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Book News: Guantanamo Reading Material Spurs More Controversy

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

N.B. — Book News is going on vacation next week. Your faithful correspondent will be in California sans laptop and praying that Jonathan Franzen doesn't choose that week to reignite any feuds with daytime talk show hosts. In the meantime, as always, leave your hot tips, scurrilous attacks and existential questions in the comments section or direct them to @annalisa_quinn on Twitter.

  • The U.K. prisoners' rights group Reprieve claimed this week that authorities blocked a copy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Soviet-era classic The Gulag Archipelago, about the nightmarish Soviet labor camps, from reaching a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Although books with violent or extremist themes are kept out of the prison as a policy, critics say many books at the U.S. military prison are banned without reason. Earlier this summer, John Grisham wrote a condemnatory op-ed for The New York Times after discovering that two of his books had been banned at the prison. The Pentagon later told The Wall Street Journal it was "a misunderstanding." On a more cheerful note, NPR's Bill Chappell wrote Thursday that reports of Fifty Shades-mania among prisoners at Guantanamo Bay may have been greatly exaggerated.
  • The journalist Giancarlo DiTrapano caused a stir in literary circles by writing in a profile of author Junot Diaz that a distinguished New York Times book critic was "notorious for going completely relentless bitch on many a good book." (The profile was in Playboy, but still.)
  • Comedian and Parks & Recreation star Aziz Ansari has a book deal with Penguin Press. Ansari wrote in the press release, "You know when you text someone you're romantically interested in and you don't hear anything back and then you see them post a photo of a pizza on Instagram? That's exactly what I want this book to deal with." Publisher's Weekly tweeted that the advance was rumored to be $3.5 million.
  • Joan Didion told the Los Angeles Times' Carolyn Kellogg that she became friends with Harrison Ford because he built her beach house. She says: "He was a carpenter. I was happy with his work — and even happier with his presence in the house because he was a great moral force."
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