Masha Gessen

To mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a coalition of OWS working groups called Strike Debt have released The Debt Resistors' Operations Manual, a free (and downloadable) book offering “specific tactics for understanding and fighting against the debt system.” Five thousand copies of the book will be distributed around New York City this weekend, and at an Occupy event in Washington Square Park.

Last week, Masha Gessen—author of The Man Without a Face (about Vladimir Putin), a book on mathematician Grigori Perelman, and other works—was the editor of one of Russia’s most respected popular science magazines. This week, she’s out of a job, thanks in part to her refusal to send a reporter to cover president Vladimir Putin’s latest PR stunt: hang-gliding while reintroducing cranes into the wild. Gessen had been anticipating the firing for months, and calls it “faster and less painful” than she had imagined. Gessen recently protested Putin’s tactics in an op-ed for the New York Daily News, in which she spoke out against the arrest of three members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot.

No Easy Day, a Navy SEAL’s account of the Osama Bin Laden assassination, sold 253,000 copies in its first week, becoming the first book to knock Fifty Shades of Gray out of the top slot of the Nielsen bestseller since late April. The book, authored by a SEAL writing under the pen name “Mark Owen,” has been Amazon’s number-one seller for the past three weeks. Contrary to earlier rumors, however, Steven Spielberg won’t be adapting the book into a movie.

The Awl excerpts noir master James M. Cain’s lost novel The Cocktail Waitress: “The Wigwam looked normal enough on the outside, just a double door with a sign over it, which Tom pushed open as though he’d been there before. But inside, it seemed different from any club I’d been in, though of course I hadn’t been in too many.”

Is the Atlantic making us stupid? At the LARB, Pamela Erens wonders whether the magazine’s impressive roster of “sex-marriage-mommy pieces” are actually, as the editors claim, “enlightening rather than just entertaining its public.” Says Erens: “The record is mixed.”

Junot Diaz

The Booker list is whittled down even further with the announcement of the Booker shortlist. Authors who made the cut are Will Self for Umbrella, Jeet Thayil for Narcopolis, Deborah Levy for Swimming Home, Alison Moore for The Lighthouse, Tan Twan Eng for The Garden of Evening Mists, and Hilary Mantel for Bring Up the Bodies.

Jumping on the Fifty Shades bandwagon, Melville Houses sexes up its classic novellas.

Kudos to the Feminist Press for being the first to put out an e-book about the arrest and trial of three members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom will be out on Sept. 21, and will feature essays by Yoko Ono, Bookforum contributor Johanna Fateman, Justin Vivian Bond and Eileen Myles among others. No word on whether it will include statements from the members themselves, but in the meantime, they’re available to read online at n+1.

There’s been a lot of online chatter lately about whether the book review as a form is a dying. But never mind all that, says Darryl Campbell at the Millions: before we can talk about where book review culture is going, let’s access the anatomy of a good review.

Junot Diaz talks to the Atlantic about the perils of writing a book about sexism from the perspective of a sexist character. "I think the average guy thinks they're pro-woman, just because they think they're a nice guy and someone has told them that they're awesome," Diaz noted. "But the truth is far from it. Unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations."

We can’t get enough of Bob Staake’s cover illustrations for bad children’s books.

To coincide with the release of his David Foster Wallace biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, author D.T. Max is blogging for the New Yorker about the best DFW documents he unearthed while researching the book. A recent post, on a pointedly arrogant pitch letter that a 23-year-old Wallace sent cold to a literary agency, is especially good. Despite lying about his publication history and having Marilynne Robinson as his thesis advisor (“I’m at a bit of a loss about this. I never met David Wallace, and I was not his thesis advisor”) the young Mr. Wallace not only managed to land an agent, but also sold his novel The Broom of the System to Penguin for twenty grand.

Former Harper's editor Roger Hodge has been appointed the new editor of The Oxford American.

Zadie Smith profiled him for the Times’ style mag, and now Longform rounds up the best serious considerations of Jay-Z, literary and otherwise.

Jeff Eugenides talks porn, self-promotion, and getting the most out of college in a recent interview.

Stanford neurobiologists scan students’ brains while they read Jane Austen novels in order to gauge whether readers' attention spans have shifted in the age of distraction.

The Fall issue of the Paris Review is out, featuring interviews with Robert Calasso and James Fenton, fiction by Peter Orner, and poetry by Bernadette Mayer, August Kleinzahler, and others. And speaking of literary magazines, the latest Portland/Brooklyn themed issue of Tin House comes with a custom mixtape.

The adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel Midnight’s Children was praised at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend, but that didn’t help it win over an Indian audience. The Guardian reports that Indian distributors are staying away from the film, in part because it includes “unflattering portrayals of top Indian political figures.” "[In India] we are very wary of any film that even is political, let alone politically sensitive,” film writer Shubhra Gupta told the paper. “Any resemblance to a politician could be a problem.” Also on the Rushdie front, the New Yorker excerpts a section on life under fatwa from his forthcoming memoir.

Finally, we encourage you to sign this petition to have fact-checkers at the presidential and vice-presidential debates.

Fran Lebowitz

Following in the footsteps of Geoff Dyer, Teju Cole has spent four days on “Roi des Belges, an art installation in the form of a one-room hotel in the shape of a boat.” Day one: “We wake up on the boat. The sky is white, wide. In bed I read Heart of Darkness... I toy with the idea that my essay for Artangel will begin with the words ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’”

Jami Attenberg, a forty-year-old freelance writer who has published three books, is broke. In an essay for the Rumpus, she reflects on the twenty-six places she slept last year.

Architectural designer John H. Locke tells the New York Times in article about his project of secretly installing lightweight bookshelves in pay phones across New York City.

When Wikipedia editors wouldn’t let him correct an entry about the motivation for his novel, The Human Stain, Philip Roth wrote a letter to the editors asking thm to remove the mistake. Soon after, he was told by officials “that I, Roth, was not a credible source: 'I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,' writes the Wikipedia Administrator—‘but we require secondary sources.’” Now, Roth writes about the matter for the New Yorker’s website.

The ever-progressive DC Comics has unveiled the latest Green Lantern: Simon Baz, “Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan, who leaves behind street racing to join an intergalactic police force.”

Why did Bret Easton Ellis throw a tantrum about David Foster Wallace on Twitter last week? Former Penguin and Norton editor Gerald Howard explains that the bad blood has to do when when the two were getting their start in the late '80s. “So there it was: two hot (sorry) young writers of about the same age, wildly different in style and temperament, inhabiting the same crowded literary space and clearly getting on each other’s nerves... At the moment, the Wallace style is dominant and that is what drives Bret Ellis nuts.”

Listen to Fran Lebowitz read her classic essay, “Writing: A Life Sentence” as an audiobook.


We’re really into the newly launched Public Books, a “curated monthly review” on books and the arts put out by the Institute for Public Knowledge. If the site’s stylish design doesn’t do it for you, perhaps writing by Lawrence Weschler, Judith Butler, and Sudhir Venkatesh will.

A Reddit “Ask Me Anything” interview gets to the bottom of the troubling economic logic of independent bookstores. “We’d clear 200 on a good day,” one bookseller wrote. Another lamented, “We’re at roughly $1,300 a day, and it’s still not profitable. The worst part is, since we’re independent and a specialty store, people come in and ask me for recommendations, then go to Barnes & Noble or download it on a kindle for slightly cheaper.”

The New York Review of Books has made Joan Didion’s 1988 account of the Democratic and Republican national conventions available to read on their website. It’s aged remarkably well. On the people she encountered at the conventions, Didion notes that this “new kind of managerial elite . . . tend to speak of the world not necessarily as it is but as they want people out there to believe it is. They tend to prefer the theoretical to the observable, and to dismiss that which might be learned empirically as ‘anecdotal.’ They tend to speak a language common in Washington but not specifically shared by the rest of us.”

Readers too embarrassed to carry back issues of Playboy around on the subway will be pleased to learn that the mag is releasing fifty of its best interviews for free as Kindle Singles over the next fifty days.

At Salon, Laura Miller considers how a book’s length can, mysteriously, affect its quality.

Zadie Smith recently sat down for lunch with Jay-Z in New York's West Village. Smith will be reading at Greenlight bookstore in Brooklyn later this month (not so far from Jay-Z’s own Nets stadium) but until then, check out Parul Seghal’s review of NW, and our interview with Smith.

Philip Roth biographer Blake Bailey

Blake Bailey, the biographer whose previous books on John Cheever and Richard Yates have won him praise and awards, has found his next subject: Philip Roth. Bailey revealed this week that he signed a contract with Roth last June, and has been granted full access to the author’s archives and correspondence. The pair have already sat down for several “marathon” interview sessions, and Roth has agreed to give his new biographer his full cooperation. The book hasn’t been sold to a publisher yet, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a hurry: Bailey speculates that it will take him eight to ten years to finish a manuscript.

With Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, and Tom Wolfe all coming out with new books, the New York Times predicts one of the most "crowded literary traffic jams in recent memory."

“I am lying and I am a liar”: Ivygate digs up the undergraduate poetry of Jonah Lehrer, the author and New Yorker staffer recently caught fabricating quotes.

What do you call a piece of nonfiction writing that’s shorter than a book but longer than an article? Welcome to the era of short-form publishing.

Judy Blume confessed this week that she has spent the past several months struggling with breast cancer, and underwent a mastectomy earlier this summer. Blume broke the news in a blog post on Wednesday, and the good news is that she appears to be recovering well. In fact, the Atlantic Wire’s Jen Doll was unable to reach Blume for comment because she’s currently on the road to promote the movie version of her YA novel, Tiger Eyes.

Forget suburban erotica: Amish romance novels are the next big thing. Salon investigates the emerging genre, which features “quilting bees and work frolics, pie bakes, and buggy rides into the sunset. Almost all of them follow a particular young woman in her search for the fulfillment of romantic and family love.”

To write an essay about Heart of Darkness, Geoff Dyer spent a night on a riverboat inspired by the Roi de Belges, the Congo-bound ship of Conrad's novella.

In her very first blog post for the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan defends the paper’s practice of fact-checking the news.

Writing at the Paris Review Daily, Caleb Crain makes an elegant contribution to the ongoing debate about if and when critics should pull their punches. "How rude should a critic be?" he asks. Crain wonders if we can reframe the question: "How free should a critic be?

With the launch of Granta’s Chinese edition next month, the 123-year-old literary magazine will “have a presence in four of the five most widely spoken languages.”

Have you heard the term “sock-puppeting” yet? It refers to when authors pretend to be someone else and write glowing reviews of their own books on the internet (or, conversely, lambasting their enemies). Last week, crime fiction writer RJ Ellory was caught praising his own books on Amazon—and disparaging his literary competitors. Not long before that, writer Stephen Leather confessed to posing as a fan and having conversations with himself to drum up buzz for his books. In light of all this, the Guardian wonders: What are the ethics of authors posing as their readers?

Aleksandar Hemon profiles the Wachowski brothers, whose adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas will hit theaters this fall.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull author Richard Bach

In No Easy Day, which will go on sale this week, former NAVY Seal Matt Bissonnette (writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen) offers a "firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden." According to Eric Schmitt in the New York Times, the book contradicts the Pentagon's official description of the mission. “The new book’s account, if true,” writes Schmitt, “raises the question of whether Bin Laden posed a clear threat in his death throes.”

“Dear Paris Review, I live in the deep south and was raised in a religious cult...” John Jeremiah Sullivan writes the Paris Review's latest literary advice column.

Galleycat finds that getting one-star reviews on Amazon won’t prevent a book from becoming a bestseller.

Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, was hospitalized this weekend in Washington State after crashing his small plane.

In honor of Labor Day, Open Road media has put together a video of authors discussing the jobs they held before they became full-time novelists. David Corbett was a private investigator, Patricia Bosworth edited the "adult woman’s magazine" Viva, and James Salter was a trucker and factory worker.

This weekend, while most people were at the beach, Kanye West took to Twitter to consider the linguistic implications of a certain b-word. After wondering if it’s “acceptable for a man to call a woman a bitch even if it's endearing,” West concludes, “Stevie Wonder never had to use the word bitch to get his point across.”

A scene from the Republican National Convention

To commemorate the one year anniversary of the OWS movement on September 17, pick up the new issue of Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy with essays by Jeremy Brecher, Gayatri Spivak, and David Graeber. The issue is available to download here, and fifteen thousand hard copies of the magazine will be distributed free of charge throughout New York City schools, bookstores, and streets over the coming months.

Sam Sacks’s has written a short essay called “Against Acknowledgments” at the New Yorker’s Page Turner blog. Are acknowledgments “faux-modest self-promotion”? Scroll to the end of the essay to find a lively debate.

“Paul Valéry once told André Breton that he couldn’t be a novelist because he refused to write, ‘The Marquise went out at five o’clock.’” At The Millions, Christopher Beha considers the importance of the sentence.

If the e-book doesn’t keep you up at night, new studies find that the device you read it on probably will.

An essay by Jonathan Franzen about selling his family home in Missouri after his mother’s death is headed to the off-Broadway stage, to be directed by Daniel Fish, whose last production was A (radically condensed and expanded) SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING I’LL NEVER DO AGAIN (after David Foster Wallace).

The Atlantic asks whether readers should turn their backs on works that authors themselves disowned during their lives.

We’ve been enjoying 90 Days, 90 Reasons, a project launched by Dave Eggers and Jordan Kurland that, since July, has been inviting cultural figures to explain why they’re going to vote for Obama. Most recently, author Rick Moody gave one his his reasons: “Mitt Romney opposes marriage equality.”

In the spirit of Norman Mailer, Christian Lorentzen is covering the Republican National Convention for the London Review of Books, following the delegates, the nutjobs, and all the surrounding protesters.

Mitt's great-grandfather Miles P. Romney

Confessions of a literary philanderer: Mark O’Connell wonders why, after years of being a faithful reader and always finishing what he started, he suddenly started abandoning books halfway through.

The PEN American Center has declared the winners of this year’s PEN Awards. Robert K. Massie, Siddhartha Debb, James Gleick, Vanessa Veselka, and Susan Nussbaum all took away prize. A full list of winners is available here.

The John Updike Society bought the author’s childhood home in Shillington, Pennsylvania, for $180,000 on Monday, and has announced plans to turn it into a museum.

Gothamist tries, and fails, to interview author Amy Sohn about her new novel Motherland and modern parenting. It remains unclear whether all her married are cheating and partying to excess, and if they are whether it is Park Slope’s fault.

Why is Raymond Chandler biographer Judith Freeman claiming that Mitt Romney owes her money? In an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Freeman traces an outstanding debt between her family and the Romneys that goes back more than a century to a loan that was never repaid.

Following the lead of Vanity Fair, The Atlantic has published its first e-book. The Obama Presidency, Explained is authored by James Fallows, and edited by Scott Stossel, Corby Kummer, J.J. Gould, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.