When asked about his tenure as a professor of creative writing, Harry Crews used to say, “I may be at the university, but I damn sure ain’t of the university.” But in talking to his former students, Crews’s biographer, Ted Geltner, found that in spite of the writer’s efforts to distance himself from academia, he really was a passionate, memorable teacher. (Bonus: Yours truly named one Crews work his “most representative” Florida book.)
The true confessions of Lev Grossman, book reviewer: “There was a time when I actually believed, because I was an ass, that as a critic I was an avenging angel with a flaming sword, and that part of my job was to help rid the culture of books that were sucking up more of the literary oxygen than they deserved.”
Since 2010, Russian publishing professionals estimate that “as many as 20% of [all] Russian book stores have closed.” Each year, they fear, the number of “dedicated readers in Russia declines by 2%.” To remedy these trends, the Russian government has recently approved a $100 million stimulus package for the nation’s book industry – running the gamut from investment in new bookstores, to tax incentives for small presses, and also to more international book fairs – to be dispersed through 2018. Recently, Emily Parker noted in The New York Times that Russia’s literary problems might be blamed on its lack of “good protest literature.”
Fresh Air’s Terry Gross sits down with Jonathan Franzen to talk about Purity, writing, and the possibility of parenthood. “I’ve always thought of myself as a comic novelist. It’s a tough road to hoe because comedy means light in people’s mind. There was an ambitious part of me that kind of chafed and was secretly relieved when the comedy was overlooked, but at a certain point, it becomes wearing for people not to get the humor.” Pair with our review of the novel.
I’ve been meaning to link to Ed’s review of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story in the Philly Inquirer. Jenny finds that not everyone agrees with Ed. Previously: King tells the Paris Review the he sees Lisey’s Story as a “special book.”Why Levi won’t be reading Thomas Pynchon’s new book Against the Day. Michael, meanwhile, already has his copy.Former book columnist at the Dallas Morning News Jerome Weeks has started a blog, book/daddy. Weeks took a buyout from his paper and has been vocal about the downsizing of cultural coverage in newspapers. See Weeks’ comment on a recent post on this topic.Assigned reading too hard for schoolkids say experts.Google recently subpoenaed a number of companies – Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo and publishers Random House, Holtzbrinck, and HarperCollins – to collect evidence that will back its side in the copyright case against Google Books being brought by authors and publishers. Now, Amazon has rejected Google’s request, and the other companies are expected to follow suit.
On Emily Dickinson‘s self-portrait, sherry, the power of handwriting and those notes we all passed around in junior high, from the Kenyon Review blog.
Graywolf Press – the publisher behind Citizen, The Empathy Exams, The Argonauts, and On Immunity: An Inoculation – has built a reputation as “a scrappy little press that harnessed and to some extent generated a revolution in nonfiction, turning the previously unprepossessing genre of the ‘lyric essay’ into a major cultural force.” Over at Vulture, Boris Kachka writes about the history of one of the nation’s leading independent literary publishers.