Today in books and publishing: William Lynch is a Nook guy; a sort-of-star-studded shoot; Kurt Vonnegut warns against shacking up with students; Michiko Kakutani writes reviews in verse now.
Barnes & Noble CEO is so over physical books. Go into any Barnes & Noble store and you'll find walls and walls of books. Real books made from real paper. Books that Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch would never buy. Whether he's reading magazines like Field & Stream and The Economist, dipping into Fifty Shades of Grey, or pouring over thrillers by Vince Flynn and Lee Child, William Lynch gets his reading done on the Nook these days. "I don't really read physical books that much anymore," he told Bloomberg's Nicole Lapin. The statement probably wasn't meant to signal a huge shift for the business, but there's something strange about a chain store's top executive admitting that he's gone fully digital. It's enough to raise a few eyebrows amongst readers who prefer analog reading and in-store shopping. [Bloomberg]
Director assembles a huge, literary cast. If you were to picture a gathering of 43 famous New York-based writers, where would they be? A cocktail party you weren't invited to? Maybe a reading by a Romanian poet you've never heard of? Try the coffee shop just around the corner. Filmmaker Michael Maren was able to convince dozens of well-known writers such as Michael Cunningham, Gary Shteyngart, Jennifer Egan, Nick Flynn, and Kurt Andersen to show up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 a.m. at the Kos Kaffe in Park Slope to shoot a scene for his movie, A Short History of Decay. At this point in the film, the protagonist has just been dumped by his writer girlfriend, who left him for a literary agent. Just when he's trying to leave that bookish world behind, who should he stumble upon in a local cafe but every major living author. Except Martin Amis and Paul Auster, two of the shoot's biggest no-shows. [Vulture]
Advice from Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut once taught at the illustrious Iowa Writers' Workshop, and apparently he gave incoming professors advice about flying into Iowa City, who to hang out with, and how to retain confidence around a bunch of Ph Ds. When Richard Gehman accepted a post there in 1967, Vonnegut wrote to warn him, "Don’t ball undergraduates! Their parents are still watching!" [Slate]
Michiko Kakutani, poet. Michiko Kakutani enjoys messing with us. She once wrote an entire review in the voice of Holden Caulfield, and for years, she's been using her inch count to play a game of spot-the-limns. Her review of Calvin Trillin's Dogfight in today's paper is written, like the book at hand, in verse. Click through to the review if you must, but read this excerpt first:
This book lacks a certain je ne sais quoi
Some Trillin rhymes are unnecessarily blah.
Maybe the poet’s tired of pols and their game
And so fallen back on lines that are lame.
Don't say we didn't warn you. [The New York Times]
Maybe Imre Kertész isn't retiring just yet. Yesterday we noted that Nobel-adorned Hungarian novelist Imre Kertész was retiring, according to foreign reports. But the author tells Dennis Johnson of his English-language publisher Melville House that the rumors are false. The two exchanged emails in which the 83-year-old author writes, "Naturally, I will try to write as long as I can." Kertész, a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, says that the time he has left to write is "a special gift from fate." [Melville House]
Katherine Boo, reconsidered. No book can earn rave reviews and a National Book Award without drawing its detractors, and luckily, n+1's critique of Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers is pretty reasonable as far as these things go. Anand Vaidya's main problem with the book is Boo's focus on individual actors in the Mumbai slum Boo covered. Collective action has been a powerful force in modern India, a force that gets short shrift in Beautiful Forevers, according to Vaidya:
It’s true that collective action, which has been necessary to the continued existence of Mumbai’s informal settlements and successfully challenged Operation Clearance two years before Boo’s arrival in Annawadi, is noticeably absent from Boo’s book. Her narratives instead capture individuals struggling amid their physical environment — shacks, trash heaps, gleaming skyscrapers — and broader political and economic processes ... The collective turns out to have been a mirage, a mistake.