“I used to use them freely; now I don’t use them at all. And yet I like them: in other people’s writing they don’t bother me, even if instead of three dots I find 10 in a row. But at a certain point, my eyes started to fly over those dots, moving on to grab hold of the words as quickly as possible. And in my own writing I began to feel they were flirtatious, like someone batting her eyelashes, mouth slightly open in feigned wonder. Too many graceful winking suspensions, in short.”
A global community to coordinate and regain control – to develop a public open-access infrastructure – of research and scholarly communication for the public good is long overdue. The issues of governance and ownership of public research have never been clearer. Another isolated platform will simply replicate the problems of the current journal-based system, including the ‘publish or perish’ mentality that perverts the research process, and the anachronistic evaluation system based on corporate brands.
Good translators approach their work in all sorts of different ways. They have egos as big as successful people in any other arena, but the ones I respect are keenly aware of the difference between creativity and appropriation. They might see their work as akin to a curator’s, a librarian’s or a publisher’s. To such people works of art are entrusted — and part of that trust is that they do not alter the objects in their care with inappropriate intrusions of their own personality. There is no little art in mounting the successful museum show, but one would be rightly appalled to find the curator touching up the Rembrandts.
“His name was Naum Korzhavin. He wrote three poems that all Russian readers of poetry can quote, and many can recite by heart. Of his ninety-two years, he spent forty-five living in the United States (forty-three of them in Boston, until the death of his wife, Lubov, two years ago; he then moved to Chapel Hill to be near his daughter). Still, he was one of the most significant Russian poets in a century that tragically called forth a lot of poetry.”
The scandal, which kickstarted debate about the academy’s patriarchal nature and fights in the Swedish media between academicians, led to a wave of resignations and to the postponement of this year’s prize “in view of the currently diminished academy and the reduced public confidence”. In its place, more than 100 Swedish writers, actors, journalists and other cultural figures have formed the New Academy, which will hand out its own award this autumn, following the same timeline as the Nobel.
What does it say about a dad that he adores the original Swedish noir? “Sjöwall and Wahlöö didn’t just inspire other Scandinavian writers to embrace the murder mystery: they shaped the genre so completely that all of their descendants bear their eccentricities. The Martin Beck series is bizarre, a fitting starting point for what has become a multimillion-dollar industry selling other bizarre, exasperating books.”
OK, the person fainted because they’d had too much to drink, and the opening was too packed, but still. More Q&A: “Who’s your favorite regular? There was the five-year-old daughter of the owner of a thrift store on the next block who would come in, find some books, walk to the front, and hand me a five-dollar bill over the counter with a beatific smile. She wasn’t totally clear on the concept of sales tax, but I usually covered it for her.”
Sure, there’s a place for the literary work we all read in the winters. But “sometimes, in place of a two-page long vivid description of a wooded area or a contemplative soliloquy, all you really want — nay, all you really need — is simplicity. In summer— when one is most consumed by a uniquely ceaseless craving, for a good story, a delicious meal, skin against skin; when patience for artifice is low and the thirst for a fast and painless escape is high — this is particularly true.”
Full-time writers in the UK earn less than ten thousand pounds a year, a new survey says. This seems … unsustainable for authors (publishers dispute the number): “The Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon estimating that authors were paid just 3% of publishers’ turnover in 2016, based on their profits. ‘What concerns us is that during the same period that we see authors’ earnings plummet, the large publishers are seeing their sales rocket,’ she said.”
African literary magazines and journals don’t just shape literary culture, they offer the most rebellious responses to political and social movements. They not only respond to the cultures they’re in, these magazines also create distinct cultures of their own that reflect the personalities of their editors.
“A part of the difficulty of opening a bookstore in this day and age is the years of work we’ve put in up to this point and how little credit booksellers get. Friends, family, loved ones, strangers all want to give you advice, often because they care, and one can get weary of very gingerly saying No Thank You.”
“[Wigtown] is Scotland’s national book town, its Hay-on-Wye. With a dozen used bookstores tucked into its small downtown, it is a literary traveler’s Elysium. Best of all, Wigtown offers a literary experience unlike any other I’m aware of. In town there is a good used bookstore called the Open Book, with an apartment up above, that’s rentable by the week. Once you move in, the shop is yours to run as you see fit.” And, for one day, that’s what Dwight Garner did.
No, that doesn’t mean they tried to be savvy marketers: they marked their books with hot branding irons. And these marcas de fuego weren’t put on the cover, binding, or frontispiece; they were burned onto the sides of the pages as the books were held shut. Jessica Leigh Hester gives us the background.
James Wood: “I find I can’t turn off the critical monitor quite how I would like to. … Perhaps I’ve reconciled myself to that inability, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that isn’t such a bad thing, that maintaining a critical consciousness at least enables me to review myself, edit myself, think twice and three times about everything I’m doing. … I found it to be sort of an intensely self-critical activity. So yeah, I was constantly writing my worst possible reviews.”
The latest report by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), due to be published on Thursday, shows median earnings for professional writers have plummeted by 42% since 2005 to under £10,500 a year, well below the minimum annual income of £17,900 recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Women fare worse, according to the survey, earning 75% of what their male counterparts do, a 3% drop since 2013 when the last ALCS survey was conducted. Based on a standard 35-hour week, the average full-time writer earns only £5.73 per hour, £2 less than the UK minimum wage for those over 25. As a result, the number of professional writers whose income comes solely from writing has plummeted to just 13%, down from 40% in 2005.
“Much like awesome once served a greater purpose, the exclamation point has been downgraded from a shout of alarm or intensity to a symbol that indicates politeness and friendliness.” As email etiquette mavens David Shipley and Will Schwalbe put it, “The exclamation point is a lazy but effective way to combat email’s essential lack of tone.”
Hoping that Rand’s ideas will, in time, just go away is not a good solution to the problem. The Fountainhead is still a bestseller, 75 years since first publication. And perhaps it’s time to admit that Rand is a philosopher – just not a very good one. It should be easy to show what is wrong with her thinking, and also to recognise, as John Stuart Mill did in On Liberty (1859), that a largely mistaken position can still contain some small elements of truth, as well as serving as a stimulus to thought by provoking us to demonstrate what is wrong with it.
“The scrolls [from Herculaneum] represent the only intact library known from the classical world, an unprecedented cache of ancient knowledge. … Yet the tremendous volcanic heat and gases spewed by Vesuvius carbonized the scrolls, turning them black and hard like lumps of coal. Over the years, various attempts to open some of them created a mess of fragile flakes that yielded only brief snippets of text. Hundreds of the papyri were therefore left unopened, with no realistic prospect that their contents would ever be revealed. And it probably would have remained that way except for an American computer scientist named Brent Seales, director of the Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments at the University of Kentucky.”
“[Ganesh] Devy, a former professor of English from the western state of Gujarat, launched the People’s Linguistic Survey of India in 2010. … With single-minded ambition, he put together a team of 3,000 volunteers from all parts of the country. Since 2013, the PLSI has published 37 volumes, featuring detailed profiles of each of India’s languages. The project is expected to be completed by 2020 with 50 volumes.” Sunaina Kumar reports on how Devy and his team do their work and what they’ve discovered.
“The format is meant to be used for clarity, to indicate to a reader that she hasn’t come across a typo or an English word she doesn’t know. But the practice reinforces a monolinguistic culture of othering, some writers believe, and it simply doesn’t sound natural. For the world’s bilingual population — by some estimates, more than half — it’s not the way people really talk.”
Eight years ago, there were only a handful of libraries run by volunteers – around 10, estimates Public Libraries News. These days, 500 of the UK’s 3,800 libraries are operated by ordinary people, working for free in a role once regarded as a profession. The rise of volunteer libraries goes hand in hand with closures: in 2017 alone, 105 public libraries around the country closed, according to the Chartered institute of public finance and accountancy, bringing the total number of closures since they began counting in 2010 to almost 600.
Listen, I delight in telling weird stories about what’s happening in the library. I truly love it. I make jokes about silly things the patrons do (aggravating, frustrating, truly bonkers annoying things, sure), but I would rather cut off my own arm than reveal anyone’s personal information.
Anyone who has read the Little House on the Prairie books, either for themselves or to their kids, probably remembers the depictions of Native Americans, not to mention Pa’s episode of blackface and minstrel performance. The librarians certainly haven’t forgotten that. “A division of the American Library Association has voted to remove the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from a major children’s book award, over concerns about how the author portrayed African Americans and Native Americans.”
OK, that’s a ridiculous claim. But: “In the perpetual present of social media, when personal presentation, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, is everything, these autofictions offer an alternative, experimental narrative of self. They are attempts to reshape and repurpose a literary form.”
“I think most writers are wedded to social realism, these days — social realism is the only genre left. And there’s been a contraction, as I was saying, of what you can expect from the reader. It’s not a conscious decision to cease to be as complex as you might once have been; it’s just going with the flow of things. It was Trilling, wasn’t it, who said we like complex books? The truth is, we may once have liked them, but we don’t anymore.”
“UCL, in collaboration with audiobook giant Audible, measured the physical reactions of 102 participants aged between 18 and 67 to audio and video depictions of scenes from [well-known] books … According to the study, while the participants reported that the videos were “more engaging” than the audiobooks by about 15% on average, their physiological responses told a different story, with heart rates higher by about two beats a minute, and body temperatures raised by roughly two degrees when listening to audiobooks.”