Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One Million Moms vs. Gay Marriage, by Way of an Archie Comic

A conservative group is pressuring Toys R Us to not shelve the new Archie comic that deals with gay marriage.

From a piece on Media Bistro...

In issue 16 of the Life with Archie series, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character, gets married to his boyfriend. One Million Moms has created a form letter for parents to email to the toy store. You can read the complete letter below…

The letter concludes with this threat: “Please remove all the same-sex ‘Just Married – Archie’ comic books immediately from your shelves. My decision to shop in your stores depends on it.”

Bands Named After Books in Children's Lit

The list, care of the AV Club.

Top Ten Greatest Comic Book Heroes

The list, care of Comic Heroes Magazine.

Harry Potter E-Books Are Coming to Libraries and Schools Near You

Marketwire reports that Harry Potter will finally grace an e-reader soon.

From the piece...

Pottermore, the online experience and home of the Harry Potter eBooks created by J.K. Rowling and partnered by Sony, announced today it has entered into an exclusive worldwide eBook and digital audiobook distribution agreement with OverDrive for public and school libraries. Under the terms of the agreement, OverDrive, a leading global distributor of eBooks and digital audiobooks, will manage hosting and digital fulfillment for libraries for the Harry Potter collection of eBooks and digital audiobooks in English and more than 20 other languages to OverDrive's growing network of over 18,000 public and school libraries worldwide.

Gender Gap Closing on Reading

What Kids Are Reading 2012 report finds children are now reading to the same level of difficulty across genders.

From a story in the Guardian...

After examining the reading habits of over 210,000 primary and secondary school children from 1,237 schools across the UK, the What Kids are Reading 2012 report found that the gap between girls' and boys' reading abilities appears to be closing. "We can no longer claim that boys read at a lower level of difficulty than girls so overall under-achievement must be caused by other factors," wrote the report's author Professor Keith Topping of Dundee University.

Although in some academic years girls are continuing to outperform boys, on balance across years one to 11 the reading gender divide is closing, the report said. Using software to analyse the level of difficulty of books, researchers found that across all years, there were four cases when the difficulty level of books read by boys was greater than girls, three cases where girls' difficulty was greater than boys, and two cases where it was equal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Best Novels on the American West

The list, care of the Browser.

The Belle of Wasilla

Take some of Sarah Palin's emails. Re-envision them as poems. Publish them.

From a piece on the Daily Beast...

Enquiring Minds

Stupidly ridiculous.
They just ran a story last week
“See, we were right!
Bristol does drugs
Via Sherry Johnston”
Or some stupid thing
That the kids saw
On the cover
While shopping
At WalMart.

The Post-Mortem Biography

The funeral's barely over before the tribute books start appearing – expect Whitney Houston's any day now. John Walsh examines an ugly industry in the Independent.

From the article...

Whitney Houston died, early and in squalid conditions, at 3.55pm on Saturday 18 February. She was buried six days later on Thursday 23 February. And the tie-in, or perhaps some might say cash-in, book is due out on 12 March.

The work of one Mark Bego ("author of more than 50 bestselling books on rock'n'roll and showbusiness"), it's being raced through the presses straight into paperback with a first run of 50,000 copies.

Fans of the singer will be pleased to hear that "it cuts through the tabloid gossip... leaving no detail of Whitney's turbulent life – or tragic death – untold". The publishers are trawling the newspapers to sell first serial rights.

Does that strike you as a tad unseemly? Indecently hasty? Remember what Hamlet said about the speed at which his mother married his uncle after his father's death?

Berenstain Bears Co-Creator Dies

R.I.P. Jan Berenstain.

14 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books

The list, from "The Help" to "The World According to Garp," here.

Dr. Livingstone's Lost Diary, I Presume?


From a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer...

A field diary partially written with berry juice on old newsprint, paper scraps, and book margins in the last years of the life of British explorer David Livingstone is legible for the first time in 141 years with the help of modern spectral-imaging technology and the old-fashioned sleuthing of a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Adrian S. Wisnicki, an assistant professor of 19th-century British literature, studies the works of Victorian-era explorers and novelists, including Livingstone, Richard Burton, and Joseph Conrad, based on their travels to Africa and across the British Empire.

Recognizing a big void in Livingstone's history, Wisnicki decided to seek a long-lost 1871 diary that detailed the explorer's whereabouts and experiences during his arduous and final travels in central Africa, when he was out of contact with the Western world for two years. New York Herald newsman Henry M. Stanley finally tracked him down in early November 1871, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, where legend says he greeted him with the famous, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Where the Major Papers Stand on Book Reviewing

It's not all bad!

From a piece on Publisher's Weekly...

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer

The paper overhauled its coverage in 2009, and now book-related content opens broadsheets in Sunday’s Arts section. The book coverage includes six to seven stand-alone reviews, as well as a column from book editor Karen R. Long. There’s a “new in paperback” section, which also focuses on one title, and a themed capsule roundup.

The San Francisco Chronicle

A pullout Books section runs every Sunday featuring six to nine reviews of roughly 750 words each, along with one or two 250-word capsule reviews. In addition to the reviews, there’s a bestseller list; a 10-title recommendation list from local booksellers; a sample of notable first sentences in new releases; and a 100-word item from a famous local person about his/her favorite book.

Scarce Winnie-the-Pooh Drawing Up for Auction

A scarce, original ink and watercolor drawing by Ernest H. Shepard of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, the characters he brought to life in A.A. Milne's classic children's books, 1924-1928, has found its way to market. The drawing, signed and dated February 29, 1932, is a extraordinary example of Shepard illustrating Pooh characters outside the context of the Milne books.

From a piece about the work on Booktryst...

Ernest Howard Shepard (1879-1976) had been a successful illustrator since 1906 when he was introduced to Alan A. Milne in 1923 by Punch staffer, E.V. Lucas; Shepard had contributed to Punch during WWI and joined its staff in 1921.

Milne's initial reaction to Shepard's work was that it was not in a style he felt right to illustrate his work but nonetheless used him to illustrate his collection of poems, When We Were Very Young (1924). Pleased with Shepard's efforts, Milne insisted that Shepard illustrate Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard based his conception of Pooh upon Growler, his son's stuffed bear.

Recognizing Shepard's enormous contribution to Winnie-the-Pooh's success, Milne assigned Shepard a percentage of his royalties.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What Publishers Really Mean In Their Rejection Letters

The Guardian briefly lets us know.

From the piece...

Last week I tweeted the real meaning of phrases that publishers use when rejecting authors under the hashtag #publishingeuphemisms and deciphered glib phrases such as: "this is too literary for our list" (it's boring); "the novel never quite reached the huge potential of its promise" (your pitch letter was better than the book); and "sadly we are publishing a book similar to this next spring" (it too has a beginning, middle and end).

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

Dan Rather's First Big Break

A Brief History of Children's Picture Books

The Atlantic takes us into the world of visual storytelling.

From the piece...

From very early on, we both intuit and learn the language of pictorial representation, and most modern adults, the picturebook was our first dictionary of this visual vocabulary. Yet the picturebook -- defined by its narrative framework of sequential imagery and minimalist text to convey meaning or tell a story, and different from the illustrated book in which pictures play a secondary narrative part, enhancing and decorating the narrative -- is a surprisingly nascent medium.

In Children's Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling, illustrator Martin Salisbury and children's literature scholar Morag Styles trace the fascinating evolution of the picturebook as a storytelling medium and a cultural agent, and peer into the future to see where the medium might be going next, with case studies of seminal works, a survey of artistic techniques, and peeks inside the sketchbooks and creative process of prominent illustrators adding dimension to this thoughtful and visually engrossing journey.

Librarian Superhero Heading to the Silver Screen?


From an article on First Showing...

Walden Media, the company behind the Chronicles of Narnia franchise adaptation, is looking to capitalize on both the supernatural and comic book trend Hollywood loves so damn much now with an adaptation of Rex Libris. Based on James Turner's comic book of the same name, it centers around a quirky librarian with fists of steel who battles zombies and wrestles monsters in order to protect Middleton Public Library from danger. Hunting down late fees from alien warlords and saving customers from falling into alternate realities is all in a day's work for Rex, who is a member of a secret society called Ordo Biblioteca.

The Death of Chick Lit?

Laura Miller poses that question at Salon.

From the article...

These were gothics, a subgenre of romantic suspense, which was (sort of) a subgenre of romance. (Also: The gothic is not to be confused with the venerable literary mode referred to as the Gothic.) Taking their pattern from original works like Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” and Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” the drugstore paperback gothics were highly formulaic tales of shy young women who came to work in stately manors full of strange doings and ominous secrets. These novels were once a mainstay of the pulp market, and publishers churned them out. (The Marxist critic Raymond Williams was said to be very fond of them.)

You can still find battered old gothics in junk shops and used bookstores, but as an instantly identifiable genre they’re no longer being published. Other expired genres, one-time staples of train-station book stalls and corner newsstands, include the exotic adventure yarn (perfected by writers like H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs) and the inspirational rags-to-riches bildungsroman now identified exclusively with Horatio Alger. Other genres, like the western, are still being published, but just barely.

What kills a genre isn’t always clear. Supposedly, the readership for the western turned to urban crime fiction sometime in the 1970s. Why? Were they simply tired of cowboys and gunslingers, or had the myth of the Old West been too thoroughly undermined by counterculture critics and Native American activists? Other genres, like a certain flavor of softcore fictional titillation epitomized by the stewardess “memoir” “Coffee, Tea or Me?” — naughty, but not quite explicit enough to qualify as “adult books” — were made superfluous by the increased availability of straightforward porn.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nine Best Novels about Movies

The list, care of the Huffington Post.

What's Inside the Academy Awards Green Room Library?

Find out, here.

Poetry FAQ

Literary humor, care of McSweeney's.

From the piece...

Why do people go to poetry readings?

Some go to get signed copies of books that may one day be worth something on eBay. Some go because it makes them look arty and deep. But most use poetry readings as a gentle, non-addictive sleep aid.

Celebrating the Oddest Book Titles of the Year


The Weird History of Wonder Woman in Movies, TV, and Beyond

io9 gives us a wonderful history lesson of Wonder Woman on the big and small screen.

From the piece...

The 1950s

Wonder Woman first appeared in comics in 1941, and there were attempts as early as the 1950s to get Hollywood to create a live-action Wonder Woman serial, according to The Superhero Book by Gina Renée Misiroglu. But the tide was probably against Diana Prince — in the 1950s, anti-comic crusader Fredric Wertham accused Wonder Woman of being a lesbian with a "a sadistic hatred of all men." Plus people sort of noticed how full of weirdly sexy bondage her comics were in the early days, something creator William Moulton Marston admitted to openly.

Also, after World War II, Wonder Woman was retooled in the comics to make her less of a war hero and more of a traditional woman — she worked as a fashion model, movie star, and a "lonely hearts" columnist in the newspaper, according to the book Female Action Heroes by Gladys L. Knight. She spent more time on romance, and less time fighting bad guys — and at one point, she actually married a monster. So Hollywood producers may well have looked at the 1950s comics and seen less potential for a live-action adaptation — until the popularity of Emma Peel and other similar heroines changed their minds in the 1960s.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Inside Disney's Archives

Ten Best Slacker Books

The list, care of Flavorwire.

Spider-Man's Monster Appeal

It’s the 50th anniversary of Marvel’s greatest icon. Neal Adams, one of the most influential comic-book artists of the modern era and one of the industry’s leading voices for artists’ rights, discusses the character's enduring appeal in the Los Angeles Times.

From the piece...

Spider-Man is the epitome of the difference between DC Comics and that eruption of creation that became Marvel Comics. It’s a difference that has been clouded by time.

Comics historians (of which there are too many – don’t ruin comics, comic historians, remember what happened to jazz and rock ‘n’ roll) will remember Jerry and Joe’s Superman was intended to be a bad guy. At first, that is. Then before he appeared, he became a good guy. That was the beginning of superhero comics; a guy gets super powers and “decides to help mankind” — for no apparent reason.

And so with Superman the concept of superhero was born and flourished … until the dark ages of comics showed up with the fanatical attacks of Fredric Wertham and Congress. Comics nearly shut down, except for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, a bevy of new sparkle-toothed-born do-gooders. Not one bad thought existed in the minds of these heroes, whose books shared the spinner-rack with DC’s Pat Boone comics (yes, I said Pat Boone comics) and Jerry Lewis.

As Your Name - Get Rejected. Change Your Name - Get Published!

A dozen plus rejections later a woman uses a pen name and sells the novel just a couple days later.

From an article in the New York Times...

A cascade of painful rejections began. Ms. O’Brien’s longtime editor at Simon & Schuster passed on it, saying that her previous novel, “Harriet and Isabella,” hadn’t sold well enough.

One by one, 12 more publishing houses saw the novel. They all said no.

Just when Ms. O’Brien began to fear that “The Dressmaker” would be relegated to a bottom desk drawer like so many rejected novels, Ms. Newberg came up with a different proposal: Try to sell it under a pen name.

Written by Kate Alcott, the pseudonym Ms. O’Brien dreamed up, it sold in three days.

Ms. O’Brien and Ms. Newberg had cannily circumvented what many authors see as a modern publishing scourge — Nielsen BookScan, the subscription service that tracks book sales and is at the fingertips of every agent, editor and publisher — with a centuries-old trick, the nom de plume. It has been employed by writers from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) to Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) to Stephen King (Richard Bachman).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Harry Potter Author's Next Book Will Be for Adults

More from the Los Angeles Times, here.

For Sale

John Steinbeck's will.

For Sale

Ernest Hemingway's childhood home.

The Conjuring Arts Resource Center

Cool Hunting Video: The Conjuring Arts Research Center from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

The International Legacy of Homer

He's still going strong and he's been dead for a little while now.

From an article in the London Review of Books...

At the beginning of January, in the bookshop of Terminal 2 at San Francisco airport, I looked for a translation of the Iliad – not that I really expected to find one. But there were ten: one succinct W.H.D. Rouse prose translation and one Robert Graves, in prose and song, both in paperback; two blank verse Robert Fagles in solid covers; one rhythmic Richmond Lattimore with a lengthy new introduction;[*] and three hardback copies of the new Stephen Mitchell translation, with refulgent golden shields on the cover and several endorsements on the back, of which the most arresting is by Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget: ‘The poetry rocks and has a macho cast to it, like rap music.’

There was also one translation of the Odyssey, by Fagles again. It was ever thus: for all its well-remembered adventures and faster pace, the Odyssey has always been outsold – out of 590 Homer papyrus fragments recovered in Egypt at the last count, 454 preserve bits of the Iliad. The ready explanation – that ancient schoolmasters preferred the Iliad because the other Homer is just too much fun – is no doubt true but doesn’t explain why the Iliad has been preferred outside the schoolroom as well, from antiquity and the Byzantine millennium to the Terminal 2 bookshop.

Why are our contemporaries so keen on buying and presumably reading the Iliad’s Iron Age reminiscence of Bronze Age combat? Publishers certainly view it as a paying proposition: at least twenty new English-language translations have been published since 1950, not counting ones from private presses.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Two Million Dollar Comic Book Collection

An amazing array of comic books hit the auction blocks.

From a piece on Yahoo News...

The collection includes an Action Comics No. 1, from 1938, which features the first appearance of Superman and is expected to sell for about $325,000. A Detective Comics No. 27, from 1939, features the first appearance of Batman and is expected to get about $475,000. A Captain America No. 2, from 1941, in which the hero bursts in on Adolf Hitler is expected to bring in about $100,000.

"The scope of this collection is, from a historian's perspective, dizzying," said J.C. Vaughn, associate publisher of Overstreet.

Most comics from the golden age — the late 1930s into the 1950s — fell victim to wartime paper drives, normal wear and tear and mothers throwing them out, said Vaughn. Of the 200,000 copies of Action Comics No. 1 produced, about 130,000 were sold and the about 70,000 that didn't sell were pulped. Today, experts believe only about 100 copies are left in the world, he said.

The collection up for auction was discovered last year by a man cleaning out his late great aunt's house in Martinsville, Va., following her death. When Michael Rorrer opened up a basement closet, he found the neatly stacked comics that had belonged to his late great uncle Billy Wright, who died in 1994 at age 66.
Experts say the comics are significant not only for the number of rare books, but also because they were kept in such good condition and because they were kept for all of these years by a man who bought them as a boy.

UPDATE: Scratch that. Make it the $3.5 million dollar collection.

Maya Angelou Punks Stephen King

Haruki Murakami: In Search of the Elusive Writer

Jefferson's Secret Bible

Reading the Future

Far from killing off the physical page, the rise of ebooks has enhanced our understanding of the written word and the people around it, says Gaby Wood in the Telegraph.

From the article...

Recent news that sales of printed books have plummeted in almost all markets across the world, while in the UK sales of ebooks have soared, comes on the heels of Jonathan Franzen’s alarming pronouncement at the Hay Festival Cartagena that ebooks are damaging society. But in the United States, sales of digital books have slowed. To anyone trying to read the runes of this fairly new market, it seems like a case of hearing the bad news before the bad news: either printed books are dead, or no one is reading at all.

I don’t think either of those things is true. Reading has always been extremely personal – people are fast or slow, immersive, digressive or meticulous, they like dog-eared paperbacks or first editions. There is no end to the range of preferences, and in many ways the digital revolution has merely added to a repertoire that has existed since the practice began. My objection to Franzen’s comment is that there is very little point in lumping all digital forms of reading together. Now that we’re a little way in to the phenomenon, it should be possible to give up the basic Luddite-versus-technophile argument, and see that while some innovations are truly groundbreaking, others are simply not good enough.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ann Patchett on The Colbert Report

The Biggest Dick and Jane Book In the World

20 Beautiful Private and Personal Libraries

The list, care of Flavorwire.

World Press Photo Contest Winners

Amazing images, here.

The Tactile Pleasure of Book Shopping

Author Lewis Buzbee talks with Jim Fleming about book shopping and why people still love going to the bookshop, despite the convenience of on-line shopping, here.

What are the Boundaries of Literary Non-Fiction?

Author John D'Agata and fact-checker Jim Fingal discuss it, here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

George Washington - Book Stealer

Our first president failed to return two volumes borrowed in 1789 from New York Society Library. Fines owed? $300,000.

From a piece in the Guardian...

The library's ledgers show that Washington took out the books on 5 October 1789, some five months into his presidency at a time when New York was still the capital. They were an essay on international affairs called Law of Nations and the twelfth volume of a 14-volume collection of debates from the English House of Commons.

The ledger simply referred to the borrower as "President" in quill pen, and had no return date.

Sure enough, when the librarians checked their holdings they found all 14 volumes of the Commons debates bar volume 12.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Her Creative Process

Why Modern Novelists Need to Watch Their Weight

Some great books have no more than 200 pages, so why do we now think that big is best?

From an essay in the Guardian...

In the minds of many readers, Henry James is associated with orotund monsters such as The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl. Actually, the master's masterpiece, to which generations of readers are drawn like iron filings, is The Turn of the Screw, which is just 128 pages short.

James's brilliant near-contemporary, Robert Louis Stevenson, defied the gravity of the age with a sequence of short classics, notably Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island. Stevenson used to say that "the only art is to omit". Tell that to Messrs Harkaway, Miller and Wood.

The more you look for brevity, the more you find it flourishing in the shadow of fiction's spreading oaks. Herman Melville is now celebrated for that archetypal long novel, the baggy Moby-Dick, his American masterpiece. But Melville is also the author of Bartleby the Scrivener, well under 100 pages, an existential thriller.

Learning to Love Airport Lit

The New York Times has a story about reading on airplanes and airports.

From the piece...

I must credit George R. R. Martin with a salutary breakthrough in my reading habits, but I might just as easily credit (or blame) Sara Paretsky, or Patricia Cornwell, or P. D. James, or Sue Grafton, or Faye Kellerman, or John Mortimer. I’m just beginning to mainline the addictive Ruth Rendell.

This breakthrough came after years of piling up back issues of sobering magazines, hoarding clips on topics like “The Trouble in Galicia” or “Economic Peril Sets In” to read on the plane. After years of buying paperbacks of world classics, meaning to reacquaint myself with the stuff of college classes. After years of being tethered to my middle seat too near the lav, struggling distractedly through great prose, tough reporting, clear-minded thinking, biting analysis — and understanding nothing.

Instead of reading, I used to worry about how long a delay was going to last; fret over the awfulness of the dried-out sandwich that was meant to be dinner; gently shove back the head of a slumped stranger snoring on my shoulder; feel a miasma of germs settle around my head and travel up my nose, down my throat, into my eyes; imagine the incipient thrombosis that would clog my heart, just because I was too timid to ask two grumpy people to get up once again so I could walk down the aisle.

And then I finally found the literature that stands up to the tests of travel. The secret, dear reader, lies in narrative drive.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cher...the Comic Book

Steve Martin Talks Twitter

Utah Judge is Throwing the Book at the Guilty

The book being Les Miserables, of course.

From a story in the Wausau Daily Herald...

Love, charity and compassion — hardly what one expects to find in a criminal courtroom of the 21st century. But some convicted defendants are gleaning lessons from the character in a 19th century novel when they're sentenced by a Cache County judge.

In "Les Miserables," penned by Victor Hugo in 1862, Monsignor Beinvenue was Bishop of Digne, a small community in France. He was a man of service and charity.

Beinvenue was once in a position to condemn a convicted felon to more time in prison after the man, Jean Valjean, stole from him. Instead, Beinvenue intervened and not only cleared Valjean of wrongdoing, but gave him the ability to climb out of a life of poverty.

From this act of kindness, Valjean came to realize the importance of a life given in service to others.

"It is beautiful, wonderful literature," said Judge Thomas Willmore of 1st District Court in Logan.

On a few occasions, Willmore said he has ordered defendants to read "Les Miserables" and write him a book report about the story. It isn't meant as a form of punishment, but rather a tool to help people think through their lives, he says.

Coming to Terms

Jon Baskin, in the Point, has a lengthy essay on the friendship of Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace.

From said essay...

Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace, the two most important American writers of their era, both grew up in the Midwest. Franzen describes his childhood in Webster Groves, Missouri as having unfolded “in the middle of the middle [where] there was nothing but family and house and neighborhood and church and school and work.” Wallace, whose parents were both professors, spent his youth in Philo, Illinois, a “tiny collection of corn silos and war-era Levittown homes whose native residents did little but sell crop insurance and nitrogen fertilizer and herbicide and collect property taxes from the young academics at nearby Champagne-Urbana’s university.” Both fall in a tradition of authors (Dreiser, Hemingway, Brodkey) whose provincial, middle-American backgrounds seemingly failed to prepare them for the shock of modern life—or, perhaps, prepared them to meet that shock with precisely the sideways sensitivity of artists. Separated by one year in age, they wrote about similar subjects and dealt with related issues of technology, audience and the ambiguous literary heritage of postmodernism. They were united in believing that responsible fiction ought still to speak to the “desperate questions” of existence, and that the novel, if it did so, could remain vibrant and even vital in the age of mass entertainment and McDonald’s.

Yet they were radically different writers, in many ways as profoundly unalike as two contemporaries treating similar subject matter could be. Most often, their difference has been accounted for in terms of style, or with reference to their divergent attitudes toward “realism.” Despite an early flirtation with postmodern plotting, Franzen is considered to be a conventional realist, perhaps the paragon present-day producer of what Benjamin Kunkel has called the perennial novel, blending dialogue, psychological insight and third-person narration in “proportions that now seem classical.” Wallace, meanwhile, has been named by Zadie Smith as one of the “avant-garde challengers to realism”—those perennial antagonists of the perennial novel. His digressions, “spiraling narrative loops,” and footnotes-within-footnotes have led him to be counted in the modernist or postmodernist camp, the latest in a line of writers known for defining themselves against the pieties of traditional style. In a recent review of an experimental European writer, James Wood said Wallace was among those “at odds with a merely grammatical realism, whereby the real is made to fall into approved units and packets.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sh#t Book Reviewers Say

The Covers of the Paris Review


Martin Amis' Video Game Book?


From a piece in the Millions...

Like most Amis fanciers, I had heard of the existence of this video game book –- the full title of which is Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict’s Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines –- but knew very little about it. What I did know was that he dashed it off at some point during the time he was writing Money, one of the great British novels of the 1980s, and that it has long been out of print (a copy in good nick will cost you about $150 from Amazon). And I knew, most of all, that Amis was reluctant to talk about it or even acknowledge it. Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian once suggested to him (facetiously, surely) that it was among the best things he’d ever written, and that it was a mistake to have allowed it to go out of print. “The expression on his face,” wrote Lezard, “with perhaps more pity in it than contempt, remains with me uncomfortably.”

Invasion of the Space Invaders, then, is the madwoman in the attic of Amis’ house of nonfiction; many have heard rumors of its shameful presence, but few have seen it with their own eyes. I recently discovered a copy in the library of the university where I work, and I don’t think the librarian knew quite what to make of my obvious excitement at this coup. (“Wow,” I said, giving a low, respectful whistle as she handed it across the counter. “Would you look at that?”) It’s a deeply strange artifact: an A4-sized, full color glossy affair, abundantly illustrated with captioned photographs, screen shots, and lavish illustrations of exploding space ships and lunar landscapes. It boasts a perfunctory introduction by Steven Spielberg (“read this book and learn from young Martin’s horrific odyssey round the world’s arcades before you too become a video-junkie”), complete with full-page portrait of the Hollywood Boy Wonder leaning awkwardly against an arcade machine like some sort of geeky, high-waisted Fonz. We’re not even into the text proper, and already its cup runneth over with 100-proof WTF.

100 Greatest Books for Kids

The list, care of Scholastic.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Librarians on Parade

A Publisher's Menagerie

Publishing Trendsetter reveals the history of book publisher logos.

From the piece...

Penguin’s founder, Allen Lane, wanted a “dignified but flippant” name for his new series, suggesting an animal or a bird. His secretary, Joan Coles, came up with the idea of a Penguin. Edward Young of the Production Department went off to the London Zoo to sketch the new symbol.

A Magazine Complete with...Art Condoms?


The New York Public Library Roars Again

The New York Times is reporting that the NYPL is ready for a makeover.

From the article...

The New York Public Library on Wednesday rekindled its ambitious $1 billion plan to overhaul its branches and renovate its Fifth Avenue flagship.

The plan, which will now involve selling two of the system’s best-known libraries — the Mid-Manhattan branch and the Science, Industry and Business Library — was announced in 2008, when it was expected to be substantially completed by 2014. But the plan languished because of the economic downturn and changes in the library’s leadership.

On Wednesday, though, the board gave the British architect Norman Foster approval to proceed with the next stage of designing a new circulating library inside the main branch to replace the Mid-Manhattan operation. It would be built below the Rose Reading Room, overlooking Bryant Park.

The board also approved a pilot program to expand educational programming at branch libraries.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter

Edward Elgar Manuscript Found

The BBC reports of a score found that's been lost for 90 years.

From the piece...

The piece had been commissioned to accompany the opening of a bell tower in the town's Queen's Park in 1923.

Letters from the composer and a film reel, believed to be of the tower being opened, were also found.

Officers had been clearing out old files when they found a dusty unmarked folder containing the handwritten manuscript.

Titled Carillon Chimes, notes reveal the short piece had been prepared for the opening of the Carillon Tower in Queen's Park.