Discussed in this review: Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print by Kate van Orden, University of California Press, 2013, 256 pages – buy at Amazon or UC Press.
Read any good music lately? When you think of music, do you think first of a particular composer or of a type of music? What was the impact of the development of printing on the ways audiences and musicians thought about music? These are some of the questions that came to me as I perused the book, Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print by Kate van Orden. If you care about history, music, or culture in general, put this book on your shopping list.
Can social media and books go together? Recent writers have said no, but I hold out hope for digital social reading.
For a while now, I have hoped for a time when e-books were fully social: that reading is a participatory social act, not a solitary experience, when we want it to be. With current e-reader and tablet technology, this goal seems possible. Why not incorporate tools that allow readers to hold book clubs, communal reading projects, or classroom discussions right from the book, a sort of digital Junto? In theory, you could read a book and participate in a book club or MOOC-like literature class without leaving your e-reader. Your book, then, would also be your social media platform for participation.
Theodore Ziolkowski’s latest book, Lure of the Arcane, explores conspiracy theories in literature. Today, he discusses some of his most intriguing examples.
We seem to be living in a golden age of the conspiracy theory. Nothing is ever what it appeared to be to those who are convinced there was a conspiracy behind almost every significant public act of violence or scandal, and that dark forces lurk round every corner.
The Kennedy assassination. The destruction of the World Trade Center. Even Hillary Clinton used the term, “vast right-wing conspiracy” during her husband’s presidency. How has conspiracy been portrayed in literary works over the centuries, and how might depictions of it help us to understand our world today? As I browsed one day a few months ago on the website of Johns Hopkins University Press I came upon the webpage of the book Lure of the Arcane: The Literature of Cult and Conspiracy by Theodore Ziolkowski. This looked promising. I wrote to Mr. Ziolkowski to ask him for an interview. He graciously agreed and this is the result. Continue reading
A new book explores the unraveling of protest movements in the U.S. and U.K. What is to become of protest movements as “free-market capitalism” stifles them?
Discussed in this feature: The End of Protest: How Free-Market Capitalism Learned to Control Dissent by Alasdair Roberts; Cornell University Press, 2013. Buy as e-book at Amazon or Google Play.
So whatever happened to Occupy Wall Street, anyway? And wasn’t there rioting in the streets of Britain in 2011? But then the 2012 London Olympics came and went and a royal baby was born. We all settled in to watch Downton Abbey and wished the Queen well on her Diamond Jubilee. We shrugged at sequestration and a government shutdown. What’s up with populist turbulence in the U.S. and the U.K. one year and political apathy among the masses the next? Americans and Brits just don’t seem to be overturning-the-established-order types these days. No staying power. Remember the Battle for Seattle anti-WTO riots of 1999? That movement fizzled out, too.
As Amazon cracks down on serial e-book returners, maybe it’s time to re-think the e-book sales model.
Lately, two recent trends are taking place in e-book publishing. First, several articles in the past few months indicate that e-book returns have grown among readers. Some readers are abusing Amazon’s generous Kindle book return policy in order to get their money back after purchasing a book. Continue reading
The story of how literary genres are born and gain legitimacy fascinates those of us with an interest in cultural matters. How does something like rock criticism come to be seen as a mainstream form of intellectual discourse instead of a fringe one? Who wrote and read this new genre? What was the impact of these new critics and journalists on rock and on the wider culture? These are the questions examined by Devon Powers in her book, Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism. I wrote to ask her for an interview, and this is the result.
Discussed in this review: Asian American Women’s Popular Literature: Feminizing Genres and Neoliberal Belonging by Pamela Thoma. 2013, 236 pages, Temple University Press. Buy at Temple UP or Amazon.
Always follow up on the curiosity piqued by the first few words of the title of a book. For example, what is encompassed under the phrase “Asian American Women’s Popular Literature?” All I could come up with in the privacy of own head was a feeble, “Amy Tan?” Pretty lame.
Here are some great reads to help you avoid your pre-holiday planning (at least in the U.S.). For everyone else, this is what I found interesting this week:
The Immaterial Book informs us of a time in history when books were seen conceptually, rather than seen as material objects.
Discussed in this review: The Immaterial Book: Reading and Romance in Early Modern England by Sarah Wall-Randell; University of Michigan Press, 2013, 195 pages – buy at U of Michigan P or Amazon.
“This is a book about imaginary books…” So we read in the acknowledgments section of this real book by Sarah Wall-Randell. She uses the term “romance” in this case to refer to literary works of Renaissance England such as Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and The Tempest, saying that such works were for readers and theatergoers the rough equivalent of today’s fantasy novel. It is always fun to read about books and about how the act of reading has been portrayed throughout history and Wall-Randell’s discussion of imaginary or “immaterial” books seems especially relevant today, given the endless discussion of the future of the book and whether reading e-books is really “reading” at all.