30 September 2010

"Later, he goes through a spate of stalking orchestral musicians (hey, we all have our fetishes), offering to hoist damsels’ cellos as he loiters outside the stage door of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion." Oh James Ellroy, you're so crazy.

Ahhh, motherland!

Swedish author Tomas Transtromer is the favorite to win this year's Nobel Prize in Literature according to the kind of British betting site that always places odds on this type of thing. Then again, they picked an Israeli author last year, but German Herta Muller ended up snatching it away. So there's hope for Haruki Murakami (11-to-1 odds, against Transtromer's 5-to-1).

It looks as though A.S. Byatt, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Thomas Pynchon and Margaret Atwood are all running about evenly, and if that isn't a WWE script begging to be written...

29 September 2010

"'Hwaet!' is what Beowulf would have tweeted to his adversary. '@grendelsmom I'm a beat you lol.' Lol perhaps, but on balance the original has more oomph." --the Guardian

28 September 2010

Ben Folds-Nick Hornby collaboration out today

Hornby lyrics and Folds melodies. I'm anxious to check this one out. (Fellow New Yorkers, they will be appearing together at a Housing Works benefit on October 12.)

Once again, genius time

Congratulations to writers Yiyun Li, Annette Gordon-Reed and David Simon on being among the 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation grants. The Chinese-born Li, author of four novels (most famously THE VAGRANTS) teaches at UC-Davis; Gordon-Reed won the Pulitzer Prize last year in nonfiction for her book THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO. And David Simon, of course, is most famous now as a TV director thanks to "The Wire" and his new show "Treme" set in pre-New Orleans Katrina, but put in years in the trenches as a reporter enabling him to write THE CORNER and HOMICIDE. According to the Washington Post he thought he was getting sued when he found out about his genius grant. Double congrats, you're not in legal trouble!

(This blog must also mention grant awardee David Cromer, who directed and acted in the incredibly moving "Our Town" adaptation which just closed this month and who is bringing "Sweet Bird of Youth" to Broadway. "Sweet Bird of Youth" is bonkers Tennessee Williams. This is going to be super.)

27 September 2010

Los mejores narradores jovenes en español

Muy bien hecho: Granta will release its list of the top young Spanish-language novelists in issue #113 this Friday. Start writing your predictions now!

Filmbook-to-Be: We bought the popcorn and then we sat down in our seats.

We were excited to see an adaptation of Joshua Ferris' THEN WE CAME TO THE END is in the works, more so when we found out indie director Lynn Shelton was driving. We thought Shelton's last film "Humpday" was hilarious and just a little moving, though we have to practically dare people to see it once they catch wind of the title and subject matter. Trust us, you can handle it.

Shelton also directed last night's episode of "Mad Men," which we would comment on if we weren't planning to watch it tonight instead.

26 September 2010

So much for the British reserve

American paperback edition of Chuck Klosterman's IV:

British paperback edition:

25 September 2010

"Novelistic alienation – the realisation that lived experience doesn’t resemble literature – was invented in DON QUIXOTE. And, ever since DON QUIXOTE, the novel has been concerned with social inequality. Class and religious difference are, after all, two major reasons why certain forms of human experience don’t get documented. Hence Cervantes writes not only about windmills mistaken for giants, but also about prostitutes mistaken for noble ladies, and Moriscos who carry ham under their arms as a badge of racial purity. But, in DON QUIXOTE, race and class have no higher an order of significance than, say, a hidalgo’s typical weekly diet, or the noise produced by a textile mill: aspects of an undocumented historical present. What was missing from the older literary forms, in other words, wasn’t social justice, but the passage of time – a dimension the novel was specifically engineered to capture. The novelistic hero is by definition someone whose life experience hasn’t yet been fully described, possibly because of his race or class, but more broadly because he didn’t exist before, and neither did the technology for describing him. The durability and magic of the novel form lies in the fact that, having gained a certain level of currency, the latest novel is immediately absorbed into the field of pre-existing literature, and becomes the thing the next novel has to be written against. In this dialectic, the categories of outsider and insider are in constant flux. For an outsider to become an insider isn’t ironic or paradoxical: it’s just the way things work."

--Elif Batuman

24 September 2010

Resolved, I do not have a conscience

I finished the David Foster Wallace essay "Consider the Lobster" this morning on the train, and then I went to Luke's Lobster for lunch. (By coincidence -- work friends suggested it.) Clearly this is an extension of the cast iron stomach that allowed me to read FAST FOOD NATION and EATING ANIMALS and continue eating both fast food (well, sparingly) and animals.

The Luke's Lobster roll is satisfying, but pricey for what you get. The atmosphere is kind of hokey. Order the ginger beer you can also buy there (Maine Root Ginger Brew) -- I was warned as to how spicy it was, but the balance between bite and taste is actually perfect. And food writing is definitely not my strong suit; I just fell into an Internet rabbit hole trying to figure out how celery salt is made.
In 2003, Stephen King was awarded the National Book Foundation’s medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and got the same kind of blowback for daring to suggest that maybe critics should give popular fiction its due. It’s the same stuff, recycled, only this time the criticism comes coated with a lovely layer of sexism, a delightfully dismissive tone of, "Oh, you girls. What will you think you deserve next?"
--In the wake of That Which Was Franzenfreude, Jennifer Weiner is starting her own book club to highlight books she thinks are overlooked by the mainstream press. First up: Emma Donoghue's ROOM, of which I hear great things (though never got my requested review copy). Awesome!

23 September 2010

And suddenly I began to admire the discrimination of the man. He had made out the point at once: he did get hold of the only thing I cared about. I felt as though I were taking professional opinion on the case. His imperturbable and mature calmness was that of an expert in possession of the facts, and to whom one's perplexities are mere child's-play. "Ah! The young, the young," he said indulgently. "And after all, one does not die of it." "Die of what?" I asked swiftly. "Of being afraid." He elucidated his meaning and sipped his drink.

--Joseph Conrad, LORD JIM

All the single readers

Two quick hits today: Open Book Toronto lists the five books that are warning signs on a dating profile (I think we can let #3 slide, but that's me) and A Grammar refutes some list about why writers are the best people to date. Re. the latter, I have never heard of a subset of the population for whom this is a particular attraction, but until I find this possibly imaginary group, I will now be referring to them as word-diggers. You're welcome.

22 September 2010

No just kidding, here's the real apocalypse

My high school, which has never seen a tradition it will not steal, is establishing a Hogwarts-style house system to boost school spirit. There are random assignments and there is a House Cup to be won with, I quote from the school newsletter, "challenging activities."

Keep in mind, I did attend to a boarding school, a British school or a magic school (though I would probably be a lot cooler if I had). This would be funny if it weren't so ridiculous.
"If you judged by American literature, there are no happy people in the suburbs, and certainly no fulfilled ones." Oh David Brooks, you are so dumb, you are really dumb, for real. This is the banner you're raising?

21 September 2010

This week's sign of the apocalypse*

The Algonquin Hotel, home of the "Vicious Circle," the round table where Dorothy Parker held court among other New Yorker writers and wits, is becoming a Marriott. A "special" Marriott, but still. Is it too early for that three-martini lunch?**

*Does Sports Illustrated still run this box? Hope so, not just for the purposes of this post.
**Note to coworker: Just kidding!

Fresh out of batteries but they're still making noise

HAMLET'S BLACKBERRY reminded me of two other books I read this year, Nicholas Carr's THE SHALLOWS and Matthew B. Crawford's SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT; author William Powers attempts to do for the modern world's emotional lives what Carr did for the modern brain, then offers philosophical solutions like Crawford's to problems of technological encroachment and digital distraction. That it's such a hybrid doesn't work well in its favor; I liked the book just about enough to finish but didn't get what I was really looking for.

The author contends, based on an essay he wrote as a fellow at Harvard (available here for free), that technology has altered and shaped our lives in ways we haven't even noticed -- which both Carr and Crawford argue -- and holds up seven philosophers to give us guidelines for taking back our lives. These philosophers' arguments, however, are familiar enough from other sources that their application here is fairly obvious. Gretchen Rubin's THE HAPPINESS PROJECT holds up Benjamin Franklin as an example just as Powers does, and it would be impossible to recount how many people in this technological space invoke poor Henry David Thoreau as a model of separation. (I suspect he would have brought his iPad to the pond, but that's neither here nor there.) It did make me want to read more on Seneca and the Stoics -- got any recommendations, primary or secondary?

Since (clearly) this is a subgenre of interest to me, I'm not sorry I picked up HAMLET'S BLACKBERRY, though its most interesting tidbit was contained in the title: While Elizabethan England didn't have the smartphone, Shakespeare and his contemporaries had "tables," little notebooks with pages that could be wiped off if needed so as to serve as a live to-do list or work in progress. (Just picture a slightly greasier Moleskine, it's easier.) As Powers points out, Hamlet even invokes the 'tables' in I.v. after he meets the Ghost:
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark:
One assumes, of course, that Hamlet doesn't actually have to write down that he's just discovered his uncle is a stone cold killer -- but he had the technology which a generation earlier would have led to him carrying a slate under one arm. Good weapon, inconvenient writing device.

Admittedly, it's possible this book found me in the wrong place. I consider my relationship with my devices to be pretty healthy right now (although writing that makes it so creepy!) and I would have been more open to this book if that weren't the case. I got my own Blackberry earlier this year, and after the initial pitfalls I have established what I think are workable boundaries around it, which I can shift as needed depending on circumstances. I even have a designated no-Blackberry hobby, to the consternation of the friend who once texted me to get me to check my e-mail faster.

I don't think my coping strategies are any smarter than anyone else's in this regard. I was lucky to be a late adopter, to see the behaviors that I didn't want to emulate before I found myself unconsciously performing them. I don't want to trade down, but my own digital cleanup strategy is focused elsewhere. Hey, maybe I should write a book about it.

20 September 2010

This week in censorship: YA author Laurie Halse Anderson speaks out against a United Methodist minister in Missouri who called her book SPEAK "soft pornography" because its main character is sexually assaulted at a high school party. He already got SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE taken out of the curriculum, if you need additional steam.

19 September 2010

People who hate hardcovers might look for some kindred souls in the comments of this HTMLGIANT post.

Buying hardcovers still feels like a splurge for me, and I guess it will be that way a long time. I grew up amid my parents' '70s hardcovers of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and the box set of George Orwell diaries, a little yellowed, a little frayed on the edges, but still constitutional. I still associate hardcovers with adulthood, I think because young adult and kids' books are so rarely put out in hardcover (there's that gap between picture books and Times bestsellers) and from some fundamental misunderstanding over jacket covers.

That said, I probably have a few hardcovers sitting around I don't really cherish, including ones I haven't read whose bulk is intimidating me. Probably time to sort through anyway.

18 September 2010

Still need a nudge to get going on Anthony Powell's A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME series? I certainly do. My friend Marjorie recently finished the books and lays out her case on Goodreads in a way that will motivate you to give them another shot.

17 September 2010


Context: The Brooklyn Cyclones is a minor-league team affiliated with the Mets that plays on Coney Island (where the wooden Cyclone roller coaster is). And New York was hit by a tornado last night.

FREAKONOMICS co-author Stephen J. Dubner is launching "Freakonomics Radio," an American Public Media/ New York Public Radio podcast and Marketplace segment. You can listen to a sample on its website.

(Via Galleycat, which notes that the "Freakonomics" documentary is available on iTunes now. Well, that's tonight planned.)

16 September 2010

Well, dang

Although the talk show host has not confirmed or denied the choice, Associated Press is reporting based on accounts from booksellers that Oprah has chosen FREEDOM for her next book club pick.

Spotted on the subway

It's great that you're learning and all, and you seem pretty absorbed! But maybe you could keep reading somewhere that is not against the door I need to get through to exit.

On the bright side, somewhere north of 96th Street lives a girl who is better at seducing you than she was before. So, you know, watch out for that!

15 September 2010

Via Peter W. Knox: To be released on April 15, 2011, the Howling Fantods has the cover of THE PALE KING. Isn't that a beauty?

FREEDOM -- Spoiler Thread

This post does not have spoilers. However, the comments will be ALL SPOILERS. If you've finished the book and want to talk about the scene where [redacted] and [redacted] do [redacted], come on over and play.

I'll kick it off with my thoughts on the ending sometime between 8 and 9AM. Seriously, if you haven't read FREEDOM, do NOT enter the comments -- but feel free to pass along to your friends who have and are pestering you to talk about it.

14 September 2010

Jonathan Franzen, FREEDOM: And all of the houses they built in the '70s finally fall

Last week I went to see Jonathan Franzen read at what I was told was the first East Coast stop on his book tour, about a week after FREEDOM came out. The front section of seating quickly filled out with the seat next to me occupied by an older woman who appeared not to notice that there was a reading going on at all. Throughout the applause, the effusive introduction (during which Franzen appeared to bang his head on the signing table), the selection from FREEDOM and the Q&A, the woman, well dressed with stacks of rings, sat reading a library copy of Tana French's FAITHFUL PLACE -- as I write this, currently not on the New York Times bestseller list -- and sighing quite loudly to herself. I even heard a strangled "Oh my god" once when she turned a page. Oblivious to the earnest attention of the crowd, she sat.

For most Americans, the stir over FREEDOM -- that it's Franzen's first novel in nine years, the adoring attention from critics and the inevitable backlash -- probably means no more to them than Franzen's opinions on his TIME cover ("I suggested 'pretty good American novelist'") or fiction writing in general ("People who are uncomfortable behave in interesting ways") meant to my neighbor at the reading. We reading this can plonk them over the head with how great THE CORRECTIONS was, but it's unlikely they'll take our word for it; unless their book club picks it up in a few years, they probably won't be in the market for FREEDOM either. The world will little note nor long remember, et cet. Yet still we have to hold ourselves to some standard and say: Does FREEDOM merit all the attention after all?

Now that I've finished it, my answer would be: Absolutely. But I hadn't made up my mind on that point until much deeper into the book, than I had expected to go. As prefigured by the Lev Grossman profile, FREEDOM is an incredibly plotty novel, more so than most other works of contemporary literary fiction I have read (or probably will read) this year, but its first 200 pages follow a somewhat predictable track: Fissures appear in the house of the Berglunds, lawyer Walter and homemaker Patty of St. Paul, as tensions rise over their teenage son Joey's behavior, particularly his devotion to the girl next door. We see the fault lines first from outside, in a neighborly Greek chorus, then from the inside in the form of a purported memoir which Patty has been instructed by her therapist to write. The memoir is called "Mistakes Were Made."

This is where I'm tempted to break in and say "See?? This is a novel about AMERICA!" Two factors hold me back, the first being the insufferability and possible stonerdom inherent in a comment like that, and the second being that the concept of Patty's memoir didn't really work for me. Aside from comments about "the autobiographer," it would be impossible to imagine even a terminally bored housewife from reproducing the work shown here; its details are too extensive, Franzen's hand shown a few too many times. In the midst of this section, in which we travel back to Patty's college days, before she met Walter and his roommate (her original object of desire) musician Richard Katz, I began to worry a little about the hands into which I put myself. This is the fault line of the novel, the tension between 19th and 21st centuries; we live in the era of the memoir but crave the pace of fiction in it. I didn't want the 21st century to intrude -- and is there a more obvious way of pointing this out than having Patty, in the grip of malaise and the middle of her purported autobiography, engrossed in WAR AND PEACE? That it's pretty rare for anyone to casually pick up WAR AND PEACE is not the point. It's obvious in a clever way, a delicious way, a way that nearly made me want to re-experience that Tolstoy (and I'm on the record as saying it's overrated).

When Franzen resumes what I don't feel too bad about calling the plot, the central plot, concerning Walter's new job as executor of a billionaire's environmental philanthropy, I felt myself in much better hands. The second half of FREEDOM -- termed, for me, from the time we meet Walter's assistant Lalitha and witness her and Walter describing the work of their foundation to an incredulous Richard Katz -- is packed with events, but not a thriller; contains drama, but not melodrama; and concludes in a sequence that, even if I were to spoil it, would sound so much hokier than I found it. Instead, I was completely moved. I forgot how Franzen excels at endings, and FREEDOM is an example of that. Getting back to my neighbor at the reading, so little perturbed by the man who called himself a "pretty good American novelist" and spoke of wanting to write a book that "corresponds to some genuine change in [him]self," I think she would be far more likely to pick up FREEDOM if she knew how it ended, or at least how the arc of the Berglunds' marriage guides and shapes the book even when it looks as fragile as the population of cerulean warblers Walter's boss claims to want to protect forever. Deeply sad and sometimes cold as it is, it's anything but a tragedy.

13 September 2010

Jean Auel's headshot will haunt me for the rest of my life. Oh, that's not the news? The news is that the CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR series, while still going on, will end with the 6th book next spring.

Was anyone else exposed to these books way before it was appropriate? I want to go back in time and cover my own eyes.

Stray Thoughts on the Brooklyn Book Festival, 2010

Books I most want to read from having seen their authors live: 1989 by Joshua Clover and A FORTUNATE AGE by Joanna Smith Rakoff.
Books I brought with me: 3. Uh, it's a long train ride? One of them was short?
Books I bought: 0, but not for want of selection! I was pleased to see Greenlight as one of the featured sellers -- they didn't even exist this time last year!
Funniest author not appearing on the "Finding the Funny" humor panel: Per Petterson (OUT STEALING HORSES, I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME) who was additionally challenged by working in a second language with troublesome microphones.
Funniest author appearing on the "Finding the Funny" humor panel: He faced stiff competition, but the award goes to John Hodgman for acting in a way that, were it any other panel, would make him look like an absolute asshole. He interrupted the moderator and tweaked meek "Daily Show" writer Rich Blomquist (co-author with Kristen Schaal of THE SEXY BOOK OF SEXY SEX) endlessly, true, but he also dismantled a VIP row before the show so a few more people could sit down in the audience. He was on a roll, and it was incredible.
Panels I made it to: 6 (and a tiny bit of a 7th). I was bummed not to end the day on the main stage, the way I did last year, but given that it was still raining then I was happy to be inside the spacious (if slightly creepy) St. Francis College building.
Biggest regret: Not getting myself together to hit the Jennifer Egan/ Colson Whitehead/ Steve Almond panel at 10AM.
Second biggest: That I hadn't cloned myself so I could wait for a Salman Rushdie ticket and watch the humor panel at the same time.

Best literary T-shirt:

That's an Orin Incandenza Cardinals jersey. The number is right. The number is even right. And yes, I followed him outside from the humor panel and creepily snapped his photo. Personal Hero, I will make amends to you.

Best person to call me a dork for attending: Comedian Mike Birbiglia, who himself has a book out next month (SLEEPWALK WITH ME AND OTHER PAINFULLY TRUE STORIES). I saw his one-man show twice so his tweet at me really backfired; I'm probably getting it framed.

Author I saw twice in one weekend which probably puts me on some watch list: Rob Sheffield, who participated in one of the "Bookend" events new to the fest this year aimed at extending the event to Friday and Saturday nights. (Awesome idea, by the way.) Before his music panel (with Clover and Ta-Nehisi Coates) on Sunday, Sheffield read from TALKING TO GIRLS ABOUT DURAN DURAN and DJ'd at the Bell House in Brooklyn. He read a section of his book about getting terrible advice from Morrissey, which was sadly fitting considering the deserved hot water Moz is in this week for saying something racist.

Best unexpected moment of clarity:
This was my fourth year attending (didn't write about 2007 but see '08, '09) and more than ever, I felt like I was seeing familiar faces even though I couldn't have named the people I saw. It's not an unpleasant feeling but a little disconcerting to see and recognize your sub-subculture in the flesh. I guess this is why people go to professional conferences? At the same time, these moments are somewhat rare in my world as I inch ever further away from "recent college graduate" status. Back then I took it for granted that I would always have people around me who were engaged with books and ideas; I didn't realize that sometimes you have to scrabble to find those people. And, as I let my alternate hippie personality really play through in this paragraph you've all stopped reading, I was grateful not only for the people I saw or ran into (including a girl I lived across the hall from in college! Small world!) during the day but even for the strangers who were sharing my enthusiasm, just so that I knew that they were out there.

Whew. Well, if you've bothered to read this far, sneak preview: Gonna write my review of FREEDOM and post it tomorrow. Additionally, for those of you who have also finished the book, there will be a post specifically so in the comments we can talk about the book with spoilers. (Don't worry, it will be extremely well marked if you wish to avoid it.)

12 September 2010

"Well, sir, and this is on the record, I’ve blurbed a lot of books I haven’t read. Blurbed a lot of books I haven’t read, and have decided to drop the curtain on that. I’m certainly not going to do that anymore. The only way I ever change is to make up my mind to abstain, and the product of my Christian education is, it’s simply my temperament."

--Let my Facebook friend James Ellroy entertain you while I'm at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

11 September 2010


Easy for almost anything to occur.
Even if we've scraped the sky, we can be rubble.
For years those men felt one way, acted another.

Ground Zero, is it possible to get lower?
Now we had a new definition of the personal,
knew almost anything could occur.

It just takes a little training, to blur
A motive, lie low while planning the terrible,
Get good at acting one way, feeling another.

Yet who among us doesn't harbor
A grudge or secret? So much isn't erasable;
It follows that almost anything can occur,

Like men ascending into the democracy of air
Without intending to land, the useful veil
Of having said one thing, meaning another.

Before you know it something's over.
Suddenly someone's missing at the table.
It's easy (I know it) for anything to occur
When men feel one way, act another.

-Stephen Dunn

10 September 2010

"How big a deal is this? This is better than Harry Potter 8 would be." PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH author Norton Juster is releasing a new book; inner children rejoice. (It is not, however, a bigger deal than if Bill Watterson were to continue drawing "Calvin and Hobbes" though. Come on.)

Bookstore In Name Only

If you're walking in the West Village for long enough, chance dictates that you will eventually run into a storefront with the name Marc Jacobs on it. A very popular fashion designer among a certain set of young beautiful people (mostly in New York and other cities), who works under his own name and for certain Louis Vuitton lines, Jacobs started with one boutique and now has several -- the double-storefront across from the cupcake shop, the kids' store, and now, this:

I had never seen Bookmarc until last weekend on a postbrunch walk, but it is a bookstore only in the sense that Urban Outfitters could also be called a bookstore because it sells books. The books are window dressing, to get you into the store so you can get your hands on the real goods. It would be more accurate to call it a Bookstore In Name Only, in the sense that some museum bookstores have drifted that way, because spinning racks of postcards take up an awful lot of room.

In the case of Bookmarc, the real goods are a depressing array of branded tote bags (most in beachy brights, unbecoming to people I think of as style icons) and keychains, a truck-stop-sized assortment of keychains. I wouldn't be surprised if the store started personalizing them on the premises soon.

There were books; of course there were books; there were blank books trussed up like the Penguin classic editions with puns even I couldn't enjoy like THE GAY GATSBY; there were novelty notepads. There were a few copies of Patti Smith's JUST KIDS (which my expedition partner noted is actually a really good book, and whose author is not to blame for this mess, and might even bemoan it right here along with me) turned inefficiently face-out in a shelf. There were remainder-sized art books. But no one was buying them, they were all at the register, paying for their keychains.

The arrival of Bookmarc was particularly painful for the neighborhood because it bumped out the 24-year tenant Biography Bookshop. (EDIT: A commenter points out that Biography is not dead, just in a new location -- with the new name bookbook.) With the guilt of the gentrified I admit, I never went there -- and now it's too late. First they came for the other storefronts, and I didn't speak up... et cetera.

Photo of Bookmarc: slamxhype

09 September 2010

"Today is the day I write an amazing sequel to somebody else's book." Dinosaur Comics does it again! If I had a webcomic, this would definitely be my Webcomic Idol (and not just because I can't draw for anything).

Already regretting his cross-country tour

Last night, in a bookstore...
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: Could you ever see a time when you would write a novel a year?

That was the first question. Pretty sure J-Franz is going to become a hermit now, and it's not my fault!

08 September 2010

Rob Sheffield makes the New York Times a suitably eclectic playlist of some of his favorite songs. Anyone heading out to see him at the Bell House on Saturday? Come drink with me, I'll be the one in the skinny jeans and black framed glasses (ahhhhh, never gets old).

Spotted on the subway (ad division)

Time was a man with the last time of Dollar didn't need to advertise.

07 September 2010

Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

Emma Donoghue, Tom McCarthy and Peter Carey are among the honorees for the Britlit award. (Though I hear Donoghue lives in Canada now and Carey here in New York, so what's that all about?) You have till October 12 to pick your winner; meanwhile, for any readers in the UK, there's a free iPod app with author interviews and excerpts.
End-of-summer kudos! Brittani Lopez read 325 books this summer to win the New York Public Library's summer reading contest.

06 September 2010

31. Our job, then, is two-fold: to focus on our own failings as writers. But also to speak more forcefully as advocates for literature. Books are a powerful antidote for loneliness, for the moral purposelessness of the leisure class. It’s our job to convince the 95 percent of people who don’t read books, who instead medicate themselves in front of screens, that literary art isn’t some esoteric tradition, but a direct path to meaning, to an understanding of the terror that lives beneath our consumptive ennui. It’s hard to make this case, though, if all we do is squabble with each other and lament our obscurity.

32. I am talking to myself mostly.

--Steve Almond

05 September 2010

Can't come to the computer right now

This is probably my view from over my book right now. Happy holiday weekend!

Photo: Paul Brady

04 September 2010

Franzenfest: Can't Take Me Anywhere

I finally saw my first fellow subway rider reading FREEDOM, in the Times Square subway station tonight. Naturally I asked him about it before I remembered who and where I was. It's one of those things people in New York Do Not Do, in my experience. Luckily he only looked puzzled, not irritated.

Photo: jacneed.com

03 September 2010

Unsurprise of the Week

Slate runs the numbers and finds that the New York Times Book Review runs more reviews of books by men than by women, and way more double reviews of books by men than by women.

Summer Is Whenever

So, it's the end of the summer; I must be finished with my Summer of DFW, right? ...Not exactly. Out of the six books I finished one and started two others (GIRL WITH CURIOUS HAIR and ALTHOUGH OF COURSE... Epic summer reading fail! It's not that I believe it couldn't be done in one summer; I just got caught up in other books.

I'd still like to finish this, though, so I'm just going to give myself through the end of the year to work on the list. This troubles me a lot as a person who naturally works to deadline, but it doesn't really make sense to just quit because I was unable to live up to my own expectation. And... I hate writing that, so I'm going to hit publish before I change my mind.

02 September 2010

"The environmental extremist cites Daniel Quinn's books ISHMAEL and MY ISHMAEL, which reportedly detail how a telepathic gorilla 'talks' about the need to save the planet from humankind." You know, it is possible to read those books and then not take a TV station hostage.

01 September 2010

Franzenfest: Rampant Speculation Edition

The blog of an independent bookstore in Massachusetts claims that a sales rep for Macmillan, publisher of FREEDOM, has told them Oprah's next pick is one of Macmillan's hardcovers. Could it be FREEDOM?!?!?!

I don't think this is likely, but it tickles me to find out that bookstores have to order the Oprah's Book Club pick in bulk without knowing what it is. That's why her hair's so big, it's full of secrets!


The long national nightmare is over: After just over a year of belt-tightening, the New York Public Library officially bumped the maximum number of holds you can make to 15, effective today. (You can now also check out 50 books, although good luck carrying them.) What extraordinarily popular book should I get on the list for now?