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Book News: Did Amazon Unintentionally Create A Drug Dealer Starter Kit?

An employee prepares an order at Amazon's fulfillment center in San Bernardino, Calif.
Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images
An employee prepares an order at Amazon's fulfillment center in San Bernardino, Calif.

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

  • At The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes that Amazon's recommendation algorithm has created an accidental starter kit for drug dealers: "One day, some drug dealer bought a particular digital scale — the AWS-100 — on the retail site, And then another drug dealer bought the same scale. Then another. Then another. Amazon's data-tracking software watched what else these people purchased, and now, if you buy the AWS-100 scale, Amazon serves up a quickstart kit for selling drugs."
  • Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez's health is stable but still "very fragile" after his recent hospitalization for a lung infection, his family said. A statement released by the 87-year-old novelist's wife and sons adds that "there are risks of complications corresponding to his age." Marquez was born in Colombia, but has lived in Mexico for decades. The author of such modern classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, Marquez was praised by the Nobel committee in 1982 for his "novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts."
  • E.L. Doctorow has won the 2014 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. "E. L. Doctorow is our very own Charles Dickens, summoning a distinctly American place and time, channeling our myriad voices. Each book is a vivid canvas, filled with color and drama. In each, he chronicles an entirely different world," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement. The 83-year-old author of Ragtime and The Book of Daniel will be awarded the prize at the National Book Festival at the end of August.
  • The poet and comedian Patricia Lockwood asks whether poetry is work: "Is a poet who writes short poems working less than a poet who writes long ones? In my opinion, no. ... And what about poets who write slowly? 'The action of the Muse is creeping, like that one molasses flood that killed so many people in a tragically slo-mo way. No man or waffle may rush her, least of all a poet,' wrote Lord Byron in 1997, in a chatroom, under the username badfoot_sisterkisser69, and I must not be alone in thinking him correct." (As an aside, Lockwood's 2013 poem "Rape Joke" is almost impossibly devastating.)
  • A new Dave Eggers book called Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is coming out June 17. (Lately, Eggers has been publishing books with very little warning.) His publisher says that YFWATATPDTLF is the "story of one man struggling to make sense of his country."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

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