Doubleday pulled a Beyonce and published Colson Whitehead’s latest book, The Underground Railroad, a month early. Oprah chose Whitehead’s book for her book club, and Doubleday “secretly started shipping out 200,000 copies in anticipation of the announcement.” You can also read a review from Michiko Kakutani at the New York Times.
Did you think the title of the most recent book you read could’ve been improved if it had been a bit more straightforward? Then Better Book Titles is for you. Among their more inspired retitlings: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Gay Jewish Magicians Kill Nazis), Blink (Everyone is Racist), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The First Book I’ve Read in Six Years).
William Carlos Williams‘s birthday was this last week, and Adam Kirsch writes about the poet for New York Review of Books. Though he argues that “today it would be hard to find a reader of poetry who would not acknowledge William Carlos Williams as one of the major American modernists” Kirsch still has to face the question, “why is it, then, that almost fifty years after his death, the reputation of [Williams] still seems to be haunted by a ghost of uncertainty?”
Peter Mendelsund writes for the Paris Review about how we see, or think we see, fictional characters. “Characters are ciphers. … We are ever reviewing and reconsidering our mental portraits of characters in novels: amending them, backtracking to check on them, updating them when new information arises.”
Richard Branson has built a global business empire (Virgin Group) around the philosophy “have fun and the money will come.” Branson’s new book, Screw Business as Usual, says there’s a way to make money and also do good. And speaking of having fun, watch Branson and Steven Colbert get into a fire extinguisher/water fight.