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Today in the book world: a short letter from J.D. Salinger will cost a large amount of money, the Society of the Authors begins a Twitter initiative to raise short story awareness, and the White House videographer gets a book deal.

  • A week after J.D. Salinger's literary executor sent a New York memorabilia shop owner a letter full of ominous, legal-sounding syntax ordering him to remove the text of a letter allegedly sent by the reclusive author to someone named Mr. Herbert about why he wouldn't sell the film and stage rights to The Catcher in the Rye, a new, briefer piece of Salinger correspondence has hit the Web and the online auction block. Las Vegas memorabilia retailer History For Sale is asking $50,000 supposedly written by Salinger. Dated March 12, 1989, it reads: "Dear Mary — Please make sure all the errands are done before you go on vacation, as I do not want to be bothered with insignificant things. Thank you, J. D. Salinger.” We don't want to dissuade anyone from bidding, but it's interesting that he signed it 'J.D. Salinger.' Probably so Mary wouldn't get confused as to which J.D. it was from. [Reuters via Arts Beat and History For Sale]
  • In July, the BBC announced it was cutting back Radio 4's weekly broadcast of short stories from three a week to  one starting in the Spring of 2012. (As recently as 2009, six short stories aired each week.) This didn't sit well with the public in the UK, where radio drama is still popular and viable. 5,000 people signed a petition protesting the cuts and the BBC caved and agreed to broadcast two shows a week as a compromise. That's not good enough for the Society of Authors, the trade union for published writers in the United Kingdom, which has lined up authors like Neil Gaiman, Ian Frazier and Sarah Waters to lead "tweetathons" over the next five Wednesdays to protest the cutbacks and, more generally, raise the profile of the short story just as a general format for writers to explore. (In this way, it's kind of like putting up a billboard that reads "NO BLANK VERSE.") Each Wednesday, one of the authors tweets an opening sentence to a story, and users have about 20 minutes to respond with suggestions for the next 140 character sentence. Judges choose the best submission, it gets tweeted out, and the process starts over. At the end of the two hours, you have a crowd-sourced very, very short story. It's fun and, unlike most attempts at collaboration on Twitter that lead to rate limit overloads and people talking about different things, it's fairly efficient, except for trolls, who don't care about preserving the short story as an art form. The five tweets that comprised the first week's story, starting with Ian Frazier's opening line. [The Guardian]

I woke up on the floor of a strange bedroom, clutching a single bullet in my right hand. I couldn't see any sign of a gun. #soataleWed Sep 14 10:00:05 via web

The whispered smell of death filled my lungs. Sweet, tired, familiar. But the body I stared at didn’t rest. It twitched. #soataleWed Sep 14 10:14:46 via TweetDeck

I watched, repulsed, as three cockroaches climb out of the open mouth of the pretty girl. The mobile in her trouser pocket rang. #soataleWed Sep 14 11:03:21 via TweetDeck

"You're next." The voice on the line was unmistakeable. Heart lurching, I headed for the door. It swung open before I reached it. #soataleWed Sep 14 12:22:42 via Twitter for Mac


He grabbed me and pushed me onto the stage. From the sea of clapping people came the instruction. "Sing." I took a deep breath. #soataleWed Sep 14 13:17:19 via web


  • White House videographer Arun Chaudhary has signed a book deal with Henry Holt. As The New York Times noted in 2010, Chaudhary gets to see a unique side of the president, documenting him on camera for posterity, while also being part of the White House's day-to-day outreach ground team. Anyone hoping that the book, scheduled to come out next summer, will contain dishy gossip on how the president really feels about Bo will be disappointed to hear that Chaudhary is quoted in the project's press release saying that his chief focus in the book will be "the interplay of art, media, and politics through the prism of the historic Obama campaign and presidency." Forget that: give the people fun Joe Biden stories. [GalleyCat]

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