There’s been an incredible amount of both excitement and controversy ever since Harper Lee‘s publisher announced the upcoming publication of Go Set a Watchman, the reclusive author’s second novel. But in a piece for Ploughshares Cathe Shubert wonders “Why not marvel at what all this hullabaloo in the news really signifies: that books still matter, deeply, to the American public–especially books that spark dialogue about interracial relations, justice, and, as Atticus would say, walking in another person’s shoes.”
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.
Who was it that came up with the idea that a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters would eventually, with their random keyboard smashing, type William Shakespeare’s complete works? Well, you can give the experiment a try here (link from the CC). And while you’re waiting for your monkeys to finish typing Love’s Labor’s Lost, check out some book excerpts I found:Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick — excerpt, NYT review, SF Chronicle reviewChain of Command by Seymour Hersh — excerpt, CS Monitor reviewThe Double by Jose Saramago — excerpt, NZ Herald reviewThe Fall Of Baghdad by Jon Lee Anderson — excerpt, WaPo review
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.”
Paul Auster is still getting mileage out of a short story that appeared in the New York Times on Christmas day 1990. “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story” was subsequently released as a limited edition book illustrated by Brian Cronin. The story became the inspiration for the films Smoke and Blue in the Face. Now, Henry Holt is releasing another edition of the story. This time the book is illustrated by an Argentinean artist named, cryptically, ISOL. Here’s the story if you want to read it.The London Review of Books is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, the Guardian sits down with LRB editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers.The CS Monitor continues to provide its capsule reviews of the National Book Award nominees. Here are the reviews for the young adult category.