Hint: If Jane Austen had Caroline Bingsley say something, probably you shouldn’t quote it for gentle surface meaning. “In short, Austen wrote the line as a satirical comment on how we perform certain admirable qualities to win approval.”
“That Big Publishing remains conservative and homogeneous — and viewed with increasing ambivalence and disdain by the larger population — should not be surprising or contentious; axiomatic in antitrust law is the idea that a reduction in market participants, whether a result of competition, attrition, or consolidation, correlates with a reduction in consumer choice. We’ve seen this across any number of industries in our society, including airlines, automobiles, banks, pharmaceuticals, newspapers, and commercial publishing, where somehow Penguin Random House isn’t the punchline to a joke. Then there’s Amazon.”
“Despite the immeasurable good work independent bookstores and their staff do—from promoting children’s literacy to hosting readings and book clubs to being a vital part of local economies, and more—I’d hazard that the primary goal is always going to be customer satisfaction. So what can you do when a customer wants a book that you not only find objectionable but also believe actually dangerous in the lessons it portends amidst such a politically precarious time?”
“More than 50 academics around the world collaborated to research a new book, Milton in Translation, discovering that the works of the 17th-century author have been translated more than 300 times and into 57 different languages. These range from Faroese and Manx to Tamil and Tongan, from Persian and Hebrew to Frisian and Welsh.”
“So what’s the deal? Where did this seemingly dumb idea come from and why does it persist? Today’s Tedium points out why it was once valuable, and why it no longer is.”
The goal of the Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library project is to send one free book a month to every child under 5 who wants one. “Five percent of the U.S. population younger than 5 years old receives a book through the program. The goal is to reach 10 percent by 2024.”
“The ‘convent exposé’ [was] a book, fictional or not, that purported to reveal the sin and salaciousness hidden behind the walls of religious institutions. In these books, sisters are kept captive, denied medical care, and sometimes raped or otherwise subject to sexual depravities. … These books, mostly forgotten today, were some of the most popular publications of their time.” (One was outsold onely by Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)
“In addition to being among the greatest Italian literary works, Divine Comedy also heralded a craze for ‘infernal cartography,’ or mapping the Hell that Dante had created. … There are several theories for why it was so important then to delineate Dante’s Hell, including the general popularity of cartography at the time and the Renaissance obsession with proportions and measurements. However, given the inherent limitations of mapping a fictional world, there was some debate between scholars over the specifics.”
“We take Wikipedia for granted these days, but the encyclopedia on disc was a big deal – especially because it was both cheaper and smaller than the alternative. Today’s Tedium dives into the history of the electronic encyclopedia. Eat your heart out, Encarta.”
“The nub of the disagreement here boils down to what exactly linguistics says about the world, and the appropriate archetypes we should apply to make it effective. So just what kinds of questions does linguistics want to answer? What counts as evidence? Is universal grammar in particular – and theoretical linguistics in general – a science at all?”
What happened to reading Rebecca West? Her 1941 nonfiction “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” was often listen as a top nonfiction book of the 20th century … and then somehow the book, “an attack on empire, a defense of small nations, and an embrace of concrete delights over abstract causes,” passed its 75th anniversary with nary a notice, even from the International Rebecca West Society.
Publishers started courting him, hard, as soon as he was fired by the current president, and especially after he leaked some memos. “Comey was reluctant at first to entertain offers, but he later decided that he had something to say beyond a rehashing of his career highlights and low points, according to his agent.”
At least, it’s hard in the United States. In France, no such problem. “If you sit for many hours and look down at a book and then up at a city and then down at the book again, eventually the two blend into one, and there is no longer any difference between them. This is how the collapse between literature and life happens.”
Perhaps you missed this, but “in her expansive set of prequels, concurrent fictions and sequels, published between 1984 and 2000, she is particularly adept at picking out the characters one would wonder about most, and writes them so well as almost to make Austen seem remiss for telling us only one side of the story.”
Whoops: “What ticked Christie off the most, quite understandably, was a comment from theatre producer Bertie Meyer, who decided to tell the author, after seeing her recent publicity shot, that, ‘Frankly, Agatha, that photo makes you look about 70.'”
And add this total horse hooey to the pile of conveniently told canards: “Dramatic new flourishes to the story continue to pop up, too. The Telegraph recently referred to Austen ‘stuffing her scrawled pages into her dress whenever someone entered the room’ — a detail straight out of Samuel Richardson’s best-selling novel, ‘Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded,’ published in 1740-41. Imagining Austen shoving papers into a flimsy Regency frock in front of a parlor window may well be your idea of a good time. If so, enjoy the imaginary peep show, but don’t call it history.”
The problem, writes Matthew Zapruder, is that “in school we are taught that poetry is inherently ‘difficult,’ and that by its very nature it somehow makes meaning by hiding meaning. … Good poets do not deliberately complicate something just to make it harder for a reader to understand. Unfortunately, young readers, and young poets too, are taught to think that this is exactly what poets do. This has, in turn, created certain habits in the writing of contemporary poetry. Bad information about poetry in, bad poetry out, a kind of poetic obscurity feedback loop.”
Akhil Sharma: “I read ‘If You Sing Like That for Me’ now and I find myself jumping out of my skin. After each paragraph, I have to get up from my desk and pace around. Talking about the story, my tone becomes contemptuous. It is strange to think that, to readers, this story means nothing like what it means to me.”
“Founded in 1982, the Kolkata-based company [Seeagull Books] publishes everything from literary fiction and poetry to philosophy and even cultural anthropology. But these books aren’t what you’d find on the catalogues of publishing giants such as HarperCollins or Penguin Random House. At Seagull Books, the focus is on translated writing from around the world, much of which has never before appeared in English, in India or anywhere else.”
Josh Walker, 26, traveled to Syrian Kurdistan to volunteer with the People’s Protection Units, a secular, social democratic group fighting ISIS. Upon returning to Britain, he was detained at the airport and later released without charge. Then police searched his apartment in Wales. “The authorities have not alleged that he was involved in any kind of terror plot; rather, they claim that because he obtained parts of the Cookbook – which is freely available in its entirety on the internet – he collected information ‘of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.'”
As Slate puts it, “John McWhorter explains why we love shrinkage.” (podcast)
“On one estimate, only 30-35 percent of the social dimensions of meaning, in our daily interactions with others, come from language, with up to a staggering 70 percent deriving from nonverbal cues. This includes visual cues such as the other person’s body language, facial expression, and gestures, as well as how close they stand to us—we’ve all experienced the discomfort of the individual who occupies too much of our personal space for comfort; our emotional response is, invariably, likely to be negative. We also respond to their physical appearance, their dress, and the environment in which we encounter them, which provides information about their occupation or mode of living.”
Emily Temple compiles not just a list, but four sublists as well. Granted, they don’t really cover all time (let alone every place) – she surveyed 20 anthologies published in the U.S. between 1983 and 2017, not counting the yearly Best American anthologies or any themed collections (say, Best Ghost Stories or Best Love Stories).
Says Federico Sboarina, who was elected in late June, “I am convinced that the family is composed [of a] mother and father, and I will defend this value in the education of children and young people.” Other local politicians are joining library and publishing organizations and gay advocates in pushing back against the policy.
“Waxing nostalgic about card catalogs or being an advocate for the importance of libraries is a mug’s game. You can practically feel people glancing up from their iPhones to smile tolerantly at your eccentricity. My response to this, after an initial burst of profanity, is to explain (again) why libraries are essential to narrowing the inequality gap, and why the Internet is not an adequate substitute for books or libraries.”
Denis Johnson, author of the story collection Jesus’ Son and the National Book Award-winning novel Tree of Smoke, did live long enough to learn that he won the prize: he was notified in March and passed away in May at age 67.
“Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was going through the late artist’s files last year … when she found a typewritten manuscript titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, co-authored by Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. … Not only is the manuscript complete, so, too, are the illustrations.”
“A neural network trained on thousands of lines of poetry has tried its hand at penning its own rhymes that mimic certain forms of verse. Its best efforts even fool people into thinking they’re reading the words of a human poet, rather than the algorithmic output of a cold-hearted AI.”
“Even in Britain, whose elite universities were once home to elbow-patched, tweed-jacketed writers never burdened with the expectation of production — E. M. Forster famously spent more than two decades as an honorary fellow at King’s College, Cambridge, without ever publishing another novel — technocratic administrators have managed to extend their control over writers to a dispiriting degree.”
There’s a reason her work has thrived since it was published. “Her novels, reasonably successful in their day, were innovative, even revolutionary, in ways her contemporaries did not fully recognize. Some of the techniques she introduced — or used more effectively than anyone before — have been so incorporated into how we think about fiction that they seem to have always been there.” Also, ask the data!