Scrap Book: "The Situation" Writes a Self-Help Guide, Kindle Outpaces Hardcovers, and More

By Lit Life | July 22, 2010

The Situation
The Jersey Shore just keeps on giving. Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino has signed a book deal with Gotham Books to write a self-help guide to the guido lifestyle. The book, Here’s The Situation, which hits shelves in November, includes tips on fitness, hygiene and GTL (gym, tan, laundry) scheduling. The super-tan stud told Entertainment Weekly that it will be “a tell-all book. Sorta like how I came about and everything like that,” but it’s worth mentioning that he’s hired a ghostwriter to make the book more, uh, comprehensible. Fist pump! [Entertainment Weekly]—Laura Lajiness

This week, announced that the Kindle e-book sales outnumbered hardcover book sales for the last three months, selling 143 e-books to every 100 hardcovers that don’t even have Kindle editions. This literary revolution is gaining speed as digital sales have risen to 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover copies in the last four weeks. Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company told The New York Times, “This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come,” and predicted that in a few decades there will be less than 25 percent of books in print. [NY Times]—L.L.

William Jacques, a previously convicted thief and Cambridge graduate, was sentenced this week to three and a half years jail time for stealing more than $60,000 worth of rare books. Over the course of three years, Jacques—disguised in glasses, a tweed jacket, and armed with a fake library card—walked out of the Royal Horticultural Society's library in London with 13 volumes of Ambroise Verschaffelt’s 18th Century Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias. In the past, Jacques was found guilty of stealing the work of authors such as Galileo and Kepler. [The Guardian]Valeriya Safronova

The legal battle over Franz Kafka's unseen manuscripts, drawings, and letters, which have been hidden away for more than 80 years, has reached a new climax. Before his death, the author gave the works to Max Brod, a close friend, who left them with his recently deceased lover. Now, the lover’s daughters, who inherited the stash, are involved in a suit with Israel’s national library over whether the Kafka works should remain locked away in their possession, or, as Israel demands, be published for the world to see. This week Israel had a mini-breakthrough, when experts were finally allowed to see the documents that most likely have not been read since they were written. [The Independent]—V.S.

Photo: Getty Images

Scrap Book: Apple Censorship, Writers' Houses Online, and More

By Lit Life | July 16, 2010

Apple’s latest bold move: book censorship! Within the past month, the mega corporation pulled the following titles from the iTunes store for objectionable language and gay themes: Tom Bouden’s graphic novel adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and the Kama Sutra (okay, this one one we kinda understand), among others. After an explosion of Internet objection, Apple brought back the titles, admitting, at least in the case of Rob Berry and Josh Levitas’s Ulysses Seen—a comic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses—that, yup, they made a mistake. [Huffington Post]

And when one book battle is won, another is lost: book signings occur less and less nowadays because, according to the Wall Street Journal, negotiating which authors sign in which stores can get complicated, especially in Manhattan. The biggest “get” is the Union Square Barnes & Noble, where authors like David Remnick, Sebastian Junger, and Mo Rocca have read and signed. "To be there," said Evan Boorstyn, deputy director of publicity at Grand Central Publishing, "is the equivalent of getting your name up in lights on Broadway." [Wall Street Journal]

On July 13th, editor and writer A.N. Devers launched Writers’ Houses, a site that marries the love of fiction with the love of home design—with just a dash of voyeurism. Inspired by a curiosity of writer’s work spaces, the website will feature daily posts on the homes of our favorite deceased writers, like Zora Neale Hurston, Dashiell Hammett, and John Steinbeck. [Mediabistro]—Laura Lajiness

Photo: Getty Images

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

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" »

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

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" »

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

Scrap Book: Books on Vinyl, Creepy Children’s Stories by Peaches, and More

By Lit Life | June 8, 2010

Peaches Geldof

If 21-year-old British party girl Peaches Geldof was the last person you thought would pen a warm and fuzzy kids’ book, you’d only be half wrong. Geldof told the Telegraph that she’s writing a children’s book of short stories, but added, “The stories aren't like Roald Dahl, though, more like Bret Easton Ellis." A kooky combo considering her inspiration is the author of disturbing novels like American Psycho and Lunar Park. We look forward to seeing it on the bookstore shelf beside Goodnight Moon—but we might not let our kids reach for it. [Telegraph]—Laura Lajiness

The cold war just heated up between the Kindle and the iPad. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed the new iPhone (which got an iBooks update to include bookmarks and support PDFs!), he also had some interesting news on the iPad. In the past two months, iPad owners have downloaded over five million e-books—that’s 2.5 books per user. Jobs also claimed that the iPad has accounted for 22 percent of all e-book sales since it’s release in April. And while we don’t have the chutzpa to question Steve Jobs’ numbers, the New York Times Bits blog’s Brad Stone apparently does. “The 22 percent number…does not reflect the entire publishing industry,” said Stone. “Most small publishers, along with one of the largest in the world, Random House, do not sell books through Apple.” Either way, if the iPad gets people reading, we give it a thumbs up. [NY Times Bits Blog]—L.L.

At a time when e-readers have supplanted books, and MP3s have taken the place of CDs, Nathan Dunne has produced the most unlikely of products: a series of 33rpm vinyl records, each featuring a different writer reading aloud a 20 minute short story, starting with Clare Wigfall’s Along Birdcage Walk and Toby Litt’s The Hare. He hopes vinyls will more authentically duplicate the experience of listening to writers read their work. “When I was growing up there were labels like Argos and Caedmon that brought out records of writers speaking,” Dunne told the Telegraph. “When James Joyce was reading aloud from Finnegan’s Wake…I didn’t understand half of what he was saying but it had a lyrical and a melodic quality that absolutely made sense.” The limited-edition vinyls will appear semiannually, so keep your ears open. [Telegraph]—Katherine Eisenberg

Literature and film have always gone hand-in-hand—from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to Ian McEwan’s Atonement, movie adaptations of popular novels have been a cinematic staple. But according to the Publishers Marketplace database, Hollywood movie and TV deals based on books fell from 205 in 2008-2009 to 190 in 2009-2010, with literary fiction falling hardest from 30 in to 17—a 43 percent decline.  But some genres are going strong on celluloid and on TV, like chick lit (Dear John) and kids’ fantasy (Percy Jackson). The biggest growth? Young adult books, which rose from 21 to 36—thanks, Gossip Girl! [Variety]—K.E.

Photo: Getty Images

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