The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Although it’s hard to imagine Ernest Hemingway as anything other than bearded, gruff and gin-scented, five detailed scrapbooks by the Nobel Prize winner’s mother give a glimpse of his early life through baby photos, school reports, drawings and school paper clips. The fragile books compiled by Grace Hall Hemingway had been kept in storage at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, but digitized versions are now available on the museum’s website. The Library notes, “Early glimpses of his storytelling skills can be seen in a document from the seventh grade titled ‘Class Prophesies’ in which he predicts the fate of various classmates. According to Hemingway, a young girl named Sadie will have ‘an ostrich farm in the Sahara desert,’ Jane will run ‘a home for the aged and infirm monkeys,’ Caroline will be ‘President of a South American womens [sic] suffrage republic,’ and Jean will be ‘an old maid.’ “
- Sony Pictures has won a lawsuit brought by the owners of the rights to William Faulkner’s literary works. A federal judge ruled Thursday that a scene in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris using a variation on a passage from Requiem for a Nun is fair use. In the film, Owen Wilson’s character says, “The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” The actual Faulkner quote is “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” U.S. District Court Judge Michael P. Mills wrote in his ruling, “At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement. In this case, it cannot.” He added, “The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris, read the book, Requiem for a Nun, and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare The Sound and the Fury with Sharknado.”
- For NPR, Kevin Maher describes reading the stories in Joyce’s Dubliners as a schoolboy in Ireland: “Naturally, we hated them. Every one of them. Just agony. Like the worst kind of art-house movie you’d stumble across on a Saturday night on BBC 2 when your Mam and Dad were out at Uncle Jack’s summer hoolie, and your sisters were in the kitchen flirting and smoking with Davey Riley from the youth club. No eye-gouging. No hanged puppies. No action at all.”
The Best Books Coming Out This Week:
- David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello’s 1990 book Signifying Rappers is coming back into print this week. In it, Costello and Wallace explore their “uncomfortable, somewhat furtive, and distinctively white enthusiasm for a certain music called rap/hip-hop.” Although this is very early David Foster Wallace (the original Village Voice review of the book identifies him as “a philosophy grad student and writer of highbrow pomo ‘fictions’ “), the style is unmistakably his: At once pompous and playful, it pairs his exuberant, almost acrobatic command of language with the pedantry and hyperawareness that characterize his writing. They argue that rap is “pop music’s lone cutting edge, the new, the unfamiliar, the brain-resisted-while-body-boogies.” A portion of the book can be read over at The Missouri Review.
- John Waters, in his introduction to The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy, calls it a “feel-bad” book. It’s true — Purdy’s stories are morbidly campy tales of abusive husbands and rent boys and despair and awful, all-consuming loneliness. At 726 pages, this is not a collection to be read straight through, but to be dipped into whenever you feel like a brief wallow in the muddiest depths of human misery.