Archive for the ‘Writers & Writing’ Category

PD*5068633Edgar Allan Poe apologizes to his publishers for drinking too much and asks them to buy an article because he’s ‘desperately pushed for money’ in an 1842 letter acquired by the University of Virginia for an exhibition marking the author’s 200th birthday. . . .

“‘Will you be so kind enough to put the best possible interpretation upon my behaviour while in N-York?,’ Poe asks New York publishers J. and Henry G. Langley. ‘You must have conceived a queer idea of me — but the simple truth is that Wallace would insist upon the juleps, and I knew not what I was either doing or saying.’ . . .

“The U.Va. Library released the letter this week ahead of an exhibit opening Saturday that highlights Poe’s enduring literary works, brief life and mysterious death at the age of 40. Poe attended the Charlottesville university, but had to drop out after less than a year in part because of financial difficulties, which plagued him the rest of his life.” (via Associated Press)

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nea“Unemployment rates are up among working artists and the artist workforce has contracted, according to new research from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Artists in a Year of Recession: Impact on Jobs in 2008 examines how the economic slowdown has affected the nation’s working artists.  The study looks at artist employment patterns during two spikes in the current recession – the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008.  This downturn reflects larger economic declines: a Commerce Department report last week noted a 6.2 percent decrease in the gross domestic product in the last quarter of 2008.

“Among the findings:

  • Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers
  • Unemployment rates for artists have risen more rapidly than for U.S. workers as a whole
  • Artist unemployment rates would be even higher if not for the large number of artists leaving the workforce
  • Unemployment rose for most types of artist occupations
  • The job market for artists is unlikely to improve until long after the U.S. economy starts to recover” (via mediabistro)

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05foote-480Horton Foote, who chronicled a wistful American odyssey through the 20th century in plays and films mostly set in a small town in Texas and who left a literary legacy as one of the country’s foremost storytellers, died on Wednesday in Hartford. He was 92 and lived in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Wharton, Tex.

“Mr. Foote died after a brief illness, his daughter Hallie Foote said. He had recently been living in Hartford while adapting his nine-play “Orphans’ Home Cycle” into a three-part production that will be staged next fall at the Hartford Stage Company and the Signature Theater in New York. In a body of work for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards, Mr. Foote was known as a writer’s writer, an author who never abandoned his vision even when Broadway and Hollywood temporarily turned their backs on him.

“In screenplays for movies like “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and “The Carpetbagger’s Children,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death.” (more @ NY Times)

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Obama Sushi


Russian Writers Cookies: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol

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beatles“A university in Liverpool has launched a Master of Arts degree in The Beatles, the city’s most famous sons, and called the qualification the first of its kind.

Liverpool Hope University says on its website that the course entitled ‘The Beatles, Popular Music and Society’ consists of four 12-week taught modules and a dissertation.” (via Reuters)


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kerouacJack Kerouac‘s ‘lost’ novel The Sea is My Brother, which he wrote during his years as a merchant seaman, is to be published in its entirety for the first time.

“Described by Kerouac as being about ‘man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies,’ the 158-page handwritten manuscript was Kerouac’s first novel, but was not published during his lifetime. He wrote in his notes for the project that the characters were ‘the vanishing American, the big free by, the American Indian, the last of the pioneers, the last of the hoboes.’

“The novel follows the fortunes of Wesley Martin, a man who Kerouac said ‘loved the sea with a strange, lonely love; the sea is his brother and sentences. He goes down.’ By contrast another sailor, Kerouac continued, ‘escapes society for the sea, but finds the sea a place of terrible loneliness.'” (via The Guardian)

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oddmanout“Matt McCarthy, a graduate of Yale and of Harvard Medical School now working as an intern in the residency program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital in New York, has gained national attention in recent weeks for “Odd Man Out,” his salacious memoir of his summer as an obscure minor league pitcher. He writes about playing with racist, steroids-taking teammates, pitching for a profane, unbalanced manager and observing obscene behavior and speech that in some ways reinforce the popular image of wild professional ballplayers.

“But statistics from that season, transaction listings and interviews with his former teammates indicate that many portions of the book are incorrect, embellished or impossible. It comes during a difficult period for the publishing industry, which has recently had three major memoirs — James Frey’s infamous “A Million Little Pieces” and the recollections of a Holocaust survivor and of an inner-city foster child — exposed as mostly fabricated. The authors of those books have acknowledged their fraud.” (more @ NY Times)

Disputed passages from the book can be found here.


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Blagojevich MoneyGlenn Selig, a publicist for Rod Blagojevich, says the recently impeached former Illinois governor signed a six-figure deal on Monday to write a book “exposing the dark side of politics.” (via The Huffington Post)

Update: (3/9) BLAGOJEBOOK

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Mabou Mines’ Dollhouse, which first opened in late 2003 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, returned to St. Ann’s last month after five years of touring the world, for what is likely the final staging of the celebrated adaptation of Ibsen’s “protofeminist” classic, A Doll’s House. This exhilarating, bawdy and broadly comic production, in which the male actors are all “little people,” standing between 40 and 53 inches tall, and the women are all nearly 6 feet tall, closes next Sunday, March 8th.

An interview with Mabou Mines co-founder and Dollhouse director Lee Breuer can be found here.

A slideshow of images from the current run can be found here; or watch the promotional video –

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The original New York Times review from 2003 can be found here.

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david_foster_wallaceThe author David Foster Wallace, best known for his novel “Infinite Jest,” “a vast investigation into America as the land of addictions: to television, to drugs, to loneliness,” committed suicide on September 12, 2008 at the age of 46. Wallace, who suffered from depression for more than twenty years, struggled for more than a decade with his unfinished third novel, “The Pale King,” which he hoped would surpass “Infinite Jest.”

In the March 9th issue of The New Yorker, D.T. Max writes about Wallace’s twin struggles:

Although “depression,” writes Max, “often figured in his work,” Wallace “never published a word about his own mental illness.”

As to the public display of grief over Wallace’s death, it was “connected to a feeling that, for all his outpouring of words, he died with his work incomplete. Wallace, at least, never felt that he had hit his target. His goal had been to show readers how to live a fulfilled, meaningful life. ‘Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being,’ he once said. Good writing should help readers to ‘become less alone inside.'”

“From 1997 on, Wallace worked on a third novel, which he never finished—the ‘Long Thing,’ as he referred to it . . . His drafts, which his wife found in their garage after his death, amount to several hundred thousand words, and tell of a group of employees at an Internal Revenue Service center in Illinois, and how they deal with the tediousness of their work.” (more @ The New Yorker

An excerpt from Wallace’s unfinished novel can be found here.

The partial manuscript will be published next year by Little, Brown.

RelatedFor David Foster Wallace’s survivors, a paper puzzle (via LA Times)

[In 1999, Amherst [College] magazine writer Stacey Schmeidel interviewed Wallace by mail. The feature-length Q & A, titled “Brief Interview With a Five Draft Man,” ran in the Spring 1999 issue of the magazine, and is reprinted here.]

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PD*4001807“Rather than killing it off, modern technologies like email, social networking sites such as Facebook and online media players are helping poets reach new audiences.”

Signs of growth, by the numbers:

  • The number of entries for the Foyle Young Poets Award more than doubling from 2003 to 2008 to almost 12,000.
  • The number of pamphlets sent to the Poetry Book Society for publication rose from 37 to 90 between 2006 and 2008.
  • Websites like Poetry Archive, which enables people to listen to recordings of poets like TS Eliot and Allen Ginsberg reading their work, are now enjoying unprecedented success. Poetry Archive . . . now receives 135,000 visitors a month and a million page hits. (via Daily Telegraph)

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orwell“The longlists for the 2009 Orwell Prize for Political Writing were announced today, and for the first time the award includes a category for bloggers. Along with the traditional Book and Journalism submissions, this year the judges received entries in the form of YouTube videos and Twitter tweets. From eighty-three entrants for the Blog Prize . . . the judges selected a choice twelve, mixing the professional with the amateur, the politically affiliated with the politically free-wheeling:

“Alix Mortimer’s ‘The People’s Republic of Mortimer’; Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian Politics Blog; Chekov’s ‘Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness’; Hopi Sen’s Blog from the back room; Iain Dale’s Diary; Jack Night’s ‘Night Jack’; Mark Easton’s BBC News blog, ‘Mark Easton’s UK’; Neil Robertson’ ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’; Oliver Kamm’s Times Online blog; Paul Mason’s ‘Idle Scrawl’; The Heresiarch’s Heresy Corner; and Tom Harris’s ‘And another thing…’.

“While the Books and Journalism prizes have taken as their mantra Orwell’s ambition to ‘make political writing into an art’, the Blog Prize has looked to the day-to-day reflections in Orwell’s diaries for its criteria.” (via Granta)

[The March 12, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books includes Julian Barnes’s essay, “Such, Such Was Eric Blair,” on George Orwell’s political writings. On his blog today, Andrew Sullivan writes of Barnes’s essay: “I’ve read a lot of Orwell and almost as much about him. This essay captures his Britishness – and avoids hagiography – as well as any I’ve read.”]

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“Joseph O’Neill’s novel ‘Netherland’ was named the winner of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation said on Wednesday. The honor for ‘Netherland,’ about a Dutch-born equities analyst, his British wife and their son, who live in New York during the Sept. 11 attack and its aftermath, is something of a comeback for Mr. O’Neill. The novel, though widely praised, was shut out in the National Book Awards and the National Book Critics Circle awards.” (via NY Times)

Michiko Kakutani’s New York Times review of “Netherland” can be found here.

[In many ways “Netherland” is a book about sports — in this instance cricket — and national identity; but the novel also contains some of the finest descriptions of ethnic New York City found anywhere. Related20 Are Detained After Cricket Attack (3/4/09, via NY Times)]

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“Every few years, someone counts up the titles covered in the New York Times Book Review and the short fiction published in the New Yorker, as well as the bylines and literary works reviewed in such highbrow journals as Harper’s and the New York Review of Books, and observes that the male names outnumber the female by about 2 to 1. This situation is lamentable, as everyone but a handful of embittered cranks seems to agree, but it’s not clear that anyone ever does anything about it. The bestseller lists, though less intellectually exalted, tend to break down more evenly along gender lines; between J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer alone, the distaff side is more than holding its own in terms of revenue. But when it comes to respect, are women writers getting short shrift?” (more @ Salon)


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As an early user and fan of Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader, I’ve wanted for the longest time to post something about the device, but never more than now, now that the Kindle 2 has been released and reviewed in various forums. Finally, Jon Stewart to the rescue.

From last night’s The Daily Show, here is Stewart’s discussion about the Kindle 2 with Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Laughter aside, Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild, argues that “authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books.”


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googleUpdating my January 31st post, Google & the Future of Books: I received the following email today from Nancy Dolan at Kinsella Media, LLC, regarding the Google Book Search settlement –

“Thank you for your blog post about the Google Book Search settlement.  The process of notifying authors and publishers about the settlement has begun.  If you would like to update your readers with the court-approved Notice, which summarizes the settlement, important terms, claims process, and key dates, it is available at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/notice.html.  Rightsholders may now claim their works at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com.”

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typewriterAhead of their publication later this year of six new short story collections, Harper Perennial has kicked off promotion of its “2009: Summer of the Short Story” campaign by launching a new blog, Fifty-Two Stories.

As reported by Publishers Weekly, the publishing house announced “that each week in 2009 it is posting a new short story. Some are new stories from Harper Perennial’s original collections or from upcoming hardcovers; some are original contributions never before published anywhere; and some are backlist classics. . . .

“Harper Perennial’s editorial director, Cal Morgan, selects a new story each week and posts it Sunday night. In January, Fifty-Two Stories featured stories by Mary Gaitskill, Tony O’Neill, Simon Van Booy and Tom Piazza. Last week, it posted a previously unpublished story from Louise Erdrich’s new collection, The Red Convertible, which Harper published in January. This week there’s a story by Willa Cather from The Bohemian Girl, a forthcoming selection of Cather’s greatest short works. Future selections include works by Katherine Dunn, Jess Walter, Mark Twain and Dennis Cooper.”

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pessl2Writing in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Jacob Silverman denounces the “lazy and shallow tactic” of discussing an author’s looks in a book review. He recalls the often overheated commentary about Marisha Pessl‘s dust jacket photo in her 2006 debut novel, Special Topics In Calamity Physics, and takes Janet Maslin to task for her February 15th New York Times review of Miriam Gershow’s The Local News.

[Related: “The dust jacket photo remains a crucial promotional device. In fact, says Antonia Hodgson, the editor-in-chief at the publisher Little, Brown, it’s more important than ever.” (more @ Looking the part, 4/10/09, The National)]

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bookstore-sign1“Peter Olson, until recently the chairman and CEO of Random House, wrote in Publishers Weekly last month: ‘While 2008 ended on a disappointing and even discouraging note for many in the book industry, the outlook for the new year is even bleaker. One-time adjustments by retailers and underlying shifts in the structure of the book industry will make 2009 the worst year for publishing in decades.’” (via London Review of Books)


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upward“With Mr. Upward’s death, on Feb. 13 in Pontefract, England, the last living link was broken to writers like [Christopher] IsherwoodW. H. Auden and Stephen Spender who shaped English literature in the 1930s. In reporting Mr. Upward’s death, London newspapers said that at 105 he was Britain’s oldest author.

“His influence on his contemporaries was both literary and political, silly and serious. The Mortmere tales — for which biographers give the main credit to Mr. Upward — inspired Auden’s poetry. Isherwood sent manuscripts to Mr. Upward for judgment. Mr. Upward helped convert Spender to Communism.” (via NY Times)

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