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Book News: Italy Has A New Reality Show — For Writers

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • An Italian reality show called Masterpiece that premieres Sunday pits authors against one another to win a book deal. The contestants are given writing challenges and then timed as they type, with their words projected on screens for the audience to see as a clock counts down. The writers then read their work to the judges, who, like in a traditional reality show, kick some contestants off and choose others to move on to the next round. It's easy to find the idea laughable — The New York Times compared it to "the Monty Python sketch in which sports announcers call the play-by-play while Thomas Hardy writes The Return of the Native." But the show's creators have serious aims: to create a class of new literary stars and revive the country's struggling publishing industry. The winner's book will be published by the imprint Bompiani, with a massive initial print run of 100,000 copies.
  • For The New Yorker, Ben Tarnoff considers Mark Twain: "When Mark Twain opened his mouth, strange things came tumbling out. Things like hoaxes, jokes, yarns, obscenities, and non sequiturs. He had a drawl — his 'slow talk,' his mother called it — that made his sentences long and sinuous. One reporter described it as a 'little buzz-saw slowly grinding inside a corpse.' Others thought that he sounded drunk."
  • Flavorwire rounds up famous authors who posed for advertisements. Particularly delightful are John Steinbeck for Ballantine Ale and Mark Twain for fountain pens.
  • Comedian Rob Delaney's memoir is excerpted in The Atlantic: "Three guys died when I was at the halfway house: Chris, Arturo, and Luke. They all died right after I left in pretty quick succession. Each one hurt like a motherf----."
  • Tim Parks writes that he's become disenchanted with the novel: "More and more I wonder if it is possible for a novel not to give me the immediate impression of being manipulated toward goals that are predictable and unquestioned: the dilemma, the dramatic crisis, the pathos, the wise sadness, and more in general a suffering made bearable, or even noble through aesthetic form, fine prose, and the conviction that one has lived through something important."
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