If you’ve ever seen Salman Rushdie and his wife Lakshmi in public, then you know, the pair of them turn heads. Salman looks like a caricature. He’s almost muppet-like, while Lakshmi is a model many years his junior and many inches taller. When they walk through a room, everybody sort of stops what they’re doing and stares. An article in the Times illuminates this seemingly mismatched relationship. (via AL daily)
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has spotted a debut novel called The Testing of Luther Albright by Mackenzie Bezos. Recognize that last name? Mackenzie is none other than the wife of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The book doesn't come out until August, but an Amazon.com in house reviewer is already describing it as "a debut novel that heralds the beginning of what bodes to be a substantial writing career." PW reviews the book favorably as well. It'll be interesting to see how much review coverage this book gets when it comes out.
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Short story collections undoubtedly reign supreme as the most optimal reading material for the beach. They don’t require the mental commitment that a full-length novel does, they allow for a sense of accomplishment every time you finish one in the collection, and, perhaps more importantly, they provide breaks at precisely the right moment when you need more alcohol. If you’re planning an upcoming vacation, consider taking along J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, David Updike’s Old Girlfriends, or Lady with the Little Dog & Other Stories by Anton Chekhov. It is no coincidence that all three have several beach-themed stories, which I take as proof of the validity of my argument. It is in the latter collection that you will find “The Lady with the Little Dog,” a story so remarkable that fellow Russian heavyweight Vladimir Nabokov called it “one of the greatest stories ever written.” I shamelessly board this bandwagon and add merely that “The Lady with the Little Dog” is the most perfect short story for the summer (Nabokov does not appear to have evaluated art using this metric). It is 1899. Summer is in full swing in Yalta, the glamorous resort town for the glamorous Russian aristocracy. The Black Sea and the sun converge and collectively shine so bright that they blind. Gurov, our main character, lazily stares beyond the horizon in search of something. Of what? He hardly knows himself. This is how “The Lady with the Little Dog” marvelously opens up, immediately creating a drunken feeling of infinite, if somewhat ominous, possibilities. Isn’t that what summer is all about? Gurov is a terrible human being: a lying, cheating, misogynistic -- but charming! -- philander. He’s an Ocean’s Eleven-era George Clooney without a soul. When he hears of a pretty little thing, newly-arrived in Yalta, he considers, “If she is here alone without a husband or friends, it wouldn’t be amiss to make her acquaintance.” I love this guy. The pretty little thing, the titular lady with the dog, is Anna Sergeyevna, a young Cruel Intentions-era Reese Witherspoon to Gurov’s winning Clooney. She is recently married, but like all 19th-century literary Russian aristocrats, unhappily so. What happens next is predictable: two strangers at different points in their lives, an encounter in an exotic locale, an inevitable, tempestuous affair. If it sounds derivative, it’s because every star- crossed lovers’ tale you know from 20th-century film and literature is an imitation of Chekhov’s original. But what Chekhov does in “The Lady with the Little Dog” is extraordinary. He makes you root for the terrible human being. In spite of your better judgement, you long for Gurov to charm the girl, to seduce her, and, perhaps, to break her heart. When Anna confides in Gurov her agonies and unfulfilled dreams, he observes that “there’s something pathetic about her, anyway,” and you laugh hysterically. You feel sorry for Anna, but you decide that if she’s stupid enough to fall for this charming fraud, then she deserves to be swindled. Or maybe you are a moral person, and you don’t feel that way at all. In any case, you will be as seduced by “The Lady with the Little Dog” as Anna is enamored with the monstrous Gurov. In the characters’ forbidden love affair, Chekhov evokes the spirit of summer: oppressive but liberating, exhausting but exciting, stultifying but intoxicating. Gurov’s life is an eternal summer, and in the summer, every day is a “thirsty day” when one does “not know what to do with oneself.” In the summer, one is particularly susceptible to the wonderful things that surround. For me, it is snorkeling along a coral reef in the middle of the Caribbean Sea; for Gurov, it is sitting next to a beautiful young woman in the dawn of light, with dew on the grass. I think Gurov wins. I will not spoil the entire story, but precisely when you think you know how it will all come crashing down, Chekhov surprises. If you rooted for Gurov in the beginning, by the end you’re praying that he gets his happily ever after. But Chekhov has something special planned for Gurov and Anna and the reader. Abruptly, dizzying, the story ends, leaving one gasping for air, unprepared for the solemnity of autumn -- much less for the emptiness of winter. Chekhov makes you long for summer, with all of its intensity, with all of its oppressiveness. He makes you long for a time, in Yalta or elsewhere, when the sun and the sea meet before you, when life overflows with possibilities. As “The Lady with the Little Dog” comes to a close -- perhaps disappointingly, perhaps perfectly -- even those who dislike the summer months will be left aching, just a little, for a few more drowsily sweltering days.
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Twitter had its big moment last week, but unlike so many other technology start-ups in the seeming parade of millionaire-makers over the last two decades (with the obvious exception of Amazon.com), Twitter has developed a special following in the literary community, from high-brow to low. Perhaps that's not surprising. Writers revel in words, and Twitter, nearly alone among hot technology start-ups, is mostly about words, crafting them to meet the medium's peculiar restraints and sending them out into the world to be engaged with or ignored. Twitter is like some atomized version of the writer's process. With Twitter, ideas go out piecemeal, the whole process taking a millionth the amount of time it would if you were to glom all those ideas together into one big whole and turn it into something as unlikely-seeming by comparison as a book. This speed, then, may be deeply satisfying -- even addictive -- as writers bypass so much of the toil of getting a book out of their brains and off to readers (New York's Kathryn Schulz elaborated smartly on this idea last week.) There is no uniform stance on Twitter in the literary community, of course. Some, like Teju Cole and Colson Whitehead, find it vital; many others -- led by a certain one-time Time coverboy from the Midwest, do not. Some writers have more prosaic feelings about Twitter. Novelist Peter Orner wrote, "Some are talented at it; others, less so." Zadie Smith is not on Twitter. Nor are Jeffrey Eugenides (though his vest once was), Michael Chabon (not really, though his writer wife Ayelet Waldman is), George Saunders, or David Mitchell. Jennifer Egan is, but just a little bit. Nonetheless, Twitter appears to be here to stay, for a while anyway. And it will remain a pastime for writers looking for book news, inspiration, distraction, literary puns, and every other thing they might want. But it wasn't always that way. In the not too distant past, the literary lights of Twitter pecked out their first 140 characters and waited to see what Twitter would bring. Curious, I dug back into the Twitter archive to see how these writers took their first steps into Twitter. What follows are the very first tweets of some of Twitter's well-known practitioners from the literary world. Finishing the website entries for my fall novel The Year of the Flood. — Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) July 8, 2009 How does a petty trader come by N30 million worth of cars? Police hope Israel Ubatuegwu, of Ajah, has a good explanation. — Teju Cole (@tejucole) June 7, 2011 @R_Nash proud to be a part of ennui 2.0 — colson whitehead (@colsonwhitehead) March 15, 2009 Preparing for Book Expo America in the office in Dumbo. The last time we've to schlap boxes ourselves. Next year we pay the Teamsters... — Richard Nash (@R_Nash) May 30, 2007 Last night at the Norman Mailer Award Ceremony in NYC, Oliver Stone said beautifully: "A serious writer is a rebel." — Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) October 5, 2012 trying to figure out if someone does a decent MP3 workout, which will magically transform my iphone and my body at the same time. — Ayelet Waldman (@ayeletw) January 27, 2009 @JaneGreen I talked to Rufus just this morning...ok, I interviewed him for T+L — Dani Shapiro (@danijshapiro) April 24, 2009 Slaughtered by Sam A. and Jefffery Y. at post-diner breakfast ping-pong. Licking wounds. — Dwight Garner (@DwightGarner) February 13, 2009 Here's a video of my speech at the NBCC in NYC last week: http://tinyurl.com/dfe8rt — Ron Charles (@RonCharles) March 17, 2009 Testing... — Sarah Weinman (@sarahw) April 24, 2007 reading — Susan Orlean (@susanorlean) December 23, 2007 doesn't want to be an editor. oops, too late. — Emma Straub (@emmastraub) December 3, 2008 I just opened my present from Dave McKean, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook. Heavy as a stone and beautiful. "See?" he said. "I do read your blog." — Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) December 26, 2008 @ShitHomemaker - this is my first tweet and it's your fault. — Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) September 15, 2011 Fine, then. I'll twitter. — John Green (@realjohngreen) December 11, 2008 No matter what I do there are always 5 emails in my inbox that I am avoiding. — Doug Coupland (@DougCoupland) April 1, 2009 I've reached the limit on how many Facebook friends I can add. So here is a new page. — Amy Tan (@AmyTan) August 12, 2010 http://www.thewriterscoffeeshop.com/publishinghouse/books/detail/23 — E L James (@E_L_James) April 12, 2011 First Tweet ever, prompted by Jeff Howe's essay in Sunday's NYTBR. Velly interesting. Helloooooo? — Erik Larson (@exlarson) May 22, 2012 Does anyone know who @BretEastonEllis is? — Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) April 10, 2009 @erlson You just got me to join Twitter. — William Gibson (@GreatDismal) April 1, 2009 coveting Susan Lewis' hair. — Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner) April 3, 2009 @chuckpalahniuk This is Dennis, webmaster at ChuckPalahniuk.net. Please contact me via my site email address. Thanks! — Chuck Palahniuk (@chuckpalahniuk) January 28, 2009 Becoming far more wired than I probably really need to be. — Joe Hill (@joe_hill) January 4, 2009 hi, i'm gary shteyngart, a furry 39-year-old immigrant man trapped in a young dachshund's body. LOVE ME!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/RgLBxjYO — Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) December 1, 2011 I'm going to do it right this time. — Emily Gould (@EmilyGould) May 21, 2009 today felt like the unabomber but i wasn't plotting anything or planning anything or trying to bomb anything and i was wearing 4-inch heels — Kate Zambreno (@daughteroffury) June 29, 2012 Wessex Man http://tinyurl.com/yw93xb — New York Times Books (@nytimesbooks) March 18, 2007 News: Netherland wins PEN/Faulkner award: It was overlooked for the Booker prize and the prestigious US Nat.. http://bit.ly/AufPL — Guardian Books (@GuardianBooks) February 26, 2009 Podcasting: http://tinyurl.com/6hc9z4 — NY Review of Books (@nybooks) July 2, 2008 Check out our feature on the best audiobooks coming this spring. — Publishers Weekly (@PublishersWkly) January 31, 2009 Mario Bros. meets Macbeth: What do a pixelated plumber and a murderous king have in common? Nintendo DS -- in En.. http://tinyurl.com/5gr5m4 — L.A. Times Books (@latimesbooks) December 10, 2008 Hello, world! Official Library of Congress Twitter feed here. So nice to see 215 followers before so much as a single tweet! — Library of Congress (@librarycongress) January 27, 2009 Welcome to the new GalleyCat Twitter feed, regularly collecting tweets from Senior Editor Ron Hogan, Editor Jason Boog, and Jeff Rivera. — GalleyCat (@GalleyCat) August 26, 2009 Welcome to @nprbooks! We'll use to to share our book coverage and hopefully talk about some good books, too. / @acarvin — NPR Books (@nprbooks) January 8, 2010 We noticed lots of sites use Twitter for feedback. We created this account as a placeholder, but please visit our Feedback Group anytime! — goodreads (@goodreads) August 19, 2008 56 years after William Styron warned us about chasing the zeitgeist, The Paris Review is now on twitter. From issue 1: http://bit.ly/BCnnE — The Paris Review (@parisreview) September 4, 2009 Culling together work for Electric Literature no.2, planning events for October, spinning splendidly through another day at the office. — Electric Literature (@ElectricLit) August 31, 2009 Rick Moody on running out of luck: http://tinyurl.com/ckno8d — The Rumpus (@The_Rumpus) January 29, 2009 What will be named top book of the decade? http://bit.ly/AMgq8 What's your pick? — The Millions (@The_Millions) September 21, 2009 What's the best part of B.G.'s "Bling Bling" video? Pre-tattoo'd Wayne, zooming red VW Beetles, or the crew's outdoor fine china picnic? — Nick Moran (@nemoran3) February 2, 2011
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Most fiction is about people breaking up, right? So why not collect a bunch of fiction together and call it what it is.Two years ago Philadelphia based writer Meredith Broussard decided to do just this. She put together an anthology of stories about relationships gone wrong: 26 of them - arranged alphabetically - by various female authors. The result was The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, which includes stories by Heidi Julavits, Anna Maxted, Thisbe Nissen and Jennifer Weiner. Now Broussard is back with a follow up anthology from the men's point of view - again, 26 stories about love troubles arranged alphabetically - called The Encyclopedia of Exes with stories by, among others, Adam Langer, Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Ames, Gary Shteyngart and Neal Pollack. Tou can find out more about both books at failedrelationships.com.
Spotted on the Red and Purple lines of the El today and organized by Amazon ranking:Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt (4)Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (7)Wicked by Gregory Maguire (140)The Source by James Michener (9,873)Between Past and Future by Hannah Arendt (15,939)Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (21,324)Fabulous Small Jews by Joseph Epstein (37,316)Jungle of Cities and Other Plays by Bertolt Brecht (505,028)You've got the bestsellers Blink, Freakonomics and, to a lesser extent, Wicked on one end, and you've got Brecht on the other... probably a grad student, but I like to see those literary, engaging books (the Arendt, Garcia, Epstein) that occupy the broad middle reaches along the span between big media-backed bestsellers and academic obscurity (with no disrespect meant toward Brecht, he just happened to be there). As for the Michener, well, you never know what you're going to see people reading on the El.