The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- The 33rd annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike competition at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Fla., kicks off Thursday. The stoically bearded among us will go head to head in the fiercely competitive three-day tournament to win the coveted title of "Papa." Last year, Florida defense attorney Frank Louderback was so eager to compete that he asked a judge to postpone a murder-for-hire trial so he could take part. The judge, however, was unimpressed. In her denial of the motion, she wrote: "Between a murder-for hire trial and an annual look-alike contest, surely Hemingway, a perfervid admirer of 'grace under pressure' would choose the trial," adding, "Or at least, isn't it pretty to think so?"
- The good name of Jonathan Franzen was besmirched Tuesday when one Jesse Montgomery of the blog Full Stop claimed he saw the author pretending to be a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz in an attempt to rent movies from the library: "It was then that the 2001 National Book Award winner began a fraudulent attempt to rent films from the library's audio visual department and perhaps defraud the state of California." Franzen maintains his innocence. In response to an inquiry from NPR, he wrote, somewhat grumpily, "The dialogue the author reproduces is totally inaccurate. I never represented that I was a student. And I do have a valid UCSC library card, because I'm a fellow of Cowell College. But it's true that I was there in the media center last week." (Correction at 6:30 p.m. ET, July 18: Earlier, we mistakenly referred to Montgomery as a "she." We've corrected the post to say "he.")
- NW author Zadie Smith's next book will be a "science-fiction romp" (a romp!). The London Standard says, "As for her own next move, she says it will be a total departure: a science-fiction romp. She has been reading a lot of Ursula K Le Guin. 'It's a concept novel. It's the only novel I've ever written that has a plot, which is thrilling. I don't know if I can do it. Those books are incredibly hard to write.' "
- Open City author Teju Cole recalls for Granta the experience of being robbed in Lagos, Nigeria: "What I feel each time I enter the country is not a panic, exactly; it is rather a sense of fragility, of being more susceptible to accidents and incidents, as though some invisible veil of protection had been withdrawn, and fate, with all its hoarded hostility, could strike at any time."
- In The Guardian, author Michael Cunningham compares Virginia Woolf and James Joyce: "To the Lighthouse doesn't slay and pillage in the same way, yet it is every bit as revolutionary as Ulysses, and for some of the same reasons. Like Joyce, Woolf knew the entire world could be seen by looking not only at the big picture, but also the small one, in more or less the way a physicist who studies subatomic particles is witness to miracles every bit as astonishing as those observed by an astronomer."