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**Interesting Articles -- January/February

Club Read 2012

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1stretch
Dec 31, 2011, 10:19am Top

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.

1st up:

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.

2fannyprice
Dec 31, 2011, 3:14pm Top

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!

3fannyprice
Dec 31, 2011, 3:17pm Top

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.

4AnnieMod
Dec 31, 2011, 7:06pm Top

>3 fannyprice:

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...

5stretch
Dec 31, 2011, 8:02pm Top

>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.

6fannyprice
Dec 31, 2011, 8:06pm Top

>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.

7AnnieMod
Edited: Dec 31, 2011, 8:56pm Top

>6 fannyprice:

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.

8rebeccanyc
Jan 1, 2012, 6:01pm Top

An interesting article in today's New York Times about creative writing by young American-born Hmong, perhaps especially interesting to me because I loved Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

9Cait86
Jan 3, 2012, 5:55pm Top

The Millions has an article on the most anticipated books for 2012 here.

10japaul22
Edited: Jan 3, 2012, 9:07pm Top

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!!!

11DieFledermaus
Jan 6, 2012, 8:17am Top

An obituary for Josef Skvorecky, the prolific Czech-Canadian author and an interesting profile of author (among other things) Stephen Colbert.

12Nickelini
Jan 8, 2012, 12:42pm Top

Annie - thanks for all your interesting comments re: the revision of history.

13Jargoneer
Jan 8, 2012, 3:22pm Top

Why Tolkien didn't get the Nobel Prize - Dashed by poor prose. Also dismissed in 1961 was Robert Frost on the grounds that, at 86, he was too old.

14AnnieMod
Jan 9, 2012, 3:41am Top

>12 Nickelini:

No better way to learn that the history is written by the winners than to see it happening :) One of the reasons I almost never read just one book about any historical event :)

>13 Jargoneer:

Too old? And here I was thinking that old age brings experience... :)

16detailmuse
Jan 10, 2012, 9:52am Top

“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.

17dukedom_enough
Edited: Jan 11, 2012, 12:25pm Top

Interesting New York Times review of the late Gil Scott-Heron's memoir The Last Holiday - A Memoir. He's much better known for his music ("The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", "Winter in America") than his writing, but he was a fine writer and the reviewer likes the book.

18kidzdoc
Jan 11, 2012, 3:59pm Top

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.

19rebeccanyc
Jan 11, 2012, 4:28pm Top

18 The Last Holiday will likely be my first book purchase of 2012,

I knew you couldn't last too long . . .

20baswood
Jan 11, 2012, 5:46pm Top

eleven days without buying a book is fairly impressive. (it's not easy to do irony on a blog)

21kidzdoc
Jan 11, 2012, 6:25pm Top

>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.

22akeela
Jan 12, 2012, 1:41am Top

> 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.

23dukedom_enough
Jan 12, 2012, 12:11pm Top

Very funny article, akeela. Maybe that's how you know they have super or magical powers: they can get into those poses.

24akeela
Jan 12, 2012, 2:21pm Top

25ljbwell
Jan 12, 2012, 2:48pm Top

>15 Jargoneer:: I'll admit, embarrassingly large swaths of Tom Jones were skimmed or skipped just to get through it. Painful. I know people love it; I was not one of those people. But I'd started and had to see it through.

26AnnieMod
Edited: Jan 12, 2012, 3:46pm Top

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...)

27rebeccanyc
Jan 12, 2012, 5:45pm Top

# 26 Do you write in your books?

Anne Fadiman wrote a great essay, in the wonderful Ex Libris, about the difference between "courtly" (may have the word wrong; I'm not at home where I can check) and "carnal" readers -- those who write in their books, dogear the pages, etc.

28stretch
Jan 12, 2012, 7:20pm Top

An article on some obvious trends based on USA Today's best seller lists throughout 2011: 2011 trends

29Deskdude
Jan 13, 2012, 1:02am Top

>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.

30avaland
Jan 13, 2012, 8:31am Top

>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!

31avaland
Jan 13, 2012, 8:34am Top

Article on Literary Awards and Gender in the past 20 years from current issue of Belletrista. And, hot dog, it's got bar charts!

32AnnieMod
Jan 15, 2012, 2:28am Top

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....

33AnnieMod
Jan 15, 2012, 10:53pm Top

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).

34lilisin
Edited: Jan 20, 2012, 3:30pm Top

Clever advertisements for the Milwaukee Public Library.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/milwaukee-public-librarys-brilliant-ad-campaign-t

35dmsteyn
Jan 20, 2012, 4:46pm Top

Nice one! For what it's worth...

36AnnieMod
Jan 20, 2012, 5:47pm Top

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.

37DieFledermaus
Jan 27, 2012, 2:15am Top

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.

38DieFledermaus
Jan 27, 2012, 2:21am Top

Some pushback against Amazon from bookseller and publishers.

39dukedom_enough
Jan 27, 2012, 7:32am Top

DieFledermaus >37 DieFledermaus:,

Dangerous activity, reading novels. Can't have the leaders doing that, they might get ideas.

40rebeccanyc
Jan 27, 2012, 8:44am Top

#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.

41japaul22
Jan 29, 2012, 8:49pm Top

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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/business/barnes-noble-taking-on-amazon-in-the-...

42StevenTX
Jan 29, 2012, 11:21pm Top

Prime Minister Putin plans to develop a "Russian Canon" of 100 books every student must read before graduating.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/26/vladimir-putin-book-russian-canon

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.

43bragan
Jan 29, 2012, 11:32pm Top

>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.

44AnnieMod
Jan 30, 2012, 5:38am Top

>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.

45StevenTX
Jan 30, 2012, 10:34am Top

#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.

46AnnieMod
Jan 30, 2012, 11:05am Top

And why shouldn't Russian students read Russian literature?

47MikeBriggs
Edited: Jan 30, 2012, 11:39am Top

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.

48japaul22
Jan 30, 2012, 11:45am Top

>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.

49DieFledermaus
Jan 31, 2012, 5:09am Top

Gender bias found for books reviewed on NPR

http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/133082-gender-bias-at-npr-and-what-it-reveals-...

Also, someone in the article compares authors to - uh - porn stars.

Is epublishing the next bubble?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/self-e-publishing-bubble-ewan-morris...

50Nickelini
Jan 31, 2012, 1:05pm Top

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

51akeela
Feb 3, 2012, 12:04pm Top

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...

52Nickelini
Feb 3, 2012, 12:29pm Top

Akeela - that's a great TED talk.

53Jargoneer
Edited: Feb 8, 2012, 9:32am Top

What are people reading on their Kindle? - Ebook Sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction.

54dukedom_enough
Feb 8, 2012, 8:08am Top

Not an article, but a very telling image:



Via Naked Capitalism.

55akeela
Feb 8, 2012, 11:09am Top

More thoughts on the visual stereotyping of female heroines/main characters in fantasy fiction: http://fantasy-faction.com/2011/fantasy-gender-stereotypes

56avaland
Edited: Feb 9, 2012, 7:21am Top

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.

57wandering_star
Edited: Feb 11, 2012, 8:46am Top

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.

58dukedom_enough
Feb 16, 2012, 7:40am Top

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.

59Jargoneer
Feb 16, 2012, 8:58am Top

>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?

60baswood
Feb 16, 2012, 9:32am Top

#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.

61dukedom_enough
Feb 17, 2012, 7:10am Top

It's harder to develop safeguards, because most of the information you'd want to know is proprietary. Only the trading companies' employees have all the data, and then only for their company's machines, not their rivals'.

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