Friday, June 29, 2018

Publishers are paying writers a pittance

Publishers are paying writers a pittance, say bestselling authors

Philip Pullman, Antony Beevor and Sally Gardner are calling on publishers to increase payments to authors, after a survey of more than 5,500 professional writers revealed a dramatic fall in the number able to make a living from their work. 

Full article at this link

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin, Editing to the End

A fine article on Ursula K. Le Guin's last project:
Ursula’s final words to me, her final edits on the manuscript of our collected conversations, were in pencil. We had talked in one of these conversations about technology, about how, in her mind, she was unfairly labeled a Luddite. That some of the most perfect tools—a pestle, a kitchen knife—were in fact perfected technologies. I had just received the manuscript from her days before, and the pencil on it reminded me of the aura of in-the-world magic this whole endeavor, bringing a book into the world together, had assumed.
Read the full article here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Richard Powers's New Novel about Trees

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a fascinating interview with Richard Powers concerning his new novel, The Overstory (W.W. Norton, April 2018),  about the sentience of trees.  Here are a few snippets:

The Ents were a real inspiration to me. Slow to anger, slow to act. But when they get going, you’d better be on their side!
The Overstory may present an even greater challenge to the sense of exceptionalism we humans carry around inside us. It’s the story of immense, long-lived creatures whom many people think of as little more than simple automatons, but who, in fact, communicate and synchronize with each other both over the air and through complex underground networks, who trade with and protect and sustain their own and other species. It’s about immensely social beings with memory and agency who migrate and transform the soil and regulate the weather and create a breathable atmosphere. As the great Le Guin put it, the word for world is forest.
When a person says, “I live in the real world,” they generally mean that they live in the artificially created social world, the human-made world that is hurtling toward a brick wall of its own making. This is what I’d ask the critics of the literature of extra-human awe: Which is more childish, na├»ve, romantic, or mystical: the belief that we can get away with making Earth revolve around our personal appetites and fantasies, or the belief that a vast, multi-million-pronged project four and a half billion years old deserves a little reverent humility?

Read the full interview here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Subversive Imagination of Ursula K. Le Guin and Why Le Guin Matters

Julie Phillips has written a fine article about the late Ursula K. Le Guin in The New Yorker.
"Le Guin never stopped insisting on the beauty and subversive power of the imagination. Fantasy and speculation weren’t only about invention; they were about challenging the established order. When she accepted the National Book Foundation’s lifetime-achievement award, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, in 2014, she said, “Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art—the art of words."
Read the full article here.

Michael Dirda has also written a fine piece for The Weekly Standard.
"To the end of her life, Le Guin remained fiercely feminist, anti-capitalist, and forthright in expressing her political views. In the essay “Lying It All Away”—from her last book, the 2017 collection of blog pieces titled No Time to Spare—she writes scathingly of “growth capitalism” returning to its origins and “providing security for none but the strongest profiteers.” She mourns that “I have watched my country accept, mostly quite complacently, along with a lower living standard for more and more people, a lower moral standard. A moral standard based on advertising.” Can America, she wonders, continue “living on spin and illusion, hot air and hogwash, and still be my country? I don’t know.” After all, the country is now run by corporations “of which Congress is an almost wholly owned subsidiary.” "
Read the full article here

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ted Chiang on the Unchecked Capitalism of Silicon Valley

"There’s a saying, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley capitalists don’t want to think about capitalism ending. What’s unexpected is that the way they envision the world ending is through a form of unchecked capitalism, disguised as a superintelligent AI. They have unconsciously created a devil in their own image, a boogeyman whose excesses are precisely their own."

Read the whole article here.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Old Books and Old Libraries

By Stuart Kells:

I recently had the privilege of circling the world to write a book about libraries. My timing was excellent: after a short-lived e-books scare, physical books are back in fashion, and libraries are the place to be.

Read the full article, "Blood, bookworms, bosoms and bottoms: the secret life of libraries" at The Guardian. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter"

A very interesting article by Andrew O'Hagan at The Guardian"Will social media kill the novel?"

The title of the article misrepresents its scope, and all throughout it there are some real interesting observations.  Here are a few: 

"One of the great fights of the 21st century will be the fight for privacy and self-ownership, which is also, to my mind, the struggle for literature as distinct from the dark babble of social media. Writers thrive on privacy, not on Twitter, and so do readers when the lights are low. Giving your sentences thoughtlessly away, and for nothing, seems a small death to contemplation, and does harm to the profession of writing, where you’re paid because you’re good at it."

"We were addicted to the ailments of the web long before we understood how the technology would change our lives. In a sense, it gave the tools of fiction-making to everybody equally, so long as they had access to a computer and a willingness to swim into the internet’s deep well of otherness. JG Ballard predicted that the writer would no longer have a role in society. “Given that external reality is a fiction, he does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there,” he wrote. Every day on the web you see his point being made; it is a marketplace of selfhood."