31 October 2013

That swan table though

If you have $14.5 million you can own Jonathan Safran Foer's house, but you can judge its interior decorating job for free. Also, the Foer-Krauss axis is leaving Park Slope? Is it a trend now?

30 October 2013

That 1/8th heritage counted for nothing

I am getting snowed by German spam overnight so I had to put comment moderation on for the time being. It's not you! I'll approve everything unless you spam me in German.

29 October 2013

Amazon Strikeout

Today Amazon launched the Kindle Matchbook, a program where you can buy sharply discounted e-books of the hard-copy books you have bought in the past. At least, that's how it's supposed to work! I have been buying books on Amazon for roughly 11 years. Here are my available Matchbooks:

Of these, #5 is the only one I'm honestly tempted to re-buy for Kindle (because I either donated or lent out my copy of THE BELIEVERS). And I'm not going to do it today. #1, #3 and #7 I still own in print (because they are terrific). #6 was a gift, and I'm not feeling the need to own LITTLE, BIG or IF YOU HAVE TO CRY, GO OUTSIDE (only God can judge me) in perpetuity.

It's a great concept but until more publishers get involved, it's not exactly setting the world on fire.

24 October 2013

Nick Andre, "Stupid"

Losing season,
Non stop passes from best friend to best friend,
Continuously doing what doesn't work,
The inability to separate being a father and a coach,
Dropped passes,
But yet still the "super star",
Yeah right.
Where's my scholarship?
I can drop passes,
Run backwards,
Miss tackles,
And be afraid to take a hit.
That’s top of the line Div. 1 material right there.
If that’s what they wanted,
They definitely got it.
This whole town will be glad when he’s gone.
For anyone who doesn’t understand what I’m saying,

--Ohio high school junior Andre was suspended from school for writing this poem in his composition class.

23 October 2013

Emily Dickinson for each ecstatic incident

I highly recommend a spin through the new open-access Emily Dickinson Archive, a major collaborative research project that brings the Belle of Amherst (ugh, how I hate that nickname) ever close to us.

21 October 2013

Richard Ford: "It was good money then. I needed it. So I was always there, attentive."

Richard Ford had a neat piece in the New York Times yesterday about his first job working in a railroad switchyard. As a "fireman" -- already a legacy job on trains that didn't run on coal -- he spent the summer watching to make sure the train didn't hit anything. 

17 October 2013

Bookstore to Visit of the Week: Twice Sold Tales

You know, I've been trying to put together a trip to Seattle and Portland, and this sign makes a very convincing argument. Twice Sold Tales of Capitol Hill, Seattle. Photo: maaaandyb

16 October 2013

National Book Award nominees: Lahiri, Pynchon, Wright already winners to me

I mean, who cares if the entire country is going into default and world crisis and all that, but the nominees for next month's National Book Awards were released this morning. In Fiction Jhumpa Lahiri and Thomas Pynchon will be duking it out with George Saunders, James McBride and relative newcomer Rachel Kushner -- really, there are no losers here. In Nonfiction, Lawrence Wright's Scientology expose GOING CLEAR faces Jill Lepore's biography of Jane Franklin (sounds fascinating based on the New Yorker excerpt), BEA darling HITLER'S FURIES (by Wendy Lower, about Nazi women), George Packer's new-economy tome THE UNWINDING and Alan Taylor's THE INTERNAL ENEMY: SLAVERY AND WAR IN VIRGINIA.

See poetry and YA categories here. Ready your library requests!

15 October 2013

Eleanor Catton is the youngest Booker Prize winner ever

There were those who were concerned that opening the Booker Prize to Americans, as happened this year, would affect the outcome unduly; for the record, Catton, 28, is a New Zealander (though she attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop). THE LUMINARIES is her second novel after 2008's THE REHEARSAL.

How to design a book

Chip Kidd, longtime Knopf designer, novelist and real erudite smartypants, is teaching a Skillshare course on book cover design coming up soon. (He won't grade your final project, but you'll get access to his words of wisdom about cover design from projects like 1Q84, JURASSIC PARK and the David Sedaris oeuvre.)

14 October 2013

Your state in a book

Business Insider has a map of the "most famous" book represented by each of the 50 states. Let me judge them by where I've lived:

  • Wisconsin: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. I was raised on these books and they are perennial classics, so this is fine by me. (But I've never been to Pepin, WI near where the Ingallses lived. Road trip?)
  • Rhode Island: Jodi Picoult's MY SISTER'S KEEPER. Wait, it really takes place there? Interesting.
  • Massachusetts: WALDEN, although I think one of Cotton Mather's diaries would be more accurate if my sources inside the state are any indicator. 
  • Illinois: THE JUNGLE. Seems unfair. 
  • New York: THE GREAT GATSBY. Okay, it's almost 90 years old, but we will take it. 
  • Pennsylvania: THE LOVELY BONES. Not a flattering look. 

Scanning the list, I think the person who compiled it has a really mordant sense of humor. You'd have to, to list fun travel reads like THE SHINING, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and CARRIE among your titles. Seriously, who wants to visit the grave at the end of CARRIE? Nobody. But Kansas is happy, while Ohio is confused.

10 October 2013

Yes We Canadian!

Alice Munro becomes the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. And she doesn't know yet because the Nobel committee had to leave her a voicemail and get on with the announcement. Hey, if you're Alice Munro and you're reading this...

09 October 2013

Munro vs. Murakami

The Nobel Prize in Literature is handed out tomorrow. (The top two are favorites; Joyce Carol Oates and Thomas Pynchon are also receiving heavy bets in the U.K., where you can bet on this kind of thing. Bloomberg Businessweek has more on the betting process.) Who do you think will win? And will those jokes about random mediocre '90s musicians accidentally winning ever not be funny?

08 October 2013

Three short takes

This is a great book to rearrange your piecemeal knowledge of early rap music and put it all into context -- especially if you didn't grow up listening to hip-hop pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. Chang writes like he was in the room for all of these parties (which he couldn't have been, except later when he worked for Vibe); his work on the L.A. section was especially illuminating to me. Too bad right now this titular phrase is more associated with a white pop star from the South than, well, anyone more original and less spectacle-producing.

I don't think I've read a novel so focused on Jewish daily life (independent of other factors such as nationality or wartime-besieged status) since THE CHOSEN. At the start of the book, Marjorie, nee Morgenstern (she changed her name when she wanted to become an actress), and her family have just wedged themselves into middle-class Upper West Side respectability after leaving their relatives in the Bronx. Marjorie's acting dreams propel her through Hunter College, but her romantic distractions (as she sees them) steal time away from her seemingly inevitable path toward stardom. This book also (spoiler alert) ends with a total Crap Letter From A Dude, that at first I appreciated but then left a bad taste in my mouth. I assume the Natalie Wood-starring movie has a different ending.

This is the book I picked up at the Amtrak station because I recognized Lippman's name and have liked some of her books featuring P.I. Tess Monaghan (as this one does). My trouble with this book was that Tess was the only person she knew who behaved at all rationally. Everyone else around her was Hiding A Deep Dark Secret, and that was telegraphed so early I got confused about whose Deep Dark Secrets were whose. "But why?" was the question I was always asking. This should have been zippy enough to suspend my disbelief. But I still enjoyed it, especially a scene set in an under-21 club.

03 October 2013

September Unbookening

Checked out 5 ebooks from the library
Picked 1 out from the "Leave one, take one" shelf at the Amtrak station in Glenview, IL (recommend!)
Bought 4 (yeesh)
Received 1 to review
10 in

Donated 8 - 4 of which I had had in storage since NYC and decided to cull when I unpacked them, because that's efficient
Gave away 2
Returned 4 ebooks (loan expired)
14 out

Five duplicate books present in the library of my new apartment:
  • Flannery O'Connor, COLLECTED STORIES
  • Roberto BolaƱo, 2666
  • Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
  • Federico Garcia Lorca, SELECTED VERSE
  • David Foster Wallace, INFINITE JEST

02 October 2013

RIP Tom Clancy

Bestseller machine, your grandfather's favorite author, first published in 1984 (THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER).