Tuesday, July 30, 2013

62 of the World's Most Beautiful Libraries

The list, care of Mental Floss.

To Steal a Mockingbird

The notoriously private author Harper Lee is now waging a public courtroom battle. Her lawsuit charges that in 2007 her agent, Samuel Pinkus, duped the frail 80-year-old Lee into assigning him the copyright to her only book, To Kill a Mockingbird—then diverted royalties from the beloved 1960 classic.

From a piece in Vanity Fair...

“Have you seen the lawsuit?,” Reverend Butts asked me. “It’s the darnedest thing.”

Filed in New York District Court, the suit names Pinkus, his wife, former TV-news writer Leigh Ann Winick, and Gerald Posner, a Miami-based attorney and investigative journalist with a questionable reputation, as defendants. It claims that Pinkus “engaged in a scheme to dupe Harper Lee, then 80-years-old with declining hearing and eye sight, into assigning her valuable TKAM [To Kill a Mockingbird] copyright to [Pinkus’s company] for no consideration,” and then created shell companies and bank accounts to which the book’s royalties were funneled. (The defendants are not accused of stealing her royalties.)

As the emerging scandal rocked the publishing world, I flew to Monroeville and stood in its former county courthouse, now a museum devoted to the town’s two literary sensations, Harper Lee and Truman Capote, who were childhood neighbors and lifelong friends. Upstairs in the museum is the courtroom where Lee’s father, Amasa Coleman “A. C.” Lee, tried his cases, and where Harper, as a child, and the character Scout in her novel, watched adoringly from the balcony. Lee thinly disguised Monroeville in the book as Maycomb, “a tired old town…. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with.” She gave her father the name Atticus Finch.

Friday, July 26, 2013

In Praise of Wonder Woman

Sonia Harris does just that on Comic Book Resource.

From the piece...

It might seem cheesy now to say that I like this comic book because it is moral and has a positive message, but that is who I see Wonder Woman as; a profoundly moral character. Someone almost on the level of Superman, but with more proverbial teeth, and a little less of the Boy Scout about her (and I mean that in the old school be-prepared or very-helpful sense of the words, not in the current ways that are so unfortunately in the news). It’s a big, bleak world out there and to my mind, what we need is a LOT more of the Perez-type of Wonder Woman.

So the story is hopeful and positive, but what of the book? How is so much packed in and why did it take me more than twice as long to read than a current trade paperback would? When I began looking at the pages, I realized that while most contemporary comic book pages are generally broken up into 4 or 5 panels (sometimes more, sometimes less), most of Perez’ pages comprise of 10 or more panels. It is absolutely insane that he not only packs in more sequential story telling, but he also doesn’t skimp on detail, nor does he EVER make the story feel crowded or squeezed. Somehow, I’m able to very happily read a page with 14 panels and not feel in the least bit confused about where my eye needs to go next, nor do I feel confused or overwhelmed by content. In fact, my early consumption of so many of Perez’ stories could explain why nowadays, I often feel so cheated by the lack of content in comic books – I was spoiled!

What Are Canada's Most Iconic Book Covers?

These ones.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Do Writers Drink?

Does it help writers to drink? Certainly Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas, John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald thought so. But, wonders Blake Morrison, are the words on the page there despite and not because of alcohol?

From a piece in the Guardian...

Fiction is a better route, perhaps: the unspeakable truths can go into the mouths of made-up people. But as Kingsley Amis complained, readers tend to equate authors with their protagonists, and with good reason. In John Berryman's unfinished novel Recovery, the protagonist is called Alan Severance: despite the name, his experience of rehab isn't easily divisible from the author's. As for Fitzgerald, when he was sacked by MGM towards the end of his life, he took to writing stories for Esquire about a small-time alcoholic scriptwriter, as if to ward off the thought that this was what he had become. No one was fooled. "I cannot consider a pint of wine at the day's end as anything but one of the rights of man," he'd once said, but by now it was a pint of gin a day, and his escapades (losing his car licence, getting into fights, being thrown out of clubs, etc) were common knowledge. He reached his nadir when he got drunk with two tramps and brought them home, inviting them to help themselves to his ties, shirts and Brooks Brothers suits.

Fiction may look like the right form for alcoholics, as their dependency teaches them to be good at lying. But holding a novel in your head becomes more difficult when you're holding a glass in your hand as well. "A short story can be written on a bottle," Fitzgerald told his editor Max Perkins, "but for a novel you need the mental speed that enables you to keep the whole pattern in your head and ruthlessly sacrifice the sideshows." Many poets have written a line or two when pissed, but few of those lines stand up next day.

A Psychiatrist Diagnoses Holden Caulfield

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Archeologists in China Unearth the World's Oldest Writing?


From a piece in the Daily Star...

Archaeologists say they have discovered a new form of primitive writing in markings on stoneware excavated from a relic site in eastern China dating about 5,000 years back. Some scholars, however, have responded more cautiously to the findings. Unearthed at the Zhuangqiaofen archaeological site in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the inscriptions are about 1,400 years older than the oldest known written Chinese language and around the same age as the oldest writing in the world.

Chinese scholars are divided on whether the etchings amount to actual writing or a precursor to words that should be described as symbols, but they say the finding will help shed light on the origins of Chinese language and culture. The oldest current known Chinese writing has been found on animal bones – known as oracle bones – dating to 3,600 years ago during the Shang dynasty.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Father Road

Follow me on my trip along the Lincoln Highway this summer. It'll culminate in a book.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Orwell's '1984' Matters in 2013

How to Invest in Rare Books

NuWireInvestor has some thoughts.

From the piece...

Yet do it right and rare books, like most collectibles, can provide a valuable option for hedging against losses in more mainstream investments. 

As well as offering 9% pa returns over 20 years, books come with relatively low volatility (a standard deviation of less than 5%), according to Emotional Asset Research & Management. 

“An investment portfolio that includes rare books is better positioned to withstand market cycles and provide long-term growth that extends well beyond retirement day. Rare books have historically proven to hold and appreciate in value in the long run,” Andre Chevalier of Rare Books Digest told Wealth Daily. 

Yet, according to some speculators, volatility isn’t such a big deal in the investing world anymore; The VIX Index, a respected indicator of volatility, has declined from the mid-30s in fourth quarter 2011 to just 13 in May 2013.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Thursday, July 04, 2013

10 Cheeses and Their Literary Counterparts

The list, care of Airship Daily.

From said list...

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: Ernest Hemingway

This traditional, natural-rind cheddar is a very straight forward cheese – it wins you over right away. No bull. Its taste is clear and concise, salty and sweet, yet there is a great deal below the surface.  Perfect for the writer known for his subtly. It takes a true cheese expert to identify the caramelized, sweet fruit and toasted nut flavors inside this cheese’s milky goodness. Once you taste it, it’s a little like the first time you realized what Hemingway was really talking about in Hills like White Elephants. The Cabot Clothbound is also the perfect party cheese to compete with La Tur – hear that Fitzgerald?

Beautiful Dance Performances That Involve Books

The list, care of Flavorwire.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Against Author Photos in Books

The Graywolf Press blog makes the case.

From the piece...

Author photos, collectively, aren’t as bad as that, but they, too, testify to depressing bias, often unacknowledged or even unconscious, in the way that book publicity works.  A few months ago I saw the first-time author of a literary novel reviewed in a large-circulation journal alongside a photo of the author, who was posed like an odalisque, that took up as many square inches as the review. Maybe the review came in short and the editor needed to fill up space, or maybe the editor was paying homage to a talented portrait photographer, but the effect was that (as with some pop stars) the novel had received this kind of attention principally because its author was hot. 

The sentence you have just read says nothing about the gender of that author, but if you’ve made an assumption about that author’s gender, you probably got it right; if you made an assumption about that author’s age, within about ten years, you probably got that right, too; and the fact that you did tells you what I dislike most, what makes me angry (rather than just annoyed) about author photos in general, however happy I am with my own.

20 Awesome Street Art-Inspired Book Covers

The list, care of Flavorwire.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Henri Cartier-Bresson Documentary

Is the Comic Book Industry Dying?

Short answer - no.

From a piece in ComicsBeat...

Comics are not dying. There are new publishers, new creators, new distribution channels, new social media—new everything. 

Now, I understand where the “dying industry” trope comes from—part of it is The Beat’s own monthly sales charts with “standard attrition” and the appearance of declining sales every month. Periodical sales tend to go down every month. I think it’s safe to say that just about every publisher is dealing with this by creating new products and repackaging old ones every month as well. So even if the top books don’t include ten titles selling more than 250,000 every month, sales have been in good shape overall.