Today in books and publishing: Jacob Silverman thinks there's an epidemic of niceness in book world; Nabokov rhapsodizes about boxing; a start-up that datamines books; teen Rookie editor gets a book deal.
What's wrong with Gary Shteyngart's blurbing addiction? In an article this wee for The New York Times, A.J. Jacobs called out novelist Gary Shteyngart on his compulsive blurbing problem. To back up the claim that he over-blurbs, Salon put up a slideshow of 44 Shteyngart blurbs. But is his blurbing problem really a problem? After all, book blurbs—those weird micro-endorsements that aren't quite advertisements, aren't really reviews, but are most definitely examples of buddies doing each other a solid—are innately silly. And that's why Shteyngart is so good at them. He realizes how absurd they are, and writes them appropriately. "DeWitt’s dirty realism makes me want to roll in the mud with him," he blurbs for Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers. "I laughed until they put me in a mental hospital," he says about Ed Park's Personal Days. And since blurbing is so silly, why not just blurb anyone who asks for one? "I blurb hard," Shteyngart freely admits to Jacobs, who used to be a serial blurber himself. "I've blurbed about a hundred novels in the past 10 years, nearly every one that landed on my desk." [Salon]
Why don't publishers fact-check their books? Could this whole Jonah Lehrer scandal have been avoided if Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just fact-checked Imagine before publishing it? Maybe, but it's just too much work for resource-strapped publishers, writes Michael Chorost. He reports that it takes Wired two weeks to check his 4,000-word feature articles. So, for a 100,000-word book, publishers "would need an army of fact-checkers, and the cost would be enormous." Makes you stop and wonder how many books being published every year fudge or outright fabricate facts. Chorost concludes, "The responsibility for the accuracy and integrity of a book lies with one, and only one, person: the author." [Psychology Today]
If you don't have anything nice to say, maybe the book world isn't for you? Usually, the Internet is where niceness goes to die. Too often, discussions on the Web devolve into hateful, demoralizing snark-offs. But over at Slate, Jacob Silverman argues that the online literary landscape may actually be too nice. He jumps into his argument by looking at all the online support for emerging novelist Emma Straub. "The situation of someone like Straub epitomizes the mutual admiration society that is today's literary culture, particularly online," he writes, arguing that social media has a lot to do with enforcing this politeness. "Not to share in the lit world's online slumber party can seem strange and mark a person as unlikable or (a worse offense in this age) unfollowable." [Slate]
Float like a butterfly... In addition to being one of the 20th Century's greatest novelists, Vladimir Nabokov was also a chess master and distinguished lepidopterist. Apparently, we can add boxing enthusiast to the list, thanks to this recently unearthed article, first published in a Berlin emigre journal in 1925 and now appearing in English for the first time. "There are few spectacles as healthy and beautiful as a boxing-match," he writes. [Times Literary Supplement]
William Morrow scoops Dan Mallory from Sphere. The current editorial director at Little, Brown UK/Hachette’s Sphere imprint has a new job. In October, Dan Mallory will assume the role of executive editor at HarperCollins’ William Morrow. Mallory is known for launching The Crime Vault website at Sphere, and he plans to expand William Morrow's digital presence in crime fiction. [Galley Cat]
Leveraging the "storyverse." What if you could extract the important features of a book's universe—its "storyverse" if you will—and use that information in the real world? That's what analytics start-up Small Demons is attempting to pull off by mining books for references to people, clothes, food, pop culture artifacts, and lots of other signifiers. "Instead of saying your friends like this, we’re able to say, here’s something this character wears or something he’s drinking," says Richard Nash, a Small Demons VP. Advertisers looking to target bookish consumers will certainly take note. [Fast Company]
Rookie hits the big leagues. Tavi Gevinson, wunderkind founder of Rookie, the popular website for teenage girls, has signed on with graphic novel publisher Drawn & Quarterly to release Rookie Yearbook One, a collection of content from the site's first year. [Publishers Weekly]
Can't find an e-book version of the title you want? David Pogue has a solution: download it illegally, then send the publisher a check for $9.99. [The New York Times]
Neil Gaiman's upcoming novel has a name. The book, set for a Summer 2013 release, is called The Ocean at the End of the Lane. [Entertainment Weekly]
New York Times Magazine culture editor sells novel. Shovel Ready, the first novel from Adam Sternbergh, has been picked up by Crown Publishing. It's about "a garbageman-turned-hitman in a dystopian New York." [The New York Times]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.