Skip to main content

Week’s Highlights: All Goliath, No David

PUBLISHED: October 21, 2009

On the Moby Lives blog, Dennis Johnson has a typically succint and cogent take on the Walmart vs Amazon book-price war. His post begins:

The idea driving discussion in the book business these days is a purely capitalist trope masquerading as a populist cause. It’s being taken up by young digital gurus and aged captains of mega-retail alike — people who are either drunk on new technology, or happy, in the midst of a recession, for an excuse to hide their agenda — and all agree in proclaiming publishers who resist are evil and authors who do likewise are patsies. It is the idea that a book should cost ten bucks, no matter what.

As Target and Sears get involved, Johnson follows up here and here.


Barnes & Noble unveiled its e-reader, called the Nook. It looks like an impressive device, and at $259, it should be quite competitive with the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader. B&N clearly has taken lessons from Apple in both design and advertising: a Nook ad demonstrates that the device features a single home button, like the iPhone, and its simple graphical interface and the straightforward, barely folksy delivery of spokeswoman “Kate” is reminiscent of early iPhone ads (complete with white background). Engadget commenters pointed out that there seems to be some lag in the video when Kate turns pages on the Nook (or simply “Nook,” as this device, like Kindle and iPhone, is not preceded by articles, at least when presented by its manufacturer) which could turn out to be a problem for some users.

There’s plenty to read on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog if you’re interested in learning more about the recently ended fair and what’s going on in the international lit scene. Bloggers include Richard Nash and Chad Post, who’s cross-posted some content on Three Percent (sample post titles: ”Argentina: Micropresses and Great Authors” and ”Estonian Literature, Book Buying and Capitalism”).

Gus Van Sant and Bret Easton Ellis “are to write a film about the lives and deaths of artists Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake,” says the Guardian.

On October 15, I saw a few copies of Philip Roth’s new novel The Humbling for sale at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles. The book is scheduled to be released on November 2. Perhaps a B&N employee cracked the box open early. In other Rothian matters, here’s a story about a bus tour of Roth’s Newark, as seen in his novels. Recently, the author joined a group of Weequahic High class of 1960 alumni (Roth is class of 1950) for a tour around the city.

At Publishers Weekly, Cory Doctorow (sci-fi fiction writer, Boing Boing, and other projects) argues for the utility of free e-books and variable distribution and pricing models.

Last week’s round-up mentioned a few Jonathan Lethem items, including his plan to read all of his new novel across eight nights in New York. Lethem has been making particularly good use of Facebook to keep in touch with his followers—get your fix.

The LA Times published a new Kurt Vonnegut story, “Look at the Birdie,” which will appear in a book of the same name on Oct. 20. And on Jacket Copy, the paper’s books blog, there’s a 1969 review of Slaughterhouse-Five by Harlan Ellison.

In the New York Times Magazine, Don Halpern writes about Padgett Powell, whose latest novel, The Interrogative Mood, is written entirely in questions. Halpern finds that “what Powell does that most writers don’t dare anymore is to risk that failure.”


Big SurBen Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt) have recorded an album based on Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, titled One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music From Kerouac’s Big Sur. On NPR, Bob Boilen has a story about the partnership, and the entire album is available for streaming (though sometimes these full-album listenings on are only available for a short time, I’ve found). The music, it should be added, is being used in a documentary about Kerouac’s visit to Big Sur.

The Center for the Art of Translation has a 49-minute interview with Natasha Wimmer, who, along with Chris Andrews, is one of Roberto Bolaño’s English translators. In this piece, she reads from a translation-in-progress, a Bolaño essay collection entitled Between Parentheses.


I recently saw Bright Star, Jane Campion’s film about a tubercular John Keats and his love affair with Fanny Brawne. I thought it was magnificent and sad, and I’m not the only one – plus it has the slightly smarmy fellow from Parks & Recreation playing Charles Armitage Brown. In honor of that movie, here’s an animation of John Keats reciting his poem “Ode to a Nightingale,” voiced by Sir Ralph Richardson.

Binary Data


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading