Politics: Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun pens a Le Monde op-ed (“These friends that push Israel toward the abyss”) about the war in the Middle East.
Authors: Alice Munro’s latest biographer had the author’s cooperation. In his Memoirs, Anthony Powell recalls meeting F. Scott Fitzgerald at MGM. Tom Robbins likens Siddhartha to Kerouac’s On the Road in a new introduction to the Hesse book.
Publishing: Private equity firms want to sink their vampire teeth into publishers. The cynical art of chick-lit. Mark Helprin, who had two stories accepted by The New Yorker at 21, used to walk into editor William Shawn’s office on his hands. (Via.) Ways of pimping your book to Oprah. The inflated cost of using classic works under copyright. (Via.) Vanity press ordered to pay up in U.S. libel action. Nearly any statement “is potentially libelous” in Britain, says the Grumpy Old Bookman. The Kenyon Review offers notes from the slush pile. When book dedications pall.
Culture: The Jersey shore merits an entry in Salon’s “literary guide to the world“; South America, so far, not so much. A newly-found document unmasks Christopher Columbus as a tyrant. August Kleinzahler says Texas right-wing talk-radio shock jocks have stopped beating the war drums. (Favorite sentence, although I do love Austin: “I’ve been working in Austin for a few months but I live in San Francisco, another lifestyle-oriented town which couldn’t possibly be more pleased with itself.)” Tokyo: barren as a place of literary exile. Nina Lugovskaya’s schoolgirl diary, once confiscated and marked up by the KGB, sounds like a fascinating personal account of life in Stalin’s Russia. Unintentionally funny government document titles include “Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation: are we doing enough?”
Lexicography: “Psychedelic” was coined in Saskatchewan by the guy who “arranged Aldus Huxley’s first trip.” “Ecosophy” and the individual’s response to global warming (i.e., to buy the blueberries or not buy the blueberries). Grant Barrett, editor of the The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English, talks shop. Merriam-Webster celebrates 200 years of dictionary-making in America.
Libraries: Remember how I said the NYPL isn’t the book heaven it’s cracked up to be? Well, it’s grown even less paradisiacal. According to the Daily News, “Fewer than half of the city’s libraries are open six days a week, and then only with staggered hours that keep doors open for as little as five hours on some days.” Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities was once removed from the Fairfax County Public Library “because of low demand.”