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If Michael Chabon's new novel The Yiddish Policeman's Union, does not win him a second  Pulitzer Prize, I will pick up and move my family to Sitka, Alaska, an old Russian trading post and current city of 8,986 shivering souls … Read More

By / June 1, 2007
  • If Michael Chabon's new novel The Yiddish Policeman's Union, does not win him a second  Pulitzer Prize, I will pick up and move my family to Sitka, Alaska, an old Russian trading post and current city of 8,986 shivering souls that served as the setting for Chabon's fantastical Yiddish homeland. *
  • Best-selling author Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, and The Fortress of Solitude is giving away the film adaptation rights to his new novel You Don't Love Me Yet. Lethem announced this on his website in March and made his decision this week. Greg Marcks was one of four finalists who submitted proposals for this project. The author explains below why he's opted to give away the film option. Why? Lately I've become fitful about some of the typical ways art is commodified. Despite making my living (mostly) by licensing my own copyrights, I found myself questioning some of the particular ways such rights are transacted, and even some of the premises underlying what's called intellectual property. I read a lot of Lawrence Lessig and Siva Vaidhyanathan, who convinced me that technological progress – and globalization – made this a particularly contemporary issue. I also read Lewis Hyde's The Gift, which persuaded me, paradoxically, that these issues are eternal ones, deeply embedded in the impulse to make any kind of art in the first place. I came away with the sense that artists ought to engage these questions directly, rather than leaving it entirely for corporations (on one side) and public advocates (on the other) to hash out. I also realized that sometimes giving things away – things that are usually seen to have an important and intrinsic 'value', like a film option – already felt like a meaningful part of what I do. I wanted to do more of it. I ended up writing a long essay for Harper's exploring these issues, and a few months ago I launched The Promiscuous Materials Project – a small first attempt to play with different ways of handling rights to some of my work. That project – and this one – are only experiments, not systematic alternatives to the ordinary ways of doing things. I'm not necessarily recommending them to others, nor am I handling all my rights this way. In a way I see both projects as extensions of the essay: further provocations to thinking about such things a little differently.
  • It sounds like people are turning off the TV and buying books, at least according to a study by the Book Industry Study Group. Publishers sold 3.1 billion books in 2006, though they have no idea how many of those books have gone unread.
  • Nathan Englander speaks. A rare interview with the shyest writer I've ever met.
  • A personal plug. My recently launched 1001 Book Project, a campaign to sell a thousand and one copies of my new novel before publication in September has sold 157 books in the first 10 days. Please feel free to help the cause and buy a book or two.
  • * means that Jon Papernick has no intention of moving to Sitka, Alaska.
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