When the Writers’ Union of Canada recently surveyed its members about their incomes, the results were sobering: an average writer made $9,380 a year from his or her writing. That’s 27 per cent less than what writers made three years ago, and a whopping 78 per cent less than they made in 1998. The report comes in stark contrast to the glossy literary awards season, where champagne flows and prizes that sound lucrative are given out, culminating with the $100,000 Giller Prize.
As of June, Glamour had a print circulation of about 2 million, according to Alliance for Audited Media. There were about 7 million visitors to the website last month, according to comScore figures. Its total reach online, editor Samantha Barry contended to staffers, was about 20 million.
To begin with, why not a single book from an academic imprint?
“Despite its bad reputation, punning is, in fact, among the highest displays of wit. Indeed, puns point to the essence of all true wit — the ability to hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same time. And the pun’s primacy is demonstrated by its strategic use in the oldest sacred stories, texts, and myths.” Indeed, the fact that we think Adam and Eve ate an apple is due to a pun.
“In the year 2000, there were seven major teen magazines publishing monthly; now, there are none. This makes me feel incredibly old, but even so: I am glad that teen magazines are dead.” As Seventeen and Teen Vogue, the last survivors of the genre, go out of print, Rebecca Onion argues that this is a healthy development.
The CA$5,000 (£3,000) Prix littéraire des collégiens, running since 2003, is intended to promote Québécois literature and is decided by a jury of hundreds of students who select their winner from a selection of five works of fiction written in French by Canadian authors. But after this year’s finalists, the writers Lula Carballo, Dominique Fortier, Karoline Georges, Kevin Lambert and Jean-Christophe Réhel, discovered that Amazon Canada would be the prize’s new principal sponsor, they wrote to Le Devoir urging organisers to reconsider.
Modernism is inextricably bound to the concept of the West – and now that the United States and Britain are once again reckoning in challenging ways with their places in the world, some of the countries’ novelists are returning to its style and philosophy.
The store in Northwest England has gotten hundreds of replies about selling the book, about William the Conqueror. “Author Sarah Todd Taylor tweeted in response, ‘The book held its breath. It had hoped so often, only to have that hope crushed. Hands lifted it from the shelf, wrapped it warmly in paper. As the door closed on its past life, the book heard the soft cheers of its shelfmates.'”
In an attention economy, controversy has value. It’s no exaggeration to say these political battles within CanLit now dominate the discussion of Canadian writers and writing. The “appropriation prize” controversy, for example, blew up in a journal that few people had ever heard of much less read, and yet it garnered an enormous amount of national media coverage. And, while Joseph Boyden is a bestselling, award-winning novelist, he is probably better known today for questions raised about whether or not he qualifies as an Indigenous author.
The familiar world becomes alien within a single lifespan. In such a world of relentless evolution, art is perpetually in danger of being outstripped, every “realism” of describing a vanished reality. Just as capitalism erases difference to make way for a homogenous global anti-culture, artistic traditions are swept aside, denounced as irrelevant almost as soon as they have established themselves. Today, Ezra Pound’s modernist command to Make It New! sounds like nothing so much as a corporate slogan for Apple or Huawei. Capitalism and the avant garde check each other out from across the room, seeing much to admire.
With research increasingly open to the public, scholars can’t expect readers to know who everyone is and which journals are reputable. Blockchain can offer additional information and reassurances about the review process. Today that level of trust is primarily an asset of the corporate publishing oligarchy. Blockchain might democratize it.
Alongside the fiction prize to Nunez’s novel about a bereaved writer and his Great Dane and the nonfiction prize to Stewart’s biography of philosopher Alain Locke, honors went to Justin Phillip Reed’s Indecency (poetry), Yoko Tawada and Margaret Mitsutani for The Emissary (translated literature), and Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X (young people’s literature). Isabel Allende became the first Spanish-language author to receive the lifetime achievement award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
“The word was chosen less for statistical reasons, [the U.S. head of Oxford Dictionaries] said, than for the sheer variety of contexts in which it has proliferated, from conversations about environmental poisons to laments about today’s poisonous political discourse to the #MeToo movement, with its calling out of ‘toxic masculinity.'” The runners-up were “gaslighting” and “incel.” (Last week, rival dictionary Collins declared its word of the year to be “single-use.”)
Maybe it’s not too surprising that a conservative Arab monarchy has already banned the likes of 1984 (too subversive) to One Hundred Years of Solitude (too racy) to Disney’s Little Mermaid (Ariel’s top is too skimpy). But the crop of 948 new titles blocked from presentation at this year’s Kuwait International Literary Festival includes Dostoevsky’s masterpiece. (Too gloomy?)
Katy Waldman: “There is something counterintuitive about cli-fi, about the fictional representation of scientifically substantiated predictions that too many people discount as fictions. … Literature has always been a humanist endeavor: it intrinsically and helplessly affirms the value of the species; its intimations of meaning energize and comfort. But what if there is scant succor to be had, and our true natures are not noble but necrotic, pestilential?”
“[Azadeh] Parsapour is the founder of the London-based Nogaam Publishing, a press launched in 2012 to digitally produce Farsi writings that are censored in Iran. Nogaam makes them available free of charge under a Creative Commons license. Iranian readers can access more than 40 titles so far produced by Nogaam on topics controlled in Tehran including immigration, censorship, LGBT issues, underground music, women, relationships, war, and extremism.”
By the time Anna Todd wrote Chapter 90—of an eventual 295 chapters—her novel-in-progress had been read more than 1 million times. Multiple literary agents reached out to her, but she dismissed them as “crazy people,” figuring no legitimate professional would seek out One Direction fan fiction. Readers composed sequels starring After’s characters, uploaded video homages to the book, and—finally convincing Todd that she might have something big on her hands—chatted as Tessa and Harry on Twitter role-playing accounts.
“Over the years, it’s been passed around, first in photocopies and later as a PDF. … It’s made its way onto required-reading lists and been cited hundreds of times.” There has even been a scholarly conference devoted to it. Julius S. Scott completed The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution in 1987, and it’s only coming out in print this month. Reporter Tom Bartlett investigates why.
“Dr Tarek Tawfik, director general of the Grand Egyptian Museum, risked sparking a new row over the prized artefact … The stone fragment, which dates to 196BC, is one of the British Museum’s most popular exhibits. Before it was found by accident by Napoleon’s army in 1799 nobody knew how to read hieroglyphs. Scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on it as the key to decipher them.”
The question isn’t how difficult a book is, but why it’s difficult. What is it doing with its difficulty? What is it asking of the reader? Does that difficulty reward the reader’s investment of time? You’re entitled, as James Marriott did in the Times, to conclude that in this case the view from the top of Snowdon wasn’t worth the hike. But complaining about the hike per se is to give up on the idea that there might be any case for art that rewards an investment of energy and attention from its consumer.
We have incentivized a safe, cloying storytelling rooted in domestic perspectives and intimate conflicts. These novels generally feature a personal issue (abandonment by a parent, bereavement, breakup) processed through or alongside a traumatic historical incident (say, the clearing of the Newfoundland outports) with some vague connection to the protagonist (typically a university professor, historical researcher, or some other middle-class intellectual with enough time to visit archives). Before the story wraps up, there is certain to be a tepid love affair, several flashbacks, and a well-timed lyrical riff affirming the human spirit or the redemptive power of art. Moral questions will lend the story a patina of gravitas, but there will be no attempt to reckon with the complex roots of social or political problems.
As a library, its details are impressive: The building has four floors, 240,000 square feet of internal space, a podcast and YouTube production studio, a performance hall, a grand reading room, a children’s library, a digital commons, heated handrails, an interior blending hyper-modern touches with traditional wood at almost every turn and $500,000 in indigenous placemaking work, mostly in the form of artworks. It also has 450,000 books.
Nope. It’s books in translation. Why? Maybe the internet, or cell phones, or something entirely different – but the National Book Foundation is about to add a National Book Award for Translated Literature, the first new prize for the National Book Awards in more than 20 years.
Kennedy, who’s a comedian as well as a novelist, says that “imagination is at the bottom of democracy, at the bottom of civilised behaviour and at the bottom of not behaving like a sociopath.”
The founders of Glimmer Train, two Portland sisters who created the literary journal with some software money, have been running it since 1994 – and now they’ve announced that the it will have its final issue in 2019. “They decided they wanted a journal with content as high in quality as any other, but also — and this is one of the areas that set them apart — they wanted it to be fun.”
How important was Washington’s addiction to land speculation to the course of American history? Kind of important – and undiscussed in most biographies. “As America’s god of the passage from colony to nation, Washington looked east to the past and west to the future. And when he faced west, he faced Indian country.”
“The loss of this particular team and what they brought as a storytelling methodology and philosophy to this city is not a minor loss. It’s the biggest loss. The mission we started this company with is still something this city really, really needs.”
So why are these four books so special? It has to do, I think, with the concept of the original—a concept we have almost entirely lost touch with. The Beowulf Manuscript is not just composed of words that serve as the basis for every translation of the epic poem. It’s foremost an object, the only one of its kind. It is not merely a representation of a story; it is the story.
“AbeBooks had told bookshops in countries including Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Russia that it would no longer support them from 30 November, citing migration to a new payment service provider as the reason for the withdrawal. The move prompted almost 600 booksellers in 27 countries to pull more than 3.5m titles from AbeBooks’ site.” AbeBooks’ CEO apologized for the “bad decision.”
The novel, which will be published in the U.S. late next year under the title The Children Who Came After Them, is one of several widely successful recent works of fiction in France to deal with the lives of young people growing up in the country’s poor, de-industrialized towns.