ArtsJournal: Arts, Culture, Ideas

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Will Self: How Should We Be Reading?

"There’s always this quality of endeavor about reading—and at the same time, in cognitive terms it’s hard work. When someone reading complex passages of prose—ones, say, that attempt to convey human lives in all their manifold sensuous and intellectual complexity—is placed in a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner, we can see on the machine’s visual display that almost all of their brain is lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. Not only that, but the parts of the brain employed when actually talking, walking or making love are illuminated by the very act of reading about talking, walking or making love." - LitHub

Amazon Sued For Colluding With Big Five Publishers In E-Book Price-Fixing

"The suit, filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14 by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, … currently names only Amazon as a defendant. However, it labels each of the Big Five publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House — as '“co-conspirators' in an alleged scheme … to squelch consumer price competition and keep e-book prices artificially high." - Publishers Weekly

We Need A Moratorium On Comparisons To Orwell’s ‘1984’

Especially for some folks, writes former high school English teacher Rachel Klein. "'This is just like 1984!' the right-wing mob cries as it changes the very meaning of words to suit its nefarious aims. 'So Orwellian!' its leaders cry as they demand unthinking fealty to an unhinged, unquestioned leader. … It's a text that allows them to frame themselves as the victim of their own unacknowledged atrocities. … What white supremacist insurrectionist wouldn't see himself in Orwell's hapless hero of the rebellion? Perhaps if they'd read to the end …" - Electric Literature

Why We’re Still Fascinated By Gatsby

"Were you to lay this thing out by the sentence, it’d be as close as an array of words could get to strands of pearls. 'The cab stopped at one slice in a long white cake of apartment-houses'? That line alone is almost enough to make me quit typing for the rest of my life." - Paris Review

The Best-Selling Books Of 2020 – Obama Tops The List

"A Promised Land, the first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs, was the top print title in 2020, moving nearly 2.6 million copies at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. That number is lower, however, than the 3.4 million copies of Michelle Obama’s Becoming sold in 2018, and the former first lady’s book hit the top 25 overall list yet again this year, selling almost 596,000 copies." - Publishers Weekly

New Memoir’s Accusations of Incest Rattle French Intelligentsia And Its Culture Of Silence

In the book, La familia grande, prominent attorney Camille Kouchner, the daughter of Bernard Kouchner, former foreign minister and co-founder of Doctors Without Borders, says that her stepfather — political scientist and well-known pundit Olivier Duhamel, chairman (until last week) of the body that oversees the renowned Paris university Sciences Po — sexually abused her twin brother for two years beginning when they were 13. What's more, she says she and her brother, twenty years later, told their mother and a number of the family's famous friends, and no one said a word or took their side. - Forbes

Earliest Recording Of Allen Ginsberg Reading ‘Howl’ To Be Released

"A 'lost' recording of Allen Ginsberg reading his then-fresh epic poem 'Howl' in 1956 will be released for the first time in April, thanks to a personal connection between Reed College, where the performance was recorded 65 years ago, and the archivally oriented label Omnivore Recordings." - Variety

Orwell Topped Book Bestseller Lists This Weekend. But…

“1984” rose to the top of Amazon’s top-selling book list over the weekend. On Monday, it reached the No. 1 spot. Not bad for a book published in 1949. Too bad few people citing the book’s dystopian horrors in earnest seem to understand the usage. - USA Today

Some Good News From A Bad Year: US Book Sales Well Up In 2020

"With all major categories posting increases, unit sales of print books rose 8.2% in 2020 over 2019 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. For the year ended Jan. 2, 2021, units hit 750.9 million, up from 693.7 million the year before. BookScan said the 8.2% gain was the largest annual increase since 2010." - Publishers Weekly

For The Third Year In A Row, Last Year UK Opened More Independent Book Shops

Released as part of the BA's annual membership survey, the number of independent bookshops holding membership at the end of 2020 rose to 967 shops, up from 890 shops in 2019, 883 in 2018 and 868 in 2017. This figure marks the highest number of independent bookshops in BA membership since 2013, as the period of growth was preceded by two decades of decline. - The Bookseller

On Hearing The Music While You Read

Writers have to listen as well as read. "As I read The Waves, I started to 'hear' language as if for the first time. It was as though a window flew open, and the sounds of the author’s words rushed in. I began to notice the sonic patterns of Woolf’s sentences, how she composed a music all her own with her rhythmic language and sentence structure." - The New York Times

Writer Jenny Offill On What Can Be Done During The Pandemic

If you have elderly parents and kids to care for, not much. "The pandemic has been through all these different stages and you’re constantly moving between boredom and terror. We recently converted our dining table to a ping-pong table and I felt that was the final stage of getting through the winter." - The Guardian (UK)

With A New Book Called ‘I Hate Men,’ A French Author Has Truly Hit A Nerve

That's not the only work making a claim that France has an extremely long way to go in reckoning with gender inequality in every arena of life, including and perhaps especially the arts. The author of I Hate Men: "Feminists have spent a lot of time and energy reassuring men that no, we don’t really hate them, that they’re welcome. Not much has happened in exchange." - The New York Times

How Romance Writers Funded, And Spread Interest In, The Georgia Races With One Of Their Own

Writer Alyssa Cole explains why it makes sense that romance writers came together to raise money for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate runoff races (Stacey Abrams, who has engaged in massive voter turnout since her defeat at the ballot box in 2018, is also a romance writer under the pen name Selena Montgomery). "As far as romance novels and politics go, for people who are engaged in progressive politics, there is the link between the idea of optimism. One of the things that gets the reader through the book is knowing that at the end of the book, there will be some kind of resolution that leaves them feeling satisfied and uplifted. And I think people who read those kinds of romance novels and who write those kinds of romance novels are also seeking that in their real life." - NPR

The Number Of Indie Bookstores In The UK And Ireland Soared In 2020

What the actual heck? Well, a lot of people opened bookshops in 2020, during the pandemic, because why not? Their jobs had evaporated, and the bookshops were a long-held dream. But in the UK's third hard lockdown, the numbers may change again - for the far, far worse. - The Guardian (UK)

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