• April 25, 2014

    Franco Moretti

    Franco Moretti

    At Salon, Laura Miller interviews the literary theorist Franco Moretti, whose methods are largely quantitative and whose work avoids focusing on a few universally approved texts. “I’m interested in understanding the culture at large, rather than just its best results,” he explains. “I have no doubt that canonical books are best—although we can spend days arguing what ‘best’ means. But it’s not enough for me to understand that. I want to understand the broader conventions, the field of attempts and failures, hoping that that may tell us something significant about the culture we live in or that others have lived in.”

    Full Stop appreciatively reviews Benjamin Kunkel’s play, Buzz, just released by n+1 books.

    The Associated Press has issued a new style guideline: no more abbreviations of state names in stories.

    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences inducts 204 new fellows into its ranks. The new fellows include the novelists Annie Proulx and John Irving, the short-story writer George Saunders, and the historian Jill Lepore.

    Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky, who was detained in eastern Ukraine, was released on Thursday.

    Two booksellers have unveiled what they claim is Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary. The scanned book is available for readers to peruse online (once they sign up for the privilege, that is).

  • April 24, 2014

    Writing that draws on lived experience and real people never merely reflects, argues Leslie Jamison in the New York Times Bookends column: It distorts, inverts, reinvents; it offers “a set of parallel destinies.” The “peril” of using real people is two-fold: ”what it will do to your work, and what it will do to your life.”

    Pavel Durov

    Pavel Durov

    Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most popular social networking site, VKontakte, has been fired from his position as CEO. Durov claims that VKontakte is now under the “complete control” of two close allies of Putin. Russia “is incompatible with Internet business at the moment,” he told Techcrunch on Tuesday.

    The Digital Public Library of America, which is trying to provide free online access to the material in the nation’s libraries, archives, and museums, has tripled in size over the past year, adding seven million items from more than 1,300 institutions.

    How much gay sex should a novel have? Caleb Crain answers this “deeply silly” question at the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog: “As much as it takes to tell the story.” Meanwhile, gay Christian activist Matthew Vines argues, in God and the Gay Christian, that the Bible’s ostensible prohibitions against homosexuality don’t prohibit same-sex marriage. The book’s publisher, Convergent Books, houses several evangelical imprints. “It is a sad and shameful day when a major Christian publisher releases such a book and claims that it is a solid evangelical publication,” squawks the Christian Post’s Michael Brown. “This is abhorrent, disgraceful, and terribly misleading.” At the New Republic, Marc Tracy finds it notable that “the chief question stirred by the book is not whether evangelical and other religiously orthodox Christians can reconcile same-sex marriage with their faith, but whether evangelical and other religiously orthodox Christians can reconcile their social conservatism with the free market.”

    Charles Simic remembers a 1968 fistfight between a bunch of hungover poets at a poetry conference at Stony Brook. Looking on, from a porch, were the Chilean writer Nicanor Parra and the French writer Eugène Guillevic, both “delighted by the spectacle.” Was this “how American poets always settled their literary quarrels”?

    The copyright on Mein Kampf runs out at the end of the year.

  • April 23, 2014

    Gillian Flynn

    Gillian Flynn

    Gillian Flynn took to Reddit on Tuesday for an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”), reassuring fans that the Gone Girl screenplay will not stray too far from the novel. Flavorwire compiled a list of things they learned from the Q&A, including Flynn’s reading list, the process behind the “cool girl” speech, and why she is okay with unlikeable characters: “I think you can forgive a lot if a person makes you laugh (even if you know you shouldn’t be laughing).”

    Speaking of adaptations, relatives of David Foster Wallace say they do not endorse the upcoming movie The End of the Tour, which is based on David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. The estate says they want Wallace to be “remembered for his extraordinary writing.” In the movie, Jason Segel will play Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg will be Lipsky.

    Author and illustrator Jonathan Emmett told the Times of London that he believes boys “are being deterred from reading because the ‘gatekeepers’ to children’s literature are mostly women.” He said women editors don’t include violent narrative elements that keep boys interested in books—for example, battling pirate ships.

    Thomas Piketty’s 700-page book about the state of modern capitalism, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is number one on Amazon. Piketty has recently been called a “rock star” by New York magazine, the New York Times, and the New Republic. Read Doug Henwood’s review of Piketty in Bookforum.

    Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky has been detained in Ukraine by pro-Russia separatists.

  • April 22, 2014

    Publishers Weekly looks ahead to the best books of the summer, including John Waters’s hitchhiking memoir; an updated Philip Marlowe novel from John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black); another Bolaño; and NYRB classics from Jean-Patrick Manchette and Alberto Moravia.

    Elon Green talks to Adam Begley, whose biography of John Updike was just published, about writing the book’s vivid deathbed scene.

    Leslie Jamison

    Leslie Jamison

    An interview with Leslie Jamison, author of the The Empathy Exams: “I think shame is a powerful signal—like a fever—of some internal struggle. I mean, shame comes attached to many things—often traumatic things, and I would never want to reduce those traumas to mere sites of interest—but there are kinds of shame that are like arrows pointing to something tangled and subterranean, a faltering defense of self or an ache that hasn’t yet figured out its origins.”

    Felix Salmon considers Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s new Kindle short about a Silicon Valley startup.

    Claudia Rankine has been awarded Poets & Writers’ Jackson poetry prize.

  • April 21, 2014

    At the New Republic Paul Berman remembers Gabriel García Márquez, celebrating the “lordly grandeur” of the Nobel-winning author’s work.

    The Paris Review has posted a conversation with Austin fiction writer Bill Cotter about his new novel, The Parallel Apartments, and the brutish and short violence it contains: “I wanted to prod the reader through an impossible, unlivable universe that he might be glad to escape at the end of the book—but the nature of violence, in real life, is always fast and furious. If it wasn’t, we could simply dodge it.”

    Christopher Sorrentino

    Christopher Sorrentino

    Christopher Sorrentino—author of the Patty Hearst-inspired Trance, a book about the Mets called Believeniks, and other titles—has announced that his new novel, The Fugitives, will be published by Simon and Schuster next year.

    Adam Kirsch and Zoe Heller discuss books that were once favorites that they now find a bit cringe-worthy. Heller says, “When I flick through my old copies of J. D. Salinger’s stories, for example, I see that all the passages my teenage self has identified as especially moving and wonderful are precisely those that now make me frown and recoil.”

    This Wednesday, the Double Take reading series continues with Mike Heppner and Joseph McElroy; Wendy S. Walters and Siddhartha Deb; Catherine Texier and Minna Proctor; with each pair discussing a shared experience.

    Behold, the redesigned n+1 website.


  • April 18, 2014

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez died yesterday at the age of 87. He won the Nobel Prize in 1982, and his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is a cornerstone of magical-realist fiction. His philosophy might be boiled down to a statement he once made to the Paris Review: “A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.”

    Malcolm Gladwell

    Malcolm Gladwell

    Disgraced journalist Jonah Lehrer has launched a new blog, and Malcolm Gladwell recommends that you read it.

    Colm Toibin has been chosen to serve as the chairman of the PEN World Voices Festival, starting in 2015.

    At the New Yorker, Gary Shteyngart satirizes his prolific book-blurbing with an open letter saying he is going to discard his blurbing pen … except a few choice exceptions.

    The New York Times notes English football’s (a k a soccer) growing popularity in the US, especially among the “creative class” in Brooklyn, and quotes memoirist Rosie Schaap to the effect that most literati are Arsenal fans: “Any time I’m at a book party or reading, and soccer comes up in conversation, I find myself surrounded by young men in shabby-genteel, loosely fitting tweed jackets gushing over the Gunners . . . In such settings, being an Arsenal supporter is even more predictable than having an M.F.A. or a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.” Of course, since Ms. Schaap is an avowed fan of Arsenal’s north London rival, Tottenham Hotspur, her portrayal of American Arsenal fans as run-of-the-mill hipsters should be taken with a grain of salt.

    James Franco has called New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley a “little bitch.”

  • April 17, 2014

    E.L. Doctorow

    E.L. Doctorow

    Jim Romenesko reports that investigative reporter Chris Hamby has left CPI to work for Buzzfeed—only two days after winning a Pulitzer prize. “I’m thrilled to be joining a powerhouse team that will combine the time-honored rigors of investigative journalism with the creativity, technological prowess and reach of BuzzFeed,” Hamby says. In related news, ABC has accused CPI of downplaying the network’s contributions to Hamby’s yearlong report, which exposed how doctors, lawyers, and coal-industry executives worked together to deny medical benefits to miners suffering from black lung. CPI has responded to ABC News President Ben Sherwood with an open letter: “The truth is that ABC did not join the investigation until part-way through, it focused on only one part of a multi-part series, and its reporting was sporadic and almost entirely geared toward the needs of television, not original content for the print series.”

    At Harriet, Patricia Lockwood grapples with a persistent question: “Is writing poetry work?

    E.L. Doctorow has won the 2014 Library of Congress Award for American Fiction.

    Amazon is hoping to expand into Scandanavia, but according to a news report in The Local, the online bookseller is having trouble acquiring the amazon.se domain name, which is owned by Amazon AB, a small advertising agency based in Stokholm.



  • April 16, 2014

    Google is looking to expand its headquarters. They want a building big enough to hold 3,000 of its employees—which apparently means something “half the size of the Chrysler Building.”

    Lee Boudreaux

    Lee Boudreaux

    On Sunday Stephen King tweeted the end of a Game of Thrones episode and sparked the outrage of his 370,000 Twitter followers. King has been happily spoiling numerous shows since he joined Twitter a few months ago, and was unmoved by the uproar. “Romeo and Juliet die in Act 5,” he tweeted a few minutes later.

    FSG has changed the covers of their paperback versions of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume epic, My Struggle. Read Meghan O’Rourke on Knausgaard in Bookforum’s current issue.

    Acclaimed editor Lee Boudreaux is getting her own imprint at Little, Brown.

    Next Tuesday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will screen Anna, a four-hour Italian documentary from the mid-’70s about a pregnant teenager. Sound familiar? The movie plays a key role in Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers (the book is dedicated to Anna, the film’s subject and heroine); Kushner will be on hand to introduce and discuss.

  • April 15, 2014

    Donna Tartt

    Donna Tartt

    The Guardian US and the Washington Post both collected Public Service Pulitzers for stories related to Edward Snowden’s leaks. Snowden has publicly declared the award a “vindication” of his actions and the larger inquiry into “domestic surveillance practices”; the Prize board, meanwhile, nervously insists that their granting of the award is about recognizing good journalism and shouldn’t be understood as an endorsement of Snowden. The fiction award went to Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch.

    Dave Eggers has a new novel coming out in June, a mere eight months after his last, The Circle, which was published in October. The elaborately titled Your Fathers, Where Are They? and the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? describes the interrogation, on an abandoned military base, of a NASA astronaut by a man who wants to understand “their mysterious connection.”

    At the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, James Salter remembers the novelist Peter Matthiessen, who died of leukemia on April 5. Salter and Matthiessen were close, as were their families: “When you celebrate Christmases together and everyone’s birthdays and other events through the years, a dense and indestructible fabric is made, really too rich to imitate or describe.” Salter and Matthiessen traveled to France together, to St. Petersburg, to Italy. They drank together, “sometimes quite a bit.” They had a tradition of swimming in the ocean on the first day of November, then returning to an “icy martini” with their wives on the beach. All this, and then: “We got old.”

    Random House is coming out with a new collection of previously uncollected works by Shirley Jackson. Garlic in Fiction will include the short story “Paranoia,” which appeared for the first time in the New Yorker last year, as well as nonfiction that Jackson originally published in women’s magazines in the 1940s and ‘50s.

    Jonathan Lethem writes about his work on the unfinished Don Carpenter novel Fridays at Enrico’s: “Of course there were twisty little ironies attendant in rewriting a manuscript that concerned not only writers writing manuscripts, but writers being rewritten by editors, and feeling bitterly betrayed by the results.”

  • April 14, 2014

    David Mitchell has a new novel, The Bone Clocks, coming out this September, and has reportedly signed a three-book deal with Random House. The new novel is another decade-spanning, genre-hopping epic, clocking in at about 700 pages.

    John Jeremiah Sullivan

    John Jeremiah Sullivan

    John Jeremiah Sullivan’s riveting New York Times Magazine  essay on two mysterious prewar blues singers artfully integrates audio, video, and pictures—a rare example of the Web’s bells and whistles actually working to draw out the complexities of a literary story.

    This weekend, the LA Times announced the winners of its Book Prize.

    The New York Times profiles the survival (and rise) of bookstores in Seattle, reporting that the great Eliott Bay Book Company has made a “substantial profit” for the first time in twenty years, with the store’s employees saying that many of their customers work at the nearby Amazon headquarters. But despite the cheerful headline, the article really only points to Eliott Bay, long a local stalwart (along with a couple other shops), as evidence that the indie-book culture in the city is thriving. We  hope that, as the American Booksellers Association says, “Seattle has become one of the most successful independent bookstore cities in the country,” but on the strength of the article, we’re just going to have to take their word for it.

    At the New Statesman, Alex Clark argues that social media will enrich the novel, not threaten it.

    Jenny Diski remembers Doris Lessing: “My having lived with Doris and her implacable understanding of what it is to be a writer has made it easier for me to stick with doing what I want to do, in the way I want to do it.”