“Each award was endowed by visual artists like Ellsworth Kelly and his partner, Jack Shear, as well as the foundations of Cy Twombly and Roy Lichtenstein.” The first round of winners are Lisa Robertson, Anne Boyer, and Fred Moten.
Helen Garner, after James Wood praised her in The New Yorker: “I used to have all sorts of secret, spiteful feelings because I never won any prizes in Australia for my non-fiction. I put a lot of energy into acting like I didn’t care. I did, quite a lot. It has literary value and I have worked on it as hard as any fiction I’ve written. So I felt deeply gratified and relieved of enormous amounts of anxiety and mortification.”
The comics Amar Chitra Katha (or The Immortal Stories) got started when a newspaper executive watched a quiz show where kids knew little to nothing about the Hindu epic The Ramayana. Now ACK has been a kids’ entertainment empire for decades – but it’s an empire built on bigotry: “ACK’s writing and illustrative team constructed a legendary past for India by tying masculinity, Hinduism, fair skin, and high caste to authority, excellence, and virtue. On top of that, [the] comics often erased non-Hindu subjects from India’s historic and religious fabric.”
A bookstore is many things that Amazon’s Kindle store is not: “‘a miniature city,’ a centre of resistance and a battlefield where commercial value and authorial prestige are contested every day. It’s ‘a condensed version of the world,’ and a ritual space for ‘a community of believers.'” Does anyone believe in the bookstore anymore?
I love books that make me backtrack my own declarations of preference, ones that catch me off-guard, surprise me, keep me on my toes. I want stories that don’t fit into easy boxes, ones that defy their own ostensible categorization, that make those who recommend them stumble, before finally saying, “Just trust me.” The problem, of course, is that in most cases, we aren’t offered this kind of tailored option.
Phyllis Wheatley was abducted from the West African coast and sold to a Boston couple at roughly age seven. Their daughter taught the young slave to read, and within two years, Phyllis fluently read and wrote English and started learning Latin. When she was 18, her owners took her to London to publish a book of her poems, and – once disbelieving publishers and others were convinced that Phyllis had written them herself – she became famous on both sides of the Atlantic.
Thanks to Milo’s breach-of-contract lawsuit against Simon & Schuster for withdrawing publication of his book Dangerous, the draft manuscript with comments by editor Mitchell Ivers is now public record. So the Internet is having a high old time with it, and you can join in. (Our personal favorite note: “Beauty regime moved to box at end of chapter, after Nietzsche section.”)
“From the get-go, the project was a behemoth. The Library of Congress was essentially vacuuming up every tweet, archiving it, and attempting to turn it into a public searchable destination. In 2013, the data already represented hundreds of terabytes. Even back then, creating this archive was an immense task, and as Twitter has grown and changed, it became more and more unfeasible. According to the U.S.’s oldest federal cultural institution, the decision to not archive every tweet was brought on by the platform’s growing volume.”
“The malign genius of the private equity business model, of which more in a moment, is that it allows the absentee owner to drive a paper into the ground, but extract exorbitant profits along the way from management fees, dividends, and tax breaks. By the time the paper is a hollow shell, the private equity company can exit and move on, having more than made back its investment. Whether private equity is contained and driven from ownership of newspapers could well determine whether local newspapers as priceless civic resources survive to make it across the digital divide.”
“Chanson Douce, [Leïla Slimani’s] second novel, sold six hundred thousand copies in its first year of publication, making Slimani, who lives in Paris, the most-read author in France in 2016. Elle put her on the cover, in red lipstick and a jumpsuit: ‘leïla slimani superstar.’ Politicians of varying persuasions clambered to reheat themselves in her glow. … Emmanuel Macron, now France’s President, reportedly invited her to be his minister of culture. ‘I love my freedom too much,’ she told me when I asked about it.”
Samantha Ellis argues that the March sisters end up squelching themselves as they marry (except, of course, for the one who ends up dead), and each of the sequels, starting with the immediate one (Good Wives) is harder than the last. And this could all be quite deliberate on the part of Louisa May Alcott, who never wanted to write Little Women in the first place.
According to new figures from the Booksellers Association, in 2017 the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland grew, rather than shrank, for the first time since 1995. The growth is minuscule – this year, the total number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland increased to 868 stores, up one on 2016 – but the BA believes that independent booksellers’ “fortunes are reversing”, ending the yearly decline recorded since 1995, when numbers stood at 1,894.
“Words are really not so different from sofas and armchairs. They are external objects that do things in the world and, like other objects, they produce effects in our brains and thus eventually, through us, in the world. The only real difference is that, when it comes to what we call thinking, words are an awful lot easier to juggle around and rearrange than bits of furniture.”
Unlike the Mayans, the Incas never developed a system of writing: they recorded information in intricately knotted and colored sets of string called khipu or quipu. No one in the modern age has been able to figure out how to read them, because there’s no equivalent of the Rosetta Stone. Then, three years ago, then-19-year-old Manny Medrano made a key discovery.
“Unless you’re just about to board, bookshop browsing can be a deeper and more untethered exercise than other kinds of shopping. Just opening a book and reading a few lines can draw you partly into another world, one you might not have planned to visit. According to Vancouver publishing consultant Thad McIlroy, only 40 percent of bookstore purchases are premeditated. All the rest are decided on impulse.”
The owner, who was just awarded a $50,000 Knight grant to expand the store: “I’m committed to helping comic book creators perfect their craft, partnering with artists, editors and writers in helping them figure out what can make their art stand out. Many of these creators haven’t had the same opportunities as other artists. There will be a new multipurpose room, which will serve as a space for a creator college. You have to be knowledgeable if you’re pitching comics to people.”
“In a world filled with distractions and notifications and devices that do everything, the Kindle’s lack of features becomes its greatest asset. But readers also want to read everywhere, in places and ways a paperback can’t manage. They want more tools, more features, more options, more stuff to do. Amazon’s still working out how to satisfy both sides. Whatever route it takes, the next decade of Kindle is likely to be even more disruptive than the last. First it changed the book business. Next it might help change books themselves.”
“In December 1920 Father Christmas wrote a letter to a modest house in the Oxford suburbs, enclosing a watercolour sketch of his own rather more exotic domed snow house, approached by a flight of steps lit by ice lanterns. ‘I heard you ask Daddy what I was like and where I lived,’ he wrote to three-year-old John Tolkien, and as the family grew to four children, he continued to write every Christmas for 23 years, until the youngest, Priscilla, was 14.”
Melville House helpfully offers a guide to which of the far-too-many lists are worth paying attention to – among them, The Best List That’s Interactive and Lets You Play With Filters to Figure Out What to Read Next, Best List That’s Chosen by Actual Readers and Not Critics, Best List That We’re Partial to Because There’s a Melville House Book On It, and Best List that Features a Book About Sharks.
The last time poetry saw this kind of action was with the cable knit sweater-clad poet and singer-songwriter Rod McKuen, who sold millions of books and millions more albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s with titles like “Listen to the Warm” — far outstripping the reach of not only an artist like Leonard Cohen, but most popular novelists of the time. (There were dusty McKuen books and records in my house growing up.) The backlash then makes today’s seem gentle
“Barracoon tells the story of the last known person to survive the transatlantic slave trade, a man named Cudjo Lewis. Many know that Hurston was an acclaimed fiction writer, but here it is her work as an anthropologist that shines. Hurston was able to sit down in the Black community of Plateau, Alabama, which was founded by Cudjo Lewis and other ex-slaves from the ship that brought them to America, and talk with the then 95-year-old Lewis about his life in 1931.”
“At its most obnoxious, the command to “read widely” reflects the more-is-more ethos that courses, like an energy drink, through our literary culture. My Twitter feed is full of writers and critics who relentlessly strive to be up on their field, logging every literary debut like librarians, returning from writing conferences with shareable jpegs of their book-engorged tote bags, or lighting out for yet another reading, the stacks on the book table like some mountain range, the promise of a horizon. Some real talk: most writing isn’t worth consuming. That includes cereal boxes and New York Times wedding announcements. More real talk: most people urging you to read widely probably have a hard time ranging outside their comfort zones.”
“You learned the secret handshakes and shibboleths without questioning, or even noticing, the changes taking place in your language. You hid behind the third person, used the passive voice when you could, and shied away from making blunt assertions and bold arguments. You wrote nothing you couldn’t back up with a zillion footnotes. You began to pad your ideas with throat-clearing statements and ready-made phrases, taking 25 pages to say what what could have been plainly expressed in 10.”