Perhaps you’ve been following the Hachette Publishers vs. Amazon.com kerfuffle? Everyone from indie Brooklyn publishing houses to the Editorial Page of the New York Times has gone on record deploring the online behemoth’s slash-and-burn tactics. TL;DR: Amazon, which already controls about 50% of US book sales, wants even better terms from publishing houses, and is not above twisting arms to get its way. One guy who doesn’t like having his arm twisted? Hachette author Stephen Colbert. Who is, coincidentally, one comedian you don’t want to piss off.
Like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert took matters into his own hands, giving Amazon the finger (twice) on national TV last night, and then inviting on another Hachette author, the terrific Sherman Alexie, to commiserate. Together they promoted debut novelist Edan Lepucki’s California, because Hachette’s less-established writers are the real victims of this fight, telling audiences to show Amazon up by buying the book via Colbert Nation. Full clips below.
Amtrak’s new residency application, which will grant a lucky 24 writers a free train trip of 2-5 days duration in which to focus on their projects, has caused a stir in the literary world. One source tells me that nearly 7,000 proposals have swamped the train line; even if the number is half that, however, the chances of being given a ticket to ride (.6%) are slimmer than getting into Harvard (6.3%).
To laypeople, this perhaps sounds crazy. Who competes for the opportunity to take a long-distance train trip, without even a city like Rome or Prague to greet you on the other side? Remember that episode of “Sex and the City“? (Sidenote: God, Carrie is insufferable.) But writers, especially fledglings — and in this economy, we are almost all fledglings — have so little. No funds, no structure, no support. Everyone is always telling us to get a real job. Writers’ residencies, which offer crucial time, space, and community, can be a boon, but most of them have associated costs, making them prohibitive for someone just scraping by. Amtrak is filling a need by offering writers a temporary, mobile Cabin of One’s Own. So why are people so angry?
I love everything about the news that Chipotle cups will now come adorned with fiction by Jonathan Safran Foer, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and others of their literary ilk. Chipotle is already manna from the heavens — my go-to order is a veggie bowl with black beans, which comes with guacamole, is filling and delicious and, in Brooklyn, for whatever reason, remains slightly cheaper than Manhattan — so now it will provide physical and spiritual sustenance. Give Chipotle a Genius grant! Hell, give ’em a Nobel Peace Prize.
The company put the vegan but apparently pro-Chipo’ JSF in charge of the endeavor, since the Eureka! moment was his:
Chipotle refrained from meddling in the editorial process for the duration of the initiative, which the burrito chain has branded Cultivating Thought. “I selected the writers, and insofar as there was any editing, I did it,” Foer said. “I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles. I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought provoking.”
I don’t usually order a Diet Coke at Chipotle even if I want one, because that knocks me over the $10 mark and for atavistic reasons my brain rebels at spending $10+ for lunch. But to get a story, I will probably shell out the extra buck or two for the drink. What about you? Charmed by this coming together of literary and culinary worlds, or disgusted that you cannot even eat lunch without Malcolm Gladwell getting in the way?
Also, Chipotle, if you’re interested in a starting a Literary Residency, I would be ALL IN.
.gif via Vanity Fair