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Week’s Highlights: Israel, Really

PUBLISHED: September 9, 2009

Israel is RealPapercuts posted some letters, many of them angry, about Tony Horwitz’s laudatory review of Rich Cohen’s Israel Is Real. The post also includes a link to a correction that the paper published. I previously linked to Adam Kirsch’s takedown of the book, in which he pointed out many factual errors, and I still don’t understand why FSG didn’t fact-check this thing.

On September 20, Bored to Death premieres on HBO. The series is written by Jonathan Ames, based on one of his short stories. Lizzie Widdicombe visited the set for the September 7 New Yorker. In other HBO author news, Richard Russo has signed on to write a drama about the Catskills Gas Rush.

At Jacket Copy, Carolyn Kellogg writes about a conference devoted to the work of David Mitchell, who I think is one of the best writers 40-or-younger at work today. The conference took place at the University of St. Andrews September 3 and 4. I’m unable to find any coverage of the event, but this pre-conference press release promised that Mitchell would read from his new novel, possibly titled Psalms of Dejima, due out in the UK in May 2010. An anthology of essays about Mitchell’s work is expected from British publisher Glyphi in September 2010. (Dejima was a Dutch trading outpost near Japan; Mitchell has, in the past, said that this novel would explore the role of the Dutch during Japan’s sakoku period.)

The new issue of Bookforum contains VQR contributing online editor Matt Shaer’s review of The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez.

Condé Nast caved to corporate concerns and killed an investigatory piece by Scott Anderson that would have appeared in the Russian GQ. The article, titled “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power,” uses an interview with a former KGB official to examine Putin’s possible role in the 1999 apartment bombings, which helped to launch Putin’s political career. (There have long been concerns that the FSB or other government entities were involved in the bombings; Aleksandr Litvinenko and Artyom Borovik both investigated this possibility, and both are now dead.) Gawker is, understandably, incensed, and solicited readers to help them translate the article into Russian so that the people most affected by the story could read it. Given the numerous journalists threatened, beaten, and killed in Russia in recent years, and Condé Nast’s own New Yorker coverage of the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial, the decision to can this story is particularly shameful.

Cushing Academy, a prep school west of Boston, is doing away with physical books in favor of e-books. The headmaster explains, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.” Apparently, the school’s large stacks are rarely traveled by students, but that seems to reflect more on the school’s administration and curriculum rather than a deficiency in books as a medium. Also, these are high schoolers: if you don’t tell them to do something—e.g. “Go do research in the stacks”—they won’t do it.

For several years, Egypt has been quietly restoring historic Jewish sites, though they now are being more vocal about the process. Some speculate that the government has become more forthcoming about its reconstruction work because noted anti-Semite and aspiring book-burner Farouk Hosni, who is also Egypt’s culture minister, wants to be the new UNESCO secretary general, scheduled to be named on September 24. It seems rather obvious that someone who has advocated book-burning—no matter how repentant or a product of his country’s milieu—should not be in charge of a major cultural organization. But Hosni might very well win the job. (And let’s not get into his government’s terrible record with journalists, bloggers, amateur poets, and censorship…)

Electric Literature continues its Web 2.0 assault. They’re on Twitter, they’ve got a YouTube channel (with a new animation), and they’re recruiting for something that their newsletter calls “the shadow army.” The next issue drops in October.

On Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt spoke with Reif Larsen about his novel The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.

On the Leonard Lopate Show, Stefan Fatsis talked about his Plimpton-inspired A Few Seconds of Panic, in which he tried to become a kicker for the Denver Broncos.

Courtesy of Chad Post at Three Percent: Jofie Ferrari-Adler interviews longtime agent Georges Borchardt.


Below is the trailer for John Krasinski’s adaptation of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. It’s the first David Foster Wallace work brought to film.

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