Friday Column is on holiday break. Happy New Year.
Julian Barnes on himself in The New Yorker. I ususally don’t like this kind of thing, but Barnes is an exception.
I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him. That’s what I say when the question is put. I once asked my brother, who has taught philosophy at Oxford, Geneva, and the Sorbonne, what he thought of such a statement, without revealing that it was my own. He replied with a single word: “Soppy.”
The person to begin with is my maternal grandmother, Nellie Louisa Scoltock, née Machin, who was a schoolteacher in Shropshire . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The Guardian looks at the effects of big box price wars on independent bookstores.
The problem, independent booksellers claim, is that publishers accord huge discounts to bulk buyers such as Amazon and Tesco, but not to anything like the same degree to smaller outlets. So a two-tier system is created, where independents charge more for many titles – they cannot compete with the aggressive price wars engaged in by the giants, and risk going to the wall. And, as the supermarkets increase their market share – from 9% of the book market in 2004 to 12% in . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The Bad News:
The Siena Research Institute conducted a national survey of 4,125 college freshmen and 215 faculty regarding familiarity with 30 "Great Books" for the third time (after 1997 and 2006) — and finds a continuing decline in what the students have read.
The Good News: the "30 Great Books" were selected by William Bennet.
As the Albany Times-Union blog points out, some of these "books" aren’t exactly books. The complete works fo Shakespeare (including the poems) counts as one book? The Decleration of Independence? (Although, I guess I’m pretty surprised that . . . continue reading, and add your comments
George Walker, anti-Amazon crusader.
A children’s author has drawn attention to the plight of independent bookshops by demanding that his book be removed from sale on Amazon’s UK website.
George Walker, author of Tales from an Airfield, was horrified to find that his new title was featured on the site without his permission, following good sales in bookshops. "What they are actually doing is getting the independents to do their market research," said Mr Walker, a passionate advocate of independents. "When a book gets a certain amount of attention, they will attempt to stock it and . . . continue reading, and add your comments
"Publishing is now very much like opening weekend grosses in the movie business, it’s about exploding out of the box and selling as many copies as quickly as possible," says Roger Cooper, Vanguard’s publisher.
A little context is in order. This is from an article on a small publisher (Vanguard), which has become a repository of big name autors (David Morrell and others) hoping to get market traction.
I think the above quote represents a bad trand in publishing, but I’m heartened to see that
Mr. Morrell says he is involved . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Over at The Valve:
In this post, I grapple with my own search for a successor to a rather embarrassing interest in Tom Robbins, Jack Kerouac, and Henry Miller—somebody who could complement the problematic works of Hermann Hesse. I am also trying to describe an alternative to the modernist tragedians, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. D. Salinger.
I claim to find this alternative, successor, and complement in Thomas Pynchon, because of The Crying of Lot 49. Included here are some close readings of The Crying of Lot 49 that may remind you to open it . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Thomas Bernhard’s work is discussed in The New Yroker.
Like Kafka, one of the writers he most admired, Bernhard composed nearly all his fiction from a single template, a template already evident in “Frost.” His typical protagonist—often loosely based on a real-life model, such as Glenn Gould or Ludwig Wittgenstein—is a genius who is obsessed with an impossible project and is eventually destroyed by the tension between the desire for perfection in his work and the knowledge that it is unattainable. In “Correction” (1975), the scientist Roithamer spends years building a structure in the shape of a geometrically . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Your Holiday Homework, cortesía of The Valve:
Suppose one were to ask the following questions:
• What are the demands made by the novel? (In addition to freedom from tyranny, and the right to innocence, these undoubtedly include passion, exceptionality, and beauty. That is to say that they include what Humbert wants. I am not referring here to the specific symptom of pedophilia.)
• How do Humbert’s crimes satisfy a number of these demands?
• What tools does the novel provide for satisfying these demands differently, without causing harm?
This is the only . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Lucy Ellmann on one of the most racuous books to come out of the 16th century (or any other, for that atter).
François Rabelais couldn’t get enough of arseholes. When the giant Gargantua is born, the midwives can’t tell at first if his mother’s in labour, or merely evacuating her bowels of the 16 tuns, two gallons and two pints of tripe she’s been eating. Another curious meal includes "fine turds, tweak-nose style", "Athenian rump", "shitlets", "collared bullfarts", "stitched bum-stirrings", "dirty-filths", "puffs-up-my-bum" and, for dessert, "shit drench with blossoming turds". Here are some books . . . continue reading, and add your comments