“Perhaps the oldest oral library in the world was formed over a span of tens of thousands of years in the arid lands of central Australia. There, the Arrernte people developed a complex system of tribal knowledge, beliefs, duties, and ethics” and memorialized it in a series of stories. In the 1980s, Bruce Chatwin spent time in Australia studying Arrernte stories; when he published what he’d learned in the 1987 book Songlines. That book was a hit, hailed by critics and readers in the UK and US; the reaction in Australia was another matter.
“When I think about the writers and books I have worked with, it’s the dialogue about shape that I most remember. A draft of a story in which a kind of sonic boom goes off at the beginning demands an answering boom at the end. Or: Rather than trying to launch six complicated characters at the outset, how about introducing them one by one, like a juggler putting balls into the air?”
The rise has been fuelled by the growth of psychological thrillers and the success of big names like Lee Child, James Patterson and Dan Brown. Last year, 18.7 million crime books were sold – 19% more than in 2015, data company Nielsen Bookscan says. They overtook sales for general and literary fiction, which were down 16%.
“JRR Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin, his tale of a beautiful, mysterious city destroyed by dark forces which the Lord of the Rings< .em> author called ‘the first real story’ of Middle-earth, will be published in August. [It] will be the second ‘new’ Tolkien work to be released in two years, following the release of Beren and Lúthien in May 2017.”
“Shakespeare has at least three tribute accounts, the largest of which, @Wwm_Shakespeare, boasts 158,000 followers. The most popular Oscar Wilde account has upward of 160,000 followers, while Sylvia Plath has nearly 200,000 … There’s a Virginia Woolf bot that tweets quotes in Korean and a Lovecraft bot that tweets in French.”
The census of American libraries spans a wonderful diversity of institutions, from modest municipal book rooms and mobile libraries to the grand collections of such hallowed places as the Morgan, the Folger, the Huntington, and the Smithsonian. Surveys of library users reveal a passionate attachment to these institutions, one that is voiced in very human terms. The word love is an emotion often expressed toward libraries, and not just for National Library Week. Libraries are places in which people are born—as authors, readers, scholars, and activists. (Think Eudora Welty, Zadie Smith, John Updike, and Ian Rankin.)
There is an expectation of what the Irish novel should look like, the themes explored and the style in which it’s delivered. And it’s not that our present day authors are moving away from tradition but they’re doing what Irish literature does best: challenging style and subject matter. The result is a literary age that is full of possibility.
Over the past months I spoke with 20 gatekeepers in the fiction world—agents, editors and publishers—to see whether they anticipate a change in the types of stories that shape the American novel. While they were apprehensive about making generalizations, most, if not all, seemed shaken by the realization that they are out of touch with a significant portion of the American electorate. And for several, the only way to remedy that is by actively seeking out stories from Trump country.
Parul Sehgal: “It’s constant panic, and guilt, and shame. Also pajamas. No, it’s a great gig, I’m not going to lie. … It’s monkish, but if you are into that sort of thing, it’s bliss. But with that, I think what propels me is also a feeling of responsibility. It’s also a feeling of working in a very strange genre, in that when you write a book review – and the book reviews we write at the Times are roughly 800 to 1,000 words – you’re serving a lot of masters.” (includes audio)
“Nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and even shortlisted the year before his death, Tanizaki is one of the more prominent figures in modern Japanese literature, and he is also well-known for his other endeavors, such as his translation of The Tale of Genji from old Japanese into the modern language. But on a more personal level, the question is not quite as strange as it might initially appear.
Three members of the secretive committee that selects the winner of the Nobel prize for literature have resigned from the jury in protest at how it has handled the sexual harassment allegations made against a man with close links to the board.
If script is dying, it cannot complain that its day has been short. Its solitary reign may have been ended by the printing press, but it lived on as a citizen in the new republic of letters: official records, account books, botanical drawings, not to mention works for private circulation and personal epistles, continued to be produced by hand for centuries. Then came the typewriter, but even its keys could not strike the death knell of handwriting. Perhaps that machine’s close descendants, the keyboards of our computers and their avatars on our screens, are administering the coup de grâce. Perhaps.
Who knows what the hedge fund might do to the chain? (Take a quick look at the stripped and bankrupted Toys R Us, or newspapers like the Denver Post, or … ) Meanwhile: “The proximity of the sale has caused a delay to increasing the pay of senior booksellers at the chain. The situation has led to some disquiet among senior staff, who were not given a pay rise at the same time as their junior colleagues when the National Minimum Wage rose to £7.83 an hour.”
Indeed: “The lead editorial pulled no punches, describing executives at Alden Global Capital, the paper’s hedge-fund owner, as ‘vulture capitalists.’ ‘We call for action,’ the editorial continued. It went on to make the case that ‘Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.'”
The discussion of modernist poet Lola Ridge spurs a call to arms, or rather to pens: “Gender is part of who gets remembered. In 2015, 71.7 percent of biographies were about men and 31 per cent of those were written by women. Only 6 percent of male biographers chose to document a woman’s life. Hence there are far fewer biographies written about or by women than men.”
She mentored Common, inspired Kanye West, and won three Grammys for her own spoken word poetry. “Angelou saw hip-hop’s innate connection to the tradition of poetry. When asked whether she thought of using students’ interest in rap to lead them to poetry, she replied: ‘Absolutely.'”
“Approximately the same amount of hardcovers are being sold today as they were in past years,” writes a research team led by Albert-László Barbási. “The increasing availability of books in the digital format has [had] no influence on hardcover sales.” OK, but what types of books typically take off? Barbasi and his colleagues report they tend to be works of fiction or biographies/memoirs.
The ongoing dispute over where and how the gospels should be kept, and who may see them, is intensely local yet symbolic. It revolves around the age-old traditions of an isolated monastery, but it exemplifies the scepticism sometimes aroused by Western heritage programmes. It encapsulates the rival claims of sacred rites and secular scholarship, raising questions about the aim of preservation and the ultimate ownership of a nation’s culture.
Google tells me that between 2000 and 2010, could revolutionize appeared on indexable websites fewer than fourteen thousand times. Since then, it’s seen what venture capitalists might call hockey-stick growth, increasing from six thousand instances in 2011 to thirteen thousand in 2014 to thirty thousand in 2017. Four months into 2018, could revolutionize has appeared on the internet nearly twenty thousand times. It’s possible that the sharp spike in popularity of could revolutionize mirrors Silicon Valley’s ascension in our collective consciousness. But which is the chicken, and which is the egg?
After the five teenagers spray-painted swastikas and graffiti on a 19th-century schoolhouse for black children, a judge ordered them to read books from a list that included (among others) Elie Wiesel’s Night, 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Did the sentence have the hoped-for effect?
Emily Nemens, 34, comes from Baton Rouge, where she has been a co-editor of The Southern Review for five years. Shew replaces Lorin Stein, who resigned in December following a board investigation into his sexual relationships with magazine staffers.
Linguist John McWhorter explains the reasons (such as our language’s mongrel origins) in this Lexicon Valley podcast.
“The canon is lousy with authors who yearn to be admired for their sensitivity to the full range of female personhood, be that personhood luscious, pert, or swelling coyly against a sheer camisole. These are writerly men confident that they’ve nailed women’s psyches, all because of how single-mindedly they want to nail women.” Katy Waldman calls out “the ridiculousness that ensues when bookish men perform interest in women’s inner lives out of a misbegotten sense of nobility. No one is fooled. “
Few writers come close to possessing the power and influence advice-givers wield. They literally tell people what to do! And people listen! Even though they often aren’t licensed to be giving advice; frequently their only qualifications are their imperviousness to embarrassment and their penchant for popularity.
Tim Parks: “Every few days, working on my new novel, my thoughts flash back to something Colm Tóibín said at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival nine months ago: that flashbacks are infuriating. Speaking at an event to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, Tóibín said Austen was marvelous because she was able to convey character and plot in the most satisfying way without the ‘clumsiness’ of the flashback. Today, on the other hand, we have to hear how a character’s parents and even grandparents met and married. Writers skip back and forth in time filling in the gaps in their shaky stories. It is dull and incompetent. Is Tóibín right? I worry, as I prepare to put together a flashback myself. Is there no merit or sense in the device? Didn’t Joyce use it? And Faulkner? Or David Lodge, for that matter? Or John Updike?”
“Mainly, this is because I’m afraid of excesses – mine and others’. Sometimes people make fun of me. They say: ‘You want a world without outbursts of joy, suffering, anger, hatred?’ Yes, I want precisely that, I answer. … But as the world isn’t going in that direction, I make an effort, at least in the artificial universe that is delineated by writing, never to exaggerate with an exclamation mark.”
According to Sir Brian Vickers, a major reason he has not yet found a home for his complete edition of works by Thomas Kyd is that his “reputation as a scholar has been damaged by a string of hostile reviews by people associated with the New Oxford Shakespeare”.
“Merriam-Webster‘s … original goal [was] to create and preserve a monolithic American culture. Noah Webster Jr., the dictionary’s founding author, was one of the first American nationalists, and he wrote his reference books with the express purpose of creating a single definition of American English – one that often existed at the expense of regional and cultural variation of any kind.”
The “world’s first novel” is an epic quest, full of monsters and trials by combat – and kids who grew up on Marvel, Star Wars, and video games really get it.
In Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact, she writes about a young woman’s love for her mother, and the young woman’s falling in love, through texts, with a guy. “It’s a difficult balancing act — steering through the assimilation experience without contributing to clichéd narratives. … Choi’s novel blows up Asian female stereotypes and prods readers to question their own cultural biases about women of color.”