Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Nobody can hurt me without my permission." — Mahatma Gandhi

Martin Luther King, Jr. (from: The Southern Humanist)

Tartan Noir

"[William] McIlvanney has been called the Godfather of Tartan Noir and lists bestselling crime writers like Ian Rankin and Val McDermid among his fans.
     'I find it very flattering,' said McIlvanney. 'I went to the Bloody Scotland [crime writing] festival last year and I was amazed by how many people were so benign towards me. I mean, to be called the Godfather of Tartan Noir - which is not my favourite term - is hugely flattering.'
     His re-released novel, Laidlaw, is broadly considered to be the first work of Tartan Noir and kicked off a phenomenon that has collected international acclaim for its portrayals of the dark side of Scottish life.
     'Anything that keeps the book alive, I think, is good,' said McIlvanney.
     'I don’t think that it’ll be the ultimate expression of Scottish culture, folk will come along and do more but I think it’s great that there’s an area where the value, the significance of the written word, is appreciated.'
     Set in Glasgow, McIlvanney, says the novel reflects the No Mean City tag but doesn't exaggerate it.
     'I think Glasgow has a reputation which is not unearned but which is exaggerated,' he said.
     'Besides being a hard town it’s a terrifically warm town, I think, it’s a place, as I once said, where Greta Garbo wouldn’t have been alone - she’d have been in a pub somewhere and somebody would shout out, 'Hey you in the funny hat, come over and have a blue lagoon!’"
Tony Black's Pulp Pusher
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Buy William McIlvanney's books here...


"[…] In the neighbouring 9th arrondissement, Les Plumes hotel pays tribute to literary lovers: George Sand and Alfred de Musset, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, Juliette Drouet and Victor Hugo. Set on the Rue Lamartine, named after the Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine, the hotel even has literary quotations etched on the shower glass. And in L'Hotel in the St Germain des Prés district, guests can sleep in the room in which Oscar Wilde died.
     One of the first literary-themed hotels was the Le Pavillon des Lettres, which opened in 2010, a stone's throw from the French president's residence at the Élysée Palace, where 26 rooms pay tribute to writers including William Shakespeare, Émile Zola and Franz Kafka.
     Whatever the conceit, it appears to work; Le Marcel is full, and Laurence Guilloux, director of the recently opened four-star R Kipling hotel, says its leather armchairs, fireplace and library are popular both with the 'young and dynamic' and 'older couples who like the ambience … it's about creating a character, a personality for each hotel.'"
— Kim Willsher, The Guardian

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Voldemort, Jeff Bezos and Darth Vader walk into a bar..."

From: verging on pertinence

"My anti-Amazon stance once made my sister cry. It was Christmas morning. She was talking enthusiastically about her Kindle and the freedom it gave her to read books and newspapers from around the world. I pounced, scolding her for supporting the Voldemort of the book industry.
     Didn’t she know Amazon was destroying our independent bookstores through its loss-leading low prices? Or that by locking Kindle users into buying from Amazon, and preventing them from easily reading their purchases on, say, the Kobo or Sony Reader, it had created a 'walled garden' that was giving it a frightening ebook market share (an estimated 60% in the US and 80% in Australia)?...
     [But] gradually, and very much in denial about it all the while, I have turned into my worst nightmare: an independent bookstore-loving bibliophile who shops mostly at Amazon.
     Whatever you do, please don’t tell my sister."
— Charlotte Harper, The Guardian
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"[...] bipedal nests of contradictions"

Source images: pxleyes and Retronaut

"No stage of the writing process — not the editor’s first response to the manuscript, not the review gauntlet — is as fraught for writers as those first few months of uncertainty: that miserable time when we think, believe, know with absolute assurance that we’ve found the key to the novel in our heads, though maybe, probably, definitely not.
     Want to lose a friend who’s a writer? Ask her, a month in, how it’s going. Better still, ask her to describe what she’s working on. She’ll try, because she has to ('Well, it’s about this friendship between these two, um, friends . . . ') all the while listening to the magic leaking out of the balloon, and she’ll hate you for it.
     If writers agree on anything — which is unlikely — it’s that nothing can damage a novel in embryo as quickly and effectively as trying to describe it before it’s ready. Unfortunately, because we’re writers, aka bipedal nests of contradictions, avoiding the temptation to share is never as easy as simply keeping our mouths shut."
— Mark Slouca, The New York Times Read more…

Monday, August 26, 2013

From: Retrogasm

Resistance Movement

"In Canadian publishing, all eyes are on Quebec. That's because the province is debating whether to fix the price of books. The argument for fixing prices, many say, is to ensure that the city's [Quebec City?] independent bookstores will still be standing at the end of the decade.
    A book industry coalition has been campaigning for a year now, hoping to implement a fixed book price policy for new releases that would disallow any reseller from slashing prices for at least a nine month period. During that initial nine months, resellers would be allowed to extend a maximum 10% discount to readers.
     The book industry was finally heard from, officially, on Monday, in Quebec's Parliament Hill, as several proponents stipulated their views at the Fixed Book Price Hearings. […]
     The French-language niche market in Quebec province, whose entire population is the size of New York City, is suddenly making big waves as it considers not only fixed pricing for books but as it reconsiders the entire model of book selling."
— Luca Palladino, Publishers Weekly
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Buy books by Gabrielle Roy and Leonard Cohen here...

“Putting a weave in the microwave just to curl it, that’s ratchet.”

From: Paolocaesar

“It’s not necessarily negative. You could say ‘I’m ratchet’ to say ‘I’m real. I’m ghetto. I am what I am.’ It can be light, too,” [Earl] Williams, the producer, explains. When ratchet is used in hip hop, it can also mean cool, sloppy, sleek, or flashy. When Azealia Banks name-checks the word, as she often does on Twitter — 'Ratchet bitches make the world go around' was one recent tweet — it’s hard to figure out exactly what she means, but it definitely has positive connotations. […]
     But there is more than the harsh side to ratchet, argues Dr. Cooper. While she recognizes that the expression, when used to describe a person, is often pejorative, she has also sees [sic] women embracing 'ratchet … as an attempt to de-pathologize it' and to celebrate both its edginess and its roots in the southern working class.
     A man or woman can be ratchet in a way that emphasizes their authenticity, their realness, or their fierceness — another word that entered our lexicon in the past decade, in part due to Tyra Banks and her Top Model series. Like that last one, the term is sometimes used by young gay men in a complimentary context, something akin to 'hot mess.'
     'Any type of vernacular that reaches the content of a Beyoncé or Lady Gaga song — you can bet it’s hit gay critical mass,' says Patrik Sandberg, a senior editor at V and pop culture chronicler. 'If you look at what the word refers to, it’s something gay men are really enamored with: a fucked up look. Someone who’s trying and doesn’t quite get it. If you’re insulting it by calling something "ratchet," you’re flirting with it.'"
— John Ortved, New York Magazine

For more glimpses into the brood chamber of our ever-evolving English language go here…

Saturday, August 24, 2013

stunt doubles and stand-ins

"Marisha Pessl’s new literary thriller – arriving seven years after her splashy debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics – captures something true about the viral, jumpy, surface-skittering way we live now. In an age of the infinitely reproducible, Pessl strives for innovation through remix rather than originality. Clichés and too-familiar tropes are prized playthings for her, and the more the merrier. Nothing is new in Night Film except for the abandon with which the author piles on references to movies and magazines and websites and other books; yet by mimicking the frantic hypertexture of contemporary life, the novel keeps reminding us just how much has changed. […]
     A brash stylistic maneuver energizes the novel’s opening pages, in which Pessl presents facts about Ashley’s life and death through a series of website simulations, newspaper and magazine clippings, and other realistic-looking documents. In a faux article, Ashley (or, more accurately, an uncredited stand-in for her) stares challengingly in an accompanying photo, looking a bit like a sulkier young Amanda Peet, while a slideshow clicks through the particulars of Stanislas Cordova’s life, including his three ex-wives and the 300-acre Adirondacks estate that has been his home since 1976 and has served as the location for most of his films. "
— Donna Rifkind, The Christian Science Monitor
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Ten Thousand Hours

From: uncouth reflections

"Elmore 'Dutch' Leonard is gone. This news propelled me back to the days when we both worked on the same floor in the vast carpeted halls of the Chevrolet ad agency in the General Motors Building, on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit in the early sixties. He’d be in his office by eight in the morning, bashing away at his typewriter, on pulp Westerns in the dying days of that genre, as I’d later learn. He was on the truck side and I was glorifying Corvettes, so our professional paths never crossed [….]
     Those dime Westerns were Dutch Leonard’s writing apprenticeship, early swings of the pickaxe in the ten-thousand-plus hours of humble exertion that Malcolm Gladwell tells us is the only sure way to master a craft, any craft.
     I’ve always maintained that my all-too-sustained advertising career never taught me a goddam thing about writing, but Dutch would claim that ad copy’s need for compression and simplification (you get in and out fast, so as not to bore or confuse or provoke second thoughts) helped thin out and tighten his prose. The evidence would suggest that he was righter than I was."
— Bruce McCall, The New Yorker
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Buy all of Elmore "Dutch" Leonard's books here...

bird's-eye viewer

"Tim Dee is a cultural man: a BBC radio producer who commissions and produces poetry programmes. He is also an expert birdwatcher and has introduced several British writers to birdwatching, myself included. An outing with him is a lesson in listening; several poets owe what listening skills we have to Dee's tuition.
     It was inevitable then, that a man deeply concerned with birds and their habitats, with poetry, music and literature, voice and communication, should write his own books, especially when 'new nature writing' became a small phenomenon. Dee's first book, The Running Sky – an autobiography of a birder – appeared when he was almost 50. His second, Four Fields, meditates on habitats around the world that Dee has known and to which he has made repeated visits over the years. There will be environmentalists aghast at the air miles clocked up, because the four fields of study are in Montana, central Africa, Ukraine, and the Cambridgeshire Fens – Dee's home patch."
— Kathleen Jamie, The Guardian
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Buy all of Tim Dee's books here...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

cut and paste

"It's shocking to consider that good reviews seldom make history. Expressions of delight and approbation are welcome to authors, publishers and people looking for birthday-gift ideas. Bad reviews, however, reverberate down the years. We read George Eliot's airy dismissal of Charlotte Brontë's dialogue ('I wish her characters would talk a little less like the heroes and heroines of police reports') with a sigh of century-defying pleasure. […]
     Hatchet jobs are a joy to read, not because we love to see a writer's new baby stabbed through the heart, but because we admire the breezy wit that ideally accompanies the best ones. Hatchet jobs should make you laugh rather than recoil in horror. They should be more than a series of negative opinions. They should be about the work of an established writer rather a newcomer. They should consider the offending book from several directions in an amused manner, slowly ingesting it like a snake devouring a deer.

     All credit then to Anna Baddeley and Fleur Macdonald, two Oxford graduates in their late 20s, who founded The Omnivore website to monitor newspaper reviews. Their weekly inspections led to their establishing, last year, the Hatchet Job of the Year Award 'for the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past 12 months.' It's sponsored by the Fish Society, who offer the prize of a year's supply of potted shrimps (the connection is that shrimps are natural .omnivores'). Last year the prize was won by Adam Mars-Jones for his magisterial, but humorous, evisceration of Michael Cunningham's precious novel By Nightfall."
— John Walsh, The Independent
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heroes & villains

From: challenge oppression

"Perched on the end of a panel filled with writers who are throwing off the shackles of conventional publishing, surrounded by Kindle enthusiasts of every stripe, Mark Buckland found himself very much the odd one out at the Edinburgh international book festival. The head of the e-savvy independent publisher Cargo began by asking how many in the audience were self-published authors and wryly suggested he was 'going to get lynched.'
     It's no surprise that an audience which had paid £10 a ticket to hear about writing in a digital age was mostly made up of authors, with a sizeable minority already publishing themselves, but the hostility Buckland faced as a representative of the publishing industry was something of an eye-opener.
     Catherine Czerkawska, who described herself as a 'classic midlist author,' had already revealed how as publishers became bigger she found herself suffering from the 'rave rejection,' her agent telling her she was "too accessible … to be truly literary, but too literary to be popular,' how she had uploaded her backlist to the Kindle store and 'never looked back.' Maggie Craig had just confessed how, for the first time since she had begun writing, Amazon had given her 'a good monthly income,' joking that if big publishers find a writer is making money 'they call a meeting to find out what's going wrong.'"
— Richard Lea, The Guardian
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"All conversations between authors nowadays seem to revert to the single intriguing topic of eBook or 'Indie' publishing. This is because it's becoming more and more difficult for authors to find a conventional publisher for fiction. This is especially true if a significant percentage of your readers are likely to be middle aged and older women in search of a well told story. But now, our readers have Kindles, Nooks, iPads or other e-readers.
     Many writers are publishing their own novels and stories, old and new. Prices are low and you can usually try before you buy, so eBooks are an excellent way for readers to experiment with finding new authors or meeting old favourites. My novels and stories are now available in eBook form, with more to come."
— Catherine Czerkawska, from her web site
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"[...] a nickel commission on each chicken"

From: Reanimation Library

"[…] But by not knowing that Harland David Sanders was an actual man, who lived an actual life, people miss out on more than they might imagine.
     For one thing, the Colonel wasn't just a fast-food baron who represented his company on TV, the way Dave Thomas (a Sanders protégé) later did. Sanders was the living embodiment of what his food supposedly stood for. His white suit wasn't the invention of a marketing committee; he wore it every day and was never seen in public for the last 20 years of his life in anything else. (He had a heavy wool one for winter and a lighter cotton one for summer.)
     He was a failure who got fired from a dozen jobs before starting his restaurant, and then failed at that when he went out of business and found himself broke at the age of 65. He drove around in a Cadillac with his face painted on the side before anybody knew who he was, pleading with the owners of run-down diners to use his recipe and give him a nickel commission on each chicken. He slept in the back of the car and made handshake deals. His first marriage was a difficult one, so he divorced his wife after 39 years. (His second marriage was much happier.)
     He once shot a man in a gun battle, but was never charged as the other guy started it. He was a lawyer who once assaulted his own client in court. He was indeed a Kentucky Colonel, an honorary title given to him by not one but two governors. He was a Rotarian and a Presbyterian, and he deserves to be remembered at least for having a verifiable existence."
— Josh Ozersky, Time
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"KFC has announced that Colonel Harland Sanders: The Autobiography of the Original Celebrity Chef – written in 1966 and discovered in its archives last November – will be launched on Facebook on 4 June [2012].
     Readers will be able to download the book for free, but only via Facebook: the title will not be sold in book stores or via online booksellers, said the fast food chain. Containing 33 'never-before-seen' recipes, from The Colonel's Special Omelette to Upside-Down Peach Cobbler, the autobiography will provide 'an authentic look into the life of one of the world's legendary entrepreneurs,' said KFC, with 'both the insightful life lessons and the delicious recipes remain[ing] relevant today.'
     It was 1930, and Sanders was 40, when he began cooking for visitors to his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. By 1935 he was made a Kentucky Colonel by the state's governor for contributions to the state's cuisine, and he perfected his 'secret blend of 11 herbs and spices' over the next decade. In 1955 he began developing his chicken franchising business, and in 1964 he sold his interest in the company – which then numbered some 600 KFC franchises in the US and Canada – for $2m. Sanders travelled 250,000 miles a year to visit KFC restaurants around the world until he died in 1980 at the age of 90."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian
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Full English

"Perhaps my opinion here owes much to the fact that I’m Canadian and therefore still subject to excessive colonial reverence for people with cool accents and universities that date to the 13th century who put all the 'u's in the proper places in the words! But people who love books in America are, in my opinion, overly focused on contemporary American authors.
     Contemporary American authors are, in my opinion, not necessarily doing the best and most interesting work in fiction today, if I’m to make generalizations. I’d much prefer picking up just about any living British novelist whose last name is not Amis. But often when I name these folks people haven’t heard of them, because so much of the American book marketing machine is steadily trained on the homegrown.
     Here is my list of the novelists you must read to get up to snuff on British novel-writing. [...]"
— Michelle Dean, Flavorwire

Buy all the books mentioned in the Flavorwire post here...

"[…] Masturbation alone, he reckons, has cost him 2.25 unwritten bestsellers."

"Hollywood scriptwriter Kennedy Marr, once the youngest novelist to feature on a Booker shortlist, is having a quiet night in. It involves whisky, cigars and a laptop, as he ogles footage of 'a lesbian duo with a brace of draught-excluder-sized dildoes,' while enjoying a simultaneous Skype call with a girl called Megan who is 'providing Kennedy with her own floor show, live from her Brooklyn apartment.' Meanwhile, another literary fan is texting him pictures of herself posing suggestively with … 'was that an aubergine?'
     Our hero works the screens like a one-handed, drunken air traffic controller. No wonder Kennedy feels that 'wanking was now at some zenith, some Renaissance peak. Technology was allowing self-abuse to enjoy its Elizabethan drama moment.'"
— Suzi Feay, The Guardian
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locked in love

"In 1950, twelve years after Pocket Books published the first mass-market paperback, Fawcett began to feature the twilight world of women-loving women with its successful Gold Medal imprint series.
     Other publishers followed suit; soon the genre was so firmly established that readers could choose among several formulas or subgenres of lesbian pulp fiction: lesbians in institutions, love triangles, lesbians 'saved' by straight men, etc. With their camp cover art and lurid prose, many of these books appealed to readers across lines of gender and sexuality, desires and tastes; although the narratives undoubtedly satisfied the prurient interests of many straight readers, they also catered to an entire generation of lesbian readers, who were anxious to find a reflection-albeit distorted and often cruel-of their own lives in a work of fiction.
     Lesbian pulps were titled and pictured in 'codes' that helped lesbians pick them out from amongst a drugstore rack filled with similar, often lurid, titles: a cover with a brunette towering over a reclining blonde, often with a man in the far background; titles with 'strange', 'odd' or 'shadows' in them.
     The pulps gave some women a glimpse into a world that wasn't easy to access outside of large cities. The popularity of the pulps made them available to women across the country, providing some sense of comfort and inclusion.
     However, lesbian characters rarely fared well in these novels, their potential for happiness ruined by censure typical of the period: a woman engaged in illicit pleasures of one kind or another had to suffer a downfall to balance out the licentiousness of her actions. This 'moral lesson' redeemed lesbian pulps from the ranks of mere pornography under the pretense of providing a public service."
The Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture, Duke University Libraries
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

kids in space

From: still cool as...

"I write fiction for young people because I love the infinite imaginative space it offers. Children and young adults are incredibly open to the literature of the fantastic. So far this century, we've enjoyed stories about magic and wizards, vampires and werewolves, and post-apocalyptic dystopias. Yet the most fantastic subject of all remains unexplored territory: space.
     […] The prevailing wisdom in children's publishing is that space is a hard sell. Everyone is a little scared of it. No one knows why. I've discussed this with authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians; we all acknowledge that it's an anomaly.
     Some argue that space fiction tends to the kind of techno-fetishism that appeals only to older men. This seems to me a caricature of what space fiction can be. Others believe prose can never capture the majesty of space as powerfully as film. I think this is nonsense too. Words draw on each reader's personal stock of images, and can be as intensely evocative as pictures. Besides, children's literature has a rich tradition of illustration; it can use pictures as well as words if it wants to!"
— SF Sadi, The Guardian
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home bodies

"What I found was that there was a whole generation of women writers, mostly working in the period between World War II and the dawn of women’s liberation in the early 1970s. They were critically acclaimed, many won Edgar awards or were made grand masters by the Mystery Writers of America. They sold very well and were published in hardcover, whereas a lot of their male counterparts, who are now considered part of the crime fiction canon or are in Library of America, they were only published in paperback. So, what happened? I wanted to know more about them.
     I was complaining to a Penguin editor about this, how these women weren’t in print anymore, and he said, 'There may be an anthology in this.'"
– Sarah Weinman in conversation with Laura Miller, Salon
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Buy this book here...

Elmore Leonard (Oct. 11, 1925 - August 20, 2013)

"Elmore Leonard, the prolific crime novelist whose louche characters, deadpan dialogue and immaculate prose style in novels like Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky and Glitz established him as a modern master of American genre writing, died on Tuesday at his home in Bloomfield Village, Mich. He was 87.
     His death was announced on his Web site.
     To his admiring peers, Mr. Leonard did not merely validate the popular crime thriller; he stripped the form of its worn-out affectations, reinventing it for a new generation and elevating it to a higher literary shelf.
     Reviewing Riding the Rap for The New York Times Book Review in 1995, Martin Amis cited Mr. Leonard’s 'gifts — of ear and eye, of timing and phrasing — that even the most indolent and snobbish masters of the mainstream must vigorously covet.'
     As the American chapter of PEN noted, when honoring Mr. Leonard with its Lifetime Achievement award in 2009, his books 'are not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last half-century.'”
— Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
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See a related post here...

Buy all of Elmore Leonard's books here...

Monday, August 19, 2013

lead into gold

Photo of Andrew Hoyem by ToniBird Photography
From: Harvard Magazine.

"[Andrew] Hoyem runs Arion Press, a fine-edition publisher in San Francisco. Some of the books it has produced are set by hand, and all are printed in small editions whose volumes sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Following tradition, Hoyem melts down the type after the run is complete, preserving the volumes’ uniqueness. The approach runs contrary to mainstream trends in today’s literary marketplace, and... rests on the value of precision: the physicality of the book as an object and the startling originality of the craftsman’s eye. 'There’s a kind of human rhythm to this,' Hoyem explains. 'That’s what fine printing is—it’s about being perfect.'
     […] Arion Press’s workshop is located on the lower floor of its facility. At one end is the M & H type foundry: a stark, cavernous space smelling of machine oil and metal. There is a kiln, where Hoyem and his colleagues melt lead into ingots to be used for monotype; stations across the room contain casting equipment.
     Since the 1990s, Hoyem has been using computer interfaces to cast monotype directly from computer-generated text, expediting the scrupulous work of turning sentence after sentence into lead. Some of the press’s most rarefied projects, though, are set by hand. In deference to local printing tradition, Hoyem files his more than 100 tons of poured type largely in what are known as California job cases, with the noncapital and capital letters kept in side-by-side arrays of compartments. More traditionally, though, they’re stacked: the lower case and the upper case.
     Part of Hoyem’s duty as a master craftsman lies in training. He takes apprentices, as his predecessors did for centuries. It is no mean commitment: an apprenticeship runs four years in the foundry and press room, two in the bindery—and that’s only the groundwork. 'To get the quality in press work that we demand, it takes years,' he says. He enforces a schedule. Each morning, staff members are on the job at 8:30; they get a short lunch and an afternoon coffee break and leave promptly at 5. Otherwise, they’re at their stations.
     A visit to the bindery might find a couple of staffers hard at work making slipcases... At one end of the room is a sewing machine that they use to sew together many books’ spines, though the most labor-intensive volumes are stitched together by hand, on frames. Hand-sewn bindings don’t break or gape or hang open to certain pages, so they’re perfect for books that get lots of scrutiny and use, like the landmark Arion Press Bible that, today, is the volume on the pulpit in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral."
— Nathan Heller, Harvard Magazine
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Hold on tight; here comes "The Bone Season."

"Samantha Shannon is being touted as the new J. K. Rowling. She’s 21, a fresh graduate of Oxford, where she was a student when she wrote The Bone Season, the first in a projected seven-novel urban fantasy series. She’s got a film deal with the new London studio set up by Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings fame, and she’s been courting booksellers, book reviewers, and fantasy fans for more than a year.
     It’s tricky when a book arrives with such preliminary brouhaha. I’ve learned to scrub my mind of hype and leave it to the text. The proof is in the reading.
     So how is The Bone Season?
     It’s terrific—intelligent, inventive, dark, and engrossing enough to keep me up late to finish.
     Paige Mahoney, the novel’s street-smart clairvoyant narrator, is more akin to the post-apocalyptic girl gladiator in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games than to Harry Potter. There’s a distinct Margaret Atwood-style wash to Shannon’s dystopian universe, and echoes of Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange in the colorful lingo."
— Jane Ciabattari, OPB
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Buy this book here...

a little romance

From: Cover Browser

I hope cover artist E. M. Jackson (The Saturday Evening Post, April 4, 1931) got some recognition, if not money, for this image when it was turned into the now iconic Harlequin logo.
     It is probably no coincidence that Jack Palmer, head of Canadian distribution for The Saturday Evening Post, was one of the founders of Harlequin Books in May of 1949.

"[August 15, 2013] Harlequin, the publisher with a name that is almost synonymous with romance novels, is releasing a host of new e-book originals through several of its imprints over the next several months, with plans to further increase this initiative. No date is set yet for the books to appear in print.
     'We’re thrilled to further expand our reach in the digital space,' Loriana Sacilotto, executive vice president of global editorial at Harlequin, told Publishers Weekly. 'In a retail environment that’s increasingly challenging for new and emerging authors, digital publication and promotion allows us to continue to encourage author discovery and growth, bring books to market more quickly, [and] leverage popular digital trends.'
     The new program will include the launch of Harlequin-E, an imprint that will be devoted solely to works that are released first in digital format."
— Milly Driscoll, The Christion Science Monitor
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"[July 19, 2012] The relationship between novelists and romance-book publisher Harlequin Enterprises has soured over royalty fee contracts for electronic books.
     Three authors sued Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises, the world’s largest publisher of romance novels, today in federal court in Manhattan, alleging the company has exploited a technicality in their contracts to pay them 21 percent less in royalties.
     At issue is whether Harlequin Enterprises, a unit of newspaper and book publisher Torstar Corp. (TS/B), is the publisher of the books, or whether it has licensed its Fribourg, Switzerland-based subsidiary, Harlequin Switzerland, to distribute the e-books, according to the complaint."
— Emily Grannis, Bloomberg Business Week
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Friday, August 16, 2013

recycle, reuse: retribution

"Used-book stores are disappearing in our day at an even greater rate than regular book stores. Until ten years ago or so, there used to be a good number of them in every city and even in some smaller towns, catering to a clientele of book lovers who paid them a visit in search of some rare or out-of-print book, or merely to pass the time poking around. Even in their heyday, how their owners made a living was always a puzzle to me, since typically their infrequent customers bought nothing, or very little, and when they did, their purchase didn’t amount to more than a few dollars.
     Years ago, in a store in New York that specialized in Alchemy, Eastern Religions, Theosophy, Mysticism, Magic, and Witchcraft, I remember coming across a book called How to Become Invisible that I realized would make a perfect birthday present for a friend who was on the run from a collection agency trying to repossess his car. It cost fifteen cents, which struck me as a pretty steep price considering the quality of the contents.
     What made these stores, stocked with unwanted libraries of dead people, attractive to someone like me is that they were more indiscriminate and chaotic than public libraries and thus made browsing more of an adventure."
— Charles Simie, The New York Review of Books
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"Most of us have probably sold an old book at a yard sale, on eBay, given it to a library, or some such thing. We probably never gave it a second thought. Maybe we need to. Maybe we are criminals, violating copyright law.
     […] The issue at hand involves possible conflicts within the copyright law. One side relies on one of the most basic of rules, handed down by the Supreme Court in 1908, and codified in the copyright law a year later. It's called the 'first sale doctrine.' Before this court decision, Bobbs-Merrill, in its copyright notice, added a limitation on reselling their books. In other words, if you tried to resell your copy of a book that you bought at a store, you might be violating their copyright. The court said no, and copyright law now includes the 'first sale doctrine.' It says that after that first sale, the buyer may sell or otherwise dispose of that book however he or she sees fit without violating the copyright law. You (as an American) may safely sell or give away any book published in the United States without fear of violating the copyright law. The copyright law prevents you from copying a book, but not from reselling the copy you bought from the publisher."
— Michael Stillman, Huffington Post
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From: Sergio Falcone & Co

"Legally purchasing an ebook may soon make you responsible for anything that happens to it. Thanks to a new digital distribution agreement publishers are making with ebook platforms, all ebooks may soon come with a digital watermark that’s specifically linked to a person’s account, so if a copy of that book somehow ends up on a pirating or torrent website, they know who to blame.
     […] think of an ebook like a real book, just for a second. Imagine if someone stole your book on the subway and ended up giving it to someone else. Now imagine that the police, or the publisher of that book, found that stolen copy and saw that it had 'owned by [Insert Your Name Here], purchased at Barnes & Noble' in the cover. Not a problem, right? Now imagine Barnes & Noble decided not to let you buy any more books because your copy was distributed illegally. […]
     It appears that this move is initially only targeting Dutch content publishers, but it’s not far off from coming to Western shores. The anti-piracy agency named BREIN, which is a Dutch acronym that roughly translates to 'Protection of the Rights of the Entertainment Industry of the Netherlands,' will have access to all of the digital transaction records of all ebook purchases, data that used to be private."
— Jeffrey Van Camp, Digital Trends
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

From: Book Porn

palindromes and palimpsests


“'The act of naming is the great and solemn consolation of mankind.'
     Margaret Atwood found this first epigraph for her William Empson lectures, published as Negotiating with the Dead: A writer on writing (2002), in Elias Canetti’s The Agony of Flies: Notes and notations (1992). The act of naming explains the peculiar title of Atwood’s new novel MaddAddam – the third volume of a dystopian sequence, so far including Oryx and Crake (reviewed in the TLS, May 16, 2003) and The Year of the Flood (TLS, September 18, 2009). The title MaddAddam looks and sounds like a stretched (or stuttered) version of the appellation 'Madam,' but in Atwood’s dystopia it is the collective name for the grandmasters of an elaborate computer game: 'EXTINCTATHON, Monitored by MaddAddam. Adam named the living animals, MaddAddam names the dead ones. Do you want to play?'
     […] Atwood’s exploration of the boundaries between myth, storytelling and written fiction has previously been combined with her interest in sexual politics and the power structures that arise from the raw, biological facts of human reproduction. Most memorably in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) she evoked another dystopia, the Republic of Gilead, where in the aftermath of nuclear war, fertile women were appropriated by the state and assigned to the households of the governing elite to serve as surrogate wombs.”
— Ruth Scurr, The Times Literary Supplement
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"[...] picked off and shunted [...]"

"Fiction asks a lot of people, says Meg Wolitzer, 'to tell them that you need to learn about these characters, to take time out in your day from being frightened for your livelihood and your children, to think about Susan and Bill, who don't exist. It's a nervy thing to ask.' She asks it of herself every time she sits down to write – 'What fiction ought to do' – and the answer had better be good. 'The anxiety makes me a stronger writer.'
     The Interestings, Wolitzer's ninth novel, is more ambitious than any she has written so far, tracking a group of friends from the moment they meet, at summer camp, up through the decades of their lives. It has done very well in the US, so that at 54, Wolitzer has become, as a friend joked to her recently, 'a 30-year overnight success.'
     The novel deserves acclaim, but it is a surprising hit, perhaps, given its subject matter and the downbeat nature of the heroine. It is a novel about envy, but not in the grand sense. Rather, it unpicks the insidious resentment that grows between friends who start out in the same place and whose fortunes diverge. 'Nobody tells you how long you should keep doing something,' she writes of the least successful in the circle, 'before you give up forever.'
     [...] Wolitzer remembers coming to New York with no money in her 20s and being surprised as the lives of herself and her friends started to diverge. "I lived in a tiny apartment, and there was this sense that we all had talent and would move forward. And suddenly people were picked off and shunted into these beautiful apartments that obviously their families had paid for, and I hadn't been told that this was going to happen. And it really could affect the trajectory of your whole career.'"
"— Emma Brockes, The Guardian
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"[…] But does the compulsion to excel make anybody happy? Or is it, rather, a prescription for disappointment in oneself and in the 'circumscribed world'?
     That’s the question that comes to preoccupy Jules Jacobson, the ambitious protagonist of Meg Wolitzer’s remarkable ninth novel, The Interestings, whose inclusive vision and generous sweep place it among the ranks of books like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Jeffrey Eugenides’s Marriage Plot.
     The Interestings” is warm, all-American and acutely perceptive about the feelings and motivations of its characters, male and female, young and old, gay and straight; but it’s also stealthily, unassumingly and undeniably a novel of ideas. Wolitzer has been writing excellent fiction for 30 years, and it has always been this astute. From the start, her subject has been the practical, emotional and sexual fallout of women’s liberation, particularly as it affects mothers and children. But here she has written a novel that speaks as directly to men as to women. With this book, she has surpassed herself. Just don’t call her exceptional."
— Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times
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Buy all of Meg Wolitzer's books here...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

pen name calling

"In the wake of JK Rowling’s lawyer blabbing to friends and sundry that she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, there appears to be a bit of an obsession on the internet (mostly by other authors) over why The Cuckoo’s Calling wasn’t more successful prior to the announcement.
      Although the detective novel received across-the-board praise from the critics, including a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, only about 1500 copies were sold between its release and the reveal that it was penned by everyone’s favourite wizarding author (some estimates are much lower, around 500). This has been used as an example to show how difficult it is to be successful as an author, that mystery readers are the most unadventurous readers on the planet, and that people are only attracted to books with explosions."
— Tasha Brandstatter, BOOKRIOT
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"Ware2, guv?"

"It is a universally acknowledged truth that London’s black cabs offer the best taxi service in the world and no-one is prouder of this than Alf Townsend. An enthusiastic chronicler of the trade, he has played no small part in its history.
     Since gaining 'The Knowledge' (memorising 25,000 different routes within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross) at the age of 29, Alf has been ferrying passengers around the capital and continues to do so today at the age of 72. Along the way, he has flirted with minor fame appearing on TV shows in the UK and the US, helped to found the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and become a published author […]
     Alf has written a book, London Cabbie: A Life's Knowledge full of similar anecdotes. Will Self, whose novel The Book of Dave is about a London cabbie, has called it required reading.
     But Alf is far from a one-trick writing pony – he has also published a book called Bad Lads about RAF National Service and has another book coming out about his experience as an evacuee during WWII. Since he started writing seriously just eight years ago, he has now written four books."
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" […] In fact, The Book of Dave is a conflation of two potentially discrete books. The first is an oddly realistic, if gleefully supercharged, account of the declining years of Dave Rudman, a North London cabbie trying vainly to prise his son from the grasp of an absconding wife while operating as a sort of cosmic symbol for cab-land culture. The second is a dystopian vision of our northern metropolis in the 2500s, in which the 'Six Families' inhabit the deliquescing island of 'Ham,' while the outlines of 'New London' lie downstream in the murk.
     Uniting these two deeply uneasy worlds is the book of the title, the self-aggrandizing monologue hidden by vengeful, put-upon Dave in a Hampstead garden centuries before. From this the Hamsters derive their behavioural tools and spiritual understanding, greeting each other with the salutation 'Ware2, guv?',  acknowledging their daily deliverance from harm with the formula 'Thanks Dave, for picking us up.'
     Ham's protocols, its vocabulary, its fourth dimension, are extremely funny: pre-maternal women are 'opares'; the day divides into three 'tariffs'; while, in recognition of Dave's domestic difficulties, fathers and mothers live in separate accommodation, transferring offspring at 'Changeover'."
— D. J. Taylor, The Independent

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"... a sweet ride"

"Toronto-based thriller writer Linwood Barclay has many admirers, including such superstars as Michael Connelly, Peter Robinson, Robert Crais and Stephen King, who provided a fulsome blurb for Trust Your Eyes, Barclay’s previous novel, in which he says, among other complimentary things, 'My idea of a sweet ride is three days of rain, a fridge full of snacks, and a new Linwood Barclay.' […]
     In A Tap on the Window, Barclay takes us through low-level drug-dealing, young love, teenage disaffection, corrupt cops, petty thievery, family dysfunction and deeply buried secrets. And, incredibly, to a dark conclusion that ties it all together into a tidy, believable package without even a hint of sentiment.”
— Jack Kirchhoff, The Globe and Mail
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

jacket & tie

I'm all for the notion of self-publishing.
     It drives a project that might otherwise be abandoned through to completion. And the need for a formal, polished version of a work, whatever its destiny, makes for an improved manuscript.
     But if you're going to take the self-publishing route, please hire a real graphic designer for the cover; don't try to do it yourself. You need the objective eye of a professional.
     Every glance at your book jacket is a job interview. Make sure you look your best.
— Michael Hale

The Good...

From: Huffington Post

the Bad...

From: Good Show Sir

and the Ugly...

From: Lousy Book Covers

"... the ironic female gaze"

From: random geeking

"The Bible was written by a woman. Not all of it, just the good bits. Those fantastic old stories, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, were written by a woman living in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago as works of literature, only later co-opted to the service of religious dogma. So argues Harold Bloom in his treatise on the bible as literature, The Book of J.
     Bloom places the mysterious 'J author' at the pinnacle of the literary canon alongside Homer and Shakespeare. Seen through the ironic female gaze, God becomes less the ultimate patriarch than a petulant child sulking and raging his way through history. The Bible, with its cornucopia of talking snakes, burning bushes, seven-headed dragons, apocalyptic floods, parting seas, epic battles, tribal sagas, prophecies, miracles and magic is arguably the greatest fantasy story ever written.
     So if this most timeworn of texts was written by a woman, where in God's name are the women in today's modern myth-making?
     Everywhere, actually. Science fiction – our modern version of those ancient mythic stories – was invented by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in Frankenstein; or, A Modern Prometheus."
— Damien Walter, The Guardian


"Julie Phillips's James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon tackles the monumental task of capturing in a biography the life of a woman who was a child on African safaris, a children's book illustrator as a child herself, a wealthy socialite, a painter, a WAC and aerial reconnaissance expert in World War II, a chicken rancher, a CIA analyst, a doctoral student in psychology, and a science fiction author.
     More importantly, it attempts to show her roles as daughter, husband, and often mysterious friend, as brilliant creative mind plagued with depression, and as a feminist from an era and upbringing where feminism felt different and lived differently than it would for those growing up far later in the 1970s. In all of those tasks, this book succeeds brilliantly.
     Phillips has not simply added background details to Tiptree the author or recorded the dry facts of a life (however complex). With painstaking research, frequent quotes from Sheldon's letters (as Tiptree and not), and respectful but thorough attention to motives and emotions, she has recorded the story of a person in all of her flaws, triumphs, and bright-edged tragedy."
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"We can go to science fiction for its sense of wonder, its power to take us to far-off places and future times. We can go to political fiction to understand injustice in our own time, to see what should change. We may go to poetry — epic or lyric, old or new — for what cannot change, for a sense of human limits, as well as for the music in its words.
     And if we want all those things at once — a sense of escape, a sense of injustice, a sense of mortality and an ear for language — we can read the stories of James Tiptree Jr., real name Alice Sheldon.
     The daughter of a famous travel writer, Sheldon grew up privileged, eloped and regretted it, then joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps; after World War II she married a career intelligence officer and earned a Ph.D. in psychology. In 1967, at 51, she began sending science fiction to magazines, taking her pseudonym from a marmalade."
— Stephen Burt, NPR
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Buy the biography, and all of James Tiptree Jr.'s books here...

cops gone wild

"If your image of American policing is Mayberry’s Sheriff Andy Taylor, who used homespun wisdom and a deep knowledge of his community to solve their problems and keep big city crime at bay, you won’t recognize the picture Radley Balko paints of modern law enforcement in his excellent new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.
     Most here at FDL are likely familiar with Balko’s work (as a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, on his blog, 'The Agitator,' and as a journalist with Reason Magazine and now Huffington Post) because his superlative coverage of the drug war and police violence hits that sweet spot where libertarians, fiscal conservatives, progressives and civil libertarians all meet in shared indignation….
From: Human Rights Etc.

     Balko focuses on the development of highly militarized SWAT teams, combined with the weakening of Fourth Amendment protections by courts, Congress, and presidents from either parties to illustrate this shift over time. And this is where his storytelling skills shine, recounting one heartbreaking story after another.
     Examples include Heyward Dyer, a 22-year-old husband and father living with his family in Whittier, California. A police officer’s .223 caliber assault rifle accidentally discharged during a drug raid, sending a high velocity round through the floor and into the apartment below, where it hit Dyer in the head as he held his infant child, who was awoken by the commotion above. Or a more notorious case involving an NYPD raid in Harlem based on an informant’s tip that a felon was dealing weapons and drugs out of the building. The NYPD threw a flash-bang grenade to initiate the raid, stunning the building’s only resident, 57-year-old city employee and 'devout churchgoer' Alberta Spruill. Spruill went into cardiac arrest and died, one of several fatalities from stun grenades, confounding their description as non-lethal weapons."
— Mike German, FDL Book Salon
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Monday, August 12, 2013

sad but true

The Future... for now

"The modern world 'Utopia' came to life during early years of 16th century, in the work of the famous English philosopher Thomas Moore. His description of utopian society gave birth to enormous wave of utopian thought that influenced the life and works of many future philosophers and novelist, and helped in creation of several important political movements (most notably socialism).
     Utopias that were envisioned by the minds of those authors can most easily be divided in several distinct categories, all based on the means of their creation – Ecology utopia, Economic utopia, Political utopia, Religious utopia, Feminists utopia and Science and technological utopia. 19th century gave the birth of the largest wave of utopian thought the world has ever seen. Numerous novelist and philosophers focused their careers on the exploration of those themes, and result of their work influenced the audiences across the entire world. Most notable utopian novel from that period was without a doubt Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy.
     Not all examples of utopian life were set in the theory. Some people tried to realize the dreams postulated in the work of several philosophers, and so the age of utopian societies came to life. During the 19th century, over a dozen utopian societies were established in the United States, and few of them managed to survive even to today."
Utopia and Dystopia

"Looking Backward: 2000-1887 is a utopian science fiction novel by Edward Bellamy, a lawyer and writer from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts; it was first published in 1887.
     According to Erich Fromm, Looking Backward is 'one of the most remarkable books ever published in America.' It was the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
     It influenced a large number of intellectuals, and appears by title in many of the major Marxist writings of the day. 'It is one of the few books ever published that created almost immediately on its appearance a political mass movement.' In the United States alone, over 162 'Bellamy Clubs' sprang up to discuss and propagate the book's ideas.
     Owing to its commitment to the nationalization of private property, this political movement came to be known as Nationalism, not to be confused with the political concept of nationalism. The novel also inspired several utopian communities."
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8th Grade Grammar (1912)

"This copy of the Eighth Grade Exam for Bullitt County Schools in 1912 was donated to the museum. We thought you might like to see what the test looked like a hundred years ago. Obviously it tested some things that were more relevant at that time than now, and it should not be used to compare student knowledge then and now….
     Bullitt County Schools were mostly one-room schools in those days, scattered around the rural county. Students came together at the county courthouse once or twice a year to take this 'Common Exam.' It was apparently a big deal. The local newspaper urged students to do well, even urging seventh graders that it was not too early to start preparing. Some scholarships were provided to those who passed to go on to high school, which was also a big deal back then. In those days, high school was sometimes another county away and a rare thing for many farm children to be able to otherwise attend."
Bullitt County History
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