**Interesting Articles -- January/February
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Happy New Years everyone!
For those new to Club Read this is the place to post articles about books, authors, or reading in general that you think might be of interest. I'll try to remember to post an article from time to time to keep this thread active.
Books That Are Never Done Being Written: Digital text is ushering in an era of perpetual revision and updating, for better and for worse By Nicholas Carr
The ability to change text once the book is written can open a whole new realm of possibility to reader/author relationship or be dangerous in the hands of those that want to censor our worldviews.
Just to play devil's advocate here, one upside to the ability to continuously change digital books is that textbooks can be updated much more easily. Which of course, I'm sure, makes textbook publishers unhappy because they can't repeatedly charge obscene amounts of money for a slightly different bio book to legions of undergrads!
However, I could also foresee a 1984-like situation where books are continually revised to indicate that we've always been at war with oceania or whatever.
And you probably won't be way off. I lived through a change like that (the big changes in Eastern Europe in the late 80s and the early 90s). The textbooks published in 2 years from each other had been interpreting the same events in a different way -- a yoke turned into occupation, a liberation turned into occupation, the yesterday's friends were now called enemies of the State. I don't even want to think how this will be when it can be instant...
>3 fannyprice: Then there's school boards the one in Texas (not the only state, but recent one) that would be more than happy to simply remove the sections of history and science they don't like.
>4 AnnieMod:, that's fascinating, AnnieMod. I've long been intrigued by how countries teach their own history after a traumatic event or choose not to deal with elements of their past.
It depends on the country. Bulgaria generally screwed it up. Badly. :)
When I started school, all history books were talking about our best friends the Russians and how bad the Western world is - and all the history was interpreted based on that. Although by the time I started studying them, it was a lot more moderate position that it used to be - so there were things that the West had done properly.
Changes came, it was not fashionable to think of the Russians as friends. So... things changed. Abruptly. Nothing done by the Russians was right anymore. And anything done by the Western world was. Anything built after 1945 was destroyed in the first few years of democracy -- anyone was trying to claim that they were not part of the old rule... and trying to erase the history. The history books were rewritten, all the progress done in finding the middle ground had been forgotten and we shifted all the way to the other end.
Thankfully, the country has enough of history... so one could ignore the second part of the 20th century and the interpretation of the previous century or so (and my history teacher chose to do exactly this - plain facts; leaving the interpretation to us).
And then came the absurds (not that the whole black painting of Russia was not... but a few other things managed to make it look like children game):
You might want to look up the Ottoman Yoke - called Turkish Yoke in Bulgaria (basically Bulgaria did not exist from 1396 to 1878 - it was integrated in the Ottoman Empire - and was not exactly not trying to get out). The fact that we emerged with our religion and language at the end is one of the main prides of nation... and everyone that died for that is celebrated as a hero. In the early 90s someone decided that Turkey will be offended if we call it a yoke... so a string of textbooks called it an occupation (actually this is not the correct word in English - the Bulgarian term they created is best translated as "presense" - as the opposite of absence. A decade or so later, they reverted this (at least the historians that are not following a political agenda) but a whole generation grew up studying these books.
Cait, thanks for posting that link. I haven't read the whole article yet, but I'm excited about Toni Morrison's new book and Hilary Mantel's. I was also excited to see that Behind the Beautiful Forevers is getting good reviews since I received it as an ER book and haven't read it yet. New books, new books, new books!!!
An obituary for Josef Skvorecky, the prolific Czech-Canadian author and an interesting profile of author (among other things) Stephen Colbert.
Annie - thanks for all your interesting comments re: the revision of history.
“While you’re typing a CAPTCHA, not only are you authenticating yourself as a human, but in addition you’re also helping us to digitize books” … or maybe learning a foreign language while translating the web.
This TED talk shows how CAPTCHA developer Luis von Ahn repurposed wasted effort into the useful projects of ReCAPTCHA and Duolingo. Fascinating and very funny.
I read that review yesterday. The Last Holiday will likely be my first book purchase of 2012, as I've been a fan of GSH for years.
18 The Last Holiday will likely be my first book purchase of 2012,
I knew you couldn't last too long . . .
eleven days without buying a book is fairly impressive. (it's not easy to do irony on a blog)
>19 rebeccanyc: My book buying urges have been sated by the 11 books I bought at the Strand on Boxing Day, the five books I received for Christmas from my best friends (all from my Amazon wish list), the two LT Early Reviewers books I've received in the past week, the 10 books I ordered from the Strand's web site (which came today) and Alibris, and the copy of Walkabout I received from NYRB Classics as part of my NYRB Book Club subscription. By my count that's 29 books in less than a month. I still haven't spent a penny on a book in 2012, as all the books I purchased (and the NYRB subscription) occurred before January 1.
> 21 haha! By all accounts, this is going to be a collosal challenge for you!
An interesting (and perhaps edifying) take on the portayal of women on Fantasy book covers: Striking a Pose.
Very funny article, akeela. Maybe that's how you know they have super or magical powers: they can get into those poses.
Do you write in your books? - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/jan/12/on-margins-marginalia-robe...
How much does the audience get to know? - http://www.phoebejournal.com/?p=1952 (I know, that one is from November but had not seen it before...)
An article on some obvious trends based on USA Today's best seller lists throughout 2011: 2011 trends
>26 AnnieMod: I read a lot of nonfiction for the express purpose of studying something of interest and when I'm in that autodidact, "studying" mindset--underlining, highlighting, and written notes in the book often result. I'm less inclined to mark-up my fiction, but I'm not opposed to it if I know the book is easily and cheaply replaced. I never write in old books though - they feel too much like pieces of history or treasures that shouldn't be defaced.
>22 akeela: That has a long history in the art world beginning with the classic "S" pose for Madonnas in Medieval art. Try twisting yourself into one of those!
Article on Literary Awards and Gender in the past 20 years from current issue of Belletrista. And, hot dog, it's got bar charts!
5 way to revolutionize the book business (yeah, all of them are numbered 1 - formatting issues)
I found myself nodding 'yes' on the first 3 (especially #1 (subscribe to authors)). Nothing really new as ideas in the article but had not seen them listed for a while.
The 4 biggest missed opportunities in fiction - although it should have been called "The 4 biggest missing opportunities in comics and the film Star Wars". Just one of those silly articles that make you smile if you had read/watched the works....
An author view on negative reviews (with links to other views... and reviews): Why Negative reviews are Good
Deals with SF/F mainly but can easily me seen into the wider world (not the big authors that do not care of course).
Clever advertisements for the Milwaukee Public Library.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch on bestsellers, statistics, publishing and what's not http://kriswrites.com/2012/01/18/the-business-rusch-bestseller-lists-and-other-t...
Pretty informative and interesting.
This article on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's reading habits was interesting for a couple reasons - the fact that he read a novel was newsworthy.
One former colleague, informed that the mayor had admitted to reading a novel, responded in shock: “That’s not the Mike Bloomberg I know.”
Not only was it newsworthy, but apparently Harold Bloom had to be contacted for comment.
DieFledermaus >37 DieFledermaus:,
Dangerous activity, reading novels. Can't have the leaders doing that, they might get ideas.
#37 The Times also started a way for people to recommend books to the mayor. Some people took it a little too seriously, but some are quite funny.
Here's an article from the NY Times about how publishers need bookstores to stay in business. It focuses mainly on Barnes and Noble. I don't know about you, but my local B&N has turned into predominantly a toy store. Nice toys, but still.
Prime Minister Putin plans to develop a "Russian Canon" of 100 books every student must read before graduating.
The reactions to this are interesting. Even though the list doesn't exist yet, one critic has called it "nakedly Soviet in its desire to manipulate the human intellect into docility." But how many students in the world, I wonder, read even 10 books before graduating, much less 100.
When I was in Russia on vacation a few years ago I asked a couple of tour guides what works of Russian literature were required reading when they were in school (which would have been the 1990s). As I recall they mentioned only some of Pushkin's poetry and War and Peace, which they hated because of its length.
>41 japaul22:: Hmm. Possibly it says something about me that what I want to take away from that article is, "Spending more money at Barnes & Noble is not only entirely justified, it's my moral duty!" Sigh. My name is Betty, and I'm a bookoholic.
The toy store thing does have me a little worried, though. A year ago, I went into my local B&N and thought, "Oh, look, they've got a nice little section of educational toys over here with the children's books! That's kind of cool." A few months ago, I stepped in, stopped dead, and stood there trying to process the fact that the toys and games had now taken over a good-sized chunk of the floor space. As you say, they were nice toys and games, but since they hadn't added any space to the store, well... It's not a good sign for those of us who appreciate a large book selection. I'm really hoping this trend doesn't go any further.
>42 StevenTX: But how many students in the world, I wonder, read even 10 books before graduating, much less 100.
More than you would think - mandatory summer lists and school year mandatory lists were something that was pretty heavily enforced when I was in school (90s). They had loosen a bit the rules since and I suspect that Putin's idea is in the vein of getting back to actually asking students to read the classics of the language so they can understand the culture and history a bit better (I was not in Russia but before the Americanization of our education, we had similar systems with them). Not that the system made readers out of most people or that everyone read all the books. But a lot more books were read than would have been if everyone was left alone.
As for Putin's idea... there are books that must be read which someone would not pick up on their own. And there are a lot of books that students won't read simply because they don't have vampires or whatever the craze happens to be that day.
#44 - A couple of years ago in a small online reading group with international membership, I asked everyone what books were required reading when they were in school. More than half of the members said they weren't required to read any complete books, just a few short stories and poems. When I was in school here in the U.S. in the 1950-60s we didn't have any summer reading assignments, but we read fairly heavily during the school year--perhaps 25 novels altogether in high school plus a number of plays and memoirs.
I follow my grandchildren's reading fairly closely, and while they are required to do a lot of reading, it is largely of books of their own choosing and consequently lighter than the mandated works I was reading at the same age.
What would seem to be a concern about Putin's list is not that he mandates 100 books, but that they are all Russian, leaving little room for exploring the literature of other countries. Yet, from what I recall, my public school reading was likewise almost entirely of works written in English. We alternated a year of American literature with a year of English literature, but never read anything in translation except for my senior year when we read some Greek and Roman classics.
41 & 43) toys? I regularly visit two B&N's nearish me. One in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn. Other than the ever expanding section devoted to variations of the e-reader, I have not noticed any toys. One seems over packed with shelves and people sitting on the ground reading (Brooklyn), other has more leg room, and few sitting on ground (the Manhattan one actually has chairs).
Brooklyn BN has separate children area, which probably has toys. That section has not expanded since I've been here. Other than one or two mini displays near the checkout, Brooklyn (Court Street) has no films or music for sale. Manhattan (Battery Park) has large music, film section. Large young adult/children's section but it is not separate. I do not recall seeing any toys in that section.
I am alarmed, though, by how much square footage keeps getting added to their e-readers. The nonfiction section in the Brooklyn B&N seems to have been almost devoured by the many display stands for the e-reader/tablets.
>47 MikeBriggs: Our local B&N recently redid it's floor plan. It has a large kid's section that spans the whole back of the store. On the far right side is the coffee shop, about 1/6 of the store. Between the entrance and coffee shop is a large nook display. The toy section (separate from the kid's section in the back is easily a third of the remaining store. Yes, when you do the math that doesn't leave much room for books, especially considering all of the bargain display tables they have. As a mom, I do like having the toy section since they carry toys that are hard to find anywhere but on line so if I need to pick up something for a birthday party, it's now the place I go. BUT, I would much prefer a separate option for toys that didn't crowd out the books in the most convenient bookstore near my house.
Gender bias found for books reviewed on NPR
Also, someone in the article compares authors to - uh - porn stars.
Is epublishing the next bubble?
You have to listen to this "article," and yes, it's a topic we've all heard before, but I found it interesting and I think others here will too.
Buying books at an independent bookstore vs. online, on CBC Q with the ever-charming Jian Ghomeshi: http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Radio/1447825254/ID=2191729029
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. The gorgeous and talented Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html#.T...
What are people reading on their Kindle? - Ebook Sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction.
More thoughts on the visual stereotyping of female heroines/main characters in fantasy fiction: http://fantasy-faction.com/2011/fantasy-gender-stereotypes
Very interesting reasonably recent article by Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid's Tale: "Haunted by The Handmaid's Tale" http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/20/handmaids-tale-margaret-atwood
She talks about writing it, and what the novel has become for people across the world. Here's a little excerpt:
Stories about the future always have a "what-if" premise, and The Handmaid's Tale has several. For instance: if you wanted to seize power in the US, abolish liberal democracy and set up a dictatorship, how would you go about it? What would be your cover story? It would not resemble any form of communism or socialism: those would be too unpopular. It might use the name of democracy as an excuse for abolishing liberal democracy: that's not out of the question, though I didn't consider it possible in 1985.
eta, many thanks to Nickelini who first posted this in the Atwoodians group.
This is a very old article - 1997 - but I loved it and I think it would appeal to anyone who likes words. Apologies if it's been posted before.
The Typewriter Man
The War Department wanted to provide airmen, in case they were shot down, with survival kits that included messages on silk in the languages of people they were likely to meet on the ground. Morale Services found native speakers and scholars to help with the languages. Martin obtained the type and did the soldering and the keyboards. The implications of the work and its difficulty brought him to near collapse, but he completed it with only one mistake: on the Burmese typewriter he put a letter on upside down. Years later, after he had discovered his error, he told the language professor he had worked with that he would fix that letter on the professor's Burmese typewriter. The professor said not to bother; in the intervening years, as a result of typewriters copied from Martin's original, that upside-down letter had been accepted in Burma as proper typewriter style.
Financial black swans driven by ultrafast machine ecology.
This is an economics/complex systems paper investigating (relatively) big moves in the stock market that are computer-driven, happening on timescales faster than humans can respond - less than one second. They show a couple of examples where everything was over in under 25 milliseconds. So: ultrafast robots, which don't observe Asimov's laws, are dueling on behalf of their wealthy human masters. Nobody has a complete understanding of how this all works, or what sorts of "flash crashes" might be possible. Have a nice day. (via Brad Delong.
>58 dukedom_enough: - does that mean traders will handing back their bonuses on the basis of the computer doing the work? Or will the computers start demanding bonuses - more memory, a bigger power supply, etc?
#59 and in addition demanding world domination, which is what those nice people in banks and the financial services industry seem to have at the moment.
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