In the spring of 2006, John Unsworth taught a graduate seminar on “Twentieth-Century American Bestsellers.” It led to one of history’s finest class projects–a browsable database of bestsellers, 337 in all. As with any bestseller lists, you’ll find a range of titles, everything from Thomas Wolfe to Tom Clancy, but click through and find that each entry includes an extremely detailed description of the book’s history (these were compiled by graduate students, after all); a mini-essay on its reception; images of covers, page layouts, and even some ads; and more. It is, in short, bibliophilic crack. (Thanks Craig)
America’s oldest LGBT bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, is closing on May 17. The Philadelphia staple is shutting its doors after four decades due to the owner’s retirement and financial problems. At Salon, Steve Berman remembers the store and discusses how its closure will affect the publishing and LGBT community. “So LGBT books are forced to the edges, to the shadows, despite claims of assimilation. Gay authors have to do more and more marketing to find readers. Gay publishers have to struggle with shrinking venues to showcase their titles.”
The New York Times is reporting that the poet John Ashbery has died. A major figure in American letters, Ashbery won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in a single year for his book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. The full Times obituary has more.
“She was to me and so many poets an exemplary and inimitable figure. And I mean to emphasize the tension between ‘exemplary’ and ‘inimitable’—what her example taught us was the necessity of going our own way, of being one with others.” Ben Lerner remembers C.D. Wright, who passed away earlier this week.