The firm’s most recent rankings, published in September, showed that the top publisher on Facebook in August 2018 was not CNN, Fox News, the BBC, or BuzzFeed—but a Manchester, U.K.–based site called LADbible. Fourth was one called Unilad, also based in Manchester. Fifth, London-based tabloid the Daily Mail. Trusted sources, indeed. The New York Times’ John Herrman and Kevin Roose highlighted another NewsWhip list that showed LADbible had three of the 10 most popular stories on Facebook in the first week of September.
“Too much information creates numbness. Then we stop feeling. Then we stop caring. Refugees become mere numbers, anyone who is different becomes a category, an abstraction. It is not a coincidence that all populist movements are essentially against plurality, against diversity. In creating dualistic frameworks and polarising society, they know they can spread numbness faster. The novel matters because it punches little holes in the wall of indifference that surrounds us. Novels have to swim against the tide. And this was never more clear than it is today.”
These stories map an increasingly egalitarian poetry landscape. In place of the traditional gatekeeping system is a supportive, welcoming environment, particularly for marginalized voices. Purveyors of female empowerment and romantic expression like Kaur, Nikita Gill and Yrsa Daley-Ward flourished in this ecosystem. Instagram poets who might not get a second look from the predominantly white literary establishment have risen to prominence on their own. The trend is democratizing, both for writers and readers.
“Studies from experts strongly support both sides. Personal conversations with friends (not experts) vary from indifference, strong supporters and audiobook opposers. … We’re not sure what to believe, so we made a pros and cons list.”
Gillian Slovo writes about why she and the Royal Society of Literature have established the new Christopher Bland Prize, a £10,000 award for a first-time author over age 50.
The industry could have a lot riding on the next 18 months at Barnes and Noble. After years of upheaval and disappointing sales, it’s not clear whether Barnes and Noble can continue as a viable, if diminished, retail alternative to Amazon, or if, as our anonymous curmudgeon suggests, its time to start planning a funeral.
In a feature introducing The Atlantic‘s new daily online mini-crossword, Adrienne LaFrance looks back to the pearl-clutching that accompanied the appearance, and rapid popularity, of crossword puzzles in newspapers just over a century ago. ” Doctors warned of the dreaded ‘crossword-puzzle headache.’ … Puzzles were banned in courthouses, where distracted public officials played on the job. … Newspapers reported an uptick of women divorcing puzzle-obsessed husbands. … People worried that puzzles would replace literature, that the utility of three-letter words — gnu! emu! eel! — would rewire people’s brains.”
The novel Wolf Hall, the first volume of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell/Henry VIII trilogy, took its name from the country estate of Jane Seymour’s family. “Now original features of the 16th-century property have been uncovered by a team of archaeologists and historians, including a network of brick-built sewers and some of the foundations of two towers.” The remains were found on the grounds of (the much later) Wolf Hall Estate in Wiltshire, which still belongs to Seymour descendants.
“In August, the government acknowledged that it had banned 4,390 books since 2014, hundreds of them this year, including many works of literature that had once been considered untouchable, setting off street demonstrations and online protests.” Among the Western titles on the censors’ list are One Hundred Years of Solitude, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and 1984 (in one Arabic translation but not another). As for poor little mermaid Ariel? As one activist says, “There are no hijab-wearing mermaids. The powers that be thought her dress was promiscuous. It’s humiliating.”
“Remember, when we started, you didn’t just have to tell people what an internet magazine was. You usually had to tell them what the internet was. We thought Slate would be like a weekly magazine and people would print it out, and we mainly thought of the web as kind of an instant distribution mechanism.”
While many people (including more than a few Scottish ones) see the tongue of Robert Burns and Trainspotting as just a thickly accented dialect of English, Scots actually developed independently. (There was no medieval influence from Norman French, for one thing, since William the Conqueror never crossed the border.) But with Scotland having been united with the much larger, richer, more culturally assertive England for several centuries now, Scots came close to being subsumed into English entirely. Yet it has survived, and now it’s even gaining speakers.
As anger spreads over libraries being squeezed by STEM journals from large for-profits, university presses are growing in part by looking beyond a narrow focus on library markets and publishing for new audiences, branching out into crossover titles, supplemental texts, regional books, popular reference works, manifestos, graphic novels, and the like. It’s an entrepreneurial flourishing that engages new readers, creates new communities, and extends the reputation of those universities fortunate enough to have presses.
Ross Goodwin rigged up a black Cadillac with a camera, a GPS unit, a microphone, a laptop, and a receipt printer, and he and friends drove it from Brooklyn to New Orleans. Data from the instruments was fed into AI software on the laptop that Goodwin had trained on hundreds of books, and over the four-day trip that software produced prose on the tiny printer. The assembled result, a book titled 1 the Road, “is a hallucinatory, oddly illuminating account of a bot’s life on the interstate; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test meets Google Street View, narrated by Siri.”
“Through the March girls I came to know extreme poverty and the cost of war. I learned from Jo’s example that art is not produced solely by dreaming but through discipline, steadfast and confident application, and the willingness to accept and grow from astute criticism. Jo, as her creator, was always scribing, littering the floor with her failures, until such skins were shed and she connected with the core of self-expression.”
The second half of the book in particular — originally published, and still sold in Britain, under the separate title Good Wives — “is, for the most part, incredibly dull; most of it is left out of film interpretations. And yet,” argues Hillary Kelly, “it needs to be reckoned with if we’re going to assess what it means for young girls to read Little Women today. … It is obsessed with wifely duty — deferential to patriarchy and dismissive of female ambition of any variety other than the maternal. … It’s downright strange that intelligent women would call a book that disposes of its protagonists’ dreams in order to settle them into lives darning socks ‘required reading’ for young girls today.”
The website’s Twitter account now goes far beyond vocabulary-building blasts, seizing instead on words embedded in the public discourse–and expounding on not only their meaning but the intent behind them.
Volunteer librarians run Goodreads, sort of. Or do they? And is it true that Goodreads doesn’t allow magazines without ISBNs, or are Goodreads’ rules somewhat, shall we say, open to interpretation? It’s a kerfuffle for the Amazon-owned site.
Jefferson’s memoir Negroland won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, partly because of its ability to be personal and critical at the same time. Jefferson says, “I’d spent my writing life as a critic. My initial feeling was that those kinds of tones and voices had to go; this was memoir. But then, I realized, no, that was as much a fixed part of my identity as other things. I realized I had to include the critic who is diagnosing, who is assessing, who is judging against a kind of backdrop that is aesthetic, cultural, political.”
Leonard Cohen’s son says that even talking about his father’s process of writing feels like an invasion. “My father was very interested in preserving the magic of his process. And moreover, not demystifying it. Speaking of any of this … is a transgression,” Adam Cohen says. But a final book of poems “is what he was staying alive for.”
In Scotland, of course. “Scotland has an incredible wealth of working-class writers, thanks to a strong community and tradition of support from established authors.” But really, there are English, Welsh, and Northern Irish working-class writers as well, but the working-class writers and their publishers need to see interest from the public.
Not to mention this price: “I stand apart, casing the joint. Always on the lookout for a good line, the odd detail. It’s what writers and visual artists are trained to do: In the midst of a flood, consider the color of the water. We might or might not get a good story that way, but we’re at least more likely to survive the crisis. “
“I have a big problem with library technology. Let’s be honest, all libraries do! Mainly, the problem is… it sucks. Most of the time our tech already doesn’t work right, somebody decides to break it, and then we don’t have the money to fix anything.”
The first printed Old and New Testaments, reproduced in this new Taschen facsimile edition in two folio volumes, marked a cultural turning point, which was to shape religious controversies and political crises and conflicts throughout the following centuries. The production was technically complex and required an extraordinary amount of careful labour, which included setting 42 lines of text per page, consuming 2,500 bits of type, drawn from a font of 300 distinctive pieces.
“Nordic noir, Scandinavia’s best-known cultural export, mixes violent crime and political intrigue. The climate is savage, the characters terse and there aren’t many laughs. Instead, you get snow, secrets, abuse, alcohol and some pretty ragged writing. Niviaq Korneliussen’s debut novel is completely different.”
Are we winning any converts with this annual orgy of self-righteousness? The rhetoric of Banned Books Week is pitched at such a fervent level that crucial distinctions are burned away by the fire of our moral certainty, which is an ill that wide reading should cure not exacerbate. And what books are actually, effectively “banned” in the United States nowadays? The titles on the Top 10 Most Challenged list, in fact, sell hundreds of thousands of copies every year. How many authors would kill to be “challenged” like that?
Laura Kipness: “Allocution is a tough genre. But even when the account is disingenuous and self-pitying, I’m interested in what the accused have to say for themselves, including those I think are guilty and despicable and who haven’t learned the proper lessons from their crimes. One of the reasons we read prison literature is because we’re all guilty and despicable. One of the reasons we read literature as such is to know what it’s like to be a criminal, a coward, a refugee, a pariah. In other words, human. Something significant was lost last week.”
The English philosopher Owen Barfield, a member of the Oxford Inklings in the 1930s and ’40s, whose work as a philologist convinced him that the Romantic tradition was broadly right, put it succinctly. Words have soul, he said. They possess a vitality that mirrors the inner life of the world, and this connection is the source of their power. All forms of language implicitly deploy it. Poets are arguably more alert to it because they consciously seek it out.
“Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden and the husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was on trial for two counts of rape of a woman that allegedly took place in 2011. The accusations against him triggered a crisis within the prestigious academy, with seven members quitting and the body announcing that no prize will be awarded this year.” At prosecutors’ request lest Arnault flee the country, the trial judge ordered him held in custody until the verdict, expected early next week.
The late Egyptian novelist, best known in the West for ‘the Cairo Trilogy’ (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street), won the Nobel for literature in 1988; he remains the only Arab to do so. These unpublished stories were discovered by a journalist who was researching a history of one of Mahfouz’s most controversial books, Children of Gebelawi.