The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the head in 2011, is writing a book about gun control. She plans to collaborate with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, on Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence, which is set to come out in June. In a statement released by publisher Scribner, Kelly wrote, "As Second Amendment supporters and gun owners ourselves, we hope our book rouses the long-overdue conversation our country needs to make responsible changes to our gun laws so that no more precious lives are lost." Giffords and Kelly collaborated with Jeffrey Zaslow on 2011's Gabby: A Story of Courage, Love and Resilience, which told of Giffords' recovery.
- NASA is working with sci-fi publisher Tor to create "NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction." According to The Wall Street Journal, "The partnership pairs up novelists with NASA scientists and engineers, who help writers develop scientifically plausible story lines and spot-check manuscripts for technical errors." An unnamed NASA official told the Journal that in return, NASA gets "an innovative way to reach out to the public to raise awareness of what the agency is doing."
- Penguin Books India has agreed to withdraw Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History from sale in India and pulp the unsold and recalled copies to settle a lawsuit by a Hindu group. The lawsuit filed by Dina Nath Batra, the head of the Hindu educational group Shiksha Bacho Andolan, stated that Doniger's book presents a skewed view of Hinduism. In a court filing, Bathra claimed that Doniger, who is a professor at the University of Chicago, wrote the book "with a Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light." He also accused Doniger of eroticizing aspects of the Hindu faith, writing, "Your approach is that of a woman hungry of sex." Penguin Books India did not respond to a request for comment.
- In a 1955 letter to his publisher, J.R.R. Tolkien writes that his friend the poet W.H. Auden disapproved of the romance between Aragon and Arwen in the Lord of the Rings series. Tolkien wrote that Auden "thinks Aragorn-Arwen unnecessary & perfunctory...I still find it poignant: an allegory of naked hope. I hope you do." The letter, which has never been published, will be auctioned by Bonhams in March.
- The Omnivore's Hatchet Job of the Year award has gone to A.A. Gill's review of Morrissey's Autobiography. The award, which celebrates incisive criticism and aims to "raise the profile of professional critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism," comes with a golden hatchet and a year's supply of potted shrimp, the buttery seafood dish beloved of James Bond. In his review, which is up on the Omnivore's website, Gill writes, "There is an absence of music, not just in its tone, but the content. There are emetic pools of limpid prose about the music business, the ingratitude of fellow musicians and band members and the lack of talent in other performers, but there is nothing about the making of music itself, the composing of lyrics, the process of singing or the emotion of creation." He adds, "It is a heavy tome, utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability. It is a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness."
- On a related note, The New York Times asks writers Zoë Heller and Francine Prose "whether bad books should be written about or ignored." Heller writes, "Banning 'negativity' is not just bad for the culture; it is unfair to authors. A review, however aggressively unfavorable, is generally obliged to provide supporting evidence for its judgments. It is also published under a byline, signaling to all that it is the work of one fallible human being. This seems an altogether fairer and more accountable way of dealing with a book one deems 'bad' than banishing it, without explanation, from public notice."