At Jacket Copy, Carolyn Kellogg talks with Jonathan Lethem about his new novel Chronic City “I love to dwell in the space of a novel — I don’t find writing uncomfortable, it’s something I really love doing. Writing a long novel, especially, it means that I’m creating this whole other set of people that I’m interested in, and this whole other world I get to go into, and I try to stay there. I try to go every day, not just to see the word count amass, which is helpful, but because then my subconscious is kind of living there.”
Leading Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has been working on a three-volume biography of the Liverpool band for almost a decade. Tentatively titled The Beatles: The Complete Story, the first installment was due for a publication date this year. Unfortunately, Volume One, which tracks the group from the beginning through December 1962, has hit yet another delay, and fans likely won’t see it until 2013. As Lewisohn says, the accuracy takes time, and “the whole ethos of the project is ‘do the job properly’.” Lewisohn’s last work was the 2006 Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Chris Adrian, James Frey, and Peter Nádas are all in the running for the 19th annual Bad Sex Award. The award will be presented by the UK’s Literary Review on December 6th. Last year’s prize(?) went to Rowan Somerville for his work(?) in The Shape of Her. If you’d like to read snippets of the sex scenes in question, check out the publication’s Twitter feed.
The first installment in a series of bloggers reading through the shortlist of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Aaron Bady looks at Rotimi Babutunde’s Bombay Republic [pdf]. A full list of participating bloggers is available at the bottom of Bady’s post.
Essay Liu‘s essay “Seven Days After Father” has been translated by Kevin T. S. Tang for Blunderbuss Magazine and presents a daughter’s sincere grief confused by custom. “‘The funeral director forbids tears as we approach your coffin, but demands that we weep on our return. This is the movie script we’ve been handed, one we’ll be beholden to for days, and I know that many things are not mine to decide anymore. Even our tears have been planned for us.”
“Romance heroines hold jobs. They teach, farm, practice law, work independently as private detectives, or they are involved in the arts, in dance, in theater. They are mothers, ex-wives, Marines. They take up causes and they always want something ‘more’ from their lives—and we aren’t just talking about a partner. In today’s romance, the relationship is part of—and often, a catalyst for—a woman’s journey, not her destination.” On the value of romance fiction.