ArtsJournal: Arts, Culture, Ideas


Alt-Weeklies Looked Doomed Even Before The Pandemic. Here’s How Some Of Them Have Hung On

The structural troubles those papers were facing before 2020 were bad enough; then COVID shut down their main sources of ad revenue (performance venues, bars and clubs, restaurants). " there are many that, against all odds, have survived. In true alt-weekly edge, it's a stubborn, punk refusal to let go. Here are four of their stories." - The Daily Beast

Read Nabokov’s Long-Lost Superman Poem, Now In Print At Last

"The Man of To-morrow's Lament" — written as the superhero's internal monologue as he walks through the city with Lois Lane, ruing that they can never have children together — was submitted to, and rejected by, The New Yorker in the summer of 1942 and then disappeared. - Times Literary Supplement (UK)

A Critic Reviews 125 Years Of The NYT’s Book Reviews

To wander through 125 years of book reviews is to endure assault by adjective. All the fatuous books, the frequently brilliant, the disappointing, the essential. The adjectives one only ever encounters in a review (indelible, risible), the archaic descriptors (sumptuous). So many masterpieces, so many duds — now enjoying quiet anonymity. - The New York Times

‘Lolita’ Is A Horrifying Story. How Does It Keep Getting Past Obscenity Laws, Let Alone Cancel Culture?

Lady Chatterley's Lover, which now seems almost anodyne, was the subject of a criminal prosecution in 1960, but Lolita, which came out the previous year and still has the power to shock, was not. Why? Actor Emily Mortimer, whose father was a barrister who defended more than one client in obscenity trials, uses what she learned from him ("First, it's very funny. My dad always said you could get away with anything in court as long as you made people laugh") and others to explain the power of Nabokov's achievement. - The New York Times

Six Dr. Seuss Books Withdrawn For ‘Hurtful And Wrong’ Portrayals

"Six Dr. Seuss books — including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author's legacy said Tuesday." - AP Generates £1 Million For Indie UK Bookstores was launched in the US a year ago and in the UK in November. Pitching itself as a socially conscious way to buy books online, it allows booksellers to create a virtual shop front. For books ordered directly from these online stores, booksellers receive 30% of the cover price from each sale without having to handle customer service or shipping. When a sale is made and not attributed to a specific bookseller, 10% of the cover price goes into a pot that is split between all of the shops. - The Guardian

Artificial Intelligence Has A Grammar Problem

Sometimes Grammarly doesn’t do what it should, and sometimes it even does what it shouldn’t. These strengths and failings hint at the essence of language and the peculiarity of human intelligence, as opposed to the artificial sort as it stands today. - The Economist

MIT Has Figured Out How To Read Unopened 17th-Century Letters

In those days before mass-produced envelopes, important letters were intricately folded and then sewn shut; until now, modern-day scholars couldn't read such items without cutting open the stitching and damaging the delicate old paper. MIT scientists have now developed a way to do digital x-ray scans of the letters and use virtual reality software to derive images of what they'd look like if opened. - The New York Times

Off With All Our Heads – The Online World Loves To Misquote Lewis Carroll

But why? Alison Flood investigates why Britain's Royal Mint and an actual Carroll commemorative collection have been getting quotes wrong ... and then printing them on coinage. Cue the facepalm emoji: Turns out it's all the fault of Goodreads. - The Guardian (UK)

Books: A Coronavirus Lifesaver

At least that's what a bookseller turned newly-minted Instagram book reviewer (that is, a Bookstagrammer) says. He hasn't seen his family for nearly two years, a friend has cancer, and his job at Waterstone's keeps going away and coming back as lockdowns come and go. But reading, and Instagram, are there: "There's so much to be worried about, and book blogging takes my mind off it." - BBC

The Lie At The Heart Of The Western – And How Contemporary Novelists Are Fixing It

The first novel to be considered a "Western" came out in 1902, and the tropes it established have lasted for more than a century - white men shooting each other and Indigenous people, and women, if they exist at all, serving those men. But newer novels set in the West "preserve some aspects of the old Westerns: the parched vistas, the isolation, the high-stakes emotion of characters running afoul of the law. But they also call into question the genre’s basic premise: the idea of the frontier as a place to be mastered and overcome. Instead, the Western becomes a way of thinking about humans’ relationship to land, the past, and the idea of home." - The Atlantic

Writers Are Exposing Sexual Abuse – And Deeply Horrible Attitudes – In France

Why now? "While it is illegal in France for an adult to have sex with a minor under the age of 15, there is no age of consent; if there is no evidence of threats or violence, the adult will not be charged with rape. In 2018 ... ministers proposed introducing an age of consent, which has yet to pass. A recent poll estimated that one in 10 French people have been the victim of sexual abuse within the family as children." But writers, and books, are pushing back. - The Guardian (UK)

The Internet Archive Digitizes A Lot Of Books

How does that work? With a lot of human effort, and at a mind-blowing pace of 3500 books per day. "Clean, dry human hands are the best way to turn pages." - Open Culture

What Will Happen If Publishing Giants Merge?

"Perhaps the industry’s biggest concern about the merger, especially among agents and authors, is what it will mean for book deals. An agent representing a promising author or buzzworthy book often hopes to auction it to the highest bidder. If there are fewer buyers, will it be harder for agents to get an auction going for their clients, and ultimately, will it be harder for authors to get an advantageous deal?" - The New York Times

How Novels Can Help Plan Our Way Through COVID Recovery

As sources for possible future scenarios capable of providing strategic foresight, or producing alternative future plans, novels can also help businesses create dialogue on difficult and even taboo subjects. Novels are, therefore, capable of helping managers become better, providing them with creative insight and wisdom. Science fiction can provide a means to explore morality tales, a warning of possible futures, in an attempt to help us avoid or rectify that future. - The Conversation

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