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Touchstone cancels publication of @GSElevator book 'Straight to Hell'

Touchstone just sent out a press release saying they have cancelled publication of John LeFevre’s Straight to Hell. LeFevre was the banker behind the Twitter account for @GSElevator, which supposedly chronicled conversations overheard in the Goldman Sachs elevators. (Wolf of Wall Street-worthy quotes like: “I never give money to homeless people. I can’t reward failure in good conscience.”) On Feb 24, Dealbook outed the man behind the tweets as a Citigroup bond executive, not a Goldman Sachs employee, and a fury erupted online as people took sides — to care or not to care about his lack of genuine GS employment? LeFevre defended his twitter-scheme at Business Insider: “The issue of my anonymity was simply a device, and one that has suited the construct of the Twitter feed,” he wrote on Tuesday. “GSElevator has never been an anonymous person. It’s not a person at all. It’s the embodiment or aggregation of ‘every banker,’ a concentrated reflection of a Wall Street culture and mentality. Newsflash: GSElevator has never been about elevators. And, it’s never been specifically about Goldman Sachs; it’s about illuminating Wall Street culture in a fun and entertaining way.”

Apparently, Touchstone isn’t buying the explanation. The publisher released this statement: “In light of information that has recently come to our attention since acquiring John Lefevre’s Straight to Hell, Touchstone has decided to cancel its publication of this work.”

On The Books: George Saunders wins Story Prize for 'Tenth of December'

This has been a good awards week for Texans. First Matthew McConaughey snagged the Best Actor Oscar and now Amarillo-native George Saunders has won the $20,000 Story Prize for his short-story collection Tenth of December. “George Saunders offers a vision and version of our world that takes into account the serious menace all around us without denying the absurd pleasures that punctuate life,” the judges said in a statement. The collection has been widely praised since its release in January of last year. The New York Times declared Tenth of December “the best book you’ll read this year.” Saunders was even listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2013.  When he’s not writing, Saunders teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. You can read the title story on The New Yorker website here.

The year’s PEN/Faulker finalists for best fiction writing in 2013 are Daniel Alarcón for At Night We Walk in Circles; Percival Everett for Percival Everett by Virgil Russell; Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Joan Silber for Fools; and Valerie Trueblood for Search Party: Stories of Rescue. The West Coast must have really brought the heat to fiction writing this year: of the five nominees, three are from California and one is from Seattle. The winner of the $15,000 prize will be announced on April 2nd and the awards ceremony will be held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC on May 10th.

The double Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel told The Telegraph that the stage adaptations of her bestselling novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will get a run in London with the Royal Shakespearean Company. In the interview she also shared her thoughts on dumbing down your work for readers with a short attention span. “There’s no compromise in my books,” she says. “I always assume my readers are highly intelligent and will give a good quality of attention to books. I don’t talk down or patronise or condescend. If you get the reader to come with you, they will reward you. Speak in your own voice, write as well as you can. Don’t tailor your work to a perceived market. A reader quickly detects condescension.” [Telegraph]

Someone over at NPR put Hemingway’s first paragraph of The Sun Also Rises through the Hemingway App. The conclusion of the experiment was that even Hemingway can’t write as well as Hemingway. [NPR]

Animal Lovers Trigger Warning. Researchers over at the University of Pennsylvania discovered 16th century watercolor illustrations of rockets strapped to cats and doves. Come again? It’s as crazy as it sounds. The book is written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne and it’s “filled with strange and terrible imagery, from bombs packed with shrapnel to missile-like explosive devices studded with spikes.” His idea with the cats was that a soldier should “capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse, then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire.” Helm is like a real life version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Fetchez la vache.

John le Carre talks about the spy who inspired George Smiley and corruption in Intelligence agencies

John le Carré, the most prominent spy novelist of the 20th century, wrote a letter to The Telegraph yesterday about John Bingham, the spy who inspired his character George Smiley. Le Carré has written 23 books, but his most famous novels feature the MI6 agent George Smiley (portrayed by Gary Oldman in the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.)

Before he began writing full time, John le Carré worked as an intelligence officer himself for MI5 and MI6, where he became friends with John Bingham. The late Bingham was recently featured in a Telegraph article detailing his success at neutralizing British Nazi sympathizers during WWII. Bingham was a dedicated intelligence officer who was apparently burning with British nationalism. Someone wrote a response accusing Le Carré of “disrespecting” Bingham by writing him into books that portrayed the intelligence service as fallible and corrupt.

Le Carré — who is 82 years old and showing no sign of slowing down — penned his own reply to The Telegraph and said that friendship aside, he and Bingham were of two different minds on what it means to serve your country. “Where Bingham believed that uncritical love of the Secret Services was synonymous with love of country, I came to believe that such love should be examined,” he wrote. “And that, without such vigilance, our Secret Services could in certain circumstances become as much of a peril to our democracy as their supposed enemies. John Bingham may indeed have detested this notion. I equally detest the notion that our spies are uniformly immaculate, omniscient and beyond the vulgar criticism of those who not only pay for their existence, but on occasion are taken to war on the strength of concocted intelligence.”

Interesting thoughts when you consider our current situation with rampant and seemingly unrestricted NSA surveillance…

See the cover of 'Consumed' by David Cronenberg -- EXCLUSIVE

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Check out the cover of Consumed, the first novel by Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, due out in September 2014. This book promises to be quite a trip. Cronenberg has directed over 40 films with critically acclaimed hits like Eastern Promises, A History of Violence and Crash, all stories of intense emotion, twisted human impulse, ambiguous morals and well, violence. And from the synopsis of this novel — I’m guessing Cronenberg has penned something very similar for his first piece of fiction in book form. See for yourself: READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Anne Rice stands up to haters on Amazon

Anne Rice, defender of vampire erotica, Christian lit and gothic New Orleans, has come out against haters who trash authors on Amazon.com. I love Anne Rice. I love her steamy fantasy. I love that she jumps in and out of the Catholic Church like it’s a swimming pool. What a treasure. Her house tour in NOLA is on my bucket list. Rice is miffed by the “bullies, trolls, jerks or whatever you call them” that abuse authors in the comments section of Amazon. She has signed a petition to require identity verification from commenters. On her Facebook page, Rice says “Amazon is such a wonderful system and so many go there to offer heartfelt authentic customer reviews of the books they read; too bad that the anti-author bullies have misused and abused anonymity there for their endless preying on writers. They are a tiny minority, true, but to the authors they harass and torment and endlessly attack, they are no joking matter.” I don’t know that identity verification would be progress, but it’s a good idea to draw attention to the issue of cyber-bullying writers. [Guardian]

This month’s fiction podcast on The New Yorker’s website is a chilling tale by Mary Gaitskill called “The Other Place,” chosen and read by the author Jennifer Egan. Egan was struck by the story’s “intense menace mixed with other kinds of complicated humanity, specifically parenthood and redemption.” A father is watching his son develop the same magnetism to evil and fascination with hurting women that he has curdling inside him. The father is troubled by this and he reflects on his own experience trying to quell this darkness. Creepy, and very stirring. [The New Yorker]

Hanif Kureishi, the author of The Buddha of Suburbia and my new favorite truth-teller, spewed out a rant against creative writing students despite his actually being a creative writing professor at Kingston University in the UK. “A lot of them [students] don’t really understand,” said Kureishi. “It’s the story that really helps you. They worry about the writing and the prose and you think: ‘F— the prose, no one’s going to read your book for the writing, all they want to do is find out what happens in the story next.’ ” How do I audit this class? [Guardian]

On The Books: 'Literary Death Match' is a real thing and it's exactly what it sounds like - sort of

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A new competition is trying to drum up pop cultural fervor for contemporary authors and it has the splashy title of Literary Death Match. You really shouldn’t need anymore info than that to buy tickets. But I’ll give you details anyway. Their poster says: “4 authors, 3 judges, 2 finalists, 1 epic finale (and a bunch of really attractive lit-nerds).” I mean, done and done. Their website elaborates further, Literary Death Match “marries the literary and performative aspects of Def Poetry Jam, rapier-witted quips of American Idol’s judging (without any meanness), and the ridiculousness and hilarity of Double Dare.” So throw in Legends of the Hidden Temple obstacles and I promise to watch this and nothing else for the rest of the year. [NPR] READ FULL STORY

Check out the interactive cover of Karen Russell's e-novella 'Sleep Donation'. You can poke it! -- EXCLUSIVE

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Whether with her bizarre novel Swamplandia! or her recent short story collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Pulitzer finalist Karen Russell has never shied away from literary experimentation. Now she’s tackling another form: the e-novella. The debut title from Atavist Books, Sleep Donation (out Mar. 25) will explore a future America in which an insomnia epidemic is affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor, and the mysterious “Donor Y.”

For a novella with an inventive plot, legendary book jacket designer Chip Kidd came up with an ingenius cover design. “I’m in awe of Karen Russell as a writer, and the way she articulates her extraordinary ideas,” says Kidd. “It was a thrill to work for her, and to create a book cover that responds to the reader much in the way many of her sleep-afflicted characters in the story might. More precisely: what happens when you poke a virtual book jacket in the eye? This was so much fun to conceive and execute, and the illustrator Kevin Tong and the team at Atavist Books did a fantastic job of realizing my concept and making it actually work. I still love print, and hope to work in it for the rest of my life, but what it really comes down to regardless of the medium is a visual idea that is derived from the text.”

Give the virtual cover an e-poke here.

'Teen Wolf' and 'The Hills' producers sign three-book deal for 'High School Horror Story' series

Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley, the people who brought you everything from Teen Mom to Teen Wolf, know what young-adult audiences like on TV, so it makes sense that they’re jumping into YA publishing. As part of a three-book deal, DiSanto and Gateley will develop a new series called High School Horror Story with an eye toward eventually bringing it to screen.

The first book in the series, written by YA author Chandler Baker, will be called Teen Frankenstein and will hit shelves in Fall 2015. The High School Horror Story series will re-imagine classic literary monsters in a Paris, Texas high school. The first book will draw inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, told through the lens of a teenage girl who falls in love with the popular classmate she both accidentally kills and then brings back to life.

“Evidently this is an audience we’re passionate about serving. With the literary world driving more and more television ideas, we wanted to develop our own franchises that begin on pages of a novel before ever being imagined for television,” said Gateley in a press release. “It is taking what we did with Teen Wolf and backing up the truck, so to speak, allowing a book to be the point of inception rather than a screenplay. We have an endless amount of ideas for this audience and want to find the best young writers to bring them to life for us.”

Preview a paragraph from George R.R. Martin's 'The Winds of Winter' -- EXCLUSIVE

Since July of 2011, Game of Thrones fans have been waiting — not very patiently — for a release date for the sixth installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, we can’t bring you an update on that news quite yet — but we can give you an exclusive first look at the book.

Next month, Random House will launch a large update for George R.R. Martin’s A World of Ice and Fire app. In addition to including many new characters and location descriptions, the update will also include an exclusive chapter from The Winds of Winter, featuring one of the series’ most popular characters: Tyrion Lannister. (And yes, you’ll be able to download and access the excerpt in the free version — no payment required. If you’ve already purchased the app, you’re covered there, as well.)

The full chapter will be available in March, but check out the exclusive first paragraph below and tell us what you think:

READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Stieg Larsson basically was Mikael Blomkvist

Remember Mikael Blomkvist from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series? (He was played by Daniel Craig/Michael Nyqvist, depending on whether you watched the Swedish or American version.) Well, Stieg Larsson didn’t have to get very creative when he was writing that character because he was that character. In 1986 the Swedish Prime Minister was assassinated leaving the cinema with his wife. A few years later, a petty criminal was arrested and charged, but it was widely thought that the police bungled the investigation. Much like the Kennedy assassination, conspiracy theories swirled about what really happened. Larsson himself sent the police fifteen boxes of papers he said proved that the shooting could be traced to a “former military officer said to have had links with the South African security services.” What? Fifteen boxes?? That’s right out of a page of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I love it. He was probably one of those guys whose office was spackled with photos stuck to the walls and lampshades with pushpins and yarn. [The Guardian]

After stepping down from his post last month, Ben Bernanke announced that he will pen a memoir about his time as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. I will only read this if Marjane Satrapi agrees to make it a graphic novel. [Washington Post]

In preparation for Wes Anderson’s newest fancy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, check out this article on Stefan Zweig, the Austrian author whose work inspired the movie. Zweig was a prolific and important literary voice during the 1920′s and 30′s, but as a Jewish Austrian he was driven out of Europe as the Nazi’s rose to power. Ultimately, his tortured life ended in a double suicide. He and his wife swallowed a bottle of barbiturates in a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro in 1942. Despite, Zweig’s sad end, his stories of “disastrous passion” live on. I got a sneak preview of Grand Budapest last week and it was amazing. You definitely don’t want to miss it. [The Guardian]

In case you missed this, a new low-sugar book has been generating some buzz in the public health community. Dr. Richard Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF, has a new cookbook out called The Fat Chance Cookbook with low sugar recipes that can be made in under 30 minutes. The New York Times did a Q&A to get some basics about his dietary philosophy.

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