Print out your playing cards and start sifting through the comment sections of negative book reviews. It’s a new game called “bad review bingo.” (inspired in part by the frothy commenters to our own Janet Potter’s blistering review of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.)
“His books used to be ink on paper; now we have to squint through the cloud of the Ellroy Phenomenon.” And the James Ellroy Phenomenon looks like it will only continue: the author has announced plans for a second L.A. Quartet, the first of which, Perfidia, comes out next week.
In 1979, William Gaddis taught a course at Bard College on “The Literature of Failure,” examining works that somehow focused on personal failure or insufficiency. These included, among other books, Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, as well as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In Bookforum, Casey Michael Henry takes on a related genre: the literature of obsolescence. You could also read James Cappio on meeting Gaddis in person.
Do “algorithms and online recommendations threaten to replace [publishers] as arbiters of quality”? This Economist riff on e-book publishing says so. Elsewhere, at least 20 companies are using computer software instead of human beings to write their articles.
Are you still not following Pentametron, even after I urged you to do so last week? (And even after New York Magazine added it to its Approval Matrix?) Well, if that’s the case, I shouldn’t even share Earwickr with you. You don’t deserve to read Finnegans Wake spelled out on your Twitter timeline, 140 characters at a time. (Bonus: Michael Chabon reviews James Joyce’s final work for The New York Review of Books.)
New this week: How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball; I Am No One by Patrick Flanery; The Long, Hot Summer by Kathleen MacMahon; The Trap by Melanie Raabe; Absalom’s Daughters by Suzanne Feldman; The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan; and Angels of Detroit by Christopher Hebert.