• January 7, 2014

    jorge luis borges

    Jorge Luis Borges

    As a boy, Jorge Luis Borges carried a small dagger, a gift from his father, who told him to use it against his bullies to prove he was a man. For years thereafter, writes Michael Greeenberg in the New York Review of Books, Borges “prowled the obscure barrios of Buenos Aires, seeking the company of cuchilleros, knife fighters, who represented to him a form of authentic criollo nativism that he wished to know and absorb.”

    Can anyone step up to compete with Amazon? Two contenders have just consolidated, as Zola, an independent website, buys Bookish, an online portal formed by Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette.

    Kingsley Amis harbored such bitterness for his ex-wife Elizabeth Jane Howard that he refused her request to visit him on his death bed. Clearly, his son saw things differently. Here, Martin Amis pays surprisingly loving tribute to his late stepmother, who saved him from another life: “I was a semi-literate truant and waster,” he says, “whose main interest was hanging around in betting shops.”

    Forbes’s list of the 30 under 30, who are “building the media companies of tomorrow” contains many fresh-faced entrepreneurs and leaders of companies like Mashable, Circa, and other digest of content on the go, as well as Tavi Gevinson of Rookie and Rachel Rosenfelt of the New Inquiry.

    At the Paris Review, Sadie Stein is leaving her post editing the magazine’s blog, The Daily, to become a contributing editor and writer, with Dan Piepenbring taking over blog-editing duties from her.

    Rare criticism on the heels of a well-known fortnightly’s golden anniversary: “For 50 years,” writes Russell Jacoby in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Review of Books “withdrew from the cultural bank while making few deposits.”

  • January 6, 2014



    Morrissey is at work on a novel and a new album (in that order). In a recent interview, Moz says he’s lost faith in pop music and wants to write instead, claiming that his memoir, Autobiography, “was more successful than any record I’ve ever released.”

    Researchers at Emory University have discovered that reading novels exercises the brain. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns. “Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

    At the Times, OR books publisher Colin Robinson weighs in on the state of publishing today, particularly the worrying trend of the disappearing midlist, “the space where interesting things happen in the book world, where the obscure or the offbeat can spring to prominence, where new writers can make their mark.”

    A journalist for Guns & Ammo magazine has been fired for using too much nuance on the topic of gun control.

    A gang of extremists in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli has torched a library of rare and ancient reading material, burning some 78,000 books.

    George Saunders on genius, irony, and allowing a little bit of light into a story: “How’s life been? It’s been a lot of things, but one thing it’s been predominantly is beautiful, pleasurable. So I want that to have a place at the table that isn’t sentimental or schmaltzy. It’s earned.”

  • January 3, 2014

    The lawyer who outed J.K. Rowling as the author of detective novel published under a pseudonym last year has been fined in the UK for breaking client confidentiality rules. Rowling wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith in April 2013. The lawyer, Chris Gossage, told his wife, who told a friend, who in turn told a newspaper columnist.

    The villa in Egypt’s second largest city, where Lawrence Durrell lived and was inspired to write “The Alexandria Quartet,” is slated for demolition, reports The Guardian. “If bulldozed, Durrell’s crumbling former home would become the 36th listed building from Alexandria’s fin-de-siècle heyday to be demolished in five years,” writes Patrick Kingsley. “But the businessman who owns it says it may soon make way for a high-rise apartment block.”

    David Simon—creator of The Wire, author of Homicide: A Year of Killing on the Streets, and former Baltimore Sun reporter—has reportedly finished a draft of a musical about the Pogues.

    Edwidge Danticat

    Edwidge Danticat

    Edwidge Danticat delves into the form and power of the short story, in an interview with the Rumpus: “The short story is like an exquisite painting,” she says, “and you might, when looking at this painting, be wondering what came before or after, but you are fully absorbed in what you’re seeing. Your gaze is fixed, and you are fully engaged.”

    How was your Public Domain Day doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue as nicely as Happy New Year’s, but if you live in the US and desire the end of copyright restrictions, it was bad. Virtually no published works entered the public domain on January 1, 2014, due to the extension of copyright laws. What could have been, under an older body of laws from the 1970s? Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love.

  • January 2, 2014

    Ralph Ellison

    Ralph Ellison

    Shall we begin? The Guardian’s guide to the coming year runs through the likely literary landmarks of 2014: Hanif Kureishi on a fading writer being vexed by his young biographer, Alain de Botton on the news, Masha Gessen on the passion of Pussy Riot, retracing E.M. Forster’s travels in India, the third and final installment in Karl Ove Knausgård’s autobiographical trilogy, Ralph Ellison’s centenary, and more.

    Danielle Steel has been awarded the French Legion of Honor, making her the latest American to win France’s most prestigious prize. Steel, a writer of thrillers who is considered the bestselling author alive, joins a list of compatriots that ranges wildly from Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, and Toni Morrison to Alan Greenspan, David Petraeus, and Bruce Willis. In reporting the award, the New York Times tracked down some comments Steel once made to The Telegraph, outlinging her influences: “Well, I always go back to the classics,” she said. “I love French literature. Colette is a special favorite of mine.”

    The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is launching a new online magazine. Could it be the future of music journalism?

    The Millions reports on the long, slow death of Blockbuster: “I remember when my family got our first VCR in the mid-1980s. The first time we entered the florescent-lit jungle of a video store, I was instantly enamored,” writes Jeff Martin. “The mere fact that these memories are still rattling around my head nearly thirty years later must have some significance, right?”

    Egypt may be in a big political mess, but the Cairo book fair is carrying on.

    At Salon, Laura Miller admits to giving up on eight books she couldn’t bear to finish, including Joyce Carol Oates’s The Accursed and Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles.