The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s ardent and occasionally brutal letters to his Austrian lover are up for sale from a U.K. dealer of rare books. Written in the 1930s, the letters to Edith Morpurgo show a “tempestuous relationship, with hints of sadomasochism,” according to bookseller Peter Harrington. One letter from Fleming, originally written in German, reads: “Otherwise I will say nothing more to you — only that I —— you. If I were to say ‘love’ you would only argue, and then I would have to whip you and you would cry and I don’t want that. I only want for you to be happy. But I would also like to hurt you because you have earned it and in order to tame you like a little wild animal. So be careful, you.” The letters are for sale for £47,500 (about $78,700).
- Meg Wolitzer writes about the mysterious origins of her inspiration, including Michael Apted’s Up films and folk music. “Actual inspiration for a novel can come from various pumps and nozzles, and sometimes it can’t even be perceived as it’s happening but can only be examined later, when, in a more lucid and practical state, you try to figure out exactly how you managed to generate all those pages. Sometimes, right after I’ve finished a novel, I hardly remember even having written it. It’s as if my not really evil but certainly productive twin wrote it, while I was off doing something light and indulgent, like getting a two-year facial.”
- This is an old story, but it has been making the rounds on various news outlets in the past few days. So, consider this your annual reminder: The Harvard University Library has at least three books bound in human skin.
- Jonathan Schell, journalist and chronicler of wars real and imagined, died on Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was 70. In 1967, at age 24, he published a devastating account in The New Yorker of American and South Vietnamese forces razing the village of Ben Suc: “Air Force jets sent their bombs down on the deserted ruins, scorching again the burned foundations of the houses and pulverizing for a second time the heaps of rubble, in the hope of collapsing tunnels too deep and well hidden for the bulldozers to crush — as though, having decided to destroy it, we were now bent on annihilating every possible indication that the village of Ben Suc had ever existed.” He went on to write several books, including The Fate of the Earth, an indictment of nuclear arms race, and a careful sketch of the likely outcome of nuclear war. “Usually, people wait for things to occur before trying to describe them,” he wrote. “But since we cannot afford under any circumstances to let a holocaust occur, we are forced in this one case to become the historians of the future — to chronicle and commit to memory an event that we have never experienced and must never experience.”
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