“Initially, 37 per cent of my 30 students – undergraduates at Boston University – were angry or annoyed about this experiment. While my previous policy leveraged public humiliation, it didn’t dictate what they did with their phones in class. For some, putting their phones into cases seemed akin to caging a pet, a clear denial of freedom. Yet by the end of the semester, only 14 per cent felt negatively about the pouches; 11 per cent were ‘pleasantly surprised’; 7 per cent were ‘relieved’; and 21 per cent felt ‘fine’ about them.”
Would Kirkus’s reviewer have changed her mind independently, even if the review hadn’t been pulled for evaluation? Or did she feel pressured to alter what had proven to be a deeply unpopular opinion when asked if she wanted to, even without explicit instructions to do so? What is clear, though, is that the choice to un-star American Heart reflects something noteworthy about Kirkus’sframework for critique — one in which a book’s value is determined not just by the quality of its storytelling, but also by its politics.
“Community policing officers will carry books while they are making their rounds on the city’s North and South sides. They’ll still respond to certain emergencies, but won’t be dispatched to calls for help, freeing them up to visit neighborhoods without libraries and give away books to anyone who wants them. The program is the first of its kind in the country, organizers say.”
“When Borders opened in 2002 across the street from Readings, Melbourne’s best-known independent bookseller, retail experts predicted catastrophe for the musty old shop competing with the shiny new chain store. Instead, Australians rejected Borders right into bankruptcy.” As Amazon launches its book business there, Damien Cave reports, there’s a chance it may not catch on much better than Borders did, thanks to some unique features of the Australian market.
As researchers in learning and text comprehension, our recent work has focused on the differences between reading print and digital media. While new forms of classroom technology like digital textbooks are more accessible and portable, it would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it.
“Local councils have seized on the volunteer idea as an easy answer to budget cuts. Each local authority has struggled to find its own solutions, with local residents doing whatever they can. The commitment of volunteers is wholly admirable, but the result is that as a country, we have been left without a coherent library service and we have seen no real attempt to find out how well community-run libraries work.”
Ultimately, the reasons for a noteworthy author’s obscurity are as various as the authors themselves. Fowler’s findings show that other contributing factors seem to include underrating their own work, reclusiveness, and genre (with notable exceptions, comic writers tend not to be taken seriously enough to preserve). The caprices of fashion hit populist fiction especially hard; striving as it does to capture the mindset of its time, it’s inevitably more perishable.
“Languages are dying out at an astonishing rate: a language is being lost every two weeks. And each of those languages has a poetic tradition of some sort, whether it’s written or aural – within that poetry will be all the different approaches and styles of writing poetry, as well as everything that poetry can tell us about those people: what they’re interested in; what their concerns are.”
“In one of their odder and more chilling moves, the Nazis occupying Lithuania once collected Yiddish and Hebrew books and documents, hoping to create a reference collection about a people they intended to annihilate. Even stranger, they appointed Jewish intellectuals and poets to select the choicest pearls for study.”
The novel Spy of the First Person, on which the playwright/actor began working just after he was diagnosed with ALS (of which he died in July) and which his daughters and his old friend Patti Smith helped him complete, is “the story of an unnamed narrator who retraces the memories of his life as he undergoes treatment for a medical condition that renders him dependent on the loved ones who are caring for him.”
“The novel matters because and so on. By which I mean that I’ve come to believe that all the arts are about time, but that the novel in particular is about the and-so-on of things, continuance and continuity, the continuum. It’s a form, too, very interested in the workings of society, so it tells us about how we’re living, who we’re living with, and where we are in the endless social structural cycle that eventually gets called history.”
“Saunders is the second American in a row to win the Booker prize, after last year’s winner Paul Beatty. Saunders’ win falls four years after eligibility rules were changed to allow writers of any nationality writing in the English language and published in the UK. There has been fierce criticism of the rule change.”
“Some of these books are concise introductions to topics you might later wish to pursue in greater depth: Modern India, say, or Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Others, like Teeth, contain pretty much everything the average layperson would ever want or need to know. All of them, however, take their Very Short commitment seriously. The length of each book is fixed at thirty-five thousand words, or roughly a hundred and twenty pages. … Never mind that the Roman Empire got some four thousand pages from Edward Gibbon, and that was just to chronicle its demise; here it gets the same space as Circadian Rhythms, Folk Music, and Fungi.”
In fact, Homer’s version is literally Wisdom personified – which is to say that it’s Athena, goddess of wisdom, appearing to Telemachus in the form of a man named Mentor. Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy talks to The Atlantic about how Homer’s Mentor is still relevant today.
“The skills you learn in the humanities are exactly the skills you use in a job search. The humanities teach students to understand the different rules and expectations that govern different genres, to examine social cues and rituals, to think about the audience for and reception of different kinds of communications. In short, they teach students how to apply for the kinds of jobs students will be looking for after college.”
“Part of me fears the parameters that are being placed on writers whose voices have not traditionally been heard, whether it’s to be “authentic” (however we decide to define it), to be representative of their culture or to be the interpreter for a group of readers that’s assumed to be a mainstream/white readership.”
For instance, take the story of St. Louis’ Central Library, which was, for four years, across the street from a large homeless shelter that provided nothing but beds for the night, turning the library into a de facto shelter during the day. “It’s an extremely difficult and complex problem, balancing the safety of the library on the one hand with the acknowledgment on the other that the homeless and marginalized are real patrons, too.”
Why Iraq for a speculative fiction future? Well, it’s obvious: “Baghdad is where algebra, the decimal point, and the first method to calculate the radius of the Earth were invented in ancient times — and Iraq, Blasim feels, is a rightful heir to the sci-fi tradition.”
There’s a list, but first … “In publishing, just as in the movie business, there are men we warn women not to work with, not to be alone with, not to send work to. The burden has always been placed on women to keep each other and ourselves safe—men don’t take accountability for their actions, and why should they? After all, they aren’t held accountable for those same actions (but sometimes their victims are). This is called rape culture.”
And the UK’s The Observer isn’t thrilled with the list: “When Lola Young, as chair, summarised the shortlist as ‘unique and intrepid books that collectively push against the borders of convention,’ she articulated a mission statement for a final session that promises to be an excruciating visit to the third circle of a literary critical inferno.”
The authors of a report on diversity in the genre are the owners of the U.S.’s only romance-focused store, and they love the genre. But the numbers are bad – in some cases, abysmal. They say: “The traditional romance publishing industry is going to collapse if it doesn’t start hiring authors that reflect the current U.S. population.”
Was it pulled because of its use of the ‘n-word’? That seems to be the case, but the reason is not clear. “Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, ‘There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.'”
One indie bookstore representative wonders what the ever-loving heck: “Even as people seek out the expertise of indie booksellers, they treat Amazon as the default for book links. Bloggers write about shopping local while linking to Amazon. Authors appeal to bookstores for book tours and sales but announce their books on Facebook with Amazon links (yes, even for a book titled How to Find Love in a Bookshop).”
The fairs – and other cultural trading – taught about history beyond the Indian independence struggle. And they were cool: “The Soviet Book Exhibition would cram a vast ground in the center of town with stalls selling books and magazines, for all ages, in English and various Indian languages. Sovietland magazine was published in 13 Indian languages. It carried pictures of Soviet life, of collective farming, and Indo-Soviet collaborations on projects like the Bhilai steel plant. Soviet books were inexpensive and beautifully produced on glossy art paper.”
More than 70 authors, including Pulitzer prize winners Jennifer Egan and Louise Glück, have come to the defence of the editor and poet Jill Bialosky after she was accused of plagiarism, saying that Bialosky’s “inadvertent repetition of biographical boilerplate was not an egregious theft intentionally performed”.
“In a statement to staff issued on Thursday, Hachette Book Group said it had ‘terminated’ the imprint. A joint venture between the Weinstein Company and the Hachette-owned publisher Perseus, Weinstein Books released around 10 books a year, with titles ranging from books by media personalities to film tie-ins. It was run by two women: editorial director Amanda Murray and publishing director Georgina Levitt.”
“Tales of language extinction are invariably tragic. But why, exactly? Aka-Bo, like many other extinct languages, did not make a difference to the lives of the vast majority of people. Yet the sense that we lose something valuable when languages die is familiar. Just as familiar, though, is the view that preserving minority languages is a waste of time and resources. I want to attempt to make sense of these conflicting attitudes.”
Invented by a Hungarian in Argentina, re-engineered by an American high school dropout, it created such a sensation when it appeared in a New York department store that the police had to control the crowds. (This even though it sold for the present-day equivalent of $165 each.) Inventory sold out in a flash (and disappeared mysteriously from the factory). And that’s not even the first year.
“‘Books are the best weapons,’ President Emmanuel Macron of France said at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, addressing the unifying power of literature and language. ‘Without culture, there is no Europe.’ … Can Dundar, the former editor in chief of the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who faces imprisonment in Turkey, will add to the political theme in a talk about writing in exile; the German author Thomas Wagner and the activist Gerald Hensel will discuss the identity of the new right.”
Otessa Moshfegh: “Upon awakening, I often ask myself, ‘Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing here?’ and from time to time, I’ve felt that the answers were merely memorized responses, and that my reality might be an arbitrary dash of the imagination – believable, sure, but not entirely trustworthy. This specific vulnerability – of the conscious, willful mind – is precisely what Jackson titillates and exacerbates in her stories.”