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Friday, Apr 20, 2012
by Carolyn Kellogg - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
T.C. Boyle has an uncommon three-sided gift: He makes bestseller lists, publishes esteemed literary fiction, and is a consistently prolific author.

The Tea Fire was raging across the hills of Montecito, and T.C. Boyle was worried. He was worried about the safety of his home, as anyone near the flames would be, and that concern was amplified by the fact that the nearly century-old house was designed by no less than Frank Lloyd Wright. And then there were the papers: the highly combustible manuscripts, research, notes and bound volumes that constitute Boyle’s life’s work. Everything that had gone into writing two dozen books and 150 stories was stashed in Boyle’s basement. If the wind shifted, it would all be lost.


“It scared the bejesus out of me,” Boyle said four years later.


Although the Tea Fire claimed more than 200 homes, it never reached Boyle’s. And now Boyle’s archive has found a safe house of its own: at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Ransom Center, the premier collector of the complete papers of 20th and 21st century novelists, paid $425,000 to add Boyle’s archive to its collection.


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Thursday, Apr 19, 2012
by Michael Shermer - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
Rather than Justice’s meddling, we consumers have a much more effective tool against companies that charge a price we don’t like: Don’t buy the product.

The Justice Department filed suit last week against Apple Inc. and two major book publishers, Macmillan and Penguin Group USA, accusing them of colluding in 2010 to raise the prices of e-books. Three other publishers that were investigated — Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins — agreed to a settlement, which Sharis A. Pozen, the acting director of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said “will begin to undo the harm caused by the companies’ anticompetitive conduct, and will restore price competition so that consumers can pay lower prices for their e-books.”


Not likely. What this lawsuit probably will do instead is return to Amazon the power to monopolize the e-book market through predatory pricing to the detriment of publishers, authors and, ultimately, readers.


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Thursday, Apr 5, 2012
When did pink become the de facto girls’ color, anyway?

Anyone who has friends or family members with young girls has surely heard the lament—“she’ll only wear pink”. Well, the thing is, from tutus to leggings to skirts, there is only really pink garb for her to choose from at the store. Is the little girl or the clothes manufacturer the chicken or the egg? And when did pink become the de facto girls’ color anyway?


The topic may seem most appropriate for a fluff piece on Today. But Jo B. Paoletti is an academic, and Pink and Blue is meticulously researched, with references to paper dolls, old retail catalogs and the arcane field of material culture studies. Her findings are fascinating, even if her prose can be repetitive.


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Thursday, Mar 29, 2012
by Rebecca Keegan - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
Violence committed by and against children has a long, grisly tradition in literature — as an allegory for adult cruelty, a representation of the emotional volatility of adolescence and a tension-raiser for audiences.

Children murder one another in a multitude of gruesome and memorable ways in “The Hunger Games,” deploying spears, arrows, rocks, venomous wasps, mutant wolves and their bare hands in a televised gladiatorial death match.


The juvenile slaughterfest depicted in the film and its source material, Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of bestselling young adult novels, may give audiences (particularly parents) pause — is this what contemporary entertainment has come to? But violence committed by and against children has a long, grisly tradition in literature — as an allegory for adult cruelty, a representation of the emotional volatility of adolescence and a tension-raiser for audiences.


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Monday, Mar 26, 2012
10,000 writers descend on Chicago for the annual AWP Conference, and PopMatters' Corey Beasley survives with the help of Margaret Atwood.

AWP: your yearly chance to spend too much money on too many journals you’ll never read; to drink in proximity to C.K. Williams (who more or less travels with the AWP Conference, moving from camp to camp and collecting potable rainwater in discarded totebags); to make sure the editorial board of the journal who rejected your story or poem three times is at least fairly unattractive, physically; to, above all, not feel quite so weird telling the person next to you that you are, in fact, a writer.


The Association of Writers & Writing Programs’s annual conference, the largest of its type in the country, pulls writers of all ages and genres away from their laptops, notepads and typewriters (ugh) and toward a new city every year. This year saw the return of The Conference to Chicago, site of the 2009 conference and an all-around welcoming city for artists. This year was the biggest yet for AWP, with 10,000 writers descending on Lake Michigan for four nights of panels, readings, and business-card-handling. But the (not-so) secret of AWP is its ability to feel at once overwhelming—it becomes hard to tell, when surrounded by so many, which mustache is sincere and which is ironic—and entirely intimate, as if you’re surrounded by 9,999 potential lifelong friends.


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