“Newish LA Weekly editor Darrick Rainey and publisher Brian Calle run what is perhaps the most on-edge paper at this moment in American journalism. In December of last year, Calle – formerly the head of the libertarian op-ed pages for the Orange County Register – and a group of investors under the name Semanal Media bought the august alt-weekly, then axed 9 of 13 staff writers and editors … The layoffs prompted a furious counterattack by former staffers and freelancers, who alleged Calle heads a conservative conspiracy to turn the historically progressive LA Weekly into an alt-right rag.”
“The priceless tome was brought to an Alençon (Orne, Normandy) auctioneer specialising in the sale of religious objects, by an anonymous owner several months ago. It was discovered to have been a collection of texts written in the scriptorium of the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, and includes Latin writing from Saint-Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, the founder of the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey; as well as poems, geographical notes, and music scores.” The government, which argues that it is the rightful owner of the manuscript, is trying to halt the sale.
If the Pulitzer people had only bitten the bullet and done the equivalent of what the Nobel committee did for Bob Dylan and rock lyrics when they said, “You know what? We’re going to get dissed and ridiculed for even putting Dylan on the same level as John Steinbeck, but what the heck. Let’s just do it and take the flak.” Who knows what the dividend would have been for wider society?
Writing, like anything – from athletics to nuclear physics – depends on a basic degree of talent, which can be cultivated through training. So let’s stop pretending that devoting a year or two to studying writing in the company of others is anything other than a valid step towards a literary career.
In a groundbreaking study of more than two million books published in North America between 2002 and 2012, scholars found that books by women authors are priced 45% less than those of their male counterparts. The researchers, sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner, both from Queens College-CUNY, say there is a lot more to the story than can be gleaned from this price gap alone.
But writers, says novelist and essayist Alexander Chee, must write to fight back. “If you are reading this, and you’re a writer, and you, like me, are gripped with despair, when you think you might stop: Speak to your dead. Write for your dead. Tell them a story. What are you doing with this life? Let them hold you accountable. Let them make you bolder or more modest or louder or more loving.”
Wow: “There was poetic justice of a sort in the auction of the poets’ belongings by their daughter, Frieda Hughes, at Bonhams in London in March. Ms. Plath’s lots, which included clothes, jewelry and childhood drawings, outsold Mr. Hughes’s mostly literary remnants (which is to say, books) twice over and then some, earning $551,862.” (Yes, this piece is about money – but also about who Plath was.)
Here’s the deal: “We owe translators, and perhaps also ourselves, some recognition of what it might have meant to have handled every single word (space and punctuation mark) of the writing-to-be-translated, to have taken a decision in relation to its every single word (space and punctuation mark), and indeed to have written every single one of its parts.”
Eliot, whose non-pen-name was Mary Ann Evans, lived for decades with her partner, whose open marriage meant that when his wife had a baby with a different man, he was fine with it (and supported the baby). “Lewes’s legal wife went on to have three more children with her lover, all of whom Evans and Lewes supported (along with Lewes’s three sons) through their writing, editing and translating. Their urgent need for money was partly what prompted Lewes to encourage Evans to try her hand at writing fiction at the age of 37.” How does that life experience turn into Dorothea’s terrible mistake with Casaubon? Read on.
The arzuhalciler, petition writers or public scribes who set up shop in the streets, go back to the early years of the Ottoman Empire, composing and writing legal documents for citizens to submit to courts and government offices. There are still a very few of them left (despite the efforts of Turkey’s legal profession to get rid of them), and reporter Joshua Allen meets two of them.
Only in America do we ask our writers to believe they don’t matter as a condition of writing. It is time to end this. Much of my time as a student was spent doubting the importance of my work, doubting the power it had to reach anyone or to do anything of significance. I was already tired of hearing about how the pen was mightier than the sword by the time I was studying writing. Swords, it seemed to me, won all the time.
Nineteen-year-old Allan Monga, who arrived (legally) in Portland last year as a refugee from Zambia, won the Maine state finals of the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud contest last month. All state champions are supposed to get an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals in DC next week – but the NEA says its rules permit only US citizens to compete. Monga and Portland Public Schools have filed suit; reporter Ray Routhier looks at the legal issues involved.
“Based on my reporting, my own experience, and interviews with more than a dozen writers, the current median price for a freelancer’s work is between 25 and 50 cents per word (though, to be clear, most places no longer pay per word; they pay lump sums that work out to about $500 for a 1,000- to 2,000-word article). Speaking to Black Enterprise, Ben Carruthers, vice president of the Society of American Travel Writers, suggested that a similar $500 rate was standard…in 1977.”
Ousted editor James Marcus says that his dispute with publisher Rick MacArthur was over Katie Roiphe’s “The Other Whisper Network: How Twitter feminism is bad for women,” the magazine’s March cover story. The essay attracted attention – including a brief boycott of Harper’s by writers – following reports that Roiphe planned to use it to out the creator of the crowdsourced list of “Shitty Media Men” who had engaged in predatory behavior toward female colleagues.
“The book, which was believed to have been written by [Alex] Malarkey with his father, Kevin, was pulled from print in 2015 after Malarkey, still a minor, recanted his story. Today, at 20-years-old, Malarkey alleges that his father was the sole author of the book, and he is suing Tyndale [House Publishers] for defamation, deceptive trade practices, and five other charges.”
Andrew Sean Greer: “I think every novelist has a list of novels they never wrote – and never plan to write. Some are impossible dreams. Some are good ideas over a bad bottle of wine. And some are, let’s admit it, just bad ideas. Really bad ideas. So for what it’s worth, a little advice …”
Here’s how a dispenser works: It is shaped like a cylinder with three buttons on top indicating a “one minute,” “three minute” or “five minute” story. (That’s how long it takes to read.) When a button is pushed, a short story is printed, unfurled on a long strip of paper. The stories are free. They are retrieved from a computer catalog of more than 100,000 original submissions by writers whose work has been evaluated by Short Edition’s judges, and transmitted over a mobile network. Offerings can be tailored to specific interests: children’s fiction, romance, even holiday-themed tales.
“[Tracy K.] Smith, the fifth African-American to hold the title, has put an unexpected spin on it. She is taking poetry on the road around the nation, focusing primarily on rural areas where most writers are unlikely to visit.” She say, “This is a strange period where, nationally, we’re being reminded or convinced of the great divisions that separate coastal and urban communities from the central and rural communities. I’ve always distrusted that. I think there are lots of places where we have something very clear, compelling and welcome to say to one another.”
“Archaeologists in Sudan have uncovered a large cache of rare stone inscriptions at the Sedeinga necropolis along the Nile River. The collection of funerary texts are inscribed in Meroitic, one of Africa’s earliest written languages.”
Why? Well, the previous owners sold the building to a development corporation – which asked for a $1 million per month increase in rent after the lease expires June 30. So, according to new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, “the Los Angeles Times this summer will move from its historic Art Deco headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to a campus currently under construction in El Segundo.”
Yes, there’s even a name for this phenomenon. “In recent years, so-called Anglocreep, the subtle adoption of British phrases into everyday American speech, has become a tic (or some might say an annoyance) among star-spangled strivers, particularly coastal creative types — otherwise known as the ‘chattering class,’ to invoke another Britishism.”
“The novel centers on a struggling San Francisco author – Arthur Less – who, nearing age 50, decides to tour the world to escape himself. ‘The tragicomic business of being alive,’ he says, ‘is getting to him.’ … Greer is the author of five other books of fiction, including The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli.”
A summary would include several committee resignations after a failed vote to exclude a poet whose husband – not who, herself – has been accused of rape and sexual harassment. But wait: “It turns out that you cannot resign from the Academy itself. The statutes, laid down in 1786, make no provision for it. Members are elected until death. All disaffected members can do is to withdraw from the Academy’s workings. After this week’s withdrawals there is no longer a quorum needed to elect any new members. King Carl Gustav XVI, the hereditary patron of the Academy, is reported to be preparing a change of the statutes to break the deadlock.”
Not every book needs to be splashy. Author Silas House: “To me, good literature examines the way the biggest moments of life happens in the quiet moments. I think the characters I create tend to be quiet observers, people who might lead quiet lives but are very sensory. I love the idea of examining what some might think of as ‘small, quiet lives.'”
There’s an old bromide that people want certainty in uncertain times – and crime fiction usually ends with a very certain solution, that of the main mystery. In addition, “while the essence of writing crime fiction might come down to speed and fluency, crafting and control are vital. It’s not easy and few do it really well. A crime novel that works is as taut as a drum. Plus, readers can quickly sniff out a fraud – someone writing up or down, or for the money, and it’s now a very competitive market.”
Of course, he also drew his own covers and illustrated his own books, but he had a longtime gig with Doubleday Archer, illustrating “serious” paperbacks, for a while. “As collector Lance Casebeer wrote, ‘there is a haunting thematic consistency about the Gorey-drawn covers.'”
Authors who are taking part in Audible’s scheme in Britain (it’s already happened in the U.S.) need to think differently. One said, “It was presented to me specifically as an audio project, and I’ve never done anything like that before, so creatively that was really exciting,”
Why should the huge southern city of London have all of the power? It’s a problem “Power is concentrated in London and the South East, and publishing is dominated by a handful of large corporations, but there is more creativity than they can cope with.”
Two past winners were among the six authors whose books were placed on the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t know personally, but smoking weed sometimes gives people great bad ideas. In the case of four college freshmen in Kentucky, the idea was to steal upwards of $11 million dollars in rare folios of John James Audubon’s classic bird illustrations and writing.” And they didn’t even manage that, as Peter Clark recounts: the folios were too heavy to escape with, and they got caught with other books they did steal – thanks to the badass librarians they made the mistake of tangling with. This epic tale of epic fail is on the way to the big screen, under the title American Animals.