Printed Matter

Scrap Book: Dolly Parton Shares, the Kardashians Overshare, and More

By Lit Life | June 24, 2010


Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly know any more about the Kardashian sisters, the threesome is coming out with an advice book in November called, Kardashian Konfidential, published by St. Martin’s Press. “It's a little bit more of an in-depth look into our lives,” Kim Kardashian told Us Magazine, “even though people think that they've probably seen everything." [US Magazine]—Laura Lajiness

Writer Ben Greenman, ever the romantic, is trying to keep the practice of letter-writing alive with his new book, What He’s Poised To Do, a collection of short stories about men, women, love, and letter-writing. In a world where we flirt through pokes on Facebook and re-Tweets on Twitter, Greenman wrote for The Daily Beast about his continued attachment to the handwritten letter, and the role it’s played between him and the women in his life. “The stories in my books,” he wrote, “are my attempt to come to terms with what I lost when I lost the world of folding up a sheet of paper, sliding it into an envelope, and affixing a stamp.” [The Daily Beast]—L.L.

Since 2004, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and the Tennessee Governor's Birth Foundation have been delivering children’s books every month to 214,000 Tennessee kids under five to develop their vocabulary and reading skills before they hit school. And this week, the program sent out it’s 10 millionth book. Let’s see that man-stealing Jolene do that! [Tennessee Any Time ]—Valeriya Safronova

On Sunday, Chinese officials stopped the presses from publishing ex-prime minister Li Peng's memoirs. Peng deployed the Chinese army in Tiananmen Square 21 years ago, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians participating in student-led protests. Why do these writings have the Chinese government in such a huff? Apparently, Li accuses the current President and Prime Minister of supporting the violent military action during those demonstrations. [NY Times]—V.S.

Photo: Getty Images
Printed Matter

Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Philip Schultz Has a Lot in Common with You...and Tupac Shakur

By Lit Life | June 23, 2010

God Of Loneliness
It took me by surprise several years ago. I was happily making my way through entry-level magazine jobs, completely immersed in the world of non-fiction, when one day I thought: “Short stories. I want to write those.” For years, I’d kept a journal with ruminations for ideas. But suddenly I needed help developing those musings into actual pages of fiction. Since a costly full-time MFA program was unfeasible, I looked for alternatives. I found a website for The Writers Studio, a New York City school founded in 1987 by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz. Admission was open to anyone who wanted to learn fiction or poetry, regardless of experience. The main requirement? Passion, passion, and more passion.

According to Phil, as the students call him, “When the desire to write is strong enough, anyone can learn the craft.” His school’s “sole purpose,” it said on the web page, was “to help fiction writers and poets discover and nurture their own voices.” There would be no graded assignments to fret over, no degrees awarded at the end of the course. Only four class levels where students learned to build a fictional story using fragments from their personal lives. I liked the course’s anti-establishment vibe so I enrolled in “Level One” in the summer of 2005.

Fast forward five years later and I’m still a student of Phil’s, reading more than I ever have—Graham Greene, J.M. Coetzee, Lorrie Moore.

Applying the techniques he espouses in his own writing, Phil brought down the Pulitzer in 2008 for Failure, a collection of poems that explores and celebrates his life’s many failings. He agreed to answer a few of my questions about his latest work, why we should all read more poetry, and the joys of teaching women.—Shirley Velasquez

I love your new book of poems, The God of Loneliness. It struck me how similar these poems are to short love stories. On some level all good poetry is love poetry, and an ability to leave yourself, and to connect to others. I’ve never been of the philosophy that poems are for other poets. I’m most moved by the effect poetry can have on someone. That’s why I don’t write poetry where people don’t know what the hell I’m saying. I’m blunt. It’s so hard for me to figure out what it is I’m feeling at first. So once I do figure it out, I want to talk about it very clearly. I really want to be understood.

I love how honestly you write about your feelings like in the poem "Failure": “To pay for my father's funeral
 borrowed money from people he already owed money to. 
One called him a nobody. 
No, I said, he was a failure. You can't remember
a nobody's name, that's why 
they're called nobodies. 
Failures are unforgettable.” How did you make your sadness so interesting for others to read? I used true elements of my life, but I objectified them. I turned them into things that others could identify with. I have a rather humble background. It’s blue collar, and it’s an interesting world. I’ve never forgotten who I am. My own father struggled as an immigrant in this country, and died when I was eighteen.

And you used the same approach with title poem, "The God of Loneliness"? I personalize my poems with my real feelings on a subject. Ostensibly, the poem is about a father who’s standing in line at Target to get a Wii game for his sons while reading The Aeneid, which is about war. But the poem is really addressing my [sadness] about my young boys growing up and possibly going to war. All good poems should surprise you where they take you. It’s never about what you set up to write. It’s about where the poem leads you. When I read it, there’s an audible sigh from the audience. One time, after I read it in Denver, a young guy thanked me for writing about men and fathers. "‘No one ever does,’ he said."

Continue reading "Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Philip Schultz Has a Lot in Common with You...and Tupac Shakur" »

Novel Obsession

Jennifer Egan is Inspired (and Disturbed) by Edith Warton

By Julie Vadnal | June 22, 2010

The House of Mirth by Edith Warton does all the things I’m interested in doing in my own fiction: it tells a great, wrenching, hilarious vortex of a story; it raises huge questions about the culture in which it takes place (specifically about the intersection of money, beauty, and social class for women in early 20th Century America); and it reaches beyond its own time and place to resonate in a deep, timeless, human way. That’s the inspiration part. The disturbing part is that its protagonist is ground to a pulp by the world in which she finds herself, and ultimately commits suicide. I’ve read the book four or five times, so at this point the central character, Lily Bart, feels like part of my literary DNA. It’s almost as if she were actually a relative of mine: a distant aunt who taught me a lesson about how not to live by revealing to me her own tragic example.

Jennifer Egan’s latest novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, is out now.
Photo: Pieter Van Hattem/Vistalux

Printed Matter

Scrap Book: Demi Moore Writes a Tell-All, Harry Potter Opens a Theme Park, and More

By Lit Life | June 18, 2010

Demi Moore
Demi Moore has signed with HarperCollins to write a tell-all memoir about her life in Hollywood. Moore’s publishers say the $2 million book deal will expose a “candid” recollection of her tumultuous relationship with her mother, Virginia King, and her relationship with ex-husband Bruce Willis and their three daughters. The memoir is tentatively scheduled for 2012. If it’s half as revealing and dramatic as her Twitter—where she talks about her “hubby” Ashton Kutcher, tweets photos of her old journals, and once helped stop a follower’s suicide attempt—it’ll be worth the wait. [Shelf Life]—Laura Lajiness
Today marks the magical opening of the newest theme park in Orlando, called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Rumors about this magical wonderland have been circulating for a months, and now the place where we unfortunate Muggles can buy Butterbeer and magic wands is finally up and running. The park welcomed thousands of Potter fans this morning, who lunched at Three Broomsticks, shopped at Owl Post, and stood in line for up to two hours to ride The Forbidden Journey. [LA Times]—Valeriya Safronova

The much anticipated feature film version of Ayn Rand’s dystopian epic, Atlas Shrugged, has hastily jumped into production after 20 years of brewing in development hell. Two decades ago, producer John Aglialoro bought the rights to the film for a million dollars, and Variety reports that the rights to the film would be lost if Agliaroro didn’t begin production by Saturday. So in a sudden race to fruition, One Tree Hill’s Paul Johansson has agreed to direct and star in the film as John Galt, alongside other television notables like Mercy’s Taylor Schilling (in the role of Dagny Taggart) and Ugly Betty’s Grant Bowler (playing Henry Reardon). The novel will be split into two movies, the first one aptly named, Atlas Shrugged Part One. The $5 million indie, produced by The Strike Productions, will be shot in Los Angeles over five weeks, set to be finished almost as fast as it started. [Slash Film]—Katherine Eisenberg

Just when you settled on buying your dad another set of drill bits for Father’s Day, Jesse Kornbluth, editor of Head and contributing blogger for the Huffington Post, gives us his list of “10 Father’s Day Books He’d Never Get For Himself (But He’ll Love).” The list includes George V. Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a crime novel made up almost entirely of fictional wiretap transcripts; Levels of the Game, John McPhee's account of the 1968 semifinal U.S. Open match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner; and A Sport and a Pastime, John Salter’s elegant and erotic novel about an affair between a wealthy young American man and a French shop girl. [Huffington Post]—K.E.

Photo: Getty Images
Novel Obsession

Janelle Brown Wouldn’t Dare Edit Nabokov (or Shakespeare, for That Matter)

By Julie Vadnal | June 17, 2010

"The thing that fascinated me about Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was the idea that you could write a book about someone that was despicable. It’s a book about a child molester, a pedophile, and yet he could make that character so compelling (and, in a way, sympathetic) that you would find yourself rooting for him. It shows the power of the author, to align himself with a flawed narrator. It never occurred to me before that the person telling the story could be unreliable. And I can’t say I’d change a thing. I wouldn’t want to mess with a classic, you know? Who am I to say how to improve on Nabokov? That’d be like saying, 'Shakespeare, in the third act you really just dropped the ball.'"

Janelle Brown’s latest novel, This is Where We Live, is out now.

Janelle Brown Credit Margo Silver
Photo: Margot Silver

Printed Matter

The New Yorker's '20 Under 40' is the Talk of the Town

By Lit Life | June 15, 2010

If there’s one thing writers like to do, it’s read into things. And with the release of the New Yorker's "Top 20 Writers Under 40" this week, they have plenty of material to work with. Now newspapers and blogs are weighing in with their reactions. We've read through them all, and here—in list form!—is what they had to say.—Valeriya Safronova and Laura Kuhn

Tea ObrehtTea Obreht, 24, is the youngest person on this year's list. In last year's fiction issue, The New Yorker ran an excerpt of Obreht's debut novel, The Tiger's Wife, scheduled to hit stands next year.

Karen Russell, the 28-old author of St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (and who was also named one of the National Book Foundation’s "5 Under 35" last year), described her reaction to being on the list to the New York Times: "You're like: 'Thanks for putting me in the game, coach. Oh God, I hope I'm not going to be one who is distracted by a butterfly and drops the ball.'"

"A number of people have been surprised by the relative obscurity of many of the writers on the list," wrote the Huffington Post, which provided a hand slideshow profiling of each of the list's 20 authors.

Meanwhile, Times Book Review Editor Sam Tanenhaus objected to the list's emphasis on age. "It threatens to infantilize our writers," he wrote, "reducing them to the condition of permanent apprentices who grind steadily toward 'maturity' as they prepare to write their 'breakthrough' books."

And while the young writers included in the issue—like Rivka Galchen (Atmospheric Disturbances) and C. E. Morgan (All the Living)—were surely anxious to hear if the New Yorker would be propelling them to literary stardom, The Observer put out a list of writers who slept easy knowing they were free from the list's nerve-racking scrutiny. Among them were the too old (Dave Eggers, author of What is the What?), the too commercial (Cecily von Ziegesar, author of the Gossip Girl series) and the too "avant-garde" (reporter Jayson Blair for his made-up New York Times reports).

Continue reading "The New Yorker's '20 Under 40' is the Talk of the Town" »

By Its Cover

Illustrator Michael Kirkham on the Mysteries of Cover Design

By Nojan Aminosharei | June 14, 2010

Sherlock Holmes
Few fictional characters have undergone as many transformations as Sherlock Holmes. He started as a bohemian detective in Arthur Conan Doyle’s series of four novels and 56 short stories, beginning with the 1887 story “A Study in Scarlet.” A century later, we saw him as a bumbling fraud played by Michael Cain in 1988’s Without a Clue (where Ben Kingsley’s Dr. Watson was the true brains behind their operation). Most recently an ab-tastic Robert Downey Jr. portrayed him as a brilliant cad in Guy Richie’s Sherlock reboot. But what’s never changed are Holmes’ engaging stories—always a tangle of smoke and mirrors, red herrings, and oh so many disguises.

Illustrator Michael Kirkham’s cover design for White Books’ Sherlock Holmes: His Greatest Cases perfectly captures the spirit of the original Holmes. Kirkham, who is based out of Edinburgh (Conan Doyle’s birthplace), graduated from the Edinburgh College of Arts in 2006 and soon caught the eye of David Pearson, the famed designer of Penguin’s Great Ideas series, and the art director of White Books’ new Fine Editions series of wraparound covers for classics like Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Treasure Island. Kirkham worked with Pearson on Sherlock’s arresting cover, and the result is anything but elementary.

What was the idea behind your cover? All the covers in this book series have narrative patterns—something that is half-picture, half-pattern. The idea for Sherlock Holmes was to have a pipe with smoke coming out, and I realized that if I drew the smoke a certain way, it could say something about the stories in the book. So the smoke is very entangled and complicated, and that represents how the Sherlock Holmes stories inside are constructed. They just go absolutely over themselves, and then under themselves, and they’re good fun to read because of it—complications for the joy of complication.

Did you read through the stories when you were designing the cover? Most of them. After reading a couple I was already inspired by story format, which always has as many leads and dead ends as possible.

The color scheme of the cover—the matte brown and pops of orange—really capture that vintage sartorial quality of Sherlock Holmes. Some artists have an intuition with color, but I always have to work really hard to get to there, so I’m glad that you say that. But just yesterday I was painting with my daughter, and I remembered from when I was a child that if you put smudges of paint down and press a piece of paper on top, you can make colorful patterns. I suddenly got carried away with making very brightly colored prints, and the poor girl was abandoned until I was done with my own coloring.

Continue reading "Illustrator Michael Kirkham on the Mysteries of Cover Design" »

Printed Matter

Scrap Book: Oscar de la Renta Accessorizes the iPad, ‘Gleeks’ Get Literary, and More

By Lit Life | June 10, 2010

Oscar de la Renta iPad

It seems that, perhaps inadvertently, even top fashion designers are taking sides in the ever-prevalent e-reader debate. Just days after the release of the DVF Kindle covers, Oscar de la Renta presented iPad cases in his Resort 2011 runway show on June 7th. The famous designer had earlier endorsed this new technological trend in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, and continued to do so with the gorgeous accessories, which are made of embroidered Mosaico leather and will be available on June 30th in carnation, espresso, marigold, and stone. []—Valeriya Safronova

Many business savvy scribes (like Candace Bushnell, who just published The Carrie Diaries, a novel about Carrie Bradshaw’s pre-glamour high school days) have discovered a great tactic for extending the shelf life of the hype machine: the prequel. Joining the club are the producers of Glee, who recently signed a deal with Little, Brown Books to create a series of young adult books chronicling the lives of the “Gleeks” before the motley crew formed the singing alliance led by Mr. Schuester. The first novel, titled Glee: The Beginning will hit bookstores in August, which we’re sure can’t come soon enough for the show’s rabid fan base. But until then, there’s always Glee fan fiction, and from we can tell, a lot of it. [EW’s Shelf Life]—V.S.

At 7:00 tonight, Barnes and Noble in New York City’s Union Square hosts Gavin McInnes, former Vice Magazine Dos and Don’ts columnist’s, who will talk to broadcast journalist Katherine Lanpher about his new book Street Boners: 1764 Hipster Fashion Jokes, a compilation of photos from his website by the same name. The collection is full of biting sartorial commentary about subway riders and tips for how to get the attention of the über-hipster across the street. Just be sure not to walk in wearing the wrong duds, or you might give McInnes fodder for a second book. [Barnes & Noble]—Laura Kuhn

Photo: Courtesy of Oscar de la Renta

Search this Blog

  • WWW

© 2010 Hachette Filipacchi Media, U.S., Inc.| Terms & Conditions| Privacy Policy - Your Privacy Right