The publishing industry is roughly 86% white. Yet comparative titles, or “book comps,” are whiter still, the L.A. Review of Books has found, arguing that this makes it exceptionally difficult for writers of color to place their books with imprints at Big Five publishers. “Comps,” in other words, “perpetuate the status quo.” Here’s how.
You should check out George Saunders’s “Liner Notes” piece about “2776: A Musical Journey Through America’s Past, Present & Future,” which is set to accompany a forthcoming musical-comedy album from Patton Oswalt, Aubrey Plaza, Ira Glass, and Yo La Tengo, among others. If that hasn’t sold you, consider the fact that Saunders’s piece contains this line: “Truth be told, there were a number of regrettable omissions. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s piece ‘Bomber’ had to be left off the album. (‘Driver of this plane, this / B-52 on the way to Nagasaki / Stuff your ears with cotton and / Close those eyes / Me and my man are about to do it all over this / Here bomb’).”
The recipients of the 2016 Kirkus Prize have been announced, among them the novel The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan and In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi, a meditation on her father’s gender transition, in the non-fiction category. We reviewed two of the other fiction finalists this year: Carousel Court (here) and The Underground Railroad (here).
New this week: The State We’re In by Ann Beattie; Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner; The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips; The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton; In The Language of Miracles by Najia Hassib; Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie; and Subway Stations of the Cross by Ins Choi. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
“Welcome to another night in the life of Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court justice, current queen of the best-seller list and suddenly the nation’s most high-profile Hispanic figure. She may be a relative newcomer to national life, plucked from circuit-court obscurity less than four years ago. But the release of her new memoir, My Beloved World, suggests that she has broader ambitions than her colleagues, to play a larger and more personal role on the public stage.”
“Our literary culture has distended and warped by focusing so much power in a singular place, by crowding the gatekeepers into a small ditch of commerce. A review in the Times trumps everything else. You can’t tell me that this doesn’t affect what is, finally, bound into books, marketed, and sold. Which designates what can be said and how one says it. Why do we cede American letters to a handful of corporations that exist on a single concrete patch?” This piece by Matthew Neill Null at The Literary Hub raises a lot of extremely important questions about what gets published and why.
Ayobami Adebayo is interviewed by Abigail Bereola for Hazlitt and it’s fantastic. They discuss proverbs, romantic love, sickle cell anemia and writing your first book. “At the risk of sounding very narcissistic, I’m going to say I write for myself ultimately. And maybe my sister. I think that when I’m working, it’s very difficult for me to think about an audience, perhaps because sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. I’m trying to figure out so many things that I really don’t start thinking about the idea that other people might read this thing until, ‘Oh my God, it’s publication day’ and I have a panic attack like ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ I think the awareness of an audience is something I’m just coming into because this is a first book.”