The list, care of the Christian Science Monitor.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The list, care of the Christian Science Monitor.
A funny thing happened on the way to its predicted obsolescence. The library became more popular than ever.
From a story in Metropolis Magazine...
To put things a bit more simply, the book—the object that, for so long, defined the library—is no longer its primary focus. Indeed, as content is increasingly digitized, one might ask whether the library is even a viable building type for the future. “My guess is that most libraries will cease to exist,” says David Bell, a professor at Princeton’s Department of History who writes on the subject. “People who love the physical book will see this as one of the great moments of barbarism in history.” Most susceptible are smaller libraries—in high schools, for example—that might easily be replaced by electronic workstations. Library space may be hard to justify when the content of a quarter of a million books fits onto a chip that you can slip into your pocket.
But for all their supposed obsolescence, libraries remain vital places, and many of them are more crowded than ever. Printed material, however, is not always the primary draw. “Increasingly, people can use that material anywhere that they want to, which means they come to the library for other needs,” says Jim Neal, the vice president for information services and university librarian at Columbia University. “They come to study. They come to work together. They come to use technology they can’t carry around. They come here to consult with experts, with librarians.”
Cubans have made a giant daiquiri in honor of Ernest Hemingway. Really giant.
From a piece in the New York Daily News...
It is well known that the most masculine of all novelists, Ernest Hemingway, found his solace in that sweet concoction know as the daiquiri. And on Saturday, bartenders at Havana's El Floridita tavern, where Hemingway fell in love with the slushy rum cocktail during his lengthy sojourn in Cuba, paid homage to Papa's favorite drink by attempting to set the record for the largest daiquiri in the world.
According to the Associated Press, the effort took place, in a manner befitting the notoriously hard-drinking Hemingway, well before the sun was over the yardarm (at 9 a.m., to be precise) and involved waiters pouring blender-fulls of daiquiri into a nearly seven-foot tall plastic cocktail glass that could hold a total of 71 gallons. El Floridita insiders believe the bid will earn them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Monday, July 30, 2012
That's the question posed by Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books.
From the article...
Let’s talk about money. In his history of world art, E.H. Gombrich mentions a Renaissance artist whose uneven work was a puzzle, until art historians discovered some of his accounts and compared incomes with images: paid less he worked carelessly; well-remunerated he excelled. So, given the decreasing income of writers over recent years—one thinks of the sharp drop in payments for freelance journalism and again in advances for most novelists, partly to do with a stagnant market for books, partly to do with the liveliness and piracy of the Internet—are we to expect a corresponding falling off in the quality of what we read? Can the connection really be that simple? On the other hand, can any craft possibly be immune from a relationship with money?
Asked to write blogs for other sites, some with much larger audiences, I chose to stay with the New York Review, partly out of an old loyalty and partly because they pay me better. Would I write worse if I wrote for a more popular site for less money? Or would I write better because I was excited by the larger number of people following the site? And would this larger public then lead to my making more money some other way, say, when I sold a book to an American publisher? And if that book did make more money further down the line, having used the blog as a loss leader, does that mean the next book would be better written? Or do I always write as well or as badly as I anyway do regardless of payment, so that these monetary transactions and the decisions that go with them affect my bank balance and anxiety levels, but not the quality of what I do?
Sunday, July 29, 2012
From a piece on Media Bistro...
FremantleMedia and Random House, two companies owned by the Bertelsmann AG media conglomerate, have teamed up to create Random House Television. The new entity will focus on creating and developing television content from Random House books.
Here’s more from the release: “The first-look deal with FremantleMedia will reside within Random House Television, a newly created part of Random House Studio, the publisher’s rebranded and expanded entertainment division led by Peter Gethers, President. Random House Television will work together with Random House’s editors and publishers, and their authors’ agents, to identify and acquire performance rights for the full range of broadcast network, cable, and premium television scripted formats. The partnership will also seek to collaborate with Random House authors to develop original scripted television properties they might create.”
Saturday, July 28, 2012
The Millions takes a look at Chuck Berry...the poet.
From the post...
Chuck Berry has had a hard life: reform school, two prison terms, financial exploitation, bankruptcy, racial discrimination, and much else. It is not his manner to rehearse his private grief in public, though the sly braggadocio of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” and the crypto-autobiography of “Johnny B. Goode” trade playfully on his public image. Whether the pathos of “Memphis, Tennessee” derives from his own domestic sorrows is, strictly speaking, beside the point, though in a song this tender and touching, no supposition seems entirely extraneous. At any rate, “Memphis, Tennessee” is one of the greatest story songs in American music, all the more affecting for being so offhand and bouncy. (Berry himself, so he says in his Autobiography, played the swooping bass and “the ticky-tack drums that trot along in the background.”) What appears on first listening to be just another comic ditty about frustrated pedophilia (or so I used to interpret the top-forty version by Johnny Rivers that I knew as a child) turns out to be the desperate plea of a divorced father barred from any contact with his six-year-old daughter. The narrative builds to its final revelation piece by piece, with incidental details carrying an emotional load too freighted to be acknowledged outright: that the girl is furtively trying to reach her father; that the father has taken refuge with relatives; that although he now lives in the sort of place where messages are written on the wall, he once lived in a house high on a ridge overlooking the river; that the girl’s mother, not he, has broken up the family. And all of this – the heartbreak, the loss, the wit – by way of a conversation with a telephone operator.
From a piece on CNN...
When a mainland Chinese tourist heard about a bookstore in Hong Kong that sold books banned by Beijing, he knew he had to check it out.
The Beijing native traveled to Hong Kong for a weekend in July and stopped by People's Commune in Causeway Bay to see if the rumors were true. "I want to know the inside stories of the party," said the man, who did not want to be identified because it was illegal to bring the books back home. "It has nothing to do with me personally but there is no way you can get those inside China."
In mainland China the government places strict controls on mass media, which often means that political analysis and controversial accounts of Chinese history are impossible to find within the country's borders.
However, entrepreneurs in Hong Kong -- a special administrative region of China that has freedom of press -- are cashing in on the ban to cater to the millions of mainland Chinese who travel to Hong Kong to shop.
The New York Times profiles a program in Charlottesville, Virginia.
From the piece...
For five weeks each summer Rare Book School brings some 300 librarians, conservators, scholars, dealers, collectors and random book-mad civilians together for weeklong intensive courses in an atmosphere that combines the intensity of the seminar room, the nerdiness of a “Star Trek” convention and the camaraderie of a summer camp where people come back year after year.
Vic Zoschak, a retired Coast Guard pilot turned antiquarian bookseller from Alameda, Calif., took his first class in 1998 and has returned for 14 more. “Flying search-and-rescue missions was satisfying work,“ he said. “But here, I found my people.”
For many Rare Book School is an important networking opportunity, not to mention a chance to bunk in the Thomas Jefferson-designed lodgings that ring the university’s famous central Lawn, with their appropriately antiquarian lack of indoor toilets. But it also fills an important intellectual niche, teaching skills and knowledge that have been orphaned by increasingly technology-minded library schools and theory-oriented literature departments.
Friday, July 27, 2012
You've watched the movies and now you want to read the comics. But where to start? There's a zillion titles out there. The AV Club is here to help.
From a post...
Potential gateway: Batman: Year One (1987)
After introducing the world to a hulking, brutal future Batman in 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller teamed with his Daredevil collaborator David Mazzucchelli to tell the definitive Batman origin story, cultivating the gritty aesthetic that would stick with the character to the present day. Miller is at his best here, delving into the minds of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon to tell an emotionally dense, intensely dramatic story that reads like it could take place in the real world. Batman doesn’t take down any masked supervillains in Year One, but rather the mobsters that destroy Gotham City in less flamboyant ways. Mazzucchelli shows why he’s one of comics’ greatest talents with intensely detailed yet remarkably fluid artwork, and his masterful use of shadows makes him ideally suited to drawing the Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is heavily influenced by Year One, and fans of the most recent films will want to seek out this title as an entry point to the Batman comic-book universe.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Why does Amazon rule supreme in book sales? Bookseller Tim Waterstone recounts the story of how his eponymous chain was ruined by a short-term business mindset and publishers giving in to the internet behemoth.
From a piece on the Daily Beast...
From a piece on the Daily Beast...
What the publishers seemed not to realise was that Amazon in their concentration on consumer pricing, were impervious to the overall welfare of the industries in which they were operating. It’s all so very simple. Make and build your brand on a reputation for absolutely rock bottom pricing. Even say it upfront, insultingly and aggressively, in your advertising—go, Mr. Consumer, go to Harrods or wherever it is, inspect and admire the goods, then come home and buy them from us. Online. At a deep, deep discount. And f**k Harrods or whoever it is for their trouble. More fool them. And more fool Waterstones.
No one of course can now put the genie back in the bottle. It was the publishers who largely allowed Amazon to create its model. How? In business school speak, by dealing with Amazon on a wholesale model, and with the traditional bookshops—their lifeblood for centuries—on an agency model. In simple terms, Amazon was allowed at their inception to buy from publishers at far, far lower prices than their bookshop competitors. It was a savagely disloyal mistake. Every publisher knows that now, even finding themselves in all sorts of legal knots as they try, second time around, to control price setting in the ebook market.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Pull a hardcover book off your shelf. Is the edge smooth or rough-edged? If it's rough-edged you have yourself a deckled edge? The Economist goes into all things deckled, here.
From the piece...
The deckle edge was unavoidable until the 19th century, a byproduct of the papermaking process. Since it became unnecessary, the rough edge gradually turned into a status symbol. Advertisements for books in the late 1800s are rife with mentions of a "deckle edge" alongside the fine paper on which a title was printed. But even that aspect has begun to fade as modern book buyers do not know what to make of it.
Paper begins as a suspension of fibres in a water slurry that is drained through a screen. A frame temporarily placed around the screen to restrain the mixture in place is known as a deckle. A papermaker lifts the deckle after draining sufficient water and before pressing the paper with felt and continuing the process to a finished sheet.
The deckle cannot make a perfect seal against the screen, and fibres seep under its edge, which creates the rough-edged pattern. Before the era of continuously produced paper, which began with the invention in the early 1800s of the so-called Fourdrinier machine, all paper had a deckle edge.
Monday, July 23, 2012
The Virginia Quarterly Review reviews it.
From the piece...
I have an additional, more immediate professional reason for trying to keep up with the poetry scene. It is part of my job. I edit a magazine. For a little more than a quarter century, I have looked at all the poems that have come in over the transom of my office at the Southwest Review, now the country’s third oldest, continuously published literary quarterly. We are in our ninety-seventh year. Sewanee and Yale have us beat by a hair. My elevation to the bad eminence of literary magazine editor-in-chief dates back to 1984; its story deserves retelling. Out of Dallas during the summer, I was minding my own business when the phone rang and the university provost called to ask whether I might consider taking over the helm of a magazine that had fallen upon—if not exactly evil days—a kind of torpid desuetude. He wanted to return the Review to faculty supervision. I firmly believe that if one is a sensible, rational person, one should make all of life’s important decisions impulsively. Because I have an interest in contemporary literature, and because the appointment came with a slight lessening of my teaching course load, I said yes, perhaps foolishly.
Returning to Dallas in the brutal dog days of mid-August, I went to my new office, the previous staff having responded to my appointment by resigning in a fit of pique, and I surveyed the scene. Literally hundreds of unread manuscripts had piled up on bookshelves, desks, and floor. I hired a managing editor. A secretary was—thank goodness—already in place, and knew about the business end of things. We had, of course, no Internet, no computer (that came two years later), nothing but a telephone, stationery, and stamps. I began sorting the manuscripts; I made my way through the obvious chaff and remained on the look out for the wheat. Slowly, things came into view. Slowly, I made my choices. Slowly, I began to understand my tastes and preferences. As an unintended consequence, editing has certainly had its effects on my teaching: because I can now articulate clearly what appeals to me, and why I have accepted or rejected a certain work, I can use my standards—which I never hold up as universal—to show my students how to develop theirs.
AbeBooks explores the books about the explorers.
From the post...
There had been an initial flurry of interest in the expedition after the men returned. Patrick Gass, the Corps’ carpenter, published the first and bestselling account of the adventure, Journal of Voyages and Travels, in 1807. It went through four American, a British, and a French edition in the first five years. But by the time the Lewis and Clark's official report was published in 1814, reader interest had evaporated.
A new edition of Lewis and Clark’s journals would not appear in the United States until 1842, when nearly everyone involved was dead. The Lewis and Clark legend has been revived only in the past 100 years, and with that new interest came a fascination for Sacagawea, the pregnant, 16-year-old Indian girl who served as their translator on the expedition. Hundreds of books have now been devoted to the feats of the Corps of Discovery, and after two centuries, the public now shows an enduring interest in their feats of discovery.
From a piece on AbeBooks' Reading Copy blog...
Wharton had an unpublished story, called Beatrice Palmato, which is, in passages, downright lurid in its pornographic – and highly taboo – detail. Assumed to be written when Wharton was in her late fifties, the story depicts an incestuous relationship in detail that would make anyone redden to their roots.
In her exploration of the fragment – of its meaning, its origins and the reason for its existence – Dean goes on to theorize that Wharton may have had some greater intention than shock, disturbance or titillation when she wrote the words.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Jack Hitt talks with Sasha Weiss about what forensic linguistics can tell us about how we communicate, care of the New Yorker.
From the intro...
For listeners new to the field, Hitt explains that forensic linguists study the semantic tics, unusual phrasings, and other verbal clues that reveal “how people unconsciously signal who they are through their language.” These methods have long been used in civil courts to settle disputes over trademarks or patents, but they are increasingly being used to help solve criminal cases as well.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Museum of the City of New York travels the streets of the city with Walt Whitman.
From the post...
Walt Whitman, one of America’s most celebrated writers, was born into a working-class Long Island family on May 31, 1819. Four years later, the family moved to Brooklyn. Whitman cherished his memory of Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette visiting New York in August 1824. According to Whitman, Lafayette picked him out of the crowd, lifted him up, and carried him.
After Whitman’s formal education ended when he was 11, he worked at a Brooklyn law firm and later at various newspapers. These positions afforded Whitman the opportunity for self-education and encouraged his interest in politics. Whitman openly supported the Free-Soil Party, formed in 1848 to oppose the extension of slavery into the Western territories. This would eventually cost him his job at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, as his convictions clashed with those of Issac Van Anden, the newspaper’s publisher.
Friday, July 20, 2012
That's the question recently posed by the Atlantic.
From the piece...
There was something recognizable about those looping, seemingly handmade cursive letters. Was it déjà vu, or had we seen this cover someplace else before?
Maybe not this very cover, but several notably similar ones. Handscript-titled book covers with simple handmade illustrations have been used lately all over the upper echelons of fiction: Last year, Chad Harbach's divisive baseball bildungsroman The Art of Fielding had its title curlicued across the front, like the franchise name on an old-style home-team jersey; meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot introduced itself to the world in a disarmingly dressed-down fashion, its name hurriedly jotted down over a comic-book graphic of a wedding band. Similarly, John Green's 2011 book The Fault In Our Stars, Mark Haddon's new release The Red House, Maggie Shipstead's June debut Seating Arrangements, and Giorgio Faletti's forthcoming Italian-import sensation A Pimp's Notes all feature hand-scrawled titles that largely dominate their covers, accompanied by only minimal artwork.
Examine a few more, like the assorted shorter works by Salmon Fishing In The Yemen author Paul Torday, and it would seem that this handicraft, homespun pattern is the hautest couture of the moment in book fashion.
... Or is it?
Thursday, July 19, 2012
That's the question recently posed.
From a piece in the Christian Science Monitor...
“All you have to really do is read what teenagers write themselves, and I've judged competitions for teenagers writing, and it's darkness beyond anything I would come up with,” Ness told BBC Breakfast. “Teenagers look at this darkness all the time, and I always think if you're not addressing it in your fiction, then you're abandoning them to face it themselves.
“It's not as if books exist in a vacuum and that's all the input teenagers are getting,” he continued. “Teenagers look at the Internet, they look at the news, they look at pornography on the internet, they look at violent movies on the Internet. So if children's literature is not addressing that, if it's addressing the world as it should be rather than as it is, then why would a teenager read you?”
What’s more, Ness argued, ratings systems for young adult literature simply don’t work. “If it's got an 18 certificate for adults, then younger children will look it out when their parents are not around … Children are great self-censors. They know what they can read and they know what they want to read, and if you don't give it to them, they'll find it somehow.”
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The list, care of Discover Magazine.
From said list...
When it comes to journalistic ethics, Mr Kent is not so super after all. He regularly reports about himself without disclosing as much. He deceives his employers by moonlighting during working hours as a doer of derring, leaping his contractual obligations in a single bound. Worst of all, he uses the privileged inside information that he gleans as a journalist for his own personal gain during his extracurricular activities. Here is a man who is faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, and about as transparent as either of those.
Fed up of superhero films? Hiding your copy of Watchmen behind The Economist on the train? Comics are a serious literary form as well as being fun, says the author of a new book on Batman.
From an interview on the Browser...
Do you feel the spate of films based on comic books over the last decade has done comics a service or disservice?
Actually, my impression is that comics are a minority pursuit again, just a research project for film producers. Films and video games are so much bigger. Marvel considers comics a sideline now, and there’s not much feedback from the films to the comics. The Avengers has taken more than a billion dollars at the box office, but I doubt that many of the people who saw it then bought any of the original comic books.
So why should we read comics? What’s the appeal?
They are a unique storytelling medium. They can tell a story in a way that no other medium can. But I’m not evangelical about comics, and I don’t have a problem if they’re a niche interest. There was a time in the eighties when everyone thought comics were going to break through. They were sold in bookshops. “Sequential art”, “post-textual literature” and all kinds of other pretentious terms were bandied about. I don’t think that’s necessary. Comics are their own thing, and work on their own terms, in different ways to novels and films.
From a piece in the San Jose Daily News...
In what's becoming an annual showdown that's uncommon in the liberal Bay Area, the Fremont Unified School District board overruled Hu and rejected novelist Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina" for the AP English supplemental reading list. While the book detailing horrific childhood abuse will remain in school libraries, it can't be taught in class.
That has Hu and others bringing up charges of censorship by the three-member board majority.
"I'm challenging them on their biases," said Hu, who twice before submitted Allison's semiautobiographical novel and National Book Award nominee for district approval. Even with the endorsement of a district textbook committee, the board voted it down, as it did in 2009 and 2010.
Last year, the board rejected her nomination of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about AIDS in the 1980s.
Board members deny that their decisions are politically motivated. Instead, they say the books are too violent, shocking or disparaging of certain groups.
The Los Angeles Review of Books investigates symbolism and nature in Cinderella while reviewing some recent retellings.
From the piece...
On top of the many modern retellings, there are also a myriad of older versions that we might consider templates: not only Grimm’s “Aschenputtl” (published 1812), but also the Chinese “Yeh-hsien” (recorded circa 850), and Giambattista Basile’s Italian “Cerentola” (published 1634). Any consideration of the story we call “Cinderella” for simplicity’s sake must acknowledge that Cinderella has had a dizzying array of personae over hundreds of years, in several cultures. There is no one authoritative tale of Cinderella, only a hall of mirrors with a different face in each reflection.
One theme that older versions have in common, however, is the cultivation of a strong affinity between the main character and nature. In “Yeh-hsien,” the protagonist is given dresses and jewels by the magic bones of her pet fish. Another Chinese version of the tale, Lin Lan’s “Three Wishes,” portrays women reincarnated as animals. The beautiful young girl’s dead mother becomes a cow who aids her daughter with domestic tasks set by a cruel stepmother — until the stepmother kills and eats the cow. The Cinderella figure of that story, Beauty, is drowned in a well by her ugly stepsister, then transformed into a sparrow, then back again into a girl. The Grimm’s Cinderella has perhaps the most marked connection to nature. If the tale seems to emphasize the lowly status of Cinderella as a servant in her stepmother’s house, it is worth remembering that Cinderella is an employer of her own: she commands the birds to sort the lentils her stepmother has thrown into the ashes, and when she needs lovely clothes for the ball, she tells a hazel tree, “Shake your branches, little tree, / Toss gold and silver down on me.” Doves are her confederates, and when the stepsisters take knives to their feet in order to fit into Cinderella’s gold slipper, the birds warn the prince: “Roo coo coo, roo coo coo, / Blood’s in the shoe.”
This emphasis on nature may be due in part to a focus on transformation.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
From a piece in USA Today's Pop Candy...
Today, I have the exclusive news that Archie Comics has partnered with MAC Cosmetics, of all things, to launch a makeup line called "MAC Archie's Girls."
According to the publisher, the cosmetics "will celebrate the iconic beauty looks of Betty and Veronica" and be available next spring.