This decade’s double-digit annual growth — with total sales doubling to $2.5 billon over the past five years — has a clear analog in the e-book boom that preceded it, and the same company has driven it: Audible.com owner Amazon.
Times daily books editor John Williams: “To help fill the void of conversation around the prize itself, I recently spoke with The New York Times‘s staff book critics — Dwight Garner, Parul Sehgal and Jennifer Szalai — about what the prize has meant (or not meant) to their own reading habits; their opinions of past winners (and past snubs); and whom they would bestow the honor upon this year if they could.”
Perhaps the two most notable names on the longlist, Michael Ondaatje (who won the 50th anniversary ‘Golden Man Booker’ earlier this year for The English Patient) for Warlight and Nick Drnaso for Sabrina (the first graphic novel ever to be considered for the award), did not make the final cut. Among those who did are Esi Edugyan for Washington Black, Robin Robertson for The Long Take (written largely in verse), and, for Everything Under, 27-year-old Daisy Johnson, the youngest writer ever to make the shortlist.
Studies released over the past decade indicate that reading regularly can increase the odds of longevity, bolster blood flow to the brain, maintain vocabulary and critical thinking skills, and even hold off dementia. What’s more, books provide more benefit than even long-form newspaper or magazine articles.
“No, [the publisher] did not fire me. But he made clear to me that university publishers … were threatening a boycott. They are afraid of the reactions on the campuses, where this is an inflammatory topic. Because of this, I feel forced to resign — in fact it is a capitulation to social media and university presses.” Even so, he says, “I still stand behind my decision to publish.”
In November, just two months after India’s highest court decriminalized same-sex relations, the Awadh Queer Committee (which has already organized a pride march and a film festival in the past year) in Lucknow will present the first dedicated LGBTQ literary event anywhere in South Asia.
Buruma had defended his decision to publish Ghomeshi’s essay in a widely criticized interview with Slate just five days before his ouster at the literary magazine. It is unclear if he resigned or was fired. He was named the editor of the magazine last May, following the death of NYRB’s editor and cofounder Robert B. Silvers.
Sari Feldman, chief of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Cleveland: “Where is reference headed, and how is it being practiced in 2018? I asked some of my colleagues, and I heard a fairly consistent message: with so much information available online today, the value librarians add comes through their connection to the community,” helping patrons with, for example, applying for government social programs, obtaining health information, or navigating immigration and naturalization issues.
To figure it out, Rebecca Onion read a bunch of them: “Romance novels, as a genre, do a lot of thinking about the way power (wealth, intelligence, competence) drives attraction — for the women swooning over the male heroes, but also for the men themselves, who (in romance novels written recently, at least) often fall in love with heroines who can match their qualities of personal strength. Given that thematic interest, romance between civilians and stars is a natural fit. These rock stars are ‘alphas’ in the ‘best at their jobs’ sense; they need the women they meet to help them develop their private selves.”
Among the 17 titles in contention for this year’s Prix Renaudot is Marco Koskas’ Bande de Français, which was self-published on Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. According to the Syndicat de la librairie française, which represents French booksellers, the jury have put them in an impossible position.
In some vague, indescribable way, we feel something when we see the first group of words that we may not with regards to the second. Is it just cultural, poetic, or linguistic prejudice that makes us like a some words, and not others? Or is there some other story behind why some words seem to alienate us?
“A couple of months ago, we reached out to dozens of critics and authors — well-established voices (Michiko Kakutani, Luc Sante), more radical thinkers (Eileen Myles), younger reviewers for outlets like n+1, and some of our best-read contributors, too. We asked each of them to name several books that belong among the most important 100 works of fiction, memoir, poetry, and essays since 2000 and tallied the results. The purpose was not to build a fixed library but to take a blurry selfie of a cultural moment.”
The Japanese novelist was, along with Neil Gaiman, Maryse Condé and Kim Thúy, one of four finalists for the New Academy Prize, organized in Sweden after the scandal-plagued Swedish Academy postponed this year’s Nobel for literature. But Murakami, often mentioned as a contender for the Nobel itself, withdrew from consideration, saying, according to organizers, that “his preference is to concentrate on his writing, away from media attention.”
I live with a beginner’s mind. I didn’t realize two weeks ago I was going to buy Time. (Mr. Benioff texts a screenshot of a quote from the Zen master Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”) My power was that I didn’t really want to do anything but I was open to all possibilities.
“We were looking for books that were written in elevated, idiosyncratic, original prose that exhibited an exquisite command of the art of language, and unparalleled mastery of structure and storytelling,” the jury said in a statement. “We argued viciously over books, expounding on their merits. But when the battle was over, what remained left us in awe.”
Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections is planning to ban free book donations to inmates by mail, claiming that this is a “primary avenue for drugs” to enter prisons. But the move coincides with a renewed push to get prisoners buying into a pricey prison eBook system that offers low-end tablets for $150 and eBooks no cheaper than $3 a read.
Historian Jill Lepore on writing a history of the entire country in less than 1000 pages, but still having to change the ending thanks to the presidential election of 2016: “It was just a watershed political moment. To not adjust to end there just seemed wrong, like a dereliction of duty as a historian.”
It’s writing craft, of course – and making sure to have two points of view. Author Zoje Stage: “A lot of the tension in the book comes from the dual perspective of seeing how these two characters interpret the same event differently, which makes people question if one of them is more right than the other.” And then there’s the “European cinema” house setting …
Actually, not a list of lists, but some questions and thoughts: “Is there such a thing as a happy list in literature? The blithe verbal sum of possessions, achievements or experiences? Isn’t the very act of setting such things down evidence of some vexation, a clue that something is missing? The collector’s catalogue, the merchant’s tally, the seducer’s black book: they are all examples of compensating control. Compensation for what? For a scouring anxiety, or cumbrous melancholy?”
The thing about Little Women was that it wasn’t telling girls and women to be “girly,” or that being independent – and fierce – was a bad thing. The book “was that unusual thing, a classic that is also an instant hit. It was wildly popular from the moment it was published, in two parts, starting in 1868. … The book was also revolutionary, in its way.”
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani-American author who decided to step up her interfaith writing after 9/11. She wrote journalism, op-eds, and an acclaimed book of short stories. Then she had kids, and she noticed an issue: “Here we are in multicultural America, where in many cities, including my own hometown of Houston, brown and black is the majority skin color, and yet an overwhelming percentage of children’s books feature white kids. There were certainly not any Muslim or South Asian main characters in early readers, and that’s the age kids are just learning their own identities and deciding if they love reading or hate it.” So, she thought, why not help change that?
Privately owned, the company has moved deliberately, while publicly traded competitors like HarperCollins (which is owned by News Corp) and Simon & Schuster (CBS) have had to fend off pressures from shareholders. It has not used its gargantuan size—it controls more than half of the traditional literary marketplace according to many estimates—to take back territory from Amazon. Instead, it has focused on building equity and ensuring that it publishes the next generation of bestsellers.
“Her works are seen as so easy to read, she’s a favourite author of people learning English. Christie is also, by leaps and bounds, the world’s most translated author – so if many people are learning the English language through Christie, they are learning about the English people through her, too.” And not everything all those folks pick up is bogus.
“Having become a Japanese novelist (once and for all), I may have something of a problem on my hands in saying that I know hardly anything about Japanese fiction.” Considering that Murakami is writing this in his introduction to the English-language Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories, that may indeed be something of a problem. In fact, he maintains here that this makes him an excellent guide to this collection.
“The Voice was a cultural necessity for decades, a springboard for generations of passionate and relentless journalists, critics, and writers … Here, some of the Voice‘s most singular — Gary Indiana, Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Vivian Gornick, Melissa Anderson, Robert Christgau, Michael Miller, and Greg Tate — have shared their recollections about what it meant to work at that irreplaceable place.”
Bryan Goldberg, who plans to relaunch the site early next year, wrote to staff in a memo, “We won’t recreate Gawker exactly as it was, but we will build upon Gawker’s legacy and triumphs — and learn from its missteps.”
Even as the Kremlin pushes hard for the continued use of Russian in the former Soviet republics, it has begun discouraging and even suppressing the official use of native languages in the autonomous republics within the Russian Federation (Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, for example) that are home to Russia’s ethnic minorities. Crucially, Moscow is mandating severe cutbacks in the teaching of local languages in schools and firing language teachers (sometimes en masse). But the Bashkirs, Tatars, and others are resisting, especially online.
“The modern aphorism may be modelled on the classical, but it adds to the form a degree of self-consciousness about its own power, motion, drive. Above all, the aphorism is a sharp or pointed thing, violently deployed — though this action can never be definitive, but must be repeated time and again.”
“The unusual prize was dreamed up by Paul Morris, who opened Bookends in [the Welsh town of] Cardigan four years ago. The shop is profitable and would have made an estimated £30,000 in a sale, but Morris said he wanted to give someone else the chance to realise their dream of running a bookshop. Over the last three months, anyone who spent more than £20 was eligible to be entered into a raffle to win it. The name of the winner, Ceisjan Van Heerden, who is from the Netherlands, was drawn out of a hat containing 59 others at a ceremony last week, as Abba’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’ played to a crowd.”
“Children’s books have always been political, of course — that’s why they are fixtures on lists of banned or censored books. … [But] if the old image of a writer for children was a wise-child genius in the mold of Maurice Sendak — one who spoke up for kids and when necessary challenged the political powers that be, but indirectly — these days, children’s authors might not only hold signs at protest marches, they may also volunteer to strategize for a State Assembly race, or even run for office.”