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.)
“There are people out there who want you to write their novels for them,” observes professional ghostwriter Sari Botton. Over at Scratch, she shares some advice for breaking into the industry. Also, the magazine has made her longer article about “the spooky finances behind her gigs” free to read – all you have to do is register.
W.W. Norton puts together a project similar to our Year in Reading (and with some participants in common): Writers Recommend.Another clever batch of recommendations: Village Voice asks several notables to recommend their favorite “obscure” books.Three Percent reveals its 25-book longlist for the “Best Translated Book of 2008” (Bonus Link: The Prizewinners: International Edition)A conversation with South African poet and anti-apartheid activist Breyten BreytenbachTodd Zuniga’s (of Opium Magazine and Literary Death Match) “favorite writers we haven’t heard of yet.”Best book cover designs of the year. (via 3% and kottke)Maud reproduces the memo behind the huge reorganization at Random House (which itself is just one part of the belt tightening hitting the publishing industry in recent weeks.)