Steve Martin frustrated the crowd at the 92nd Street Y earlier this month by disuccsing his new novel, An Object of Beauty, at the expense of what the audience wanted to hear about—his wild and crazy days in show business. He had a considerably better time at a recent appearance on The Colbert Report, a tour-de-force of performance art and comedy featuring artists Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey, and Andres Serrano.
The New Yorker’s Book Bench has a nice roundup of liquor books, just in time for the holidays. We’d add one more to the list: David Wondrich's festive and wry volume Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.
Laura Albert, the author who made her big splash by posing as a former teen drug-addict and prostitute-tuned-writer named J. T. Leroy, is suing her publisher, Bloomsbury, for blowing “a golden opportunity to promote her work following a 2007 fraud trial.” Though Albert is not known for her honesty, she is apparently very meticulous: She’s asking for $131,573.60.
Graywolf Press will publish a bilingual edition of poetry by 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is currently serving a prison sentence in China for “inciting subversion of state power.”
At the Awl, Miles Klee has almost outdone David Shields. Klee has constructed a surprisingly lucid story—fittingly named “Ibid”—made completely out of sentences from other works; the narrative contains eighty-five footnotes, including sources as diverse as Dante, Susan Sontag, and Jim Thompson.
The blizzard of literary events continues unabated this weekend. Two of the best are n+1’s reading tonight, featuring ten quick appearances by contributors including Caleb Crain, Keith Gessen, and Carla Blumenkranz at Brooklyn’s cozy BookCourt; and Saturday’s Moonlighter Presents series, which “encourages the public presentation of secret hobbies, passions, thoughts, opinions, and research,” with readings by Triple Canopy’s Sam Frank, as well as Sean Tommasi, and Cecily Swanson.
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony will take place tomorrow (you can watch a live webcast here), but the honoree—Chinese activist and author Liu Xiabo—remains in prison. A group of protesters have delivered an open letter to the Chinese embassy in Oslo calling for Liu’s release. The letter reads, in part: “During the two months since the announcement of the prize in early October, the Chinese government has not only held Liu Xiaobo in prison and confined his wife, Liu Xia, to house arrest; it also has sharply escalated its use of tactics like detention, house arrest, mandatory interrogations, and raids on homes to intimidate other Chinese citizens.”
The new issue of The Paris Review will go on sale December 15. It will include an interview with Jonathan Franzen, paintings by Amy Siliman and Tom McGrath, and a “troubling, sexually charged” novella by Peter Nadas.
Via Bookslut: The Babyshambles frontman, possible bad influence, and occasionally incarcerated Pete Doherty has been cast for a French film about 19th-century author Alfred de Musset.
Tireless innovator Seth Godin has launched a new imprint called The Domino Project, a partnership with Amazon, which will, as he describes it, “choose and deliver manifestos that are optimized for the tribe, for the small group that wants to grab them, inhale them and spread them.” The first optimized manifesto on offer hasn’t been named yet (we’re guessing it’s one of Godin’s relentlessly chipper dispatches on the zeitgiest), but will be available in March 2011.
Tired of best-of the year lists yet? We are, too. Still, we couldn’t help feeling some cheer when we saw that Anne Carson’s Nox was the top contemporary poetry bestseller for 2010.
Tonight at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, Susan Bernofsky (whose translation of Robert Walser’s Microscripts was one of our books of the year) and poet and translator Idra Novey will read from their recent work.
Franklin Foer has ended his tenure as editor of The New Republic with executive editor Richard Just set to take the helm in January. The New York Times explains the hire: “At 31, Mr. Just fits The New Republic’s formula for editors: young, male Ivy Leaguers.”
At Triple Canopy, David Graeber’s essay on debt, “To Have is to Owe,” is ingeniously illustrated by Joanna Neborsky. The result is an intriguing example of innovative online publishing—a reading experience that draws you in like print, with the flash and frisson of the web.
The Millions’s Year in Reading series provides one of the best collections of end-of-the-year book lists we’ve seen, with picks from Lynne Tillman, Emma Donoghue, Anthony Doerr, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Elliott, and more.
New York Times columnist Michiko Kakutani impersonates the voice of a cartoon dog to review Andrew O’Hagan’s new book. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
Grace Krilanovich’s recent novel, The Orange Eats Creeps, earned her the honor of being named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35. At the blog Jacket Copy, she describes six-years of writing, revising, and rejection before the book was published, and the vertiginous euphoria of realizing her improbable happy ending at the big ceremony.
Tonight at Soho’s McNally Jackson books, Poets & Writers magazine is holding its annual Indie Innovators celebration.
Borders, Barnes, and Noble? A large stakeholder in the Borders Group, the investment firm Pershing Square Capital Management, has a plan to merge the struggling bookstore chain with its slightly less beleaguered competitor, Barnes and Noble.
Google launched its long-awaited e-book venture yesterday, cleverly integrating their new e-book shop within the already popular Google Books. “Reading Unbound,” the G-sages branded the service (with a nod to Aeschylus), explaining that “Google eBooks are stored in the cloud, so there is no file to download if you want to read on your computer, phone, or tablet.” The three million e-books already available can be read on most devices that aren’t a Kindle. Google's e-book rating system will be based on reviews from the online bookworm community Goodreads. The American Booksellers Association has partnered with Google, allowing many indie-bookstores their first viable way to sell digital books. So far, no evil, but as the New Yorker’s Book Bench notes, one hazard is that the new e-bookstore will further tangle the cataloging mess that now plagues Google Books. Like many real bookstores, it may be hard to find what you're looking for.
At the blog 3 Quarks Daily, Robert P. Baird writes that the principles that motivated Julian Assange to start Wikileaks in 2006 are similar to those of the Language poets of the ’70s and ’80s: “If, in a favorite Langpo motto, ‘language control = thought control = reality control,’ then it was . . . imperative to fight the battle for a just reality at the level of language. Just as Assange wants to debase the currency of diplomatic secrecy, so the Language poets wanted to debase the clear and orderly functioning of language.”
Jane Austen’s work has been subjected to Zombies and Sea Monsters, but now must suffer an even more terrifying fate: Bad Parody.
Tonight at ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn, Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch will read from Ten Walks/Two Talks, a book praised by novelist Justin Taylor as “deceptively simple . . . it demands little but offers much. They invite us to experience our city with fresh pleasure and renewed awe.” The reading will be followed by a performance by the band Holy Spirits.
At HTMLGIANT Roxane Gay bemoans the lack of diversity in this year’s Best American Short Stories, writing "segregation is alive and well when it comes to what we read," and challenges readers to name five black, Asian, and Latino authors. The Rumpus responds. The Economist, apparently unconcerned with the idea of gender balance, has blithely posted its best books of the year list, with no women authors in the fiction or poetry categories (a remarkable oversight in a year when books like Room, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Inferno, Nox, et al., were published) and with women making up only ten percent of authors overall.
Do editors edit? Do small publishers care more about books than big publishers do? How accurate are bestseller lists? Longtime industry observer J. E. Fishman examines some common “misconceptions about book publishing.” The most frightening is his assertion that e-books will not save book publishers much money, because it is not books' physical characteristics (paper, binding, etc.) that cost so much, but the people who make them. Solution? Cut salaries and outsource the publishing biz, or else "find a really rich guy who's bored with his sports team."
Meanwhile, Cursor mastermind Richard Nash, who's often heralded as the publishing industry's future savior, has declared that a coherent sense of the “publishing world” doesn’t even exist. “The data about the book business is poor because there is no such thing as the book business.”