Links: Brought to You by Dell and Folgers Coffee

Earlier this week the FTC released new guidelines on how bloggers must disclose their relationships with commercial entities. I haven’t spent much time thinking about this—unlike smart people who have—mainly because I suspect any battle between the gummint and bloggers will attack women and children first. Relatively speaking, me and my modest stack of advance reader’s copies aren’t worth anybody’s attention and trouble. I’ve always considered ARCs as a tool to do my job, not some great prize; I receive them, but, like editors at newspaper book reviews, I feel no particular obligation to review them, acknowledge their existence, or announce their provenance if I do get around to mentioning them.

George Saunders reports from a homeless tent city in Fresno, California.

Jane Smiley discusses her first novel for young adults, The Georges and the Jewels.

Sherman Alexie
: “If I had been talking about drowning polar bears [instead of the Kindle], people would have been weeping with me. But nobody recognizes that a bookstore or library can also be a drowning polar bear. And right now in this country, magazines, newspapers, and bookstores are drowning polar bears.

Paul Auster laments the death of independent bookstores in New York: “In my own city of New York, so many superb bookstores have gone out of business in the past years that the epidemic has reached tragic proportions. The Eighth Street Bookstore, the grand literary emporium of my youth, has been a shoe store for more than two decades now. The Gotham Book Mart (‘Wise Men Fish Here’), the home of the James Joyce Society, the home in exile for André Breton and other French Surrealists during World War II, closed its doors recently. Books and Company is gone. Endicott Books is gone. Coliseum Books is gone.”

A personal consideration of Raymond Carver along with some thoughts on Lishification, and a profile of his widow, Tess Gallagher.

A cache of Mark Twain‘s papers, including letters he wrote during the last months of his life, goes up for auction later this month.

Jonathan Lethem on his new novel, Chronic City: “I had to figure out, ok what should I be writing? I thought, the answer is always, I should write the thing that if I don’t write it, it wouldn’t exist… Maybe I could write a realistic social epic of the Upper East Side; it’s possible that I could do that. I feel that I’ve acquired a lot of those tools and inclinations, but to merge it with the dream-life material, I feel that’s my special task.”

Chicago gets a literary hall of fame.

Links: Sad State of Affairs

Happy Friday! Here’s a guide to depressing novels.

Jonathan Lethem recalls his longtime relationship with the works of Philip K. Dick (via i09).

NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank talks with Washington City Paper about its reissue of Don Carpenter‘s excellent debut novel, Hard Rain Falling.

The Road director John Hillcoat is looking to film The Wettest County in the World, Matt Bondurant‘s bracing 2008 novel about Virginia bootleggers.

Newark, New Jersey, makes its pitch to be a “major cultural capital” by landing a major poetry conference. Jayne Anne Phillips approves.

Meanwhile in Newark, Amiri Baraka turns 75.

Flavorwire has a Q&A with Joyce Carol Oates, who reveals that she’s working on a memoir titled The Seige: A Widow’s First Six Months.

Liked the book? Buy the handbag.

Elmore Leonard will receive PEN USA’s lifetime achievement award.

Why Vladimir Nabokov‘s unfinished novel The Original of Laura won’t be available as an e-book.

The case for Alice McDermott as an important Catholic novelist.

James Ellroy: “I distrust people who do not err on the side of action. And there’s a distinction between being conflicted and being ambivalent. Ambivalence connotes wishy-washiness, being conflicted connotes a clash of dramatic choices. And so I despise the idea of shades of grey or ambiguity standing as ultimate moral value or literary value.

Links: The Big Tent

The National Book Festival is this Saturday on the National Mall. Enough people have confused me for an expert to ask if I have tips regarding what to do there and how to do it, but my suggestions are all pretty obvious and simple. Bring an umbrella, regardless of what the forecast says; make a point to at least walk through the Pavilion of the States, in which every state has a table plugging its literature (it’s as close at the event will get to promoting small-press books); and get a seat early for the bigger names. (There are probably people already parked for James Patterson.) Lastly, don’t stand in line for those C-SPAN tote bags; C-SPAN brought plenty, and one must preserve one’s dignity. The lineups are largely big names and self-explanatory, but seek out David A. Taylor, who’ll be discussing his history of the WPA Writers’ Project, Soul of a People; I interviewed Taylor for the blog earlier this year.

Marianne Wiggins‘ list of the best works of American fiction.

John Krasinski discussed his film version of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men shortly before David Foster Wallace died.

The Wall Street Journal has an excerpt from Look at the Birdie, a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s unpublished short fiction.

The most powerful influence on David Updike‘s fiction wasn’t his dad—it was Ann Beattie.

The Guardian uses Granta‘s Chicago issue as an opportunity to wonder if the big-city novel is dead.

Mark Twain, animal rights activist.

It’s the 25th anniversary of the New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany, where Mary Gordon may or may not have tried to slug Norman Mailer in the middle of a panel discussion.

Catherine Corman‘s photography book Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler’s Imagined City, which has a preface by Jonathan Lethem, sounds fascinating, and it has a stellar Web site to match.

Links: The Secret History

Joyce Carol Oates recalls the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s “unconscionable, despicable, unmanly and inexplicable behaviour” at Chappaquiddick, and questions whether decades of good behavior as a senator atones for it. This is the “WORST THING I HAVE EVER READ” in the eyes of some, but hey, 26 comments.

The great Jack Pendarvis on how Woody Allen shaped his identity—until he discovered Roy Blount Jr.

Jonathan Lethem tells the Jewish Daily Forward that he’s working on a novel set in Queens during the 50s and 60s.

A brief guide to academic revenge novels.

News to me: Steve Albini writes short stories. He certainly knows how to write a strong opening to an article.

Kevin Canty explains why so many of his story titles are taken from songs. “Nothing mysterious about this,” he says. “I just stink at coming up with titles and somebody’s already done the work for you when they write the song. Why work when you can steal?

Colum McCann
is heading off on a European tour to promote his new novel, Let the Great World Spin, along with musician Joe Hurley, who’s written an EP of songs based on characters in the novel.

Nelson Algren‘s first meeting with Simone de Beauvoir.

Lastly, is your last name Portnoy? Do you have a complaint about something Dan Froomkin wrote? Hoo boy, does Froomkin have a comeback for you!

Jonathan Lethem’s Artistic Filter

Jonathan Lethem, who just a few weeks back was buried chin-deep in work with only enough time to argue that The Dark Knight is a pro-conservative fantasy, spoke last weekend at the Cleveland Museum of Art on the subject of “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” The subject of plagiarism, the theme of an ingenious essay and a lousy novel, is still very much on his mind, apparently. He tells the Cleveland Free Times about how he learned about art through imitative artists:

“The preeminent American artists when I was going to museums and galleries were Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg,” he says. “Then it was Peter Saul and all sorts of people who were grabbing onto stuff. It was second nature. I thought this is what engaging with culture consists of. I credit a lot of it to Warner Bros. cartoons and watching Daffy Duck do Edward G. Robinson before I even knew who Edward G. Robinson was. I had this voice in my head and was always encountering culture backwards, meeting half-digested chunks of interesting material inside of other artwork. That seemed exuberant to me.”

Roman Holiday

A month or so back marked the 20th anniversary of the International Forum on the Novel, a gathering in Lyon, France, that brings together a host of writers from around the world to discuss matters like (from this year’s docket) “A Historian Facing Literature” and “The Bildungsroman.” (There’s a PDF of the complete program at the forum’s Web site.) Among the panelists on the latter gathering was Jonathan Lethem, and he’s also one of the novelists who answered the forum’s call to choose the one word that defines their writing. Lethem’s answer: furniture. The Guardian has his explanation:

Furniture may be explicit or implicit, visible or invisible, may bear the duty of conveying social and economic detail or be merely cursorily functional, may be stolen or purchased, borrowed, destroyed, replaced, sprinkled with crumbs of food or splashed with drink, may remain immaculate, may be transformed into artworks by aspiring bohemians, may be inherited by characters from uncles who die before the action of the novel begins, may reward careful inspection of the cushions and seams for loose change that has fallen from pockets, may be collapsible, portable, may even be dragged into the house from the beach where it properly belongs, but in any event it must absolutely exist. Anything less is cruelty.

For Those About to Revise…

Jonathan Lethem is in a band, which may be a smarter thing than writing a crummy novel about being in a band. I’m Not Jim, his collaboration with the Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara, will put out its first album in September on the fine Chicago alt-country label Bloodshot Records. If the PR for the album is to be trusted, Lethem was a quick study for songwriting. Says Salas-Humara: “I loved Motherless Brooklyn, but after reading The Fortress Of Solitude, a book I consider a stone cold masterpiece, I knew had to work with Jonathan. We carved out a couple days and met at his house in Maine. I hoped we would get a few things down and I was totally unprepared, and completely blown away, by the speed in which Jonathan gets ideas on paper.” (Via Wired’s Listening Post)