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by David L. Ulin - Los Angeles Times (MCT)

12 Sep 2011


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.

by Glenn Garvin - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

12 Aug 2011


MIAMI — “Vanishing stores are sad way to close book,” read one headline. “The last days of once upon a time,” said another.

Last month’s news that the giant Borders bookstore chain had collapsed, taking 400 stores and 11,000 employees with it, leaving behind only a couple of hundred millions of dollars in IOUs to publishers, was for many the seventh sign of an impending apocalypse: for bookstores, for the art of reading, for the very concept of literacy.

But rather than the first steps of a funeral cortege, the death of Borders is really just the first little dip on a wildly careening roller coaster ride for the people who write, publish, buy and sell books. It’s going to shake us up, down and sideways, industry figures say, and some people may get thrown from their cars. But one group is sure to be happy at the end: readers.

by Chris Barsanti

19 Apr 2011


The 17 April edition of 60 Minutes was surprisingly book-heavy for these tweetable times, with two segments being focused on recent books and, more particularly, on the men who wrote them. The second was the less eye-opening of the two, being a somewhat quizzical take on the new memoir by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. This is the same Allen who cashed out to a tune of some $40 billion, which he then spent on philanthropy, but more eye-catchingly on a Jimi Hendrix guitar, his own ocean-going yacht that’s bigger than a football field, and a hanger full of vintage war planes, not to mention a couple of pro sports franchises. Leslie Stahl looks at Allen crook-eyed while he awkwardly tells stories about what a screaming jerk Bill Gates was, and tells him that she’s getting a certain Howard Hughes vibe, as are those viewers paying attention…

The Gates story – about how he and Steve Ballmer supposedly conspired to dilute Allen’s share of the company after Allen was diagnosed with cancer – was the book’s attention-grabber that hooked people in. But pretty quickly it becomes apparent that that’s not the narrative 60 Minutes wants to pursue. The feeling the whole piece leaves one with is pretty sour, and will likely not result in anybody rushing out to get Allen’s book, Idea Man; a pretty astounding thing given that this is the man who was instrumental in creating the dominant corporate-technological apparatus of the late 20th century. The book is hobbled before it even gets out of the gate.

by Sally Fink

15 Mar 2011


Image from the cover of Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City

Gone are the days of stodgy literary fiction bewailing the atrocities of Apartheid by authors such as Andre Brink and JM Coetzee. South African literature is today a melting pot of pop culture, social media and new writers giving the middle finger to the tweed-wearing grey beards that once dominated literary circles.

Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City is a noir crime novel following the adventures of black hipster protagonist, Zinzi December, as she makes a living in downtown Johannesburg creating 419 scams and finding lost things with the help of the handy magical sloth on her back.

by Peta Jinnath Andersen

8 Feb 2011


Image from the cover of Diana Peterfreund's Rampant

Note: This is the second installment of this topic.  See also Scott Westerfeld Talks with PopMatters About Bitch Media’s Top 100 Feminist YA List Debacle

Young adult author Diana Peterfreund was the first author to call out Bitch Media on their removal of Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, and the first to ask for her book to be removed.

Last week, Peterfreund elaborated on her issues with Bitch’s actions. Her novel, Rampant is 71 on the list (it’s in alphabetical order).

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Cage the Elephant Ignite Central Park with Kickoff for Summerstage Season

// Notes from the Road

"Cage the Elephant rocked two sold-out nights at Summerstage and return to NYC for a free show May 29th. Info on that and a preview of the full Summerstage schedule is here.

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