The National Book Award winner Lila didn’t make the finals. But Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life is there, as are titles by fellow American Anne Tyler, Britons Tom McCarthy and Sunjeev Sahota, Jamaican Marlon James, and Nigerian Chigozie Obioma.”
“The data paint a complex portrait of disruption and aspiration. There are relatively active constituents who hope libraries will maintain valuable legacy functions such as lending printed books. At the same time, there are those who support the idea that libraries should adapt to a world where more and more information lives in digital form, accessible anytime and anywhere.”
“The money it gets from the asset sale to Fox will give National Geographic a potentially more stable foundation. It will swell the society’s endowment to more than $1 billion and provide the cash flow for it to double its annual spending on philanthropic activities in research and exploration.”
Scott Timberg: “Since his lifetime achievement citation from the National Book Awards in 2003 – which saw some resistance from the literary world that is harder to imagine now – he … [is] now a solid citizen in the literary world, which seems to satisfy King and also make the literary establishment feel populist. It’s a transition that’s hard to imagine bestselling peers like Dean Koontz or Jackie Collins making.”
John McPhee: Words are too easy to play on. When I joined The New Yorker, in 1965, I left puns behind. Not that I have never suffered a relapse. In the nineteen-seventies, I turned in a manuscript containing a pun so fetid I can’t remember it. My editor then was Robert Bingham, who said, “We should take that out.”
“The 12 books they’ve chosen comprise the most intriguing and wonderfully unexpected list in the prize’s 22-year-history, an enticing mix of established names and emerging talent, and clear affirmation for the work being done by this country’s independent publishers.”
“We continue to be transfixed by upper-crust lifestyles in a primitive, almost unconscious way, equally covetous and condemning of all that glitters, just out of reach. What is absent, it seems to me, from our sense of the wealthy, is an understanding of their flesh-and-bloodness—of the fact that they, like Shylock, bleed when they are pricked and have miseries peculiar to them, against which immunity cannot be bought.”
“On one hand, Google has scanned an impressive thirty million volumes, putting it in a league with the world’s larger libraries (the library of Congress has around thirty-seven million books). That is a serious accomplishment. But while the corpus is impressive, most of it remains inaccessible.”
In response to the controversy over his decision to include “Yi-Fen Chou’s” poem in the Best American Poetry anthology even after discovering that Yi-Fen Chou was actually a pen name that a white poet named Michael Derrick Hudson used in order to get published, Alexie admitted that, to him, dumping the poem would have undermined his decision to use racial bias in his selection process. Excluding the poem, he said, “would have cast doubt on every poem I have chosen for BAP. It would have implied that I chose poems based only on identity.”
Hua Hsu on the Yi-Fen Chou/Best American Poetry affair (which he calls “Orientalist profiteering”): “It makes a mockery of whatever ‘life story of a Chinese American poet’ the name Chou might have stood in for. It ridicules the ambient self-doubt that trails most people from the margins who enter into spaces where they were never encouraged to belong. As though it were all just a game, meant to be gamed.”
The district paid Reading Horizons $1.2 million for a new reading curriculum for kindergarten through third grade. When teachers got the books, they found an illustration of an American Indian girl titled “Nieko the Hunting Girl,” and another with a black girl called “Lazy Lucy.” The books also referenced Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America, a historical milestone no longer taught in many schools.
“In exchange for $725 million, the National Geographic Society passed the troubled magazine and its book, map and other media assets to a partnership headed by 21st Century Fox, the Murdoch-controlled company that owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox television network and Fox News Channel.”
“It was one of my earliest interests as a writer” – see his largely forgotten first novel, Grimus – “and I’ve just taken a long time to circle back around to it. It was also a reaction against writing my memoir. I’d spend two or three years trying really hard to tell the truth, and by the end, I was sick of the truth – enough truth, let’s make some [expletive] up.”
“Tattered Cover customers have been fiercely loyal through past transitions. Years ago, when the store moved across the street, hundreds of customers helped lug boxes of books. Their only reward: a t-shirt, a sandwich and a strong sense of community.”
The strange tale of “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” by Michael Derrick Hudson, alias Yi-Fen Chou – and how, when Hudson came clean to this year’s editor, Sherman Alexie, Alexie included it anyway.
Brian Spears: “The implication [is] that the writer’s lack of whiteness was, in this case, a help rather than a hindrance to getting the work noticed. I am here to say that Hudson and his defenders are full of it. … In poetry, as in pretty much every other walk of life, there is no greater advantage to publication and all that follows from it than being a straight white male.”
“Listen, I was so angry that I stormed and cursed around the room. I felt like punching the wall. … But I had to keep that pseudonymous poem in the anthology because it would have been dishonest to do otherwise. If I’d pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I gave the poem special attention because of the poet’s Chinese pseudonym. … I would have pulled it because I didn’t want to hear people say, ‘Oh, look at the big Indian writer conned by the white guy.’ I would have dumped the poem because of my vanity.” (The entry is long, but it’s worth reading all of it.)
“The comma, colon, semicolon and their siblings are integral parts of writing, pointing out grammatical structures and helping us transform letters into spoken words or mental images. We would be lost without them (or, at the very least, extremely confused), and yet the earliest readers and writers managed without it for thousands of years. What changed their minds?”
Watch how “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” can be gradually converted into the kind of quasi-meaningless statement delivered somewhere or another every day by ass-covering bureaucrats and spokespeople.
“Just about no one has a good feeling about the word “criticism.” Most of the time, it simply means chastisement; it sounds like what you don’t want to get on your performance review, or from your parents. If you have a critic, that person is likely to be your enemy, and to be critical means to be ill disposed, hard to please or actively hostile — in short, a hater. When it comes to the arts, for many people a critic is someone whose job it is to tell you why you’re wrong to like the movies or music or books you like.”
“With iOS 9, app developers will be able to create ad blocking software for Safari’s mobile browser, which could hurt publishers who depend on ads online. At the same time, Apple is touting its news reader as another way for those same publishers to get their stories in front of readers on their phones.”
“Google took something we trusted and filed off its dignity. Now, in its place, we have an insipid “G,” an owl-eyed “oo,” a schoolroom “g,” a ho-hum “l,” and a demented, showboating “e.” I don’t want to think about that “e” ever again. But what choice do I have? Google—beneficent overlord, Big Brother, whatever you want to call it—is at the center of our lives. Now it has symbolically diluted our trust, which it originally had for all the right reasons.”
“The sound of the language is where it all begins. The test of a sentence is, Does it sound right? The basic elements of language are physical: the noise words make, the sounds and silences that make the rhythms marking their relationships. … This is just as true of prose as it is of poetry, though the sound effects of prose are usually subtle and always irregular.”
“Translated books, Goldstein says, ‘hardly ever get this much attention.’ And when they do, it’s unusual for much of that attention to be directed at the translator. But Ferrante, by insisting on preserving her own anonymity despite her international audience’s growing curiosity, has (perhaps unintentionally) managed to create an unlikely spotlight for her American translator.”
At least it was long and meaty enough to be made into a two-part Q&A.
“Self-publishing, print-on-demand and the fan-fiction phenomenon have eroded the distinction between amateurs and professionals in the literary industries, but every so often you get a small reminder that sometimes you need to send in a pro.”
“That’s the finding of James S. Jaffe, a rare-books expert brought in to review the contents of the safe-deposit box at a bank in Ms. Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Ala.”
“Over the past few years, as publishing conglomerates merged, restructured, and grappled with Amazon, a midwestern press snuck in and found a genuinely new way forward for nonfiction.”
“Thicker ink, fewer smudges, and more strained hands: an Object Lesson.”
“Sometimes it seems that what publishing is looking for, when they look to the Market to sell books by marginalized writers, is a single story. It is: this writer is *the* Dominican writer, or *the* Japanese writer, or *the* Sudanese writer that you should read right now. After all, we live in a culture that sells books with the tagline, if you read only one book this year.”