“Literature is not tennis or football, where international competition makes sense. It is intimately tied to the language and culture from which it emerges. Literary style distinguishes itself by its distance from the other styles that surround it, implying a community of readers with a shared knowledge of other literary works, of standard language usage and cultural context. What sense does it make for a group from one culture — be it Swedish, American, Nigerian or Japanese — to seek to compare a Bolivian poet with a Korean novelist, an American singer-songwriter with a Russian playwright, and so on? Why would we even want them to do that?”
Ramin Bahrani (who may not be objective, as he has directed a film adaptation of the Bradbury book): “In the novel, he imagined a world where people are entertained day and night by staring at giant wall screens in their homes. They interact with their ‘friends’ through these screens, listening to them via ‘Seashells’ – Bradbury’s version of Apple’s wireless AirPods – inserted in their ears.”
“More likely than not, most people – women in particular – do it to make sure their message reads as friendly and not too … insert-negative-quality-here: corrective, cold, aggressive. Perhaps the irony is that the punctuation itself is too much. And if conversations taking place recently on social media are any indication, there may be a revolt brewing that could pry those exclamation points from our prose, particularly in work-related communications, in favor of more nuanced language on the internet.”
Says Allison Krzanowski, co-owner of Quill Books & Beverage in Westbrook, Maine, “There are plenty of authors who aren’t sexually assaulting and sexually harassing people, so we make more space for them by removing the ones who are. … There have been some people who think we are banning books, and to that, I say it is our choice not to carry products. … We have a ‘safe space’ commitment, and that extends to our shelves.”
Somewrittenlanguageshavenospacesatalland o thers re quire a space be tween ev e ry syl la ble. Ob viously, thereneed to be standards. Unless you’re doing avant – garde po e try, or something , you can’tjustspacew ords ho w e v e r y o u want. That would be insanity. Or at least, obnoxious. Enter three psychology researchers from Skidmore College, who decided it’s time for modern science to sort this out once and for all.
“Targeted at readers 12 to 18 years old, [the genre] sprang into being near the end of the turbulent decade of the 1960s – in 1967, to be specific, a year that saw the publication of two seminal novels for young readers: S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Robert Lipsyte’s The Contender. … Before these two novels, literature for 12- to 18-year-olds was about as realistic as a Norman Rockwell painting.”
“Until recently, the term ‘moral turpitude’ is not one that crossed the lips of too many people in book publishing. But Bill O’Reilly, Milo Yiannopoulos, Sherman Alexie, Jay Asher, and James Dashner changed all that. … Major publishers are increasingly inserting language into their contracts – referred to as morality clauses – that allows them to terminate agreements in response to a broad range of behavior by authors. And agents, most of whom spoke with PW on the condition of anonymity, say the change is worrying in an industry built on a commitment to defending free speech.”
A recent study conducted by the organization revealed something fascinating: A single academic paper, published by three Australian researchers in 2007, has been cited by Wikipedia editors over 2.8 million times—the next most popular work only shows up a little more than 21,000. And the researchers behind it didn’t have a clue.
“With all its gizmotopian technosyncrasies, it cannot actually compete with your neighborhood shop. It stocks too few books, its approach is too robotically data-driven, its employees are not remarkably knowledgeable about books, it is selling toys and e-gadgets as much as (or more than) books, it is not a cozy place to browse or to discover something you did not already know about.” Yes, fine – but Amazon is also still a huge threat to independent bookstores and to publishing itself.
Basically, the only fix is antitrust legislation against Amazon. Meanwhile: “Barnes & Noble is in trouble. You hear that, in worried tones, when you talk to people in the book business. You feel it when you walk into one of the chain’s stores, a cluttered mix of gifts, games, DVDs (DVDs?) and books. And you really see the problems if you dig into the company’s financial statements.”
Here’s why, according to writer and teacher Joanna Russ: “The myth of the isolated achievement so often promotes women writers’ less good work as their best work. For example, Jane Eyre exists, as of this writing, on the graduate reading list of the Department of English at the University of Washington. … Villette does not appear on the list. How could it? Jane Eyre is a love story and women ought to write love stories; Villette, ‘a book too subversive to be popular,’ is described by Kate Millett as ‘one long meditation on a prison break.'”
Margo Jefferson, whose On Michael Jackson is being republished with an updated introduction, explains: “He was the best performer at his peak – an all-encompassing dancing, singing artist in the theatrical tradition of Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis Jr, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, with an acute sense of the mise en scène. He craved omniscient superstar status – a need to top himself with more record sales, bigger audiences, than the last time. By the time I was writing this book, he had become emblematic of complicated dilemmas, cultural obsessions, racial, gender and body metamorphoses.”
Author and cultural commentator Nicole Chung on why Chee’s work resonates so much with her: “Alex said he ‘wanted to plant that flag in the culture,’ and until he said that I don’t know if I’d thought about it as a reason to write. The need to exist in the canon, in the literary world. I found that very powerful, and very brave.”
We’re not even talking about the assaults and abuses alleged to have been committed by various male authors – no, this is about the Nobel committee itself. “At the root of the institution’s unprecedented crisis are a raft of wide-ranging allegations against Jean-Claude Arnault, a photographer and leading cultural figure in Sweden, who is married to Katarina Frostenson, an academy member and author.”
“Stories about the future always have a what if premise, and The Handmaid’s Tale has several. For instance: if you wanted to seize power in the United States, abolish liberal democracy, and set up a dictatorship, how would you go about it? What would be your cover story? It would not resemble any form of communism or socialism: those would be too unpopular. It might use the name of democracy as an excuse for abolishing liberal democracy: that’s not out of the question, though I didn’t consider it possible in 1985.”
It’s easy to say what a bad translation is. The ones that are accidentally jagged like the person wielding the scissors was drunk. The ones where someone has misunderstood the original, or perhaps misinterpreted it. The ones where all individuality has been smoothed out. But how do we identify a successful translation? When have we done our job well? What is it we want to achieve, beyond mere fluidity?
“The fictional children of the past frolicked on the heather-clad slopes of Kirrin Island or battled the armies of evil at Hogwarts, free from the restrictions of their parents. Today, according to [Philip Womack], novelists are eschewing adventure stories for ‘claustrophobic’ domestic dramas and creating ‘a depressing children’s literary landscape’ in the process.”
“The Swedish Academy … announc[ed] Friday that the prize will not be handed out this year, on the grounds that the academy is in no shape to pick a winner after a string of sex abuse allegations and financial crimes scandals … and it was decided that two winners will be announced in 2019, with one recipient recognized for this year’s eligibility period.”
The critic must reconcile history and poetry. A poem is a product of its time just as much—if the poem’s any good—as a triumph over its time. Many poems are so familiar we have forgotten how to read them. We see the words but we paper over the cracks in our understanding. Criticism should try to see poems from the inside, to get down into the muck of the poem’s invention—and of course into the muck of its language.
“The truth is that it took a long time for e-books to ‘arrive’; Amazon was far from first. There, admittedly, was a comfort level that had to be worked out with the electronic book, which gave Amazon the perfect opportunity to swoop in. Tonight’s Tedium talks about the evolution of electronic books before the Kindle. I’d tell you to turn the page, but we’re not really working with paper here, are we?”
Yes, the fallout from the sexual harassment scandal has gotten that bad: “The Swedish Academy yesterday discussed the Nobel prize and came to no decision,” said the head of the panel last week. “After our next Thursday meeting there will most probably be a statement on whether we will award a prize this year or reserve it for next year, in which case two prizes for literature will be announced in October 2019.”
Martin Rowson: “After I graduated I sold a cartoon series to New Statesman titled ‘Scenes from the Lives of the Great Socialists’, based on hideously contrived puns on the defining dicta of Marxism. … I had unfinished business with Marx, and occasionally images would flash into the back of my mind of great geological slabs of History grinding against massive clumps of the Dialectic. Then SelfMadeHero asked if I fancied adapting The Communist Manifesto as a comic book for Marx’s 200th birthday. The whole thing came instantly into my head.”
The Vatican Secret Archive isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand. But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time.
Writer Celeste Ng explains the Gen X bookstore experience, including those joys of the mall: “I grew up haunting the B. Dalton and Waldenbooks in the mall. So my first indies—the long-gone Booksellers in Beachwood, Ohio and the redoubtable Mac’s Backs in Cleveland Heights—were revelations; they carried such a wide array of books, including niche titles that a more mainstream retailer wouldn’t have. I discovered many of my favorite authors just by browsing their shelves.”