"It would be naïve to identify the Internet with the Enlightenment. It has the potential to diffuse knowledge beyond anything imagined by Jefferson; but while it was being constructed, link by hyperlink, commercial interests did not sit idly on the sidelines. They want to control the game, to take it over, to own it. They compete among themselves, of course, but so ferociously that they kill each other off. Their struggle for survival is leading toward an oligopoly; and whoever may win, the victory could mean a defeat for the public good. ...We could have created a National Digital Library—the twenty-first-century equivalent of the Library of Alexandria. It is too late now. Not only have we failed to realize that possibility, but, even worse, we are allowing a question of public policy—the control of access to information—to be determined by private lawsuit."—Robert Darnton on what the proposed Google Book Settlement could mean for the pursuit of knowledge—Google and the Future of Books
The czech magazine Respekt, known for its investigative reporting, has published a story claiming prize winning author and anti-communist dissident Milan Kundera denounced a young exile who was back in Prague to the communist secret police. [more inside]
Helen (Hunt) Jackson was an author and an activist. Her mom died when Helen was 14, her dad 3 years later. Helen's first child died at 11 months, her second at 10 years old. In 1879 she was inspired after hearing Chief Standing Bear describe how the U.S. government took Native Americans' land. She began to publish in support of Native American rights. 1881 brought her book A Century of Dishonor [pdf], branded with the words "Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations". In 1883, she published her most famous work, Ramona, a novel about racial discrimination set in California. If that's too much to take in, and now you need some kitties, she's still got you covered. Letters from a Cat (1879) is being featured at Archive.org today. [more inside]
When a young company is in need of some dough, they often will issue an IPO. But what if, instead of a company, an author decides to sell shares of his book royalties? Tao Lin is doing exactly that. [more inside]
The Willa Cather Archive is an incredible resource provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, including biographies, letters, photos, and even full (often annotated) text of much of her writing, including scholarly editions of two of her greatest (and most famous) works, My Antonia and O Pioneers. About the archive.
Edinburgh author Iain M. Banks, creator of the post capitalist space faring society The Culture and it's oddly named ships, has long been the UKs top science fiction writer, but has never had more than a toehold in the US (in part through lack of availability, in part due to lack of promotion and in part due to some pretty awful covers. That could change: Matter, his latest, has been heavily promoted in the US and sports a cover nearly identical to the UK edition. This week Orbit are releasing US editions of the two earliest Culture novels, with the third following in July, which could mean a complete release of all the novels in the US in order. [more inside]
Alain Robbe-Grillet, French author, member of the Académie française and subject of this recent Mefi post, has passed away at age 85.
Author Paulo Coelho talks about how creating The Pirate Coelho, a site with links to torrents of his own books, leads to a massive increase in sales.
Bruce Sterling's State of the World: an interactive discussion on the Well with the noted sci-fi author and futurist. "The political and economic landscape in 2008 is full of spinning, tottering Chinese plates poised on tall pool-cues." [An MP3 of his State of the World 2006 from SXSW was previously linked here.]
"“If the book were to be published as it is in its present edited form, I may never write another story, that’s how closely, God Forbid, some of those stories are to my sense of regaining my health and mental well-being.” The New York Times reported today that Raymond Carver's widow, Tess Gallagher, is pushing to republish the stories in Carver's acclaimed 1981 breakout collection, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," in their original, unedited form. [more inside]
Here's the background of one of the nastiest divorce/custody/dead baby stories you're ever likely to run across. Alan Rodgers is a horror writer. This is his wikipedia entry, and this is his blog/forum at sff.net. He was originally married to Amy Stout, and together they had three children, two girls and a boy. After he tried to kill Amy Stout, she left him and married -- Me, Dan Moran. I'm the handsome dude in the eyepatch, if you click through to my profile. Together Alan and Amy #2 had a baby: Anthony Rodgers. Who died under interesting circumstances. A tragedy, I believe Alan Rodgers has called it, and by "tragedy" I suspect he means, "Thank God I wasn't prosecuted for negligent homicide." Or worse.
NewsFilter: Lloyd Alexander (2) has died two weeks after his wife. Don't take his children's fantasy books seriously? Does it help that the American author introduced thousands of kids to Welsh mythology through The Chronicles of Prydain (Including The Black Cauldron [movie]), wrote over 40 novels (many of which are not fantasy nor children's books, such as his first book, "Let the Credit Go"), joined the army in WWII to become a better writer, and translated Nausea? His last book, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, will be released in August.
"If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer..." ShelSilverstein.com bills itself as "the Official Site for Kids" but, if you're familiar with Sheldon Allan Silverstein's ecclectic career, you don't have to be a kid to enjoy it. Shel was best known for his books and poetry, but he was also a prolific songwriter, working extensively with Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show [sorry, Tripod link]. He also wrote Johnny Cash's hit "A Boy Named Sue" and was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2002. More songs and stories here. And his amazingly extensive Wikipedia page is here.
Stephen J. Cannell has created/co-created over 40 TV shows, written over 450 TV scripts for shows like The Rockford Files and The A Team , and 12 mystery novels. What's the catch? He is dyslexic..
Think you get a lot done? Isaac Asimov (pronounced like "has, him, of" without the h's) , who would have turned 87 today, wrote or edited over 500 books, including science-fiction novels, introductions to organic chemistry (a field in which he held a professorship at B.U.) , indispensable anthologies of early science fiction, jokebooks, guides to Shakespeare, and collections of lively essays on science that have introduced thousands of people to the pleasures of thinking hard about the universe. He also found the time to write a few essays and write postcards to his fans. His story "Runaround" , from his 1950 collection I, Robot, is the only piece of fiction I know centered on the properties of a differential equation. His Foundation Trilogy was given a special Hugo award in 1966 as the best science fiction series of all time; a movie version, to be written by Jeff Vintar and directed by Shekhar Kapur, is currently in development. Previous AsimovFilter: here, here, here. Feel like a slacker yet? Stop reading MetaFilter and get to work!
"Life is wise to deceive us," he once wrote, "for had it told us from the start what it had in store for us, we would refuse to be born." --Naguib Mahfouz, RIP --and more from when he won the Nobel in 1988
POD-dy Mouth - a blog reviewing the best of print-on-demand (self-published) books: "finding needles, discarding hay". Also with commentary on the industry itself, and great snark (1, 2). Take her quiz: can you spot the POD excerpts from the traditionally published? (Answers here.)
He describes how the birds’ wings flutter, the small black eyes blink, and the head pops off in your palm... A riveting inside look at the Exotic Animal Training program at Moorpark College, which offers America's only college degree in animal training.
Author Interviews from the Center for Book Culture. I particularly liked the interview/bout with David Foster Wallace. Also the only interview Gaddis has ever done stateside is here. Good times.
Stanislaw Lem: 1921-2006. Polish science-fiction giant Stanislaw Lem died this morning. He was 84. Though Lem was not as well known as Asimov or Heinlein or the other "Masters", he was just as important to the genre. Lem was not a fan of traditonal science-fiction, and in his work tried to approach futuristic themes from a more humanistic, almost psychological, perspective. (And his books are funny!) His best-known work, Solaris, was twice made into a film, most recently in 2002. [Woefully out-of-date official site.]
Columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Art Buchwald is dying. On today's The Diane Rehm Show on NPR, he was interviewed in the Washington hospice he has moved to, about many topics, including his decision to suspend treatment for his advanced kidney disease, and live out his life in hospice.[more inside]
HarperCollins is the first major publisher to give away an entire version of a new book online, revenue being raised through Yahoo! ads. But they don't seem to be 100% committed - if you go to their website you can pay $18.26 for the e-book and no mention is made of it being available free at the author's own website. [Appropriately the book, "Go it Alone" by Bruce Judson is about entrepreneurial ideas]
The author Rodney Whitaker is dead, taking along with him Trevanian, Nicholas Seare, Benat Le Cagot, and several of his other pen names. Under the name Trevanian he wrote The Eiger Sanction (1972) (which became a Clint Eastwood movie of the same name), Shibumi (1979), The Loo Sanction (1973), The Summer of Katya (1983), The Main (1976), Incident at Twenty-Mile (1998), and others. In real life, Whitaker was the Chairman of the Radio, Television, and Film Department at the University of Texas. He was believe to be 74 years old, and died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
God's Debris by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) is now available for free in PDF form. It's a controversial book that presents a philosophically strange view of the universe. According to Adams, it splits readers between "the best book they've ever read" and "an insult to literature and a disservice to humanity".
Author John Fowles, 79, died at home this weekend, after a lengthy illness. "I know I have a reputation as a cantankerous man of letters and I don't try and play it down" - John Fowles in 2003. One of the contemporary greats, author of The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Collector, The Magus... there seems like there should be more articles on this, but alas.
M. Scott Peck: I'm a prophet, not a saint M. Scott Peck, author of the ultimate self-help manual, has Parkinson’s and his wife of 43 years has walked out. Interesting profile of M. Scott Peck, the best-selling self-help author who preached self-discipline and delayed gratification despite being a smoker, a drinker, and an adulterer. Via Bookslut. (Possibly nsfw drawing of nude woman.)
Ellis Parker Butler (1869 - 1934) American author, speaker, humorist. Author of more than 30 books and more than 2,000 stories and essays, Ellis Parker Butler is most famous for his short story "Pigs is Pigs" in which a bureaucratic stationmaster insists on levying the livestock rate for a shipment of two pet guinea pigs that soon start proliferating geometrically. This website is a loving tribute to a prolific author you've probably never heard of. Most of the stories and articles available on this web site have not been reprinted or reproduced since their original publication. Be sure to also check out the extensive library of vintage magazine covers.
The DNA of Literature. The Paris Review, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, makes available free .pdfs of fifty years of interviews with leading writers.
The outrageous Frank Harris, the inimitable Amanda McKittrick Ros, and the unlovely Webster Edgerly, and much more.
Forever Greene. One hundred years after Graham Greene’s birth, the literary mosaic of books like Our Man in Havana and Brighton Rock is still riveting. But the author "carried anguish” with him: a moralist and, therefore, controversial, Greene’s clearly-worded works of suspenseful, or ethical ambivalence, border on a delicate balance — of both gloom and salvation. His novels are replete with a sense of foreboding, and scrutinise self-deception, sin, failure. George Orwell sneered that Greene thinks "there is something rather distingué in being damned; Hell is a sort of high-class nightclub, entry to which is reserved for Catholics only". And what remains is also, of course, the -- de riguer -- problem of the biographies: caring father, fervent brothelgoer, helluva guy? Anyway, among the institutions celebrating Greene's centenary: the British Library, the Barbican Centre (scroll down the page). And the Guardian just re-printed "The funeral of Graham Greene", reported in the Guardian, April 9 1991. (more inside, with Shirley Temple)
"Stone Reader makes you want to pick up a great novel and consume it in one long gulp. It’s a love letter to literature and literacy, a bibliophile’s dream film, dedicated to the joys of fiction and the passions of those who need books like they need food, water and air." (The Dallas Morning News)
Colin Wilson, genius, knicker fetishist, social misfit and author of 110 books that even his publisher didn't want
What is the current state of American poetry? Hank Lazer: Perhaps, contrary to the laments, we are now living through a particularly rich time in American poetry—an era of radically democratized poetry...In its anarchic democratic disorganized decentralization, poetry culture has developed in a manner parallel to the computer: the decentralized PC has beaten the main-frame. No one can pretend to know what is out there, or what is next. Who are some of the most notable American poets active in the beginning of the 21st century?
One of the finest poets in English, Thom Gunn, has died. Along with Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes, Gunn became famous as a young poet in England in the 1950s as part of "The Movement," writing fine poems in rhyme and meter. But then he fell in love with an American soldier, Mike Kitay, and followed him to San Francisco, where he crafted one of the most daringly original voices in the 20th century, handling taboo subjects like LSD, orgiastic sex, and his 50-year relationship with Kitay with the precision of a diamond cutter. Gunn lived in my neighborhood, and was a dapper, subtle, sexy and hilariously witty man until the end. Ten years ago, when I asked him what music he was listening to he replied, "Oh, Nirvana and Social Distortion. I'm a flighty teenager that way."
So You Think You Might Be A Writer? Just because you write? An astute essay by Joseph Epstein poses the uncomfortable question: are you weird enough? There's something very unnatural and unhealthy about writing (as opposed to reading, for instance) - but what is it? [Via Arts and Letters Daily.]
Janet Frame, New Zealand writer, is dead at 79. More information about her life, here, and obituary notice here. Nominated for the Nobel Prize for Fiction last year, I had hoped she might yet win. RIP.
The Philip K. Dick Offical Site has opened: relevant not just because the movie Paycheck is coming out this month (based on a short story of his), but because we live in a Dickian world. As he put it, "We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."
Self-referential or self-promoting sites created by authors (as opposed to their fans or publishers) can provide fascinating insights into the person behind the writing or provide ways to interact with the writer or the works that go beyond the initial reading. Some take advantage of the web to connect with readers, while others use it as a mere marketing tool. With the recent trend in writers who blog (a separate category) abandoning their blogs to regain time for their writing, are these types of personal pages also an endangered species?
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary... Ok, but ever wonder what "quaff this kind nepenthe" means, or where "the night's plutonian shore" is? You'll be an expert on "The Raven" in minutes with this interactive annotation of Poe's classic Halloween poem. There are many interesting subjects on this site, which was linked previously in a thread about the mysterious toaster who leaves cognac at Poe's grave every year on the writer's birthday.
Ted Conover is a fantastic, prize-winning author. His book Newjack is, to quote Jon Krakauer, "a compelling, compassionate look at a terribly important, poorly understood aspect of American society." In it, he works undercover as a guard at Sing Sing. You can read the truncated New Yorker version on the site. Additionally, there are many other articles, reviews and interviews, and a pretty interesting group of e-mails from "officers, their families, and others affected by prison." And, just to name-drop once more, Sebastian Junger says: "Ted Conover is a first-rate reporter and more daring and imaginative than the rest of us combined." Check him out!
Interview with Bernard Lietaer. In this engrossing interview with economist, author, professor and businessman, Bernard Lietaer, he argues that complementary currencies (time dollars, local exchanges, bartering, Ithica dollars, “fureai kippu” (caring relationship tickets)), and other non-dominant currency systems can help to enable social change in small ways. Have any of you had any experience with complementary currencies? More inside...
Things That Never Were is a new novel from an ex-weblogger. First it was Cory and now Matthew. Who's next and are there any other webloggers turned authors? Not the other way around.
Jeff VanderMeer is not only a great author of weird sf, and a creator of the mysterious city of Ambergris, but has an alternative official site where he makes merciless fun of himself and the whole idea of author web pages. The site includes bad poetry, a secret subsite of the "webdesigner" Garry and a strange alien baby project, just for starters.....
"The first flight we took my wife and I, we were greeted by a ticket agent who cheerfully told us that we had been selected randomly for a special security check. Then it began to happen at every single stop, at every single airport. The random process took on a 100 per cent certitude." Canadian award winning writer Rohinton Mistry cancels his US book tour after being subjected to racial profiling.
Isaac Asimov to blame for "al-Qaida"?
If cyberspace were organized into a giant neural computer... [NYT, reg req] ...one could in theory "upload" a person's mental software into it: thoughts, feelings, memories, the works. - an interesting sci-fi premise by author john darnton complete with a contemporary 'mad scientist!'