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Book News: Amazon Launches An Imprint For Short Fiction

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a 2009 event in New York unveiling a new version of the Amazon Kindle.
Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a 2009 event in New York unveiling a new version of the Amazon Kindle.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Amazon Publishing has launched a new imprint, StoryFront, that aims to publish "high-quality short fiction across genres." Amazon has already been experimenting with short fiction through Kindle Singles and Day One, a weekly literary magazine that launched in October. In a statement, Adult Trade and Children's Group publisher Daphne Durham says, "Based on the continued success of short fiction on Kindle as well as the enthusiastic response to Day One -- we received thousands of subscriptions in the first week — we know readers are hungry for short stories and excited about exploring new genres."
  • Since 2006, the National Library of Norway has been in the process of digitizing every book published in Norwegian, a project the library hopes to finish in the next 20 to 30 years. Perhaps even more remarkably, as The Atlantic's Alexis C. Madrigal explains, "if you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download." Asking whether the U.S. can "afford to be left behind," Madrigal notes that "our libraries do what they can, but the idea of digitizing literally every book published in this country is a goal that we should shoot for and fund."
  • The queer theorist and New York University professor José Esteban Muñoz has died at age 46, according to his publisher. The University of Minnesota Press writes in a statement: "His first book, Disdentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics, was innovative and groundbreaking, and has proven to be foundational to the critical study on the nexus of race, gender, and sexuality." Muñoz's NYU colleague Barbara Browning tells Hyperallergic, "José did so many beautiful things, he was so good at seeing beauty. He loved his work and his students more than anyone I've ever known. Today we begin the task of making work and nurturing work that will honor him for the rest of our lives."
  • The novelist and dachshund enthusiast Gary Shteyngart has some imaginative strategies for making reading 19th century British literature more interesting. He writes in The Millions, "First, I would insert some hot Russian emotion into the chilly scenes by hand. So if a character is carrying on some abstruse conversation about standing for parliament or whatever, I would interrupt it in my mind with: 'And then Casaubon Casaubonovich threw himself around her neck and cried violently.' Problem solved. Then I decided to Yiddishize some of the writing to make it more haimish. Take for example the first line of David Copperstein: 'Whether I shall turn out to be the mensch of my own life, or whether that station will be held by some other putz, this spiel must show.' Or: 'Miss Brooke had the kind of punim which seems to be thrown into relief by her shmatas.' Once you mentally add a dollop of sour cream and a tablespoon of schmaltz to 19th Century British literature, you will find it tastes as good as anything in the Western canon."
  • National Book Award winner James McBride talks about the parallels between music and writing: "There's an improvisational quality to some of my writing. If I know a dramatic point is supposed to happen, I'll try to figure out a slick way to get there. My latest novel has a kind of improvisatory approach to telling an old story. In jazz, lots of people play the same songs. But it's the way you play it is what distinguishes you from the next man or woman who plays it."
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