Wednesday News: books and their authors
“Promotion is expensive”: Elena Ferrante on anonymity – Last year I posted a news link to an interview with Elena Ferrante, in which she talked about her refusal to do promotional work for her own books. This 1991 letter, published in the London Review of Books expounds on that position, as an explanation and an apology of sorts to the Italian publisher of her very first book (Troubling Love, in English). Ferrante is very clear about the fact that if her position costs her the publication contract, she is okay with that, because she is not desperate to have the book published. With great respect to the publisher, she explains her perspective, and I can’t help but find it just a wee bit refreshing:
I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t. There are plenty of examples. I very much love those mysterious volumes, both ancient and modern, that have no definite author but have had and continue to have an intense life of their own. They seem to me a sort of nighttime miracle, like the gifts of the Befana, which I waited for as a child. I went to bed in great excitement and in the morning I woke up and the gifts were there, but no one had seen the Befana. True miracles are the ones whose makers will never be known; they are the very small miracles of the secret spirits of the home or the great miracles that leave us truly astonished. I still have this childish wish for marvels, large or small, I still believe in them. –London Review of Books
The $9,000 short story: Adam Johnson’s tale is no ordinary book – And on the flip side, we have the book as objet d’art, something so expensive that it cannot help but be an advertisement, in and of itself, for both the author and the artist whose work adorns the cover. At a mere $9,000, this special run of 37 copies of Fortune Smiles, which features only one new short story from Adam Johnson (“George Orwell Was A Friend of Mine”), is all about luxury, according to John Wood, 21st Edition’s co-publisher. Of course, if you just can’t wait until the new edition comes out in December, you can still buy the Random House hardcover for under $30 – and read the new story right now.
But this will be no ordinary publication. It’s the latest project from 21st Editions, a Cape Cod, Mass.-based maker of literary works of art. Founded in 1998, 21st Editions takes its inspiration from William Morris’s Arts and Crafts Movement and Alfred Stieglitz’s early 20th-century journal Camera Work. Its books — now about 50 different titles — require more than a year to design, print and construct. They sport goatskin covers, handmade paper, hand-stitched bindings, letterpress typography and, most striking of all, gorgeous photos. Previous works have included the writings of Edward Albee, Annie Dillard, Walt Whitman and Shakespeare to complement the photographs of such artists as Imogen Cunningham, Duane Michals and Sally Mann. –Washington Post
A Little Life Book has its own Twitter account – And speaking of books as objects independent of author and publisher, or perhaps so completely merged with those entities that they have a life of their own, more and more books seem to be getting their own Twitter accounts, like Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life Book. The account is managed by Condé Nast photo editor Leonor Mamanna, who worked with Yanagihara to produce a series of photographs based on the novel, and it’s certainly not the first nor the last account of its kind. But it’s certainly an interesting trend, almost a meta branding of the book above and beyond the author, and yet definitely not representative of the kind of authorial anonymity Ferrante is talking about. –Twitter
Man Booker Prize announces 2015 longlist – Speaking of Yanagihara’s A Little Life Book, it has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, along with 12 other novels, including Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account, which recently won the 2015 Arab American Book Award, along with Rabih Alameddine’s most excellent novel, An Unnecessary Woman. There has been legitimate controversy over whether the Man Booker, now that it has been opened up to “writers of any nationality,” will become more or less diverse. Still, there are always some excellent books on the list, and I encourage you to follow Rosario’s annual reading of some of the Man Booker nominated books, which she kicks off this year with Lalami’s book.
This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Michael Wood, and also comprising Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize.
This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. –Man Booker Prize
I loved that Elena Ferrante letter.