Thursday, August 15th, 2013
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How Your Book About Books Gets Made: Boris Kachka Tells All About "Hothouse"

In Benjamin Anastas’s 2012 memoir, Too Good to Be True, he writes of how he viewed Farrar, Straus and Giroux when he was an unpublished writer "prone to bouts of romantic longing": "It was not just a publisher in my eyes. It was more like the Promised Land." A poet who had caught a glimpse of the office had once told him on a fire escape in Queens, "National Book Awards? They paper the fucking place. It’s like a shrine in there. You whisper."

A certain mystique, whether you buy it or not, surrounds FSG, publisher of 25 Nobel laureates since its first slate of titles appeared in 1946. [...]

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13

Who Will Be the Wrongest Pundit of Them All?

You have until midnight tonight to get in your bets for The Awl 2012 Electoral College Pool. WHO WILL WIN? Maybe Mitt Romney. Maybe you! Maybe both you and Mitt Romney.

In the name of accountability, here's your one-stop shop for taunting the punditocracy after the election. Here are assertions from notable pundits about who will win the actual electoral college betting pool.

Romney Wins

Walter Kirn, political correspondent for the New Republic, believes from his time on the road that the polls and the analysts are going down.

Being out there and chatting and seeingtells me this election will be the pollsters and quants HMS Titanic moment.

[...]

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21

The Murders And The Journalists

Produced in partnership with Tumblr Storyboard. Illustrations by Tully Mills.

In February 1970, at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a pregnant woman named Colette MacDonald and her two children, Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2, were slaughtered in their home. Colette's husband, Jeffrey MacDonald, a 26-year-old doctor and Green Beret at the time of the crime, was convicted of the murders in 1979. MacDonald faces the next of countless court dates on September 17, still seeking exoneration. The MacDonald case has been an object of obsession and controversy for more than four decades and the subject of high-visibility journalistic debate. But respectable opinion has always vastly [...]

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17

Saul Bellow And The Malevolent Friend

When Saul Bellow got an invitation to rejoin the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1958, he and his second wife, Sondra, were ready for a change of scene from their Hudson Valley house (“could use TLC”), and they needed the income too. Although Bellow had already won his first National Book Award with The Adventures of Augie March, he followed in a long line of writers who discovered that you could be famous without having money.

Nevertheless, Bellow put forward one condition before taking the job in Minneapolis. The university had to find a position for his closest friend, Jack Ludwig, a writer and a colleague from [...]

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24

The Architect, The "It” Girl And The Toy Pistol That Wasn't

One warm June night in 1906, Albert Payson Terhune could be found engaged in battle for a telephone booth in the old Madison Square Garden while wearing a tuxedo. He had forcibly removed a man mid-conversation, and now, as he shouted into the phone, he kicked out a leg and swung his free arm to fend off the displaced caller and another man wielding a chair. Moments before and one floor above, Terhune, filling in as a drama critic for the New York Evening World, had been a witness to the crime of the century, and he was calling in the scoop.

The movie version of his half of the [...]

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18

Larry David's Rough Night Out With The Aging Literary Lion

A column that resurrects the highbrow gossip of yore.

In the "Seinfeld" episode "The Jacket," which aired in 1991, Elaine recruits Jerry and George to join her for a drink and dinner with her father, Alton Benes. He’s a cranky old writer, distinguished but well past his prime, and he’s impossible enough that Elaine says she needs a "buffer" to spend an evening with him. (This comment might mark the moment when we all started using the word "buffer" in this particular way. "Re-gifting," "double-dipping," "low-talker"—in the lingo of the educated urbanite, all roads lead to “Seinfeld.”) Elaine ends up being late, and Jerry and George face some [...]

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23

The Cordial Enmity Of Joan Didion And Pauline Kael

A column that resurrects the highbrow gossip of yore.

Here’s an anecdote from James Wolcott’s crackerjack new memoir of ink-stained ’70s New York, Lucking Out: Wolcott, then in his twenties and cutting his teeth at the Village Voice, tagged along with Pauline Kael for a drink at the townhouse of a top Newsweek editor. Kael was three decades older than Wolcott and miles above him then in the editorial food chain, but he wasn’t about to ask the most famous movie critic in America why she kept inviting him to screenings. (Whatta town.)

The only prominent item on the enormous glass coffee table at the editor’s house was Joan Didion’s [...]

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18

The Shocking True Tale Of The Mad Genius Who Invented Sea-Monkeys

"Sea-Monkeys, do monkeys / Story of my life / Send three bucks to a comic book / Get a house, car and wife"—Liz Phair, “Gunshy"

In a 2002 interview with Erik Lobo of Planet X magazine, Harold von Braunhut comes across as the kind of charming old guy who might detain you in conversation a bit too long if you were volunteering at a home for the aged. An inventor and entrepreneur who brought us legions of wonderfully gimmicky toys before he died, at 77, in 2003, von Braunhut holds forth about times gone by, interrupted only when his cockatoo chews at the wire connecting his hearing aid [...]

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5

The Strange, Great History Of Norman Mailer's $2.5 Million Penthouse

The bad boys who gave much of 20th century American literature its “muscular, glamorous aura,” as one of their daughters, Alexandra Styron, puts it, are beginning to fade from view. So it's worth sitting up to take note of the fact that the Brooklyn lair of the one you might call the lion king, Norman Mailer, is up for sale. Following the death of his widow, Norris Church Mailer, the nine Mailer children are listing the top-floor apartment at 142 Columbia Heights for $2.5 million. The broker, Dolores Grant of Corcoran, tells the Times that the place does not lend itself to easy comparisons, and [...]

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9

The Most Flagrantly Tactless First-Rate Brooklyn Novelist

You know when you’re in a panel discussion in New York and the topic turns to gentrification, and the audience gets very quiet while everyone prays there won’t be some guy who stands up and says something excruciating? L. J. Davis was that guy.

Davis, a writer whose career was long enough that a lot of people forgot who he was for stretches along the way, died last week at 70. He wrote four novels in the '60s and '70s and, over a longer span, produced a substantial body of cranky and annoyingly accurate journalism. (A Harper’s article that essentially called the 1987 market crash won him a [...]

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