Could We Ever Really Program Computers To Write Fiction? (Maybe)

Two little boys and a robot

There are challenges, of course – getting machines to understand a plot arc, let alone metaphor or irony. But scientists are working on three programs – Scheherazade, the What-If Machine, and Metaphor Magnet – to tackle these problems. Tom Meltzer talks to the creators, while Nicholas Lezard reviews the stories.

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£10,000 Goldsmith Prize To Ali Smith’s “How To Be Both”

goldsmiths prize

“[The novel] comes in two different versions, enabling its readers to experience its two parts – one about a Renaissance Italian fresco painter, one about a contemporary teenager whose mother has recently died – in a different order.” The award, now in its second year, recognizes fiction that experiments with or expands the novel form.

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Amazon And Hachette Declare An Armistice, Ending The Great Publishing War

amazon hachette

“Neither side gave details of the deal, but both pronounced themselves happy with the terms. Hachette, the fourth largest publisher, won the ability to set the prices for its e-books, which was a major contention in the fight.” Instead, Amazon gets to offer “specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”

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The Golden Age Of Telegraph Literature

The progress of the 19th century -- the telegraph, 1876.

During the 1870s and 1880s in the U.S., there developed a huge body of stories, plays, and poetry written about – and often by – telegraph operators. “There’s something incredibly modern about these amateur stories and the way they handle technology, the influence of corporations, gender, and love in the time of hyperconnection.”

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Famous Authors Reread Their Old Books

famous authors reread their old books

“In an original essay, Philip Roth considers the experience of rereading his classic novel Portnoy’s Complaint, first published 45 years ago, in 1969. Six other authors, including Lydia Davis, Marilynne Robinson and George Saunders, also reflect on their own earlier works.”

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When Amazon Almost Swallowed Powell’s Books

powells amazon

“Sometime [in 1996] … Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called a meeting in Seattle. He had a simple but potentially massive proposition. Amazon, then a 2-year-old company that sold only new books, wanted to expand into the used-books market – and Bezos wanted Powell’s to be its sole supplier. … There was a catch.”

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London’s Imperial War Museum, Newly Redesigned, May Have To Close Its Library

imperial war museum library

“Coming just months after the museum’s reopening following a vast refurbishment,” a £4 million cut in annual funding “will result in the loss of up to eighty jobs” and a loss of access, for both academics and the public, to a major collection of documents and photos from World War I and all of Britain’s subsequent wars.

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Sendak Estate Sued By Philly Museum And Library Over Rare Books

sendak

“The executors of Maurice Sendak’s will have not complied with his wishes to bequeath his multimillion-dollar rare-book collection to the Rosenbach Museum and Library and for the revered author and illustrator’s work to continue to be displayed at the Rosenbach. So claims a lawsuit filed last week in northern Fairfield County, Conn., [by] the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.”

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What Is – And Isn’t – Clickbait?

clickbait

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines clickbait thusly: ‘(On the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.’ More colloquially, Josh Benton of Harvard’s Neiman Journalism Lab defined clickbait on Twitter (on the Internet) as ‘noun: things I don’t like on the Internet’.”

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A Typeface Designed To Help Dyslexics Read

Dyslexie-typeface

Designer Christian Boer (who is himself dyslexic): “When they’re reading, people with dyslexia often unconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters in their minds. Traditional typefaces make this worse, because they base some letter designs on others, inadvertently creating ‘twin letters’ for people with dyslexia.”

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How Amazon Ended Up As Literary Enemy No. 1 (And What Happens Next)

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“It wasn’t always this way. When Amazon first appeared, in the mid-90s, mailing books out of the Seattle garage of its founder, Jeff Bezos, it was greeted with enthusiasm. The company seemed like a useful counterweight to the big bookstore chains that had come to dominate the book-retailing landscape.”

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Wait, Is ‘Jane Eyre’ A Genre Novel? (And If So, What The Heck *Is* Genre?)

blogfiction

“Why not just let books be books? The thing is that genre doesn’t have to be vexing. It can be illuminating. It can be useful for writers and readers to think in terms of groups and traditions. And a good genre system — a system that really fits reality — can help us see the traditions in which we’re already, unconsciously, immersed.”

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Don’t Say It.. No…No…- The “Netflix Of Books” Has Arrived

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“Little more than a year after launching its all-you-can-read ebook service, the San Francisco startup Scribd has announced that the service now offers more than 30,000 audiobooks, including titles from big-name publishing houses HarperCollins and Scholastic as well as audiobook-specialist Blackstone. For $8.99 a month, you can not only read as many books as you can find on the service, but also listen to as many audiobooks as you can find.”

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Former Psychiatrist Wins France’s Top Literary Prize

goncourt

Lydie Salvayre won the Prix Goncourt for Pas pleurer (“Don’t Cry”), “in which she interweaves the voices of her mother and a French writer during the Spanish Civil War. … The winner of the prize receives the nominal sum of 10 euros ($12) but can expect to see sales of around 400,000.”

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