• The Scottish Executive announced last night that the United Nations will name Edinburgh the world’s first “city of literature.”
  • Bernice Rubens, a documentary filmmaker and writer whose Elected Member won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1970 (a year in which the other shortlisted writers included Iris Murdoch, William Trevor and Elizabeth Bowen), has died.
  • Ernest Hemingway’s Havana villa is crumbling, and politics may prevent its preservation.
  • Speaking of Hemingway, Tobias Wolff (This Boy’s Life) told an Oakland audience that the author was the center of Wolff’s “passion for both writing and reading as a child.” Wolff said he imitated Hemingway’s “hypnotic style'” early on. “Imitation is the way we learn,” he explained.
  • Jonathan Lethem also discusses his influences. Asked to name the forces shaping contemporary literature, he points to “Don DeLillo and . . . Barthelme, also Angela Carter,” and international writers like Murakami, Calvino, Borges and Garcia Marquez. He goes on: “I’d say that writers like Barthelme and Carter fought the war, and we’ve inherited the kingdom they conquered.”
  • Philip Roth believes discussion about books has “absolutely disappeared.” (Via TEV, which turns a year old this week.)
  • Hanne Blank dates chick lit (or, in the words of George Eliot, “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”) to at least 1856, and argues that:

    when critics (professional or otherwise) rip into Chick Lit, what they’re really scoffing at most of the time isn’t the worn cliches, the puerile plots, or the graceless prosody, it’s women. . . . most of the people who pooh-pooh it . . . are being distracted from getting at what’s really wrong with the genre. It isn’t the writing, the packaging, or even the genre — it’s the way these books deal, and fail to deal, with gender.

    (Via Jen Kirwin at the Cupcake blog.)

  • As if your child’s or niece’s adulation of his Lemony Snicket books weren’t enough, Canada’s Globe & Mail gives you some reasons to love Daniel Handler:

    during an interview Handler gleefully traffics in gossip about a lesbian anal-sex expert, makes jokes about performing a burlesque act, and starts in on ruinous American foreign policy. . . . At 34, he has the unbridled energy and mien of a big kid, and is given to frequent hiccups of laughter. Unusually for a writer, he adores performing, and knows how to work crowds like an old-fashioned preacher, alternatively teasing and then fulfilling their expectations.

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones will act as the international ambassador for a £60,000 literary prize to be launched in memory of poet Dylan Thomas for writers under 30.
  • Several members of the Board of Education in a Maryland county would require schools to teach creationism, limit reading lists to books that emphasize “America’s history as ‘a Christian nation,” revamp “sex education so it is informed by ‘theological perspectives of the Founders,” invite “Gideons International to provide Bibles to students,” and “cull school reading lists to ban books offering ‘a neutral or positive view of immorality or foul language.'” A book by Zora Neale Hurston is among those set to be axed.
  • Theo Tait characterizes Edwin Williamson’s new biograpy of Jorge Luis Borges as “thorough and mostly intelligent.” According to Tait, Williamson reveals that Borges created his masterpieces “while languishing in quiet despair over his failure to write the one great work that he felt would ‘justify’ his miserable existence.”
  • A new book describes meals that may have been consumed by Graham Greene in Vietnam, Ernest Hemingway in Havana, and more.
  • A Yalie bemoans middle-class writers’ failure to exalt the white picket fence.


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