Links: Closing the Book

Emory Elliott, a University of California Riverside professor praised as one of the leading scholars of American Literature, died Tuesday of a heart attack. The news release from the university details his many accomplishments, including his work editing the Columbia Literary History of the United States. “He was one of a handful of the top people in American literature,” a colleague tells the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Another colleague, Cathy Davidson, tells more.

I’m not a big fan of April Fool’s jokes (mainly because I fall for them too easily), but the alleged blockbuster by “Pete Tarslaw,” The Tornado Ashes Club was nicely done. The cover in particular is brilliantly conceived, taking every available tool to announce that the book is an important epic: the panoramic landscape, the earth tones, the unassuming fonts. All that’s missing is the superfluous words “A Novel” stamped on the front. More details at GalleyCat.

Susan Orlean recently asked whether book blurbs actually drive sales. All I know of Greg Schwipps‘ writing is an OK flash-fiction thing he did for Esquire, but I’m interested in his debut novel, What This River Keeps, on the strength of Kent Haruf‘s good-as-Steinbeck blurb alone. (Also, it matters to me if you’re a profligate blurber or not: Haruf blurbs rarely, so I pay more attention. Blurbs from Dave Eggers, Kurt Andersen, and Scott Turow are now pretty much meaningless.)

Speaking of Steinbeck, the students in the opera program at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music Houston Grand Opera have impeccable timing, staging an opera of The Grapes of Wrath. (On a related note, commenters are doing a nice job schooling me in all the musical works based on literary fiction.)

Barack Obama is now a famously crummy gifter, and a good idea for what the president should have passed along to the Queen comes from, of all places, Breitbart: “Imagine how cool Obama would have looked had he handed the Queen a first edition by Paul Dunbar or W.E.B. Dubois. If he wanted to stay high-tech he could have loaded a Kindle with the works of Maya Angelou and James Baldwin.” But true to form, the usual intellectual disease vectors populate the comments.