Monday Miscellany

11 Literary Friendships We Can Learn From

Although from a somewhat unorthodox source (, this article presents fascinating information on the following literary friendships:

  1. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  4. Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis
  5. Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus
  6. George Sand and Gustave Flaubert
  7. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau
  8. Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley
  9. Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  10. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  11. Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The sidebar offers links to a few more interesting book lists:

Map of Panem

If you’re in need of a Hunger Games fix while waiting for the movie, check out this marvelous example of extreme geekiness.

Encyclopedia Britannica ends print, goes digital

In yet another sign of the growing dominance of the digital publishing market, the oldest English-language encyclopedia still in print is moving solely into the digital age.

This news definitely marks the end of an era:

The Encyclopedia Britannica, which has been in continuous print since it was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1768, said Tuesday it will end publication of its printed editions and continue with digital versions available online.

When I got my first Real Job after grad school back in the early 1970s, one of the first major purchases I made was the Encyclopedia Britannica, with my educator’s discount.

Back when personal computers began becoming household items, Microsoft approached management at EB and asked to partner with them in producing a digital encyclopedia. EB management scoffed. They were, after all, the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica. So Microsoft went to Funk and Wagnalls, who were smart enough to see the writing on the wall. F & W agreed to partner with Microsoft, and the result was Encarta, the digital encyclopedia that parents have been buying for their children ever since. When EB management finally realized that computerization was happening whether they liked it or not, they produced a “shovelware” version of their encyclopedia, scanned images of their pages shoveled onto discs for use in a computer. But this kind of encyclopedia could not compete with Encarta, which supplemented written articles with video and audio features. It was much more interesting and educational for kids to hear Martin Luther King deliver his “I have a dream” speech than to simply read about it. While sales of their print sets declined, EB desperately continued to try to play catch-up with a web site, on which they tried offering both free and paid content, but by then it was too late. This news is EB’s final capitulation to the computer revolution.

If you want a printed set of Encyclopedia Britannica, you still have time: “The company said it will keep selling print editions until the current stock of around 4000 sets ran out.”

I was able to find the EB app for iPhone on the Apple app store, and apparently there is a different version of the app optimized for the iPad. The iPhone app is free to download, but most content will run you $1.99 a month through an in-app purchase. The article referenced here mentions the availability of an online subscription for “around $70 per year,” but I was unable to find any information about that on the EB web site, . All I could find was a link to sign up for a free trial membership that required a credit card but offered no indication of what the monthly or annual fee would be.

How e-books made reading sexy again

In the U. K. Telegraph author Jojo Moyes laments, “Sales of digital novels are soaring – so why don’t best-seller lists reflect this trend?”

Here’s how she sees the problem:

E-books are skewing the book ratings. As digital sales are not collated anywhere, the true picture of what the British public is reading is becoming increasingly unclear – and hiding a rare success story. Last week, for example, my e-book sales totalled roughly 50 per cent of my paperback sales – 6,000 “invisible” sales on top of 11,500 visible ones. And I am not alone.

And here’s the reason: “while paperback sales are collated by Nielsen Bookscan and published by newspapers, digital sales are known only to the publishers and authors of each book. This is not just a problem for literary types. It has ramifications for what everybody else actually gets to read.”

E-books may be changing the way we read – and even write. I’m not the only women’s commercial fiction author experiencing an upsurge in the number of male readers. Freed from the trauma of publicly reading a book with a “girlie” cover, men are widening their choices. And one told me that his wife now feels free to read thriller writer Lee Child on her e-reader.

But there is hope:

And the situation may finally be changing. Late last year, in the US, where the Kindle’s dominance has been challenged by Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader, retailers finally started sharing e-book data. The Wall Street Journal now publishes weekly combined and e-book charts. Industry insiders say Britain may follow if the Kobo, and Waterstones’ own e-reading device billed for release later this year, prove to be serious competitors.

Searching for the Life of a Salesman

In an earlier post I referred to the New York Times’s online discussion of the current Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. In this article Patrick Healy reports on Hoffman’s preparation for the role:

“I tell you, it’s not the first thing that you want to do when you wake up in the morning,” Mr. Hoffman said of becoming Willy. “You have to find your way there, every morning, to do that. You have to find the reason why, and you have to find the will to do it, and then you do. And then you’re reminded why you do, because you finish and — whether it went well or not — you hope that some people will find it satisfying and memorable.”

Death of a Salesman has always been one of my favorite works of literature, and I am still hoping to see Hoffman in this role some day.

Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany

What delightful news!

A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years. The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.

Von Schönwerth spent decades collecting these stories by “asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been passed on by word of mouth.” And these tales aren’t just for children: “Their main purpose was to help young adults on their path to adulthood, showing them that dangers and challenges can be overcome through virtue, prudence and courage.”

You can read one of these fairytales, The Turnip Princess, through a link at the top of this article.


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