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.)
PEN President Andrew Solomon on Charlie Hebdo: ‘If We Value Free Speech, Then This Question of the Assassin’s Veto Is a Key One’By Boris Kachka
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.
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.
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.
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 memoir, M 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.
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.
“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?).
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!
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.
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.
If you're one of those viewers worried about the Game of Thrones show overtaking the books, you're in good company — George R.R. Martin is, too. In an interview with EW, the author says that he really wishes he had finished The Winds of Winter by now. Still, he says, he's confident he'll be able to get the book out in time for the sixth season of Thrones, which is expected to be comprised mostly of material from Winds. "Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about how quickly I can finish," Martin says. "But I canceled two convention appearances, I’m turning down a lot more interviews — anything I can do to clear my decks and get this done." Wait a minute ... Didn't he just take a new TV project? EW is additionally reporting that Martin is working with HBO on a sci-fi show set in the 1940s called Captain Cosmos. George!
Martin also told EW that he's thought of a new twist for the conclusion of Song of Ice and Fire, and the show won't be able to use it: "It’s nothing I’ve ever thought of before. And it’s nothing they can do in the show, because the show has already — on this particular character — made a couple decisions that will preclude it." Jeyne Westerling on the Iron Throne — you heard it here first.
Sansa Stark's story line on Game of Thrones is getting some changes from the books this season, and just like he did last year, George R.R. Martin has decided to get his version out first by releasing another preview chapter from The Winds of Winter. You can read it here, if you're so inclined. For the spoiler-averse, we will just say that it's our first Sansa POV chapter since 2005's A Feast for Crows and features the introduction of a character fans have been hoping to meet since the end of that novel. It's full of all sorts of Vale-uable information!
Patricia Arquette will waste no time after winning that Oscar. She just started her starring role on CSI: Cyber and now she'll be an author: Random House has announced that Arquette is writing a memoir. It will reportedly detail life with her famous family, life as a single mother, and life as a woman in Hollywood. Hopefully, she'll squeeze in some Nicolas Cage stories, too.
The next installment in Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium series will officially be called The Girl in the Spider's Web, according to the book's U.S. publisher. Alfred A. Knopf unveiled the title as well as the book's cover art on Tuesday, adding that Web will hit bookstores on September 1. As previously reported, Swedish writer David Lagercrantz finished the book in November, after receiving the green light from Larsson's estate and original publishers. (Larsson died in 2004 of a heart attack.) "Stieg Larsson was a master at creating complex narratives, narratives made all the more forceful because of the journalistic authority with which they were originally written," Lagercrantz said in a statement released to NPR. "That was something that informed my approach to book four, and I'm confident Millennium readers will identify with the storylines in Spider's Web."
In her forthcoming memoir, Out Came the Sun, Mariel Hemingway claims Woody Allen tried to coax her into joining him for a romantic getaway in Paris. The two had worked together on Allen's Manhattan when the actress was a minor. After she turned 18, Hemingway says the 44-year-old director flew to her parents' home in Idaho with the invitation. "Our relationship was platonic, but I started to see that he had a kind of crush on me, though I dismissed it as the kind of thing that seemed to happen any time middle-aged men got around young women," Hemingway writes, according to a book excerpt obtained by Fox News. Although Hemingway told her parents she was unsure of the room and sleeping arrangements, her parents encouraged her to go.
Harper Lee's second novel Go Set a Watchman is coming in July — news that was greeted first with applause, then with a growing sense of unease, as reports came in that the 88-year-old Lee might not be of sound mind. As Lee's team works to reassure fans that everything about the new release is all aboveboard, People has the first look at the book's cover. There's a train on the cover! How can you feel weird about a book that has a train on the cover?
At a recent event in the Oxford Union, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed what everyone other than George R.R. Martin knew to be the case: GOT is going to end before Martin's books do. The possibility has been out there from the beginning, but with Martin's next book not arriving until 2016 at the earliest and Benioff and Weiss holding firm to their seven-season plan, the showrunners acknowledged that the grand conclusion of the Song of Ice and Fire saga will hit screens before it ever makes its way onto the page. "I kind of wish there were some things we didn’t have to spoil in terms of the books," Benioff admitted, "but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, so the show must go on."
In 1994, Brent Staples, an editorial writer at the New York Times, wrote an account of Saul Bellow that was first published in The New York Times Magazine and then later as part of his memoir, Parallel Time. Raised in impoverished circumstances in Chester, Pennsylvania, Staples, who is black, described discovering Bellow upon his arrival in Hyde Park to attend the University of Chicago. Simultaneously in thrall to Bellow’s fiction and stung by Bellow’s fictional characterizations of black people, Staples “wants to lift [Bellow] bodily and pin him against a wall. Perhaps I’d corner him on the stairs and take up questions about ‘pork-chops’ and ‘crazy buffaloes’ and barbarous black pickpockets. I wanted to trophy his fear.” At the same time, “I wanted something from him … I wanted to steal the essence of him, to absorb it right into my bones.”