Tiffany Briere. Ashlee Crews. Kristin Dombek. Margaree Little. Kirstin Valez Quade. Jill Sisson Quinn. Remember these names, because the Rona Jaffe Foundation has a remarkable track record for picking future stars. The only national literary program of its kind devoted to supporting women writers exclusively, the awards were established by novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) in 1995, and provide grants of $30,000 each to six outstanding emerging women writers. Past recipients include Lan Samantha Chang, Rivka Galchen, Tracy K. Smith, and ZZ Packer, a storied group that has gone on to win the Pultizer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Whiting Writer’s Award.
My love of fashion and appreciation of fashion journalism began in early childhood, when, as an enterprising and not particularly considerate 4-year-old, I used my Aunt Kay’s issues of Vogue as my coloring books. If you were to flip through those pages, you would have found all the models’ lips redrawn with red ballpoint pen, and wobbly, talon-like red fingernails added to every single hand. My sister (who produced a fashion zine in high school) and I often rue the fact that fashion blogging didn’t exist when we were adolescents/college students/entering the work force.
Lately, my favorite blog has been The Man Repeller, produced by New York native Leandra Medine, a 24-year-old writer who launched the blog as an undergrad at the New School, and who quickly figured out how to monetize it, thus skipping the rite of passage called working for other people. When galleys for her debut essay collection, Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls.: Essays (Grand Central, Sept. 10) arrived at PW, I had to explain to a young male colleague—who said, “How could this woman repel anyone? She is GORGEOUS!”—that man repelling is about fashion, not attractiveness. Continue reading
Anyone who has been through the PW office and seen our desks (especially the reviews editors) has also surely seen the stacks of books we each have waiting to be taken home. These stacks tend to grow wild, as we live in small apartments already filled with piles of books. It can be difficult to justify taking more books home when you haven’t even made it through the ones that are already there. I happen to be a non-fiction editor here, and thus take home plenty of science and history and art books, but it’s always fun to cover something different, so to that end, here are five excellent poetry collections that I’ve recently read or am in the midst of reading.
Ana Božičević – Rise in the Fall (Birds LLC, 2013)
So far my favorite poetry collection of 2013, Božičević somehow combines war and trauma and sex and love in that bizarre paradox world where out of dark themes emerges total life joy. It does what in my mind great poetry is supposed to do, which is leave you reeling and ecstatic that some human made this thing that you barely comprehend but totally understand so that when somebody asks “yeah, so it’s good, sure, but what’s it doing? what’s she do?” and you stammer “I don’t know… like, everything.” (PW review) Continue reading
A few weeks ago we ran a starred review of The Riot Grrrl Collection edited by Lisa Darms.
Having just finished my degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Toronto, I was particularly excited to learn that Darms is not only a librarian but also the founding archivist of the collection showcased in the book (and a Canadian to boot!).
There are lots of librarians who write books (for example, see her, him, and a personal favorite, him). But usually we encounter these writers in their role of author rather than librarian. This is not surprising considering that librarians have long struggled with the issue of visibility and are most recognizable by their physical workplace rather than the nature of their work. Defining librarian without mention of the library is not that easy of a task—even in Merriam Webster, the librarian is defined as “a specialist in care of or management of a library.”
This is precisely why Lisa Darms’s book is such an achievement: It is not about libraries, it’s about a punk-rock, feminist movement. It does not tell you what librarians do, it shows you.
The book itself, much like the collection, aims to document “the process of zine-making, being in bands, and activism, as well as, the finished products of these activities.” Darms writes, “It isn’t intended as a coffee-table book, despite the fact that many of the documents are beautiful in their own right. Our goal is to make the content of these smart, radical texts more broadly available.”
Although the collection “makes up less than 1 percent of Fales [Library]’s physical holdings, it already accounts for 15 percent of our research use, and is further accessed by hundreds of students in classes that the Fales staff teaches on riot grrrl, feminism, queer activism and zine culture.”
If I learned anything during my two years at library school, it’s that the value of the library is not so much in the physical components of the library itself but the activities which go on inside: whether it’s the process of reading a book, making photocopies of a zine to distribute, or meeting with a group. It is the librarian’s job to encourage, empower, and enable patrons to partake in these activities. Darms, in her book, hones that energy and transports it outside the library and into a wider world.
Everybody poops, right? Or so we understand from Taro Gomi’s 1977 classic kid’s picture book of the same name. Now, thanks to Chris Gore, comedian, writer, “Podcrasher”, geeky film expert, and former G4TV personality, we also understand that it includes celebrities. Gore, along with the reluctant assistance of his artist/daughter Haley Gore, has self-published Celebrities Poop, a tongue-in-cheek send-up of Gomi’s classic kids’ book that provides more visual information on the topic than anyone probably wants.
Yes, Gore, who actually launched the book with a party and a show of original artwork from the book at Comic-Con International in San Diego, has reprised Gomi’s Everybody Poops with a goofy twist. While Gomi offered charming and childlike drawings of animals doing their business, Gore offers similiar childlike drawings of Larry King, Olivia Munn, Lady Gaga, Howard Stern, Michael Moore and many others, well, squatting for our edification. If you can’t figure out just who is being depicted taking a dump, there’s a helpful chart at the end of the book with all the names. No, the book is not for kids, and yes, it’s all for laughs and literally so.
Among his many talents, Gore does stand-up comedy around L.A. and he’s got a comedy album, also called Celebrities Poop, available as a download through iTunes. Gore says that back in the day, after a performance a comedian could sell CDs, but the download era leaves much to be desired—it’s not very sexy handing out download codes. “Rather than just offer a download code,” he told PW, “I can offer fans a book and a download code to the album. It’s an experiment.”
Gore calls Celebrities Poop a fake kids book, “a page by page parody” of the original and says he even did research. “I went to a list of the most famous people in the world and looked through the top pop culture names and tried to pick the ones I thought would have a sense of humor about this.” The, uh, poopers depicted include Olivia Munn, a former colleague on G4TV, now starring in the HBO show News Hour. He indeed wrote the book himself—“it’s not that many words,” he added laughing—and dragooned his daughter Haley into doing the art. “She’s a very sophisticated art student who imitated the art style of the Gomi book,” Gore said emphasizing that Haley’s real artwork is very different. Haley apparently declined to be a part of this project at first but finally relented after appeals from dad. In a note in the book, she calls the artwork, “the illegitimate child I will hide under the stairs.”
The book sells for $19.95, includes the download code for the album and Gore has printed a couple thousand copies of the book and does all the fulfillment himself—he’s selling it through Etsy.com. He says “the reaction has been great,” and added, “hopefully a real publisher will come along and take it over.”
Leading up to the November 5th publication of PW’s Best Books of 2012, our reviews editors are blogging about some of their favorites from our top 100. Here’s the latest post:
Over the course of Tana French’s four Dublin Murder Squad novels, a lot has happened. For one, French has become a very good writer. Her last two in the series, Faithful Place and Broken Harbor, are great books; moody, enthralling, truly mysterious, and well-written, with only rare moments of laziness when French leans on too-familiar metaphors. A lot has happened to Ireland too since French wrote her first novel, In the Woods. Published in 2007 in the U.S., that novel mixed a mysterious murder and a decades-old disappearance with economics and politics in the guise of a planned motorway project. Dublin was booming then, the Celtic Tiger at full roar. By Faithful Place, French’s third novel, Dubliners were starting to worry, a bit, about the increasingly unstable real estate market.
In the Ireland of Broken Harbor, the Tiger is dead, its corpse carpeted by maggots. And the way that the Irish economy, as seen primarily in its boom-bust real estate market, figures in French’s books has also evolved. In Broken Harbor, the failed economy isn’t simply a shady backdrop—it’s motivation for murder. When three of a family of four are killed in their home in a depressingly under-populated seaside housing estate, Detective Mick Kennedy (from Faithful Place) is assigned to solve the case that left only the mother alive, maimed and unable (or is it unwilling?) to speak when the police first visit her in hospital. French saddles Kennedy with a lot of obstacles to create tension: a former workplace screw-up that puts pressure on him to solve this increasingly dark and complicated case; a rookie partner who may not be up to the task; an unstable sister who needs constant care; and a haunted past that connects Kennedy (and his sister) to Broken Harbor—a site now whitewashed into the generic, real estate-friendly “Brianstown” development. Like Jo Nesbo, who grounds his latest tale in Oslo’s economic issues, which have led to a heroin epidemic, French makes expert use of the very real and serious economic problems that her adopted country has faced in recent years.
No one in Ireland is talking about recovery right now, not yet. While this is bad news for the Irish on a daily basis, every year or two, when Tana French turns her mind to Ireland’s troubles, it’s great news for everyone else.
One of the things I have been thinking about recently is alternative ways that libraries can be agents for change on their own behalf by engaging more directly with the publishing industry. New tactics might enable a larger number of books to be available for lending.
Efforts that straddle public access and traditional publishing are growing, including Eric Hellman’s Unglue.it, the Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s Library License, and exploratory work developing at Berkeley Law. All attempt to provide greater access and library lending with the consent of the publisher or author, as rightsholder. These are creative approaches to the access problems raised by digital content. In the print world, no separate exception or limitation was necessary for lending, because at least up until recently, the First Sale Doctrine meant that a library could re-use the book as it pleased. However, for digital materials, access, reproduction, and distribution are restricted through licensing, and the concept of digital first sale, which might enable automatic lending rights, is subject to uncertain interpretation. Continue reading
This week, a well known technology news site, GigaOM, launched their own digital press, GigaOM Books. GigaOM Books, in turn, is built upon Vook’s publishing platform, which provides an easy-to-use interface for authoring ebooks and distributing them into major online retailers. Also in the news, PressBooks, an authoring and ebook production system built on WordPress, announced that it was working with Columbia Business School Publishing and Harvard Business Review Press, among others, to provide direct-to-author publishing tools. These kind of announcements are becoming commonplace.
What we are witnessing for the first time is the widespread uptake of new, lightweight, internet-based authoring tools by both startup and existing publishers, enabling a reduction in time-to-market as well as the rapid generation of multimedia ebooks and apps. This shouldn’t be a surprise: ebooks are increasingly intertwined with web standards. Although the web is constantly evolving technically, we’ve had over 20 years to develop simple, easy-to-use authoring tools for web sites capable of supporting fairly complex interactivity. As a result, derivatives of those tools are now being adapted to support ebook publishing.
Leading up to the November 7th publication of PW’s Best Books of 2011, our reviews editors are blogging about some of their favorites from our top 100. Here’s the latest post:
Until James Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood came up in “best books of the year” discussion I’ll admit to having entirely forgotten about it. When it was published earlier in the year I was a graduate student working in a bookstore and under those circumstances there were no “available” slots on my reading list. A co-worker seemed to enjoy it, as I had two of his previous works (Chaos: Making a New Science and Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything), but I knew it would be a while before I would have a chance to pick it up, particularly given it’s slightly intimidating size.
Fast forward to September and I tore through it over a weekend. At first I couldn’t tell whether The Information really was one of the year’s best books or that I just happened to be fascinated by the material and appreciated it for that reason alone. Admittedly it’s not “light” reading, though once again Gleick demonstrates his remarkable ability to not only illuminate obscure mathematical & philosophical concepts, but also to then utilize milestones within the development of those concepts as the basis for the narrative. Instead of foregrounding the scientists or philosophers he portrays them as vessels or transmitters for some larger, undirected scheme: a curious, yet profound decision whose repercussions are fully realized later.
The central revelation Gleick lays out in the beginning is that our story, is really one of information becoming aware of itself. However, though we may live in the “Information Age”, the ubiquity of that idea doesn’t make it any easier to define. As he points out early, what we recognize today as “information” refers to a fairly young concept that, much like a computer, would be wholly unrecognizable to anyone alive before the World Wars. He quotes intercellular communication specialist Werner Loewenstein: “[Information] connotes a cosmic principle of organization and order, and it provides an exact measure of that.” Histories of language and measurement come into play as do that of obscure topics like African talking drums.
Some of the most enjoyable and mind-bending sections of the book happen as Gleick explores the mathematical and logical paradoxes (from Godel’s incompleteness theorems to properties of quantum mechanics) out of which our modern conceptions arise. For instance, information’s relationship to “surprise” or “uncertainty” is counterintuitive: if one can deduce what symbol is to come next in a pattern, that symbol is redundant and contains no actual “information”. Towards the end of the book these abstractions become entwined with biology and things come full circle. The study of genetics ultimately reveals the evolutionary pressures that operate on information in the form of “memes”.
While it may seem helpful to be familiar with some of these topics before reading, Gleick’s history turns so much common sense on its head that a blank slate may actually be preferable. However, regardless of how “informed” you believe yourself beforehand, you’ll finish the book with an enlightened and expanded perspective on the universe in which we find ourselves.
Comics and graphic novels have always been a part of the Brooklyn Book Festival, held this past weekend on a beautiful fall Sunday September 18 at Borough Hall and surrounding sites. But this weekend the Brooklyn Book Festival 2011 seems to have really ramped up the involvement of comics artists at the one-day literary festival, incorporating cartoonists into a wide range of literary panels along with prose authors in addition to all-comics and youth comics panels.
Indeed Meg Lemke, acquisitions editor at Teachers College Press and a member of the BBF youth committee, told PW that the festival worked to incorporate comics throughout the show’s programming. And Lemke was the moderator for one of the hottest tickets at the show, Comics Writ Large and Small, a public interview with three of the most acclaimed cartoonists of the moment about their newest works: Craig Thompson (Habibi, Pantheon); Anders Nilsen (Big Questions, Drawn & Quarterly) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve, D&Q). The event was held at the St. Francis College Auditorium, a block away from Borough hall and one of several additional venues (which included projection capability in order to show off comics and visuals) added to the festival to accommodate the growth in attendence.
And the show is definitely growing. The plaza at Borough hall was jammed with visitors from the time this reporter arrived around 10am on Sunday to moderate—if that’s the word—a panel on drawing for kids featuring three cartoonists. The panel, Comics Quick-Draw!, was more of a tongue-in-cheek sports event than a conventional panel—it was a packed outdoor tent full of parents and young kids, who were asked to tell the cartoonists to draw any kind of crazy thing—like, say, aliens eating bagels on the moon!—and the intrepid cartoonists did their best to comply. Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Raina Telgemier (Smile) and Laura Lee Gulledge (Paige by Page) were great troopers and expert draughtspeople and the kids were screaming with delight by the end of the session (they also bum-rushed the stage at the end to claim the drawings). Comics aimed at kids were well represented with a combination of panels and workshops throughout the day featuring such cartoonists as Nick Bertozzi and Sarah Glidden.