• 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

    nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image

    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.”

  • “Is monster erotica lucrative?” New York Magazine talks to two Texas college students who have made more than mid-career accountants and engineers at Boeing by writing adult novels with titles like Taken By the T-Rex and Ravished by the Triceratops.

    At the Page Turner blog, Adelle Waldman considers why (and how) novelists fail to adequately address the subject of female beauty.

    The new, all digital Newsweek is staffing up, and they’ve already poached some good writers, including Jezebel’s Katie Baker and the New York Times’s Karla Zabludovsky.

    A real book.

    A real book.

    Dave Eggers released a statement this week in response to accusations that he plagiarized the conceit of Kate Losse’s memoir The Boy Kings, which detailed her years as an early employee at Facebook. In an email to Gawker, Eggers said, ”I’ve just heard about the claims of Kate Losse that my novel, The Circle, was somehow based on a work of nonfiction she wrote. I want to make it clear that I have never read and have never heard of her book before today. I did not, in fact, read any books about any internet companies, or about the experiences of anyone working at any of these companies, either before or while writing The Circle.”

    A new law in France will prevent Amazon.fr from shipping discounted new books to customers for free. The regulation is an amendment to a 1981 law that mandates that all new books must be sold at a fixed price.

    Once again, Jonathan Franzen is railing against social media. This week, Franzen returned to his favorite topic during a BBC radio interview, describing social media as a “coercive development.” He remarked, “What I find particularly alarming from the point of view of American fiction is that… agents will now tell young writers: ‘I won’t even look at your manuscript if you don’t have 250 followers on Twitter.’” Franzen added, “I see people who ought to be spending their time developing their craft, and people who used to be able to make a living as freelance writers, I see them making nothing and coerced into this constant self-promotion.”

  • October 3, 2013

    In a thinly veiled attempt to make sure that nobody ever turns off their Kindle, Amazon has been prodding the Federal Aviation Administration to revise their rules about turning off electronic devices during takeoff and landings. Recent tests conducted both by Amazon and an FAA panel have found that use of electronics—contrary to conventional wisdom—have no effect on planes.

    Even though Norman Rush is often credited with writing one of the most psychologically nuanced female characters in contemporary fiction (the unnamed narrator of Mating), that doesn’t mean that he’s especially good at writing women, argues Ruth Franklin at The New Republic: “There is a constant weirdness in all three of [his] novels in their attitude toward women and their bodies. It raises a peculiar kind of discomfort when a writer has his male characters exclaim over and over about how wonderful women are, yet that praise focuses on their genitalia. These women have little novelistic agency, little actual power; they are, quite literally, vessels for the male ego.”

    MaoTse-TungRedBookTo celebrate the 120th anniversary of the publication of China’s “Little Red Book” (officially known as Quotations from Chairman Mao) a new edition of the book will be released next month. It will be neither red nor little, and critics and pundits are split over whether its publication has anything to do with a resurgence in Maoist thought in China.

    Elsewhere in Amazon news, the company has announced that it will hire 70,000 additional workers for the holidays.

    Poet Michael Symmons Roberts has won the $16,000 Forward Prize for his collection Drysalter. According to the Los Angeles Times, “each of the 150 poems in the collection is exactly 15 lines long; the title refers to an 18th-century store stocking poisons, powders, gums and drugs.” The poetry prize was in the news last month after it was revealed that one of its applicants, CJ Allen, had plagiarized in the past.

    At the New Yorker blog, Daniel Mendelsohn turns to 20th century Greek poet Constantine Cavafy—and particularly his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians”—to make sense of the government shutdown.

  • October 2, 2013

    Bestselling author Tom Clancy died this morning of undisclosed caused as a hospital in Baltimore. He was sixty-six. The Times has more. 

    In a puzzled and negative review of Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project, Dwight Garner wonders how Franzen “could loom so tall in his novels yet seem so shriveled in his nonfiction,” and notes that while Franzen’s “drive-by pea shootings” on technology fall short, the author’s “whole mode of being — the way he mostly runs silent and deep, issuing a novel every 10 years or so, refusing to embrace social media — was already his most incisive possible rebuke to the way he suspects so many of us live now.”

    The Paris Review and New York’s Standard Hotel East are teaming up to offer a three-week residency next January to an author with a book already under contract. Submissions will be judged by Paris Review and Standard Culture editors, and is open to writers of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Breakfast comes included, room service does not, and “It is expected that the writer will stay alone, within reason.”

    David Bowie has shared his list of 100 “must-read” books, and it appears he’s still afraid of Americans: Susan Jacoby’s 2008 bestseller The Age of American Unreason is at the top.

    urlThe Man Who Laughs, a little-known 1869 novel by Victor Hugo that is best known for inspiring a 1928 film whose poster inspired the Batman character the Joker, is once again available for purchase. Boing Boing suggests that there is probably a reason the book has long been out of print: “As legions of disappointed Batman fans have discovered, the Victor Hugo novel is just not very good. It’s one of Hugo’s later works, written from exile in the Channel Islands, and it’s a meandering political treatise grafted onto a novel.”

    The unexpected parallels between Edward Snowden and George Orwell.

    Writer Dan Zevin, author of Dan Gets a Mini-Van: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, won the $5,000 Thurber Prize for American Humor this week at a ceremony in New York.

    In advance of an upcoming sex issue of the New York Times Book Review, the editors have asked readers to write in and share their first experience reading an illicit work of literature.

  • October 1, 2013

    Philip Roth was awarded a Commander of the Legion of Honor award at the French embassy in New York last week for his contributions to literature and longstanding relationship with France. In a speech, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabuis attributed Roth’s “immense success in France” to his “art of storytelling, your irony and self-depreciation, which is not typically French.”


    The good news in a new National Endowment for the Arts survey is that more than half of all Americans read for pleasure in 2012; the bad news is that the number of people reading what the NEA calls “literature”—i.e. novels, short stories, poetry, or plays—dropped to the lowest levels in ten years.

    Did Dr. Seuss or Bret Easton Ellis write it? A quiz from The Awl.

    How does Ladbrokes predict who’s going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and get it right half the time? By applying “ a numerical value to things like industry chatter, an author’s nationality, historical precedent”—and then simply deciding who’s likely to win. This tends to create a snowball effect and generate even more media for the candidate they think should win.

    Felix Salmon has some thoughts about what Dave Eggers gets wrong in The Circle, his new novel about a dystopian Google-like company that forces its employees to constantly be plugged into social media and sharing every detail of their every waking hour: “The thing about the Valley that Eggers misses is that it’s populated by people who consider themselves above the rest of the country—intellectually, culturally, financially. They consider themselves the cognitive elite; the rest of us are the puppets dancing on the end of their strings of code.”

    In an interview with pandoDaily, New Republic owner Chris Hughes remarked that he doesn’t believe in the division between editorial and advertising: “I knew that in buying a content and media company, the idea that business sits over here and lets a newsroom do whatever it wants over there is anachronistic.”

  • September 29, 2013

    The Collaboration, Ben Urwand’s new book about Hollywood’s “pact with Hitler,” was published last month and has already, unsurprisingly, stirred up all kinds of controversy. In a review of Urwand’s book, The New Yorker‘s David Denby wondered why Harvard University Press had chosen to publish the book, citing what he deemed its many “omissions and blunders.” Denby also urged Harvard UP to “acknowledge these problems and correct them in a revised edition that is better informed, if less sensational.” In response to the review, Harvard UP issued a statement supporting Urwand’s work, and directing critics to “nearly 60 pages of notes and documentation [that] enable readers to judge for themselves the strength and validity of his presentation.”

    At The New Republic, Geoff Dyer writes about one of Franco Pagetti’s photograph from a series of war photos taken in Syria.

    In the new issue of the Mark Twain Journal,  a rare-book dealer argues that Samuel Clemens’s came up with his pseudonym, Mark Twain, after seeing the name “in a popular humor journal.” Twain liked to say that he borrowed the name from a Mississippi riverboat captain, but new evidence suggests that he adopted the name, “then invented the riverboat story to promote his Missouri roots.”


    Fun fact, courtesy of Casey N. Cep at the Paris Review: The inspiration for Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s book Green Eggs and Ham was a bet between Seuss and Random House editor Bennett Cerf that Seuss couldn’t write a book with only fifty words in it. Seuss won that bet. Of the 681 words in Green Eggs, the majority of them are repetitions.

    If the government does shut down this week, the Library of Congress will go with it. The library announced the news in a statement posted on their website: “In the event of a temporary shutdown of the federal government, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1, all Library of Congress buildings will close to the public and researchers. All public events will be cancelled and web sites will be inaccessible.”

  • September 27, 2013

    In an essay for Page Turner, critic Lee Siegel reflects on the state of contemporary critical culture, the increasingly “social” (and positive) tone in reviewing, and why he’s done writing negative book reviews. One reason for the changing climate is, of course, the internet: “Authority is a slippery thing, and its nature is going through yet another permutation in literary life. There are plenty of young, gifted critics writing fiercely and argumentatively in relatively obscure Web publications. But they are keenly aware that, along with the target of their scrutiny, the source of their own authority is also an object of examination.” Meanwhile, at the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner makes a case for why a “world without negative book reviews would be a terrible place to live.”

    Fifty Shades of Gray author E.L. James is venturing into winemaking. Observing that “wine plays an important role in “Fifty Shades of Gray,” James announced this week that she’s coming out with two Fifty Shades-themed wines: Red Satin and White Silk.

    At the Times Literary Supplement, Eleanor Margolies explores the link between Rimbaud and puppetry: “How did Charleville-Mézières, best known as Arthur Rimbaud’s ville natale but reviled by the poet as “the stupidest of small provincial towns”, become the international centre of puppetry?”

    In an interview on 60 Minutes, Bill O’Reilly explained that he wrote his latest book, Killing Jesus: A History, because God told him to.

    Jennifer Lawrence has signed on to play “psychotic monster” Cathy Ames in a new adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Genesis saga East of Eden. The novel, an epic family drama set in the Salinas, California during the Depression, was last adapted by Elia Kazan in 1955. Here’s a trailer for Kazan’s film:

    Dissent on the rise of “cli-fi”: “Perhaps climate change had once seemed too large-scale, or too abstract, for the minutely human landscape of fiction. But the threat seems to have become too pressing to ignore, and less abstract, thanks to a nonstop succession of mega-storms and record-shattering temperatures. In addition to Paul Theroux, major novelists including Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and Jennifer Egan have published books that touch on climate change.”