Today in books and publishing: the flawed logic behind Jonathan Franzen's Twitter unease, another Next Harry Potter is crowned, and Michelle Obama's gardening book is now coming out May 29.
When Jonathan Franzen doubled-down on his distaste for e-books by calling Twitter "unspeakably irritating" and "the ultimate irresponsible medium" in a speech at Tulane earlier this month, it looked like an open door for one of those tiresome, largely one-sided online discussions about how Jonathan Franzen Just Doesn't Get It. And there's been some of that, but also very interesting and thoughtful essays about literature, Franzen's books specifically, and what it is that makes Twitter so engaging, especially for writers. At Salon, culture editor David Daley suggested Franzen was trying to start a conversation about "the way people should read, for the very meaning of honesty and expression and truth." In a New Yorker blog post, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones admires the fact that Franzen quickly christens Franzen "the Kanye West of fiction: popular, gifted, influential, and willing to make unpopular statements without the intervention of handlers." (The Gary Sheffield of Fiction also would have worked.) But Frere-Jones argues Franzen's logic for distrusting the medium is flawed, because he is "pitching Twitter users against serious readers/writers." That's not the dynamic. The experience is what you make of it, and plenty of authors enjoy sharing their insights and opinions in 140 character chunks. GIFs, fake Twitter accounts, and tumblrs of people looking at things are great, but these voices are "insufficiently similar" to novels and essays -- Franzen's domain -- to render long-form writing obsolete. "You might overdose on unicorn GIFs and go to bed too tired to read Freedom," Frere-Jones explains, "but unicorn GIFs will never replace Freedom." [The New Yorker]
Michelle Obama is a star on the talk show circuit, but when it comes to publishing a book on time, she's a regular Tom Wolfe. For the second time this year, Crown Publishing Group has delayed the release of American Grown, the First Lady's book about the White House organic garden and also "gardens across America." The book was originally scheduled to come out April 12, but Crown bumped it to May 1 back in January. At the time, Crown spokeswoman Tammy Blake tactfully explained that "the production process" was taking longer than anyone anticipated. Now comes word it won't be available until May 29. Said Blake of the latest change: "We just wanted to make it as beautiful as possible." Usually we would take that to mean, "We still need copy from our very busy celebrity author," but the book is 256 pages long and reportedly very photo-heavy, so the need for a last-minute prettifying is certainly plausible. [Obama Foodorama]