• October 16, 2013

    Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, an eight-hundred-plus page novel set in 19th century New Zealand. And that’s not all: at 28, she’s the youngest Booker winner ever.

    There are 300,000 people in Iceland, and according to recent statistics, one in ten of them will eventually publish a book. This might account for the Icelandic phrase “ad ganga med bok I maganum”—that every Icelander “has a book in their stomach.”

    A textbook rental company in Sydney Australia has partnered with a company that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles, a.k.a. drones, to develop what is likely the world’s first drone-driven textbook delivery service. The service uses the GPS coordinates of a customer’s smartphone to figure out where to deliver the book.

    Bryan Cranston and Tom Hanks will narrate a new series of audiobooks focused on “storytelling in American history.” The series is curated by Hanks and documentarian Ken Burns, and will include Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, among other books.

    Ronan Farrow

    Ronan Farrow

    Ronan Farrow—activist, Yale law school grad, and son of Mia Farrow (and possibly Frank Sinatra)—will soon add “author” to his list of credentials. This week, Farrow announced that he’ll be publishing his first book, an American military history, with Penguin. Pandora’s Box: How American Military Aid Creates America’s Enemies is a “personal exploration of a generation’s struggle with how to stand with its government without losing its principles.” It’s scheduled to come out in 2015.

    Glenn Greenwald, one of the two main journalists responsible for breaking the Edward Snowden story, has announced that he’s leaving the Guardian for “a brand-new, large-scale, broadly-focused media outlet,” which is as-of-yet unnamed. Elaborating on his new employer, Greenwald described it as “a general media outlet and news site—it’s going to have sports and entertainment and features. I’m working on the whole thing but the political journalism unit is my focus.” Though Greenwald will remain based in Brazil, the site’s offices will be in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. He added that it’s “hired a fair number of people already.”

  • October 15, 2013

    HBO and Sony are among the studios fighting for the rights to adapt Glenn Greenwald’s forthcoming tell-all book about Edward Snowden—even though the project comes with so many thorny legal issues that one studio, 20th Century Fox, has already pulled out. Aside from the fact that there’s no ending yet, the story is likely to draw lots of government scrutiny, and it’s unclear whether Greenwald and collaborator Laura Poitras will be willing to sell their life rights.

    In an essay about the future of the book published to coincide with the Frankfurt Book Fair, futurist and sci-fi author Charles Stoss predicts that we can all look forward to digital books loaded with ads: “it is only a matter of time before advertising creeps into books, and then books become a vehicle for advertising. And by advertising, I mean spam. …”

    The rest of the world might have been celebrating Alice Munro’s Nobel win last week, but Bret Easton Ellis wasn’t impressed. In a characteristically snarky tweet, Ellis called Munro an “overrated writer” and the Nobel “a joke.” A day and lots of internet blowback later, Ellis had a change of heart, tweeting: “The sentimental hatred for me has made me want to re-read Munro, who I never really got, because now I feel like I’ve beaten-up Santa Claus.” When reached for comment, Munro’s response was, “Who?”

    Why is Penguin Classics—an imprint whose authors tend to be long-dead—putting out a memoir by a still-living pop star? Apparently because Morrissey wanted it that way. When asked in 2011 who he’d want to publish his memoir, Morrissey said, “I’d like it to go to Penguin… but only if they published it as a Classic.”

    Here is the trailer for James Franco’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 1973 novel Child of God, which is about a “mass murdering necrophiliac.” The movie screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.

    “Kerouac came to Mexico a half-dozen times in the ’50s and ’60s to experience greater freedom with drugs, drinking, writing, and sex, in roughly that order”: The New York Times’s Mexico correspondent Damien Cave retraces one of Kerouac’s infamous trips from Mazatlán to Mexico City.

  • October 14, 2013

    Hipsters have turned on Dave Eggers, reports the Globe and Mail. Eggers became a cultural icon after the release of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the creation of McSweeneys, but his latest novel—The Circle, a “dystopian science-fiction story” about a Google-like “evil Internet empire that controls all social media”—has left many of his fans feeling as if they have been “targeted by its satire.”

    Hilary Mantel’s award-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are making the leap from the BBC to a PBS costume drama. The books, which chronicle “meteoric rise of [Thomas] Cromwell in the Tudor court, from his lowly start as the son of a blacksmith,” will be broadcast in 2015 and will star British actor Mark Rylance.

    Joshua Cohen talks about (and reads from) his novel-in-progress, Bewildernus.

    How’s this for counter-counter-intuitive: At Flavorwire, Michelle Dean makes a case for Malcolm Gladwell’s “oversimplifying” journalism, and argues against the idea that simplifying ideas is always necessarily a bad thing.

    Alice Munro decided to become a writer at fourteen, published her first story at nineteen, and was first edited by Chip McGrath at the New Yorker: Melville House collects a handful of charming facts you probably didn’t know about the recently minted Nobel Prize winner.

    The Taliban is apparently very happy that women’s-rights activist Malala Yousafzai—a sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for attempting to get an education—did not win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Yousafzai had been the favorite for the award since the publication of her book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. According to NBC and the AFP, Taliban members described the loss (the prize went to The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) as “very good news” and praised the Nobel committee for “not selecting this immature girl for this famous award.”

  • October 10, 2013

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    The cottage industry around Emily Dickinson churns out diversions at a steady pace: A new photograph purporting to show the poet was unearthed last fall, theories about her love life appear with US-magazine like regularity, and a 2010 novel, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, attempted to channel the belle of Amherst and transform her into a book-club-ready heroine. As fun as these odds and ends can be, discoveries that shed light on Dickinson’s work—rather than on her persona—are rare. But The Gorgeous Nothings, forthcoming from New Directions, is just such a discovery, presenting facsimiles of poems Dickinson wrote on envelopes late in her life. The fifty-two envelope poems are reproduced full-size, showing both front and back, along with a transcription of each clustered jotting. Like Robert Walser’s Microscripts, which ND published in 2010, The Gorgeous Nothings works as both an engrossing visual treat and an affecting work of literature, giving us a keen and tangible sense of not only of Dickinson’s writing, but of how she wrote.

  • Is Stalin best understood as an editor? From the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Even when not wielding his [signature] blue pencil, Stalin’s editorial zeal was all-consuming. He excised people—indeed whole peoples—out of the manuscript of worldly existence, had them vanished from photographs and lexicons, changed their words and the meanings of their words, edited conversations as they happened, backing his interlocutors into more desirable (to him) formulations.”

    Josef Stalin, editor.

    Josef Stalin, editor.

    Bloomberg Businessweek runs an excerpt of Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, a forthcoming book about Jeff Bezos and the ascent of Amazon. Here’s a terrifying little nugget about the new owner of the Washington Post: “The one unguarded thing about Bezos is his laugh—a pulsing, mirthful bray that he leans into while craning his neck back. He unleashes it often, even when nothing is obviously funny to anyone else. And it startles people. ‘You can’t misunderstand it,’ says Rick Dalzell, Amazon’s former chief information officer, who says Bezos often wields his laugh when others fail to meet his lofty standards. ‘It’s disarming and punishing. He’s punishing you.’”

    Darryl Pinckney considers “the ethics of appreciation” in a lovely essay about Elizabeth Hardwick, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt—the literary figures looming large in the days after Pinckney moved to New York to be “a mad black queen.”

    After years of contributing to the rise of childhood obesity and the hoarding of cheap plastic toys, McDonald’s is finally doing something good for kids: encouraging them to read. Under a new promotion, anybody who orders a Happy Meals will receive one of “four nutrition–themed original books for children” starring a dodo, goat, dinosaur or ant.

    In a controversial post on the Amazon message boards, Anne Rice suggested that well-written negative reviews are so difficult to pull off that writers who do should get paid.

    A Paris Review interview, her New Yorker short story archive, and a Millions introduction to her work: the quick and dirty guide to newly minted Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.

  • It’s very popular to wring your hands over the death of the book (and the industries that go along with it), but publishing isn’t actually doing as badly as many people think, writes Evan Hughes at the New Republic. At the end of the day, books are still products that people want to purchase—in print or digitally—and the numbers bear that out. Since 2008, “e-book revenue has skyrocketed—by more than 4,500 percent. Just as important, the boom has come at surprisingly little expense to higher- priced hardcovers and paperbacks, sales of which are only slightly down.”

    Lore Segal

    Lore Segal

    Lore Segal talks death, fairy tales, and porcelain pigs with the New York Observer. For more on Segal, who escaped Nazi Austria as a child and went on to write numerous books (including the beloved satire of the writing life, Lucinella), read Emily Cooke’s review of Half the Kingdom in the latest issue of Bookforum. 

    Debut novelist Emily Schultz is learning the hard way—through a flood of negative Amazon reviews—that it’s not a good idea to give your book the same title as a Stephen King flop.

    Canadian novelist Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Described by the Swedish academy as a “master of the short story,” Munro announced her retirement from writing earlier this year after the publication of her fourteenth short story collection. And we hate to disappoint her 1,386 Twitter followers, but  Munro has most likely not signed up for the service. The Atlantic Wire speculates that the rather anodyne account is the handiwork of one Tommaso de Benedetti, “a Rome teacher and dad who has semi-successfully faked the deaths of Fidel Castro, Pedro Almodóvar, and the Pope.”

    After attending panels on “metadata, start-ups, supply chains, responsive content, libraries, bookselling, print business models,” and more at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Virginia Quarterly Review web editor Jane Friedman concludes that the most important thing booksellers need to be thinking about today is the future of self-publishing.

    In related news, a new survey by Bowker finds that more than 391,000 books were self-published in 2012—a 59 percent leap from the previous year.

  • October 9, 2013

    Accuracy, tone, and directness: At the New York Times Book Review, Daniel Mendelsohn and Dana Stevens discuss the qualities they look for in a good translation.

    Superagent Andrew Wylie talks with the New Republic about his e-publishing initiative, the rise of Amazon (“I am not one of those who thinks that Amazon’s publishing business is an effort marked by sincerity”), and why the London Book Fair is “like being at a primary school in Lagos.”

    Andrew Wylie

    Andrew Wylie

    How is William Boyd’s new James Bond different from the hard-nosed 007 of yore? For one thing, says Boyd, he’s much more in touch with his emotions: “Bond often sheds tears. He cries quite easily; he weeps; if he sees something revolting, like a mangled body, he’ll vomit spontaneously. So the Bond of the novels is a totally different being from the Bond of the films, the famous ‘blunt instrument,’ as he was described.”

    “For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in”: Here are thirty book dedications that rival the actual books.

    In an interview with Fast Company, Scribd founder Trip Adler speculates that the future of e-reading isn’t on tablets, but on hands-free devices like Google Glass. “Holding a book you’re reading is kind of old school,” he said. “You should be able to just read on your back looking at the ceiling, with the reading experience probably projected in front of [your eyes].”

    Why is Edgar Allen Poe so often identified as a Baltimorean when his real roots were in Boston? A new book suggests that it might have something to do with his “deep class anxieties, self-destructive personality,” and his uneasy relationship with a “Boston Brahmin crowd whose approval he both craved and disdained.”

  • October 8, 2013

    New Yorkers: Come to ApexArt tonight for the latest installment of Bookforum editor Albert Mobilio’s Double Take—an evening that asks three pairs of authors to “trade takes on a shared experience.” Tonight’s event will have Christopher Sorrentino and Andrew Hultkrans considering Richard Nixon on his centenary, Cathy Park Hong and Nelly Reifler imagining futuristic surveillance, and Mary Jo Bang and Timothy Donnelly reporting on reading Kafka’s Amerika.

    A pirated book stall in Peru

    A pirated book stall in Peru

    A scrappy little lab at Columbia is looking at book piracy. The organization, piracy.lab, grew out of Professor Dennis Tenen’s observation that people in comparative literature departments around the world rely on illegal PDF-sharing sites to download expensive academic books.

    Only weeks after announcing the debut of their film initiative, Ohio-based publisher Two Dollar Radio has released trailers for two forthcoming films by two of the indie press’s authors: The Greenbrier Ghost, which was co-written by Scott McClanahan, and The Removals, directed by Grace Krilanovich.

    Blue Rider press is getting set to publish a novel by Michael Hastings, the war reporter who was killed in a car crash earlier this year. In addition to writing the Rolling Stone feature that forced the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, Hastings wrote two nonfiction books, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan and I Lost My Love in Baghdad. His novel, The Last Magazine, “is set at a national magazine in the early 2000s just as the US is approaching war with Iraq. The main protagonist is a young, wet-behind-the-ears intern named Michael M. Hastings who is eager to do anything to get an assignment.” It will be released in 2014.

    Doctor Who star Matt Smith is going to star as Patrick Bateman in a theatrical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho. The play will open at the Almeida theater in London this December. Until then, lest you’ve forgotten the infamous business card monologue from the American Psycho movie, here it is:

    Congratulations to Paris Review poetry editor Robyn Creswell and critic (and Bookforum contributor) Abigail Deutsche on being the winners of the 2013 Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism.


  • October 7, 2013

    The journal Science has published a study in which two New School psychologists argue that reading “literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction,” will improve your social skills and your emotional intelligence. According to the study, a book by Chekhov will make you more empathetic than one by Gillian Flynn. (Mary Gaitskill would probably agree.)

    Yes, Morrissey’s much, much-anticipated autobiography is coming out this month. The book will be released on October 17th in the UK as a Penguin Classic—rare for a living author. Representatives say that Morrissey currently “has no contract with a publisher for the US or any other territory.”

    9780141394817Archipelago, the original English-language publisher of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s multivolume My Struggle, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to release a hardcover edition of the first book of My Struggle. While Archipelago plans to release the four forthcoming volumes of My Struggle in hardcover—and has already published a hardcover edition of the second volume—it only printed paperbacks of the first book. As of Sunday night, they had raised more than $15,000 towards the $20,000 goal.

    Salon excerpts Emily Gould’s essay about moving to Russia from the forthcoming anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. Gould and a number of other contributors will be reading from the book this Tuesday at the PowerHouse Arena. Here’s part of the essay: “During the first half of 2009, I left Brooklyn to spend three months in Moscow. The city was cold, smelly, and uncomfortable, and despite some effortful hours spent shouting into the headset provided with the Rosetta Stone software I impulse-bought on the day I applied for my visa, I didn’t speak the language. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing there. One of my most vivid memories from that first trip is of eating tainted Uzbek veal-tongue salad and, as a result, coming the closest I’ve ever come to shitting myself in public.”

    An adaptation of John Grisham’s bestselling A Time to Kill, a novel about race, murder, and justice in the deep south, is about to open on Broadway—and only days before the long-awaited sequel is released.

    The San Francisco Chronicle is celebrating its hometown’s status as “one of the most vibrant literary cities in the world” with a new online literary map.


  • October 4, 2013

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    Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets

    The painter Jane Freilicher met poet John Ashbery in New York City in 1949. A the time she lived upstairs from Kenneth Koch, who would become known—along with Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler—as a member of the New York School Poets. Though best known as wrters, all four members of the New York School were deeply interested in art (Ashbery and Schuyler went on to be art critics, and O’Hara worked at MoMA). By the early 1950s they had become part of a group associated with the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, which included painters such as Larry Rivers, Fairfield Potter, and Freilicher. As friendships between the writers and artists developed, so did an impressive sense of genre-crossing inspiration: Painters portrayed poets, and poets wrote about painters. Some, such as Joe Brainard, who arrived later, would become both a painter and a poet—and a frequent artistic collaborator to boot.)

    Tibor de Nagy recently focused on one particular artist and her poet peers in the spectacular show Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets. The resulting catalogue features reproductions of Freilicher’s landscapes and still lifes, all of which have, like the New York School poets’ work, a beguiling mix of intensity, intelligence, and apparent ease. Here, we also find portraits of Schuyler, O’Hara, Ashbery, and Koch. This alone would be a treat, but the writing—reproductions of letters written, and poems about Freilicher (e.g. Schuyler’s “Looking Forward to Seeing Jane Real Soon”)—bring the sense of friendship, gossip, and idea-swapping to the forefront. As a writer, Freilicher is charming, insightful about her work, and a true wit. As Ashbery writes to her in a 1960 letter: “Dear Jane, Your letter came yesterday and it is already required reading in my set—Harry Mathews and Kenneth Koch both fell under the table in the restaurant where we all ate last night while reading it.”