“A fixture in England and on the Western world’s literary landscape, the TLS is a weekly book review journal with a reputation for being a bit dowdy — less progressive than The London Review of Books, a biweekly, and less agile than the books section of The Guardian, to name two of its competitors.” So where did they go to find an editor to shake things up? To The Sun, the British tabloid best known for its topless “Page 3 girls.” And in his two years there, Stig Abell really has changed the TLS, mostly for the better.
Professor Matthew Jockers at the University of Nebraska, and later researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab, analysed data from thousands of novels to reveal six basic story types – you could call them archetypes – that form the building blocks for more complex stories. The Vermont researchers describe the six story shapes behind more than 1700 English novels as:
In the wake of the scandals and chaos at the Swedish Academy that led to the postponement of this year’s prize, “Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation, … told the national broadcaster Sveriges Radio that the prize ‘will be awarded when the Swedish Academy has won back the public’s trust — and that means there is no deadline for 2019.’ Without naming names, he also urged the 10 remaining active members in the academy to consider leaving their seats.”
Penny’s Instructor Gamache “has become to Canada what Hercule Poirot is to Belgium, and garnered Ms. Penny legions of messianic fans. At last count, she has sold 6.3 million books worldwide. Seldom has murder induced such hunger pangs, with characters who crack cases while indulging in maple-cured rashers of back bacon and wild blueberry jam.”
The position of poetry editor was created in 2014, and each poet who gets it has a one-year tenure in the position. But why pair poetry with journalism? Dove: “I always thought this was essentially the way in which poets worked. We were the modern-day griots. You tell the story, but you tell the story that’s under the story. You bring to light human reactions to grander events, in the hope that people will recognize themselves in it.”
If a child gets only the audio of a book, as when parents as one of their AIs to read the child a story, the kid might not get engaged – the info is “too cold”. But if the child is looking at a graphic novel, the information may be “too hot.” The best info is an illustrated book, and even better if a caring adult is reading that book to the kid.
The Golden Booker is an award for one of the Booker winners from the past 50 years, and the shortlist has now been revealed. It includes both popular books – The English Patient and Wolf Hall – and a few surprises as well. Critic and writer Robert McCrum says, “It’s a vindication of 50 years’ debate about the nature of so-called literary fiction. Prizes offer an odd kind of lit crit, but I’d say that almost all the novels the judges had to read, reread and consider have stood the test of time.”
Adding reviews of Radiohead albums, essays, and political commentary to book reviews has actually worked, it looks like: “The paper is the fastest-growing weekly publication in the United Kingdom, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Paid sales from subscriptions and newsstand have been up 30 percent each of the past two years, from some 26,000 in 2016 to nearly 45,000 today.”
The default set for English-language fonts contains about 230 glyphs. A font that covers all of the Latin scripts—over 100 languages plus extra symbols—contains 840. The simplified version of Chinese, used primarily in mainland China, requires nearly 7,000. For traditional Chinese, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the number is over 13,000.
The classic Chicago accent is heard less often these days because the white working class is less numerous, and less influential, than it was in the 20th century. It has been pushed to the margins of city life, both figuratively and geographically, by white flight, multiculturalism, and globalization: The accent is most prevalent in blue-collar suburbs and predominantly white neighborhoods in the northwest and southwest corners of the city, now heavily populated by city workers whose families have lived in Chicago for generations.
Friday’s the day the new EU rules go into effect; that’s why you’ve been getting so many emails about GDPR (the new regime) and updated privacy policies. While most websites appear to have tweaked their data-collection policies and are updating their users about the changes in order to continue operating in Europe, some appear to be throwing in the towel completely — among them one of the biggest newspapers in the United States, the Los Angeles Times.”
“While the field was largely dominated by white men in decades past, today diverse writers are bringing new voices to the conversation, imagining futures based on more inclusive readings of the past, and creating multiethnic worlds that can help people understand their own. Certainly, speculative fiction writers since at least Octavia Butler – the first science-fiction writer to win a MacArthur grant – have looked beyond Europe for inspiration. But no longer can they be dismissed as niche. From the $1 billion-plus box office of Black Panther … to this spring’s breakout debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, by Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi, audiences and readers are flocking to well-drawn worlds inspired by African and Asian countries.”
Editor-in-chief Chad Nackers: “Obama was more of a traditional president as far as his decorum and even his preparation and policy. … You leap off of that and so things can be more surreal and absurd when you’re making fun of him. Whereas Trump is kind of starting from this point of already being kind of absurd. … The other challenge about this administration is that so many of their policies and things, like for the EPA, they almost feel like satire. … In a way, it almost feels like the resistance stuff is even more fun to make fun of. They are just so self-serious.”
The flush times went on for a while. But then, starting about a decade ago, the company began a slow decline that, in 2018, resulted in the Meredith Corporation, a Des Moines, Iowa, media company heavy on lifestyle monthlies like Better Homes and Gardens, completing its purchase of the once-grand Time Inc. in a deal that valued the company at $2.8 billion. The new owner wasted no time in prying the Time Inc. logo from the facade of its Lower Manhattan offices and announcing that it would seek buyers for Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money. The deadline for first-round bids was May 11.
The publishing business, like all businesses, can be summed up in the words of William Munny, life coach: “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” People “succeed” in publishing based on whether their books sell, and whether their books sell really has nothing to do with their character or their intellect or whether the actual book is any good or not.
“[Data-compression] algorithms trim down the space needed to digitally store sounds and images by throwing out information that is redundant or doesn’t add much to our perceptual experience — for example, tossing out data at sound frequencies we can’t hear, or not bothering to encode slight gradations of color that are hard to see. The idea is to keep only the information that has the greatest impact. Mumbling — or phonetic reduction, as language scientists prefer to call it — appears to follow a similar strategy.”
Kristen Arnett: “Working children’s services sometimes means dealing with a bunch of sugared-up kids who got into a box of Lucky Charms cereal (I recognize that look — I also eat Lucky Charms to get amped). But it also means thinking on your feet and getting way outside your comfort zone. By that I mean you’ll probably have to kneel on the floor, and if you’re wearing a skirt, everyone is gonna see your underwear and four different kids will point it out loud enough for everyone in the library to hear.”
“It feels awkward at first. Whenever I pester people to write Amazon reviews for me or relentlessly bang on about my book on social media, a part of me worries that people will get fed up with it. Maybe they will. But being shy won’t get me anywhere, either. People can always ignore me or say no, but if I don’t ask them I’ll never know. And so far I’ve found that people are often more than happy to help.”
“The magazine was owned by Peter Brant, a billionaire art collector, who acquired the magazine in 1989. Its closure comes after months of turmoil, including staff being locked out as part of rent dispute, a lawsuit brought by a former editorial director over back pay and the resignation of a fashion director accused of sexual misconduct.”
The Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye has 1,600 residents – and thousands of people coming to its book festival. Its director explains why Hay is special: “I think we all have a special sense of place that defines what we do and how we do it. For Hay that’s the open green mountains and the dark skies, and it’s the fact that the town has 1,600 people and 28 bookshops. How many cities have that kind of wealth?” (Also: Survive by talking to other book fans.)
The author says she can’t remember what provided the inspiration for the novels, and that she definitely did not have everything plotted out from the beginning: “I never plan my stories. A detailed outline is enough for me to lose interest in the whole thing. Even a brief oral summary makes the desire to write what I have in mind vanish. I am one of those who begin to write knowing only a few essential features of the story they intend to tell. The rest they discover line by line.”
This is quite the feature. Yikes: “It is the kind of bitter farce that might result if August Strindberg were to emerge from the grave to watch the dandies from the academy pelt each other with champagne glasses. And Strindberg, whose path to early 20th century literary greatness in Sweden was filled with hatred and scorn, likely wouldn’t even find it possible to hate them, as consumed as he would be with disdain.”
Fiction apart from her own, that is. Her project, and the project that she hopes other working-class writers will take us, is clear: “Trying to write with love and respect about people who even as you love them are destroying themselves and to try to write it accurately and with some of the grace of Meridel Le Sueur is the challenge. But you can’t write about this stuff and be boring. That would be a sin against God.”
Author and book dealer AN Devers began the The Second Shelf project after experience in serious book buying. She realized, and did research to back up her realizations, that “book collectors help determine which writers are remembered and canonised, and which are forgotten. The collector trade is a part of a supply line, to readers’ bookshelves, universities, archives and libraries. Historically it has been male-dominated (bookmen), white, and oriented around a western canon. Women, particularly women of colour, are left under-recognised, their books deemed less collectable and given less space on shelves.”
A book publicist took action after Barnes & Noble in the Bronx – the last bookstore (at that point) in the borough – shut its doors. But it took social media to make it real: “Fennell put out a call on Twitter, where most of her followers are people in book publishing and other media professionals. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of people donated to her Kickstarter campaign, which met and exceeded its $30,000 goal in just over a week. Authors and publishers stepped forward to join her planning board, helping her confirm speakers for the event.”
Stan Carey makes the case that the practice of verbing nouns and nouning verbs is perfectly dandy, and is one of the things that makes English such a versatile and vocabulary-rich language. There’s even a grammatical term for the phenomenon – three of them, in fact. So, as Carey says in the caption to the photo, “Let’s chocolate.”
“A study published this week … found that nouns actually take longer to spit out than verbs do, presumably because they require more thought to produce. … Which is to say, the future word casts a shadow over the present one. And that shadow is measurable: the researchers found that, in all nine languages, the speech immediately preceding a noun is three-and-a-half-per-cent slower than the speech preceding a verb. And in eight of nine languages, the speaker was about twice as likely to introduce a pause before a noun than before a verb.” (The outlier was English.)
“Because I hate myself, and because I want my future robots to remember my contributions to this wild weird world before it all dissipates into the ether, or becomes a wasteland of Russian bots and Incels, I spoke with writers, journalists, novelists, and normal people to come up with a definitive list of essential internet reading. … It comes as no surprise that finding and creating a cohesive understanding of internet writing is just as dubious, problematic, and maddening as the internet itself.” Even so, Lyz Lenz has given it a try – and found some very funny pieces which would probably never have made it into dead-tree print.