David Denby: “Page by page, the book is less hearty than I remembered … and much funnier – really savage in many passages.”
“In 2016, small publishers like New Directions and Coffee House Press and lauded indie powerhouses like Melville House continue to bring many deserving international voices to the forefront. And in an election year that has many Americans wondering what in the bloody hell is going on around here, books from other parts of the globe can be a welcome treat to help counterbalance the chaos.”
“Bookshops have closed. Publishers have left. Authors have stopped writing. Books have been pulped. Printers are refusing political works. Translators have grown weary of being associated with certain topics. Readers have stopped buying. And the whole industry is wondering if hard-hitting books on Chinese politics still have a future in the former British colony.”
Some authors and publishers are wary. “We have seen it all before. … A few people are championed and then people lose interest because they think the issue has been addressed. And then it all reverts back to the way it was before.”
“Scare quotes (also known, even more colorfully, as ‘shudder quotes’ and ‘sneer quotes’) are identical to standard quotation marks, but do precisely the opposite of what quotation marks are supposed to do: They signal irony, and uncertainty. They suggest words that don’t quite mean what they claim to.”
Poet Alice Notley says, “The tyrant is what enslaves us to our forms. The tyrant is the form of our life, the form of our politics, the form of our universities, the form of our knowledge, our thinking we know something. All of that is the tyrant.”
Truer words were never written: “The important thing is deciding which book you’d like to spend those long empty days with.”
“Unlike other fictional heroines of the time, Fanny [Price of Mansfield Park] gains happiness because she is aware of her faults.”
Inside, there’s the collection of books, a center for city government services,
a computer center, a cafe, lecture halls, playgrounds, and an interactive floor; outside, there’s an even bigger playground and a giant tubular bell that rings every time a baby is born in town. Down below is a parking lot run by robots.
“Emoji are bidirectional: Not only can they express actions, but they can also directly represent spatial relationships. Emoji are a special case for her discipline – linguists disagree about whether they’re even words, and society’s use of them is maturing before their collective eyes.”
It seems that when the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events – né Daniel Handler – was on location in Vancouver for the shooting of Netflix’s upcoming Series series, he never spent his per diem. So he’s come up with a use for that money.
This volume was due back on Nov. 18, 1959. After 20,842 days since, Ms. Roston would owe the library $1,042.10…
“The specific quality of Wallace I wanted to mimic is what I’d call his gift of sight. He had a way of generating luminosity by perfectly capturing tiny pieces of sensation spliced out from even the most banal moment of consciousness—his descriptive powers could give the sound of an air conditioner the consequence of a dying star. He had seemingly endless receptivity.”
These folks, unlike their colleagues, name their Word of the Year based on what gets the most search queries – and at the beginning of this month, they sent out a plea saying that “fascism” was in the lead and “There’s still time to look something else up.” Looks like we (or they) came through: Merriam-Webster’s official word for 2016 is something all-too-fitting.
Author and translator Tim Parks writes of taking part in a recent London panel discussion: “It was evident that we were expected to find Brexit detrimental. … All the same, none of us were quite able to conjure up the required predictions of post-Brexit literary decline.”
Bestsellers are different from fast sellers, cult favourites or the brand known as “instant classics”. They bear no relation to those books we call “the canon”, such as Pride and Prejudice – which became a “bestseller” relatively recently, when it was remodelled as chick lit. The term has become a slippery one and is often used to describe the thing it’s not. Most of the books promoted by Waterstones as bestsellers are nothing of the sort. They don’t come close to the sales figures required (4,000 to 25,000 copies a week in hardback). Bestsellers are not simply the summer’s top beach reads; they are cultural phenomena, and we like to think that they come, like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone or E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, out of left field.
“While browsing shelf after shelf of interesting finds is the foundation of an inspiring bookstore experience, it takes a secret sauce of qualities to make the best of the indies: a charming ambience complete with homey touches—think cool and comfy seating plus resident four-legged friends; a welcoming and shockingly knowledgeable staff, the quirkier the better; and a dedication to cultivating a community of book lovers, whether of the local or traveling variety.”
Television lives by viewing figures. Those for Nineteen Eighty-Four were, for a live drama, unprecedented. The tally (seven million) was exceeded only by that for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the previous year. “Big Brother is watching you.”’ “doublethink,” “thought- crime” and the “two-minute hate” became catchphrases. They still are. The 1954 televization jump-started Orwell’s upward progress to his present status as the Cassandra of his time.
It’s all fun and game, of course, but the point is larger: “The goal of these special sections is to reimagine the possibilities of print.”
The Observer critics give you ideas for all kinds of 2016 books that, as one critic says, “should have been huge.”
This is how culture rebirths itself: With a literary festival. “There were stalwarts from the Cambodian literati, cult-classic Australian crime writers, Academy Award–winning filmmakers, feminist Khmer rock bands, and cutting-edge spoken-word poets — all generating a significant buzz as they idled around town.”
A new investigation indicates that the arrests – and eventual deaths – of those living in Anne Frank’s hiding place could have come from an investigation into illegal ration coupons.
It has made available more than 100,000 of the “top” books worldwide to readers. “It should not be important whether you are a member of an institution and whether you live in a city with bookstores and libraries in order to have access to books. We still approach the book depending on where we are and which institution we belong to. We still read what others dictate to us rather than what we find ourselves. There is still a very small number of writers who get a chance to publish. When the books are opened in a digital format, it creates new opportunities that will maximize every evolving society.
“Traditionally, writing and teaching at the university level have been the career paths of choice for English majors. Nice work if you can get it. I never could, which is why I’ve spent most of my life as a librarian. My up and down career as a writer, on the other hand, has afforded me much satisfaction and very little money… My real career as a librarian is all very well, but since it’s fundamentally a paycheck, I can’t muster excessive enthusiasm for an institution that provides a lifelong education free of charge for the broadest conceivable public and generally represents American values at their best. I didn’t major in English to serve American values. I majored in English so that I could spend the rest of my life arguing about books and culture, even if I had to do so in my off hours, even if the argument was chiefly with myself. I still think it was the best decision I ever made.”
Pamela Paul, editor of the Sunday Times‘s literary supplement, did a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” this week, and Emily Temple has dug out from it ten things that most people probably don’t know about the Book Review – not least, its differences with the daily paper’s book reviews by staff critics.
“Fiona McPherson, senior editor on the OED, told The Guardian the word had been one of the fastest to move from coinage to definition and listing.”
The last time I Googled “grammar Nazi,” I got 1,660,000 hits, including many images of a “G” that looks like a swastika. “Grammarian” drew only 1,230,000, even though grammarians were performing their evils long before Hitler. The Urban Dictionary’s top definition of “grammar Nazi” was “someone who believes it’s their duty to attempt to correct any grammar or spelling mistakes they observe.” Not a very appealing someone. The next definition was “a person who uses proper grammar at all times, esp. online . . . ; a proponent of grammatical correctness. Often one who spells correctly as well.” “Grammar Nazi” seems harsh for this correct speller. Does the punishment fit the crime?
“The New York Times has three daily book critics: Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner and Jennifer Senior. Because they review different titles, it is impossible for them to compile a single unanimous Top 10 list. They have favorites, however, and are happy to have a chance to list them here.”
Laura Miller: “During this long, ugly year of shouting there’s been something profoundly restorative about just listening: popping in a pair of earbuds, taking a long walk (or clearing out a neglected closet), and immersing yourself in a world of someone else’s making.”