more likely to closely examine multiple books when the chocolate scent was present in the store, compared with the control condition.” The findings were published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.
Joan Didion’s childhood home in the bizarrely named neighborhood of Poverty Ridge, Sacramento, is on sale for $1.65 million.
The Argentine artist Xul Solar was known for his wide-ranging projects that involved language, math, religion, art, and the occult. He redesigned chessboards, created new lexicons based on Tarot cards, and invented his own universal languages. A new exhibit at the Americas Society highlight’s Solar’s oeuvre, and in particular his friendship and correspondence with another Argentine luminary: Jorge Luis Borges.
The results of Book Riot’s survey of books people pretend to read are in, and Ulysses, Moby-Dick and War and Peace are at the top, but it’s Pride and Prejudice that comes in first.
Reese Witherspoon will play Cheryl Strayed in the adaptation of Strayed’s memoir, Wild. The book is about the author’s 1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest trail after the death of her mother, and it made such an impression on Oprah that it inspired her to revive her book club. Though Witherspoon will be starring in the film, she’s also one of its producers, and was the one who enlisted Nick Hornby to write the screenplay.
A Zadie Smith-approved photo of London
As the publishing world reels from the fact that J.K. Rowling published a book under a male pseudonym, Flavorwire’s Jason Diamond reminds us that Don DeLillo also did a little gender-bending with Amazons, a book about hockey he wrote under the name Cleo Birdwell. (For more on that, read Gerald Howard's Bookforum piece on the novel).
Rolling Stone courted controversy this week by publishing an issue with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhohkar Tsarnaev on the cover looking rumpled and Jim Morrison-esque. The cover was immediately denounced by the media—and by CVS, which has refused to stock this issue—but some, like media commentator Dan Kennedy, have complicated thoughts on the issue. Kennedy points out that “similarly angelic portraits of Tsarnaev have appeared in just about every publication you can think of,” and adds that, "purely as a magazine cover, it was kind of brilliant." He does, however, worry that the cover could “draw attention to him in a way that may make an impression on other alienated people who could be inspired to follow his example.”
A new study of children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 has found that the genre has made little progress on getting past antiquated gender stereotypes. Surveying three hundred books, researchers found that regardless of the date of publication, “mothers in the books were more likely than fathers to perform almost every nurturing behavior, including verbal and physical expressions of love, encouraging, praising and listening.” Meanwhile, fathers were “much more likely than mothers to participate in both physical and non-physical play.”
Not long ago, Zadie Smith and the Guardian teamed up to solicit photos that best captured London. Now, they’ve chosen a winner: a nondescript shot of a street, with three chairs lined up against a white wall and graffiti that reads, “From ya mum.” And why did Smith pick it? "Firstly, it’s nicely composed, it has beauty. Urban areas are beautiful—it’s not all putrid canals and ethnic tension."
At the New Yorker, James Wood considers a clutch of new books by the children of William Styron, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and John Cheever, and wonders whether great novelists are predisposed to be bad parents.
This is what a page of Finnegans Wake looks like with spellcheck on.
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.
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.
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.