Richard Russo on Amazon's Tactics, James Wood Reviews Pulphead, and More

Evan Smith Rakoff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

Author Richard Russo weighs in on Amazon's new Price Check app, and invites fellow best-selling writers Scott Turow, Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta, and Ann Patchett to share their takes on the matter. Russo writes, "Amazon’s ham-fisted strategy has the potential to morph into a genuine Occupy Amazon movement. And even if the company is lucky and that doesn’t happen, what has it really gained?" (New York Times)

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Seaburn Bookstore, in Queens, New York, is closing its doors. (New York Daily News)

In better news, at a signing for his new book Back to Work, former president Bill Clinton helped an independent bookstore in Pleasantville, New York, have one of its biggest one-day sales in recent history. (USA Today)

Novelist Vanessa Veselka writes for the Atlantic of her time working in an Amazon warehouse early in the last decade, and her efforts to unionize her co-workers. "I was terrified. Sitting in my 1981 Corolla waiting for him to finish his shift, my mind raced. Had he gone to management? Had someone else overheard me? What if I got fired? I did, after all, need this lousy $8.72-an-hour job."

The Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) announced yesterday that Jon Peede, who just ended his tenure as the National Endowment for the Arts' director of literature, will be VQR's new publisher. On Monday, VQR announced that Donovan Webster would join the staff as deputy editor. The news comes more than a year after the magazine hit troubled waters, following the suicide of its long-time managing editor Kevin Morrissey. (Los Angeles Times)

Critic James Wood examines the work of contemporary essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan, whose collection Pulphead was released this past October. "Unlike Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion, who bring their famous styles along with them like well-set, just-done hair, Sullivan lets his subjects muss and alter his prose; he works like a novelist." (New Yorker)

Gabrielle Gantz, a publicist for Viking and Penguin, illuminates exactly what a book publicist does, and provides helpful tips for first-time authors. (SFWA)

New York magazine provides hard numbers on the financial lives of poets, listing sales figures, MFA statistics, and the paychecks earned by publishing in the New Yorker and Paris Review.