How Freedom would have been marketed had it been written by a woman.
Fed up with the abundance of gender-specific cover designs, author Maureen Johnson took to Twitter this week to call on readers to “redesign covers by Literary Dudes. Imagine they have been reclassified as by and for women.” The results are pretty excellent.
“I waited until my first book was published to learn the genre, and when Oprah announced ‘It’s literary fiction!’ just seconds after my pub date, I was overcome with joy.” At McSweeney’s, Jessica Francis Kane explains how to throw a “genre reveal party” for your forthcoming book.
The New Yorker’s efforts to focus more heavily on their web content seem to be paying off—more than 10 million people visited the New Yorker’s website in April alone.
The Village Voice’s editor-in-chief and deputy editor resigned on Thursday after being ordered to lay off five members of the Voice’s twenty-person staff. “When I was brought in here, I was explicitly told that the bloodletting had come to an end,” outgoing editor Will Bourne told the New York Times. “I have enormous respect for the staff here and the work they have been doing and I am not going to preside over further layoffs.”
The forthcoming release of a documentary about famously reclusive writer J.D. Salinger has presented Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein with a problem: how to promote a film about Salinger without giving away all of its secrets?
Caleb Crain writes the best thing we’ve read on indie filmmaker Shane Carruth’s inscrutable second feature, Upstream Color, making the case that understanding Thoreau is key to understanding the critically acclaimed film.
The hacker responsible for exposing the world to George Bush’s secret life as a painter has returned to terrorize Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell. Guccifer hacked into Bushnell’s email and Twitter accounts this week, then Tweeted a link to the first fifty pages of Bushnell’s forthcoming novel, Killing Monica. The incident also revealed how inept Bushnell and her publishers are with technology: "i know NOTHING about this but my husband thinks you can cancel a tweet but doesn't know how to do it," Bushnell's publisher wrote in an email with the subject line "emergency!"
Tin House says happy birthday to Thomas Pynchon, who turned 76 on Tuesday.
At her blog Translationista, Susan Bernofsky, best known for her translations of Robert Walser, has brought our attention to the forthcoming anthology In Translation, which includes essays by Haruki Murakami, Alice Kaplan, Elliot Weinberger, Clare Kavanagh, and others.
Even though there are glimmers of seriousness in celebrity literary imprints—Johnny Depp, for example, recently published a long-lost novel by Woody Guthrie with his imprint Infinitum, Nihil and Viggo Mortensen started his press with the goal of publishing more literary fiction—for the most part, the rise in celebrity-led book imprints is a grim sign for publishing and reading, says Alexander Nazaryan at the New Republic.
A fundraising call for Moby Dick card game has already raised $65,000 on Kickstarter, and there are still three weeks left in the campaign.
David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech “This is Water” has been adapted into a short film.
We might soon be paying taxes on books bought online if the Market Fairness Act—which “sailed” through the Senate on Monday with a 69-27 vote—has similar luck in the House. If the bill passes, it will go into effect in 2014.
New York Magazine book critic Katherine Schulz explains why she finds The Great Gatsby “aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent.” Meanwhile, the New York Times tracks down real estate developers who have named their properties after the novel.
Amanda Knox talks with the New York Times Book Review about her reading habits in prison: “Different books helped me through different periods in different ways. For instance, over time the prison grew more and more overpopulated, and at a certain point, I was struggling to cope with a cellmate who became increasingly confrontational and violent. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, was a humorous distraction from the tension.”
Bookforum contributor Jessica Winter is leaving her post as arts editor at Time to become the business and technology editor at Slate.
Our new favorite Tumblr: American Spoken Language, which creates audio files of Gertrude Stein poems by splicing together single words from hundreds of hip-hop songs.
Let’s all welcome the Buenos Aires Review, a new digital, bilingual magazine dedicated to featuring emerging writers from across the Spanish-speaking world.
Dexter star Michael C. Hall is adapting Matthew Specktor’s novel American Dream Machine for a project that will eventually air on Showtime.
While speaking at a conference last week, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson blamed our current financial crisis on the economic policies of Maynard Keynes, then noted that because Keynes was gay and did not want children, the economist lacked foresight and opted for short-term fixes over long-term solutions for economic problems. He has since apologized.
Martin Amis moved to Brooklyn two years ago, and according to the London Evening Standard, he hasn’t been impressed with life in the borough. “He finds it terribly transactional and, ironically given he was viewed as a literary hipster, he views the Brooklyn hipster scene as populated by conventional posers,” an unnamed “man on the corner” told the paper. “He doesn’t go out as much as he did and has developed a reputation as a curmudgeon.”
Slate debuts “The Great Gatsby: The Video Game” with the tagline “can you reach the green light and attain the American dream?”
The Navajo nation has named Luci Tapahonso as their first-ever Poet Laureate.
The Freud Museum in London has launched a fundraising campaign to come up with the five thousand pounds necessary to restore “possibly the most famous piece of furniture in the world”—the couch in Freud’s counselling room.
Library of Congress
How many copies does a self-published author have to sell before their book qualifies as a bestseller?
Famously reclusive author Harper Lee has filed suit against her literary agent for allegedly tricking the To Kill a Mockingbird author into signing over copyright on the novel. The deal took place five years ago, when Lee was in an assisted-living facility after having suffered a stroke. Lee claims that the agent took advantage of her at that time, and “engineered the transfer of Lee's rights to secure himself ‘irrevocable’ interest in the income derived from To Kill A Mockingbird.”
At the New Yorker, Evan Osnos considers how The Great Gatsby has been received in China: “When Chinese readers talk about Gatsby today, some see a cautionary tale of materialism run amok; others point to the potential danger in the gap between riches and power; and still others recognize the dawning realization that that one may never grasp the dream he so desires. ‘After Gatsby was gone, no one cared,’ a Chinese blogger named Xiao Peng wrote not long ago. ‘Not his business partners or his friends or his guests. Once everything became clear, Gatsby’s life evaporated like smoke.’”
T.S. Eliot worked for years in publishing; Wallace Stevens worked in insurance; William Carlos Williams was a doctor: at NPR, David Orr considers the day jobs of poets.
Inspired by E.L. James, retired porn superstar Sasha Grey is now writing fiction. Grey’s first novel, The Juliette Society, is about “a woman’s introduction to a highly secretive sex club.” Unfortunately, says the Independent, it’s “not very good.”
Thanks to budget cuts stemming from sequestration, the Library of Congress is falling behind on cataloguing and digitizing library content.
Paul Thomas Anderson has reportedly started shooting his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, who Anderson worked with on The Master, and is set in an fictional California beach town towards the end of the 1960s.
Less than a month after it was announced that John Freeman was resigning as the editor of Granta, the magazine has announced that it’s closing its New York office following the departure of three of its editors.
How much does winning the Pulitzer affect book sales? It makes a difference—Adam Johnson went from selling 413 copies of The Orphan Master’s Son a week before his Pulitzer win to 2,477 in the two weeks after the announcement—but not as much as you’d think. What really makes a difference, as exemplified by a big spike in <em style="font-size: 10pt;">The Great Gatsby </em>sales, are movie adaptations.
Teaching, editing, advertising: The day jobs of famous novelists.
John Grisham is putting the finishing touches on a sequel to his 1988 bestselling novel A Time to Kill, in which an idealistic white lawyer working in the deep south defended a black man who had killed his daughter’s rapists. Grisham will return to the same town and characters in Sycamore Row, which will come out this fall with Knopf.
And in in job news, political blogger Andrew Sullivan is looking for a personal assistant, and the lazy need not apply: “The job includes everything that you can imagine: from managing my calendar, setting up travel arrangements, dealing with press inquiries, to handling my in-box, helping me manage real estate, occasional dog-sitting and walking, keeping track of my regimen of medications with doctors and insurance companies, and the conventional office-work the job usually entails.”
Moscow-based journalist Masha Gessen has signed on with Riverhead to write the first book about the Tsarnaev brothers, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. According to the press release, the book will “explain who the brothers were, where they came from, what shaped them, and how they came to do what they appear to have done. From their displaced beginnings, as descendants of ethnic Chechens deported to Central Asia in the Stalin era, it will follow the brothers from strife-ridden Kyrgyzstan to war-torn Dagestan, and then, as new émigrés, to the looking-glass, utterly disorienting peace and order of Cambridge, Mass.” There’s no word yet on a title or when the book is expected to come out.
The Atlantic is launching a new line of e-books that will be made up of “original long-form pieces between 10,000 and 30,000 words, and curated archival collections that span the magazine’s 155-year history and feature some of the best-loved voices in American letters.”
Meanwhile, Routledge is launching a new critical studies journal devoted to the finer things in life. Porn Studies, which will debut in 2014, is described as ““the first dedicated, international, peer-reviewed journal” about “cultural products and services designated as pornographic.” It will be edited by two British academics.
When is a book more than a book? When it’s also a human shield: The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog reports on an art exhibition in Brooklyn that showcases the writing and ephemera (like book shields) produced by radical activists associated with Occupy Wall Street and the movement to keep Cooper Union from charging tuition.
From 1976 to 2001, Peter Payack of Cambridge ran an underground service called “Phone-a-Poem.” It worked like this: people who called Payack’s number would have their calls picked up by an answering machine that would play a recording of a poet reading their work. Over the years, poets like Allen Ginsberg, Donald Hall, and Denise Levertov contributed to the project, and now all the recordings will be archived at Harvard.
Steven Soderbergh is currently writing a crime mystery set in Amsterdam on Twitter.
The reclusive Haruki Murakami
New Yorkers! Join Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio and authors Jean-Euphèle Milcé, Ursula Krechel, and Mikhail Shishkin at the Public Theater at 6:30 tonight for a discussion of international crictism. The panel will discuss how the "style, attitude, and role of book criticism differs from country to country, and "how reviewers and book reviews shape-shift across borders, even as each country’s literary culture forms its own responses to political, technological, and aesthetic changes."
After offending much of Chicago with a recent roundup of Chicago-based books in the New York Times (the review concluded, “Chicago is not Detroit, not yet. But the city is trapped by its location, its past, and . . . its limitations, given the circumstances) Rachel Shteir takes to the Observer to defend herself against her critics.
Claire Messud responds to the question of whether she would “want to be friends” with the protagonist of her latest novel: “For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble.” For more on The Woman Upstairs, read Daphne Merkin’s review of the book in our April/May issue.
As the hunger strike continues at Guantanamo, Slate excerpts the 466-page declassified memoir of Gitmo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who has spent the last twelve years in US government custody.
In advance of the upcoming film What Maisie Knew, the Times considers why film adaptations of the master’s novels so rarely succeed: “Everything that counts is under the surface, in the tortured, painfully refined minds of his characters, and [Henry] James wasn’t, for all his gifts, very good at inventing situations that could show an audience, rather than tell it, what lay beneath his people’s apparently banal words and gestures. He was a notoriously unsuccessful playwright.”
Haruki Murakami is planning his first public appearance in Japan since 1995.
James Franco’s literary films: the seemingly ubiquitous actor has starred in, directed, or optioned no less than sixteen films based on books.
The Beastie Boys in their younger days.
A.A. Milne: venerated British author, Winnie the Pooh creator, and, according to newly released British military documents, “reluctant wartime propagandist.”
What do Amanda Knox and Lawrence Wright have in common? Neither of their books will be published in England out of fear of the country’s rigorous libel laws. HarperCollins UK initially agreed to release the 25-year-old’s memoir, but recently backed out over concerns about a possible lawsuit and complications arising from Knox’s retrial in Italy over the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
The two surviving members of the Beastie Boys have signed a deal with Spiegel & Grau to publish “a book celebrating their history and aesthetic” that’s slated to come out in 2015. The book—which doesn’t have a title yet—will be edited by journalist Sacha Jenkins, and “loosely structured as an oral history.” The Times adds that “it will also have contributions by other writers, as well as a strong visual component.”
Moby Lives catches a nice detail from Julia Hobsbawm’s remembrance of her father, celebrated English historian Eric Hobsbawm, in the Financial Times: “Earlier, as I was buying a small bunch of flowers to lay on the grave, I had an overwhelming sentimental urge to give my father one last thing to read: it seemed impossible that he would never breathe in ideas again. I bought the London Review of Books, which he had regularly contributed to in life and which featured, as it happened, his friend Karl Miller’s obituary of him. We laid the copy, fresh and folded, on top, and then the gravedigger finished his work.”
Macmillian has agreed to pay $26 million in a settlement over an e-book price-fixing case. Here’s how the money breaks down: “the final settlement includes $20 million for consumer compensation; $3 million to cover the costs of the 'investigation' and litigation; $2.475 million for plaintiff's attorneys' fees; and $1,000 for each of the named plaintiffs in the consumer class as a ‘service award.’”
In a moment of candor, media mogul Barry Diller told Bloomberg TV last week that he regretted buying Newsweek.
Cynthia Carr’s biography of David Wojnarowicz, Fire in the Belly, which Luc Sante reviewed for Bookforum, has been named as the finalist for The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, awarded by the Columbia Journalism School and The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, for a work of nonfiction that exemplifies “literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern.’’
Today marks the Paris Review’s first day in their new offices on 27th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues in Chelsea. “We’re across the street from Scores and about six doors west of Sleep No More,” editor Lorin Stein told the Observer. “Does that not just sketch some of the strangest urban feng shui?”
Amazon is reportedly planning to delete all Kindle e-books from their marketplace that contain fewer than 2,500 words. In a letter to authors, the company offered the following explanation: “Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.”
How do you judge a book by its cover when the cover in question is The Great Gatsby? A new design with a movie tie-in has upset Fitzgerald die-hards.
Andrew O’Hagan talks with Kazuo Ishiguro, John Lancaster, Sarah Hall, and Colm Toibin (among others) on their second-favorite art form.
Writing coach William Zinsser can no longer see, but a New York Times profile makes clear that that hasn’t prevented him from teaching others how to write (or helping them with “stalled editorial projects and memoirs... singalongs and piano lessons and vocal coaching.”) Zinsser is the author of the famed On Writing Well, which contains tips like the following: “Clutter is the disease of American writing...we are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”