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Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak Are Writing a Book About Their ‘Weird As Hell’ Relationship

According to the New York Daily News, Mindy Kaling and her gentleman friend B.J. Novak have sold a book about their "weird as hell" relationship. The duo (don't say couple!) will reportedly earn $7.5 million to tell the story of  what Kaling calls their "romantically charged camaraderie with loud arguments." According to the News' sources, the new book will be announced at BookCon on May 30, during an event to promote Kaling's other new book, the essay collection Why Not Me? And yet the only thing we got for choosing "It's Complicated" on Facebook was disapproving glances from family and friends.

  • Posted 5/21/15 at 11:03 AM

Book Excerpt: Werner Herzog’s Of Walking in Ice

In 1974, director-madman Werner Herzog walked from Munich to Paris in a show of support for his friend, the cancer-stricken fellow filmmaker Lotte Eisner. During his epic trek, Herzog kept a blessedly typical (for him) mystical and philosophical diary, which was eventually published in 1978 as Of Walking in Ice. To commemorate his journey, University of Minnesota Press has published a new edition of the book — Herzog will also be speaking about the text on June 15 at Manhattan's NeueHouse  and we have the first chapter for you here. 

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Nell Zink’s Brilliant Mislaid Is a Parody of a Satire of Race

Authors can’t be tried for killing off their own characters, but there’s something nonchalant about the way Nell Zink bumps hers off. In the first line of her first novel, The Wallcreeper, the narrator, Tiffany, miscarries after the car her husband’s driving strikes the bird that gives the book its title. The bird becomes a house pet, and the couple name him after Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy Führer. They decide to send him back into the wild with a chip in his back, and on the next page, we see a hawk eating the wallcreeper’s heart out of its chest. Later, on a bird-watching trip in the Balkans, the husband is revealed to have a heart condition and within a few pages keels over dead. In Zink’s new novel, Mislaid, a minor character disappears from the narrative for years, then turns up as a teenager shooting herself on her grandmother’s grave after getting pregnant. There’s also a truck driver who threatens to reveal the book’s animating secret and conveniently crashes his truck and dies just after learning it.

Zink’s life story and her fairy-tale path to publication have nothing on the antic sparks of her prose. »

  • Posted 5/19/15 at 3:30 PM

When Did Books Get So Freaking Enormous? The Year of the Very Long Novel

When Doubleday editor Gerald Howard acquired Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, a 736-page novel about a New Yorker with a hellish past, he told her they’d have to cut it down by a third. She countered that Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, both longer than her book, were poised to do pretty well that year. She also emailed a list of successful long novels, as well as a “passive-aggressive picture” of her manuscript beside a 900-page issue of Vogue and a paperback copy of Vikram Seth’s 1,400-page classic, A Suitable Boy.

Howard lost the fight, and Yanagihara turned out to be prescient. The Goldfinch went on to win the Pulitzer, and The Luminaries became, at 864 pages, the longest novel ever to win the Booker prize.  “I don’t know if it’s a real trend or just some statistical clutter,” says Howard, “but there’s definitely something going on.”

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The Bachelor Host Writes Romance-iest Novel Ever

After 13 years, The Bachelor franchise is as familiar as any fairy tale. A man or woman yearns for love but finds he or she is cursed and unable to find “the one.” In order to find "the one,” they must undergo a series of tests to determine which of 25 lonely-hearted stock characters  is “the one.” For this, they are rewarded with an ABC-subsidized proposal and the (non-contractual) promise of happily ever after. It will probably never change, and I hope it never does. The Bachelor is a perfectly orchestrated, predictable safe place of romance, drama, intrigue, and happy endings. And through it all, our guide is host Chris Harrison.

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  • Posted 5/12/15 at 1:01 PM
  • Books

How the Academy Saved Novelist Jim Shepard From Mainstream Success

Jim Shepard is one of the best writers you’ve never heard of. He’s a tenured professor at Williams College, a job he’s held happily for 32 years — raising his family in pastoral Massachusetts, teaching generations of admiring acolytes, writing dozens of short stories and seven lean novels (including the intense character studies Nosferatu and Project X) to his own strange, exacting specifications.

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  • Posted 5/11/15 at 3:33 PM
  • Books

How Reynold Levy (Says He) Saved Lincoln Center

With its white stone façades and noble arcades, Lincoln Center looks as though it’s always been there and always will be, a 1960s Acropolis that glows afresh each night, constantly rejuvenated by daily infusions of the performing arts. But in 2002, when Reynold Levy took over as president of an entity that’s really more a collection of principalities than a unified organization, the campus looked older, sadder, and lonelier. The travertine was streaked, the pavers pocked, and the air conditioners grumbled. On rainy nights, audiences exiting the halls picked their way around lagoons that leaked into the garage below the plaza. West 65th Street looked like the back end of a big-box store. In a new memoir, They Told Me Not to Take That Job: Tumult, Betrayal, Heroics, and the Transformation of Lincoln Center (PublicAffairs), Levy describes what it took to turn a beloved relic into an artistic engine. His answer, of course, is: him. Well … him, plus $1.2 billion.

The great-man theory of fund-raising. »

Tea With Harold Bloom, on the Occasion of His 45th Book

Harold Bloom is 84 and a little under the weather. He is one of Yale’s more famous professors (where he’s been teaching for 60 years) and the author of dozens of books (including an anthology for “Extremely ­Intelligent Children”), many of them best sellers, many of them fascinating and enlightening, some of them infuriating or confusing (if you are not up on your Gnostic texts or the Kabbalah), and all of them written in his unmistakable voice — imperious, sympathetic, melancholy, intimate, playful, and brilliant in both depth and breadth. Long before we were friends, and in an academic pool in which I don’t so much as dip a toe, he was also a major pot-stirrer. I gather that the admiration he expresses for many women poets, for many gay poets (“Three out of four poets in America are gay or bisexual,” he says. “More than half of all the great poets are”), for James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison (“A great friend, a magnificent writer, his Invisible Man is a novel as powerful as Magic Mountain”), for the poets Jay Wright and Thylias Moss, for writers as contemporary as Don DeLillo, Carl Phillips, and Henri Cole, didn’t count for much with the opposition when he wrote The Western Canon in 1994. He was seen as a forceful, unpleasantly old-fashioned defender of the Canon As Was. As he says, he was described as someone who partook of a cult of personality or self-obsession rather than of the “special vision” of critics focused on issues of gender, color, and power — and Lacanians and deconstructionists. He coined the catchy phrase “School of Resentment” (“I think, really, they resent difficult poetry and aesthetic splendor”), and he made a lot of people understandably angry, some of whom are angry still.

“Cousin Amy, zie gesundt. This is a family affair.” »

  • Posted 5/5/15 at 4:20 PM
  • Books

Mindy Kaling Reveals the Cover and Release Date for Her Next Memoir, Why Not Me?

Mindy Kaling's first memoir, 2011's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns), was so wildly popular that book No. 2 was a no-brainer. And today Kaling has given fans a first look at Why Not Me? on Twitter, with the announcement that it'll be released September 29. (She'll also dish on the book on a panel moderated by her former The Office co-star B.J. Novak (!) at BookCon later this month.)

  • Posted 5/4/15 at 11:52 AM
  • Pen

PEN President Andrew Solomon on Charlie Hebdo: ‘If We Value Free Speech, Then This Question of the Assassin’s Veto Is a Key One’

Tomorrow’s PEN literary gala, held under the Museum of Natural History’s luminescent whale, may well be the most interesting in the free-speech organization’s nearly century-long history. Little more than a week ago, six “table hosts” withdrew from the gala over PEN America’s plan to bestow its Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo, the Muhammad-mocking French newspaper whose staff members were massacred by extremists in January. Last Wednesday, we sat down in PEN’s airy but functional offices with its new president, the writer Andrew Solomon, to get his perspective. Just two hours before we met, an email petition had been released, bearing the signatures of 35 PEN members vowing to “disassociate” themselves from the decision. Since then, that list has grown past 200; PEN has found replacement hosts (including Neil Gaiman and Art Spiegelman); and Solomon and PEN executive director Suzanne Nossel have published an op-ed defending the award in the New York Times. 

You only became the president of PEN in March. Has it been turning out as you’d envisioned it?
When they persuaded me to join, they said it was really a very straightforward and undemanding job.

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Michael Blake, Oscar-Winning Writer of Dances With Wolves, Dies at 69

Michael Blake, who wrote the novel Dances With Wolves and penned its subsequent film treatment, has died at 69, Variety reports.

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An Interview With the French Author Who Has Happiness Figured Out

For decades, the French have ranked among the world's most pessimistic people, so it's fitting — in a life-is-a-farce-and maybe-also-merde kind of way — that a Frenchman should write a provocative, possibly even helpful, book about happiness. Frederic Lenoir's Happiness: A Philosopher's Guide was a best seller when it was released in France last fall, and this month, it's been published here, in English, courtesy of Melville House.

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  • Posted 4/21/15 at 2:16 PM

Lovers of The Little Prince Need to Read Wind, Sand and Stars

We admirers of bittersweet French whimsy were heartened yesterday to see the first full-length English trailer for a new film adaptation of The Little Prince. Good lord, it looks wonderful. 

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  • Posted 4/21/15 at 8:00 AM
  • Books

The Very Public Saga of Karl Ove Knausgaard

Last spring, Karl Ove Knausgaard came to New York to promote Boyhood Island, the third volume of his six-part series of auto­biographical novels, My Struggle. The line to see him interviewed by Zadie Smith at the bookstore McNally Jackson stretched around the block, and there appeared to be a Knausgaard look-alike outside (though he might have been a stray Euro-hippie). One night later, Knausgaard spoke with Jeffrey Eugenides at the New York Public Library. He talked about some of his main themes, the undifferentiated nature of experience (“It’s completely possible to sit at home and read Heidegger and then next moment you go and do the dishes — it’s the same world”) and what happens when the body dies (“For the heart, life is simple: It beats for as long as it can. Then it stops”). Reading from his books, he stood swaying a bit like a folksinger and a bit like a graying, blue-eyed Christ. 

Teenage Karl Ove isn’t shy about saying he wishes he could bash a girl over the head with a club and drag her back to his cave by her hair. »

Patti Smith Is Writing Another M-E-M-O-I-R

Following the tried-and-tested Hollywood formula of making sequels, Patti Smith will follow up her National Book Award–winning memoir Just Kids with another memoirM Train, coming in October. Smith says the book is a "roadmap to my life," and will use 18 different "stations" — all of them cafés, it seems — that were important for her creative process. The cover photo below is from EW, and shows Smith at the West Village café 'ino on its last day in business.

  • Posted 4/13/15 at 11:14 AM
  • Obits

Nobel Prize–Winning Author Günter Grass Has Died

German novelist and Nobel Prize–winning author Günter Grass has died, reports the New York Times. Grass, best known for his Danzig Trilogy, died on Monday in a clinic in Lübeck, a city in northern Germany where he'd lived for decades. His first novel, The Tin Drum, was adapted into a film that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1980. In 1999, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He most recently published a controversial poem in 2012 criticizing Israel for its rhetoric on Iran's nuclear program, and in 2006, came under fire after revealing he'd been a Nazi during World War II. He was 87.

  • Posted 4/9/15 at 8:00 AM
  • Books

With The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits Contemplates Mortality, Unseriously

“I don’t want to say I’m not a serious person, but I take my seriousness with a serious side of not very serious,” says the writer Heidi Julavits. We are sitting in the wood-paneled dining room at Café Sabarsky, inside the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue, which she says is the one place she is most calm in New York. It’s early March, warm in a way that feels like an advance of spring, and almost immediately after meeting her, I have a deeply unprofessional urge to try to make her my friend. Part of it is that she is dressed like a sophisticated urban Viking — camel-brown crewneck sweater tucked into a high-waisted orangey-brown sweater skirt over black jeans; the skull of a small mammal hangs on a leather strap around her neck. Part of it is the book she’s just written, a memoir-as-diary, The Folded Clock, in which each entry begins with the classic kid’s-journal formation “Today I” and which may sound like a distant cousin of the recent string of fiction-but-not-really books (by Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti, Tao Lin) but reads more like Lydia Davis short stories, if Lydia Davis had a serious eBay habit and nursed elaborate fantasies about surviving a shipwreck (which she may — who can say?). 

“When women write a book about ideas, it doesn’t get discussed as a book about ideas.” »

Everyone’s Best Guesses for When The Winds of Winter Is Coming Out

In an interview with EW last week, George R.R. Martin revealed that he hopes to have The Winds of Winter, the next book in his sprawling Song of Ice and Fire series, completed in 2016. It's the first even semi-official news about a Winds release date, which fans have been anxiously trying to guess ever since they closed the last page of A Dance With Dragons. It's harder to predict the book's progress than you might think; Martin famously wrote A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords in just two years apiece, then slowed way down, taking five years on A Feast for Crows, then another six for A Dance With Dragons. (This summer will make four years since Dance.) Optimists say that Martin should be writing faster now that he's past the labyrinthine plotting of the past two books; pessimists argue that Martin's current bevy of side projects have cost him his earlier vigor. Who's right? We'll find out in one to five years!

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  • Posted 4/6/15 at 12:30 PM
  • Books

The Best Literary References on Mad Men, According to a NYPL Librarian

From The Feminine Mystique to Rosemary’s Baby, from Portnoy's Complaint to The Penny Wars, the creators of Mad Men have squeezed in references to some of the most celebrated literature of the 20th century. On Sunday night's premiere, we get our first reference when Don and Roger are served by a diner waitress with a copy of John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy, published in the 1930s, tucked into her apron pocket. ("Do you have anything by John Dos Passos?" Roger teases her.) Billy Parrott, managing librarian of the art and picture collections at the Mid-Manhattan Library, has been chronicling the meanings behind some of Mad Men’s most iconic literary references on his blog for the New York Public Library, The Mad Men Reading List, over the past five years. On the U.S.A. reference, Parrott noted, "It's that time period where things change. It was the end of innocence [for] that particular generation." Like the song that bookends this episode, the trilogy is a perfect fit for Mad Men's themes, and as Matt Zoller Seitz points out, an acknowledged influence on the show.

Parrott took Vulture through some of the best literary references on the show so far, and what he predicts we might see this season.

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Wolf Hall Author Hilary Mantel on Thomas Cromwell, and Why Henry VIII Was the Ultimate Romantic

It feels like Wolf Hall season in America: Six years after Hilary Mantel's historical novel about Thomas Cromwell hit shelves, its BBC adaptation will be introduced to U.S. audiences on PBS this Sunday, and a Broadway version debuts next week. With so much palace intrigue hanging in the balance, we caught up with Mantel at the MoMA during Peggy Siegal’s sneak preview of the first two episodes of Wolf Hall. The Booker Prize–winning author described her novels as "an echo chamber that feels like a hall of mirrors," and revealed some interesting commentary regarding King Henry VIII. It turns out he was not the womanizing lothario that we thought.

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