Late Night Library

Dog-Eared & Dispatched: October 5, 2014

Dog-Eared and Dispatched: October 5, 2014

Although we have our usual rundown of prize news this week (it is that season after all), we’ve also got an update on how the Authors Guild feels about Amazon (not positive) and Authors United (still up in the air). We take a quick look at a popular book tour, and round things off with footnotes, which include a very creepy short film based on an M.R. James short story, which is guaranteed more effective than coffee at keeping you awake all night. Welcome to October – let’s get reading!

The Way Forward

Has Amazon found a way forward? | Based on photo © Tom Williams

The Authors Guild beat Authors United (as we wrote up last week) to the punch in calling for the Department of Justice to begin an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Guild representatives met with DOJ officials at the beginning of August, per a statement posted on the Authors Guild blog: “The Guild started its own initiative to invite governmental scrutiny of Amazon’s outsize market share and anticompetitive practices in the publishing industry. Last summer the Guild prepared a White Paper on Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct, circulating it to the United States Department of Justice and other government entities. As a result of our request for the initiation of an investigation of Amazon, we hosted a meeting with the DOJ in our offices on August 1 so that a group of authors could make their case directly to the government, as the Wall Street Journal reported today. ¶ The Guild has been working closely with the grassroots group Authors United—founded by Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston—which will be making another request to the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon for potential antitrust violations.” It is not wholly clear whether it is more important to the Authors Guild that they are calling for an investigation into Amazon or that they are one-upping Authors United, especially as heavyweight literary agent Andrew Wylie adds his clout to their campaign. Time will tell. (See also.) In either case, Amazon continues to spread and seems to be close to reaching a settlement with Disney about their dispute, which was every bit as acrimonious as the ongoing Hachette imbroglio, but slightly more evenly matched. There is also a bit of a thaw from Amazon on the Hachette front, as they resume shipment of Hachette author (and US Representative) Paul Ryan’s book The Way Forward, in what might or might not be a power play – we’ll let our discerning readers decide on that point. (See also.) [LNL, Publishers Weekly, Authors Guild, Wall Street Journal (WSJ), NY Times, Shelf Awareness (SA), WSJ, SA, Mobylives!]

Lena Dunham, not that kind of girl

Lena Dunham express joy on receiving copies of her book, from Instagram

As we have mentioned before, we love a good book tour, and Lena Dunham’s tour for her debut essay collection is garnering a great deal of attention (which is good, because that is what it is supposed to do, isn’t it). We couldn’t agree more that the “sober meet-the-author literary event” is a little tired (and usually a little long, which is why Late Night Library events are fast-paced), but not every author can put on a spectacle – nor take the flak for whether her opening acts are compensated. (Though of course even “proper” authors can draw a crowd: see David Mitchell or Joe Sacco at Powell’s.) Of course most authors don’t get opening acts on their book tours, even if they could decide to pay them. Why are we giving this space to a celebrity author? Because this is exactly the sort of thing that Amazon is not doing, and this is the sort of literary event where the indie book stores can shine. Whatever one’s opinions on Ms. Dunham and her book, the tour is perhaps better for small (and mid-sized and really any non-Amazon) book stores than charity (though of course that’s nice too). [LNL, Galleycat, NY Tumes, LNL, Gawker, Shelf Awareness, Electric Literature, HuffPost, The Booksellers Association]

Fishing around.

In search of a literary feast | “An Anxious Moment

The National Book Foundation announced its fiction longlist this week, which includes: Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman; Molly Antopol, The UnAmericans; John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van; Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See; Phil Klay, Redeployment; Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven; Elizabeth McCracken, Thunderstruck & Other Stories; Richard Powers, Orfeo; Marilynne Robinson, Lila; Jane Smiley, Some Luck. Congratulations to all the authors, but especially to Molly Antopol (The UnAmericans) John Darnielle (Wolf in White Van), the two debut authors who made the list (see also the nonfiction finalists). We’ll keep you posted in two weeks when the shortlist is announced. In other book prize news, a debut novelist, John Kenney, has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor for his novel Truth in Advertising, beating out David Letterman for funniest prose of the year. Also, just as an aside, the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” prize, which is sponsored by Amazon, was not awarded to any Hachette authors this year. In case you were wondering. We’re not saying it’s related, it’s just something we noticed. [National Book Foundation, Publishers Weekly, National Book Foundation]


  1. The trailer for the film version of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice was released this week.
  2. Publishers Weekly weighs in on the top ten essays since 1950 (and they nearly have gender parity!).
  3. Dover (you know, as in Dover Thrift and Dover Classics) are planning a line of graphic novel reprints.
  4. Because you know you want to see the map so Amazon’s distribution centers.
  5. Roxane Gay knows which side her toast is buttered on.
  6. M. R. James is creepy, especially in movie format. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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