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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