Wednesday, March 07, 2012 9:26 AM
A town without bookstores is like a town without churches or bars. Minus the hymnals and happy-hour specials, the best bookshops are vital community centers where patrons can gather, share ideas, and have grand revelations or quiet discoveries. When Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, New York, began to fail, it tapped into the strength of its community with an inspired idea: cooperative ownership.
Last spring, rather than shuttering its doors, Buffalo Street Books sold shares of the independent shop to 600-plus local “co-owners,” raising more than $250,000, reports Christina Palassio in This Magazine. Less than a year later, the co-op bookstore is thriving.
What makes Buffalo Street Books’ co-op model successful? “The owners and employees of Buffalo Street Books do so much to make the store more than just a store; they’ve turned BSB into a community within a community,” says Chloe Wilson in The Ithaca Independent:
The store holds lectures, writer’s workshops, and reading groups on a regular basis. The store reaches out to Cornell and IC professors and works with them to supply books for their classes. The store encourages burgeoning writers and invites them to share their work. People who go to Buffalo Street Books aren’t just customers or employees, they’re members of BSB’s community.
In an industry already complicated by declining brick-and-mortar sales, answering to hundreds of shareholders has potential to add another layer of difficulty. “The messiness of running a co-op may not appeal to many beleaguered bookstore owners,” Palassio writes in This Magazine. “But with the rise in community-supported projects like [CSAs] and websites like Kickstarter and Unbound…the line between investor and customer is blurring.”
Keeping hometown bookstores alive makes the complications worthwhile. As novelist Ann Patchett told the New York Timesafter opening Parnassus Books in Nashville’s book desert last November, “I have no interest in retail; I have no interest in opening a bookstore. But I also have no interest in living in a city without a bookstore.” Like Buffalo Street Books, Parnassus Books utilizes the support of the community. Its Founder Rewards Program offers perks and discounts in exchange for member dues that range from $75 to $5,000.
In case you missed it, watch Patchett deftly explain the value of independent bookstores on The Colbert Report below. And don’t forget to support your local bookshop. The bars and churches are busy enough, aren’t they?
Sources: This Magazine(article not available online), The Ithaca Independent, New York Times
Image by Quinn Dombrowski, licensed under Creative Commons.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 3:52 PM
“There are 13,659 payphones on NYC sidewalks, even though there are over 17 million cell phones,” reads a poster designed by New York architect John Locke. Seeing an opportunity for creative reuse and community building, Designboom writes, Locke is turning obsolete phone booths into mini libraries.
Passersby are encouraged to take a book or leave a book from the improvised bibliothecas, which are reminiscent of the Little Free Libraries born in Wisconsin or the Phoneboox found in the UK. Locke hopes the tiny metro libraries, part of his Department of Urban Betterment project, will encourage an increased sense of local camaraderie, he says via email: “More people in the neighborhood sharing, talking, and just having a heightened awareness and sense of engagement with their surroundings.”
So far, two phone booths have been converted, and Locke dreams of them taking over the city. “I want these to be cheap, fast, and easily reproducible. Ubiquity is the goal. The only costs are minimal—the price of lumber and time on a CNC cutting machine. After that, the shelves slot together and slide right into the booths with no hardware or fasteners required.”
The little phone booth libraries marry whimsy and practicality in every way. Nestled between used copies of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Middlesex, the existing payphone remains fully functional—just in case one of those 17 million cell phones runs out of juice.
Images courtesy of John Locke.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011 4:02 PM
In theory, I love the idea of the newly debuted Man Cave. Hosted by Adams Media, it’s an online bookstore targeted directly at male readers and those who buy gifts for them, according to Publishers Weekly. How perfect! I’m always looking for great book ideas for my husband, who isn’t a big reader but can be drawn in by a combination of good writing and a nice manly topic like roughing it in the wild.
“Men tend to be the most challenging people to shop for,” says an Adams Media marketer. And the Man Cave site boasts of having the solution: “Yes, guys do read—they like it, in fact. It’s here that you’ll find the perfect gift for the man in your life.” But check out the selection of titles: How Do You Light a Fart?, 100 Sexiest Women in Comics, and Sweet ’Stache: 50 Badass Mustaches and the Faces Who Sport Them, to name just a few.
Ahh, so they didn’t mean literary novels and memoirs that might appeal to not-big-reader guys. They meant gifty books that nobody really wants but that are stamped “For Guys.” Books about farts and mustaches. You know, the book equivalent of a tie printed with golf tees.
I’d love to see a Man Cave bookstore that features post-apocalyptic tales like George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Or books that explore the physical and emotional terrain of the Western mountains, such as Pete Fromm’s Indian Creek Chronicles and James Galvin’s The Meadow. Perhaps some classics like Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki. (See also All the President’s Books.)
Please add your title suggestions below. We can build our own literary Man Cave, Utne Reader style.
Source: Publishers Weekly
Image by Martin Cathrae, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 2:07 PM
We’ve all taken sanctuary in a good book at the end of a hard day, a hard week, a hard month, but do the words on those pages contain actual healing properties? Bibliotherapists at the London-based establishment The School of Life think so, calling the personalized book-list prescriptions they offer “the perfect way for you to discover those amazing but often elusive works of literature that can illuminate and even change your life.”
Writer Alexandra Redgrave, of enRoute, decides to try out the shop’s bibliotherapy service, reassured that there is a long history backing the power of books. She explains:
Although bibliotherapy might sound like just another clever name for the self-help book section, the practice has existed since at least the end of the 18th century in Europe and the beginning of the 19th century in the U.S., where mental-health hospitals started setting up libraries in the 1840s as a means to treat patients. The American physician Benjamin Rush noted in 1812 that certain novels could cure melancholy—this at a time when it was commonly believed that sensationalist texts caused insanity. And British soldiers were prescribed fiction after WWII to help them recuperate from post-traumatic shock.
At her private session, Redgrave—considering a career shift and seeking courage—answers questions about her reading history, her childhood, and what is missing from her life, as the bibliotherapist thoughtfully takes notes. “Have you ever read The Year of the Hare?” the therapist asks, ruminating on the right book for Redgrave’s needs. “It’s about a Finnish journalist who takes a drive in the countryside, accidentally hits a hare and disappears into the woods to help it recover, leaving his former life behind for the call of the wild.” Redgrave is prescribed that novel on the spot, along with the promise of a longer reading list in a few days.
In addition to individual, group, and remote bibliotherapy sessions, The School of Life offers an extensive menu of options for optimizing personal fulfillment: classes (How to Balance Work with Life, How to Be Cool); secular sermons (on compassion, strangers, storytelling); lectures (Fear of Failure, Finding the Perfect Partner); and psychotherapy consultations. But bibliotherapy remains one of its most popular services.
Check out the sample prescriptions available online for the recently bereaved, the sleep deprived parent, the newly retired, the gainfully unemployed, and the broken-hearted—who are advised to read How to Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson. Lonely hearts will soon “bid adieu to sadness,” The School of Life claims, and “embrace a new way of living.” Until then, at least they’ll have a good book to curl up with.
, licensed under
Thursday, September 01, 2011 3:54 PM
Andrew Carnegie built an impressive 2,509 libraries around the turn of the 20th century. Now Rick Brooks and Todd Bol are on a mission to top his total with their two-foot by two-foot Little Free Libraries, reports Michael Kelley in Library Journal.
The diminutive, birdhouse-like libraries, which Brooks and Bol began installing in Hudson and Madison, Wisconsin, in 2009, are typically made of wood and Plexiglas and are designed to hold about 20 books for community members to borrow and enjoy. Offerings include anything from Russian novels and gardening guides to French cookbooks and Dr. Seuss.
Each Little Free Library runs on the honor system, displaying a sign that asks patrons to Take a Book, Leave a Book. “Everybody asks, ‘Aren’t they going to steal the books?’” Brooks told Kelley. “But you can’t steal a free book.”
Fifty libraries have been built so far, with 30 more underway and plans to expand into Chicago, Long Island, and elsewhere. Brooks and Bol have a long way to go to reach their goal of 2,510 libraries, but they’re digging the ride. “At a personal, human level, it’s very thrilling how it excites people,” Bol shared with Kelley. “But on a larger plane, it’s such a nice spark for literacy, art, and community all at once.”
Check out (so to speak) the gallery of charming Little Free Libraries below and visit the organization’s website to learn how you can bring one to your hometown.
Source: Library Journal
Images courtesy of Little Free Library.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 5:41 PM
A bibliophile’s personal library might start out neatly contained on bookshelves—perhaps even organized alphabetically within genre—but soon enough more volumes are wedged willy-nilly above the orderly rows, stacked on the floor, jammed into nooks and crannies around the house, and perched atop the refrigerator.
If this describes your home, you’ll appreciate the seven-story tower of books built by visual pop artist Marta Minujín on a pedestrian plaza in Buenos Aires. Composed of 30,000 donated books encased in protective plastic, the art installation spirals 80 feet above passersby, writes 1-800-Recycling.com. Called the Tower of Babel, the artwork stood in the plaza for three weeks, after which it was dismantled and some of its building blocks given away to visitors.
Minujín, who specializes in large-scale “livable” art events that engage the community, conceived the tower to celebrate the Argentinean city’s designation as the 2011 book capital of the world. Many of the volumes were donated by foreign embassies, creating a multilingual piece of art. As Minujín says, “Art needs no translation.”
Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, June 23, 2011 1:30 PM
This spring I traveled with two of my professor friends from our hometown of Phoenix to a vacation getaway in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona. There we did what most writers and academics do while on holiday: we spent part of each day reading and writing. Early one morning we were at our usual posts. Prasad sat in front of his computer at the dining-room table; I was brewing another espresso in the kitchen before heading to a chair on the back porch. Dan had claimed the couch and was halfway through a novel. He was reading a chapter in which the central character, a young man named Jonathan, from New York City, visits his retired parents in Phoenix.
"Are there armadillos in Phoenix?" Dan asked, out of the blue. We looked across the room at him, a little startled and bemused. "Does the pope wear underwear?" I shot back with my own non sequitur. "No, I'm serious," he persisted. "In the book, Jonathan and his father drive to a movie theater and it says here that they dodged dead armadillos on the road in Phoenix. And what about Joshua trees? It says here that Jonathan stood on a frontage road looking out at the freeway through a line of Joshua trees."
"So far as I know," I said, "Joshua trees grow mostly at elevations of 3,000 feet or more in the Mojave Desert. Phoenix lies in the Sonoran Desert at about 1,100 feet." And the only dead armadillo I knew about in Phoenix, I explained, was the one I bought several years ago at an antique store. The whole animal had been turned into a purse, complete with a gold art nouveau clasp and ruby rhinestones for eyes. Maybe the writer was confusing road-kill armadillos with the husks of palm trees, I suggested, which often litter Phoenix streets after a storm. If you're going 70 miles per hour on the freeway, the two might easily be confused. They are, after all, both brown and dead.
I later read the chapter with the armadillos and the Joshua trees. And sure enough, I stumbled across more eco-confabulations. At one point in the book, Jonathan and his father take a nighttime walk into the desert for a heart-to-heart conversation. Jonathan describes looking up at the sky "as the sickle shape of a hawk skated over the stars." A hawk, huh? Hawks are sight-feeders, flying during the day in search of desert rabbits and birds. Could the writer have meant nighthawks, a bird that trolls the sky for insects, primarily after dark? They are unrelated species, as different as, say, a Wall Street broker and a kindergarten teacher. But I can see how the two birds might easily have been confused. After all, they both have wings and fly.
I've been mulling over these eco-bloopers for some time now. Like a dog with a bone, I dig them up every now and again, gnaw on them for a while, and then rebury them in the back forty of my study. Mind you, I'm not one of those readers who goes snuffling through the pages of a book hoping to catch the author with his pants down and then trumpets the fact that I know a butt from a hole in the ground. So why then can't I just let them go?
It wouldn't have mattered so much if the book were some cheap airport paperback. But it was A Home at the End of the World, the 1990 novel by Michael Cunningham, who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for The Hours. On the back cover there's an excerpt from a review in The Wall Street Journal that describes the book as "so finely pitched that even the smallest details are sharp-edged and vivid." A review in The New York Times makes a similar point: "Michael Cunningham appears to believe ... that 'our lives are devoted to the actual,' and that, in the rendering of those actualities, a novel discovers its themes." The Times praised Cunningham for his "reverence for the ordinary, his capacity to be with the moment in its fullest truth."
The fundamental issue here, I think, is not that Cunningham got the details wrong, but that he didn't seem to care about getting them right. Neither did his publisher or editor or the critics. But what if Jonathan’s conversation with his father had taken place not in the Sonoran Desert but instead in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Would Cunningham have had his protagonist refer casually to, say, strolling past the Elgin Marbles? My guess is that this major American writer would not have conflated the British Museum with the Met. Nor would most of his readers. So what makes us think that it's okay to play fast and loose when it comes to matters of natural history?
Read the rest of this essay at
Image by PhilipC, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, May 23, 2011 11:24 AM
Liberals, atheists, and Satan’s henchmen are trying to remove God from our schools, our government, and even our private lives, goes the frequent Christian conservative complaint. Well, author A.C. Grayling has gone a step further and taken God out of the Bible.
The Good Book: A Humanist Bible is Grayling’s attempt to create an inspirational book without a supernatural being at the center, writes Matthew Adams in New Humanist’s May-June issue.
“The way I made it,” Grayling tells Adams, “was to plunder from the great traditions texts on which I had performed redaction, weaving them together, editing them, interpolating other texts and sometimes my own, just as the Bible makers worked on their texts. It was tremendous fun.”
Writes Adams in “The Man Who Would Be God”:
The inclusion of a scientifically coherent creation story is probably the most markedly irreligious aspect of The Good Book, and might well end up, when the creationists get to hear about it, being the most controversial. But the work as a whole has none of the combativeness that one might expect. [Grayling says:] “This book is not against religion, it just ignores religion, and by ignoring it shows that there is as much if not more of a resource already in our hands.”
Like the Bible, The Good Book is organized by book, chapter, and verse and laid out in double columns. But the Bible never sang the praises of nonprocreative sexual love, described Newton’s discovery of gravity, or incorporated the ideas of great thinkers from Thucydides to Kant to Darwin.
Here are some verses:
• “Let us help one another, therefore; let us build the city together. Where the best future might inhabit, and the true promise of humanity be realized at last. —The Good, Chapter 9, Verses 10-11
• “Do I love you for the fine soft waves of hair That fall about your neck when you undress? Or that ivory pillar of your neck, or your breasts Soft and fair with rosy nipples crowned?” —Songs, 108
• “This is the final consolation: that we will sleep at evening, and be free for ever.” —Consolations, Chapter 26, Verse 31
Source: New Humanist
Thursday, April 28, 2011 11:34 AM
Now here’s an idea right in Utne Reader’s wheelhouse: “a non-profit project promoting independent publishers to public libraries all over the United States.” It’s known as Hey Small Press! Founded by Don Antenen, who works at a public library in Kentucky, and Kate Hensley, Hey Small Press! has a three-fold method:
One: we select and review ten new or upcoming titles per month. Two: we send our list to public librarians and encourage them to order the titles. Three: we also make available all our reviews to the public. Our goal is for readers across the country to walk into their public library every month with our list of small press books and encourage librarians to order them.
Despite all the stories about the changes happening or likely to happen to libraries, Kathleen Rooney over at Harrietwrites, “For the moment, brick-and-mortar libraries continue to exist, and are still great places to get actual printed-on-paper-and-bound books. So it might be of interest that…Hey Small Press! now exists too…with the aim of encouraging ‘libraries to acquire small and independent press books.’”
There are still great books being published by small presses all over the world, but on top of the changing library landscape, independent bookstores have been closing all over the place and chain stores are less likely than ever to take chances on anything that’s not a sure bet. That means those small publishing houses need all the help they can get. It’s nice to know then that, as Rooney writes, “committed people are out there cultivating love for good books and working hard to get more of them on library shelves.”
(Related: “Library Haunting: A spirited defense of one of America’s last great public institutions” from the March-April issue of Utne Reader.)
Image from Pundit Kitchen
Tuesday, December 28, 2010 12:37 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.
Monday, November 01, 2010 1:15 PM
“[T]he electronic highway is for bulletin boards on esoteric subjects, reference works, lists and news….Nobody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen. Ever.”
Few have ever missed the mark quite so badly as Annie Proulx did in 1994 with the quote above. Across the board, from author to publisher to seller we’re seeing the effects of books moving from the page to Proulx’s “twitchy little screens.” But maybe there’s some good to be had for the authors. Maybe the playing field can be leveled and the ideas of the writer can come through these new channels; instead of the writer being sold, the words will once again be the commodity. Or so speculates Robert B. Reich in The American Prospect. As the internet disintermediates books, Reich wonders, will he have the opportunity to put the ideas and proposals he’s spent his adult life marketing out front, rather than schlepping his own personality along with his books? Not so fast, concludes Reich unfortunately. Without the usual intermediaries to market the product, Reich himself will have to do all the work: “Of course, all this will require marketing. After all, I’ll need to attract customers…I’ll be on my own. That means I’ll have to sell myself like mad—not my ideas but me. Get it? Disintermediation isn’t the end of humiliation. It’s just the beginning.”
Source: The American Prospect
Image by bradlindert, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 08, 2010 2:34 PM
Chris Adrian’s resume is one of those that makes you wonder just what the hell you’ve been doing with your time, since apparently other people—like Adrian—have no problem getting stuff done, while you can’t even seem to find time to do the laundry or catch a movie. On top of writing three novels (Gob's Grief, The Children's Hospital, and the forthcoming The Great Night) and a book of short stories (A Better Angel), Adrian is a pediatrician and a student at divinity school. And he's a fellow in something called pediatric hematology-oncology. And he publishes short stories pretty much everywhere. And he was recently named to The New Yorker’s list “20 under 40,” honoring 20 writers under the age of 40 who show “a mastery of language and of storytelling [and] a palpable sense of ambition.” Ambition seems an understatement when it comes to Adrian. I have yet to read his tome The Children’s Hospital, but it was the opening line of that book, which I picked up when I was working in a bookstore, that first turned me on to this writer: “I am the recording angel, doomed to watch.”
In his forthcoming book, The Great Night, Adrian again ventures into the realm of non-human characters with “fairies, a monster, and the ghosts of [the characters’] recently deceased romantic relationships.” In an interview at Work in ProgressAdrian tells Rivka Galchen (another on the “20 under 40” list) that he tends “to think of those sorts of characters—angels and ghosts and fetuses and talking bagels—as human in pretty ordinary ways, though it always feels like a tall order to write well enough about them that the reader will see them that way, too.”
While there are some other interesting tidbits about the new book and Adrian's writing, my favorite part comes with this fantastically personal answer:
I had the idea for the novel long before I figured out how to write it or became possessed of the sustained inspiration necessary to bring it out of the realm of daydreams into actual words that other people could read. What brought both of those things about was the disintegration of my relationship with my boyfriend. The novel became a sort of open letter to him about why it was in the universe’s best interest that we get back together, and at the same time it was a sort of weapon of mass emotional destruction aimed, rather angrily, at his heart.
A “sort of weapon of mass emotional destruction”…does it get any better than that?
Extra: A Bookslutinterview with Adrian from 2008.
(Thanks, Maud Newton.)
Source: Work in Progress
Friday, October 08, 2010 12:18 PM
When you read a Western novel, you know that cowboy hats may be involved, and when you read Southern lit you might expect the appearance of a moss-covered mansion. But these sorts of expectations from readers and publishers can be frustrating for writers who don’t want to fill their books with clichés.
North Carolina novelist Clyde Edgerton gets at this in an amusing exchange with writer Amy Frykholm at the Christian Century:
What is happening now in Southern fiction?
Fiction writers are still dealing with that species of animal called human in a hot place where there’s plenty of reactionary fundamentalism and family loyalty and a history of living close to the land, along with a poverty that often finds little hope in the promise of America.
You once said, “Because I was born in the South, I’m a Southerner. If I had been born in the North, the West or the Central Plains, I would be just a human being.” Do we make too much of Southern culture generally or of Southern literature in particular?
Maybe we do make too much of it—because it’s often loud and, in the case of good fiction, accurate. Whereas various media interpretations of the South are sometimes only loud. It’s always a bit of a downer for me when those not from the South start talking about front porches and sweet iced tea and quirky characters. I visualize the caricatured life and predict the next string of dead mule generalizations.
Western writer Laura Pritchett makes a more pitched complaint in “The Western Lit Blues” in High Country News:
I’m a writer who writes about the West and the people out here. You know, the tough outdoorsy folks who populate Western books. People who hunt, camp, ride horses, and love to gut fish. Men and women who live on ranches or fall in love with ranchers. Or the folks who have a kayak on their Subaru and suntan marks on their feet from Chaco sandals, and the people who fall in love with suntanned, Subaru-driving kayakers.
… But I have to say: Even though I am similar to my fictional counterparts, I am also not them. There’s more going on with life out here in the West than is often rendered in books. We Westerners are more complex and worldly and unique than what I sometimes find on the page, frankly. And as a writer, a reader, an observer, and a half-assed cultural critic, I’m starting to get a little worried.
Pritchett acknowledges that some of her peers are broadening their scope—“the oil drillers of Alexandra Fuller’s nonfiction, the odd lovers in Rick Bass’ novels, the Spanish-infused language and Chicano influence in Aaron Abeyta’s poetry”—so it’s not that writers can’t and won’t push boundaries. It’s just that a self-perpetuating mythology can stifle artistic innovation:
Co-creation. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. How books create our self-identity, and our identity gets captured in books, and back and forth it goes like some frenzied feeding machine. I read, I reflect, I transfer. So do you. Books and life feed each other, and then they create a monster of an ideology that we feel obligated to live up to.
Sources: Christian Century, High Country News
Image by crowt59, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 01, 2010 2:19 PM
Moby Lives has some background on one of the weirder and more disturbing publishing stories in a long time. What do you call it when the government buys out the entire first printing of a book –in this case Anthony Shaffer’s Operation Dark Heart—in return for the publisher’s agreement to destroy every one of the copies? Munificent censorship, maybe? A particularly ugly but perfectly legal bit of capitalist monkeyshines?
It sure sounds like a cut-and-dry case of censorship to me, but this attempt at an explanation from Thomas Dunne, publisher of St. Martin’s Press, is pretty curious, to say the least:
We have been receiving letters of concern that we changed the text due to government censorship, and that the government “burned” the books from our initial printing. The true facts are that the government bought the entire first printing in its entirety and we destroyed and recycled those copies at their request.
Source: Moby Lives
Image by altemark, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 24, 2010 2:50 PM
Maybe it’s precisely because I don’t much like dinner parties that I spend so much time fantasizing about dream dinner party guests and ideal seating arrangements. At any rate, one of my perfect scenarios involves being seated between Dorothy Parker and John Waters, and Michael Ehrhardt’s recent interview (in The Gay and Lesbian Review), with the man William Burroughs dubbed the “Pope of Trash,” did nothing but reinforce Waters’ standing on the A-list.
I can take or leave Waters’ films (Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, Polyester), but every interview I’ve encountered with the man has been a marvel, and his new memoir, Role Models, is one of the most entertaining books of the year.
Waters’ back-and-forth with Ehrhardt is a smart, snappy, free-range delight from start to finish.
Read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:
I really hate people who go on an airplane in sloppy jogging outfits. That’s a major offense today. And I can’t abide people who bore you by talking about their food allergies and special diets, like vegetarians. Of course, I wouldn’t go so far as murdering them.
[In Provincetown] I even lived in this wonderful tree fort, with a rope ladder and small apartments. Some crazy person constructed it; it had no roof, so if it rained you got soaked to the bone. It was owned by Prescott Townsend….He was an early gay liberationist who would ride around on a small motorcycle on the beaches and hand out gay liberation material to people. Mink Stole was going to marry him. Prescott would let you live in his tree fort if he liked you, and you got free hot dogs.
I’m sometimes surprised to have made it this far. I guess now I can attract, uh, guys who are into gerontophilia—which is a really ugly word. But, old chickens make the best soup! I prefer being a “filth elder.”
And, finally, here’s an atonement opportunity for somebody in Hollywood (hello, criminals who financed Hot Tub Time Machine):
I do have a movie called Fruitcake ready to go, but it’s fallen through a couple of times. It’s a children’s Christmas adventure film about a family that steals meat. They’re door-to-door meat salesmen, which we have in Baltimore, who knock on your door and say, “Meatman!” You say, “I want two porterhouse steaks and a pound of ground beef.” And then they shoplift it for you, bring it back, and you pay half of what’s on the label. The young son, named Fruitcake, runs away from home during the holidays, after he and his parents are busted for shoplifting food. He meets up with a runaway girl, who was raised by a gay couple and is searching for her birth mother. Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey would have starred in it. The people who paid me to write it liked it, but now the production company is no longer there.
The Gay and Lesbian Review
Friday, August 27, 2010 11:15 AM
In the latest issue of YES! David Korten discusses his newly revised book, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. In response to a question regarding the housing bubble—“Four to six trillion dollars of value went away when the bubble popped. But what does that actually mean in terms of housing?—Korten replies:
It means absolutely nothing in terms of houses. That’s the part of understanding the difference between phantom wealth and real wealth. It was a financial bubble, and the most extraordinary thing is how few economists and economic policy makers seem to have had any recognition of the distinction. An increase in real housing value would, for instance, provide more comfortable shelter. The simple inflation of housing prices changed nothing except increasing the financial claims of those who held title to those houses.
Later, Korten recognizes that this idea—the idea of something’s worth actually corresponding to something of value that that thing provides—is not unique to him. It’s just that the opposition to such thoughts has been so systematically ingrained in people (as an example, the interviewer asks ealier: “What about the stock market? That’s widely accepted by Americans as an index of economic health”*) that most doubt their own instincts as to how things really should work. Or, as Korten puts it:
Most psychologically healthy people recognize the truth, because I believe the true moral values are innate in our mature human nature. Yet the power of the perverse cultural manipulation in our society is so strong that it causes people to doubt that which they know in their heart to be true.
Korten sees the glorifying of the seven deadly sins in capitalist culture as that “perverse cultural manipulation.”
[I]t’s turning the whole moral framework on its head and convincing us that somehow the pursuit of the seven deadly sins is really good for society and helps us build wealth and happiness. It’s the most incredible moral perversion and the fact that this is not widely recognized is sort of like “oh my goodness.”
*Korten’s answer to this question is probably my favorite part of the interview: “Well, the fact that the total value of stock market assets can go up and down by trillions of dollars day by day is a pretty powerful indicator that it has no relationship to any underlying real value.” Exactly.
Source: YES! (interview only available in print edition; an excerpt from the revised edition of Agenda for a New Economy is available online.)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 2:24 PM
The Publisher's Weekly blog PWxyz put out a call for readers to nominate America's most underrated writers and picked 15 favorites from the list. It's a good time. "Now all that’s left to do is give these writers their due," writes Craig Morgan Teicher, "go buy their books, talk ‘em up to your friends and enemies, and make them the literary titans they deserve to be!"
Who would you add to the list?
(Thanks, The Rumpus.)
Image by @sahxic < twitter, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 2:51 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
Friday, July 16, 2010 9:07 AM
The latest issue of The Iowa Review has a fascinating interview with Michael Silverblatt, host of the nationally syndicated radio program Bookworm. Silverblatt talks about his reading habits and how he’s trained himself to plow through the complete works of the guests on his show. Here’s a great slice:
Sarah Fay: So, have you been teaching yourself to read more deeply over the years?
Michael Silverblatt: I’ve been teaching myself how to have the stamina to sit still. When I’m starting a book, I try not to read in bed. I read a hundred pages at a time and don’t get up. At the end of a hundred pages, I’ll go and have lunch. But I feel that it takes a hundred pages to be gripped by a book, so I try to read them in one sitting.
SF: How did you discover that?
MS: Trial and error. I didn’t know anything about it….I left graduate school before I had to take an oral exam, so I never had to find out if I could do concentrated stints of more-reading-than-is-humanly-possible. It wasn’t until I had the show that I read voluminously, and that was how I trained myself. First, a hundred pages at a time. Then I would see if I could read two hundred pages a t a time. Then I’d see if I could read War and Peace in four or five days, because wouldn’t that give me a really thrilling and unusual aerial view of the whole of the book, a book that many people stretch over an entire summer vacation or two or three months? I thought that would really give me a sense of the shape of the novel. I’m aware that my experience as a reader is not like other people’s. I don’t know how someone carries a book in his or her mind over the period of several weeks to a month. I get too hungry and excited.
The Believer also has what appears to be part of the same interview by Sarah Fay at the University of Iowa if you’re dying for more.
Sources: The Iowa Review(article not available online), The Believer
Image by wrestlingentropy, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 08, 2010 2:09 PM
In an interview with California magazine, the novelist and Brooklyn native Jonathan Lethem (The Fortress of Solitude, Men and Cartoons) talks about becoming a writer in Berkeley. I loved this little nugget about his time working in bookstores:
Just handling this ocean of different books—new and used, in and out of print, famous and forgotten—it was literature as this giant mosaic of texts and experiments and attitudes. I think it’s just very liberating to break out of a great man’s theory of history.
I guess I’ve always liked working from that sense of—what would you call it?—license that the margins permit. I always just visualize myself writing books that were meant one day to be dusty, forgotten volumes being encountered by intrepid browsers in a used bookstore. It was a much less freighted way to think about trying to enter the conversation than to imagine I had to write The Great Gatsby.
Image by melanieburger, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 1:16 PM
If you’ve seen the film High Fidelity, you may remember the scene where John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, explains his autobiographical cataloguing system for his vinyl collection. He indexes his records by mentally tagging them with neurotic pieces of personal information. It’s a tad obsessive—and totally comprehensible. Over at HTMLGIANT, Roxane Gay reveals an autobiographical index of her book collection:
I bought The Book of Night Women because I’m from the Caribbean and Maud Newton said it was great, on her blog. I bought Then We Came to the End because I love writing from the collective point of view and I wanted to see if the book was as good as the hype. It was. I bought Revolutionary Road because the movie came out and I thought, “I bet the book is better.” It was. I bought American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld because intensely disliked Prep, as in, I have a visceral reaction just thinking about the book and I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would have to American Wife. I quite enjoyed it. It’s a slow, subtle book but well worth the read. I bought Gotham Diaries because I read in Entertainment Weekly that Spike Lee’s wife had co-written the book and I wondered if it was any good. Not so much. I could go on. For almost every book in my collection, I remember why I bought it, what was going on in my life, who I was in that moment.
Image by ♥ellie♥, licensed under Creative Commons.
Sunday, July 04, 2010 2:02 PM
Last week, the literary journal Tin House put an intriguing wrinkle in its submissions policy for the coming fall. Along with their submissions, writers will have to include a receipt proving they’ve recently purchased a book from a bookstore. The change affects submissions to the magazine and to Tin House’s books division. In a press release the editors added: “Writers who cannot afford to buy a book or cannot get to an actual bookstore are encouraged to explain why in haiku or one sentence (100 words or fewer).”
Here at Utne, we wanted to find out a little more about the thinking behind this new (and awesome) policy. Tin House managing editor Cheston Knapp was kind enough to play along and supply some answers.Though Knapp noted that there is some “apprehension” that writers will be angry about the shift, he says, “We're just asking people to be accountable for the fact that they're participating in an ailing industry when they submit to literary journals or book publishers.” The goal, then, might be to reinforce—concretely—the reading spirit of the creative writing community. After all, to support literary writing, there’s no way other than by reading books, journals, and magazines. “People are trying to figure out what the [publishing] landscape's going to look like but we want to do our part to ensure physical books remain a part of it,” says Knapp.
As for how long this policy might last, the current plan applies only for this fall’s reading period. Knapp adds that “there are many other literary magazines that charge you to submit to them and that seems to work… folks don't raise a stink about that. We'll see how people react to this.” It’s an uncertain time literature in print, and as Knapp suggests, the future is up for grabs: “What we hope is that writers can continue to write and booksellers continue to sell their books long into the future, as the building morphs around us like something out of Proteus's wet dream.” And you thought there wouldn’t be any literary references in this post.
Source: Tin House
Image by jelene, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 12:51 PM
The folks over at The Believer have awarded the fifth annual Believer Book Award to Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sydney Poitier. The book was picked from a short list of novels and story collections that the editors deemed “the strongest and most underappreciated of the year.” I’ve been thinking about the underappreciated thing. With so many books coming out, what does “underappreciated” even mean in the book world anymore? I sent this question in an email to Believer HQ and editor Heidi Julavits sent me this response:
Indeed, who in 2010 is not underappreciated? Even the appreciated are underappreciated. For example, the week after the Pulitzer Prize for fiction was announced, one of the two finalists was scarcely to be found in one of Manhattan’s most tasteful and typically on-the-ball indie bookstores (the clerk had never heard of it; she finally located their lone copy in an unfrequented and shadowy corner shelf).
Or take, as an example, Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, the winner of our 2007 award. That book was published by a big and powerful press (it was a Vintage Paperback original); it was even featured on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review. But astonishingly, despite that level of so-called appreciation, very few people—and by “people” we mean people we know personally, people who read The Believer and other books that we ourselves read, people who would seem to be the perfect audience for a book like Remainder—many of these people had never read the book even heard of it.
So by underappreciated maybe we mean that we’ve found a book that a certain sort of person should be appreciating, and based on our anecdotal and highly unscientific surveys, this book is not being adequately appreciated by those people.
Friday, May 21, 2010 2:09 PM
On Thursday evening, Melville House played host to the first Moby Awards for book trailers—an event the publisher plans on making into an annual tradition.
The complete list of finalists (with links!) is on the Moby Awards website, while Paper Cuts, the New York Times’ books blog, has reported on the evening’s winners, including the ear-grater named least likely to sell a book. Here are my favorites.
Finalist for Best Low Budget/Indie House Trailer
A Common Pornography, by Kevin Sampsell
Winner Best Performance by an Author
Head Case, by Dennis Cass
Winner Best Big Budget/Big House Trailer
Going West, by Maurice Gee
Sources: Melville House, Paper Cuts
Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:02 AM
“An unread book exists only in the primordial soup of your imagination, and there it can evolve into any story you like. An unread book—any unread book—could change your life.” So begins Kristy Logan’s essay for The Millions, Confined by Pages: The Joy of Unread Books.
It’s a beautifully expressed sentiment. And for Logan, it’s justification for the 800 unread books on her shelves. “Some would find this excessive, and they would probably be right,” she writes. “But I take comfort in knowing that I will have appropriate reading material whatever my mood, that I will be spoiled for choice whenever I want a book, and that I will never, ever run out of new stories.”
I'm reminded of something the essayist Gabriel Zaid once wrote: “The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.” Responding to Zaid, the British writer Nick Hornby wrote: “That's me! And you, probably! That's us! … With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”
What about you? Is there joy in the unread books on your shelves? Or is it all just noise?
Source: The Millions
Image by gadl, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 3:57 PM
When the Brooklyn Public Library temporarily suspended service on Sundays last summer, residents improvised and set up shop on the sidewalk instead, reports Marianne Do in Next American City. Volunteers set up the library dubbed “Branch,” and gathered hundreds of books to lend out from their card table and crate stacks. Patrons filled out “memory cards” for the books they checked out, scrawling a message about the neighborhood on a card kept inside the book. Do reports that since closing last December, the library has been housed at the Brooklyn Hospital Center.
Source: Next American City
Thursday, April 29, 2010 2:42 PM
There are multiple levels of parody at work in Village Voice cartoonist Ward Sutton’s “The Band Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb,” an inspired takeoff on last fall’s unlikely comic opus The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb. I’m not sure if it’s the “Stoned Agin” T-shirt worn by God, the patchy stubble on Phil Collins’ head, or merely the appearance of the word “Sussudio,” but I found the strip hilarious.
“This piece was a fun chance to parody both Crumb, the underground comix legend, and Genesis, the ’70s-’80s band recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Sutton wrote in a note to us.
Sutton is also still plying the extremely niche trade of illustrated book reviewer. Check out his Drawn to Read site, or the Barnes & Noble Review where his strips appear, if you don’t think comic art and literature are perpetually estranged cousins.
Source: Village Voice, Drawn to Read
Image courtesy of Ward Sutton.
Thursday, April 22, 2010 3:04 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of environmental coverage.
American environmentalists would be wise to look to Canada’s Alternatives Journal for cogent, well-informed reporting and commentary on green issues. The official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada puts topics from climate change to local food into clear-eyed perspective. www.alternativesjournal.ca
Audubon rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it. www.audubonmagazine.org
Published by the Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation transcends its modest roots with intellectual depth. From profiling “the mushroom messiah” to asking “Is a warmer world a sicker world?” it gets to the environmental stories that demand our attention. www.conservationmagazine.org
A publication of the Earth Island Institute, the group founded by activist legend David Brower, Earth Island Journal reports from the front lines of the environmental crisis. Its global focus and eagerness for stimulating debate make it a must-read for greens. www.earthisland.org/journal
The footnotes in Environment magazine say “academics at work”—but the stories will have you asking “Why isn’t anyone else writing about this?” This publication covering “science and policy for sustainable development” goes in-depth but never gets out of reach. www.environmentmagazine.org
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent from the front lines. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched. www.hcn.org
The quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, OnEarth keeps tabs on what’s happening to our land, air, water, and wildlife. It’s a pretty nature magazine, but it also brings a keenly analytic eye to the societal and political dimensions of environmentalism. www.onearth.org
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere. www.orionmagazine.org
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:19 PM
There’s a great post on Chicago’s Book Bike over at Shareable. Paul M. Davis profiles Gabriel Levinson, who , since 2008, has ridden “his custom-built Book Bike into public parks across Chicago every weekend, weather permitting. Heading from park to park, Levinson distributes books donated by publishers to anyone interested.”
Here’s some more:
Levinson only appears at public parks and free events, ensuring that there is no barrier to entry. As he explains, “the mission is to build and cherish a private library regardless of class or economic state, which is why the Book Bike is only at public parks. It’s a place where every single person, whether you have a roof over your head or don't, has the right and privilege to be.”
“I believe that one of the greatest gifts of being alive, of being human, is that of literacy. If you can read, your world suddenly becomes wide open, all knowledge is at your fingertips and there is no telling where that can lead someone in life. ‘Teach a man to fish’ is such a tired maxim. Why can’t the common phrase be ‘teach a person to read’?”
Levinson has two goals: to create more readers and more consumers for beleaguered publishers. “The idea is that I’ll put a book in your hand,” he says. “Maybe you’ll want to buy a book next time around. My hope has been, in addition to that, people will be inspired to go buy more books.”
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 3:30 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of arts coverage.
A celebration of handmade objects and the people who create them, American Craft brings to life the work of glassblowers, woodworkers, jewelry makers, and artisans of all stripes. Published by the American Craft Council, it covers its inspiring subjects from workbench to gallery. www.americancraftmag.org
An arts magazine with a decidedly literary bent, The Believer covers books, film, music, and pop culture with barely contained intellectual glee. Part of the McSweeney’s empire founded by author Dave Eggers, it constantly finds new ways to showcase the creative impulse. www.believermag.com
The arts, culture, and fashion of the Middle Eastern region are fertile ground for the writers and artists of Bidoun, who traverse their territory with wit and irreverence. Whether they’re living in the region or are part of the diaspora, their dispatches are crucial intelligence. www.bidoun.com
Each issue of Creative Review is eye-popping, showing some of the best work from worldwide advertising, design, and visual culture. Its articles add depth to this dazzle, profiling scenes, people, and creative work that you wouldn’t hear about any other way. www.creativereview.co.uk
Esopus is a visual feast, showcasing the work of contemporary artists alongside critical writing, fiction, poetry, interviews, and even a themed CD. The very definition of “labor of love,” it comes out only twice a year, but it’s always worth the wait. www.esopusmag.com
Forget box-office battles and vapid celebrity chatter: Film Comment focuses its lens on cinema’s substance. Drawing on a deep, experienced pool of critics and feature writers, the magazine gets off the red carpet to explore the wonderfully diverse film omniverse. www.filmlinc.com/fcm/fcm.htm
Published in Ireland but covering the entire world of music, The Journal of Music uses actual musicians as writers. The resulting coverage, which runs the gamut from folk to classical to pop, is arresting reading for both casual fans and aficionados. www.journalofmusic.com
Poets & Writers is targeted at wordsmiths, yet appeals to anyone who loves to get lost in a bookstore. And if you’re yet another hopeful unpublished author—come on, admit it—you’ll find good advice on finding an agent and a deal. www.pw.org
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 3:29 PM
Considering memory loss in the new issue of Urbanite, Richard O’Mara stumbles upon a surprising way to drum up long-buried memories: Re-read a book (in his case, by accident), and uncover a vivid impression of your life at the time of the initial reading.
For O’Mara, it’s The Black Obelisk, a book published in 1956 by the German author Erich Maria Remarque (best known in the States for All Quiet on the Western Front). O’Mara picks it up a bookstore: “I loved it for the first sixty pages—at which point I realized that I had loved it before, forty-odd years ago.”
It was in 1964; I was seated at a café by a beach in Argentina, hearing Vaughn Monroe’s voice pour out of a scratchy loudspeaker, singing “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” A wild storm broke over the town of Miramar that night, where we were staying, my wife and I and our new daughter. I recalled hearing the waves crump like mortar shells on the beach.
Why, I asked myself, had I not retrieved these memories before? Why had I let them lie there, darkened by the decades that had fallen over them like soot? My mind, or the office within it responsible for organizing and filing memories, apparently decided to lock away those recollections for good. It took the late Herr Remarque to spring them. That these memories had nothing to do with the book itself suggests that anything buried deep in the brain, when dredged up, can have clinging to it things that have nothing to do with the object recovered.
Image by Gibson Claire McGuire Regester, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010 1:12 PM
Deeply personal stories are hidden inside the dog-eared pages of ingredient-stained cookbooks. Notes scribbled in margins conjure memories of meals and relationships past. For Sarah McCoy, writing for The Millions, cookbooks are literary treasures. She writes:
The truth is, I read cookbooks like novels. Cover to cover, page by page, the dedication, the acknowledgments, the indexes: I devour everything. Like the literary works on my bookshelves, I can give you the plot, characters, themes and favorite scenes; however, ask me a recipe and I’d be hard-pressed to name one I’ve personally prepared.
Source: The Millions
, licensed under
Thursday, February 04, 2010 10:52 AM
From Cute Yummy Time to Advances in Potato Chemistry and Technology, 2009 was a great year for odd book titles. The Bookseller pays homage to many of these strange, quirky, or off-color titles in its annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year award. The magazine recently released its “Very Longlist” of 49 of the strangest book titles of 2009, including Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich, Is the Rectum a Grave?, Peek-a-Poo: What's in Your Diaper?, and Venus Does Adonis While Apollo Shags a Tree.
(Thanks to nominee, The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin.)
Source: The Bookseller
Thursday, January 28, 2010 5:10 PM
If anything, all the chatter over the Apple Tablet (I refuse to speak its name) only amplifies the question that has been haunting the publishing industry for a decade or more: What does the future hold for e-books? Canada’s Quill & Quire reports on some of the trends coming out of the industry—mostly models that resemble the iTunes or the surge in the movie industry of DVDs loaded with special features. Publishers such as HarperCollins and Penguin are revamping their backlist titles with features like web links and imbedded video and audio, hoping to target consumers who already own print titles and lure them to add a digital edition to get the enhanced features.
A spokesperson for Random House of Canada says the company has “observed parallels between e-book and music downloading habits,” and thinks that in the same way music lovers purchase entire album collections when they discover a favorite new artist, e-books will encourage users to nab an author’s entire works with a single click.
Another industry insider predicts that once e-books hit their zenith we’ll see an entirely new trend: She envisions some consumers purchasing what she calls “disposable reading”—titles you might buy at the airport before boarding a long flight—in digital format, and serious works—titles you might want to reread some day or pass along to your kids—in print editions. “In some respects, the book will go back to being an objet,” she hypothesizes, “[a] beautiful, expensive edition that people want to pay for [and keep], almost the way [books were treated] in the 16th and 17th centuries.”
Which, in the end, leaves us right back where we started.
Source: Quill & Quire (article not available online)
Image by timonoko, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, January 14, 2010 10:50 AM
In the annual Tournament of Books from the Morning News, 16 books remain alive, but only one can emerge victorious. The goal of the contest is not to choose the definitive book of the year, but rather to be the most fun and transparent book award on the web. The contest judges, including blogger Jason Kottke, C. Max Magee of the Millions, and Alex Balk of the Awl, admit their biases. According to the website, “we’ve had judges who flipped coins. So has the National Book Award—but the National Book Award won’t tell you that.” And right now, readers can chime in to vote for their favorite book from the list of survivors. It’s literary “blood sport” at its best.
Source: The Morning News
Tuesday, January 05, 2010 3:17 PM
Some of the most hotly anticipated books slated for publication in 2010 are by authors who are already dead, according to The Millions. Ralph Ellison headlines the list, with his long-anticipated novel Three Days Before the Shooting scheduled for publication this month. Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño also makes an appearance, as does Stieg Larsson, Henry Roth, and David Foster Wallace, whose final, unfinished novel may be released in 2011.
A litany of living literary rock stars are also scheduled for publication in 2010, including Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Jose Saramago, and possibly Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen. The Millions breaks the list down by month, so literary aficionados know what to look for and when.
Source: The Millions
Friday, December 11, 2009 3:09 PM
Brian Dettmer's book art is so damn good, I don;t want to waste your time talking about it when you could be looking at it. Want more? Have a peek at Dettmer's studio over at The Donut Project.
World Books: Altered set of Encyclopedias, 2009
World Science: Altered Book, 2009
World Books: Altered set of Encyclopedias, 2009
Do It Yourself: Altered Set of handyman books, 2009
(Thanks, The Donut Project.)
All image courtesy of the Brian Dettmer and Packer Schopf.
Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:40 PM
The literary blog The Rumpus has posted a collection of images from found Iranian children's books. The images are incredible, and it's been fun watching as readers who speak Farsi write in with translations and other information. Enjoy!
Source: The Rumpus
Friday, December 04, 2009 5:40 PM
Libraries are now piggybacking on the success of social networking platforms by unleashing their own shelf-inspired hub, BiblioCommons, which aims to create communities of patrons who help connect one another to new books to read by allowing users to log recommendations of books in the library system’s catalogues. So far, The Walrus reports, BiblioCommons has rolled out in several cities across Canada, with plans to launch in California and Australia as well.
The brains behind the book system, Beth Jefferson, believes we’re on the verge of “a cultural shift toward ‘object-centric’ networking, centered on common interests as the novelty of Facebook-style ‘egocentric’ social networking, based on friends of friends, wanes.” Let’s hope she’s right.
Source: The Walrus
Thursday, November 19, 2009 9:21 AM
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:56 AM
Printmaker Abigail Uhteg made each of the 35 copies of her latest book by hand at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosedale, NY. The process is documented in a fabulous video consisting of some 3,000 photos. Enjoy!
(Thanks, Coudal Partners.)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:08 PM
How much money did your favorite writer make off that last book? You have no idea, right? With his next book, science fiction writer, copyright activist, and Utne Reader visionary Cory Doctorow is heading the demands of nobody (who ever demands financial transparency from writers?) and publishing every dime he earns in a column at Publishers Weekly. The transparency piece is intriguing enough, and it's just one piece of an ambitious publishing experiment:
Here's the pitch: the book is called With a Little Help. It's a short story collection ... Like my other collections, it will be available for free on the day it is released. And like my last collection, Overclocked, it won't have a traditional publisher ... Doctors swear an oath to do no harm. For this project, I've taken an oath to lose no money ... In the ideal world, every object I make available will either cost nothing to produce or will be physically instantiated only after it has been ordered and paid for. With this in mind, let me run down the packages.
The run down is lengthy but worth a look. Here's the elevator version:
+ Free E-Book
+ Free Audiobook
+ Print-on-Demand trade paperback
+ Premium hardcover edition
+ Commission a new story: $10,000
Many of these tactics are not new for Doctorow. He's been giving away e-books for free since 2003. This is where the transparency piece comes in. Doctorow explains:
This business of my giving away e-books is a controversial subject. I encounter plenty of healthy skepticism in my travels, and not a little bile. There's a lot of people who say I'm pulling a fast one, that I'd be making more money if I didn't do this crazy liberal copyright stuff, or that I'm the only one it'll ever work for, or that I secretly make all my money from doing stuff that isn't writing, or that it only works because I'm so successful. Of course, when I started, they said it only worked because I was so unknown. People want proof that this works—that I'm not deluded or a con artist.
In a recent interview with Utne Reader Doctorow spoke succinctly to the non-believers: "Of all the people who fail to buy my books today, the majority do so because they’ve never heard of them, not because someone gave them a free e-book."
Source: Publishers Weekly
Image by Paula Mariel Salischiker , licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, October 15, 2009 5:43 PM
The legendary Nigerian musician and dissident Fela made big, powerful music that celebrated a reborn Africanism and made funky fun of colonial powers. But he also had plenty of rough edges, and they are on display right away—along with his caustic, critical sense of humor—in the 1982 authorized biography Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore, which has been out of print but has been newly republished by Lawrence Hill Books. Here is how it starts:
After three years of waiting, my mother and father really wanted a baby. But it wasn’t me they wanted. No, man! No! They wanted any fucking baby.
You know, the meek, quiet type. Well-mannered. Yes-Sir this. Yes-Sir that. They didn’t want a motherfucker like me, man! Well, here I am now. I came. In spite of them. . . .
When I was born my father wanted to imitate his own father. They were both Protestant reverends. So to make some white man happy, my father asked this German missionary to . . . name me. Can you imagine that, man? A white man naming an African child! . . .
You know what that motherfucker named me? Hildegart! Yes, man. Hildegart! Oooooooooh, man! That’s how much I wasn’t wanted. Me, who was supposed to come and talk about Blackism and Africanism, the plight of my people. Me, who was supposed to try and do something to change that. Oh, man. I felt that name like a wound.
Fela’s sense of destiny, along with his arrogance and aggrieved psyche, continues to drive the narrative throughout This Bitch of a Life. It’s a riveting read as Fela describes the police-state brutality that only solidified his political opposition and drove him to ever-more intense personal and political extremes—and eventually wore him down.
One disturbing undercurrent is Fela’s over-the-top sexism and patriarchy. Sam Baldwin at Mother Jones notes that “Sexism, sadly, is what comes through most strongly” in the book, adding, “Well, sexism and police brutality.”
A new epilogue by Moore adds valuable perspective on Fela’s legacy, which has taken on Marley-like proportions and spawned a string of reissues such as the impending 45-album onslaught from Knitting Factory Records, tributes such as the multimedia Fela Project, and even a Bill T. Jones-directed Broadway musical, which opens November 23. As Fela’s legend grows ever larger, This Bitch of a Life reminds us that the man behind the music was full of mystery, paradox, and pain.
Sources: Fela: This Bitch of a Life, Fela Project, Mother Jones, World Music Central, Playbill
Wednesday, September 23, 2009 1:37 PM
Here's a line that ought to get your attention: "Contemporary children are so drenched with eco-propaganda that it's almost a waste of resources." You probably won't be surprised to learn that these are the words of the woman who reviews children's books for the Wall Street Journal. I stumbled upon Megan Cox Gurdon's essay Scary Green Monsters in PERC Reports, a magazine put out by the Property and Environment Research Center, which boasts of being “the nation’s oldest and largest institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through markets and property rights.” Mostly, the essay is a takedown of anti-corporate children’s books such as Carl Hiaasen’s award-winning Hoot. You can almost imagine Cox Gurdon sneering as she offers up a summary: Hoot is “a book for middle-schoolers about three children who foil a corporation’s attempt to build a pancake restaurant over a burrow of endangered miniature owls.” It’s a grouchy essay, but Cox Gurdon is acting in the interest of something scared, even if that something sacred is not a burrow of endangered miniature owls:
As any parent can tell you, children like routine. They’re not put off by predictability in stories. They’re accustomed to princesses being pretty, dragons being fearsome, and, it seems, alas, their fictional businessmen being corpulent and amoral. So it’s probably pointless to object to the eco-endlessness on the grounds of artistic feebleness.
Yet there is something culturally impoverishing about insisting that children join in the adult preoccupation with reducing, reusing, and recycling. Can they not have a precious decade or so to soar in imaginative literature before we drag them down to earth?
(article not available online)
Friday, August 21, 2009 2:55 PM
Astronauts stuck in space need something to pass the time. Two years ago, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the website GovernmentAttic, NASA released a list of the books, movies, television shows, and music kept in the International Space Station.
The books on board include a standard canon of histories, science fiction, and action novels, but there are a few surprises. For example Michael Crichton’s anti-global warming novel State of Fear makes an appearance, and so does David Sedaris’s essay collection Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. The films include some great comedies, including Blazing Saddles, There’s Something About Mary, and National Lampoon’s Animal House, along side some truly terrible films like Rush Hour II, 50 First Dates, and the Ashton Kutcher thriller The Butterfly Effect.
In response to the list, the independent film organization The Shooting People complained to NASA, saying, “I felt that Caddyshack, Cheaper by the Dozen, and heaven forefend Beverly Hills Cop, might weaken the critical faculties of those on board, possibly even putting their lives and ours in danger.” The organization made some suggestions, including replacing Harold and Kumar with Harold and Maude and offering Man on Wire instead of Man on Fire.
NASA responded, thanking the organization for its input, and promising to pass the letter and the suggestions to the crew office “for further consideration.”
(Thanks, Scientific American.)
The Shooting People
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 4:29 PM
Chronogram is a luscious magazine, its 10-by-13 inch pages filled with articles that “nourish and support the creative, cultural, and economic life of the Hudson Valley.” One of its latest efforts in that vein—which non-Hudson Valley residents will have no problem enjoying—is a delightful 2009 Summer Reading Roundup for kids (from picture books to young-adult readers). Compiled by Susan Krawitz, Anne Pyburn, and Nina Shengold, the reading list is a smorgasbord of intriguing suggestions for children. Enjoy.
Friday, May 22, 2009 3:34 PM
Growing up in suburban Cincinnati with Indian immigrant parents and a penchant for makeup and ballet, Kiran Sharma knew he was different. The children at Martin Van Buren Elementary School wouldn’t let him forget it. At twelve years old, though, Kiran couldn’t quite figure out the problem. One day he thought he came to a realization: Maybe he was actually the long-awaited reincarnation of the blue-skinned Hindu deity Krishna.
As the main character of Rakesh Satyal’s debut novel, Blue Boy (Kensington Books, 2009), Kiran overflows with personality like rich Indian cooking exudes smells. Struggling with the painful awkward pre-teen years, Kiran explores his Indian heritage, American identity, gender, and sexuality in endlessly endearing prose.
Rakesh, who happens to be a friend of mine, recently read from his novel in Minneapolis. Hearing him perform the voices of Kiran’s protective mother and his penny-pinching father in a flawless Indian accent reinforced the humor and wisdom infused throughout the novel.
As Kiran endures the youthful jeers and growing pains, a delightful portrait emerges of growing up gay and Indian in America. Explaining the endemic danger of suburbia, Satyal writes: “India may be full of man-eating tigers, but Ohio is full of Ohioans.”
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 4:40 PM
Draw tattoos on Henry Rollins, play punked-out word games, and color this picture of Iggy Pop! It’s all in Aye Jay’s new Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book, just out on ECW Press.
Thanks to the kind folks at ECW, you can download and color the book’s 10th page: this awesome (if mildly pornographic) drawing of Iggy Pop (PDF).
If punk-rock activities aren't your thing, check out Jay's previous crayon-friendly works: the Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book and the Gangsta Rap Coloring Book.
Source: Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book
Image copyright © 2009 by Aye Jay Morano.
Friday, May 08, 2009 12:57 PM
If you’re looking to beef up—and green up—your summer reading list, the new issue of Alternatives Journal is a good place to start. It’s the Canadian environmental magazine’s second annual books issue, and it reads like a compendium of important contemporary eco-writing: There’s an excerpt from Vandana Shiva’s new book, Soil Not Oil; another from FUEL, a project of Alphabet City Media and the MIT Press in which writers and artists investigate the future of energy; and a reprint of Brian Doyle’s beautiful piece “The Greatest Nature Essay Ever,” which originally appeared in Orion.
Reviews abound, of course, with pretty solid representation from indie publishers like Island Press, South End Press, and New Society Publishers (to name just a few). There’s also a scary but fascinating review essay on four books that address the manipulation of science, particularly in the realms of mercury (Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison, by Jane M. Hightower) and cancer research (The Secret History of the War on Cancer, by Devra Davis).
I also love the editors’ picks (unfortunately not available online), which single out “environmental classics” like George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938), Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability (1993), and Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989).
(And, for additional fodder for your summer eco-reading list, check out the eight publications recognized for ourstanding environmental coverage in the 2009 Utne Independent Press Awards.)
Source: Alternatives Journal
Friday, April 10, 2009 12:01 PM
Slacking ought not be confused with idling, a far more noble activity, according to The Idler’s Glossary (Biblioasis, 2008), a pocket-sized volume that parses such distinctions with intellectual glee. Though constructed as a glossary it’s essentially a manifesto, shot through with author Joshua Glenn’s philosophical outlook on life and quotes from Eastern and Western sages from Krishna to Foucault. By peeling apart the language we use to describe our behavior—from the slothful to the sublime—and celebrating the “spontaneous, chilled, and untroubled” demeanor of the idler, The Idler’s Glossary gives us a great reason to sit down in an armchair with a big ol’ brandy snifter and call it research. Among our favorite definitions:
CAFÉ: Historically, one of the idler’s favorite haunts—a public space in which intelligent conversation, witty repartee, and revolutionary plotting were uniquely possible. Try doing any of the preceding in a Starbucks, though; the laptop- and cellphone-users will abhor you. Online communities aren’t as good, but they’re better than nothing. See: HANG.
DETACHMENT: Religiously speaking, detachment is not so much a form of aloofness or disengagement as it is a loving embrace of, and renewed fascination with, the world—but from a position of critical, even ironic distance. As Krishna counsels in the Bhagavad-Gita, we should renounce the fruits of our actions without renouncing action itself. See: ACEDIA, APATHETIC, INDIFFERENT, NONCHALANT, WAITING FOR GODOT.
SAUNTER: Thoreau, who wrote magnificently about the pleasures of walking aimlessly through nature, speculated that saunterers were, by virtue of their mode of ambulating, not going toward the Holy Land (Saint Terre); they were already in it. He wasn’t far wrong, etymologically. The term actually comes from the Middle English word for “walking about musingly”; it is derived from the word “saint,” as holy men were thought to spend much of their time in this manner. See: BUM, DRIFTER, FLANEUR, LOAF, SCAMP.
TIRED: The supine idler seeks inspiration in that state of consciousness that arises between sleep and waking. The drowsy, languid slacker, however, is merely giving in to the annihilating force of torpor. See: LANGUID, LASSITUDE, RECUMBENT, RELAX, TORPID.
Thursday, March 12, 2009 5:06 PM
With literary competitions cropping up everywhere, and contests being fueled largely by popularity and PR, Prospect's resident arts and books editor Tom Chatfield takes the trove of literary prizes to task and wonders why we don't just ditch them all—except maybe the Booker. It may be flawed, but not a total failure.
Chatfield concedes that prizes “occupy an increasingly crucial, and volatile, position amid those imperfect processes by which writing is turned into literature,” but he feels that readers are “ill-served by much of the current marketplace of overlapping awards and those ‘prize-winning’ books manufactured to claim them.”
How do we fix the system? Re-evaluate, says Chatfield. It’s time to tone down the media hype, bolster the quality of juries, and “thin” out some of the competitions that aren’t serving writers (or readers) well. Chatfield suggests money could be better spent on award programs that foster authors aiming to get their first books into print.
The final and crucial component? Quality winners. “Without these,” he writes, “and without a public’s faith in these, it descends into a mere opinion poll; and we already have plenty of those.”
Image by hapticflapjack, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 13, 2009 2:00 PM
“I was never an avid reader until I was 11 or 12,” writes Alastair Harper on the Guardian Books Blog. "Before I started reading," he remembers, "I was a rather subservient, slow little boy who never really did anything wrong, but never did much right either. Books inspired me to be very naughty indeed; and, with the simple moral logic of youth, I perceived them to be on my side, not authority's, which was what made me want to read them.
Harper is responding to a flurry of public projects aimed at getting more kids to read. These initiatives tend to assume that reading is edifying, producing well-behaved, wholesome citizens, a logic Harper doesn’t really understand.
"Perhaps a little bit of literature does make you well-mannered," he concedes sarcasticly. "A sprinkling of Austen will probably be fine. But the government should point out that an excess of reading can be very dangerous indeed. Acknowledge that many books are far more horrifying, perverse and immoral than anything in Grand Theft Auto. Perhaps print warning labels on dust jackets. Now, if that happened, a real children's reading revolution would begin!"
Image by Pedro Simões, licensed under Creative Commons.
The Guardian Books Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 10:20 AM
In the art world, graffiti is sexy, the subject of fawning attention from galleries, museums, and collectors. Tagging, though, largely resists the limelight. Photographer Martha Cooper’s book Tag Town, released last year, celebrates its stubbornly unglamorous aesthetic and documents the rise of tagging in 1970s New York. The art website Fecal Face recently sat down with Cooper to discuss the collection.
Sadly, the interview doesn’t break much new ground. The questions conflate Cooper’s interest in tagging with her interest in graffiti more generally, so we never get to hear what makes it a worthy photographic subject. It’s disappointing, because there are intriguing hints of insight. At one point, asked if she’d ever tried tagging, Cooper observed she’d never mastered it—she “found out how hard it was to repeatedly write with style.” Her respect is apparent in her photos, and I wish Cooper had been given a chance to elaborate.
It’s still worth a look, if only to hear Cooper talk about her experiences documenting a piece of budding hip-hop culture and to get a look at some of the Tag Town pictures.
Friday, December 12, 2008 3:21 PM
With its 25th anniversary coming next year, book publisher 4th Estate (part of Harper Collins) asked design and marketing firm Apt to help with the celebration. The result is “This Is Where We Live,” a stop-animation video with scenery and figures made entirely out of the imprint’s books (more than 1,000 ended up being used).
The video is sweet and charming, and every viewing reveals another clever use of the material: Watch for The Corrections as a crosswalk and The Perfect Storm in the form of a fishing boat. After watching, take a look at the mind-blowing production stills and videos.
This Is Where We Live
from 4th Estate
(Thanks, Visual Culture
Friday, June 13, 2008 1:39 PM
Film analysis, architecture, and set design converge in We Make Money Not Art’s review of The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock. Location and architecture play a crucial role in nearly all of Hitchcock’s films, and some structures have become iconic: the bell tower in Vertigo, the apartment in Rear Window, the Bates mansion in Psycho. The review highlights just a few of the ways in which the films’ architecture informs and responds to the often twisted psychology of the characters.
Friday, March 28, 2008 5:26 PM
The oddest book title of the year is You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs (Simon and Schuster), according to a recent contest from the British magazine the Bookseller. Runners up included I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen (Nazca Plains Corporation) and Cheese Problems Solved (Woodhead Publishing).
(Thanks, BBC News.)
Monday, October 29, 2007 11:33 AM
It's book awards season again, and C. Max Magee, contributor to the book blog the Millions, laments that U.S. book awards like the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize do little to excite the reading public the way the Booker Prize does in the United Kingdom. In the U.K., the Booker shortlist furnishes an instant reading list and creates enough buzz that bookies take bets on the winners. U.S. awards, on the other hand, measure up to little more than promotional stickers on book covers.
If U.S. book awards better marketed their winners—or if the Pulitzer adopted a shortlist, as Magee suggests—would it rouse Americans out of their literary coma?—Eric Kelsey
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