Category Archives: Publishing

Harper Lee Lawyer Offers More Details on Discovery of New Book – NYTimes.com

Harper Lee Lawyer Offers More Details on Discovery of New Book – NYTimes.com.

Last week’s announcement that another novel by Harper Lee, author of the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, had been discovered and would be published in July stirred up a lot of controversy and questions. The recently discovered novel is titled Go Set a Watchman. Lee wrote this novel, set 20 years after the events in Mockingbird, first, but her publisher suggested that she rework the flashback sections into a new novel set at the time of the crucial events and narrated from the perspective of the young girl. That reworking became Mockingbird, narrated by the young Jean Louise “Scout” Finch.

Much of the uproar about news of the new novel involved questions of whether Harper Lee, now 88 years old, reportedly nearly blind and deaf, and living in an assisted-care facility, was mentally competent to participate in the decision to publish the discovered manuscript. Over the years Lee has repeatedly told people that she had said all she had to say in that book and would not be publishing another novel.  The questioning was exacerbated when Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney and the reported discoverer of the old manuscript, refused to answer inquiries or furnish more information.

This article reports that yesterday (Saturday) Carter finally answered questions through text messages and email:

 Answering questions on Saturday through both emails and text messages, Ms. Carter said that Ms. Lee is “extremely hurt and humiliated” at the suggestion that she had been duped.

“She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel,” Ms. Carter said. “Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.”

Much of the concern over the sudden announcement of the discovery of the manuscript was over Carter herself, who has become the gatekeeper over all issues involving Harper Lee, including who is allowed to visit her. Many sources have reported that Carter is really no johnny-come-lately to the scene. She worked at the law firm run by Alice Lee, Harper’s older sister who died last fall, and handled the settlement of Alice Lee’s will. But her initial refusal to provide more information about the discovery and planned publication of Harper Lee’s old manuscript raised questions:

 Asked why she had not provided more detail about the discovery, which might have quelled suspicions, she said: “I am a lawyer, not a celebrity. The focus should be on the gift Harper Lee is giving the world.”

While some acquaintances of Harper Lee remain concerned over possible exploitation, others report that Lee is aware of and supports the publication of the novel that she thought had been lost.

Further:

When Ms. Carter revealed her discovery to Ms. Lee in August, the author was shocked, Ms. Carter recalled. Ms. Lee immediately asked her friend to repeat herself. Ms. Carter reiterated that she had found a novel, calling the book “Go Set the Watchman.” She was swiftly corrected: “It’s ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ ” Ms. Lee said.

Harper Lee to Publish Second Novel

Cover: To Kill a MockingbirdYesterday’s announcement that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, would publish a second novel this July rocked the literary world. Here’s a collection of articles on the significance of the news.

Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Is to Publish a Second Novel

Alexandra Alter reports in the books section of The New York Times that Harper Lee, now 88, “wrote another novel after all — a sequel of sorts to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” featuring an aging Atticus Finch and his grown daughter, Scout.”

This 304-page novel, Go Set a Watchman, takes place 20 years after the events depicted in To Kill a Mockingbird in the same fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. In this follow-up novel an adult Jean Louise Finch, Scout from Mockingbird, returns to visit her father. The novel “tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.”

Lee wrote Watchman first, but her publisher liked the flashbacks featuring the younger Scout and told Lee to rewrite the book as a tale of the events narrated from the point of view of the young girl. The rewritten version became Mockingbird.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told,” Ms. Lee said in a statement released by her publisher.

Reportedly, Harper Lee thought that her original manuscript for Watchman had been destroyed. But last fall her friend and attorney, Tonja Carter, discovered it hidden among Lee’s papers.

Charles J. Shields, the author of a biography of Ms. Lee that was published by Henry Holt in 2006, said he had come across references to “Go Set a Watchman” in Ms. Lee’s early correspondence with her literary agent. “’I figured it was an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.’ ” Mr. Shields said. He also saw references from Ms. Lee’s editor to repeated revisions of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” as she tried telling the story from three different perspectives.

Alter quotes Shields as wondering whether Lee’s original writing in Watchman will hold up against Mockingbird, which was the product of heavy editing.

Literary critics and historians have long wondered why Lee never published another novel. Lee has shunned public appearances for decades, saying that the publicity surrounding her famous novel overwhelmed her and that she had said all she has to say in that novel.

Harper Lee issued a statement expressing her delight at the upcoming publication at the time of the announcement. But many people were surprised by the recent announcement and question whether the author had much say in it. Harper Lee has always been protective of the legacy of her famous novel. She suffered a stroke in 2007 and has been living in an assisted-living facility. Her older sister, Alice Lee, previously acted as her attorney and has handled legal issues involving unlicensed infringements on the novel. Alice Lee died last year.

Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher of Harper, the company that will publish Watchman, says that he never spoke about the deal with Harper Lee directly but communicated with her through Carter, her current attorney, and Andrew Nurnberg, her literary agent. “The statement Ms. Lee provided expressing her delight that the new novel will finally be published was delivered through her lawyer, Mr. Burnham said.”

How Harper Lee’s Long-Lost Sequel Was Found

Russell Berman interviewed Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham about the discovery and publication of Harper Lee’s new novel. This edited version of their discussion appears on The Atlantic’s web site.

When asked about how the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman was found, Burnham replied:

It was found in this safe location near Harper Lee’s home. It was attached to an original copy of the manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s lawyer and friend, Tonja Carter, discovered it, sort of picked up the manuscript and flipped through it and then saw that some of the scenes and characters in the book had no relation to Mockingbird and realized it was actually two different books. This was the first time the manuscript had been found since heaven-knows-when. Harper Lee lost track of it in the ’60s.

Here’s what Burnham said when asked about Harper Lee’s reaction to the discovery of the manuscript she thought had been lost:

She was thrilled. She believed it to have been lost. She was delighted it was found. She’s always been a self-critical writer, so she shared it with some close friends and advisers, and they told her that it was extremely and eminently publishable. So she was thrilled. She’s very much engaged in the process, and she’s happy that it’s coming out. She knows that today’s the announcement date. She won’t be doing publicity for the book. She never has done—well, she hasn’t done any interviews since 1964, so that probably won’t change.

And here’s what Burnham had to say when asked about Harper Lee’s health, including reports that she is now blind and deaf:

Well I can only report that her agent spent a couple of days with her in January down in Alabama and described her to us as feisty and full of good spirits. She’s a fanatical reader. She reads all the time. She just started reading a biography of Queen Victoria by A.N. Wilson—just embarked on. So, no, she’s in fine fettle, by reports.

In answer to the question about how much editing the manuscript needs, Burnham replied that it’s a finished and polished work that will need only light copy editing. “So it’s not going to go through any extensive editorial process,” he added.

Harper Lee’s hometown excited, perplexed by ‘Mockingbird’ sequel

Jay Reeves reports for the Associated Press on the reaction in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, to the announcement of the upcoming publication of a new novel.

In the small Alabama town author Harper Lee made famous with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Southern classic novel can be seen and felt everywhere.

Signs in Monroeville are decorated with mockingbirds. The old courthouse, a model for the movie version of the book, is now a museum that sells souvenirs including coffee cups, aprons and Christmas ornaments. A statue in the town square and a mural decorating the side of a building depict characters who inhabited a fictional version of the town Lee called “Maycomb, Alabama.”

“Monroeville calls itself the “Literary Capital of Alabama,” a designation bestowed by the state Legislature in the late 1990s.” Other literary lights who lived in the city are Truman Capote, most famous for In Cold Blood, and editorialist Cynthia Tucker, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Since the closing of the Vanity Fair mill and outlet nearly 20 years ago, tourism based on To Kill a Mockingbird has been Monroeville’s main source of income.

The nonprofit Monroe County Heritage Museum opens the old courthouse to visitors and features a display about Lee’s life in her own words. Fans can sit in the courtroom balcony depicted in the Academy Award-winning screen version of the book.

Area residents put on a play based on the book each spring, holding the first act of sold-out performances on the courthouse lawn, then taking patrons inside for the climactic courtroom scenes. While visitors are few in shops right now, they’ll return once winter is over.

Harper Lee: The Sadness of a Sequel

In another article on The Atlantic web site, Megan Garber looks closely at the issue of why Harper Lee has now changed her mind about the publication of a second novel:

Harper Lee, née and known to those close to her as Nelle, spent the majority of her life not wanting Go Set a Watchman to be published. Or, at least, she has spent the majority of her life telling the media that she didn’t want Go Set a Watchman to be published.

And this:

Lee once told Oprah Winfrey, over a (private) lunch, why she’d never appear on her show: While people tended to compare her to Scout, she explained, “I’m really Boo.”

Boo is Boo Radley, the Finches’s reclusive neighbor in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Garber speculates on why Harper Lee has now changed her mind:

perhaps Lee, alive but ill, is being treated the way so many deceased authors are: as ideas rather than people, as brands and businesses rather than messy collections of doubts and desires.

Amid ‘Mockingbird’ sequel buzz, worries about Lee’s wishes

Finally, another report by Associated Press writer Jay Reeves raises serious questions about Harper Lee’s competence to participate in the decision to publish her other novel, Go Set a Watchman, after all these years. Reeves reports on two friends of the Lee family who observed Harper Lee at the funeral of her older sister, Alice Lee, last November:

Grieving, ill and seated in a wheelchair, Lee talked loudly to herself at awkward times during the service for her beloved older sister and attorney, Alice, according to two family friends who attended the November service. Lee mumbled in a manner that shocked some in attendance, said one of the friends.

Monday Miscellany

The Feud Between Amazon, Hachette Publishing, and Readers Heats Up

It’s difficult to keep up with all the nuances of this issue. Here are a couple of recent articles:

Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn

Kindle

Maybe Amazon really is rattled by the whole Authors United phenomenon organized by Douglas Preston. The writers are encouraging their readers to email Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive, and tell him to stop holding books hostage as the company negotiates with Hachette Book Group.

Late Friday, Amazon unveiled Readers United, and encouraged e-book buyers to email the chief executive of Hachette, whose address was helpfully provided.

In introducing the group, Amazon made the same arguments it has been making in the last few weeks: e-books need to be cheaper and Hachette is robbing readers by preventing this from happening.

And read how, according to this article, Amazon has misrepresented the views of George Orwell.

Amazon vs. Hachette: Soul searching in techie, bookish Seattle

And here’s the view from Amazon’s own hometown newspaper, The Seattle Times:

In this city famous for its independent bookstores and pungent coffee shops — brick-and-mortar institutions that value touch, taste and long, rainy afternoons — a high-profile conflict about the business of selling e-books has left many readers feeling conflicted.

Their dilemma: balancing an addiction to the convenient and wallet-friendly services of the local Internet giant with their devotion to the local literary culture.


A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

When some think of Persian literature, their minds might immediately turn to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. There’s much more than that, of course, and this online exhibition from the Library of Congress explores over a millennium of Persian printed works. Designed to complement an in situ exhibit, the sections here include The Persian Language, Writing Systems and Scripts, Religion, and Science and Technology. Each section contains a narrative essay, along with examples of illuminated manuscripts and other relevant pieces of historical ephemera. First-time visitors shouldn’t miss The Epic of Shahnameh area. Here, they can learn about this epic poem that recounts the history of pre-Islamic Persia or Iransahr (Greater Iran). All told, it contains 990 chapters with 50,000 rhyming couplets.

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994–2014. https://www.scout.wisc.edu

Val McDermid: Putting the north in Northanger Abbey

Interesting remarks from one of my favorite authors, Val McDermid, on the task of updating Jane Austen’s novel in a modern setting.

J.K. Rowling writes to girl whose family was slain

Harry Potter boxed setA Texas girl who survived a recent attack in which her parents and four siblings were killed has drawn the attention of “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

Rowling’s publicist, Rebecca Salt, confirmed Friday that the British writer sent a letter and package to 15-year-old Cassidy Stay, but she declined to describe their contents, saying it was a private matter. Rowling spokesman Mark Hutchinson also said the gesture “and how it came about are private and between her and Cassidy.”

A sliver of blue sky in a horrific landscape.

New fiction from the big names

my bookshelvesNews on upcoming publication by authors including James Ellroy, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, and Hilary Mantel.

But I’m not ready to make up a fall reading list. I’m still woefully behind on my summer list.

And so it goes…

Monday Miscellany

THE STARS OF THESE YOUNG ADULT BOOKS SWEAR, STRUGGLE, AND GENERALLY ACT LIKE REAL TEENS

Cover: AspenIn the new novel Aspen by Rebekah Crane, the teenage title character is an awkward, artsy kid who gets into a car accident that kills the most popular girl at school. The book traces the bizarre fallout in her Boulder, Colorado, community, as well as Aspen’s relationship with her stoner mom. But unlike the typical after school-special YA fare, the drug part of the tale isn’t entirely cautionary.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the lack of diversity in books for children and young adults. Here’s a look at publisher In This Together Media of Denver, whose mission is “offering more diverse, realistic, unwhitewashed representations of kids, especially girls, in YA and middle-grade literature.”

8 Actors Who Brought Our Favorite Book Characters to Life

The following list is composed of male characters in literature that have been brought to the screen by some of the greatest actors of all time. While this list represents a group of wildly different men — good guys and bad guys, heroes and antiheroes — all of these compelling characters address complicated issues regarding masculinity while taking on the delicate task of transferring a character from the page to celluloid.

See if you agree with the following choices:

  1. Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon
  2. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
  3. Tyler Durden, Fight Club
  4. Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire
  5. Randle “Mac” McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  6. Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind
  7. Sherlock Holmes
  8. Tom Joad, Grapes of Wrath

22 Strong Female Characters In Literature We All Wanted To Be

The editors at BuzzFeed choose the first strong female characters they related to as illustrating Nora Ephron’s directive “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

How Tom Robbins’ childhood turned him into a storyteller

Tom Robbins, the hyperimaginative author of “Another Roadside Attraction,” “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and “Still Life with Woodpecker,” discusses his new memoir, “Tibetan Peach Pie.”

Robbins discusses life’s epiphanies and the influence of his southern childhood.

Journeys into the autistic mind

We’ve hit a turning point in our understanding of autism, but I think it comes from literature, not science. Not to downplay the science: The newest studies on amino acid deficiencies, faulty neurotransmitters, and disruptions in the cortex may shine light on the whys of the disorder. But to find out the whats — what it’s like to be autistic, from the inside — there’s now a critical mass of books written by those on the spectrum. They are extraordinary, moving, and jeweled with epiphanies.

In The Boston Globe, Katharine Whittemore discusses these books:

  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, translated into English by K.A. Yoshida
  • Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin
  • Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by Augusten Burroughs
  • Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism by Ron Suskind
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet

Monday Miscellany

Hunt on to find Cervantes — Spain’s great writer

Cervantes
Cervantes
Source: Wikipedia

Miguel de Cervantes, Spain’s greatest writer, was a soldier of little fortune. He died broke in Madrid, his body riddled with bullets. His burial place was a tiny convent church no larger than the entrance hall of an average house.

No more was heard of the 16th century author until the rediscovery of a novel featuring an eccentric character called Don Quixote rescued him from oblivion.

By then, nobody could remember where his grave was. Four centuries later, Spain intends to do the great man justice.

Diversity, Authenticity, and Literature

Preeti Chhibber, who works in marketing for HarperCollins, writes on BookRiot that “there are inherent racial issues that exist inside publishing a book with multicultural themes written by a person who doesn’t have a historical connection to that culture or race.” For example:

A few weeks ago, the news broke that Simon & Schuster would be publishing a prequel to Gone With the Wind, called Ruth’s Journey. This book is going to be about Mammy. This book is going to be written by a 73-year-old white man named Donald McCraig.

There are, she says, really two issues here: “The first issue is diversity. The second issue is authenticity of voice.”

We want diverse characters written by everyone, and we want enough writers of color that come to mind just as easily as white authors. We have to stop defaulting to white writers, from both the publisher’s and the reader’s perspective. And we have to stop seeing multicultural characters as an anomaly. I want to see those characters in my literary fiction, in my sci-fi, in my historical fiction. And I want stories of their lives and their cultures.

Best sci-fi and fantasy novels of all time

The Telegraph [U.K.] presents the best books from the science fiction and fantasy genres

This is quite a varied list. Since I don’t read a lot of fantasy or science fiction, I was surprised at how many of the books on this list I’ve read.

And be sure to look at the comments, which will suggest many more titles to add to your TBR list.

“Well actually, in the books…” 15 differences from text to TV in Game Of Thrones

No matter what the title under discussion, book lovers almost inevitably say, “The book was better than the movie.”

But visual media—film and television—are very different from books, because our brains process written and visual material differently. Therefore, changes from the book in the film or TV versions are often necessary for a successful adaptation.

Of course there are also times when the film or TV version makes wholesale changes in the book that aren’t necessary for the adaptation between formats. For example, in his film of David Baldacci’s novel Absolute Power, Clint Eastwood changed the whole story line. The reason? Eastwood starred as the lead character, who is killed about midway through the book. This plot change wrecked the whole point of the book. But it’s no surprise that Eastwood would not want the character he portrayed eliminated so early. Hence the change.

I have not read Game of Thrones nor watched the HBO series. Nevertheless, I found this discussion of differences between the books and the TV shows informative. What do you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters who make me rage

Over at Lovely Literature bloggers Ashley and Anne have each compiled a fun list of despicable characters.

Are there any other literary characters you’d add?

Monday Miscellany

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

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

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

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

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.