Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012
by Mary Ann Gwinn - The Seattle Times (MCT)
Bradley Craft drew before he talked. Some children drop their obsession with drawing once they start to read and write, but Craft never quit.

SEATTLE — According to his mother (in a position to know), Bradley Craft drew before he talked. Some children drop their obsession with drawing once they start to read and write, but Craft never quit.


Even a lifelong immersion in words as a bibliophile and bookseller didn’t choke off his drawing instinct. At Stacey’s, the venerated and now-closed San Francisco book store, Craft created literary caricatures for bookstore posters, sketching the hills and valleys of faces like that of California author Amy Tan. For his own amusement he labored over images of his 19th-century literary idols—Dickens, Thackeray. He even drew modern literary titans like Margaret Atwood in 19th-century dress (George Sand’s dress, to be specific).


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Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012
Time was when you couldn’t move in a library in England for romance fiction: Dames Barbara and Catherine (Cartland and Cookson) dominated the shelves. Hundreds upon hundreds of copies of their titles (in large-print format very often) were loaned out by the armful.

For the second year in a row, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is the most borrowed book in UK libraries, and James Patterson is still the most borrowed author overall, a place he has occupied for the last five years.


The Public Lending Right (PLR) is the organistion that tracks the frequency of loans for any particular author’s work and enables the royalty payments to reach them. Their figures, released 3 February 2012, represent the shifting trends in popular tastes, consistently moving towards crime and thrillers in the last ten years; and American (or US-based) writers are favourite.


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Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012
Charles Dickens is a national, if not international, cultural figure. Is it such a problem that the London museum dedicated to him will be closed for the bicentenary?

The Charles Dickens House Museum, 48 Doughty Street, represents the preservation of the author’s London home and proudly advertises the fact that it houses over 100,000 artefacts. These range from original manuscripts, personal belongings, images, and rare editions of the novels. It’s where he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. All very significant, as their website, Dickens Museum.com, demonstrates.


But be warned, those of you who might be planning on following the Dickens trail during 2012, his bicentenary year. If you follow this link, “Great Expectations renovation project will start in April 2012”, you will find a surprise in store. As of April 2012 the Dickens House Museum in London will be closed for the remainder of the year. Yes, it pulled me up short as well! Of all the times to carry out refurbishments; and you’d have thought they would have seen this one coming.


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Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012
by Carolyn Kellogg - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
The challenges to social reading may present too much of a hurdle for some. Then again, wouldn’t it be nice to find someone to talk about what you just read on Page 57 of Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs”?

LOS ANGELES — Look ahead: The presents have been opened, wrapping thrown away, and for a few quiet hours you’ve been curled up reading the new Steve Jobs biography, a gift from your dad. You find a surprising detail and call to your significant other, “Honey, did you know ...?” but because he is busy making dinner, the idea fizzles away as you turn the page.


Or maybe when you get to that passage, with the swipe of a finger you highlight it and email it to your dad, adding a thanks for his gift. Or you click to add your thoughts to a chorus of readers who found that same passage interesting; or you check to see if there’s a link to a video clip; or you find an annotation from the author; or you post it to Twitter or Facebook or Google+, where others can comment on it too.


That’s called “social reading,” and it’s coming to an e-reading app or device near you.


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Monday, Sep 12, 2011
by David L. Ulin - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
If The 9/11 Commission Report has anything to tell us, it’s that here, too, narrative remains if not always consoling then essential -- a victory of humanity over fear.

LOS ANGELES — On March 11, 2002 — the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — I found myself at two very different commemorating events. First was an open-air memorial service in Manhattan’s Battery Park for those killed when the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. There were the usual speeches, by then-New York Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, but the moving part of the ceremony came at 8:46 a.m., the exact time the first plane had slammed into the north tower: a moment of silence followed by the tolling of a small brass bell. It was as if, in that instant, all of us in attendance allowed ourselves to understand the inability of language to console us in the face of a tragedy so dislocating and vast. All the rhetoric faded, and we were left with a feeling of loss that was unutterable, in the sense that it defied words.


The second came a few hours later, at a symposium on the role of literature in a post-9/11 world. In retrospect, the idea seems ridiculous: How could we say anything definitive, six months afterward, about a cultural terrain that was then in the earliest stages of re-forming, let alone what it might suggest for literature? Yet there we were, listening as novelists and essayists and critics debated whether stories could be relevant anymore. For one, the problem was that literature had become inadequate in the face of history, while for another, it was a matter of timing: How to reflect a moment in which we could no longer say what tomorrow, or even this afternoon, might bring when it might take a year or more to see a book into print? Such sentiments reminded me of what I’d felt in Battery Park — the discomforting sensation that, in the new world we had now come to occupy, language, writing, narrative, might never again be enough.


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