ArtsJournal: Arts, Culture, Ideas


Memoirs Tell Us What We Don’t Know About The People We Know

A good memoir "gets into the feelings that are so buried and complex that they rarely come into focus in a conversation, even among good friends." - LitHub

Novelist Yaa Gyasi Goes Shopping In Her Own Bookshelves During The Pandemic

We all have books that are waiting for just such an occasion. When the author of Homecoming and Transcendent Kingdom was young, her parents made her "write a report on the children’s book I was reading at the time. I think it was The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. ... I wrote something to the effect of 'This book is very good. If you’d like to learn more about it, read it yourself.' I’m happy to say that was the end of the book reports but not the end of my love for reading." - The Guardian (UK)

Your Guide To The Nastiest Profanities In French

A hard-R-rated primer to what gets said in the language of Molière when one is really f***ing p****d off, what you can use to affectionately tease your buddy in Bordeaux and what not to say unless you want to make an enemy for life. (And gosh, you can click here for a guide to what it's safe to say in front of Grand-maman.) - The Local (France)

The Identity Politics Of Translating Amanda Gorman’s Poetry

There has long been a debate about the ethics of translation, about how to translate not just the words but the spirit of the original, too. Today’s identity controversies, however, are not just about issues of formal translation but also about the kinds of informal translation in which we engage every day. - The Guardian

Eight Consequential Inventions Of Literature

"Project Narrative is the world’s leading academic think tank for the study of stories, and in our research labs, with the help of neuroscientists and psychologists from across the globe, we’ve uncovered dozens more literary inventions in Zhou Dynasty lyrics, Italian operas, West African epics, classic children’s books, great American novels, Agatha Christie crime fictions, Mesoamerican myths, and even Hollywood television scripts." - Smithsonian

How Amazon Blocks Libraries From Lending E-Books

Librarians have been no match for the beast. When authors sign up with a publisher, it decides how to distribute their work. With other big publishers, selling e-books and audiobooks to libraries is part of the mix — that’s why you’re able to digitally check out bestsellers like Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land.” Amazon is the only big publisher that flat-out blocks library digital collections. - Washington Post

These Fragments Were Dismissed As Fake 140 Years Ago. Were They Actually The Oldest Surviving Biblical Manuscript?

An antiquities dealer in Jerusalem came forward in 1883 with what he claimed were fragments of the original book of Deuteronomy. After scholars at the time pronounced them forgeries, the dealer committed suicide and the fragments eventually disappeared. Now a scholar, working with old photos and transcriptions of the fragments, argues that they are an early (and somewhat different) version of the last book of Moses and that they date from before the Babylonian Exile. - The New York Times

There’s Nothing New About Cutting Offensive Stuff From Children’s Books, So Calm Down About Dr. Seuss Already

For instance, ugly ethnic stereotypes from the 1920s and '30s were removed from the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books all the way back in 1959, and from Mary Poppins and The Story of Dr. Dolittle in the '80s; Roald Dahl himself rewrote the original, now-cringeworthy portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas in the early 1970s after complaints from the NAACP. - The Guardian

New Bill In U.S. Congress Would Provide $5 Billion or Libraries

"The Build America's Libraries Act was introduced by in the House of Representatives by Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI-9) and Don Young (R-AK-at large) along with 52 cosponsors. The bill seeks to provide funds to address decades of needed repairs, updates, as well as the construction of modern library facilities in underserved and disadvantaged communities. The bill's Senate counterpart (S. 127) was introduced on January 29. - Publishers Weekly

Dr. Seuss’s Estate Made Its Decisions Based On Its Creator’s Legacy

"We make changes to the books our children read all the time. In 1812, the Brothers Grimm changed the evil mothers in traditional fairy tales to wicked stepmothers, because they wanted to preserve the sanctity of motherhood. The Faraway Tree’s Dick and Fannie are Rick and Frannie in newer editions – a fact which seems to infuriate nostalgic readers (I genuinely don’t understand why)." - The Guardian

This Woman Has Narrated More Than 600 Audiobooks

Here's how to be good at it: Plan ahead. "What’s really important when you’re listening is to be able to know who’s talking. One of the hardest things is when you have a group of, like, five men and they’re all 40, and they’re all having a beer together. How you make those voices sound different?" - Slate

How To Write A Second Novel When Your First Wins The Pulitzer

Viet Thanh Nguyen says it wasn't as easy as writing The Sympathizer, his 2016 Pulitzer-winning novel: "I would write in 50-page chunks – I wrote 50 pages before the Pulitzer. Then my life got really messy for a couple of years while I wrote the middle of the book. Towards the end, I finally figured out how to balance everything that was making demands on me and felt like I was back in the groove again." - The Guardian (UK)

How Do Independent Book Presses Make It?

Ask Melville House. Or perhaps don't: "We did what you would tell your children to never do. Not just having a business, but funding it the way we did: with our own money, with credit cards, we emptied out our bank accounts. I had a very small retirement fund from my life as a college professor and I emptied that into the company and just really put everything we had into it. You’re never supposed to play with your own money; that was an amazing risk, and if our first two books hadn’t been successful we wouldn’t be talking to you."- LitHub

Math, Music, And Moby Dick

Three great tastes that taste great together. But seriously: Literature is replete with math (and music), and here's a professor who can talk about how Melville played with math in Moby Dick - and also disprove "an 18th-century Italian musical board game that promised 'un infinito numero di minuette trio.' The object of the game: Players compose a 16-bar minuet by rolling a die and then choosing, bar by bar, which of six musical options, composed by Haydn, should come next." - The New York Times

Pandemic Inspires 1200 New German Words

This truly seems to delight English speakers. "For example, Coronamutationsgebiet is an area where coronavirus mutations are widespread. A Geisterveranstaltung (ghost event) is an event with no people in attendance, usually sports. Live music is allowed, provided the audience remains in their cars, at an Autokonzert." - NPR

Our Free Newsletter

Join our 30,000 subscribers


Don't Miss