Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

Monday Miscellany

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Writing ‘Rudolph’: The Original Red-Nosed Manuscript

From NPR comes a delightful tale of how Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, came to be, first in a story, then in a song, and finally in a movie.

Sherlock Holmes stories enter public domain in U.S.

A federal judge has issued a declarative judgment stating that Holmes, Dr. John Watson, 221B Baker Street, the dastardly Professor Moriarty and other elements included in the 50 Holmes works that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published before Jan. 1, 1923, are no longer covered by U.S. copyright law and can therefore be freely used by others without paying any licensing fee to the writer’s estate.

This article provides some insight into the complex workings of copyright law in the United States.

According to the article, all of the Sherlock Holmes are in the public domain in Britain.

Shakespeare’s last house: Archaeologists reveal more

The BBC reports:

Archaeologists have discovered “as much as they can” about the house where William Shakespeare spent his final years, the project leader says.

The house, called New Place, was built in 1483. Shakespeare bought it in 1597. In the eighteenth century the house was demolished and a new house built. Experts believe they have now separated the newer building’s features from those of the older house inhabited by Shakespeare. According to the project director:

“We have identified pretty accurately the footprint of Shakespeare’s New Place and can say what kind of activities would have gone on in the rooms, such as the brew house, which ran down the side of the house, and the kitchens.”

The article contains photos of the restoration project and links to related news stories.

New literary journal seeks writers, more

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

What’s old is new again in the pages of “Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovered Objects.”

If you like to write and pursue other creative endeavors, you’ll want to learn more about this new literary publication from Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. It’s connected with the school’s master of fine arts program in creative and professional writing, and is a free, online journal that’s now taking submissions.

“Poor Yorick” will publish poems, stories, essays, profiles, digital video shorts, photo-essays and other innovative works. The thing is, they have to be about or inspired by rediscovered objects and/or images of material culture.

via New literary journal seeks writers, more – NewsTimes.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook Program

Much of last week’s book-related news involved Amazon’s announcement of a plan to bundle ebooks and print versions of the same title. Here’s a lot of commentary:

College introducing online ‘Dead’ course

I have avoided the zombie craze like the plague (pun intended), although I know that many other people find it indicative of current society.

And now zombies have achieved a certain degree of legitimacy. The Associated Press reports that the University of California, Irvine, is offering an online course about the AMC series The Walking Dead:

AMC says fans of the show know it’s about more than zombies: it’s about survival, leadership and adapting to uncertain situations. Topics addressed in the classroom will include the hierarchy of needs in a crisis, the physiology of stress and population modeling to predict a species’ survival.

50 greatest villains in literature

It’s perhaps the nature of grown-up literature that it doesn’t all that often have villains, in the sense of coal-black embodiments of the principle of evil. And even when it does, it’s not always so easy to tell who they are. Is God the baddie, or Satan? Ahab, or the white whale?

Yet even writers as subtle as Vladimir Nabokov have spiced their work with a fiend or two. And here they are. We hope you’ll furnish a few more we missed.

This is a British list. I’m sure readers from other cultures have their own favorites from their native literary canon to add.

The Top 10 Literary Landmarks of the South

From Trish Foxwell, author of A Visitor’s Guide to the Literary South:

Stretching from Virginia to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and to the tip of Louisiana are some of this country’s most important literary landmarks. Notonly does a visit to the South reveal this region’s haunting beauty, it opens up a window into the lives of some of the nation’s most gifted authors, poets, and playwrights.To visit the landscape that inspired William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, Thomas Wolfe, Edgar Allan Poe, and Tennessee Williams (just to name a few) is an unforgettable journey into the South’s storied literary legacy and the annals of American literature. While every corner of this region offers a fascinating collection of writers’ landmarks, here are my choices for the “Top Ten.”



Monday Miscellany

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Little Libertarians on the prairie

Cover: Little House on the Prairie

A Libertarian tract?

Christine Woodside argues that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, journalist Rose Wilder Lane, edited her mother’s reminiscences into books that project a Libertarian point of view:

A close examination of the Wilder family papers suggests that Wilder’s daughter did far more than transcribe her mother’s pioneer tales: She shaped them and turned them from recollections into American fables, changing details where necessary to suit her version of the story. And if those fables sound like a perfect expression of Libertarian ideas—maximum personal freedom and limited need for the government—that’s no accident. Lane, and to an extent her mother, were affronted by taxes, the New Deal, and what they saw as Americans’ growing reliance on Washington. Eventually, as Lane became increasingly antigovernment, she would pursue her politics more openly, writing a strident political treatise and playing an important if little-known role inspiring the movement that eventually coalesced into the Libertarian Party.

Today, as Libertarian values move back into the mainstream of American politics, few citizens think to link them to a series of beloved childhood books. But the Little House books have done more than connect generations of Americans to the nation’s pioneer history: They have promoted a particular version of that history. The enduring appeal of the books tells us something about how deep the romance with self-reliance runs through American history, and the gaps between the Little House narrative and Wilder’s real life say a lot about the government help and interdependence that we sometimes find more convenient to leave out of that tale.

And the continued popularity of the Little House books makes it hard to argue against the influence those books have had in shaping our vision of American history and the American spirit.

Mysterious Press to Publish Early Larsson Story

Mysterious Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, announced it will publish a story by a 17-year-old Stieg Larsson never previously available in English. The piece is part of a larger anthology of Sweden’s greatest crime writers, A Darker Shade of Sweden, and is slated for publication in February 2014.

10 Books Every Woman Should Read

From fearless female protagonists realising their dreams in the face of adversity, to witty social commentaries on the female condition as well as two very different feminist manifestos written fifty years apart – here are 10 of the most influential and unputdownable books that celebrate, in their own way, what it is to be a woman.

This list includes some books I expected to find (e.g., The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath) and some I didn’t (e.g., How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi).

Books to Have and to Hold

KindleAnd the debate surrounding print books vs. ebooks rages on. Here’s Verlyn Klinkenborg’s opinion:

When I read a physical book, I remember the text and the book — its shape, jacket, heft and typography. When I read an e-book, I remember the text alone. The bookness of the book simply disappears, or rather it never really existed. Amazon reminds me that I’ve already bought the e-book I’m about to order. In bookstores, I find myself discovering, as if for the first time, books I’ve already read on my iPad.

All of this makes me think differently about the books in my physical library. They used to be simply there, arranged on the shelves, a gathering of books I’d already read. But now, when I look up from my e-reading, I realize that the physical books are serving a new purpose — as constant reminders of what I’ve read. They say, “We’re still here,” or “Remember us?” These are the very things that e-books cannot say, hidden under layers of software, tucked away in the cloud, utterly absent when the iPad goes dark.

Digital reading: not so discreet after all…

I like reading on both my Kindle and my iPad; I also like reading print books. I don’t see what all the seemingly endless discussion is all about. Both print and ebooks are good; neither one is inherently bad.

On the other hand, The Guardian may have a point here:

At the end of 2012 the Electronic Frontier Foundation published the latest edition of its E-Reader Privacy Chart, and the results aren’t great. Almost every service tracks searches for books, meaning not just what you read, but what you’re interested in, is stored. Every book you purchase is linked to your account. . . .



Monday Miscellany

Monday, May 27th, 2013

A Pearl Buck Novel, New After 4 Decades

Pearl S. Buck

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Big recent literary news is the discovery of a final novel by Pearl S. Buck, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The manuscript was discovered in a storage unit in Texas. Buck’s son, Edgar S. Walsh, believes that Buck completed the manuscript for the book, The Eternal Wonder, shortly before her death from cancer in 1973.

Peter Conn, a professor of English and education at the University of Pennsylvania who wrote “Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography,” said that of Buck’s contributions, she most notably commanded the imagination of American readers with her descriptions of China.

“Pearl Buck strongly shaped Western and specifically American perceptions of China to an extent that had not been seen in the past,” he said. “She actually can make claim to a unique kind of cultural achievement, which is to prepare Americans for the increasingly tangled relationship we were going to have with China for the next 70 or 80 years.”

I Like Likable Characters

Novelist Jennifer Weiner participates in the latest dust-up among women writers:

Quick: What’s the most unforgivable sin a writer can commit in fiction? A writerly crime so awful that major, award-winning novelists are condemning it on the pages of Publishers Weekly and inveighing against it in The New Yorker? If you said lazy plotting, dull language, or cardboard-thin characters, well, shame on you. Currently, the most gauche thing a modern-day writer can do is write protagonist who is—-oh, the horror—-likable.

Why is likable worse than, say, boring, or predictable, or hackneyed or obscure? When did beloved become a bad thing? And, now that likable has become the latest code employed by literary authors to tell their best-selling brethren that their work sucks, is there any hope for the few, the shamed, the creators and consumers of likable female protagonists?

In this piece Weiner takes on both Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs, and Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings.

Apparently Weiner chooses to fight the stereotype that girls should play nice.

Beware of book blurbs

Warning: You can’t judge a book by the blurb on its back cover:

The Washington Post did not review Martin Amis’ latest novel favorably, but the book blurb suggests otherwise

New Research Tools Kick Up Dust in Archives

Read how smartphones and computers have changed the face of archival research.

The pros: Researchers have become more productive and can easily make their findings widely available.

The cons: Use of these tools raise issues of intellectual property protection and deprive institutions of income from document copying.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, March 11th, 2013

“Ghost Stories”: The ubiquitous anti-feminism of young adult romances

In a Guardian article last November, Tanya Gold condemned the Twilight franchise and the paranormal progeny it has spawned, calling them sado-masochistic “disempowerment fantasies” masquerading as fairy tales, normalising abuse in the name of risqué romance. But her argument – though apt – hardly goes far enough. To focus criticism of the now-ubiquitous “YA (Young Adult) paranormal” genre on the relationship between its heroines and their “bad boy” lovers is to ignore the more insidious, perhaps more dangerous message the genre sends to teenage girls: that romantic desirability is the proof of, and the reward for, individual worth.

The author of this piece, Tara Isabella Burton, claims to know whereof she speaks: “I paid my way through university by ghostwriting YA romances for various publishing houses.” Read why she condemns books that suggest that a girl can find fulfillment only by being the object of masculine erotic desire.

4 New Books to Help You Make It Until Spring

Hang on, you can make it until spring. And English professor Gina Barreca explains why these books can help:

  1. Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson (Bloomsbury, 2012)
  2. Kipling and Trix by Mary Hamer (Aurora Metro Books, 2012)
  3. The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee (Ballantine Books, 2013)
  4. Habits of the House by Fay Weldon (Macmillan, 2013)

10 Books That Rewrite History

Novelist Peter Dimock declares:

During the past one hundred years, many novelists, poets, and others, have found themselves trying to puncture the confident grand historical narratives that the nineteenth century delivered to the twentieth and to the twenty-first. [. . . ] Here is a list of 10 works of literature, written or published between the 1927 and 2001, whose authors seem intent upon jolting their readers into radical distrust of the conventional history that they had been given through which to experience their present. The authorial voice controlling each of these novels, in one way or another, speaks in such a way that in surrendering to the book’s spell the reader finds consciousness enlisted, persuaded, seduced—aesthetically tricked—into experiencing emotional and psychological life jaggedly at odds with the conventional historical narratives on offer.

Read why he has chosen these books:

  1. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
  2. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  4. JR by William Gaddis
  5. The Prose of Osip Mandelstam (especially the essay Conversation about Dante)
  6. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R. Delany
  7. The Collected Poems of Elizabeth Bishop (especially Casabianca, Sestina, Over 1,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance)
  8. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  9. The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin
  10. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Monday Miscellany

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Feeling Bookish?

The big book event of the last week was the arrival of Bookish. “We know books,” the site declares. Its announced purpose is to allow readers to search, discover, read, and share information about books. Created by publishing giants Penguin, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, the site will work with USA Today to integrate its content into the paper’s book coverage.

I haven’t had much time to check out the site myself, but others in the publishing world have. Here’s some coverage:

  • Bookish Goes Live: Publishers Weekly’s coverage of the launch.
  • Review of Book Riot’s Jeff O’Neal concludes “Bookish is an attractive online bookstore with an above-average recommendation engine and the promise of compelling supporting editorial content. I think many book buyers will prefer the experience of browsing Bookish to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but I’m not sure that is enough to change readers’ buying habits.”
  • Bookish, New Book Recommendation Website, Gets Mixed Reviews : HuffPost Books aggregates the critical response

Have you registered as a Bookish user? What do you think of the new site?

English literature’s 50 key moments from Marlowe to JK Rowling

In other book-related news, U. K. newspaper The Guardian announced its list of “the hinge points in the evolution of Anglo-American literature.” The list covers the death of Christopher Marlowe (1593) through JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997).

The list concludes:

This catalogue, in conclusion, is highly partisan and impressionistic. It makes no claim to be comprehensive (how could it?). Rather, it aims to stimulate a discussion about the turning-points in the world of books and letters from the King James Bible to the present day.

Over to you.

Read on to see how two writers have picked up the gauntlet.

50 Great Women Writers — how many have you heard of?

Dear Guardian newspaper,

We note that your books editor, Robert McCrum, has published a ‘partisan list’ of 50 turning points in literature, and that comments have remarked on the low numbers of women (7).

To begin redressing the gender balance, here is another list – even more partisan, in that it consists entirely of influential women writers. (McCrum’s original choices are in red.)

Here are those 50 great, pioneering women.


Kathleen Taylor (science writer) & Gillian Wright (senior lecturer in English literature)

Their list covers Julian of Norwich: Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (c. 1393; thought to be the first book written in English by a woman) through Hilary Mantel: Bring up the Bodies (2012; women can win prizes. Even the Booker. Twice.).

There are only seven entries common to both lists, which Taylor and Wright highlight in red.

The Author Himself Was a Cat in the Hat

All over Dr. Seuss’s beloved children’s books, his characters sport distinctive, colorful headwear — unless they are the kinds of creatures that have it sprouting naturally from their heads in tufted, multitiered and majestically flowing formations.

So it’s no surprise that the real Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was a hat lover himself. He collected hundreds of them, plumed, beribboned and spiked, and kept them in a closet hidden behind a bookcase in his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He incorporated them into his personal paintings, his advertising work and his books. He even insisted that guests to his home don the most elaborate ones he could find.

To keep the Seuss brand current, the Dr. Seuss publisher, Random House Children’s Books, has mounted an exhibit that will for the first time display some of his hats in public:

The show, timed to the 75th anniversary of his book “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” will open Monday at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and then travel to 15 other locations over the course of the year.

What really made Mary Ingalls go blind?

Dr. Beth Tarini has finished a project that began 10 years ago, when she was a medical student:

“I was in my pediatric rotation, and we were talking about scarlet fever,” says Tarini. She remembers commenting that scarlet fever can make you go blind. “The professor said, ‘No …,’ and I said, ‘But Mary Ingalls went blind!’ … So I got on a detective mission of sorts.”

Now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Tarini and coauthors have published an article in the journal Pediatrics claiming that not scarlet fever, but viral meningoencephalitis, an inflammatory disease that attacks the brain, caused Mary Ingalls’s blindness.

Besides settling a 10-year score with a med school professor, Tarini says the purpose of the paper is to remind physicians that their perception of a disease is often very different from their patients’ perception. Even today, Tarini says, if she tells parents their child has scarlet fever, they get really worried: “They look aghast! And in my head, I’m thinking, scarlet fever today is no different than strep throat with a rash. But they say, ‘Oh, scarlet fever! That’s deadly!’ And I’m like, it’s the 21st century!’”

Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

Library Journal reports on how libraries are moving to serve the 1.6 million people in federal or state prisons in 2011 (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics):

What is changing is a growing realization that more public, prison, and jail libraries can better identify and serve the often significant needs of inmates or those prisoners who are returning to their communities. Not only are some libraries providing books, they are providing innovative programs and services, helping inmates and returnees to learn about work and employment opportunities, the arts (see sidebar, “Arts on the Inside“), and to develop job-seeking skills.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Why the Best Mysteries Are Written in English

Otto Penzler

Otto Penzler

From the pen of Otto Penzler:

It is an inarguable fact that virtually everything of interest and significance in the history of detective fiction has been written in the English language, mainly by American and English authors.

This is not chauvinistic, racist, insular, or opinionated; it is merely reportage.

Are longer books more important?

From Laura Miller at Salon.

Possible Emily Dickinson Daguerreotype at Amherst College

Amherst College Archives and Special Collections has a copy of a 19th Century daguerreotype that could be the second photograph in existence of Emily Dickinson as an adult.

What books make the best movies?

The movies have been stealing from novels ever since movies began, and for just as long the debate has raged: What books make for the best thefts? Well, the question is tired by now and maybe wrong too, but let’s quickly answer it: easy comic books these days, along with anything scribbled by J.K. Rowling and her ilk – successful commercial writing lends itself to successful commercial pix, since both dance to the same populist beat. That’s simple to figure. Far harder is the enduring, almost touching, efforts of the cinema to adapt accomplished literary fiction, clinging to the faith that a good novel can always be wrangled, not mangled, into a good film.

Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra – review

Henry James’s great, humane masterpiece, The Portrait of a Lady (1881), the story of a young, spirited American woman “affronting her destiny”, is many readers’ favourite of his books. All his critics and biographers put it at the centre of his life and work. It is his turning-point. From being a popular and promising author specialising in Americans in Europe (Daisy Miller, The Europeans, The American), he became an important, renowned figure, acknowledged as a “master” of consciousness, cultural perceptions, humour, subtlety and depth. But Portrait can also be seen as a point of no return. After that came the harsh, unpopular novels of social analysis (The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima), the ill-fated involvement with the theatre, the awkward, darkly complex novels of the 1890s (What Maisie Knew, The Awkward Age), the epic, inward-looking subtleties of the mighty late works, and the financial catastrophe of the New York edition. Isabel Archer starts out full of hope, independence and ambition, and becomes “ground in the mill”, entrapped and disillusioned. James’s life-story could also be read as an ebullient comedy which turns to tragic sadness.

Kalamazoo writer Rachel Swearingen wins prestigious $30,000 award

 Kalamazoo’s Rachel Swearingen is one of six winners of the prestigious Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award.

This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes

From Stanford University comes the latest news in literary neuroscience:

Researchers observe the brain patterns of literary PhD candidates while they’re reading a Jane Austen novel. The fMRI images suggest that literary reading provides “a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.”



Tom Wolfe, Ian McEwan and J. K. Rowling Among Fall Authors –

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Tom Wolfe, Ian McEwan and J. K. Rowling Among Fall Authors –

The list reads like a Who’s Who at an exclusive book party: Junot Díaz, Ian McEwan, J. K. Rowling, Zadie Smith and Tom Wolfe.

All are superstar authors who are releasing hugely anticipated books this fall, colliding in one of the most crowded literary traffic jams in recent memory.

Fall is traditionally the biggest season in the book business, the time that publishers reserve for their most high-profile authors. But this year it is especially crammed with writers who are both household names and have not released a book in several years, like the octogenarian Mr. Wolfe, whose last novel, “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” was published in 2004, and Mr. Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which came out in 2007.


Monday Miscellany

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Nothing Is More Real Than Fiction

Over on BookRiot Greg Zimmerman praises the power of ficiton:

I get really angry when someone says they don’t read fiction because it’s all made up and “not real.” Bullshit! Nothing is more real than fiction. Nothing helps us make sense of the real world more than fiction. Nothing instills in us empathy for others like fiction. As David Foster Wallace said, “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” That’s my favorite quote of all time, because nothing more true has ever been said.

He’s right, you know.

Everything Is Fiction

Writing on The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog, novelist Keith Ridgway takes an approach that’s a bit different from Zimmerman’s (above) but that arrives at a similar conclusion:

And I mean that—everything is fiction. When you tell yourself the story of your life, the story of your day, you edit and rewrite and weave a narrative out of a collection of random experiences and events. Your conversations are fiction. Your friends and loved ones—they are characters you have created. And your arguments with them are like meetings with an editor—please, they beseech you, you beseech them, rewrite me. You have a perception of the way things are, and you impose it on your memory, and in this way you think, in the same way that I think, that you are living something that is describable. When of course, what we actually live, what we actually experience—with our senses and our nerves—is a vast, absurd, beautiful, ridiculous chaos.

So I love hearing from people who have no time for fiction. Who read only biographies and popular science. I love hearing about the death of the novel. I love getting lectures about the triviality of fiction, the triviality of making things up. As if that wasn’t what all of us do, all day long, all life long. Fiction gives us everything. It gives us our memories, our understanding, our insight, our lives. We use it to invent ourselves and others. We use it to feel change and sadness and hope and love and to tell each other about ourselves. And we all, it turns out, know how to do it.

Related Post:

The World’s Top-Earning Authors

James Patterson

James Patterson (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

No surprise here: James Patterson tops Forbes’s list of top-earning authors.

Others on the list include Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and Danielle Steel.

6 Authors Who Never Quit Their Day Jobs

Publishers Weekly reminds us that some writers never quit their day jobs: William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Chris Adrian, Tomas Transtromer, Lewis Carroll, and Herman Melville.

Agatha Christie memorial to be erected

The Guardian reports that a statue of Agatha Christie will be installed in London’s theater district. It will be unveiled on November 25 this year, to mark the 60th anniversary of The Mousetrap.

The Reading Life: Marlowe’s Ghost

Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin describes himself as “dubious” about the recent choice of John Banville to revive Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe. Banville will publish the book as Benjamin Black, the pseudonym under which he publishes his mystery fiction.