Jane Ciabattari finds that early assessments of the “new” Harper Lee novel fall into five categories.
Philosopher and psychologist Riccardo Manzotti suggests that “our brain is like a lock maker that makes a lock whenever a key is deemed interesting enough. But when a key – for example, a new poem, or a new species of animal – is first met, there is no lock yet ready for such a key. … The next time we meet or perceive the object/key it will open the lock prepared for it in the brain.” Tim Parks unpacks the simile.
“The English language affects, distorts and restricts much of the current, and indeed some of the most celebrated, academic discussion. Human cognition is not as shrunken and similar as media-driven processes of globalization would suggest; the variation of human thought and expression is vast and remains capable of surprise.”
The enormously anticipated book is, after all, one that Harper Lee had refused for decades to publish (at least to the extent that she even remembered its existence as a distinct work). Claire Suddath traveled to Monroeville, Alabama to investigate, and to meet Lee’s attorney and de facto manager, Tonja Carter.
“How big a role did she play in reconceiving the story from a dark tale of a young woman’s disillusionment with her father’s racist views, to a redemptive one of moral courage and human decency? And, for that matter, how would Ms. Hohoff have felt about the decision, more than a half-century later, to publish a prototype of ‘Mockingbird’?”
“Weeks of work followed. I emailed questions and studied the answers. The key wasn’t simply to load in science. My average reader would be as confused as I by long passages about RNA and antigenic drift. But fiction demands a certain specificity. Cliches – like a virus ‘going airborne’ – had to go.”
“Atticus Finch — the crusading lawyer of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ whose principled fight against racism and inequality inspired generations of readers — is depicted in ‘Watchman’ as an aging racist who has attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting, holds negative views about African-Americans and denounces desegregation efforts.”
Between March 2010 and March 2014: 337 libraries have closed in the UK – a fall from 4,482 to 4,145. The number of volunteers has increased 100% – from 17,550 to 35,818.The number of full-time staff has decreased by 22% – from 24,746 to 19,308. The number of books lent has fallen by 20% – from 309 million to 247 million
“What immediately strikes you reading this first chapter is its utterly conventional voice, its lack of spark and intimacy. There are glimpses of the sharp, knowing phrases that characterise Mockingbird, but much of the prose of Watchman, not to put too fine a point on it, is pedestrian to the point of clunking.”
“We are losing stories in the UK. We are narrowing our literary culture. We have a publishing industry which continues to perpetuate its failure to reflect the extraordinary spectrum of communities in this country and so we are losing that potential vitality, social exploration and innovation in the books we publish. Unless we tackle this lack of inclusivity, the mountains marginalised writers must climb in order to get and stay published, we may never reach our true potential as an industry.”
Instead of being biennial, it will be annual. And instead of rewarding a body of work, it will be awarded on the basis of a single book translated into English and published in the UK. Novels and short story collections will be eligible. The prize money will also be increased with a top prize of £50,000.
“Many hands have been wrung over the decline of the American book lover. According to a Gallup poll, the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978. And according to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of American adults have not read a single book in the past year. But the challenge for e-book services are people who like to read too much.”
“You can use several different measuring sticks to say whether a litmag “succeeds”: longevity, financial stability, influence on new writers, number of readers, number of imitators launching journals very much like your own. But all these kinds of success come down to whether your journal brings something new to its scene.”
In the past decade, digital scholarship has gone from being a quirky corner of the humanities to a mainstream phenomenon, restructuring funding landscapes and pushing tenure committees to develop new protocols for accrediting digital projects. As the stakes have grown, so has an expectation about the role that the “digital turn” might play in revivifying the humanities, effecting a synthesis with the sciences, and other weighty causes.
“Don Quixote is the most important Spanish literary work; its author, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, is one of the four main writers of world literature, along with Homer, Shakespeare and Dante; the plot and the various episodes of the novel are known by almost everyone, and everyone talks of Don Quixote and Sancho or have heard of them and their adventures; but only two out of ten Spaniards say have read Cervantes’ masterpiece complete. And four out of ten they have done for personal interest or general culture.”
“Pablo Katchadjian decided in 2009 to remix one of Borges’s most renowned short stories, ‘The Aleph’, keeping the original text but adding a considerable amount of his own writing. The result was the short experimental book called El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph) … Katchadjian has now been formally charged with the un-literary sounding crime of ‘intellectual property fraud’. If found guilty he risks spending up to six years in prison.”