Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Cancel Culture Dominates Children's Literature

Jonah Winter's article, "Cancel Culture Dominates Children's Literature," published on 5 February 2024 in The Wall Street Journal, is a sad story of the state of publishing today.

"Children's publishers now live in fear of these activists, terrified of showing up on their radar with a book or author that could be deemed “problematic”—meaning out of alignment with the activists' puritanical code. According to that code, an author's identity must match a book's subject matter. Further, certain books can harm children, the activists believe, and books they deem harmful must be removed. If that sounds similar to the right-wing activists' mission, it's because it is. The only difference is that while right-wing activists merely want certain books removed from particular schools, left-wing activists want the books they target annihilated."

The full article is here, but probably behind a paywall. Jonah Winter has also done a picture book for children (with artist Gary Kelley) on a related topic. It's called Banned Book. Worth a look, and worth supporting.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Lord Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman

The Dublin Review of Books has an interesting article by Robin Wilkinson on Lord Dunsany, particularly covering The Curse of the Wise Woman (1933). It is titled "Dunsany's Careless Abundance" and is available here

A snippet:

In his autobiographical Patches of Sunlight (1938), Dunsany recalls the day he discovered the tales of Edgar Allan Poe in the school library, and straightway read them all, enthralled by ‘the haunted desolation and weird gloom of the misty mid-region of Weir’. He salutes his American cousin once again in The Curse of the Wise Woman, which includes Poe’s description of ‘soulless dissipation’ at Eton, the English boarding school that Poe himself did not attend, although as it happens both Charles [a character in The Curse of the Wise Woman] and Dunsany did. The passage he quotes is taken from William Wilson, Poe’s doppelgänger tale of a young man of noble ancestry haunted by his unrelated twin, a second self who follows him everywhere, much as Charles follows in the footsteps of his creator.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

How Authorship Has Changed

There is a new article up at The New Yorker, on "How Has Big Publishing Changed American Fiction" by Kevin Lozano. It's a kind of slanted take on a new book, Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry and American Literature, by Dan Sinykin.  I haven't seen Sinykin's book yet (though I've read excerpts and reviews), but I look forward to reading it, as it gives a pretty good analysis of how authorship has been changed by the totality of corporate bean-counters, much to its detriment. This aspect is little understood by readers in general, and by anyone outside the industry.

The article notes the following:

Before conglomeration, Sinykin asserts, writing a book “was a completely different experience.” Once, a would-be novelist’s chances of being published depended on “how easily you could get your book in the right editor’s hands.” As the number of those involved in publication expanded, authors had to meet new criteria. “Could marketers see a market? What would the chain bookbuyers think? Could publicists picture your face on TV, your voice on the radio? Could agents sniff subsidiary rights? Would foreign rights sell at the Frankfurt Book Fair? Might your story be remediated? Would it work in audio? On the big screen?”

Sinykin calls authors who successfully navigated the maze of agents, marketers, and booksellers “industrial writers.” This group includes chart-topping genre writers, such as Danielle Steel, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King, and also literary novelists who managed to work within the new system. 

The full article is here (though it might be blocked by a paywall). 

Friday, September 1, 2023

A.I. and the Writer

 A long and very interesting essay by Adam L.G. Nevill about the future for writers and the threats of A.I. 

Let's say that future AI software becomes sophisticated enough to write a new novel by Tolkien. Then, surely, there will be attempts to upload and sell the myriad results of new stories "in-the-style-of" [add any popular author's name], produced by the technology and its so called "authors" and "publishers". And immediately. 

 Read the full version here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Don't Try This At Home!

Here's a publisher's advertisement from 1933.  Why anyone would think this a good way to advertise books is beyond me. 

Friday, June 30, 2023

Collecting Books

"Our literary past is under assault. Trigger warnings are being slapped on reissued classics. Long-dead writers are being called out for offending contemporary sensibilities. And sensitivity readers are relentlessly filleting books of anything that upsets their identitarian worldview."

So begins Philip Kiszely's essay "Collecting Old Books Is Now a Radical Act." It pinpoints a real problem, but Kiszely's solution is too passive and even silly--we must react, he says,  by collecting such books. Well, not only that, but there needs to be a vocal resistance. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Books That Made Me, by Penelope Lively

I enjoyed this essay, "The Books That Made me" by Penelope Lively. It has some nice insights.  It appeared at Unherd--the link is here.  I post a few quotations from it below.  

Books beget books. Intertextuality, the critics like to call it. I am at the end of a writing life; I just read now. So, the process whereby reading so often became writing is over, for me. It has been an almost unconscious process, from childhood on: I have read for enjoyment, for instruction, for education — but most of all in the serendipitous way that has supplied the essential prompts for 50 years of writing fiction.

About 3,000 books line the walls of my house. Most of them I shall never read again, but they must stay there. They define me; they remind me that I thought this, was interested in that; they reassure me, as I hurtle towards 90. Occasionally I shed a few books, but to get rid of many of them would be like discarding part of my mind.