Today in books and publishing: Questions about the so-called "Great American Novel;" Britain's "Famous Five" infatuation; what books to expect for the rest of the year; advice on self-publishing; Remnick on Ephron; Jake Adelstein gets a deal. 

Great American Novel? In this past weekend's Slate Book Review Maria Konnikova took on the term "Great American Novel," tracing it from the late 1860s. What makes a "Great American Novel," she asks, and how American do you have to be to have written it?:

Once, the GAN was uniquely American. That need has passed. Maybe it’s time for that beast to finally become what Frank Norris argued for all along, in the far less quoted ending of his famed hippogriff proclamation: “The thing to be looked for is not the Great American Novelist, but the Great Novelist who shall also be an American.”

As in most every enterprise deemed "American" a long time ago, the definition of what constitutes "American" work has changed. [Slate Book Review]

So Famous: British adults are still enamored of the Famous Five series of children's books by Enid Blyton, now regarded as horribly dated with racism and sexism. A survey of 20,000 adults found that the series won out as their most fondly-remembered childhood read over Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Black Beauty, and Winnie the Pooh. The Famous Five books have been updated as of late to weed out the offensive bits. [The Guardian]

Remember him? Also out of Britain we learn that Dan Brown has a new (probably not desired) title: 'most donated.' [The Guardian]

Your future reading list: The Millions has a preview of the books that will come out for the rest of 2012. Get ready for titles from well-known authors including Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Zadie Smith, Tom Wolfe, and, of course J.K. Rowling's novel for grown-ups. (That one is out in September.) [The Millions]

Some advice: Suw Charman-Anderson counsels eager writers to be patient before self-publishing work. That Great American Novel perhaps hasn't come out just yet. [Forbes]

Remnick remembers Ephron: In this week's New Yorker David Remnick eulogizes Nora Ephron, and describes her transformation from a desire to be a Dorothy Parker-style "only lady at the table" to a mentor of young female writers. [New Yorker]

Some in-house book news: Atlantic Wire contributor Jake Adelstein has a deal for his book The Last Yakuza: A Life in the Japanese Underground. Adelstein, an expert on organized crime in Japan, worked as the crime reporter for Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, the first American to hold that position. He was profiled in The New Yorker earlier this year. The Last Yakuzaaccording to Publisher's Weekly, is about a "former gang boss." Adelstein previously published Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, a memoir. [Publisher's Weekly]