The “grande dame of the Beat Generation” has died at age 90. Carolyn Cassady passed away last Friday near her home in England. She was the inspiration for Camille, Dean Moriarty’s overburdened second wife in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Yet Cassady was a writer in her own right and published two books, Off the Road and Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal, about how the Beat Generation was misunderstood.
Two great scoops were passed my way by the intrepid Brian, fresh from his European sojourn. The first is this so-wierd-it-has-to-be-true story about Newt Gingrich being an extremely prolific and friendly Amazon.com customer reviewer. Click here for the must-read gory details.While in Spain, Brian read Robert Hughes’ new book Barcelona: The Great Enchantress from the National Geographic Directions series and noticed on the back cover that Jon Lee Anderson, the New Yorker’s Baghdad correspondent extraordinaire, has a book for the series coming out. It will be about Andalucia. This will be a busy year for Anderson. In the fall, his fantastic Baghdad pieces will be collected in The Fall Of Baghdad and he will also release Guerrillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World, which ought to be quite good.
If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker’s new book, Checkpoint. I haven’t read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson’s new collection of pieces from ESPN.com’s page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
The Guardian gives us Booker-winner Line of Beauty “condensed in the style of the original.”Some of you may have already seen this one: The 100 Greatest Books of all Time, also from the Guardian. How many have you read? I’m at 24, and I love that Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim makes the list. To anyone who is looking for a recommendation on what to read right now: get Lucky Jim, you’ll love it.Weren’t we talking about ISBNs the other day? Here’s a new blog about ISBNs and “book information” by a former Amazon employee and the creator of isbn.nu.Steve Landsburg asks: Too many books? I’m not completely sure I see his point. He seems to be implying that people only read one book a year. Furthermore, publishers fall all over themselves trying to create a blockbuster book; it’s far more cost-effective to promote a few guaranteed big sellers than a lot of risky titles. Sad but true. Perhaps the better thing to do is not to bemoan the inevitable Da Vinci Codes but to instead look for creative, cost-effective ways to promote riskier books.Malcolm Gladwell, author of the trendsetting book about trendsetting, The Tipping Point, has new book coming out called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, in which he “reveals that what we think of as decisions made in the blink of an eye are much more complicated than assumed.”