Bob Dylan Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

Bob Dylan has today been awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The last time an American took the coveted honor was Toni Morrison in 1993. Dylan’s honor comes as somewhat of a surprise: typically, the Swedish Academy, who chooses the winner, goes with artists based in more traditional literary fields like novels, short stories, or poetry.

Sara Danius, the secretary of the Academy and 1 of 18 members, explained their reasoning being that Dylan is “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition.” She’s not wrong: Dylan has been on the American music scene since 1961, and has been traveling with his Never Ending Tour since 1988.

Music critic Bill Wyman wrote an essay arguing why Dylan should win the award in 2013. “Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence,” he wrote. “If the academy doesn’t recognize Bob Dylan — a bard who embodied the most significant cultural upheaval of the second half of the last century — it will squander its best chance to honor a pop poet.

Check out the announcement below:

Read Richard Feynman’s Letter to the Departed Love of His Life

To fall in love and commit yourself to the heart of another is always dangerous territory. It tears at your insides and thickens your blood, and when all is said and done, you question—what was it all for? To share a kind of passionate beauty and truth that only comes with truly entwining yourself with someone can be the greatest joy we can experience in our meager lives, but also the most destructive force. And to have it taken away from us begs a whole world of questions we may never have the answer for.

And whether it’s a love that’s thwarted by time and the distaste of another or the tragedy of death, to lose love dulls our senses and pales the meaning of our lives. But for physicist Richard Feynman, he and his dear wife Arline shared a love that transcended their own mortality. After falling in love as high school sweethearts, Arline passed away at the young age of 25-years-old. In  the Lawrence Krauss biography on Feynman, it notes that:

Richard and Arline were soul mates. They were not clones of each other, but symbiotic opposites – each completed the other. Arline admired Richard’s obvious scientific brilliance, and Richard clearly adored the fact that she loved and understood things he could barely appreciate at the time. But what they shared, most of all, was a love of life and a spirit of adventure.

And after losing Arline so early in life, Feynman found himself 27-years-old and utterly devastated in October of 1946. As he and his wife frequently wrote letters to one another, he write out his desires and feelings in a letter to her, proclaiming—” You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.” It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful letter that cries of the deep longing of person for their other half, their partner in the world. And thanks to Letters of Note you can read the rest of his letter to Arline—which was never opened after he sealed it until his own death in 1988.

October 17, 1946


I adore you, sweetheart.

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you.

I love my wife. My wife is dead.


PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.

Read Anton Chekhov’s Rules That ‘Civilized People Ought to Satisfy’ in a Letter to His Brother

As the man who considered medicine his “lawful wife,” and literature his mistress, Russian author Anton Chekhov remains once of the most important and influential voices in modern writing. And as one of his many admirers, master of short stories himself, Raymond Carver once noted:

Chekhov’s stories are as wonderful (and necessary) now as when they first appeared. It is not only the immense number of stories he wrote—for few, if any, writers have ever done more—it is the awesome frequency with which he produced masterpieces, stories that shrive us as well as delight and move us, that lay bare our emotions in ways only true art can accomplish.

But at the early age of 26, Chekov found himself dealing with the troubles of his brother Nikolai, whom he felt was swiftly slipping away into alcoholism. As a painter and writer, Nikolai’s gifts were being thrown away into a haze in which Chekov desperately wanted to pull him out of. “You’re no riddle to me, and it is also true that you can be wildly ridiculous,” he wrote in a letter to Nikolai, going on to say:

You’re nothing but an ordinary mortal, and we mortals are enigmatic only when we’re stupid, and we’re ridiculous forty-eight weeks of the year. Isn’t that so?

You often complain to me that people “don’t understand” you. But even Goethe and Newton made no such complaints. Christ did, true, but he was talking about his doctrine, not his ego. People understand you all too well. If you don’t understand yourself, then it’s nobody else’s fault.

And thanks to Letters of Note, we can read the entire touching letter in which Chekov tries to “knock some sense” into his brother, also including his own eight rules that “ civilized people ought to satisfy” and reminding him that “every hour is precious.”

1. They respect the individual and are therefore always indulgent, gentle, polite and compliant. They do not throw a tantrum over a hammer or a lost eraser. When they move in with somebody, they do not act as if they were doing him a favor, and when they move out, they do not say, “How can anyone live with you!” They excuse noise and cold and overdone meat and witticisms and the presence of others in their homes.

4. They are candid and fear lies like the plague. They do not lie even about the most trivial matters. A lie insults the listener and debases him in the liar’s eyes. They don’t put on airs, they behave in the street as they do at home, and they do not try to dazzle their inferiors. They know how to keep their mouths shut and they do not force uninvited confidences on people. Out of respect for the ears of others they are more often silent than not.

8. They cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities. They cannot stand to fall asleep fully dressed, see a slit in the wall teeming with bedbugs, breathe rotten air, walk on a spittle-laden floor or eat off a kerosene stove. They try their best to tame and ennoble their sexual instinct… What they look for in a woman is not a bed partner or horse sweat, […] not the kind of intelligence that expresses itself in the ability to stage a fake pregnancy and tirelessly reel off lies. They—and especially the artists among them—require spontaneity, elegance, compassion, a woman who will be a mother… They don’t guzzle vodka on any old occasion, nor do they go around sniffing cupboards, for they know they are not swine. They drink only when they are free, if the opportunity happens to present itself. For they require a mens sana in corpore sano.

Read the letter in full HERE.

From Hemingway to Pynchon: The Favorite Recipes of Your Favorite Authors

Not full from Thanksgiving? Tis the season for indulging and sharing feasts with friends and family ones, so why not take some tips from your beloved literary giants and cook up some of their favorite treats? Whether its Carson McCullers cocktails or Ernest Hemingway’s savory trout, the wonderful site Paper and Salt has curated an enormous list of recipes that try and “recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction.”

So take a look below, peruse more HERE, get out a pen, and get ready to jot down your your cravings.

Carson McCuller’s Cocktail

1/3 cup dry sherry
2/3 cup citrus tea
Lemon wedges

Brew tea to desired strength and add sherry. Stir and serve with lemon wedge, or pour into a thermos for a drink on the go.

Thomas Pynchon’s Beer-Braised Chicken Tacos 

3 tablespoons canola or olive oil, divided
1 pound boned, skinned chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup Mexican beer
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 chipotle chile
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise

Soft taco shells
Pickled shallots
Cotija cheese
Lime wedges

1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook until chicken is lightly golden but not cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and add to the bowl of a slow cooker.

2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until slightly translucent, about 2 minutes. Add cumin, chile powder and garlic, and let cook another 2 minutes.

3. Add chicken broth to the skillet, scraping the browned onion off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and pour mixture into slow cooker. Add beer, tomato paste, chipotle chile, cinnamon stick and star anise.

4. Cook on high for 3 hours. Uncover, break chicken apart with a fork, then cover and cook 1 hour more.

5. Remove chicken from braising liquid. Add to taco shells and garnish with shallots, cilantro and cheese. Squeeze lime wedge over and enjoy with several beers.

Marcel Prousts’s Croissants With Coffee Glaze

1 package (14 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed in the fridge 2 to 3 hours
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Unwrap thawed puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out pastry to 1/8-inch thickness.

2. Orient the pastry sheet horizontally, then make 3 vertical cuts, resulting in 4 strips of dough. Cut each strip in half horizontally, making 8 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half diagonally, making 16 triangles. Roll the wide end of each triangle toward the point. Curl the ends of the cylinder toward each other slightly.

3. Place croissants on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden.

4. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk espresso and powdered sugar together until smooth. Brush over warm croissants and serve immediately, preferably in pajamas.

Marquis de Sade’s Molten Chocolate Espresso Cake with Pomegranate 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (2.6-ounce) bar dark (71% cocoa) chocolate (such as Valrhona Le Noir Amer), finely chopped
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)

1.  Grease 10 (4-ounce) ramekins. In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.

2. Place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars, beating until well blended, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, beating until well blended.

3. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture; fold in chocolate. Divide batter evenly among ramekins; arrange ramekins on a jelly-roll pan. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove ramekins from fridge and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Uncover and bake for 12 minutes or until cakes are puffy and slightly crusty on top (do not overbake – trust me, they’re done). Let sit for 1 minute, then unmold. Top with pomegranate seeds if using; serve immediately. If you can’t wait to unmold them, just eat them out of the ramekin. It’s not a sin.

Jane Austen’s Brown Butter Bread Pudding Tarts

1 sheet (about 1/2 lb.) thawed frozen puff pastry
4 tablespoons butter
1 rennet tablet (**See note)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup cake crumbs (angel food or pound cake work well)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and grease 6 ramekins (6-ounce size). Roll out 1 sheet thawed frozen puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 12” x 15” rectangle. Make 6 circles, about 5” in diameter, on pastry. Cut out circles, press into ramekins, and prick all over with a fork. Refrigerate.

2. In a small pan, stirring constantly, melt butter over medium heat until it is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

3. Dissolve rennet tablet in 2 tablespoons warm water in a small saucepan. Over low heat, add milk and sugar and stir 5 seconds, just long enough to get the sugar off the bottom of the pan. Using a kitchen thermometer, cook without stirring until mixture reaches 98°F. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

4. Remove ramekins from fridge. Stir egg, cake crumbs, nutmeg and cinnamon into milk mixture. Stir in brown butter. Spoon filling into ramekins and bake until pastry is golden, about 25 minutes.

** Rennet is used for cheesemaking and gives this pudding its custardy consistency. You can find it in specialty groceries or most Whole Foods Markets. Check with the cheese counter if you can’t spot it.

Sylvia Plath’s Lemon Pudding Cakes 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for ramekins
1/4 cup flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar and fresh berries, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 6 6-ounce ramekins, lightly dust with granulated sugar, and set them in a small roasting pan.

2. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, the flour and lemon zest. In a larger bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, and egg yolks. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until combined.

3. In a small bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gently fold into lemon mixture. Divide batter evenly among ramekins and fill roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up ramekins. Tent with foil.

4. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, then bake another 20 minutes or until cakes are golden and firm to the touch. Transfer ramekins to a rack and let cool 15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges and invert onto plates. Garnish with powdered sugar and berries. 

Nora Ephron’s Frozen Key Lime Pie 

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 crackers)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 large egg yolks (Note: Save egg whites for tart version.)
1 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice
2 cans (14-ounce each) sweetened condensed milk (Note: Use 1 1/2 cans for tart version.)
1 tablespoon finely grated Key lime zest
1 cup heavy cream (Note: Not needed for tart version.)
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in a medium bowl, and mix until moist. Evenly press mixture into a 9-inch pie plate, and bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

3. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk yolks and lime juice together until combined. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is foamy and registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from heat, and whisk in condensed milk and zest until well combined. Pour into cooled pie shell and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

4. Remove pie from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Combine cream and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Spread evenly over pie or dollop on each slice along with a slice of lime, and serve immediately. (Note: For tart version, make meringue: Beat egg whites and sugar 3 to 5 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Spread over pie and brown lightly with a brulée torch, or by broiling 30 seconds.) Serves 8 or 1 cheating husband.

Cocktails with E.B. White 

Equal parts lime juice, apricot brandy, honey, and dry vermouth. Stir this all together (you only need a tiny amount of the whole business), then add 4 times the amount of gin. Plenty of ice, stir, and serve.”

White also made a handy note on portions: “For 2 people, you need only 1/2 ounce of each of the four funny ingredients. Then you need 8 ounces of gin, or what a baby would drink from a bottle.” For those of us who aren’t alcoholic infants, that’s 1 tablespoon of each of the first 4 ingredients to 1 cup gin.

**Note: Apricot brandy, being a liqueur, is already quite sweet, so I prefer to cut the honey to 1/2 tablespoon and add an additional squeeze of lime.

John Cheever’s Turkey Monte Cristo Sandwich 

4 slices rustic white bread (3/4 inch thick)
4 ounces smoked turkey breast
4 ounces gruyère cheese
1/2 apple, thinly sliced
1 egg
1/4 cup milk (2% or whole is good here)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
Powdered sugar

1. Assemble the sandwiches: On 2 slices of bread, layer turkey, cheese, and apple to cover bread completely. Top with remaining bread. Secure each sandwich with toothpicks. Trim crusts, if you’d like.

2. In a shallow baking dish, lightly beat egg with a whisk. Add milk, and whisk to combine.

3. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon butter; swirl butter around pan until foaming. Coat both sides of the first sandwich in the egg mixture, then lay it in the pan, pressing down gently with a spatula to compact. After 3 minutes, flip sandwich and fry opposite side until golden brown. Remove from pan, and dry on a paper towel.

4. Repeat step 3 with remaining 1 tablespoon butter and second sandwich. Serve both sandwiches with sprinkles of powdered sugar on top.


For ease of frying, I suggest you start with 2 layers of bread for your first attempt and work your way up to 3 (or 4!). And – to appease my mother and get something fresh in here – I substituted apple for the more traditional jam.

Ernest Hemingway’s Bacon-Wrapped Trout with Corn Cakes

2 (10-ounce) whole trout, cleaned and gutted
1/2 cup cornmeal
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon, sliced
6 slices bacon
Fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat broiler and set oven rack 4 to 6 inches from heat. With a paper towel, pat trout dry inside and out. Dredge outside of each fish in cornmeal, then season cavity with salt and pepper. Place 4 sprigs of thyme and 2 lemon slices inside each fish.

2. Wrap 3 bacon slices around the middle of each fish, so that the edges overlap slightly. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and place fish on pan. Broil until bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. With a spatula, carefully flip fish over and cook another 5 minutes, until flesh is firm.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Halva with Almonds

2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups tahini, well stirred
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg whites
3/4 cup toasted, coarsely chopped almonds (plus extra for sprinkling)

1. Line a loaf pan (9×5 or 8×4) with cooking parchment, allowing extra to hang over the sides.

2. Put honey in a small saucepan. On a low setting, heat honey, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reads 240°F. Remove from heat.

3. While honey is heating, mix tahini, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Put egg whites in a medium bowl; with a handheld electric mixer, beat until soft peaks form. (If you have a standing mixer, you can beat the egg whites in the mixing bowl with the whisk attachment.)

4. Add tahini mixture to egg whites and fold gently to combine. In a small stream, gradually add honey and stir 6 to 8 minutes, until the mixture stiffens slightly. Stir in chopped almonds.

5. Scrape mixture into prepared pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until firm, 24 to 36 hours. Remove halva from pan and cut into pieces (if it’s still too soft, you can pop it in the freezer for an hour or so to set). Sprinkle bars with chopped almonds and snack away.

Talking Heroin, Fame, & ‘The Heroin Chronicles’ With Author Jerry Stahl

It’s ridiculous out there. It’s so cold that I saw a cab driver explaining something to a potential fare and his middle finger froze. It’s so cold that my lawyer put his hands in his own pocket. OK, OK, I’ll stop. It’s hard to get people to go anywhere when it’s like this. January and February can be rough on clubs and bars and such – especially in a world where homes have so many ways to entertain: thousands of TV channels, the World Wide Web, and other etceteras I cannot mention in a family column. 

Tonight I will brave the weather but stay in Brooklyn. Jerry Stahl, the author of Bad Sex On Speed, will be reading from his new book: The Heroin Chronicles. According to Zoe Hanson, my fierce friend who contributed to this book, Jerry is… the man. The event will be early, at 7pm at Word in Brooklyn, 126 Franklin St. Brooklyn Brewery is providing it’s product. The tome is available on Akashic Books. If you can’t make it tonight, they’ll do it again tomorrow night at St Mark’s Bookshop, also at 7pm. The crowd that gathers to hear these tales will be super hot and smart and cool…all those things noticeably absent at most joints in town. Dress warm, juice up on some yerba mate, and join me. 

I asked Jerry Stahl a few questions.

Was heroin ever chic? Is it always chic? Does it give the users a certain badge – a certain credibility – or is it just a very bad thing?
Heroin involves a lot of puking on your shoes. And, I think we can all agree, nothing says ‘chic’ like shoe-puking. I never bought into the heroin chic thing myself. I mean, a real dope fiend has to try not to look like a dope fiend, or risk being busted. So anybody who actually wants to look that way is either a poser, in a fashion spread, or Keith Richards. Keith is the exception that proves the rule – plus, he always had the dough for lawyers who could get him off, or a judge who figured setting a charity concert was better than sending him to jail.

On the other hand, an old-time needle jockey once told me how he went to see Charlie Parker in New York, and hours after he was supposed to go on, when the crowd was ready to split, an announcer stepped up to the mic and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Parker is just pulling down his sleeve….”  Which – I can’t lie – sounds pretty goddamn glam. But the truth is, "Bird" was probably backstage wiping puke off his shoes.

Are the stories chronicled success stories or screams or what?
I would describe them as successful screams. Or, in the immortal words of Jonathan Swift, “crawling is performed in the same position as climbing.” I have no idea how this applies to your question, but it’s a great quote, and – if you kind of squint – it does sort of apply

Is a junkie always a junkie, even after the using is chronicled in the rooms/at meetings?
Well, junkies are like veterans. They all share that wartime experience, but not all of them are still living in the jungle 20 years after the war’s over. 

Did The Bank Of England Airbrush Jane Austen?

The Guardian yesterday reported on some totally pointless but fairly justified whingeing from a Jane Austen scholar. Paula Byrne, author of the biography The Real Jane Austen, is understandably committed to the accuracy of any depiction of her subject, and the Bank of England may have missed wide in their use of Austen’s image on the U.K.’s new £10 note. In short, it appears they gave her the same touch-up treatment anyone who gets on the cover ofCosmo can expect.

“Jane Austen is the funniest writer to walk this planet, and she’s been made to look dim-witted,” Byrne fumed. “I can’t believe they have gone for such a saccharine picture. Jane Austen was a supreme social satirist, and some of her writing was quite dark, but they’ve chosen a picture that makes her look a really cosy, middle-class writer.” It’s undeniably true they’ve, erm, prettied her up a bit—if only so that insensitive chavs don’t have reason to go around slagging off Austen as a total munter.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with Austen’s face being softened or subject to “Victorian airbrushing.” In the first place, it’s not like we have a photo of her; who knew how good that original portraitist really was? But more importantly, would you ever be able to spend £10 with that stern face looking at up at you, a grim reminder that only individuals of means are worth marrying and that others judge us by our cavalier attitude toward money? Aside from being a writer of realistic romance and comedy of manners, Austen has to be the prime symbol of English financial neurosis. It’s nice she’s getting her due, but it was a lot easier paying for drugs with bills that had Queen Elizabeth II on them.

Photo via Bridgeman Art Library

Born Rivals No. 4: Catherine Serbousek

Miles Klee is a little-known novelist. Recently, he decided his best career move would be to start a feud with another writer. This is his ongoing attempt to find (and destroy) the perfect rival.

Catherine Serbousek, author of the Amazon-published ebook Jane Austen’s Fat Camp, emerged as a promising foe when she saw fit to pass along a somewhat poorly illustrated death threat. She then proved to have the mental stability required to schedule a less lethal sort of spat around her weekly banjo lesson. 

Catherine Serbousek, I suspect this will be about as enjoyable as trying to spell or pronounce your surname. First of all, I have a bone to pick with your illustration of my demise, which depicts me as heavily bearded but also bald. Please inform our readers that I have a full, lustrous head of hair.

You do now, but in time, I see a sad decline.

Let the record show you got too real too early. I admire that.

I did, but I wanted you on the hook, and we see here that it worked. My real plan is to pull you in with kindness and fried chicken—then your misery will begin. I make exceptional fried chicken.

Delicious. As a writer, you have three strikes against you, and all of them are that you’re self-published. Where do you get your frankly insane sense of self-confidence? Or should I say megalomania.

Oh bless your heart, I forgot you went the standard route and you’re on so many bestseller lists. I looked around and saw that it was 2013. So it was more my ability to read a calendar than ego. I also could see that the publishing world hasn’t really changed much in 75 years … I may have written in the style of Jane Austen, but I don’t wish to be treated like she was.

Well I won’t bother bursting your bubble about how women are treated in self-publishing, it’ll spoil the surprise. But this brings me to another question—when you decided to put the name “Jane Austen” in the title of your book, was it in hopes that someone would buy it by accident?

Awww, you’re still mad your dad hasn’t bought your book on purpose. One day you’ll make him proud, slugger. I wanted to write a fat-camp comedy where the comedy wasn’t derived simply from all the characters being fat. All of Miss Austen’s novels are complicated by the status of the lead heroines. So I wrote about lbs. instead of British pounds and voilà … summer camp comedy of manners. Were you hoping junkies would buy your book, or people who hope the world ends?

Nobody literate, anyway. But let’s do talk about fans for a moment.

Sure … you have one, I assume?

Because as of right now you have two more Amazon reviews than I do, and all of them are five stars. How much did that cost, altogether? I’ve been meaning to try something shady along those lines.

I do want to ask about your experience with marketing because that is the biggest difference I can see as far as self-publishing goes.


Well, I have heard from publishers that a new book only has two weeks to become a bestseller before the marketing is yanked … and authors have little to no input in the actual marketing campaign. It’s like the opening weekend of a movie—make or break, but I never have to give up on myself.

That’s so cute, it’s almost as if you’re running a little lemonade stand by the side of an interstate highway. What message do you blindly, foolishly hope that people will take from your unprofessionally promoted fiction?

I don’t know if you just insulted lemonade stands or blind people; pull it together, Klee. I don’t think people need to take a message from me. They can take a message from Fifty Shades of Grey or The Wool Omnibus or anything by Colleen Hoover…all bestsellers, all self-published. People can buy my book and send a message to you and your fat cat publishers.

Okay, okay, you are the wave of the future. Just let me die in peace, all right?

I will not let you die in peace; it will be years from now, but in grief.

I have to say, you are the first interviewee in this series to escalate things to the level of Viking oath. Reading a lot of fantasy?

I will do you a favor and save you the wonder of your fate. I’m a nice person. I will befriend you; it’s gonna happen. I wish you success and no ill will (YET). We are both going to be successful—I myself will be J.K. Rowling in it (you can use that phrase for yourself, as a friend, you have my permission). I don’t envy your success because I want my own…we’ll go on happily for years. THEN you will inevitably get behind some weird legal case to release some psycho (you are a touch Norman Mailer in the future); I will advise you not to, but NO, you won’t listen. Guy gets out, guy kills puppy…you rue your bad choices and look back on all of your life and realize, “Hey, Catherine was right about so much…including self-publishing!” And you die alone and crying…only to have to face the puppy in hell for all eternity, and it’s a damn cute puppy.

Jesus. I think we’re done here. Catherine, I wouldn’t wish you on my second-worst enemy. Anything to add?

All I had to do to vanquish my first-worst enemy was to wait for Google, MySpace and Facebook to be invented…I can wait you out.


Lunch Read Roundup: Andrew Wylie Will Never Represent Me

Your must-reads from the world of highbrow wordage this week are two sides of the same coin: this delightfully savage interview with literary agent Andrew Wylie, he of a reputation for cutthroat tactics, an impossible author roster, dandyish charm and a hatred for Amazon that outstrips Franzen’s—and then this list of “outtakes," all the devastating bon mots that couldn’t be crammed into the original article. It’s an embarrassment of bitches, people.

But for all it pleases me to hold Wylie up as a hero (he slammed Gone Girl, about which I have a very personal gripe), I am beset by one awful fact: Andrew Wylie, agent par excellence, “the jackal,” dream snob, will never represent my sorry fiction. Why would he? He’s still busy with the estate of Vladimir fucking Nabokov. Check out his agency’s client list and the first name you see is King Abdullah II. KING. I don’t know what he’s king of, but I’m pretty sure it’s important. Has he written anything interesting? Doesn’t matter.
This is what I love most of all, though: say you’re aware you don’t have a shot at making it into such elite company—Wylie has also said he doesn’t really deal with younger writers, for whom he is a puzzling Ronald Reagan-like figure—but wouldn’t mind hanging out in a nearby slush pile. Click on to the “Submissions” bar and here’s the message you get: “The Wylie Agency does not currently accept unsolicited submissions.” You got that? They’re too busy to even reject you right now. May as well just staple that manuscript to your butt and jump in front of a train.

From Ernest Hemingway to Steven Soderbergh: This Morning’s Glance at Arts & Culture

Before you dive into your workday, here’s a healthy serving of what’s been floating around the world of arts & culture. Dig it.

Fighting With Ernest Hemingway

“My writing is nothing, my boxing is everything,” claimed Hemingway whose passions clearly resided in the romance of the fight. 

Slicing Up Her with Soderbergh

Somewhere in the cinema-sphere there might just be a Steven Soderbergh cut of Spike Jonze’s Her, and we’re going to need to see that. 

Deeper and Deeper Inside Llewyn Davis

A fifth and probably not final trailer emerges for the Coen brothers’ highly-lauded new feature, now screening at NYFF.

An Not so Fabulous Fallout 

Ab-Fab’s Jennifer Saunders explains how BBC has now become a top-heavy place for executive idiots. 

The Animosity Surrounding the Cast of Blue is the Warmest Color Ceases to End

We’ll be sitting down with film’s star later this week, but in the meantime see Lea Seydoux and Abdellatif Kechiche have recently divulged about the controversial three hour lesbian romantic drama.

Baby, Your Going to Miss That Plane

Taking a look at the ten most romantic films of all time that happen to also be ten of the best movies of all time.  

Stevie Nicks Writes Game of Thrones FanFic

Well, fan poetry and wants to write music for the show. Need we say more?

A Clockwork Orange sans Kubrick, Starring Mick Jagger

It’s almost impossible to imagine but Mick Jagger (much better suited for the Nic Roeg world) was almost cast in as Alex DeLarge directed by, well, who knows.