Monday Miscellany

America’s Most Literate Cities, 2011

Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the America’s Most Literate Cities study ranks the largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the United States. This study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

And here are the top ten:

  1. Washington, DC
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Minneapolis, MN
  4. Atlanta, GA
  5. Boston, MA
  6. Pittsburgh, PA
  7. Cincinnati, OH
  8. St. Louis, MO
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Denver, CO

Chicago Tribune introducing new book section as premium paid content

With so many newspapers eliminating book review sections, it’s good to hear of one adding more book coverage. But there is, of course, a catch: a $99/year charge for the premium content.

The literary publication represents an effort by the newspaper to explore the concept of premium paid content as a means to bolster revenue beyond the traditional subscription and advertising model.

“It’s a new approach to content creation and delivery,” said Gerould Kern, senior vice president and editor of the Chicago Tribune. “Audiences want very specialized information, and we are going to give them that.”

The new section “will feature 24 pages of book reviews, author interviews and Chicago-focused literary news, along with a weekly bonus book of short fiction.”

But will readers pay $99 a year for material similar to what they can find online for free?

Guess What’s Next: Literary Predictions for 2012

The Center for Fiction asked a group of publishers, booksellers, literary agents, and book critics what changes in the world of literature they expect to see this year:

Drive-thru bookstores, hybrid forms, fake memoirs, celebration and regret as the cultural gatekeepers lose their keys….Here’s what might be on the horizon

Some of my worst friends are books

They offer consolation, wisdom, company of a kind, but they’re really not interested in you

Writing in the U. K. Guardian, Rick Gekoski looks at the relationship between books and their readers:

It is instructive, and a little alarming, to observe how highly literary people write about the crises in their own lives, and the role that books can play in responding to them. Reading Joan Didion on the sudden death of her husband, or John Sutherland on the collapse of his life through alcoholism, I am struck and surprised, both envious and a little chagrined, by how literary their frame of reference is. In the midst of the crisis, or, what is somewhat different, in the midst of the recollecting and recounting of that crisis, a major reflex is to turn, for consolation and understanding, to favourite and esteemed authors.

Without readers there would be no books, and therefore no writers. “Writers and readers coexist and invent and reinvent each other in some symbiotic way,” Gekoski writes, and in that way we incorporate into ourselves what we learn from books:

one can hardly distinguish a sense of “self” which isn’t composed, in part, of the voices that we have introjected: from parents, teachers, lovers, books. And in times of trouble we consult them all, unwind the threads to reanimate the individual voices, seek consolation. After all, most of our serious literature is about human misery. If you want a happy message buy a greetings card. Happiness is something you feel, for a time; unhappiness is what you write and read about.

Gekoski’s conclusion:

For there to be a conversation – a dialogue – there have to be at least two active participants. That’s company. A book is not company. We engage with it, argue with it, carry it around in our pockets and minds, are haunted by memories of it for years. But it doesn’t argue back, doesn’t engage, never inquires how our day has been, gives only what it wishes. Books are selfish. Everything, every word, is on their terms.

That’s what I like about them.

Well, yes and no. I don’t believe that every word is on the book’s term. Different readers find different meanings in the same books according to their own needs, their own unique blend of temperament and experiences. And an individual may read the same book differently at different times in life, with an understanding shaped by current conditions. What most readers experience is a transactional exchange of knowledge with a book in which the reader and the book continually interact with each other.

I would argue that this type of conversation—of dialogue—goes on between books and their readers all the time.

14 Literary Settings Inspired by Real Places

In Mental Floss Stacy Conradt offers a list of “a handful of “fictional” places you can actually visit”:

  1. Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri
  2. West Egg from The Great Gatsby
  3. Laura Ingalls’s Little House in DeSmet, North Dakota
  4. Holden Caulfield’s New York City
  5. Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon, where Ramona Quimby and her creator, Beverly Cleary, grew up
  6. Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred-Acre Wood
  7. The house of the seven gables in Salem, Massachusetts
  8. H. P. Lovecraft’s The Shunned House in Providence, Rhode Island
  9. Leopold Bloom’s (and James Joyce’s) Dublin
  10. Thoreau’s Walden Pond
  11. Sleepy Hollow, otherwise known as North Tarrytown, New York
  12. Agatha Christie’s Majestic Hotel, actually the Imperial Hotel in in Torquay, England
  13. The Spaniards Inn in London, source of inspiration for John Keats, Bram Stoker, and Charles Dickens
  14. Several possible models for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island