The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says it will allow Special Agent John Dodson, a whistle-blower who testified in front of Congress about the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” firearms sting operation, to publish a book about it. The ATF originally kept the book from being published because, among other reasons, it might have “a negative impact on morale.” But a recent letter from the ATF to the ACLU, which was obtained by Politico, says, “ATF does not object to the publication of Special Agent Dodson’s book, once it has been scrubbed of any information that would be law enforcement sensitive or restricted from dissemination.” It’s still not clear whether Dodson will be allowed to profit from the book: The DOJ rules say, “A subject is prohibited from writing about issues that arise from his or her duties as a special agent and profiting from his or her experiences while still acting in the special agent capacity.”
- Penguin Classics published a memoir by the musician Morrissey, causing much grumbling, since it is an imprint usually reserved for Very Serious (dead) Authors. Penguin said the book sold 20,000 copies on its first day. Meanwhile, everyone is also frantically speculating over whether it does or does not say that Morrissey is gay.
- Donna Tartt tells The New York Times her favorite things to read: “To paraphrase Nabokov: all I want from a book is the tingle down the spine, for my hairs to stand on end.”
- Eleanor Catton, who won the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Luminaries, writes about growing up in New Zealand: “Travel brochures try to capture the quality of New Zealand’s panoramas with adjectives — “pristine”, “untouched”, “majestic.” But the words seem cheap and insubstantial, however accurate they may be, in the face of the real thing. The language of description is always a matter of equivalence (a word equals the thing it describes) and so cannot contend with the sublime. But the language of paradox, oxymoron and subtle contradiction — the language of children — does better. Aotearoa is a land made perfect only by its opposites, the water and the air. It is both north and south at once. It is a land that casts its shadow on the clouds.”
- Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gave a rare interview to Mental Floss. Asked why he is averse to sequels, he said, “Repetition is the death of magic.”
- Zadie Smith writes about her father and the gardens of Italy in a lovely essay for The New York Review of Books: “Harvey and I knew from experience that it takes a while for immigrants to believe a park is truly public and open to them: my mother always used to complain, exaggerating somewhat (and not without a little pride), that she was the only black woman to be seen pushing a stroller through St. James’s Park in 1975. Sometimes a generation of habitation is needed to create the necessary confidence; to believe that this gate will open for you too. In Italy, where so many kinds of gates are closed to so many people, there is something especially beautiful in the freedom of a garden.”