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Book News: Yoko Ono Is Writing A Book Of 'Instructional Poetry'

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

  • Yoko Ono, the artist and former wife of John Lennon, is coming out with a book of "instructional poetry," according to OR Books. She explains, kind of: "It's something I originally created for the internet. For 100 days, every day, a different instruction was communicated. Now it's being published in book form. I'm riding a time machine that's going back to the old ways! Great! I added my dot drawings to give you further brainwork." At least it sounds less weird than her menswear line.
  • A line of "Avengers" T-shirts by Marvel Comics has sparked controversy for its different slogans for men and women: the men's shirt says, "Be a hero," while the shirt for women reads, "I need a hero!"
  • Translator and critic Clive James explains to The New York Times why he defended Philip Larkin against his critics: "Spraying cold water on a witch hunt is one of the duties that a critic should be ready to perform."
  • Knopf/Vintage has been roundly (and deservedly) mocked for its American Men of Letters sweepstakes, which gave away books by five older (or dead) white men: James Salter, Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Richard Russo and John Cheever. In a long, derisive article, Melville House's Dustin Kurtz notes that only male "writers of long, sexually absurd and gleefully morbid late-life wish fulfillment novels" were honored. And Penguin's Riverhead imprint responded with a Global Women of Letters contest, pointedly focused on "talented female writers from around the world." The original Men of Letters page appears to have been taken down.
  • In honor of Tax Day, Quartz has David Foster Wallace's notes on tax accounting: "Accountants are cowboys of information."

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Charles Graeber's The Good Nurse is the lurid true story of Charles Cullen, a nurse who quietly killed as many as 300 of his patients before he was caught. But the institutional failures that let him be shunted from hospital to hospital in spite of the string of suspicious patient deaths is the more interesting story in this meticulously-researched book.
  • The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout. Cather was adamant that her letters never be made public, and the editors of this edition readily admit that they are "flagrantly" violating her wishes. Scholars who hoped that the collection would provide definitive proof of Cather's much-disputed sexuality will be disappointed, but the letters do provide a portrait of a brilliant and passionate writer. The New York Times excerpts three of her most charming letters.
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