Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Books That Made Dracula

Stoker's 1890 application for membership in the London Library
"The London Library today unveiled a fascinating discovery that sheds new light on how Dracula was researched and written. We've found 26 books that are almost certainly the original copies that Bram Stoker used to help research his enduring classic."

Read the full article here.  (And watch the video there too!)  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Free Will Has Become Dangerous

Governments and corporations will soon know you better than you know yourself. Belief in the idea of ‘free will’ has become dangerous.

Read "The Myth of Freedom" by Yuval Noah Harari here.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

"A Secret too Terrible to Know"

"As history confirms, people will change their minds about almost anything, from which god they worship to how they style their hair. But when it comes to existential judgments, human beings in general have an unfalteringly good opinion of themselves and their condition in this world and are steadfastly confident they are not a collection of self-conscious nothings."

From Thomas Ligotti's new "Introduction" to the Penguin edition of The Conspiracy against the Human Race.  Read the full Introduction here.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Pleasure of a Used Bookstore in an Airport

Yes, an airport.  Specifically the Milwaukee airport.  I have fond memories of browsing there, and of the books that I found, since the mid-1980s.  I would even stop in at the airport when driving up to Milwaukee so that I could visit the bookstore. Back then it was a secondary location for a huge multi-floored bookstore in a dilapidated downtown building (since condemned and destroyed).  Now only the airport location remains.  Here's a link to a news story about it, including some pictures that bring such memories.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Why books are the only form of physical media whose sales are growing

"The media and entertainment industry has a long history of embracing disruptive innovations, from the printing press to the personal computer. But the rapid shift from physical to digital over the past decade or so has been truly revolutionary. In general, physical media has suffered a great deal. Printed newspapers and magazines have migrated to online versions, while DVDs and CDs have been supplanted by film- and music-streaming services. But the oldest form of physical media is actually holding up quite well."

Full story here.  

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