Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
PW points out yet another publishing industry totem being torn down by the rise of e-books, the first printing number, once a signifier of how “big” publishers and the media expected a book to be: “In an era when first printings are down because e-books can account for as much as 50% of sales on frontlist titles, the term ‘first printing’ sounds more and more out of place.”
Madhu Kaza, a “writer, artist and educator,” has a possible solution for you. She’ll come into your home 15 minutes before bedtime and sit in a chair beside your bed and read to you from your favorite books until you fall asleep. Then she’ll let herself out and lock the door behind her. The free service is called Here Is Where We Meet, the title of a 2005 novel by John Berger. The only requirement is that you fill out a short questionnaire and make an appointment — and get ready to say goodbye to the sheep and the warm milk.
“Because I am a writer, people sometimes ask me how ebooks have changed the literary landscape. The short answer, for me, is that I have developed a compulsion to drunk-dial Agatha Christie several times a week.” Elif Batuman on buying (and reading) while intoxicated, at Guardian.
What should you do if, horror of horrors, you find yourself appearing as a character in someone else’s book? Michelle Huneven shares her experience being fictionalized in an essay for The Paris Review. Her advice? “Don’t read too much into it. Cultivate lightness.” Pair with our profile of Huneven, “Not Lost, Just Rearranged.”