John R. MacArthur
The turmoil at Harper’s continues. Last week, the Harper’s Union held an online fundraiser that they say raised $50,000 dollars to help keep the magazine from losing staff. (It's been reported that publisher John R. MacArthur is undecided whether to accept the money, telling Forbes "I don’t want to take money from people of modest incomes, and I certainly don’t want to accept corporate or foundation money that, too often, comes with strings attached.") Yesterday, Harper’s associate editor Theodore Ross announced on his blog, Dadwagon, that he had accepted a severance package after six years on the job. Ross writes: “I will say that Harper’s problems are hardly original among its publishing peers: the challenges it faces are structural, others stem from poor luck and an inability to plan; most, however, are clearly self-inflicted.” There's been no public word yet on the fate of Ben Metcalf, the literary editor also said to be slated for a layoff, a fight whose outcome may be the most telling indicator of the magazine’s future direction.
The Telegraph has accused The Guardian of releasing alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning’s name to the media, as The Guardian has just published its account of L’affaire Assange in a new book, WIKILEAKS: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy. The Guardian responds to The Telegraph’s charge: “The whole world knows [Manning] is alleged to be the source. So to accuse us of somehow naming him looks at best like a piece of mischief and at worst something more unpleasant.”
In 1988, thirty-six year old Karla Eoff received a phone call from a friend asking if she wanted to be Susan Sontag’s assistant. Newly arrived in New York, Eoff decided that it would be good to at least meet the legendary author. Soon after, Eoff was hired, and discovered that “with Susan, you’re either on the ride or you’re not. For a few amazing years, I was on it. And it was quite a ride.” (Via Vol. I Brooklyn).
Tonight at BookCourt in Brooklyn, Paula Bomer reads from her short story collection Baby & Other Stories, along with Jessica Anya Blau, and Susan Henderson.
We’ve just heard that Sheila Heti’s second novel, How Should A Person Be?, has been sold to Henry Holt for publication in summer 2012. We’ve been praising the book since the day we scored a copy from Toronto’s House of Anansi Press this fall, and were puzzled by the seeming lack of stateside interest in publishing it. One Observer article, an excerpt in n+1, and some proclamations of Heti’s talent from literati such as n+1 editor Mark Greif and art critic Dave Hickey and—presto!—as Heti told us in an email: “There were three other houses interested, so things did turn around very quickly indeed, and I'm happy.”
Haruki Murakami’s highly anticipated fifteen-hundred-page-plus novel,1Q84, will be published by Knopf in a single volume in October.
After the Tucson shootings, pundits strained to discern a liberal or conservative bent to suspect Jared Lee Loughner’s incoherent ideology by examining the books that he supposedly read (Plato, Peter Pan, Mein Kampf). At the Times, Geoff Nicholson reflects on the “perils of literary profiling,” writing: “Books are acquired for all kinds of reasons, including curiosity, irony, guilty pleasure and the desire to understand the enemy (not to mention free review copies), but you try telling that to a G-man.”
This Sunday, the French cultural institute Villa Gillet continued its stellar “Walls and Bridges” literary series, with an event at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn dedicated to fiction and philosophy. The standing-room-only audience enjoyed a lively discussion moderated by Tin House’s Rob Spillman, as panelists Pierre Cassou-Nogučs, Rick Moody, Avital Ronell, and Benjamin Walker discussed the intersections of the two disciplines. The wide-ranging talk culminated in a challenge from Cassou-Nogučs to Moody to compose what the French author considered an unrealizable fiction: “Take, for instance, the invisible man . . .Can you tell the same story in the realm of touch? There is not a story about the untouchable man . . . because it is impossible.” Moody gamely accepted the challenge, and told the audience that if the many writers present at the event submitted such a story to him in one year, he would edit an “untouchable man” anthology and attempt to get it published.
Three Percent, the organization dedicated to international literature, has announced the nominees for its annual Best Translated Book Awards.
Bloomsbury USA has signed an anonymous author to write a tell-all about his illustrious career “helping students cheat.” Ed Dante, as he’s now known, has written term papers for graduate and undergraduate students for years, and will reveal his true identity when his book is published in 2012.
The union at Harper’s Magazine attempts to prevent the layoff of Ben Metcalf and others by asking for reader support.
Now that Martin Amis is moving to New York, Colm Toibin is taking over Amis’s teaching position at University of Manchester (but will earn a little bit less).
This year, judges of the Booker Prize have the option to read the hundred-plus titles being considered for the award on an e-reader.
The New York Times is publishing its first e-book, executive editor Bill Keller’s Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy: Complete and Updated Coverage from The New York Times (an essay adapted from the book's introduction will be published in this Sunday's Times magazine and is already available online). The book will be available on January 31, at all the major e-book retailers. Keller says "The publication of Open Secrets as an e-book is the latest example of the Times exploiting the creative potential of the Web to deliver the world's best journalism in whatever format readers find most appealing.” Keller will begin writing a regular column for the front of the Sunday magazine beginning in early March, at the behest of the publication’s new editor Hugo Lindgren.
At Inside Higher Ed, there’s an engaging conversation between Parul Sehgal, this year’s NBCC Nona Balakian award-winner, and Scott McLemee, a former Balakian honoree. Among Sehgal’s many sharp observations about book criticism is her discerning take on the field’s current landscape: “The shift from print to digital publishing used to provide me with some fine moments of terror. . . . [but] the more I quell my Chicken Little instincts, the more I allow myself to recognize—and enjoy—this moment of incredible intellectual abundance. And in terms of whether the ‘old regime’ still matters, in criticism, we're always standing on the shoulders of giants.”
There’s yet another thing that Vladimir Nabokov was right about: Polyommatus blues. Nabokov, an ardent lepidopterist, floated a speculative hypothesis about butterfly evolution in 1945, which was just proven correct by recent DNA research.
Tonight in Soho, McNally Jackson books hosts a discussion between editor Christopher Glazek and author Ida Hattemer-Higgins about her debut novel, The History of History.
Daniel Bell is dead: The man who famously declared himself “a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture” has passed away at age 91. Bell was central among the New York intellectuals, and one of the era’s last surviving figures. He authored such seminal works as Marxian Socialism in the United States (1952), The End of Ideology (1960), and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1978), and with his classmate and friend Irving Kristol, Bell helped found and edit the Public Interest in 1965, eventually departing from the journal when Kristol moved to the political right. In 2005, Paul Berman wrote in Bookforum about Bell’s place in the Columbia class of ‘68, observing that Bell “noted a strange and repeated tendency on the part of the American Left to lose the thread of continuity from one generation to the next, such that each new generation feels impelled to reinvent the entire political tradition.”
"The Professor Looks At Her," by Philip Monaghan.
To-do list in New York tonight: Go to the Fales Library at NYU to see authors Eileen Myles, David Trinidad, and Brad Gooch celebrate the work of poet Tim Dlugos (1950-1990). Dlugos was the author of the amazing poem “G-9” (named after the AIDS ward at Roosevelt Hospital), and—earlier in his career—a clever and almost mournful riff on Gilligan’s Island, which is the inspiration for a new series of paintings by Philip Monaghan on display in Fales’s gallery.
Just when you thought Brooklyn couldn’t get any more literary, Martin Amis and his wife Isabel Fonseca are adding more authorial talent to the borough by moving to Cobble Hill. James Wolcott reports in his Vanity Fair column that he recently received an unexpected email from Amis, asking if he knew some cool places to hang out. Wolcott quips: “I am happy to hear that Martin will be bringing his special brand of sunshine to one of our fine boroughs. And I feel confident he will find much to do in Brooklyn that will help take his mind off annihilation now and then.”
The Jaipur Literary festival in New Delhi has attracted large audiences and big-name authors such as Nobel-prize winner Orhan Pamuk, but has also been the epicenter for arguments over lingering literary imperialism. Editor Hartosh Singh Bal has singled out the festival’s organizer, the Scottish-born William Dalrymple, writing "this is literary tourism, with Dalrymple nothing more than the principal tour guide for writers arriving in India.” In the new Bookforum, Karan Mahajan profiles Dalrymple, the “Don of Delhi,” writing that he is “an important example of what a foreigner can bring to the table at a time when more and more of the writing about India is being produced by Indians themselves—which is to say: an unabashed eye for the exotic.”
New York Times staffers who feel woozy after a night of hard drinking, or those who simply need a place to quietly contemplate the paper’s new pay wall, can now spend some alone time in the newspaper’s new “privacy rooms,” equipped with sleek couches and opaque glass doors.
GalleyCat has created a “mixtape” sampler of links to books nominated for the NBCC awards (announced on Saturday) with free Amazon previews, while the New Yorker’s Book Bench has composed a list of links to profiles, reviews, and other pieces the magazine has run about the finalists.
Tonight at St. Mark's Bookshop, the legendary pandrogynous musician, artist, and writer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge will read from his book Thee Psychick Bible with author Lonley Christopher, whose new story collection The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse was just published by Akashic Books.
Dear Prudence: A collection of my letters will be published in 2012. Sincerely, John Lennon.
At the Financial Times, author Adam Haslett has written a fine article about style guides and “the art of good writing,” calling Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style “a book full of sound advice addressed to a class of all-male Ivy-Leaguers wearing neckties and with neatly parted hair. This, of course, is part of its continuing appeal. It is spoken in the voice of unquestioned authority.” Haslett compares Strunk and White’s classic guide to Stanley Fish’s new book, How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, which Haslett says “offers a far richer introduction to the capacities of English language sentences. Why is this important? Because the form and rhythm of sentences communicates as much meaning as their factual content, whether we’re conscious of it or not.”
On Saturday night a crowd of critics and authors gathered at WNYC’s hi-tech Jerome L. Greene Performance space, where the finalists for the 2010 NBCC awards were announced. (Afterwards, the conversations we overheard were mostly jokes about the shock of the novel Freedom making the cut, and compliments on the strength of the overall list.) Critic and editor Parul Sehgal was awarded the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Dalkey Archive Press won the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement. The rest of the winners will be announced on March 10th, following two days of readings by the finalists. At the Daily Beast, NBCC president Jane Ciabattari explains the “rigorous, demanding, sometimes exhilarating, and often fraught” selection process.
The new issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review is a collaboration with the Charlottesville photography festival LOOK3, and will include an online supplement of multimedia photo projects. The VQR has also created a new website, Assignment Afghanistan, featuring journalist Elliott Wood’s work. VQR’s editor Ted Genoways says he hopes the journal’s web projects will “[Spark] a renaissance among a rising generation of storytellers by finding new audiences for their work and a new business model for publishing a magazine in the digital age.”
Rowan Somerville, whose novel The Shape of Her was the most recent winner of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award, explains why he went to England to accept the dubious honor: “The only way to stand up to bullies is facing them. The bad sex award is a publicity stunt by a struggling publication. These are people who feel there should not be sex in writing. . . . They hope to shame it out of existence by decontextualising sentences and holding them up to ridicule.” And yet Somerville says the award has helped his novel get some much-needed publicity: “I did National Public Radio in the US, and that’s 12 million listeners right there. There are so many books being published in the UK. You need something salient to stay out there.”
Crain’s New York and Galleycat: Bob Dylan has reportedly signed a six-book deal with Simon & Schuster. Andrew Wylie, the artist’s literary agent, was, according to one unnamed editor, seeking an eight-figure offer. Among the six books will be a followup to Dylan’s memoir Chronicles: Volume One.
At the Millions, Colin Marshall has written an informative “primer” about the novels of Jean-Philippe Toussaint. “Toussaint said that ‘what really matters is to pay attention to what is both infinitely small and infinitely large,’ that ‘a book must contain both darts and philosophy, bowling and metaphysics.’”
Dave Berman—the onetime mastermind of the band Silver Jews and the author of the excellent poetry collection Actual Air (more, please!)—has started a blog.