A big week for books: Zadie Smith’s NW is out (read the first lines), as is Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, a collection of essays penned while he fought cancer (our essay on Hitchens’ death) (his collection Arguably is out in paperback today). More new books: Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Umberto Eco’s essay collection Inventing the Enemy, Davy Rothbart’s essay collection My Heart Is an Idiot, Frederick Seidel’s poetry collection Nice Weather, documentarian Errol Morris’s A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, and the Navy Seal book about the bin Laden mission. Also, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides is now out in paperback (read Eugenides on the book’s genesis), as is Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer winner The Swerve.
Time for an update on the Bob Dylan-Nobel Prize beat: While Dylan still won’t attend the award ceremony in Stockholm this weekend, he has submitted a speech to be read on his behalf, reports The New York Times. Patti Smith will also be on hand to perform one of Dylan’s songs. We bet Brian Burlage would say that suits him perfectly.
Self-published novelist Kemble Scott debuts at no. 5 on the San Francisco Chronicle’s bestseller list with The Sower, following a limited hard-cover release to Bay Area independent booksellers by Numina Press, who acquired the book after Scott’s initial e-book upload to scribd.com in May. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “The Sower has had one of the most unorthodox publishing trajectories in these changing publishing times.”
Japanese booksellers are not content to handsell books these days. No, no. Instead, they’re drawing on architectural know-how and creative spirit in order to master “the avant-garde art of book stacking.” (Hopefully none of them experience the Mariko Aoki phenomenon.)
At HTML Giant, Catherine Lacey interviews David Shields, who says that his new book, How Literature Saved My Life, drew material from his stated identity as a “highly self-conscious lab rat.” For more, you can read our own Mark O’Connell’s review of his book in the Times.
We all spend way too much time in airports this time of year, but Brad Leithauser searched for a metaphor about his journeys through BWI. As he writes for The New Yorker, “There was a piquant pleasure on the night when I first put these two experiences—morning churchgoing, evening airport-going—side by side. I’d been idly and only semi-consciously asking myself what these nocturnal intervals at B.W.I. reminded me of, and now, suddenly, I’d located my metaphor.”
The CIA was known for unorthodox espionage techniques during the Cold War, but using Doctor Zhivago to undermine the U.S.S.R. is one of the strangest. The CIA helped print and distribute the banned book because it would make Soviets wonder “what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”