Thomas Ricks labored over his new book, making it just so. When he was done, his editor hated the result, and harshly told him so. In completely rewriting it, Ricks discovered not only that his editor was right but that he could produce something much better…
The Village Voice was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer, and for decades it sold a weekly version thick with classified ads. Its mix of political and cultural coverage created a model for alternative weeklies around the country, many of which have since folded. In 1996, facing competition from publications like Time Out New York and The New York Press, it changed to free distribution to boost circulation numbers, but gradually it came to rely on ads for sex and escort services for revenue. Under its current ownership, the paper eliminated sex advertising and increased its print distribution to 120,000 copies.
“When African writers get together on our own, we talk about glossaries. These additions to the main text, often vetted, if not entirely decided, by publishers, are crucial to how it will be received by readers. But when African writers talk about glossaries, we don’t just exchange tips. (How long? How comprehensive? By whom?) We talk about whether to include one at all, whether to offer glosses within the text or omit all glossing entirely. To gloss, or not to gloss? That is the question.”
How did this all get started? Grafton says, “I was reading an Edward Gorey cartoon book called ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies.’ And that’s little pen-and-ink drawings of Victorian children being done in in various ways. A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil, assaulted by bears. C for Claire, who – you know, and on down the alphabet. I thought, what a keen idea.”
George Guidall’s entire family was in the medical profession, and that was his parents’ plan for him. “But as a self-described ‘fat and antisocial’ child in New Jersey, he discovered acting when a high school English teacher recruited him to play Teddy Roosevelt in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.'” More than 1300 audiobooks later …
“On a broader level, there is no one-to-one correspondence between the art of a culture and the psychology of the society that produced it. Furthermore, noting word frequency in published writing does not have a one-to-one correspondence with spoken language in everyday life. Further furthermore, without any contextual information about how these words are used, we just have semantic fragments floating in history’s void, free of any of the things that turn them into actual language.”
“Mr. Guidall is the undisputed king of audiobooks: more than 1,300 so far, with a stack of new prospects beside his bed awaiting his attention. … He’s a bit disdainful of some of his competition in the audiobook world. ‘They’re just reading out loud,’ he said. ‘They don’t have an emotional underpinning. There’s a rhythm to speech in terms of what’s implied. If it’s raining in the book, there’s got to be something about the voice that evokes the rain.'”
“I’ve been asked in interviews, in classrooms and by audiences, if I think fairy tales are feminist. I think they are, but not by our modern definition of feminism. Traditional fairy tales were created long before any such notion existed, and I’d say they help women, rather than lift up women. They warn, rather than extol. They’re useful, which is a much older kind of feminism.”
Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. Hemingway’s Cat in the Rain. Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. “Fairies hid copies of these books and more in public places this past weekend as a local launch of The Book Fairies project, an international initiative in which people leave texts for others to discover in cities around the world. After readers finish a book, they are supposed to pass it on to others.”
“Not for them the tabloid gusto of the genre’s doyenne, Ann Rule (“The stalking, predatory animal cuts the weakest from the pack, and then kills at his leisure,” The Stranger Beside Me).They’re more likely to follow the lead of one of the first post-Serial memoirists to wrap a crime story in her own enveloping subjectivity, Amy Butcher, author of 2015’s Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder.”
“In reality, a bookstore is a really unique kind of space where people from different walks of life can cross paths. I mean, it’s a very sort of democratic kind of product, and it’s kind of a space where people can come in and start to have conversations. And that’s the kind of space we want to be.”
“To us French people, American English has this beautiful casualness about it that translates into the way we picture Americans themselves—a cliché of self-possession and comfortable-in-their-own-shoesness. A jealous French person would say “cockiness.” I for one like this ability Americans have to say big things very casually. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find that some things in French just have too much weight, and that the American way is enviable. Example: “love” and “amour” are two very different words, even though any English-to-French dictionary will try to convince you they mean exactly the same thing.”
Magazine sales have generally been falling since the day the inventor of the internet said: “Hey, why don’t I invent the internet?” But the latest ABC figures, released this week, show that sales of certain titles are actually going up. News and current affairs magazines are becoming more popular – but celebrity, gossip and fashion publications are still struggling.
In Sweden in 1998, “among the ten bestselling books of the month was not even a single Swedish crime novel. There were historical novels, chick lit, contemporary novels, satire. And just two crime novels of any description: one British, one American. That’s how the literary scene looked just 20 years ago! … The Swedish crime novel — the Scandinavian crime novel — was stuck in a rut of whodunnits, essentially the same thing written over and over again.” Then things changed.
It’s especially clear in Orlando, but that’s not the only text that shows how much Woolf took and learned from what she knew of Einstein’s theories. “In Woolf’s vision of life — which echoes the ever-evolving flow of her language — the universe may remain a godless dark riddle, but some starry doors remain ajar, leading to the wonderful and terrible who-knows-where.”
Mr. Rabinovitch died on Sunday at the age of 87, a few days after falling down the stairs of his Toronto home. On Wednesday he was laid to rest, with hundreds of mourners gathering at the city’s Beth Tzedec Congregation to pay their respects to the man who, through a small act of literary philanthropy, did more to alter the course of Canadian letters over the last few decades than just about anyone else in the country.
“‘BookTubers’ as they are (slightly irritatingly) known, post videoed book reviews on YouTube and many rack up hundreds of thousands – even millions – of views. … Who could have predicted that, in the age of smartphones, video games and constant distraction, a vast audience of young people would be clamouring for broadcast literary coverage?”
Today, libraries are serving as essential civic places. Trusted by every part of American society, they’re the only noncommercial places other than city squares where people meet across genders and ages. They provide all kinds of services and programming—just visit the glorious Madison, WI Central Library, where a first-rate makerspace is under the same LEED-certified roof as local service agencies helping people sign up for health care and food assistance.
Seventy-four parchments that had been scraped over and re-used by the monks of St. Catherine’s at Mt. Sinai during the Middle Ages are now being re-examined using cutting-edge spectrography. They’ve uncovered previously unknown Greek poems and treatises (including a pharmacological recipe by Hippocrates), some of the oldest Christian texts in Arabic, and writing in some ancient languages that had been thought unrecoverable.
The Russian government (which you’d think might not want to publicize this) estimates that between a quarter and a third of all books on the market in the country are pirated. (The problem is virtually nil with print books, though; it’s all in the e-book sector.) Even more worrisome is what one survey found about Russians’ beliefs regarding pirated content.
“Data have turned journalism into a commodity, something to be marketed, tested, calibrated. Perhaps people in the media have always thought this way. But if that impulse existed, it was at least buffered. Journalism’s leaders were vigilant about separating the church of editorial from the secular concerns of business. We can now see the cause for fanaticism about building such a thick wall between the two.”
“I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.”
In honor of this month’s event, The Atlantic brings back Dillard’s 1982 piece “Total Eclipse.”