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Book News: Letters Reveal A Caustic But Affectionate Salinger

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

  • A 95-year-old woman donated nine letters that J.D. Salinger wrote her in the early 1940s to the Morgan Library & Museum. One of the letters, obtained by The New York Times, reads, "Let's have no more talk of my New Yorker piece. God and [New Yorker founder] Harold Ross alone know what that bunch of pixies on the staff are doing with my poor script." Others are flirtatious — after asking her to send him a picture, Salinger wrote, "Sneaky girl. You're pretty."
  • Somehow, even a guided tour of George Saunders' desktop icons is interesting and charming. For The Guardian, Ben Johncock interviews the Tenth of December author about technology: "Through some demonic cause-and-effect, our technology is exactly situated to exploit the crappier angles of our nature: gossip, self-promotion, snarky curiosity."
  • Erotica author Chad Leslie Peters is apparently looking for an intern — specifically, a "female participant for affair." In a Craigslist posting, the author purportedly seeks someone to help provide the storyline for a book that "will detail every aspect of a mutually-agreed to romantic affair between myself and a young FEMALE lover (perhaps you), experienced over 30 days." Peters hasn't confirmed that the posting is his, but his last project was a similar (though fictional) study. The ad goes on to state that the intern should be over the age of 20 and "preferably an English or writing Major." And here I thought my English major was useless.
  • John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, plans to retire in October, having overseen the addition of some "60,000 new words and meanings," according to Publisher's Lunch. Simpson told Time magazine that "Each word is a different sort of poem. The smaller entries are like Shakespearean sonnets — the larger ones, more like Joyce's Ulysses." Michael Proffitt, the editorial project director, will take over as chief editor.
  • The New York Times was heavily criticized for running two reviews of Nathaniel Rich's book Odds Against Tomorrow, in addition to a travel essay by the author and a profile of him and his brother in the month of January. Rich happens to be the son of former Times chief theater critic and op-ed columnist Frank Rich. Margaret Sullivan, the Times' Public Editor, wrote in a post that the "hat trick" was accidental. (Charges of partiality at the paper might also be countered by the biting review of Times journalist Brian Stelter's book on morning television, Top of the Morning: "Brian Stelter's book on the nefarious network morning show wars ends up being like a breakfast made not quite to order.")
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