Keith Richards's memoir Life, for which he was paid a $7 million advance, is out, and the reviews are good. Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani—clearly a Stones fan—calls the book "electrifying." She continues: "Mr. Richards’s prose is like his guitar playing: intense, elemental, utterly distinctive and achingly, emotionally direct." At the Huffington Post, Jesse Kornbluth says Richards "serves [up his storires] like his guitar riffs—in your face, nasty, confrontational, rich, smart, and, in the end, unforgettable." (The stories include how he did drugs not to nod out, but so he could work.) Audiobook fans are in for an additional layer of intensity: It will be read/performed by Johnny Depp.
They still edit copy, don't they? Bygone Bureau takes a look at the online editing processes at The Morning News, McSweeney's, and The Awl. The Gray Lady recently profiled the latter, quoting editor Choire Sicha's advice for would-be web barons: "All it takes is some WordPress and a lot of typing. Sure, I went broke trying to start it, it trashed my life and I work all the time, but other than that, it wasn’t that hard to figure out.”
Publishers Weekly will be publishing its list of top ten books of the year on November 8th. Between now and then, editors will be blogging about some of their selections. First up: Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow.
Tonight at the New School, Bookforum co-editor, critic, and poet Albert Mobilio will read and discuss his work with Robert Polito. Mobilio has a new book of verse, Touch Wood, forthcoming from Black Square Editions. Poet Robert Creeley praised Mobilio's first book, The Geographics, as a volume that "manages the double ground of a nightmarish surrealism and a dryly perceptive wit. It's as if Humphrey Bogart were taking a good, if final, look at what's called the world."
Tom McCarthy chats with Bookworm's Michael Silverblatt, who describes McCarthy's Booker-nominated C as a “novel that wants you, and wants itself, to know as much as possible.”
Jonathan Franzen's meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House: "delightful."
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Richard Nash's new publishing venture, Cursor, will be launched this spring with Lynne Tillman’s story collection Someday This Will Be Funny. Nash has big plans to adapt to the rapidly changing publishing industry, and they go beyond e-books: “I don’t know whether this is grandiose or insane or whatever, but I am trying to change about 18 different things at once."
Amazon has announced that the Kindle will soon allow you to lend e-books.
The Virginia Quarterly Review is blogging again after a three-month hiatus following managing editor Kevin Morrissey's suicide and a subsequent investigation into the journal's work environment and finances. According to the Review's first post, the magazine plans to be up and running again within the next few weeks. In the meantime, they've posted a new interview with Canadian author Alice Munro.
Tonight, Kwame Anthony Appiah will read from his new book, The Honor Code. In a recent interview with Bookforum, Appiah said, "The striking thing about honor killings is that you get killed for things that aren’t even under your control."
At the New Republic, Ruth Franklin weighs in on the weak Kathryn Harrison review of Lydia Davis's new translation of Madame Bovary. Unlike Harrison, Franklin actually addresses the quality of the translation, and in some ways finds Davis's approach lacking: "Faithful to a fault, even to the extent of preserving awkwardnesses and infelicities that other translators have silently smoothed out."
Rick Moody has kicked off his series of tweets about the future of publishing.
Mediabistro's GalleyCat recently joined other book review editors on a a panel to offer recommendations for how to pitch books for review. One of GalleyCat's tips: "We suggested that publicists, authors, and publishing folk consider pitching GalleyCat features instead of traditional book reviews. For example, we recently ran [a feature] about Marilyn Monroe's literary bookshelf." To put it another way, figure out how a website might cover your book without having to read it.
Ben Greenman has finally brought some class to the literary mashup genre, which until now has been dominated by Jane Austen zombie novels. In his latest book, Celebrity Chekhov, Greenman, an editor at the New Yorker, recasts the Russian master's short stories, replacing the original characters with modern famous people. In place of Ivan Yegoritch Krasnyhin, we get Eminem. And in place of General Zakusin, Greenman offers a character named Sarah Palin.
Tonight, we'll be at BookCourt to see the stellar music critic Alex Ross read from his latest essay collection, Listen to This, which, after offering a rousing argument for the importance of so-called classical music, offers inspired and tactile reflections on Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Radiohead, Bjork, Sonic Youth, Cecil Taylor, and others.
The owners of Editor and Publisher, once dubbed the "bible of the newspaper industry," have laid off the three staff members who survived the journal's sale earlier this year.
The University of Virginia has released its investigation of the Virginia Quarterly Review in the wake managing editor Kevin Morrissey's suicide this summer, and while editor Ted Genoways has been cleared of bullying charges, the report does recommend that "appropriate corrective action" be taken for Genoways's brusque managment style and his "failure . . . to follow institutional procedures in a variety of areas." As the report dryly notes: "It is sometimes difficult to define where the line gets crossed between a tough manager and an unreasonable one."
Tonight at Brooklyn's 177 Livingston, Triple Canopy is hosting a tete-a-tete between two octogenarian writing legends. In this corner: rogue CIA agent (well, that's up for debate, but see his memoir My Life in CIA), novelist, and OULIPO member Harry Mathews, who has just released his first poetry collection since 1992, The New Tourism. And in this corner: Brooklyn novelist Joseph McElroy, author of the influential 1987 novel Women and Men, who has a new collection of stories, Night Soul, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press.
The Village Voice names Tea Obreht the "Best New York Writer Young Enough to Make You Slit Your Wrists."
Via Bookslut: The world's most expensive book ($8 million, give or take) is about to go on sale. It's an edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America. Scoff if you must, but Audubon's book inspired, in some way or another, both Lorrie Moore and Mary McCarthy. And birds, though not quite as sexy as vampires, have inspired other writers as well: Daphne du Maurier, John Ashbery, and Jonathan Franzen.
Starting today, Publishers Weekly will post thirty-three tweets by Rick Moody about the future of publishing. Hashtag: #pwmoodytweets.
James Franco just published his debut collection of short stories, Palo Alto. Is it any good? The critical deck is surely stacked against him, as Michael Lindgren writes in the Washington Post: "There is no rule that says handsome young movie stars cannot also be gifted writers, but Franco's celebrity hangs like an unspoken rebuke over every word of Palo Alto. . . even if his prose somehow turned out to be staggeringly brilliant, the critics and bloggers and readers who make up the literary establishment would rather die than admit it."
Colson Whitehead reads from his fictional guide, How to Write and the Art of Writing: Writers Write About Writing.
Ludwig Wittgenstein's work has reached a surreal terminus with WittTweets, a project that aims to convey the famously difficult philosopher's life 140 characters at a time. A recent tweet: "I very often now have the indescribable feeling as though my work was all sure to be lost entirely in some way or another."
Alain de Botton, a philosopher who has "always been interested in confronting daily life with big questions and themes," got the chance to do so when he was hired to be a writer-in-residence at Heathrow Airport. His new book, A Week at the Airport, reveals truths that heretofore have only been glimpsed, such as the poignant melancholy that attends buying cheap cigarettes, perfume, and booze: "That is why we shop at airports—duty free is an attempt to flee from our sadness at the brevity and fragility of life." Now that that's settled, what to read on the plane? Graeme Wood on how travel writing has changed for the worse: "The writer goes overseas but brings back news about a tedious inner crisis."
This year's Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Mario Vargas Llosa's new novel, The Dream of the Celt, will be published in English in 2011.
Literary legend Harry Mathews is appearing tonight at Manhattan's 192 Books. Mathews founded the short-lived literary journal Locus Solus in the sixties with the New York School poets John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, and in 1972 became the first American member of the influential French writing group the OULIPO (workshop for potential literature); he co-edited the OULIPO's definitive English language collection. This evening, Mathews will be reading from his forthcoming book of poems, The New Tourism, his first verse collection in almost twenty years. As Gerald Howard wrote in Bookforum in 2002, reading Mathews inspires a "mood of melancholy nostalgia for a period in American fiction when the big aesthetic questions of form and meaning were up for grabs and being worked on and out by a dazzling array of talents."
HTML Giant is starting an online Literary Magazine Club, where members will read a lit mag such as the New York Tyrant and discuss. As the club's founder Roxane Gay writes, "The plethora of literary magazines actively contributing to the literary conversation are ample evidence, for me, that we have not lost the battle to other forms of entertainment. We’re very much in the fight."
Sheila Heti's new book, How Should a Person Be?, is an ardent account of a young woman's unsentimental education as a writer in the Toronto art scene. Deftly blending discursive personal essays, a novel-like narrative, and transcripts of recorded conversations (and emails), Heti's tale is witty, bawdy, intimate, and hilarious—reading her work is like spending a day with your new best friend. Heti writes, "How do you build your soul? At a certain point, I know, you have to forget about your soul and just do the work you’re required to do. To go on and on about your soul is to miss the whole point of life. I could say that with more certainty if I knew the whole point of life." (The book hasn't been published in the US yet, but you can buy one from its Canadian publisher Anansai.)
If some sociologists regard intellectuals (you know, writers, ticket-takers at the roller-derby, etc.) as a sui generis group that transcends the otherwise surly bonds of class, Gerry Howard would disagree. In his essay in the current issue of Tin House, he reminds us how working-class scribes—Raymond Carver, Ken Kesey, Dorothy Allison—mined their blue-collar backgrounds to piercing, instructive effect, even as sophisticated critics, say, in Carver’s case, celebrated his fiction for begin deliciously “squalid.” Howard expands his case to address the current literary scene: “Working-class people who pay the punishing financial price that going to college extracts these days are unlikely to be attracted to publishing. . . . which means that voices from and on behalf of the working class have that much harder a time getting read, understood, and published."
Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, V. S. Naipaul will discuss his new book, The Masque of Africa. Writing in the latest Bookforum, Thomas Meaney notes: "Naipaul may be the last writer to believe in the author's ability to capture objective truth if he concentrates hard enough. This faith opposes every strain of contemporary thinking and yet, when fanatically applied, produces the impression that Naipaul misses nothing."
Why is there so little sex in current British literature? Perhaps the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award has scared authors off the sultry subject. Recently, the Review amended the rules to allow non-fiction into the contest, with Tony Blair's new memoir, A Journey, joining Martin Amis, Jonathan Franzen, and Ian McEwan on this year's shortlist for egregiously bad erotic prose.
In The Guardian, an exasperated Germaine Greer points out some small factual inaccuracies in Booker prize nominated novels, and is especially vexed by Tom McCarthy's C, writing, "If abstruseness is your subject—and it's hard to find any other for C—you have to get it right. . . . If a fact-checker had come to his aid, C might have won the Booker after all."
According to the MobyLives blog, NPR has one rule about authors, which is known as the "dibs system": "No one can appear on more than one NPR show. Ever." Unless, that is, you're Michele Norris, author of The Grace of Silence, a new memoir about her family's racial history (and myths). Since that book appeared in stores, Morris has appeared on four different NPR shows, which might or might not have something to do with the fact that she is a co-host of NPR's All Things Considered. The coverage has been controversial enough that Alicia Shepard, NPR's ombudsman, has issued a report explaining the network's first-ever "fourfecta." In any case, publishers are probably annoyed because NPR is such eagerly sought coverage: It's well-known among book publicists that an author appearance on one of the network's shows usually results in more sales than most print reviews can deliver.
Amazon's new iPhone app allows you to scan book barcodes—when you're, say, in a bookstore—and to buy the book (for a discount) from Amazon immediately (before you've left the bookstore). But just when you marvel at how much technology is changing the publishing business, PW wonders if iBooks is a failure.
Salon's Laura Miller gives an award to the book awards: The Booker Prize, she says, is the best.
“If the intensity of the Roth of old, the ‘major’ Roth, has died down, has anything new come in its place?” J.M. Coetzee covers Philip Roth’s latest novel, Nemesis, for the New York Review of Books. (An issue highlight: Geoffrey O'Brien's review of Duke Ellington's America.)
In the excellent new edition of FSG's Work in Progress, President Obama reflects on Nelson Mandela, Edith Grossman and Natasha Wimmer (who are known for their English versions of Don Quixote and Roberto Bolano, respectively) talk about translating Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and Richard Howard and Marion Duvert discuss Roland Barthes.
Bookforum and London Review of Books contributor Alex Abramovich edited the Very Short List back when it was owned by InterActiveCorp (and did an excellent job), but was let go when Barry Diller sold the site to the New York Observer in June 2009. Now, more than a year later, it seems that the VSL just can't quit Abramovich: the NYO has just hired the writer to edit the website once again.
The rumors that Stieg "Dragon Tatoo" Larsson wrote a fourth novel are apparently true. His family has "confirmed the existence of another manuscript."
The National Book Award finalists have been announced, and the most interesting aspect of the list is what it doesn't include (if you need a hint, we're referring to an author whose initials are J.F.). There are, as always, some good choices, including Nicole Krauss's Great House and Patti Smith's Just Kids. The selection that we're most excited about is Monica Youn's Ignatz, a poetry collection that considers passion through the lens of the classic comic strip Krazy Kat.
Making a plot cohere, researching ant colonies, finding time for family and friends, paying the bills—being a novelist is hard work. The Awl inaugurates Publishing School, its promising new column about writing, with four testimonials from novelists-in-progress.
The independent press Two Dollar Radio is about to start giving away two chapters of Xiaoda Xiao’s memoir-in-stories, The Visiting Suit: Stories from My Prison Life, in Chinese. "By making Xiao’s work downloadable for free in Chinese, his tale will be made available to members of the population still affected by the extreme policies and daily hardships that Xiao describes who are only receiving and exposed to heavily censored news and stories." For those who don't speak Chinese, the book will be available in English later this month.
Surprise 2010 Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson on comic novels: "Comedy breaks every trance—that's its function. Comedy is nothing if not critical. From the very beginning the comic novel set out to argue with everything and to set us arguing with one another."
A profile of Ethiopian author Dinaw Mengestu and his highly anticipated second novel, How to Read the Air, which will be published this week.
Future sociologists will undoubtedly ask of our era: "What was the Hipster?" Luckily, n+1 is tackling the query on multiple fronts, with a new book and two panel discussion: one last year in New York, and one on Monday at UCLA. In LA, Gavin McInnes delivered his remarks sans shirt, and was aggravated by fellow panelist Tao Lin, who mumbled many of his answers. (McInnes: "I can't tell what you're saying!" Lin: "That's my trademark.") Emily Gould seemed less flummoxed by an aloof Lin during his recent appearance on Gould's literary chat and cooking show, "Cooking the Books," but watching the pair make small talk and a salad still makes us squirm.
Tonight at Bluestockings Books journalist Rebecca Traister will read from her feminist chronicle of the 2008 presidential election, Big Girls Don't Cry. In a recent interview, Traister says of Hillary Clinton: "I thought her continuing to fight was awesome and hilarious. I thought it was completely redefining how we view women and our expectations for them in public and political life."
Lee Rourke and Matthew Hooton share The Guardian's Not The Booker prize.