JK Rowling enters deathly hollows of her own

Turns out she’s supporting a TERF type who got canned for being a bigot. Gross. Too bad, because I was really coming to admire her. Just let people be who they want to be, for the love of God.

J.K. Rowling, the creator of the “Harry Potter” series, was criticized by gay and transgender rights groups on Thursday after she expressed support for a British researcher whose views on transgender people were described by a court as “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

The researcher, Maya Forstater, lost her job last year at a think tank in London and filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging discrimination based on what she called her “gender critical” views, which she has expressed often on Twitter. Among them is the belief, which Ms. Forstater tweeted on Wednesday, that “it is impossible to change sex.”

Interview: Adam Kay

So this pinged on my radar mostly because he disparages The Lord of the Rings. As someone who has read virtually everything Tolkein has written for popular consumption, and who is also currently balls-deep in writing his own fantasy book based on intricate world-building, unique magic systems, and etc, I both fear and loathe any suggestion that what I’m at is anything but high literary art. I mean, it’s not, but you don’t have to say it.

Man to memorize and perform Finnegans Wake, for some reason

I have tried to read Finnegans Wake probably five or six times. My record is page 32. This guy, who has obviously made a contract with some being from one of the lower planes of Hell and is now paying for it, is going to not only read, but memorize and perform the literary fart-huffer’s whole self-indulgent thing. Finally someone has bested Christian Bök for Sisyphean self-flagellation in the name of art.

Question: how would we know if a version DIDN’T embody all the author’s corrections?

Finnegans Wake, as far as anyone can tell, is about scandal and allegations that befall the Earwicker family in Dublin. It took Joyce 17 years to write it, and Kosaly-Meyer says that’s how long it will take him to memorize it.

Fortunately for him, he’s already six chapters in.

Can’t wait to read the followup interview in 17 years when Carol and the CBC gang catch up with him in the asylum.

Your decade in books

LitHub has a list of the 100 books they think defined the decade. Omissions? Disagree with an inclusion? Sadly, I tend to think of this literary decade as defined less by the works of authors and more by their public and private actions. And it wasn’t a good decade. And, of course, this is an America-centric list, so if you have books from your country that you feel defined the decade, please post them below.

This is not a list of the best books of the decade. (This is, if you’re interested.) This is a list of books that, whether bad or good, were in one way or another defining for the last decade in American culture. (A global list would be nearly impossible, for obvious reasons. Accordingly, I’ve hewed to English-language and/or US publication dates, when relevant.) This is a list for general readers and followers of literary culture; it includes both major bestsellers and literary standouts, books that have become pop culture phenomenons, and books whose influence has been quieter and/or localized in literary circles. Obviously, it would not suffice for specialist purposes—I imagine a scientist would have selected a very different list of 100 books. (Or 100 books give or take: on a case by case basis, I have counted series as single books, or let the first book in a series stand in for the whole.)

Would you pay £400 to run a bookstore for a week?

My understanding from my bookseller friends is that this is something of a real bargain: most bookstores lose you WAY more than 400 a week. Heyooo.

For just £400, two people can rent the flat above the shop on Airbnb for a week, running the shop in whatever way they see fit. I’m clearly not the only one for whom this is a lifelong dream – The Open Book is currently booked out until 2023, but I got lucky with a last-minute cancellation.

So, on an icy Monday morning, my boyfriend and I hastily booked a rental car – public transport to Wigtown is practically impossible, thanks to its remote location – and started the long drive north. The harsh winds and icy rain hit us the minute we arrived.

Women rule poetry

The TLS on the ascendancy of female poets this decade. Huzzah. Bookninja favourite Karen Solie gets a mention here, as is proper.

Only one poet, Tomas Tranströmer, has won the Nobel prize in liteature this past decade, in 2011 – unless you count the troubadour Bob Dylan, in 2016. Patient, devoted scholarship – the labour of love – has given us indispensable Collected or Complete editions of Basil Bunting, Bertolt Brecht, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot and Philip Larkin. In the realm of the living there have been, as in any decade, any number of notable achievements by poets young, old and in between, and this includes poets working as translators. But above all else, it has been the decade of women. Throughout it, England’s poet laureate has been Carol Ann Duffy; in Scotland, the Makars have been Liz Lochhead and (since 2016) Jackie Kay; in Wales, the National Poet was, until 2016, Gillian Clarke; Jamaica’s poet laureate since 2017 has been Lorna Goodison (who has just been awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry); and in the US the same role has gone to Natasha Trethewey (twice), Tracy K. Smith and Joy Harjo. This signifies. The new Oxford Professor of Poetry is a woman, the ever inventive Alice Oswald. A period that has been quick to acclaim poets as generously (and variously) gifted as Oswald, Karen Solie, Emily Berry, Sarah Howe and Hannah Sullivan can’t be thought entirely lacking in poetic nous. The emergence of Denise Riley’s singular brilliance into “the mainstream” after years of hiding in plain sight should be celebrated anywhere poetry is read.

Best book covers of 2019

The NYT weighs in.

There are emergency protocols and fail-safe maneuvers in book cover design just as there are in any semi-functioning government. If conflicting visions arise between designers, editors, marketing, authors, agents or publishers — the odds being decent that they will — the design process is helped along if the typography is easily readable (if not huge), if an accompanying image is clear (if tastefully ambiguous), and if the synthesis between the two can be reasonably expected to appeal to a total stranger’s sense of visual order and logic. It’s not a science, though it’s only occasionally an art.

Screwed by their own success

Like Biblioasis here in Canada, the UK’s Galley Beggar Press had the eyes, insight, and cahones to publish Ducks, Newburyport and end up on the Booker shortlist. With that sort of success comes a lot of work for a small press. Remember back when Gaspereau could barely get books out when one of their titles ended up winning the Giller Prize? Well, Galley Beggar stepped up and printed the books to fulfill the orders from The Book People right before The Book People collapsed and now they’re on the hook for 40G (pounds!) in printing expenses. Poor bastards. Thankfully, the community is stepping up.

“[This] has turned what should have been the best year of our little company’s life into its worst – and something that might kill it. So we need your help. We hate to ask for charity,” wrote Millar in its appeal. “But at this point, we can’t see a way around.”

Less than an hour after the fundraiser launched, Galley Beggar had raised more than the £15,000 it initially asked for. It subsequently raised the goal to £40,000 with funds quickly exceeding £30,000. Fellow publishers, authors and booksellers are rallying behind the Norwich-based publisher, with donors including the National Centre for Writing and Arts Council England’s literature director Sarah Crown.

Crazy science nerds making up their own languages

For the record, none of use could understand them anyway. ConLangs — constructed languages? Now this is the sort of science class I could use. Language is as fundamental to the mind as gravity is to the body, so who wouldn’t want to create a language (then sell it to a shitty scifi show on cable to be used by a race of humanoids who differ from use mostly by wrinkle variations on the forehead)?

One student, who took 24.917 (ConLangs: How to Construct a Language) this fall, created a language for underwater creatures who speak in shades of color. Another invented a language that combines speech with whistling. Senior Jessica Lang’s new language is for spaceships that speak. “It’s not a super logical premise,” she says, “but it’s a lot of fun facing the constraints. And, I like a lot of the words in ‘spaceship-speak’ because they are just really weird.”

Jessica Lang? Oh, that’s a bit on the nose, don’t you think?

On the Road (to ruin) – on the diminishing returns of the book review

Jack Kerouac’s NYT review for On the Road made him famous overnight. Could that sort of thing ever happen on that sort of scale nowadays with the kids and their digital doodads and virtual hoohas and the social Twits and Faces and whatnot? Nar, says ye olde journo.

Looking back at this culture-shifting review, we might wonder whether such a moment can be replicated in our modern literary and journalistic landscape. The persuasive power of an individual review today is vastly diluted by the fragmentation of the media and the frantic chirping of cable channels, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and text messaging at all hours. Abbreviated attention moves on at an almost mindless speed. A trend rises and vanishes, all but forgotten before it ever sticks. A book and a book review — even if capturing a cultural turning point — today can’t help losing the competition for eyes to Twitter bursts and viral videos. One might wonder what social transitions are never noticed these days in all the noise.