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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Shteyngart’

James Franco on Reading ‘Howl’ Out Loud

During an appearance at the 92Y, actor James Franco talked about making the Allen Ginsberg biopic, Howl. The actor confessed he read the poem “Howl” out loud, over and over: “I read it to myself in it’s entirety, I don’t know how many times … fortunately, it comes in a very small volume so I could walk around New York and just read that out loud, and I did that.”

Franco revealed that Howl actually began as a documentary project because Ginsberg’s estate asked the filmmakers, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, to make it in celebration of the poem’s 50th anniversary. Franco feels that Howl still retains “the soul of the documentary.”

Franco has made quite a splash in the literary world over the past year. In July 2010, Franco made a cameo in Gary Shteyngart‘s book trailer for Super Sad True Love Story. In August 2010, Franco published his short story collection, Palo Alto.

Gary Shteyngart on Book Trailers & His ‘Death-of-Literature Thesis’

In his new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart (pictured, via) imagined a world where the publishing industry had collapsed.

We caught up Shteyngart one night before his appearance at the 92Y Tribeca for the event, 20 Under 40: Stories from The New Yorker, to find out how to avoid that future. Shteyngart is also the author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan.

Q: Super Sad True Love Story takes place in a world where the publishing industry has folded. What we can do to stop that?

A: Well we can keep buying books. But we also have to read those books. And then we have to talk about those books with fellow human beings. It would be nice for books to have the ‘water cooler effect’ of shows like Mad Men and The Wire. The printed page still has stuff going for it.

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Ron Charles Reviews 5 Fiction Books in 5 Minutes

In his video series, “Totally Hip Book Review,” Washington Post fiction editor Ron Charles reviewed the five fiction finalists in the National Book Awards’ fiction category in less than five minutes. Warning: spoilers follow!

Charles devoted 44 seconds to Jaimy Gordon‘s Lord of Misrule,  a book set for November 15th release. He exclaimed: “Secret unpublished books? Those bookworm conspiracy theorists will be spinning in their cocoons!” Charles featured books with the same title, like  Rachel Caine‘s fifth Morganville Vampire novel, Kannan Feng‘s fantasy novel, and actor Christopher Lee‘s biography.

The other finalists received about 30 seconds apiece. Charles picked Lionel Shriver‘s So Much for That as the winner. Charles also noted that popular titles such as Gary Shteyngart‘s Super Sad Love Story and Jennifer Egan‘s A Visit from the Goon Squad were snubbed.

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Why the Internet Won’t Ruin Literary Culture

wikipediahours.jpgIn a NY Times interview over the weekend, novelist Gary Shteyngart quipped, “I don’t know how to read anymore. I can only read 20 or 30 words at a time before taking out my iPhone and caressing it and snuggling with it.”

His new novel takes place in an unhappy future where the Internet and digital books have destroyed literary culture. At the same time, one Publishers Weekly editor is worried about burnout in a digital world.

To combat all this doom and gloom, we uncovered a remarkable graphic created by author David McCandless to illustrate how much time we waste on television compared to how much time it took for dedicated Internet writers to build Wikipedia–visualizing an awesome statistic from Clay Shirky‘s new book.

The image above is the tip of the iceberg. Follow this link to see the whole, inspiring graphic. Stare at the image for a few minutes. If more authors worked together online instead of spending time watching television, we could write some amazing things.

James Franco Cameo in Gary Shteyngart Book Trailer

Author and actor James Franco makes a cameo in the book trailer for Gary Shteyngart‘s upcoming novel, Super Sad True Love Story.

The trailer also includes cameos from authors Edmund White and Mary Gaitskill–taking a peek at his work with MFA students as well. What do you think? Will cameos be the next big trend in book trailers?

Here’s more from the site: “The author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart has risen to the top of the fiction world. Now, in his hilarious and heartfelt new novel, he envisions a deliciously dark tale of America’s dysfunctional coming years—and the timeless and tender feelings that just might bring us back from the brink.”

Earlier this year, we wrote about Shteyngart’s eBook dystopia. (Via Vulture)

Gary Shteyngart Creates eBook Dystopia

absurd.pngLast week’s issue of the New Yorker was loaded with dystopian fiction.

In his New Yorker story this week, “Lenny Hearts Eunice,” comic novelist Gary Shteyngart (author of most recently, Absurdistan) imagined a world where digital books have replaced print books and teenagers hate the smell of moldy text. A few pages later, Laura Miller wrote a great essay about dystopian YA fiction.

Here’s an excerpt from one character’s blog, in Shteyngart’s story: “What kind of freaked me out was that I saw Len read a book. (No, it didn’t smell. He uses Pine-Sol on them.) He came home from work looking really down, and I guess he didn’t even notice that I caught him reading. And I don’t mean scanning a text like we did in EuroTrash Classics with that ‘Chatterhouse of Parma,’ I mean seriously reading. … I sneaked a peek and it was that Russian guy Tolesoy he was reading (I guess it figures, cause Lenny’s parents are from Russia). I thought Ben was really brain-smart because I saw him streaming ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ in that cafe in Rome, but this Tolesoy was a thousand-page-long book, not a stream, and Lenny was on page 930, almost finished.”

Do you believe this kind of illiterate society is part of our digital future?

Who Spiked the Water at 1745 Broadway?

It’s been a very strange week for the world’s largest publishing company. First we had Wednesday’s surprise announcement that Crown svp and publisher Steve Ross would be moving to Collins, with Tina Constable stepping in to take his place. Now comes last night’s announcement that Daniel Menaker was jumping ship from Random House‘s eponymous imprint, though it remains to be seen if the party line that the decision was “absolutely mutual” will hold up under scrutiny.

Maybe it’s because the current edition of Publishing Revolving Door takes me on a time warp all the way back to 2003 – ancient history for some, but important history nonetheless. Menaker, after 26 years at the New Yorker, first joined Random House in 1995 and continued uninterrupted there save for a sixteen-month stint at HarperCollins, which ended in 2003. The company he returned to was not the company he left behind. They had moved to sleek new offices in an office condominium between 55th and 56th streets; Ann Godoff was gone in one of the most publicized oustings in recent memory; Little Random had been absorbed in the same umbrella containing Ballantine and its holdings; and at the center of the new-look imprint was, and still is, president and publisher Gina Centrello. Taken together, these were clear signs of the company’s increasingly commercial shift that would play out in a major way over the next four-plus years. And yet Menaker was hired to give Little Random a distinct literary bent, which he did in the form of novelists Benjamin Kunkel, Arthur Phillips, Gary Shteyngart and Jon Clinch as well as former poet laureate Billy Collins, even if said acquisitions didn’t necessarily pay off in terms of sales.

No matter how much Menaker, Centrello and the Random House brass want to downplay the bottom line, it’s difficult to play by their rules in light of the company’s most recent shakeups – not to mention their gutting of the sales force, Bertelsmann‘s attempts to patch up the mothership after getting scared straight by former minority shareholder GBL’s threats to take their holdings public (Bookspan, anyone?) and a downturn in profits. All of which has to make one wonder about the overall health of Random House – and if more “unexpected” news is just lurking around the corner.

Scene @ Granta Young Novelists Party

grantaparty.jpgTypically, relying on a cameraphone to convey the joie de vivre at Cafe Loup last night after nine of Granta‘s Best Young American Novelists read and spoke about their work at the New School‘s Tishman Auditorium leads to blurry, non-specific photographs like the one to the left. But even if the persons captured are hard to identify (Nell Freudenberger‘s in the center, that’s about all who is recognizable) those who attended both reading and afterparty generally had themselves a good time. I got to the reading on the late side, missing out on readings by Gary Shteyngart (whose oratory skills convinced at least one reader to pick up a copy of ABSURDISTAN), Olga Grushin, Akhil Sharma and Daniel Alarcon – handpicked by Ian Jack and Matt Weiland to read on the alleged grounds that they wrote non-American settings, or were born outside of America, depending on whom was asked (when I asked Jack and Weiland about it, each deferred to the other, which was actually pretty funny.)

The other five – Freudenberger, Jess Row, John Wray, Uzodinma Iweala and Gabe Hudson – didn’t read but took questions from the audience. One that elicited the most amusing answers was the old standby “why do you write?” Because, evidently, that’s all they can do or, as Shteyngart and Wray explained, they had been fired from any other job each tried.

An early beeline to Cafe Loup along with Lizzie Skurnick, Kathy Daneman and Rachel Grady (co-director of JESUS CAMP) meant exchanging greetings with Kate Lee, Elizabeth Spiers and Sloane Crosley, who were having dinner with Whit Stillman. (I also thought I spotted Ian Spiegelman at the far end of the table.)

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Meet your Granta Best of Young American Novelists

Granta announced its second-ever list of Best of Young American Novelists, comprised of 21 American-based authors aged 35 and under. And what’s immediately apparent, just as with the first list published back in 1996, is how many of them, um, haven’t published novels yet. Which isn’t to say it isn’t a fine list of American writers, but considering Granta publisher Sigrid Rausing went out of her way to namecheck notable writers who didn’t make the cut, like Benjamin Kunkel, Benjamin Markovits and Joshua Ferris, would it have been so difficult to actually restrict the list to those who truly fit the criteria of the title? Or if not, then call a spade a spade; this is the Best of Young American Writers, although that probably isn’t as pretty an acronym.

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In the back row, from the left, judges Edmund White, Meghan O’Rourke (with Paul Yamazaki‘s ear just visible behind her), Matt Weiland of Granta, A.M. Homes, and Sigrid Rausing. In the front, from left, young American novelists John Wray, Akhil Sharma, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Uzodinma Iweala, Olga Grushin, Karen Russell, Gary Shteyngart, and Gabe Hudson.

Anyway, there was much merriment to be had at the Housing Works announcement party last night. Apart from those writers who appeared for their ceremonial investiture, other boldface names in the crowd included Random House editor-in-chief Daniel Menaker (sporting an unexplained bandage on his nose), Eric Chinski, David Roth-Ey (vying for “tallest man” status with Paul Slovak), Lorraine Adams, Alison Callaghan, Rachel Fershleiser (ably working the joint in her capacity as Housing Works volunteer), John Freeman (when not busily filing wire reports on the LA Times Book Festival Award nominations or Granta’s list), and Wendy Weil…along with a few others Ron photographed.

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