Hilton Als

Tonight, the Rumpus ushers in autumn with a "Summer Shakedown" event. There's a stellar lineup of authors including Nick Flynn (The Ticking is the Bomb), Sara Marcus (Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution), and Hilton Als (Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis), as well as comedians Michael Showalter and Jessi Klein, performers Elissa Bassist and Corrina Bain, and music by Frankie Rose and the Outs.

The new Paris Review is out, and we haven't been so excited about a literary magazine in ages. It's the first issue edited by Lorin Stein, and if it’s any indication, he's taking the magazine in an exciting (and more fiction-friendly) direction. There are stories by Sam Lipsyte and Lydia Davis, both authors whom Stein edited during his tenure at FSG. The interviews—with Mating author Norman Rush and French bad boy Michel Houellebecq—are excellent. And it looks fantastic. Do check it out. In other lit-mag news, Hilton Als's new novella appears in the latest issue of McSweeney's, which has a magic ink cover, along with fiction by Steven Millhauser and Roddy Doyle.

In the 1970s, William S. Burroughs collaborated on a "Word/Image" novel with Malcolm McNeil. Fantagraphics has just announced that it will publish the work, "Ah Pook Is Here," along with McNeil's memoir of working with the junky high priest of the Beats, next year.

With a month to go before the Man Booker prize announces its winner, Andrew Motion, chair of the judges' panel, writes about the hard work of whittling down the list from 140 titles to the shortlist of 6, the criteria used to pick these titles, and their variety: "what characterises our list is the difficulty of fitting it into a neat category. Which feels like a fitting tribute to pay to a form that has always thrived on notions of surprise and unpredictability."  

The true identity of the famed Twitter satirist Emperor Franzen and Evil Wylie has been revealed!

John Ashbery

If you're in New York this weekend, you really must go to the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday. There are too many events to list, but here are just a few highlights: Joshua Cohen and Matthew Sharpe will talk about Kafka; poet John Ashbery will discuss his work with Paul Auster; and Bookforum  co-editor Albert Mobilio will talk about international noir with Mexican author Paco Ignacio Taibo II, French author Caryl Férey, and New York's Pete Hamill. Other participating authors include Mary Gaitskill, Colson Whitehead, Russell Banks, and Stephen Elliott. There are also a number of related events on Friday and Saturday nights. You'll find us at the Saturday-night Bell House event DJ'd by Rob Sheffield.

The Wall Street Journal will unveil its new stand-alone book review, edited by Robert Mesenger (formerly of The Weekly Standard and The New York Sun) in the next few weeks. As The New York Observer points out, this appears to be another one of Rupert Murdoch's direct challenges to The New York Times.

The latest issue of N1BR, a.k.a. The n+1 Book Review, is out. In addition to reviews of Mary Gaitskill and Paul Berman, it includes a very smart essay by Naomi Fry, the first writer we know of to really grapple with the "toxic environment" of Bret Easton Ellis's Imperial Bedrooms.

Thomas Guinzburg, a co-founder of The Paris Review, dies at 84.

At The New Republic, Ruth Franklin has a persuasive article—with data—about The New York Times's treatment of women writers. Now, Slate follows up with a number-crunching report on The New Republic.

Lionel Shriver

Novelist Lionel Shriver details her experience of how "publishers are complicit in ghettoising not only women writers but women readers into [an] implicitly lesser cultural tier." Using her own novels as examples, such as the disturbing health care tale, So Much for That, Shriver writes that publishers’ insistence on "trussing up my novels as sweet, girly and soft is like stuffing a rottweiler in a dress." 

Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, "lyrics just don't hold up without the music . . . I assure [my students] that Jim Morrison is not a poet in any sense of the word." Perhaps not Morrison, but how about Biz Markie, who is on cover of the fall issue of Bookforum? Poet Kevin Young asks this question about rap lyrics in his feature review of The Anthology of Rap, edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois, writing "poetry can move you, hip-hop can make you move—for my part, I'll take both."

Did Tony Blair crib a line from the 2006 film The Queen for his new memoir? Screenwriter Peter Morgan thinks so, telling The Telegraph that perhaps Blair "had one gin and tonic too many and confused the scene in the film with what had actually happened, and this I find amusing because he always insisted he had never even seen it." We'll be perusing Blair's book, The Journey (published last week in the US), for other cinematic scenes, and hope that a Monty Python moment somehow snuck its way into the prime minister's remembrances.

When Michael Lewis's The Big Short came out last March, the book's Amazon page was besieged with complaints because it wasn't available in a Kindle edition. Now that it is, eBookNewser is tracking the most popular passages readers are highlighting in the e-book version. Topping the list is this pithy summary of the housing bubble's toxic recipe: "How do you make poor people feel wealthy when wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans." We can't decide which is more unsettling about this story: the terribly imprudent lending practices of the housing bubble, or Amazon’s tracking of what people are highlighting on their Kindles.

Melissa Febos

The shortlist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize has been announced.

Sure, we may have entered the age of wireless devices and ADD, but as The Millions points out, big, sprawling novels with lots of characters aren't dead yet. In fact, "the current profusion of long novels would seem to complicate the picture of the Incredible Shrinking Attention Span."

OR Books, the new independent publisher who does not work with Amazon, has announced that it will publish Douglas Rushkoff's Program or Be Programmed, in which the novelist and countercultural essayist will attempt to help you swim, not sink, in the digital age.

Tonight at Brooklyn's Word bookstore, Stephen Elliott will host a party for the paperback release of his excellent The Adderall Diaries, which coolly blends memoir, reports on a Bay Area murder, and pointed meditations on storytelling itself. Among Elliott's many themes is masochism, so it's appropriate that he'll be reading with Melissa Febos, whose Whip Smart recalls how she paid for college in NYC by becoming a high-end dominatrix. Turns out that Jonathan Franzen is reading in NYC tonight too. Says Elliott: "I love Franzen, but I'm not going to miss my own reading in Brooklyn to see him read in Brooklyn."

You can invite Arianna Huffington to talk to a school or group during her Third Wold America book tour.

Michael Schaub recalls how one drunken night nine years ago led to the creation of Bookslut. The excellent literary website Bookslut has posted 12,000 blog entries, more than 2,700 articles, and, now, 100 issues. One of the new articles, "After Portnoy," responds to Katie Roiphe's notorious essay for the New York Times by interviewing three young male writers about sex.

The Virginia Quarterly Review story continues to develop, as the University of Virginia plans to perform a "thorough review" of the literary journal.

French novelist Michel Houellebecq's controversial work has been called racist and sexist (and sometimes brilliant). Now critics are crying "plagiarism," as the author apparently pasted portions of Wikipedia into his new novel, The Map and the Territory. Houellebecq has responded to the charge with his usual sangfroid: "When you use a big word like 'plagiarism,' even if the accusation is ridiculous, something (of the accusation) will always remain. . . . And if people really think that, then they haven't the first notion of what literature is." 

At the New Republic G. W. Bowersock remembers the great classicist Bernard Knox, who passed away last month. 

Tonight, Barnes and Noble's security may keep a close eye on author Tao Lin (an accomplished shoplifter), as he appears at the chain's Tribeca branch to discuss his new novel Richard Yates. But can Lin be as uninhibited in person as he is on the Web? As Joshua Cohen writes of Lin in the latest issue of Bookforum: "To Lin's generation, which is to say to mine as well, transparency is the new sincerity; many of our peers maintain that it's psychologically healthy, and artistic, to expose oneself entirely online."

As Christopher Hitchens battles esophageal cancer, God-fearing fans have anointed September 20th as "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day," but the preeminent atheist is still having none of it: "I don't mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries. Unless, of course, it makes you feel better."

The Brooklyn Rail has a gripping (and disturbing) excerpt from Xiaoda Xiao's forthcoming novel The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life, based on the author's seven years in Chinese labor brigades.


Henry James, Raymond Chandler, Thomas Pynchon, J. K. Rowling, Franz Kafka: As a new anthology shows, no writer is too sacred for parody. Eric Ormsby considers highlights in the history of literary ridicule.

If you're looking for an exra-bleak holiday-weekend book, try Simenon's spiky psychological thriller Red Lights (1955), which opens on the Friday evening before Labor Day, as New Yorker Steve Hogan leaves his Madison Avenue office to meet his wife. They are about to drive to Maine, but first, Steve needs a drink. Once they're on the road, he pulls over at a bar, where he loses his wife (literally), meets an ex-con, and slips into his own personal hurricane. Need we mention that Steve's Saturday morning—which finds him sleeping on a roadside—isn't pretty? Needless to say, we hope your travels go better than Steve's did.

Flavorwire lists the top-ten bookstores in the U.S.

"Some nine months on, I can report that the Man Booker has done me nothing but good," writes novelist Hilary Mantel, who is working on a sequel to Wolf Hall. Still, the prize hasn't gone to her head: "Even when you are taking your bow, lapping up applause, you do know this brute fact: that you are only as good as your next sentence. You might wake up tomorrow and not be able to do it."

The anonymous satirical force known on Twitter as Evil Wylie grants an interview to Independent Publisher.

W.G. Sebald

In a letter to shareholders filed with the S.E.C., Barnes and Noble's board of directors write that they believe Los Angeles-based investor Ronald Burkle has "a self-serving agenda to seize control of Barnes and Noble," and outline actions that the shareholders can take to thwart the coup. They write: "Burkle has provided no strategic vision and offered no plan for the Company’s future. Instead, he continues to take conflicting positions, hoping shareholders will be taken in. We think only one conclusion is clear—you cannot believe what Burkle says, and you certainly do not want him in a position to control your Company!" Meanwhile, one of Barnes and Noble's major locations, near Lincoln Center in Manhattan, is closing early next year, and will be replaced by discount fashion store Century 21.

Steve Jobs announced yesterday that consumers have downloaded 35 million books using iTunes. It's interesting to note that iTunes music downloads (which are approaching 12 billion) will soon pass up CD sales.

The New Republic's Ruth Franklin gives a smart, entertaining peek into the world of alikewise.com, the new dating site for book lovers, where she searches for Sebald fans in vain. In the process, she points out that there's "something narcissistic about choosing a partner based on the congruency of his or her tastes with one’s own."

So you've got an iPad, and are feeling very smart and cutting edge—after all, it is the coolest gadget the 21st century has to offer. But then you start to realize that the things are awfully fragile. It's time to buy a case, and there are thousands to choose from. Feeling nostalgic? There are cases that make your iPad look like an Etch-A-Sketch or a sketchbook. There are leather cases, chrome cases, and Noprene sleeves. There is a whole cottage industry of cases, but none of them are quite right. Perhaps it is time to look into the new Kindle.

John le Carre reveals that the intelligence agency he worked for "carried out assassinations during the Cold War."

If you're looking for holiday-weekend reading material, InDigest has posted reading lists by, among others, poet-critic Stephen Burt, fiction writer (and Bookforum contributor) Justin Taylor, and commedian Murray Hill.

From Take Ivy, photo by Teruyoshi Hayashida.

The Guardian's Books blog has begun its "Not the Booker Prize" competition, where you can nominate a book to win England's second most coveted literary award. Read the wonderfully wry terms and conditions (all twelve of them) before you vote, but think twice before nominating yourself: 2009's winner, Rana Dasgupta, found his triumph to be "very depressing."

Random House reports that it saw a boost in profits in the first half of 2010. Thanks, Stieg Larsson!

As students make their way back to college, powerHouse Books is publishing a reprint of the 1965 cult classic Take Ivya collection of paparazzi-style photos shot on American Ivy League campuses, along with style tips by four Japanese fashion buffs. The Huffington Post has a slideshow of some of the best photos, and some good advice from the book: "Simply slipping into a pair of Bermuda shorts is no guarantee that you will look stylish. Strut in a brisk and confident way to complete your style." If you're looking for reading material to stick in the back-pocket of those Bermudas, try one of these campus novels, but literary sartorialists take note: It is impossible to look as cool as Samuel Beckett in shorts

Armed with a "Typo Correction Kit" of Wite-Out, Sharpies, and crayons, editor Jeff Deck and his friend Benjamin Herson toured the U.S. correcting the vexing errors they saw on signs everywhere. (We wonder how they resisted adding an h to the Wite-Out in their kit). But are they "grammar vigilantes"? Vandals? Well, yes, to the latter charge, the pair had to plead guilty and pay a $3,000 dollar fine after fixing a historic "womens's" sign at the Grand Canyon. 

Rest up people: Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Third Annual Dzanc Books Write-a-Thon, which will take place September 2 through 5. Details are here.