Monday February 21st, 2011

In the Ether

95657307AL001_CORNELL_V_WISOK, this is getting serious. The Tournament of Books (for which I’m lucky enough to be a judge this year) tips off on March 7, and a poster of the brackets with first-round match-ups is now available. Begin your office pools now. . . . Salon recently named the winners of its first Good Sex Awards. As Laura Miller once wrote, “It doesn’t take much nerve to stand up in front of a boozy crowd and read sex passages from other people’s books in a mocking tone of voice while everybody sneers and groans. Doing the opposite, however, amounts to admitting that you’ve found something arousing, and thereby risking the British equivalent of the ninth circle of hell: embarrassment.” True enough. The four judges (Miller, Maud Newton, Walter Kirn, and Louis Bayard) discuss the process here, and you can find the first-place excerpt here. . . . At the Guardian, William Skidelsky profiles historian Niall Ferguson, who seems intent on ruffling the feathers of those who would read the Guardian: “Something that’s seldom appreciated about me is that I am in sympathy with a great deal of what Marx wrote, except that I’m on the side of the bourgeoisie.” . . . A month’s worth of literary facts from the Reading Ape. An example: “Leather ball beats leatherbound: the total revenue for the NFL was $8 billion in 2009. The total book market in 2009 was $5.1 billion.” . . . Carlene Bauer talks to Joyce Carol Oates about Oates’ new memoir, about the death of her husband, and situates Oates among this country’s female writers: “In the book’s unashamed display of feelings, sometimes so strong that they may not make sense to anyone else, in her insistence on the exclamation point, she reminds us that very few American women fiction writers have been acclaimed for making outsize emotions their terrain.” . . . D.G. Myers considers Nicole Krauss’ Great House and its vision of the Jew as “the symbol of man’s unhappiness, his estrangement from a world that (only recently) he has discovered is monstrous and bitter.” . . . A new site asks acclaimed designers to list the books they find “personally important, meaningful, and formative — books that have shaped their values, their worldview, and their ideas about design.” . . . Alexander Nazaryan says the bankruptcy of Borders is just a larger publishing bill coming due: “If there is hope for publishing, it is with modest presses and modest books, putting out titles for small but loyal audiences. But that’s not something that’s going to warm the heart of Penguin’s CEO.”