Good book news for New Jersey and the four or five other places the store will open in the next two years? Maybe. “The chain also continues to roll out a new bookstore concept which it introduced in 2016. The new concept re-positions the chain’s larger locations as ‘cultural department stores’ and places an equal emphasis on the sale of non-book items, as well as books.”
“Sounds a lot, but it would turn out to be a brief history. Universal literacy isn’t that old. Nor is the luxury of sleeping alone. Couldn’t have been much fun when there were five of you on a mattress, one guffawing over Smollett while another was calling hysterically for Heathcliff and the candle was going out.” And the other bookend would be another gift of modernity: television, and streaming.
Amanda Gorman, now 19, was inspired a few years ago by hearing a speech by Malala Yousafzai. What’s she doing now, aside from attending Harvard? “Between courses in sociology and her laureate obligations, she continues to lead One Pen One Page, an organization she founded in 2016 that provides platforms ‘for student storytellers to change the world.’ She is also putting the final touches on She the People, an experiential virtual reality project that seeks to empower teenager girls.”
Celeste Ng, author of the wildly bestselling novel Little Fires Everywhere, says that most people in the U.S. now understand race differently than they did in the 1990s, which makes that decade a great setting for her book. “The decade was, in general, one of optimism; it was ‘placid … a little self-satisfied.'”
How did new MacArthur “genius grant” winner Viet Thanh Nguyen get where he is now? “A mere 18 months ago, Nguyen was still unknown as a fiction writer. His career began quickly, and seemingly out of nowhere, in April 2015 — when a rave on the cover of The New York Times Book Review made his debut novel, The Sympathizer, one of the year’s most-discussed books.”
In one seminar at The University of Texas at El Paso’s MFA program, where at least 12 of the 20 students are native Spanish speakers, “Many of the students around the table comment in Spanish, sometimes switching languages to highlight a point for the native English speakers. Ms. Cote-Botero hangs back, periodically interjecting in either language. A student from Mexico City consults another from Las Vegas on a passage in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, occasionally glancing at Google Translate on a laptop.”
“Thomas Hynes’s We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night, described in a release from the Canada Council as a portrait of a man’s hilarious yet disturbing journey from St. John’s to Vancouver, is the winner of the English fiction category. Richard Harrison’s On Not Losing my Father’s Ashes in the Flood took home the top poetry prize, Hiro Kanagawa’s Indian Arm was the winner under the drama genre and The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State by Graeme Wood was the pick for non-fiction.”
“In the 15th and 16th centuries in Western Europe, the oldest published recipe collections emanated from the palaces of monarchs, princes, and grandes señores. … Gradually, technology broadened cookbooks’ intended audiences … [and,] in time, as new ideas formed about equality, democracy, and social stratification, presenting certain books as best suited for rich or for poor was no longer considered effective marketing, but culinary literature nonetheless has borne class markers for as long as it has existed.”
As literary scholar Grant Shreve argues, themes, characters, and memes from the Bible are everywhere in American culture, even in 2017. (Besides, he says, knowing your Bible might have helped you figure out what the hell was going on in mother!.)
“When associates at Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong went missing about two years ago – and its scandalous books about mainland Chinese politicians were destroyed not long after – Woo Chih-wai thought he’d lost everything.” Reporter Vivienne Chow recounts how, partly to earn some money back, he republished a very long, very graphic erotic novel from the 1730s titles Preposterous Words.
Among the thousands of wax cylinders in the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology are songs and spoken-word recordings in 78 indigenous languages of California. Some of these languages, recorded between 1900 and 1938, no longer have living speakers. The history on the cylinders is difficult to hear. The objects have deteriorated over the decades, mold eating away at their forms, cracks breaking through the sound.
“The national shift towards e-commerce has triggered the loss of mall anchor stores and a downward spiral in customer counts at Book World stores, reducing sales to a level that will no longer sustain business operations. Book World has stores in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and Missouri.”
“Collins Dictionary’s lexicographers, who monitor the 4.5bn-word Collins corpus, said that usage of the term had increased by 365% since 2016. The phrase, often capitalised, is frequently a feature of Donald Trump’s rhetoric.” (Can you guess it?)
“I’m modestly encouraged by how many readers nowadays pay attention to voices – Rebecca Solnit, Maggie Nelson, Olivia Laing – you would have to call essayistic. It turns out that readers are still well able to engage with works of nonfiction that address the world urgently and at the same time try to reimagine what this venerable form, the essay, may be capable of doing in artistic terms.”
Here’s the story of the Luneborch Prayer Book, a beautiful 15th-century illuminated manuscript in Low German that went missing from the Peabody Library in Baltimore around 1962 – and that an unknown somebody mailed back in 2012.
“Let’s stop pretending this language reflects ‘research.’ Let the reader decide whether an idea is plausible or implausible by explaining it, not by presenting it as established fact. Let’s have an end to academic artspeak – and while we’re at it, start letting art speak for itself.”
The oddest finding may be the sharp increase in an innocuous little word: “and.” In 1946, “and” accounted for around 2.6 percent of the words in the reports, a frequency similar to that of average academic prose. But by 2015, as this chart shows, its share had almost doubled, reflecting what the researchers describe as the growing tendency toward long lists of nouns that create the illusion of activity, sometimes despite a “total absence of logic.”
Literary criticism typically tends to emphasize the singularity of exceptional works that have stood the test of time. But the canon, Franco Moretti argues, is a distorted sample. Instead, he says, scholars need to consider the tens of thousands of books that have been forgotten, a task that computer algorithms and enormous digitized databases have now made possible. “We know how to read texts,” he wrote in a much-quoted essay included in his book “Distant Reading,” which won the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. “Now let’s learn how to not read them.”
“While I never intended to become The Angriest Librarian, a lifelong inability to hold my tongue—and my frustration with the permeating stereotypes of 1950s-era public libraries—seems to have made it inevitable. So, when I was confronted with yet another blowhard who couldn’t see the value his tax dollars were placing right in front of his face, I had no choice. Over the next few days, I picked up 15,000 followers and found myself in a position to become a public face for my besieged profession.”
“The New York Public Library, for instance, has not only cuneiform tablets and ninth-century gospels, but also a Gutenberg Bible and a copy of The Bay Psalm Book, one of the oldest books printed in America. In addition to its own cuneiform tablets and Gutenberg Bible, the Library of Congress holds one of the oldest examples of printing in the world, passages from a Buddhist sutra, printed in A.D. 770, as well as a medieval manuscript from 1150, delightfully titled Exposicio Mistica Super Exod.”
The Roman emperor Nero is the archetypal example of a despot who sees himself as a master of verse; his example was followed by no less than (among others) Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot (he loved the French Symbolists), Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein. And these rulers tended to stick closely to classical forms. Benjamin Ramm explores the link between ruthlessness and versification.
“It turns out, machines can be pretty damn good at spinning up a tale of murder, dread, despair, and supernatural terror. At least one is—Shelley A.I., a horror-writing bot created by researchers at the MIT Media Lab, debuting just in time for Halloween this year. Named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, the little horror-author-that-could is a deep learning algorithm that reads stories published in terror-inducing /r/nosleep subreddit and trains itself to write its own horror fiction.”
“It seems it is only a matter of time before there is an award for the best award – as if no Canadian author or publishing house should be left out in the cold.”
First of all, writers, you really are not going to clean the house. Don’t do it. Stop it. “If you’re not making the time to write, no other advice can help you.”
Despite two highly autobiographical books and a new movie about her, Didio “isn’t fully a celebrity. She isn’t fully an author, in the modern way of it. To be an author, today, is generally to be required, repeatedly, to acquiesce: to give in to demands of omnipresence, of performative relatability. To live-tweet The Bachelor. To write op-eds in the Times. To accept that being part of the zeitgeist requires that one first accept the terms of geistiness: disembodied, environmental, miasmic. To be an author, today, is in some part to sacrifice oneself.”
Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing, says it’s not easy to recreate the feel of writing her first novel, which she wrote in a dank little apartment in Iowa City. “Every day I would wake up in the dungeon, head to my nook, sit at my desk and feel proud and productive and contented. I’m trying to recapture that feeling.”
“Prior to my book I had, at least in some small measure, learned how to generate ideas by myself. But there was always the instant feedback of the audience to tell me where I’d misstepped, and I’ve never created a show without a co-creator, because it’s how I (and my co-creators) like to work. So the book was a new animal.”
A journalist meets the 2015 Nobel Prize winner at the Louisiana Literature festival: “She was reluctant, when asked, to describe the evolution of her style. (‘Must I explain everything?’) … ‘When I walk my dog in Minsk, I go past a church,’ she told the festival audience, ‘I see the youth with their new cars. The priest comes out to see them. They want their cars to be blessed.’ This is how she prefers to answer questions – through details. … When the interview ended, after forty minutes, I figured Alexievich had had enough. … Back in New York, a few weeks later, I read the transcript: The translator, mindful of Alexievich’s schedule, had suggested we end the interview much earlier than we had. Alexievich declined and started to ask me questions.”
“With some 60 million monthly users—90% of whom are Millennials and Gen Z—spending more than 15 billion minutes per month reading content on Wattpad, the Canadian-based storytelling platform is a goldmine of information about what’s most popular with young readers around the world. What’s unique about Wattpad is that fanfic is treated like any other genre, living alongside other forms of fiction. This makes it more fluid for readers of an original fiction to discover a new fanfic, or inspire a fanfiction writer to start a new story and bring their audience along with them.”
After the notoriously publicity-shy author died in 2010, it was reported that, over all the years since his last published work (a 1965 short story), he never stopped writing. Indeed, a 2013 documentary alleged that Salinger had left detailed instructions about publishing some of those writings posthumously. Asked about this by a reporter, son Matthew Salinger replied, “Yeah, what came of those?” So the reporter checked in with the documentarian.