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On The Books: Gender count shows literature is still a man's world

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Since 2009 the good people at VIDA have been trucking away counting bylines and book titles to give us the hard data on gender equality in literary journals. The 2013 VIDA count just went up today and the general consensus is that there is still a disparity between men and women when it comes to literary coverage — both in whose doing the writing and in whose being written about. The highlights:

– Most improved this year goes to The Paris Review. “The Paris Review’s numbers, previously among the worst in our VIDA Count, have metamorphosed from deep, male-dominated lopsidedness into a picture more closely resembling gender parity. While such progress is remarkable in one year, we are likewise pleased to note that we haven’t heard anyone bemoan a drop in quality in The Paris Review’s pages.”
– Poetry Magazine is consistently the most equal.
— The least gender equal with at least 75% male representation: The Atlantic, London Review of Books, New Republic, The Nation, New York Review of Books (actually holding steady at 80% men for four years) and New Yorker.
— Journals that skew more than 50% female: Tin House, Callaloo, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, New American Writing, and Ninth Letter.

Amtrak is contemplating a “writers’ residency” program on their trains, which would allow writers to travel for free (or at least for cheap). They’ve already hooked up Jessica Gross, who contributes to the New York Times Magazine. Gross got to ride for free from New York to Chicago and back (straight through 44 hours, no hanging out in the Windy City.) After the trip, she wrote a piece for The Paris Review on her time. Sounds a little like…how do I say this? Hell. A 44 hour train ride with no destination? To me, the draw of writing on trains is open adventure, being in the Tuscan hills with nothing ahead of you except sunflowers and vineyards. Or being on the Orient Express scoping each new passenger for murderous intent in between exploring Egyptian ruins. Somehow being trapped on a commuter train between NYC and Chi-town sounds more like living Sartre’s No Exit. [The Wire]

Rick Yancy’s The 5th Wave has won the 2014 Red House Children’s Book Award (a unique award because it’s voted for entirely by children). Big surprise: the YA novel is set in a post-apocalypse dystopia. The plot follows Cassie who is left alone, after waves of extinctions, running for her life from death squads roaming the countryside. But she meets a boy named Edward — no, Peeta — no, it’s Evan this time who might be the key to her survival. [The Guardian]

J.K. Rowling has seven books planned for Cormoran Strike series

Using a similar approach as she took with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling has plans to write up to seven novels in her Cormoran Strike series, according to The Sunday Times. Rowling, writing under the name Robert Galbraith, has already had solid success with the detective genre. Her first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was published last April and has sold 600,000 hardback copies and 1 million ebooks. As we announced last week, the sequel The Silkworm is coming out in June 2014.

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On The Books: Let's hope you don't win a book prize

You better hope you haven’t been nominated for any book prizes this year. (No, not really. Let’s hope you have.) A new study coming out in the March issue of Administrative Science Quarterly finds that prize winners face a backlash from readers. According to The Guardian, Amanda Sharkey and Balázs Kovács looked at 38,817 reader reviews on GoodReads.com. They compared the reviews of books that had won an award to reviews of books that had not. Apparently the reviews of the award winners took a notable nose dive after their authors’ accolades were announced. Sharkey and Kovács hypothesized that “many readers who are drawn in by prize-winning books tend to have tastes that are simply not predisposed to liking the types of books that win prizes.” That sounds like a circumspect way of calling us superficial social climbers for reading a book because it won an award. Doesn’t everyone presume something award-winning must be particularly outstanding and therefore worthy of our time? That doesn’t mean every book that wins a Booker Prize or every movie that wins an Oscar or every restaurant that wins a James Beard Award is going to be your favorite thing ever, but still it’s worth a shot. Also, checking Goodreads.com for your case study seems pretty amateur. What do you guys think? [The Guardian]

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On The Books: Dr. Seuss' hats hit the road!

From there to here, from here to there, funny hats are everywhere! Dr. Seuss was a fiend for hats, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. But for the first time in history 26 of his hats will tour the world. These guys have rarely been outside of his house in La Jolla, and they’re pretty excited to visit six states in the next seven months. Can’t you just picture a Seuss book about his hats flying around the world? He used the hats as the basis for The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Reacquaint yourself with some of his art and design work here. You will not want to miss this exhibit. [NPR]

James Patterson, who’s sold a bajillion novels, is donating $1 million to 50 independent bookstores across the nation. A worthy cause supported by a man who is “one of the industry’s wealthiest writers.” [New York Times]

Wikipedia wants a book deal. Indiegogo wants to print the entire English Wikipedia in 1,000 books with 1,200 pages each. Trees around the world are shuddering. Even though they have proposed to use “sustainable paper,” this sounds like a total waste. Upshot: you could now reference Wikipedia as a legitimate bibliographic source. [The Guardian]

Neil Gaiman, the king of multimedia artistic endeavors, will be doing a live reading of The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains backed by a string quartet playing music to accompany the tale of a search for hidden treasure. Illustrations by Eddie Campbell will  be projected during the performance. Shows will be at New York’s Carnegie Hall on June 27 and San Francisco’s Warfield on June 25. Stop it, Neil. We love you enough already! [SF Chronicle]

On The Books: Harper Lee settles lawsuit against Alabama museum

Harper Lee settled her federal lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama. As we reported in October, the reclusive author sued her hometown museum for selling souvenirs of To Kill A Mockingbird without compensating her. She was also embroiled in a lawsuit against her former literary agent last year over the copyright to her book. Those charges were dismissed after the parties reached an out of court settlement. [AP] [ABC News] READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Murakami's new novel; plus, audiobooks with Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson

Haruki Murakami’s new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, will be published in the U.S. on August 12th. The book has been out in Japan since last April and sold more than a million copies in its first week. The Guardian writes that the story “hinges around Tsukuru Tazaki, an isolated 36-year-old man struggling to overcome the trauma of rejection by his high-school friends years earlier. Like its title, the novel’s opening line might not sound like obvious best-seller material: ‘From July of his sophomore year at college to January next year, Tsukuru Tazaki was living while mostly thinking about dying.'”

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J.K. Rowling's 'The Cuckoo's Calling' sequel announced

Now that we all know that Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym, there’s no way the sequel to last year’s surprise best-seller The Cuckoo’s Calling will spend any time in obscurity. The Silkworm will debut in the U.K. on June 19 and in the U.S. on June 24. Here’s the official plot description from Mulholland Books: READ FULL STORY

BREAKING -- New Stephen King novel 'Revival' announced!

The brilliant mind of Stephen King is still churning out nightmares and twisted fantasies. The author just announced on his official website that he will be releasing Revival on November 11, 2014. He posted this description:

A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that ‘revival’ has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

This will be King’s second novel for 2014. In June, he will be releasing a hard-boiled detective novel called  Mr. Mercedes, which will be a new frontier for the 66-year-old author. What are your thoughts on the new book?

On The Books: Jesse Eisenberg reviews restaurants like he's 9

Jesse Eisenberg, the fast-talking, nerdtastic actor from The Social Network who is Mark Zuckerberg as far as I’m concerned, will be publishing a collection of his short stories in 2015. Eisenberg has already written two plays, Asuncion and The Revisionist, the latter of which was performed on Broadway by Eisenberg and Vanessa Redgrave. This isn’t a James Franco situation where he’s trying to pass off his snapchats as performance art. Eisenberg is truly a talented writer. The story collection will included previously published pieces from The New Yorker and McSweeney’s, as well as new stuff. For a taste of his work, check out his column in McSweeney’s called “Bream Gives Me Hiccups: Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year-Old,” which is written from a little boy’s perspective as he’s dragged around Los Angeles by his mother who bills all their meals to her ex-husband. Hilarious and poignant. READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Tolkien almost cut love story from 'Lord of the Rings'

First it was Ron and Hermione, now Aragorn and Arwen?? A previously unpublished letter reveals the tricksy W.H. Auden tried to convince J.R.R. Tolkien to axe the romance between Aragorn and Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The illuminating letter is from 1955 and penned by Tolkien, who is complaining to his publisher about the struggle to complete The Return of the King. Tolkien laments that Auden views the star-crossed subplot between the mortal king and his immortal lover as “unnecessary and perfunctory.” Wow. Shoot me straight, Auden. How do you really feel? Apparently the poet was on Team Éowyn-Faramir. Considering the level of minutia that Tolkien weaves into the historical fabric of Middle Earth, you would think LOTR could support a number of love stories. If I know the second cousin, twice-removed of every dwarf in the Shire, I think I can follow two romantic subplots. I guess Auden was a purist though. One story of true love per series. It’s good to have standards. Thank God Tolkien didn’t take his advice. [The Guardian] READ FULL STORY

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