Kristen Arnett: “Working children’s services sometimes means dealing with a bunch of sugared-up kids who got into a box of Lucky Charms cereal (I recognize that look — I also eat Lucky Charms to get amped). But it also means thinking on your feet and getting way outside your comfort zone. By that I mean you’ll probably have to kneel on the floor, and if you’re wearing a skirt, everyone is gonna see your underwear and four different kids will point it out loud enough for everyone in the library to hear.”
“It feels awkward at first. Whenever I pester people to write Amazon reviews for me or relentlessly bang on about my book on social media, a part of me worries that people will get fed up with it. Maybe they will. But being shy won’t get me anywhere, either. People can always ignore me or say no, but if I don’t ask them I’ll never know. And so far I’ve found that people are often more than happy to help.”
“The magazine was owned by Peter Brant, a billionaire art collector, who acquired the magazine in 1989. Its closure comes after months of turmoil, including staff being locked out as part of rent dispute, a lawsuit brought by a former editorial director over back pay and the resignation of a fashion director accused of sexual misconduct.”
The Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye has 1,600 residents – and thousands of people coming to its book festival. Its director explains why Hay is special: “I think we all have a special sense of place that defines what we do and how we do it. For Hay that’s the open green mountains and the dark skies, and it’s the fact that the town has 1,600 people and 28 bookshops. How many cities have that kind of wealth?” (Also: Survive by talking to other book fans.)
The author says she can’t remember what provided the inspiration for the novels, and that she definitely did not have everything plotted out from the beginning: “I never plan my stories. A detailed outline is enough for me to lose interest in the whole thing. Even a brief oral summary makes the desire to write what I have in mind vanish. I am one of those who begin to write knowing only a few essential features of the story they intend to tell. The rest they discover line by line.”
This is quite the feature. Yikes: “It is the kind of bitter farce that might result if August Strindberg were to emerge from the grave to watch the dandies from the academy pelt each other with champagne glasses. And Strindberg, whose path to early 20th century literary greatness in Sweden was filled with hatred and scorn, likely wouldn’t even find it possible to hate them, as consumed as he would be with disdain.”
Fiction apart from her own, that is. Her project, and the project that she hopes other working-class writers will take us, is clear: “Trying to write with love and respect about people who even as you love them are destroying themselves and to try to write it accurately and with some of the grace of Meridel Le Sueur is the challenge. But you can’t write about this stuff and be boring. That would be a sin against God.”
Author and book dealer AN Devers began the The Second Shelf project after experience in serious book buying. She realized, and did research to back up her realizations, that “book collectors help determine which writers are remembered and canonised, and which are forgotten. The collector trade is a part of a supply line, to readers’ bookshelves, universities, archives and libraries. Historically it has been male-dominated (bookmen), white, and oriented around a western canon. Women, particularly women of colour, are left under-recognised, their books deemed less collectable and given less space on shelves.”
A book publicist took action after Barnes & Noble in the Bronx – the last bookstore (at that point) in the borough – shut its doors. But it took social media to make it real: “Fennell put out a call on Twitter, where most of her followers are people in book publishing and other media professionals. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of people donated to her Kickstarter campaign, which met and exceeded its $30,000 goal in just over a week. Authors and publishers stepped forward to join her planning board, helping her confirm speakers for the event.”
Stan Carey makes the case that the practice of verbing nouns and nouning verbs is perfectly dandy, and is one of the things that makes English such a versatile and vocabulary-rich language. There’s even a grammatical term for the phenomenon – three of them, in fact. So, as Carey says in the caption to the photo, “Let’s chocolate.”
“A study published this week … found that nouns actually take longer to spit out than verbs do, presumably because they require more thought to produce. … Which is to say, the future word casts a shadow over the present one. And that shadow is measurable: the researchers found that, in all nine languages, the speech immediately preceding a noun is three-and-a-half-per-cent slower than the speech preceding a verb. And in eight of nine languages, the speaker was about twice as likely to introduce a pause before a noun than before a verb.” (The outlier was English.)
“Because I hate myself, and because I want my future robots to remember my contributions to this wild weird world before it all dissipates into the ether, or becomes a wasteland of Russian bots and Incels, I spoke with writers, journalists, novelists, and normal people to come up with a definitive list of essential internet reading. … It comes as no surprise that finding and creating a cohesive understanding of internet writing is just as dubious, problematic, and maddening as the internet itself.” Even so, Lyz Lenz has given it a try – and found some very funny pieces which would probably never have made it into dead-tree print.
“Arguably no single work by Baldwin is as connected to the issues animating Black Lives Matter as his final nonfiction book, The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), but the work was written long after Baldwin had lost the public’s affection. … Written in response to what came to be known as the Atlanta child murders, Baldwin’s book is a piercing examination of anti-black violence in the United States, why it persisted after the ‘gains’ of the civil rights era, and why it would likely continue unless deep-rooted structural and psychic changes occurred.”
Recent controversies over Sally Kohn’s The Opposite of Hate and Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary – not to mention Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury – “have raised concerns about the accuracy and standards of published books. … But what anyone who has never published a book might not realize is that the bar for factchecking books during the editing process is low, if it even exists at all. Not only that, it’s common for publishers to never have a conversation with authors about the issue of factchecking and to assume that getting it right is entirely on the author.”
“The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction, which has been running since 2000, goes to the novel deemed to best capture the comic spirit of the late PG Wodehouse. … None of the 62 novels submitted for the prize this year ‘prompted unanimous, abundant laughter’, [the judges] said, instead only managing to provoke ‘wry smile[s]’.”
“Akhmatova knew that the secret police might search her apartment and find her writings, so she burnt the paper on which composed drafts of the poem, after learning it by heart. But what if she were arrested and executed? To ensure the survival of her poem, she taught it to her closest female friends who would remember the poem after her own death. She called this situation ‘pre-Gutenberg’ because state terror had forced her and other underground writers to live as if the printing press had never been invented.”
“The older you get the more difficult it is to learn to speak French like a Parisian. But no one knows exactly what the cutoff point is – at what age it becomes harder, for instance, to pick up noun-verb agreements in a new language. In one of the largest linguistics studies ever conducted,” researchers concluded that the cutoff is later than many experts thought.
“While the threats that climate change poses to material history are well-known and frequently studied, researchers have tended to focus on immovable assets … Archives, because they are technically mobile, have received less attention … Sadly, relocating buildings full of old and fragile documents may be too expensive and complicated to undertake.”
Independent publishing, far from dying, is undergoing a renaissance. These are not the A4-sized, glossy, free-DVD-inside commodities that dominate the newsstand. These are as much objects as magazines, collectible and shareable in the best sense of the word. These are magazines that play with the form, from open binding to multiple paper stocks. Their subject matter is as diverse as their production techniques, from mental health to trans rights, from football to street wear. They are driven by a passion, both for their content, and the printed form, and thanks to technology, they are able to reach audiences around the world. From Twitter to Instagram, from Patreon to Kickstarter, it’s never been easier to build an audience, and sell your creation to them.
One striking feature in a number of editorships is the manner in which editorial practice shifts towards a more charismatic and singular mode over time. This is certainly a common feature for three of the most successful literary editors of the twentieth century, each of whom edited a long-running publication that was firmly embedded in a parent institution.
Sales have been on the slide for 11 years; even online sales have fallen. Over the past five years, the company has lost more than $1bn in value. Dozens of stores have closed. A shake-up in February resulted in the loss of 1,800 full-time jobs. If Barnes & Noble closes it will mark the death of the last major book chain in the US, leaving the field open to Amazon, which sells one out of every two books in the country, according to analysts. Closure is also likely to hurt publishers, who will become even more heavily reliant on Amazon. Big swaths of America will be left without a major bookstore.
“The idea of a public library — where anyone in the community is trusted to borrow books, often for long stretches of time, for free, ad infinitum — is fairly magical. Where else do you get something for nothing? Which is not even to mention the many programs, study space, use of computers, and other perks that most public libraries offer. Basically, what I’m saying is: libraries should be even more popular than they are — but some of them are pretty popular already.”
Well, romance novel publishing, anyway, which is – like a lot of publishing – very, very, very white. These Black authors are attempting to change that narrative, and that structure. Author Alyssa Cole, inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog, says, “I was like, we were around for all this stuff! And I can make these stories that include us.”
Yeah, immigration didn’t just pop into international consciousness when Donald Trump was on the campaign trail. “Marginalized writers are told by white editors, we need your stories now more than ever, as if we have not always needed them urgently. We are told our experiences are timely, exotic, and trendy. We are told our stories are not authentic if our characters do not suffer, as if the only way to prove that we are human is to bleed.”
“With exposure can come brutality in the form of hate tweets and irate emails. Expect more of them if you stick your neck out. Some of us find this to be a minimal irritant and easily ignored. For others, it could be significant, especially considering the tendency for women and minorities in the public eye to attract Internet trolls.”
“When a Washington librarian made a polite request for patrons to cease using cheese as a bookmark in her library’s books, librarians across the Twitterverse chimed in with their tales of strange library book finds. The May 1 tweet by Anna Holmes was reportedly triggered by the discovery of a Kraft Singles slice, which to some librarians was a tame deposit.” (slideshow)
“The Pulitzer Prize board has opened an independent review of sexual misconduct allegations against the award-winning novelist Junot Díaz, who is stepping down as chairman, the board said on Thursday. ‘Mr. Díaz said he welcomed the review and would cooperate fully with it,’ the Pulitzer board said in a statement.”
Dorfman reflects on the curious reality of living everywhere and feeling at home nowhere – always being a stranger, an observer. “Not to belong anywhere, to be displaced, is not a bad thing for a writer.” He pauses. “If you can deal with it. If it doesn’t destroy you.” To survive the rootlessness, he says, it helps to have a moral compass and a strong family. “More than a traveler, I’m a displacer. In other words, I’m a person who is constantly meditating on what it means not to arrive at a place, but to be on my way somewhere else.”