5/9/2011 12:58:50 PM
Calvin Trillin, the long-time New Yorker writer, recently released Trillin on Texas (University of Texas Press), a collection of his writing on that state. Many of the pieces come from Trillin’s “U.S. Journal” series from The New Yorker, where he traveled to different parts of the country and submitted short articles about those places. In this interview with Michael Meyer of Columbia Journalism Review, Meyer wonders if Trillin considers himself an expert on the state of the country, a writer with a unique finger on the pulse, due to his reporting from different places. Trillin resists the urge to project any of his subjects’ feelings onto the population en masse, saying, “[U.S. Journal] was always a specific story, and [I] don’t think you can tell something about the country that is true for the whole country….I think that reporters almost always make a mistake talking about more than one person at a time.”
Through his time writing “U.S. Journal” Trillin came to realize one universal truth, though: journalists seek out what most people would just as soon avoid. It was through his exploration of the seemingly contradictory survey answers given by the American public during Watergate that Trillin reached this conclusion. The majority of people apparently thought that Nixon did in fact commit a felony, but a majority also didn’t think he should be impeached. “I learned something doing that story which I had never thought about before,” says Trillin,
which is that people in our trade are so enamored of tumult, that we forget how much other people dread it. A lot of people in America were probably against impeaching Nixon because it sounded scary to impeach the president. People in journalism sort of think ‘the more news the better, the more shaking up the better,’ but most people are the opposite.
Read the whole interview at cjr.org or listen to the podcast.
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Image by foodistablog, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/16/2011 12:19:29 PM
A year ago, big magazine publishers heralded the arrival of the iPad as a boon to their mostly uninspired, unimaginative industry. As usual, they were thinking inside the box. Here are six reasons why iPad mags are failing fast—but could still succeed.
Conservative love to claim Christ as their very own C.E.O. The New Statesman reminds readers that the Savior was more likely a socialist (GoBama!), and dissects his five most revolutionary lessons.
Ms. Magazine puts Nancy Pelosi on the cover of its Winter issue, then explains why mainstream magazines like Time and Newsweekdon’t have the guts to do the same.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is the silent sort in court—but loquacious when being paid to speak at elite conservative retreats.
Need a vacation from the never-ending winter? Who says you can’t drink white wine before Memorial Day?
Now you can nurture your inner lit nerd and Nintendo geek at the same time with this addictive vintage Great Gatsby video game. You’re Nick Carraway searching for Gatsby and his hidden bags of gold. (Watch out for Wilfred the butler.)
Wonderful and terrifying: Irina Werning's Back to the Future project.
If someone told you there was a cemetery where prisoners have buried more than 850,000 paupers and the unclaimed, where would you think it was?
The literature of failure: five novels.
Franz Masereel's landmark 1925 graphic novel, The City, online.
Filmmakers, pay attention: This is what 11 pairs of eyeballs watching a movie looks like.
2/7/2011 11:55:44 AM
Cookbooks are hot sellers these days: Americans bought more than 60 million of them in 2010, a 9 percent increase over 2009. But how many people are using them to, you know, cook food? Kelly Alexander at The New Republic has her doubts about some of these glossy tomes, noting that Momofuku whiz-chef David Chang’s new cookbook sometimes leaves out crucial details and routinely aims way over the heads of its audience.
“The recipes are impossible for even an accomplished home cook to prepare on a busy weeknight,” writes Alexander, noting that a recipe for pork buns simply “doesn’t work” and another “calls for the cook to boil a pig’s head and recommends removing the hairy patches with a blowtorch.”
Alexander also singles out for criticism the new cookbook by René Redzepi, a Nordic cuisine hotshot, that calls for a “part food processor, part crock pot” device called the Thermomix that’s unavailable in the United States.
Even foodies who are actually willing to try challenging recipes are noticing that the exotica factor is sometimes just too much. In the latest issue of The Art of Eating, reviewer Jarrett Wrisley is generally complimentary to the $60, 372-page, photograph-packed new cookbook Thai Street Food by David Thompson, but he notes:
Cooking your way through this book could be difficult, especially if you’re far from an Asian market. Occasionally it calls for prep work impossible in the Western kitchen, such as fashioning a barbecue brush out of the leaves of a pandanus plant. And if you use canned coconut milk rather than freshly pressed or if you fail to strain your own tamarind pulp from the dried fruit, you’ll likely disappoint the man behind the words.
Mr. Thompson, prepare to be disappointed.
Ultimately, The New Republic’s Alexander surmises, many of these photo-rich, detail-starved books are more about flaunting one’s gastro-adventurism than anything else:
The popularity of these modern manuals is only tenuously connected to the practice of preparing food for people to eat. It has become common for folks who work in the world of food to brag that they read cookbooks “like novels.” Cookbooks have become objects of kitchen, coffee table, and nightstand décor, in which useful information has been displaced by close-ups of pornographic-looking turnips.
Sources: The New Republic (subscription required), The Art of Eating (article not available online)
, licensed under
1/25/2011 1:04:51 PM
Fighter planes rip across the sky to a backdrop of soaring violins. Freckled, pensive children stare blankly at the camera. An American flag flaps robustly, confidently in the wind. And above it all, a man speaks urgently of freedom, accomplishment, legacy, and extraordinary strength. This trailer—clichéd in all the effective ways—isn’t for a World War II-themed blockbuster. It’s for a book called Courage to Stand—an autobiography and platform piece by former Minnesota governor and 2012 Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty. Underwhelmed?
Pawlenty is just the latest author to schlep his book with the help of an emerging visual medium, the book trailer. (Although, in T-Paw’s case, there are also some presidential aspirations thinly veiled by the commercial.) The medium gives authors a chance to defend their own book, its merits and motivations, with sleek moving images and charming anecdotes. We’ve even plugged a trailer made for experimental literature by Jonathan Safran Foer. And why not? We all pay $50 a month for broadband for a reason, right? Shouldn’t advertisements be delivered to us, not in static block of text, but in streaming high-definition video?
At least one author isn’t sold on the new sales technique. After seeing another author’s book trailer, Stuart Ross—Canadian writer, professor, and literary editor of This Magazine—puts it more bluntly: “For some reason, it just bugs the shit out of me. Not Gary [Barwin’s] trailer itself—the fact that now we have to make goddamn book trailers! It’s not enough to write a book. To do launches and readings. To tweet and BlechBook. Now we have to be movie stars too.” The quote comes from a column in subTerrain, in which Ross chronicles the production of his first book trailer.
I have ten minutes before my class starts. I scrawl “Stuart Ross Book Trailer” on a piece of paper. I open up PhotoBooth on my Mac and hold up my sign, wiggle it around a bit, put it down, and pick up my book. “Hi, I’m Stuart Ross and this is my fucking book. It’s called Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. And it’s got stories in it. And I hope you’ll buy it.” I grimace and fill the screen with my sign again, muttering. It’s my first book trailer and it’s 25 seconds long.
The video was eventually picked up by Huffington Post for an article about the best and worst book trailers, which garnered Ross’ video about 3,200 views. He concludes: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind and about ten minutes to it.”
Source: subTerrain (article not yet available online)
12/9/2010 9:33:11 AM
Though some of us persist in our refusal to even enter into discussions regarding “the future of the book,” there’s no longer any point in denying that there are now all sorts of people who are positively gung ho about the possibilities of portable reading devices and electronic books. People are buying them in staggering numbers and you can already buy some knock-off version of a Kindle at the Pump N Munch. Print devotees may relish fantasies about these gadgets ultimately languishing in thrift stores, garage sales, and landfills—someday every Third World urchin will have an e-reader! How can that not be a good thing?—but for at least one more holiday cycle we’re all just going to have to play along with what is essentially an upscale Cabbage Patch Doll phenomenon that creates serious money for maybe a dozen already onerously wealthy people.
This week’s big news on the e-book front is Google’s launch of its eBookstore. One more pig has joined the pile! According to MobyLives, however, this pig might not be quite so piggish as the other pigs in the pile; through Google’s entry in the e-book biz, Nathan Ihara writes, “American Booksellers Association bookstores now have the opportunity to sell eBooks directly from their websites, offering them a first opportunity to take advantage of the rapid increase in the eBook market and to fight back against the corporate juggernauts of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, andApple.”
It’s obviously early, but the list of independent stores that are already hawking their e-book wares over at Google is modestly encouraging. Paul Constant, writing for the Seattle Stranger’s Slog blog (quoted in the MobyLives piece), says that before indies can hope to generate real online traffic and sales, they “need to figure out ways to make their websites into destinations that are just as interesting, appealing, and welcoming as their physical stores.”
The Google development is encouraging, in other words, but Constant reminds the little guys that they still have work to do:
Like it or not, your website is just as important as your physical store; the bookselling business is about to go through a change as dynamic as when Barnes & Noble and Borders first came on the scene, or when Amazon suddenly became the go-to bookseller for America. This time, indie booksellers have a shot at reclaiming some ground from the big boys; if you blow it, you'll go out of business. It's that simple.
Source: MobyLives, The Stranger
Image by anitakhart, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/15/2010 10:26:30 AM
David Byrne’s successful book, Bicycle Diaries, probably would have sold just fine as a traditional audiobook, as well. However, never one for the status quo, Byrne wanted to do something a little more interesting than simply reading the book in silence and releasing it as a download or cd. Instead, he looked to other successful audio formats for inspiration, namely NPR shows that incorporate scene sounds and podcasts.
Starting with the chapter on New York, Byrne experimented with the sounds of the city to bring his book to life. He liked the results so much that he decided to make the whole book a fuller experience, with sounds working in tandem with the author’s essays about his experience viewing the world from his bike. Chapters are also available separately, similar to a podcast model.
Technology had, it seemed, created an opportunity for a whole new format to come into being. I’m not sure anything exactly like this has ever been done before. Sure, there are NPR radio shows with sound effects (Joe Frank comes to mind) as well as ye olde radio dramas (The Shadow was one), but if there’s anything similar out there I’m unaware of it. And yes, there are loads of downloadable audiobooks—but you have to listen to the chapters in the prescribed order, unless you are into self created meta fiction.
You can listen to and download the introduction, and pre-order the rest, which will be released on September 28.
7/27/2010 2:51:51 PM
According to an interview with The Bygone Bureau, literary journalist and author Tracy Kidder came to hate his first book so much that he wanted to prevent it from ever being re-published. His solution: He bought the rights to The Road to Yuba City—his 1974 nonfiction account of a California murder trial—and it is now out of print. You can find used copies of the book through Amazon, but the prices start at just under $100. In the interview, Kidder explains this act of bibliographic erasure and also reflects on his writing process, the future of books in print, and how to become a professional author.
(Thanks, The Book Bench.)
Source: The Bygone Bureau
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