It’s been announced that Ta-Nehisi Coates, hailed by Toni Morrison as an intellectual heir to James Baldwin, will continue to use his powers for good—a longtime comic-book fan, Coates is to write a new Black Panther series for Marvel, starting next spring. The character, created in 1966, was the first black superhero, and this assignment doesn’t strike Coates as a departure from his previous work: “I don’t experience the stuff I write about as weighty,” he told the New York Times. “I feel a strong need to express something. The writing usually lifts the weight. I expect to be doing the same thing for Marvel.”
Carmen Balcells, the literary agent who helped make the careers of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, has died. Vargas Llosa has published a tribute to her (whose accompanying illustration, incidentally, is something to see), and Xavi Ayen, author of The Boom Years, told the New York Times: “Without her, the Latin American boom would not have been what it was. . . . She created the first generation of writers who could support themselves as novelists.” Balcells had been in merger talks with the New York agent Andrew Wylie—as well as Vargas Llosa and the García Márquez estate, her agency represents everyone from Isabel Allende to the estates of Clarice Lispector and Pablo Neruda.
A judge has ruled that Warner/Chappell has no valid copyright in the lyrics to “Happy Birthday,” meaning that filmmakers will no longer have to pay the company to feature the song (which they’ve reportedly been doing to the tune of $2 million a year). If it seems a little odd that anyone has been cashing in on “Happy Birthday” for so long, recall that Ava DuVernay was forced to paraphrase Martin Luther King’s speeches for her film Selma, for copyright reasons—and indeed, the foundation that put up the King memorial in D.C. had to pay his estate more than $700,000 to use his words and image on it.
Every era gets the universal New Yorker caption it deserves, and after a few false starts, it’s safe to say that we have found ours.
The comedian Amy Schumer now has a book deal worth somewhere between $8 million and $10 million. Flavorwire estimates that Schumer is receiving an advance worth “approximately 2.5 Aziz Ansari or Lena Dunham advances and 1.5 Tina Fey advances,” or perhaps eighty memoir advances of a kind granted to civilians (non-Schumers).
Such success can be a poisoned chalice, of course. In an interview, Erica Jong notes the impact of her “zipless” hit on her poetry career: “I had won all the poetry prizes when I was a young poet. I won the Bess Hokin Prize, which W.S. Merwin and Sylvia Plath won, and then I wrote Fear of Flying and I was the Happy Hooker of literature. Poets disowned me. I didn’t disown them. I would have happily stayed reading and teaching, and I have done a lot of teaching and writing seminars, but I was shunned because I had a bestseller.”