Could this be the start of a trend? HarperCollins paid the singer Billy Joel $3 million for a memoir back in 2008. Joel wrote The Book of Joel, the publisher edited it, and a June publication date was set. Last week, however, Joel abruptly backed out of the deal and apparently will return the portion of the advance he’s been paid. His reason? He told the Associated Press he “was not all that interested in talking about the past.”
Last week, I mentioned Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, which caused a stir in Germany with its tale of a time-hopping Hitler. Now, Daniel Torday reviews the book for the Times, judging it both for its historical research and its merits as a work of fiction. Sample quote: “The German public’s acceptance of the artist they think they’re watching provides a critique of pop culture. But it feels like bringing the Luftwaffe to a knife fight.”
“Imaginary Oklahoma” writes Oklahoman writer James McGirk, “is an anthology of forty-six writers’ attempts to envision Oklahoma without ever having visited America’s forty-sixth state.” You can get a taste for the pieces over at The Paris Review, or you can check out the book trailer and attempt to envision The Paris Review‘s write-up without actually reading it.
If his new novel Against the Country is any indication, Ben Metcalf gets his best inspiration from the worst of rural America. In the book, which features a panoply of awful crimes and obscenities, Metcalf rides roughshod over the notion of the rural idyll. In Bookforum, onetime Millions staffer Emily Colette Wilkinson reviews the novel, calling it “a gut-busting knee slapper” in spite of its glut of macabre scenes.