Today in books and publishing: Portnoy's Complaint author to be profiled; lit-trolls run amok; Kobo launches new e-readers; a debate on bookselling economics.
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Philip Roth bio coming. Blake Bailey has already written John Cheever and Richard Yates' biographies. Now he's turning to Philip Roth. Bailey and Roth have been holding lengthy interview sessions, and the author signed an agreement to allow Bailey unfettered access to his letters and archives. Don't expect to read the bio anytime soon, though. Bailey expects the project to take him up to 10 years to finish (after all, just getting through Roth's 26 novels and change is a huge time commitment). Bailey is now the second writer to attempt a Roth biography; Ross Miller gave up in 2009 after five years of trying. Roth reportedly grilled Bailey, a midwestern non-Jew, on his credentials for profiling an author so strongly linked with New Jersey and Jewish-American identity. "I pointed out that I’m not an aging bisexual alcoholic with an ancient Puritan lineage and I still managed to write a biography of John Cheever," Bailey said. [The New York Times]
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Kobo launches new e-readers. Toronto-based e-reading company Kobo is ramping up their competition against e-reader giants Amazon and Apple. They've announced a new tablet device called the Kobo Arc and a pocket-sized e-reader called the $80 Kobo Mini, a 2 GB device that comes with an "e-ink" touchscreen. The $130 Kobo Glo will be a larger e-reader that comes with 2 GB of memory and an adjustable front light. "The devices will start hitting shelves in early October. Mini and Glo - the two devices that are e-ink readers will come out first," says chief executive Mike Serbinis. "The Kobo Arc, our new Android-based tablet, will come out in November." The new gadgets will be rolled out close to the date Amazon is expected to unveil a new Kindle. [Reuters]
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Bookworm interviews Neal Stephenson. The Hugo Award-winning author behind such novels as Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon talks with KCRW's Michael Silverblatt, who considers Stephenson a sort of science fiction Dickens. [KCRW]
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Bookstore spat. A rural Virginia bookstore called Tales of the Lonesome Pine had a seemingly cute idea recently: owner Wendy Welch and her husband sent out a call for someone to look after their store during the fall while they leave to promote her memoir The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. The catch was that, even with free room and board plus some cats to keep them company, the bookstore-sitter would not be paid. Still, everyone went aww. Everyone except for Scott Brown, the owner Eureka Books in California. He's pretty harsh toward the mom-and-pop Welches over not paying their temporary employee, but his thoughts on the economics of bookselling are interesting:
I reject the notion that going into bookselling should be like taking a vow of poverty. The editor who bought the book gets a paycheck, health benefits, paid vacation, and a retirement contribution, as does the publicist, marketing manager, etc. They aren't working for love. Nor is the company that will print the book, nor are the employees who work the presses. Nor is the company that manufactured the paper. They all expect to get paid. And rightly so. So why is it that Ms. Welch believes that the bookseller at the end of the chain between author and reader should work for love and the occasional pizza and not worry about making money?
He has a point. No matter how dreamy a job might be, people still deserve fair pay for hard work. [The Los Angeles Times]
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Do look, it's not finished. In her "Naked Writer" project, British author Silvia Hartmann will give readers a voyeuristic window into her writing process. She'll compose her next novel in a Google Doc accessible to anyone who wants to watch it unfold and comment on the rough draft in real-time. Having fans breathe down your neck sounds stressful, but it could prove to be an interesting collaboration. [Galleycat]
We're reaching peak lit-troll. If you were planning piss off book-lovers today, don't bother. Bret Easton Ellis and Dan Wilbur have already trolled harder than you could ever troll. Since nobody asked, Ellis tweeted out his opinion on David Foster Wallace: "DFW is the best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn't able to achieve. A fraud." Thanks for that nugget of wisdom, Bret. Bummer about the Fifty Shades folks passing you up. Over at Huffington Post Books, Dan Wilbur writes, "Reading isn't fun. Not even in books." This is probably meant to be ironic or edgy or something. But really, it's just groan-worthy type of click-baiting. To cap it all off, he whips together a slideshow of "Books You Shouldn't Read," including Ulysses, Don Quixote and The Odyssey. Promoting illiteracy! It's hilarious!
Job rotations at Random House. Chip Gibson has left his position as the president and publisher of the Random House Children's Books division. Barbara Marcus, who has worked with Scholastic and Penguin, takes his place. "I would like to create some new classics and to reinvigorate the backlist," she says. Gibson held the position for the past 10 years, the final stretch in a 30-year career at Random House. He is reportedly leaving on good terms. [Publishers Weekly]