The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Bill Watterson, the reclusive creator of Calvin and Hobbes, briefly returned to comics last week when he ghostwrote parts of Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine. Watterson retired in 1995, saying he felt he had "done what [he] can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels," and has rarely given interviews or published under his own name since. In the latest strips, Pastis is replaced by a precocious second grader named Libby, who draws exuberant scenes of Martian invasions and hungry crocodiles, in contrast with Pastis' more understated style. In a weekend post on his website, Pastis revealed that "Libby" was really Watterson and remarked that working with Watterson was like catching "a glimpse of Bigfoot." Pastis added, "By the end of the process, I was left with the distinct impression that he works in a log cabin lit by whale oil and hands his finished artwork to a man on a pony."
- Last week, the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Suzi LeVine, became the first U.S. ambassador to be sworn in on a Kindle.
- Haruki Murakami has a typically charming new story, "Yesterday," in The New Yorker: "That's what we all do: endlessly take the long way around. I wanted to tell her this, but kept silent. Blurting out aphorisms like that was another one of my problems."
- Jeffrey Archer, the novelist and disgraced British politician (who made a memorable cameo in Bridget Jones' Diary), announced that he had received treatment for prostate cancer but is now cancer-free.
- Outside of the rare mega-hit, self-published books tend to be overlooked by critics at big news outlets (for one thing, because self-published authors don't have the publicity teams traditional publishers offer). But The Guardian and Legend Press have created a new monthly prize for self-published books that tries "to find books that are not only zeitgeisty [eds note: zeitgeisty!] and promising, but will be talked about in 10 or even 100 years' time." The first winner is Tom Moran's Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers, which, according to The Guardian, features a character who "inadvertently commit[s] manslaughter with a copy of the Guinness Book of Records 2008 and discover[s] the secret of time travel — it involves cheese — thanks to a cow in Budleigh Salterton which is independent of the space-time continuum. High-jinks, ghosts and Devon-based romance ensue."