Readers caught in the M.F.A. vs. N.Y.C. crossfire might consider absconding from no man’s land with a copy of Bark, Lorrie Moore’s first collection of new stories since 1998’s influential Birds of America. Though Ms. Moore is no stranger to M.F.A. programs—after 30 years in academia, she recently became the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Read More
Mention the words “Tammany Hall” to anyone with the faintest knowledge of politics, and you will quickly be greeted with a frown or worse. Tammany historically means corruption on a grand scale, government management at its worst, violence and intimidation. All, I might add, are fairly accurate remembrances.
As the mayor of Jersey City, a Read More
Turns Out the Long Goodbye Wasn’t All That Long: Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe Returns In New Novel
Raymond Chandler had ambitions for the detective novel. “Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic,” he wrote in 1940 in “The Simple Art of Murder,” and Chandler, who died in 1959, thought his genre stood as good a chance as any of getting reality right. Later in that manifesto, he compares its Read More
For the sake of transparency, I want to admit: I never warmed to Steely Dan. As widely as my tastes range, their music lacked a certain fire. It felt cold and, well, steely. Fortunately, musical preferences have no bearing on cofounder Donald Fagen’s absorbing book.
Across ten stand-alone pieces and a seventy-three page tour diary, Eminent Hipsters attempts to map the ways music, books and certain cultural figures sculpted Mr. Fagen’s sensibility. With the exception of a Q&A that lays on the text with the grace of what geologists call a ‘glacial erratic,’ essays and sketches compose the remaining chapters. The best aim to do what pioneering cultural critic Ellen Willis advocated: explore the connections between culture and self. In Mr. Fagen’s case, those connections prove especially relevant because of the way his band’s compositions colored the larger culture.
On Thursday night last week, B.J. Novak was at the recently opened Word Bookstore in Jersey City, New Jersey, on the first night of the book tour for his new collection of short stories, One More Thing. The space was filled to capacity, and Mr. Novak was reading from his devastatingly tragic-comic vignettes: One story is about a girl on a first date with a warlord, another concerns a man desperate to know the secrets of dark matter (until he loses interest) and still another is an almost haiku-length musing on how one goes about becoming Kate Moss. Mr. Novak, a veteran performer, read with a stand-up comic’s sense of timing, and though the stories presented were by no means the darkest in the collection, there was still a George Saunders-like existentialism to them. Mr. Novak read about the nothingness at the heart of the universe. He read about hope, loss, perfection. He addressed the cynicism of the modern condition without succumbing to it.
Afterward, during the Q&A, a nervous audience member raised his hand. “So do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories about working with Mindy Kaling or anyone on The Office?”
It comes as a surprise that Simon & Schuster is launching yet another new books site, called 250 Words.
The publisher’s first foray into literary websites was Bookish, a book recommendation site started by the Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and Penguin USA.
Last month, we learned that Bookish had been sold to the e-book retailer Zola. It seems it was unable to compete with huge sites with Amazon, and struggled to draw in readers since its significantly delayed 2013 launch.
Our sources tell us the publishing groups sold Bookish, which had reportedly received $20 million in funding, at a pretty serious loss.
So the debut of 250 Words seems strange, given that the last attempt at a books site was hardly a best-seller. Mediabistro reported yesterday that the publishing company has just launched 250 Words, a site that aims to become “a hub for intelligent business thinking, with a focus on books.” Read More
Strong, Silent Type: Jesse Ball’s ‘Silence Once Begun’ Constructs a Small Masterpiece Out of Very Little
“I am trying to relate to you a tragedy,” Jesse Ball writes in Silence Once Begun. “I am attempting to do so in the manner least prejudicial to the people involved.”
Mr. Ball’s remarkable fourth novel is about a writer named Jesse Ball investigating a crime that took place in the mid 1970s outside Osaka, Japan. What the author calls the “Narito Disappearances” involved the mysterious vanishing, seemingly into thin air, of eight single, middle-aged men and women, who lived alone and had no clear connection to one another prior to going missing. These disappearances were so abrupt that food was often left out on the table in their apartments, though there was never any sign of a struggle. They seem to have simply stopped what they were doing and left. In every case, a single playing card was left at the door.
Gary Shteyngart was sipping a vodka tonic in a roomful of writers at PowerHouse Arena in Dumbo last night. It was a particularly cold evening, so I asked him how the weather in New York compared to St. Petersburg, where Mr. Shteyngart was born. Read More
Does “the list” punish right-wingers? Read More