Author readings and book tours are not an essential component of the writing or publishing processes, and so these events have long been associated with a kind of miasmic purposelessness. Go to your basic reading and sit in the back row, where if you squint, you will see above the head of almost everyone involved—the writer(s)/reader(s), the audience, the publicist, the bookseller, the sales clerk(s) who set up the chairs and must wait around to take them down before heading out to an indie-rock show, the local reporter doing a trend piece on the decline of readings—a clump of thought bubbles bumping up against each other like trapped balloons, [...]
Jonathan Franzen is in my estimation America's best living novelist (OKAY?) and a substantial number of people get upset whenever he writes or says basically anything. It's interesting to ask why! In part it's because his ideas about novels and what people respond to in them are provocative and controversial, and sometimes, as in his recent essay about Edith Wharton, he projects his own responses onto "us" in a way that can be irritating, if we disagree with him. Our opinion about his writing is also affected by of how rich he is and his gender and what he looks like, and that's very hard to talk about. But [...]
Robert Sullivan is almost certainly the only man in the country with a holiday greeting card from Anna Wintour on his fridge and a bestseller about rats on his resume. The former exists because of his 20-year gig as a contributing editor at Vogue; the latter comes as a result of the year he spent observing and chronicling the urban creatures as they lived their lives in an alley near Ground Zero.
In the Brooklyn apartment he shares with his preschool teacher wife and two teenage kids—one who recently took off for college with most of his father's drum set in tow—Sullivan explained how a life spent crisscrossing [...]
A brief primer on writer and lesbian-marrier Robert McAlmon. (Who? Yes.) A writer, publisher, and a connoisseur of the Parisian nightlife, Robert McAlmon was a fixture of the Lost Generation’s expatriate community in Paris in the 20s and 30s. McAlmon took Hemingway out to the bullfights in Spain that he would immortalize in The Sun Also Rises. He typed proofs of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses, and due to the convoluted system of notes and addendums in Joyce’s manuscript, the voice of Molly Bloom that the first generation of readers received was actually McAlmon’s interpretation of Joyce’s. Through his publishing company Contact Editions, he was the first to [...]
For many writers struggling for publication, advertising has proven a useful field (it does pay, after all): F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salman Rushdie, Dorothy Sayers, Don DeLillo, Joseph Heller and Helen Gurley Brown all worked as copywriters early in their careers—some with more success than others. Rushdie came up with "Naughty. But nice" cream cakes for Ogilvy & Mather; Sayers introduced "Just think what Toucan do" to Guinness and founded a dotty, fictional (and wildly popular) "Mustard Club"; and, thanks to Fitzgerald, streetcars in Iowa once ran with the promise "We keep you clean in Muscatine" sparkling on their sides.
Yet for all six, advertising was mostly just a means [...]
"I don’t know why writers are mourning the death of an industry that’s done so little for them for so long…. It’s time writers thought of themselves as an army rather than a city under siege." —What has the publishing industry done for you lately anyway?
The New School's MFA writing students are learning! "Provided they’ve been paying attention to the world outside the workshop, they’ve noticed that the conversation about what it means to be a certificated 'writer' has shifted away from the literary, and even the lofty, and is now taking place in the rather harsher language of political economy."
In his fiction and in his life, Harry Crews empathized most with the people who needed it most: the freaks, the fuck-ups, people who’d been broken by loss of one kind or another. Crews died on Wednesday, at age 76. As his son Byron told The Daily’s Claire Howorth, “[he] put more miles on the Chevy than most of us.”
Crews lost his father, a man he didn't remember, to a heart attack at the age of two. "It wasn't unusual for him to fall in the field," Crews wrote in A Childhood, to lie incapacitated on the ground for an hour or so, and then slowly pull himself [...]
Lou Reed wore black. He moved slowly and a bit stiffly through the darkness that had descended on the Great Hall, a sheaf of paper in his hand. For the last thirty years he has looked like an ageless lizard but now I felt concern for him at the sight of his stiff gait. He entered the circle of light and put on reading glasses, gold rimmed.
Just a few minutes earlier the audience had been treated to several facts. One of them, shared by the Dean of Cooper Union, was that Abraham Lincoln had spoken in this very hall. I have been to a number of events at the [...]
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 [...]
There’s really no delicate way to put this: at this year’s New Yorker Festival, Jonathan Franzen said that David Foster Wallace fabricated at least part of—and potentially a large part of—his nonfiction pieces. I wasn’t there, but after reading Eric Alterman’s summary Friday, and finding no mention of the incident in any other coverage of the festival, I watched the conversation online.
Here's a rough transcript of the relevant exchange (with some “umms” and “uhhs” edited for reasons of intelligibility).
Last year, an anonymous writer took over the advice column Dear Sugar at The Rumpus. Soon, she'll go public with her identity. Like many others, I've become obsessed with her advice. Her column isn't about etiquette. Sugar writes about being jealous of other writers. She advises people to leave secure relationships because they just know they're not happy. She tells about how she made it through the "thicket of shit" in her twenties. She writes about the absolute horror of grief. And it's not about sex, either. Sugar is soooo over the idea that sex is the only way to connect emotionally or be [...]
"Because of the time difference, I received these communications—mostly invitations to suck different kinds and numbers of cocks—first thing in the morning." —The life of a lady writer!
right now i am inside the restaurant Cipriani on 42nd St. in Manhattan for a gala celebrating the Norman Mailer Writers Colony and honoring some literary figures and young writers and i am standing 20 feet away from Jann Wenner, the founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine, and i want to ask him some questions about the music website Pitchfork but he is talking to some other people and i don't want to interrupt him. i am standing with my friend mike who is a reporter, who brought me to this gala and who is also keeping an eye on Jann Wenner to swoop in and ask him [...]
"Thomas Wolfe put the finishing touches on Look Homeward, Angel while living on the second floor of 27 W 15th Street in 1928": A literary tour of New York City that you should never bother to take. Look, here's an alley where someone once walked! (via)
Why write about anything? In the print edition of today's New Yorker, John McPhee discusses rambling and thrashing his way into profile-writing.
"One is sometimes tempted to think that the generation which has invented the ‘fiction course’ is getting the fiction it deserves. At any rate, it is fostering in its young writers the conviction that art is neither long nor arduous, and perhaps blinding them to the fact that notoriety and mediocrity are often interchangeable terms." —Edith Wharton, in the 1920s, from The Writing of Fiction.
On Saturday morning, me and Angelica and a reporter drive my mom's car from Brooklyn out to East Hampton for the 63rd Annual Artists vs. Writers charity softball game, which takes place in a public park next to a really upscale Hamptons strip mall. My only pre-game exposure to the game was when I went to the game's official website, where I was greeted by an unexpected embedded auto-play video of Mike Lupica speaking really loudly about the game, with a resolution too big for the frame that the video is inside so a lot of the text is cut off. The video sounds like a commercial off [...]
A recent New York Times Book Review essay on author brand-building cited Ernest Hemingway's and John Steinbeck's stints as a spokespersons for Ballantine Ale. (Not mentioned was The Poseidon Adventure author Paul Gallico, who appeared in the same series of print ads for the beer.) Of course, they weren’t the first or last authors to shill. Mark Twain’s name and likeness were used (not always with his permission) to sell everything from shirt collars to passenger trains. Émile Zola, H.G. Wells, Alexandre Dumas, Henrik Ibsen and Jules Verne all provided testimonials for the cocaine-infused French elixir Vin Mariani. More than a century later, Allen Ginsberg and [...]
Paul Lester, who writes New Band of the Day each weekday for the Guardian, looks back at five solid years and 1000 bands: "But let's just say that having to file 600 words every day was partly responsible for the collapse of my marriage." Uh… 600 words a day? Thousands of bloggers just laughed in your face. (Well, to be fair, half of those haven't had a date in years.)