But wait — there’s more. If Riggleman doesn’t win his congressional race in Virginia’s 5th District, at least he has other options. XBlaze, “an adult entertainment studio with a penchant for the weird and wonderful,” reached out to Riggleman this week after news of his parodic Bigfoot manuscript melted down the Internet. “As fellow fans of Bigfoot, we appreciate that you’ve brought the legend of Sasquatch back into pop culture,” writes Jeff Dillon, CEO and founder of XBlaze. “We would like to offer you a job — no, not performing, but writing a script for our studio that resonates with fans of the genre. . . . If you’re going to be accused of something that you didn’t do, you may as well irritate your competition and detractors further by actually doing it. And we are more than willing to help you irritate them.”
Bestseller milestones. “The President Is Missing,” the thriller co-written by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, crossed more than 500,000 hardback sales this week. And Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Less” crossed over 100,000 copies in paperback.
Newest D.C. bookstore. Politics & Prose recently open a snazzy new store at Union Market in Northeast Washington. At 1,000 square feet, it’s about a tenth of the size of the main store on Connecticut Avenue, but it’s got extra space for author talks and literary events. The well-curated collection of more than 6,000 titles includes fiction and poetry, travel and history and more. There’s also a sweet selection of gifts for babies and kids. A cafe called the Village will open soon next door, and, of course, Union Market offers many delicious food vendors. P&P co-owner Bradley Graham says, “The first month was encouraging. Our initial idea for the Union Market store was to highlight books about food, wellness and art. But already we’ve found customers there shopping for many of the same literary and political works that do well at P&P’s flagship location.” When I stopped by, the staff members were planning a display of novels longlisted for the Booker Prize. (Among those titles is one of my favorites this year, “The Overstory,” a spectacular environmental novel by Richard Powers.) As I left, I heard a customer say, “I wonder if they have that book by that guy about that thing.” I bet they do.
Spellbinding. The annual PEN/Faulkner gala is Washington’s most enjoyable literary event, and this year promises to be especially enchanting. On Sept. 24, 10 authors — former finalists and winners of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the PEN/Malamud Award — will deliver short pieces on the theme of “magic.” The featured writers will be David Bradley, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Kate Christensen, Michael Cunningham, Karen Joy Fowler, James Hannaham, Lorraine López, ZZ Packer, Joan Silber and Tobias Wolff. Tickets to this annual fundraiser, which supports PEN/Faulkner’s literacy work in D.C. schools, start at $600 and include cocktails before the readings and a formal dinner with the authors afterward in the Folger Shakespeare Library. (Note: This week, PEN/Faulkner started looking for a new executive director. Applications should be received by Aug. 20.)
#MeMaybe. Sandra Gilbert, one of the greatest feminist critics alive, offers a thoughtful, conflicted reflection on our era’s response to sexual harassment in the American Scholar. “I’m a bit alienated from #MeToo,” she writes, “because parts of it seem to be rooted in a sometimes problematic culture of date rape that coexists with an equally problematic hookup culture.”
#NotMe. Phil Christman’s essay “What Is It Like to Be a Man?” in the Hedgehog Review makes a fascinating companion to Gilbert’s piece. “As real as I know male privilege to be,” Christman writes, “it is surreal to find maleness, an aspect of my life that I associate mainly with chosen discomfort, equated now, by so many people, with bovine self-complacency.” Both Chistman and Gilbert write about these issues with a degree of candor and complexity that’s almost extinct in our Shout-o-Sphere.
Listen up. As you may have heard, audiobooks are hot. The latest sales data from the Association of American Publishers shows downloaded audiobook sales in April 2018 at $38 million, up by 44 percent compared with April 2017. (This week my wife and I listened to the audiobook version of Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” Rutina Wesley Kelvin, Harrison Jr. and Chris Chalk give voice to the novel’s three narrators — female, adolescent and spectral — and they’re remarkable.)
Whale of confusion. This week marks Herman Melville’s 199th birthday, which reminds me that his name was recently used in vain in a distressing way. During a discussion of how to simplify financial adviser disclosure forms, SEC Commissioner Michael S. Piwowar complained, “These summaries are meant be clear and concise, and to read like ‘plain English.’ Yet the Flesch-Kincaid readability calculator shows that they are about as comprehensible to the average reader as Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick.’ This makes sense, considering that the SEC staff who drafted them are securities lawyers and PhD economists.” Really? Are we so bad off as a nation that the average citizen can’t read and enjoy one of our greatest novels?
Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts TotallyHipVideoBookReview.com.