As part of their efforts to explore new literary locales, the bloggers at Ploughshares took on Richmond, perhaps the only city to claim Edgar Allan Poe, Tom Wolfe, and GWAR.
This week saw the release of The Jaguar’s Children, a novel set on the Mexican border that draws on author John Vaillant’s experience in his wife’s home state of Arizona. At The Walrus, Sasha Chapman provides more background on Vaillant in her review of the book, which notes the importance of jaguars in Mexican symbology.
Amazon, whose tense negotiations with Hachette in the past months have led them to slow ship-times for its books, offered last night "to fund 50% of an author pool—to be allocated by Hachette—to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%." Of course, Hachette may find calculating and allocating damages awkward so soon after authors flexed their social-media muscle. Sidebar: Amazon claimed "989 of 1000" items sold would be unaffected by this continuing "business interruption," which might mean a full 1.1 percent of their business comes from just one mid-sized traditional publisher—heartening news from an unlikely source.
When John Steinbeck wasn't busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. "The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages," he wrote to an agent.
"[H]is authentic education as a reader began not while he was a history major at N.Y.U. or working at a literary agency in Manhattan but at the Green Haven Correctional Facility, in Stormville, New York. There, he offered, he had read a thousand and forty-six books." Alex Halberstadt writes about "A Prisoner's Reading List" for The New Yorker. It's available online, and soon a lot more New Yorker articles will be too.
There are plenty of new books to this week to fill that post-election void: Both Flesh and Not: Essays, a posthumously published collection from David Foster Wallace; Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior; Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt; Magnificence by Lydia Millet; and These Things Happen, a debut by longtime TV writer Richard Kramer. From the indies, we have The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by Diana Wagman and Keyhole Factory by William Gillespie. Also out are Philip Pullman's new version of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm; Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks; and a big new Michael Jackson biography by a former Rolling Stone editor.
"Morality... is a slippery slope and nowhere more, perhaps, than in regard to art, to literature, which begins as the expression of a single heart, a single mind. That it becomes more than that — connective, the fiber of a conversation between writer and reader, and between both of them and the world — is not just the point but the miracle... To frame this miracle in moral terms is to misread what art extends to us: a way of joining, for a moment only, across the void." In an article for the LA Times, David L. Ulin considers the implications of the George V. Hunt, SJ Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts and Letters, which will award $25,000 to a writer “of sound moral character and reputation [who] must not have published works that are manifestly atheistically or morally offensive.”