12/28/2010 12:37:33 PM
It’s hard to know what to believe about the book anymore. Bookstores and publishers may be struggling, libraries might be imperiled, and readers are supposedly disappearing (or just hiding behind illuminated screens), yet books—the real, physical objects—just keep appearing in the world. Surely no endangered species has ever bred quite so profligately as does the publishing industry.
I’m certainly not going to complain, even if I might sometimes wish that, given the purportedly uncertain economics of the industry, these characters would stop throwing so much paint at the walls and spend a bit more time (and money) on quality control. Still, this is the time of year when all sorts of people who still love books and reading knuckle down and apply themselves to scouring the Library of Babel for the very best of the newest acquisitions. And no matter how widely you read or how much time you spend in bookstores, there are always plenty of surprises, enticements, obscurities, and genuine curiosities to be found on the best-of lists that proliferate around the holidays. Here are a bunch of the things, and please feel free to quibble or offer up your own suggestions:
The New York Times
10 Books of the Year (Alas, not a single surprise here), and the 100 Notable Books of 2010.
Anis Shivani at the Huffington Post: 10 best books of the year (plenty of surprises).
Five Best Books You Probably Didn’t Read
The Guardian queries a batch of writers on their favorite books of the year. As does The Millions in its sprawling Year in Reading feature. And Bookforum does the same.
asks independent booksellers to name their favorites from 2010.
Chicago’s estimable Seminary Co-opassembles its 20 favorites.
Photographer Alec Soth winnows down the year in photobooks.
For the Yoga folk, Daily Cup of Yoga has the year in Yoga books covered.
And if you still haven’t had enough, head over to Largehearted Boy for a ridiculously exhaustive roundup, and all the evidence anyone should need that books are still hanging around and –at least here and there (here, certainly)—making a dent in the culture.
Source: New York Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Esquire, Seminary Co-op, NPR, Alec Soth, Largehearted Boy, The Millions, Bookforum, Daily Cup of Yoga
Image by dweekly, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/22/2010 4:41:33 PM
Ever wonder what Yoda might look like if taken out of the hands of George Lucas and given to Dr. Seuss to mold? Well, Seattle-based cartoonist Adam Watson did just that and produced a series of illustrations combining the two, often strange worlds. Some of the cartoons even have Star Wars scenes retold in a Seussian voice, like this nugget of wisdom from Yoda in Seuss-land:
“This body is old,
but it’s all that I’ve got.
When 900 you reach,
look so good you will not!”
Once you see it, it’s pretty clear that Yoda and Dr. Seuss are tuned to the same frequency. Right?
See more images at Adam Watson's blog.
Images courtesy of Adam Watson.
12/16/2010 10:44:30 AM
In this continuing series, Utne Reader Art Director Stephanie Glaros explains the process behind an Utne Reader illustration.
In the article “Retiring Minds Ought to Know,” the author argues that retirement as we know it is becoming obsolete. It’s the kind of subject matter that, while thought provoking, is challenging in terms of providing a visual. Thanks goodness I have access to the minds of illustrators like Jesse Kuhn . He is great at tackling abstract subjects, and comes up with visual solutions that are conceptual without looking corporate or cliché. He submitted some great options with his sketches (below), and we decided to go with the idea that the end of the rainbow might not be exactly where we expected.
Since its inception in 1984, Utne Reader has relied on talented artists to create original images for stories that express powerful emotions, brilliant new ideas, and humorous storytelling. Browsing through back issues of Utne Reader is like a tour of “Who’s Who” in the illustration world. Artists like Gary Baseman, Brad Holland, Anita Kunz, Bill Plympton, and Seymour Chwast have graced our pages over the years, to name just a few.
12/9/2010 9:13:18 AM
For a woman who is one of the great modern symbols of writer’s block, Fran Lebowitz certainly has plenty to say. Her ongoing relevance speaks volumes about the influence of the corrosively funny essays Lebowitz wrote in the late ‘70s (collected in 1978’s Metropolitan Life and 1981’s Social Studies). An entire generation has come of age since those books established their author as the Baby Boomer’s clearest heir to Dorothy Parker, and the enduring appeal of Lebowitz now has as much to do with her ongoing battle with writer’s block as it does to anything she wrote 30 years ago.
Lebowitz has never really stopped talking, though, and the million-dollar question is how someone whose trenchant and seemingly effortless conversational style so closely resembles her voice as a writer could ever suffer from writer’s block. Judging from her frequent interviews and public appearances, however, Lebowitz doesn’t seem terribly eaten up by her publishing drought. And as Martin Scorsese’s new HBO documentary, Public Speaking, demonstrates, Lebowitz is as caustic, funny, and in tune with the weirdness (and aggravations) of the times as she ever was.
If nothing else, Scorsese deserves credit for shoving his subject back out into public, and the spate of interviews Lebowitz has given in conjunction with the film’s release have been a bonanza for longtime fans. Whether she’s talking about kids, pop culture, technology, or New York—the city with which she is inextricably linked—Lebowitz has a remarkable ability to give some fresh spin to everyone she talks with.
In a conversation with Bust’s Phoebe Magee, Lebowitz says, “I like to tell people what to think. I just don’t want to tell people things about myself. I also believe that I am the last person who knows the difference between think and feel. These are two different things. These days, everyone feels, and almost no one thinks.” And on the subject of her beloved New York:
What used to be called middle-class respectability looked like it was going to disappear, but it didn’t. It’s returned. It just returned in a different costume. If you do it in a loft instead of a split-level in the suburbs, it’s still the same. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be allowed to do it; I’m saying it’s suburban. This is why New York today seems suburban to me—all kids and babies in strollers. It’s 1950s domestic life. The sidewalks are the same size, but now you have twins and dogs….Are you under the impression that we need more New Yorkers? Does this place seem sparsely populated to you?
Source: Bust(article not available online), New York Observer, New York Magazine, New York Times
12/8/2010 12:56:22 PM
Whether it’s an effluvient violin or a somber cello, a bombastic crescendo or pianissimo sonata—there’s a little something for everyone in classical music. Despite its near universal appeal, casual listeners don’t often have the technical knowledge or avid curiosity to keep the movements, Mozarts, motions, and mezzo fortes straight. Michael Oneil Lam, whose wife is a bass player in the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra, often finds himself in classical concert halls but gets just as lost as the rest of us. On his blog, The Free Arrow, he expresses his frustration.
My biggest gripe about modern orchestra concerts is that I lose my place so easily. The program notes talk about an “icy interlude in the high strings indicating a modulation to the subdominant;” but even if I understood what a subdominant was, the violins are nearly always playing and they always sound high to me so I have no idea when the particular segment referred to by the program notes actually occurs. Thus, I have to look several events forward and backward in the notes and try to pattern-match them to the things I’ve heard in the past 5-10 minutes to have any hope of knowing where I am in the piece (“is this the ‘lyrical horn solo’ or was that the bit a couple of minutes ago?”). After 15 minutes or so of this, I inevitably give up.
Lam proposes an addition to music halls that might make concerts more enjoyable (or at least more intelligible) for new listeners, pedestrian classical fans, and everyday schmoes: a music scoreboard. The board would display the current orchestral movement, the conductor’s name, and time remaining for the piece of music, among other bits of relevant data.
Although such an investment would further strain the budgets of cash-strapped arts organizations, Lam believes the outcome would be mutually beneficial. “With increased engagement comes increased memorability;” he writes,
the audience is far more likely to recount the event later in conversation and to recommend the experience to their friends and family. This would help to reconnect music patrons (both young and old) to the world of symphony orchestra music and all of the talent it encompasses.
The Free Arrow
, licensed under
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