Curtis Dawkins is serving a life term for a murder he committed. When Scribner offered him $150,000 for a book of short stories, he put the money in a savings account for his children – but now Michigan’s prison system is suing him to pay for his imprisonment.
The accusations (anonymous at first) sparked an intense discussion as “at an awkward moment for the industry, which had gathered Monday at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting in Denver to announce its most coveted awards for children and young adult literature.” Agents, editors, and publishing houses dropped some of the most famous male authors in young adult literature as the week went on.
“I wanted to read Lolita because I believed it would mitigate my sexual shame. The similarity between the novel’s plot and my day-to-day life had sent me on a Google search, where I read excerpts and watched trailers of both film adaptations, categorized under ‘crime,’ ‘drama’ and ‘romance.’ Until then it had never occurred to me to consider my relationship with my uncle under any of those genres.”
Cowboy poetry goes as far back as the late 19th century, when herders were known to recite original poems sitting around their campfires at night. Those poems mimicked the popular verse of their day, at least in form—they never veered into free verse, and they featured a singsong rhythm. Cowboy poetry continued for the next 100 years or so in this fashion, confined to fleeting performances in hushed fields, until 1985, when a group of folk historians used a small grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create the Gathering in Elko with a simple purpose: to bring together men and women who craved poetry that valued and found beauty in their rural existence.
“[President Jefferson] knew that future mapmakers, naturalists, and other scientists would rely on the valuable first-hand knowledge that Lewis and Clark collected. He encouraged them to make their observations ‘with great pains and accuracy … for others as well as yourself.’ That meant that every time they encountered an unfamiliar plant, animal, landscape feature, or cultural item – the Louisiana Territory and the western portion of the continent teemed with them – they had to invent a new term.”
“What makes bibliomancy fascinating is that unlike other forms of divination, it trades in something which already has an interpretable meaning – words. Perhaps a butcher can figure out the narrative that a sheep’s liver conveys, but that The Aeneid, as indeed all texts, has a meaning requires no suspension of disbelief, even if the meanings which are being derived seem far from authorial intention.”
As the art of close reading—a finely grained analysis of a text—has declined, a cohort of experts has emerged to reverse the trend and encourage stronger reading habits. Their solution has a kind of old-school simplicity to it: We need to allow the physicality of the book itself to lure us back into the pleasures of reading.
“The foundation is the five-paragraph essay, a form that is chillingly familiar to anyone who has attended high school in the US. In college, the model expands into the five-section research paper. Then in graduate school comes the five-chapter doctoral dissertation. Same jars, same order. By the time the doctoral student becomes a professor, the pattern is set. The Rule of Five is thoroughly fixed in muscle memory, and the scholar is on track to produce a string of journal articles that follow from it. Then it’s time to pass the model on to the next generation. The cycle continues.”
“Now more than ever, art and commerce seem indistinguishable. On today’s Internet, everything is, to borrow Hebdige’s term, even flatter. There’s less time, somehow, for the depth of history—yesterday’s trends float farther and farther from their points of origin, commingling as styles without pasts, images without contexts. I do most of my reading online, and a few hundred words can take hours to digest—a paragraph of text is a launch pad to other places; I find myself falling down YouTube and eBay wormholes, my attention drifting. That state of being would have sounded like heaven to my teen-age self. It doesn’t usually feel like it now, though.”
“School administrators said the decision was made in an effort to be considerate of all students after concerns about the [racist terms used in the books] were raised over the years. The books are not banned, however, and will still be available for optional reading.” Said one high school English teacher in the city of To Kill a Mockingbird, “I think it’s dated. That book now to me reads like it was written to explain racism to primarily a white audience. My African-American population doesn’t need to have racism explained to them.”
For hundreds of years, history was handwritten. The problem is not only that our ancestors’ handwriting was sometimes very bad, but also that they used abbreviations, old conventions, and styles of lettering that have fallen out of use. Understanding them takes both patience and skill. “I see the job as a cross between a crossword puzzle and a jigsaw puzzle,” says Linda Watson.
“On Tuesday afternoon, the [paper] announced that it would be hiring Quinn Norton as an editorial board member. Shortly before 10 p.m., the paper fired her. Norton has been a prolific tech journalist – covering issues ranging from bioethics to the Anonymous movement for publications like Wired and The Atlantic – and seemed initially to be a remarkably good pick to become the Times‘ lead opinion writer ‘on the power, culture, and consequences of technology.’ The hours between her hiring and firing were an object lesson in all three.”
‘Confabulation’ comes from the Latin fabula (‘story’) which can be either a historical account or a fairytale. When we confabulate, we tell a story that is fictional, while believing that it is a true story. As we are not aware that our story is fictional, this is very different from a lie: we have no intention to deceive. So in confabulation there is a mismatch between what we aim to do (tell a true story) and what we end up doing (tell a fictional story).
“As its title suggested, the book was an ‘Appeal’ to ‘The Colored Citizens of the World, but in Particular and Very Expressly to those of the United States of America.’ Yet appeal was a tame word for the prophecy smoldering between its covers, clearly directed towards the nation’s enslaved laborers. The police may have flipped to page 28: ‘It is no more harm for you to kill a man, who is trying to kill you, than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty.’ Page 35 argued that owners denied slaves education because it would reveal their right to ‘cut his devilish throat from ear to ear, and well do slave-holders know it.'”
Guardian Australia revealed last week that the ABC is breaking up its historic music and reference libraries and making 10 librarians redundant to free up floor space and save on wages. Sources say management plans include packing up all 22,000 books in Sydney and Melbourne – apart from a few “special items” – and sending them to Samoa. The books have been targeted because management wants the library space for the IT division. But insiders have mocked the idea, saying developing countries do not always want discarded books because of the high cost of transporting and storing them as well as question marks over their relevance.
Audible CEO Don Katz acknowledged that radio dramas have been around for nearly 100 years, but he emphasized that what Audible is creating is something different. It’s performative audio for the digital era, and Katz said the contributions of these playwrights could be transformative to industry’s landscape, which already includes established purveyors of recorded theater such as L.A. Theatre Works.
Steven Kurutz, a reporter for The New York Times who now has the entire New York Public Library to look through: “I loved being in a room filled with books. Two rooms, actually. There was a small-town stillness, an atmosphere of benign neglect inside our little library that suggested the great works of Western lit were mine alone to discover. … The persistent feeling that the public library belonged to me, that it was a clean, well-lighted place built and kept open for one reader, was reinforced.”
Romance isn’t pretending not to be about politics. “Romance is political because all art is political, but also specifically because of what it is and who makes it. As the genre grapples with its place in the resistance, it confronts the structures of privilege and exclusion that have shaped the genre for decades. It is a reflection of America, after all, in more ways than one.”
Poets Denise Newman and Hazel White won a grant to collaborate with the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley. Then they created a massive collaboration. “Poetry is often so nearly silent, floating on the page, unseen and unheard by the vast majority of people, even those who read. I sense in Newman and White the desire to break down the barriers between poetry and the world, to get out there and chat, even as they undertake brainy inquiries about the nature of beauty and how a seemingly innocent activity, like collecting plants, can conceal human power dynamics.”
On Monday, the magazine/website’s top two editors and one senior reporter – all three of whom were involved in a story about a criminal investigation into Newsweek‘s parent company – were dismissed without warning. Over the week, at least half a dozen writers and editors have resigned – either in protest or because they fear the publication may be imploding.
“He said he wanted no posthumous publications. But on Thursday, more than over 30 years after his death, Michel Foucault had a new book, Confessions of the Flesh, published in France by Gallimard. Foucault’s unfinished investigation into the topic of sexuality in early Christian thought and practice is the fourth book in his History of Sexuality project.”
“Editorial power is an odd thing to dissect because it is extensive and pervasive in some ways and negligible in others. There are a few people in this world who decide who speaks and when and where, and editors are part of that small minority. Not only that, but editors also have power over how someone speaks. That is a massive privilege to hand to some other person. I wouldn’t even let someone else order for me at a restaurant. It involves trust and a measure of faith that is kind of shocking if you think about it.”
“Amazon stepped into e-book rentals in 2014 with its $10-per-month Kindle Unlimited service … But a small competitor named Scribd started even earlier and offers larger quantities of popular content – for a buck less. In the past year, it’s grown subscribers by over 40% to 700,000 (still well behind Kindle Unlimited’s estimated 2.5 million-plus) and has started making a steady monthly profit. After introducing unlimited reading and then moving away from it, the company is bringing it back, with some limitations designed to make it economically viable.”
Whatever its faults, Grammarly’s Chrome extension isn’t completely useless. It’s saved me from some basic typos in hastily composed tweets and emails, and when I ran a draft of this article through it, it noticed a missing word that I (probably) would have caught on review. Nevertheless, the company’s ostensibly advanced tools are more likely to degrade our writing than improve it, if only because they don’t reflect the ways we really write.