- BREAKING ESSENTIAL NEWS: How to win at Wordle using linguistics;
- Happy Birthday, Publisher’s Weekly! You look great for 150;
- Joy Harjo has a new memoir I’d like to see;
- Which publishers won 2021?;
- RIP: Terry Teachout, author and critic, gone too soon at 65;
- US Prisons: stop banning Black authors;
- James Joyce has always been a bit of a rate-buster (and here I thought the obsession with new young poets was unique to our time);
- Listen up! Joelle Taylor, TS Eliot Prize winner, has smart things to say;
- The library everyone on social media loves to post;
Month: January 2022
Remember the Dale Peck years? Sigh. So much outrage to write about. Well, fear not! They’re back, says this guy. I guess it’s finally tiime to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside. Next book we see, you guys hold the arms, while I work the body.
If the hatchet job ever died, it is — like Gawker — back with a vengeance. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the hatchet job is now the dominant mode of literary criticism for the internet era, tailor-made, as Larissa Pham writes in The Nation, to “make the rounds, dropped in DMs and threaded down Twitter timelines.” The market logic of the contemporary book review, like the rest of journalism today, is the logic of virality: clicks equal revenue. How do you get clicks on a book review, the most marginal of media? You write a shocking critical assassination of a revered author or, depending on your perspective, a long-awaited takedown of an overrated hack. These reviews are retweeted, en masse, with a sarcastic eye roll or a thumbs-up. Either way, engagement is up. If we take the hatchet job seriously, and examine it as a literary-critical genre, we can begin to unpack its critical strategy. This latter consists, essentially, of ad hominem elitism: the hatchet job is a personal attack on the author, and one which espouses highbrow ideals over middlebrow ones. This strategy is so effective, and the hatchet job so central a cultural force, that it has shaped a correlative form of contemporary writing: the literature of painful self-awareness.
- Canadian fiction spring preview at CBC covers some big books, including some friends and what is already shaping up to be the book of the year, The Maid, by Nita Pronovost…. Though instantly-sellable title of the year just HAS to go to a book called “Sari, Not Sari”… I mean, come ON;
- NEA Fellows in writing are all prose this time;
- UK books sales highest in a decade… but are they being read?;
- Not in America….;
- Happy 100th birthday, Ulysses, you difficult old bastard of a book;
- Mystery Writers of America grants special awards;
- Booker Prize jury announced;
- Peruvian publisher and author receive support after defamation case;
- UBC nabs rare Willie Shakes book;
- What are your desert island books?;
- Do you look up unfamiliar words when reading? I do…. Less so these days, now that I’m older and better read, but sometimes still;
- Today in Floof: old words we should consider bringing back into use;
Just when you think there’s no more room for prize stickers on the cover of Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians, the book that could goes and lands a spot on the Canada Reads longlist. Hopefully soon to be on the air and then the winner. Though there are other great books in here as well. Congratulations to all.
For me, yes… Especially with fiction. Poetry is my “job”, as it were — the writing, editing, teaching, and judging of — so I find it easier to plow on through texts that don’t jazz me. But I’m a slow reader of fiction to begin with, and because it’s more mysterious to me in terms of how it’s working, I get more absorbed in a good book. That said, I sometimes come off a book that knocked my socks off (Klara and the Sun last year and Piranesi this year) and find myself unable to choose what to read next. It’s like when you take a perfect bite of dinner and then don’t want to eat more because that last forkful was so tasty you don’t want to spoil its memory in your mouth. Anyway, it’s not just me, apparently.
Reader’s block. The struggle is real. Or at least it is for me. I can see it in my reading log. I’ll read a book that I fall in love with so completely — something like Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties — and the experience will give me a sort of high. But then it will end and I’ll be at a loss. I’ll read at least seven books I only feel meh about, DNFing god knows how many others, before finally picking up a book that gives me a fraction of the joy that last awesome title gave me. God, I hate reading slumps.
And these past two years, the reader’s block has been even worse. Pandemic-related stress and anxiety have torpedoed attention spans. Our cognitive load — the amount of information our working memory can hold at any one time — has shrunk. “Previously, you might be willing to put that little bit of effort in because you get that extra reward from reading the book,” neuroscientist and psychologist Oliver J. Robinson told the folks at Refinery29. “But if you don’t care about the reward anymore because you’re anhedonic or you’re miserable or you’ve got other things on your mind, then you’re not going to bother.”
Sound familiar, anyone?
- The Maid did it: Nita Pronovost gearing up to make a run for book of the year… not just here, in the US too…. GMA book club pick? Holy moly;
- Nobel winner gets some time in Time (which is nice because normally we here in the West like to immediately forget about winners who aren’t from here);
- George Saunders has a new Substack on short stories. (attn Steven Beattie);
- French book types also dislike massive mergers;
- Today in Floof: How did book adaptations do at the Golden Globes?;
- Joelle Taylor wins TS Eliot Prize;
- What’s the perfect starting word for Wordle? (The game that is ruining thousands of novels every day);
- Having trouble figuring where to donate old books?;
- Canadian comics preview for spring 2022;
- Lawrence Hill moves into kids books;
- Smart move, Larry… After all, our bestseller lists have been dominated by a guy who writes about farts and underwear;
- PEN’s longlists of translated titles;
- Roxanne Gay will start a new podcast;
- The Library of America collects Joan Didion encomium;
- Have we forgotten how to read critically? (Given that we seem to have forgotten, as a species, how to THINK critically, I’ll wager …. yes?)
- In related news: we have a 65 second attention span now;
- Nearly 1 in 3 Americans now read ebooks;
- Everything else gets Kickstartered these days, why not lit journals?;
- Costa Book Awards given out (which one did these used to be so I can remember how much to care?);
- Norman Mailer book dropped by Random House picked up by press that picks up all the distasteful books discarded by other houses;
- Neruda almost jinxed his Nobel by writing love letters to Stalin;
- What if Beowulf wasn’t the first decent poem in English?;
- Bookfairs start falling to Omicron;
- Guy who stole all those unpublished mss over the years finally arrested;
- New awards for criticism and journalism includes crush-worthy superstar Merve Emre;
- Should a mystery novel be outlined first? No, says guy;
- TS Eliot. famed for poetry and fanboying, started wearing a pince-nez to look more like Chekhov;
- Albert Camus named his cat Cigarette… for real… what’s the dog’s name? Ashtray? Dread of the Void? Healthy Nihilism?;
- Is your view of community changing during the pandemic?;
Good luck, publishing. Get in line. We’d all like a new normal, but the new normal might just be constant change. In a weird way, I suspect this cultural brushfire will make the entire sector finally wake up and realize the world has changed around us and we need to adapt. It just did it slowly for about 100 years and now it’s really ramped up. I’d like a new normal as well, but as much as the “old normal” benefitted me, I don’t want it to be that. Adversity has always yielded something exciting from the arts sector. Let’s just be thankful that this time it’s not war, oppression, or the Black Plague. Oh, wait, it’s the Black Plague. More of a Dark Ochre Plague, really. Peuce? Something like the colour of the fingertips of that shop kid who wore the Led Zeppelin 3/4 sleeve shirt in high school and who had a whole section of the parking lot for smoking in.
The supply chain, an aspect of publishing that is generally overlooked by most in the industry, was the focus of intense interest in 2021. Stories began appearing in early summer detailing how forces connected to the pandemic were causing severe supply chain problems in virtually all industries, especially those that depend on overseas vendors.
Publishing supply chain issues were first brought to the fore in a July 6 BISG webinar, which said truck driver shortages, widespread port congestion, and skyrocketing container costs had already begun to put pressure on the industry’s ability to deliver books in time for the holiday season. Exacerbating the situation were widespread labor shortages that made it difficult for Amazon, Ingram, and other companies that operate large warehouses to find enough workers. The book manufacturing industry was also confronting its own long-standing problem with finding skilled workers, while also dealing with paper shortages, all of which combined to result in capacity issues at printers in the second half of 2021, and experts believe the printing crunch will spill over well into 2022.
To confront the immediate problem of getting books on shelves for 2021, publishers engaged in a juggling act, focusing on timely delivery of their big frontlist titles while delaying the releases of other books. Publishers also looked to move more printing back to the U.S., while also using print-on-demand more often. Speakers at an October 6 PW/Westchester Publishing Services webinar said that the long-term solution of addressing supply chain issues was more automation.
Welcome to 2022, which is a good year for Soylent Green. It’s hard to believe the pandemic is almost a toddler now. Boy is he ever really getting around on those fat little legs. Please leave the basement door open on the off chance he makes a dash for the stairs.
- Order of Canada goes to some author types, incl Tomson Highway;
- Ottawa Public Library releases most-requested list for 2021;
- Lots of publishing types are putting out books themselves these days, and from the sales, they really seem to either know what people want or have cattleprods held to the throats of the entire publicity team…. Fun fact: Nita Pronovost and I were in a drama class together in high school….;
- Speaking of…. Canadian…. glitterati in …. …. publishing;
- Booker tops survey as world’s most important book prize;
- What the actual F is “literary character licensing?”;
- My holiday break coincided with the BBC’s books of the year list;
- RIP: Ben McFall, bookseller at The Strand, dead at 73;
- What genres are most popular outside English?;
- The kids gave me a Tolkien tshirt for Xmas and when I first unwrapped it, I thought with a Slipknot shirt… I think he’d have been horrified and tickled;
- Today in Floof: literary horoscopes and reading recs for January;