* More "crisis in book reviewing" caterwauling, this time from the New Republic: An unsigned editorial that reeks of Wieseltier, and an entertaining if thoroughly depressing review of Gail Pool's Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America. Wolcott is as witty as they come but paragraphs like this make us reach for Dr. Kevorkian's business card:
A book columnist at numerous papers and a former editor of the Boston Review, Pool recognizes the steep molehill of apathy that her awareness campaign must climb. She understands how hard it is to elicit sympathy for the peon status and precarious condition of freelance reviewers and their frazzled editors, even from fellow writers. (Often especially from fellow writers, many of whom bear the lash marks of a bad review and will never give up their dream of vengeance.) Long before bloggers became synonymous with damp mold and scurrilous invective, book reviewers were cast as the pox carriers and bottom feeders of the word business, tattooed with the rep of being bitter, envious parasites, cunning predators, or charter members of the Dunciad. They tore the iridescent wings off Romantic poets for sport, and crouched in the hills like hyenas waiting for Hemingway to falter. Insidious by nature, they fluff up authors' reputations in order to fatten them up for the sacrificial kill: the young slain for failing to live up to their early promise, their distinguished elders dragged by their whiskers into the lair of the spider-queen, Michiko Kakutani, to be eaten. Even the most scrupulous and fair-minded reviewer is considered suspect, a discount knockoff of a real writer.
* The gang at Dzanc has awarded their first $5,000 Dzanc Prize.
* Fiction's next hot author: The first page of a novel by Napoleon has sold for about $35,000. His agent isn't returning calls.
* Louis de Bernières has opened a farm shop, which apparently has something to do with selling food.
Gordimer has argued that the short story is the seminal literary form of our age, a medium “where contact is more like the flash of fireflies … Short-story writers see by the light of the flash; theirs is the only thing one can be sure of – the present moment.” This collection succeeds in conveying some of the form’s sudden power, but the infelicities of the writing compromise its rewards.
* The NaNoWriMo crowd? Pussies. This lot in Canada writes a novel in three days.
* If you have deep pockets, a fine lot of James Bond first editions is going up for auction. On the other hand, if you can't afford the going prices but you're in London anyway, check out the new James Bond exhibit at the Imperial War Museum.
* A controversy has ignited surrounding a little-known Wallace Stegner book that deals with the Middle East.
Stegner was hired in 1956 by Arabian American Oil Company to write a promotional piece about the company's history.
An edited version of the manuscript was published in the company's in-house magazine in 1967.
Forty years later, this September, Vista-based Selwa Press published a trade edition of the writing -- called "Discovery!" -- without permission from Stegner's estate.
* Ngugi wa Thiong'o in conversation.
* Over at Truthdig, Cristina Nehring weighs in at length with what's wrong with the American essay.
If the essays in these anthologies boast a distinctive (and distinctively dreary) tone, they also boast highly specific subject matters and—for all the editors’ sporadic salutes to individualism—startlingly homogenous author profiles. Reading the Best American Essays from 1986 to 2006, it’s tempting to create a composite portrait of the Preferred American Essayist: Educated at Harvard, he or she has spent significant time at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, written proposals for New York Public Library Fellowships (often lovingly paraphrased in the essays) and received medical attention at Sloan Kettering Hospital. Chances are good she’s a doting dog owner who has done such things as lace her pet’s dinner with “Prozac, Buspar, Elavil, Effexor, Xanax, and Clomicalm” (Cathleen Shine, 2005) or write gourmet cookbooks for his discerning palate (Susan Orlean, 2005 and 2006). More likely than not, he (if it is a he) has had a lifelong love affair with fishing or baseball, preferably both. An added bonus is to discover—or at least reassess—a Jewish ancestor in one’s family tree.
* And finally, please wish a happy birthday to my beloved Mrs. TEV who turns [redacted] today.