Posts Tagged: Books

When Will The Machines Start Predicting Bestsellers?

In November, Knopf bought a 900-page debut novel by Garth Risk Hallberg for almost $2 million. It’s a tremendous gamble, regardless of the book’s quality, if one that many publishers were happy to make: more than 10 houses bid more than $1 million, according to the Times. Predicting a novel’s fate in the commercial or critical marketplace is a fool’s gambit, as indicated both by works like the first Harry Potter novel, which was repeatedly rejected before becoming, well, Harry Potter, and by expensive flops like Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons. The novelist Curtis Sittenfeld said, "People think publishing is a business, but it’s a casino."

But what if publishers [...]


Science 84% Sure Of What Makes A Book Sell

"Scientists have developed an algorithm which can analyse a book and predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether or not it will be a commercial success," and Jennifer Weiner has already accused them of sexism.


The World Is Full Of Trash

Adam Minter's Junkyard Planet, new this week from Bloombury Press, is available from all sorts of places:

Barnes & Noble

McNally Jackson


Your local independent

In addition, Minter is appearing tonight, November 13th, at 6 p.m. at the New School.

It's a book one might call “a lifetime in the making.” For the last dozen years, Adam Minter has lived in Shanghai, writing about the global scrap industry, the fortunes it created, the lives and environments it's ruined and how its fortunes paralleled those of the pre- and post-crash global economy. The result is Junkyard Planet, [...]


The End Of Interns

Our government runs on unpaid internships. During the recent shutdown, as many federal staff members were laid off, unpaid interns filled in the gap. Although considered volunteers, they were doing the work of a five or six figure salary just for the heck of it. That exciting opportunity to work for free may sound appealing to eager college graduates wanting to climb up the career ladder, pad their resume, and avoid working at the local plastic flower factory, but from a labor perspective it’s abominable. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be paid. If the government can’t pay the people it takes to run the government, then there [...]


Classic Morrissey

Publishers have always been cultural arbiters, and throughout publishing history they have used their power to harness the "classic" label—and its attendant packaging—to turn a profit. Bestowing classic status on a book has the effect of redefining a book’s history: sometimes prolonging its shelf life, sometimes uplifting it from the deep backlist. For some, this manhandling has eroded the potency of the word "classic" as a marker of timelessness, high aesthetics, or universality—words that are slippery and subject to intense debate.

Such is the case this week. The Brits have their knickers in a twist over the fact that Morrissey’s Autobiography was published today under the Penguin Classics [...]


Franzen Turns You Good

"It seems reading literary fiction temporarily enhances our ability to empathise with others."


What Youngsters Are You Fabulous Writers Reading?

Yesterday we cornered Brooklyn Book Festival panelists and asked them: who do you like among the younger generation of writers? Some of them had great answers!

Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs

Gosh, the younger generation being under what? [“That’s up to you.”] You know, I’m a big fan of Sheila Heti. Does she count as the younger generation? She’s over thirty, though, she’s 35. [She’ll be 37 on Christmas.] Turn it off a for second, I just have to think! Because I’ve been mostly reading old and dead people, lately, so it takes me a minute to—turn that off! [The recorder is turned off. Then turned back on.] There’s a [...]


Don't Watch Any Movies Ever Until They Make This One

Ted Chiang's The Story Of Your Life is being made by the hot guy who made Prisoners, which was also amazing, instead of Nic Mathieu, as was reported a few months ago. Have you not read? Oh you must, here, it is inexpensive. Please let me live long enough to see this movie, that's all I ask.


I Failed To Monetize My Life As A Dating Blogger

It had been six months since I quit, but I still managed to bring up the blog within 15 minutes of meeting Lauren.

We were at my go-to first date spot, a subterranean bar with shuffleboard and ping-pong in case the conversation flagged. When she asked what I did for a living, I dispatched with my day job in a few sentences before admitting, with false embarrassment, that I was also an aspiring writer.

The required follow-up question—"What kind of stuff do you write?"—was barely out of her mouth before I slipped into my spiel: "It’s a little embarrassing, but I used to be a dating blogger for Glamour [...]


"cruisin to the finish line: speed secrets" by PT Cruiser

PT Cruiser is a user of Twitter, but not your average user. When online, she tweets a rapid stream of consciousness, at least in part to meet her goal of 300,000 tweets by year's end. She is also now an author. Her first book, cruisin to the finish line: speed secrets, was self-published last month, under the name "tcot," or Top Car on Twitter. This fall she gave a rare interview, explaining that she lives about 45 minutes outside of New York City, wakes up very early to go to work unpacking freight, and only watches VH1 Soul. She also blogs irregularly on the [...]


Donald Fagen, "Eminent Hipsters"

Here are a couple of reviews of Donald Fagen's Eminent Hipsters. Here is my review of Donald Fagen's Eminent Hipsters: If you are a dyspeptic Jew from the American northeast who enjoys the music of Steely Dan and spends a lot of time grumbling about how things are less authentic, more anesthetizing and increasingly unpleasant these days OR you are someone with a deep interest in the intricate details of what it is like to travel the country on a mid-level musician's tour bus you will find a lot to enjoy about this book. For a man who has spent the last 40 years in [...]


Chick Tracts

Awl pal Anna Holmes picks the five ladybooks everyone should read if they want to be Awl pal Anna Holmes. These are also very solid choices for anyone with less lofty aspirations.


The Year America Caught Up To Thomas Pynchon

In Inherent Vice, a perhaps minor novel by Thomas Pynchon, that great chronicler of history at an angle, the pothead detective Doc Sportello frequently runs into, and gets help from, some science geeks—proto-nerds who use a semi-privatized version of ARPANET to help Sportello get info on the various people he’s hazily tracking.

These are seemingly throwaway characters, just a few minor notes in the typical Pynchonian symphony of bizarre names and tangled plot strands and sinister conspiracies. But they are more than that. They are the prophets of our modern world, where everything is connected, and where not only can anyone with the right access track everyone else, [...]


Book Disliked

"tiresome," "eye-rollingly awful," "preening," "self-absorbed," "dolorous," "solipsistic," "narcissistic," "ridiculous," "irritating," "pretentious," "cloying," "baffling," "portentous," "insufferable," "flimsy," "not remotely funny or compelling," "claustrophobic," "totally annoying" —I kind of thought Norman Rush's Subtle Bodies was pretty good, but I guess I was wrong.


All The Drunk Dudes: The Parodic Manliness Of The Alcoholic Writer

It’s difficult not to romanticize a link between writing and drinking. Wisdom hurts, so the more wisdom a writer has, the harder the writer will try to drown it with alcohol. Or maybe it isn’t wisdom that needs to be drowned; it’s the inner editor. Or maybe the great passion that leads to great writing also leads to great drinking. Or maybe… anyway, there must be some connection, so can we please put down our horrible manuscripts and pour ourselves some bourbon already?

There is no romanticizing in The Trip to Echo Spring, British journalist Olivia Laing’s new group biography of six alcoholic writers—Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, [...]


Book Appealing

"The often-reliable Soul Jazz Records label has recently issued another mahoosive tome dedicated to record sleeve imagery, in particular punk, new wave and U.S. garage-rock. Entitled 'Punk 45 – Kill The Hippies! Kill Yourself!', the hefty volume weighs 2kg, comes dressed in an eye-catching orange cover and includes over 350 pages of punk-singles cover art from 1976-80, all edited and forwarded by Jon Savage and Stuart Baker." —How am I just hearing about this now? [...]


Famous Humorist Writes Guide For Kiddy Fiddlers

Just me, or did Dave Barry pick an unfortunate NAMBLA-esque title for new book?

— Andrew Goldman (@andrewrgoldman) October 30, 2013


Book Purchasable

This is available, and while I cannot tell you what to do I can certainly make suggestions.


Williamsburg Before The Condos: The Soundtrack of an Unplanned Waterfront

Few musical ensembles are so thoroughly synonymous with New York City’s underground scene as the Hungry March Band. Over the past fifteen years they have established themselves as the band that will play anywhere and everywhere, at any time and under all circumstances. Dedicated to “in your face” encounters with mostly unsuspecting audiences, they are a “public” marching band and frequently take to the streets with their instruments, whether they have been invited to do so or not. Once dubbed “Best Anarchist Parade Group” by the Village Voice, HMB gave performances on the streets, sidewalks, and subways of the city that are legendary. The band is large, loud, and [...]


There Oughta Be A German Word For Everything—Oh Wait, There Is

IndieboundMcNally JacksonAmazonPowell'sPenguin

We've all thought: hey, there oughta be a German word for that. (Have we ever.) Now here comes Schottenfreude, from our Internet pal Ben Schott—it's coming down the pike in a month. You can get it from your book vendor of choice.

And mark your calendars for what will surely be a very serious lecture at Cooper Union on November 1.