The surprise success of the season is a book of photographs of New Yorkers on the street, each with a quote from the subject in reply to questions asked by Brandon Stanton, a 29-year-old photographer from Georgia. The title is Humans of New York “which has become an instant publishing phenomenon,” The New York Times said.
The pictures with quotes were first posted on Facebook, where they were viewed by more than a million fans. Now, 145,000 copies of Humans are in print. But during a signing at Barnes & Noble in Union Square, the store ran out of books.
The exposure on the Internet and the book have made Stanton famous. The Times’ Julie Bosman wrote that student Jessica Ruvin stopped him on the street and asked him to pose for a photo with her. She said, “I’m such a big fan. He exhibits the best part of New York—people on the street.”
POET AS POET: Daniel Radcliffe plays the pre-beard Allen Ginsberg as a young poet in a new movie, Kill Your Darlings. The British actor took a tour of Ginsberg’s hangouts in Manhattan with Adam Green of The New Yorker.
The group started at the Strand bookstore, a shrine Radcliffe said friends had been urging him to visit for years. Radcliffe said he fell in love with poetry while being tutored on the set of the Harry Potter movies. Between the ages of 16 and 21, he wrote about 100 poems. He experimented with different forms: heroic couplets, terza rima, etc. A few were published under the pen name of Jacob Gershon.
Ginsberg was rebelling against tradition, but Radcliffe said, “Without rhyme and metre, there’s the danger of getting rather self-indulgent and pretentious and a little lazy. Robert Frost compared it to playing tennis without a net. It might be fun, but it can never quite be satisfying.”
SEVEN TRIES: Anita Shreve’s seventh novel is Stella Bain, published this month. Shreve said that the book was “about an American woman who suffers from shell shock as a result of atrocities witnessed during World War I.”
Asked by PW about the novel’s unpredictable plot, Shreve said, “I may have begun the novel with an outline, but that was blown to bits almost immediately when I realized I could not tell the story in linear time….I had to re-jigger the chronology. I wrote the novel seven times. My husband hopes very much that I never have to do that again,”
SPY GUY: Gérard de Villiers called his novels “fairy tales for adults.” He wrote sexy spy-thrillers that sold more than 100 million copies. He died in Paris on October 31. He was 83.
De Villiers's spy hero was Malko Linge, who first appeared in S.A.S. in Istanbul (1965). De Villiers would do research in a foreign location for 15 days and then write the book in 15 days. Plots drew on real-world intelligence secrets, and the novels were read by French presidents and foreign ministers.
Recently, De Villiers “cranked out five [books] a year with no help. The last, La Vengeance du Kremlin, published in October, was No. 200,” said the obit in The New York Times. His books earned him more than a $1 million a year.
HELP: When Robert B. Parker died of a heart attack in 2010, he was writing a Christmas-themed novel starring his bestselling detective Spenser.
His agent, Helen Brann, completed the manuscript. The title is Silent Night and it was published last month. She told PW that the fictional Spenser loved “silly humor, good food, drink, and had a deep, complicated love for a woman.”
Brann said that the hardest part was “attempting to write as much in the style that Bob Parker created as possible. When I was writing the first draft, I experienced a kind of mixture of grief, disbelief, and bizarre joy in the writing of a Spenser book.
“Beneath the surface, there’s that code of honor, which is never spoken of, but which informs Spenser’s deeds throughout the novels as he helps those who need help.”
NO INK: Joe R. Lansdale lives in Nacogdoches, Texas. Wikipedia said he has written 42 novels and 29 story collections. They are Westerns, horror, science fiction, mystery and suspense genres. He has won an Edgar, nine Bram Stokers and other awards. His most recent novel, The Thicket, was published in September.
An article about him in The Keystone magazine said that he “once convinced a fan that he ‘pens his books in blood, ‘cause ink is for wimps.’”
MISS G.: Judith Flanders is the author of The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime.
Flanders was asked by The Wall Street Journal to write about her favorite Victorian crime novels. She singled out The Female Detective (1864) by Andrew Forrester.
His fictional detective was Miss G., and “she was the model for many that followed," Flanders wrote. "As a woman, she disguises herself easily as a maid, or a dressmaker, or as a charity worker.”
Miss G. “can sound remarkably blasé about her job," said Flanders. At one point, Forrester has his heroine observe, ‘Strangling, beating, poisoning (in a minor degree)—these are modes of murder adopted in England.’”
Flanders wrote that Miss G. “was the unacknowledged prototype for many of the later, more famous, and male, fictional detectives.
IMITATION: Californian Elizabeth George, 64, produced her 18th novel about Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley of Scotland Yard. It joined her other books as an immediate bestseller. The title is Just One Evil Act.
The books are an American’s fantasy of the familiar British crime novel. But too often George’s victims are children. Isn’t it better in this kind of entertainment if the reader feels the victim deserves his fate?
George explained on the Internet how she tries to writes like a Brit: “I have spent a lot of time in England since my first trip there in 1966….I also watch British television both in the U.S. and when I’m in England and read a large number of British novels. All this helps me stay current.”
She has an English editor and copy editor. “If I go wrong, they set me right. But most of the language remains as I wrote it.”
THE TITLES: Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize and hit the U.S. bestseller lists. Gregory Cowles wrote in his New York Times Book Review column that the book shouldn’t be confused with The Interestings, The Corrections, The Unknowns, The Normals, The Infatuations, etc.
ABOUT TEENS: Random House took a survey of teens’ reading habits and shared the results on its blog.
Most teens like adventure and humor. Boys like sci-fi and graphic novels. Girls enjoy books about real-world situations.
Teens were asked if they had read a book just for fun in the last month, and 48% of the girls said that they had. Only 33% of the boys said they had.
No surprises there.
NEW VIEW: Aldous Huxley died 50 years ago this month, and The New York Times Book Review devoted its two Bookends essays to what he would make of popular culture and the media today.
Adam Kirsch ventured that on the sexual mores front, Huxley "transported to the year 2013, would smile grimly."
Jennifer Szalai suggested that Huxley had "picked the wrong horse to flog" in attacking middle-class tastes and mass media: “The mass media aren’t pulling everyone into one middlebrow orbit; the media landscape is splintering into a profusion of niches. Our cultural moment is marked by fragmentation and dissolution. My guess is, Huxley would have had as hard a time making sense of it as the rest of us.”
CENTENNIAL: A hundred years ago Marcel Proust began publishing the first of seven volumes of memoirs. That event is being well celebrated, and The New York Times did a roundup.
Public Radio’s Ira Glass began reading Swann’s Way from a stylish hotel bed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on November 8—“For a long time, I went to bed early”— kicking off a seven-day, seven-location "nomadic reading" of the work by more than a hundred readers. A second marathon reading will take place at Yale on November 17 and 18.
The 92nd Street Y will host a Proust panel November 17 at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y and the Center for Fiction in Manhattan will hold another November 19.
My copy of Swann’s Way is 325 sweat-stained pages. Just pulling it from my shelves evoked memories of a sweltering summer when, daily, I rode an elevated train (long gone) to a job in lower Manhattan, totally lost in Proust’s past.