The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- James Patterson, king of the mass-market paperback, is offering to donate a book to every sixth grader in public school in New York City. He plans to give out nearly 45,000 copies of his book Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life — in which Rafe Khatchadorian goes on a quest to break every rule in his school's draconian Code of Conduct — to each student who asks for one across some 300 schools. In a press release, Patterson says, "I love New York City, and I'm so delighted to be sharing this gift of books and reading with the city's sixth graders." The books are meant to combat "summer slide" — when students lose much of what they learned during the year over the summer break. Patterson made a similar move in Chicago earlier this month, donating some 28,000 books to sixth graders in public schools there.
- The Moscow Times pays a visit to a secret Soviet erotica collection. The newspaper report reads, "It was the kinkiest secret in the Soviet Union: Across from the Kremlin, the country's main library held a pornographic treasure trove. Founded by the Bolsheviks as a repository for aristocrats' erotica, the collection eventually grew to house 12,000 items from around the world, ranging from 18th-century Japanese engravings to Nixon-era romance novels. Off limits to the general public, the collection was always open to top party brass, some of whom are said to have enjoyed visiting. Today, the spetskhran is no more, but the collection is still something of a secret: There is no complete compendium of its contents, and many of them are still unlisted in the catalogue."
- "I'm always being edited by my inner nun." George Saunders talks about the effects of his Catholic school education in an interview reprinted by The New Yorker from the forthcoming book Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers.
- The late Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska has a poem (called "A Poem") translated in The New York Review of Books (bringing this issue's number of female contributors up to a whopping 4/25 ... well done, team):
"Time out from infinity for endless sky!
Relief from nonspace in a shivering birch tree's shape!
Now or never wind will stir a cloud,
since wind is exactly what won't blow there.
And a beetle hits the trail in a witness's dark suit,
testifying to the long wait for a short life."