Dog-Eared and Dispatched: November 2, 2014
In this week’s column we remember the late Galway Kinnell, and look forward to hearing more from HarperCollins. Since this Tuesday is election day, we also take a brief look at the role of books in politics. The footnotes feature Shakespeare & Co, William Hazlitt, and how to handle big data. You’ve got an extra hour this morning, so settle in for a read.
The raindrops trying
to put the fire out
fall into it and are
changed: the oath broken,
the oath sworn between earth and water, flesh and spirit, broken,
to be sworn again,
over and over, in the clouds, and to be broken again,
over and over, on earth.
The poet Galway Kinnell died this week of leukemia. Author of more than ten books of poetry, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award (among others), Kinnell was the state poet of Vermont and held numerous teaching positions. C. K. Williams has written a moving tribute in The New Yorker, remembering: “…his voice had a certain resonant kindness, with overtones of sympathy and solicitude, all of which came through not only in person but when he recited his poems to his numerous and enthusiastic audiences. He was a musical, dramatic, moving reader of his own poetry, and, when he had the chance, he liked to read aloud the poetry of others: John Clare and Keats especially, and Whitman…” Speaking personally, reading The Book of Nightmares changed how I thought about modern poetry. He will be missed. [New York Times, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, GalwayKinnell.com]
Books can be politically important, and they can play an unusual role in the election cycle. Remember when Wendy Davis was getting flak about her book tour: politically motivated (flak or book tour, your choice). Or the untimely resurrection of Oregon State Senate candidate Paul Evans’ unfortunate vampire novel, which was apparently slightly worse than… well, this is not the place for that sort of criticism. As the election is finally upon us, it’s not surprising that candidates are saying silly things about books. Staten Island’s congressional candidates are both real winners, though, and can’t remember the last book they read. Of course they are busy, they say. Of course they are too busy talking, they say. But still, as the WaPo points out: “For a candidate, being able to name a good, safe book when asking about reading habits should be as knee-jerk as enjoying a small-town slice of apple pie. Or kissing a baby. Or being in an ad with puppies prominently featured.” In other words: not a stumper. Don’t forget to vote! [LNL, The Oregonian, MobyLives!, France 24, Washington Post, The Phoenix]
Perhaps in preparation for its upcoming contract negotiations with Amazon, HarperCollins is trying to build its following and market direct to consumers with a new podcast: “HarperCollins Presents.” As Publishers Weekly reports: “feature HarperCollins authors, editors and creators in discussions about books, culture and the arts. Existing HarperCollins podcast programs will now fall under the HarperCollins Presents podcast network.” This follows on the publisher’s efforts to sell books directly to consumers through its own website, rather than relying on other vendors to provide ecommerce solutions. Yes, that’s a euphemism. We’ll let you know when (or if) the other big publishers follow suit. [HarperCollins, Publishers Weekly, Digital Book World]
- Another look at the Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Co.
- Why don’t more people read William Hazlitt? (If you haven’t, you should.)
- Indeed one wonders, why are books broken down into chapters?
- On H. P. Lovecraft: “He is often described as misanthropic, but this isn’t quite right – a true misanthrope would find the inhumanity of the universe liberating.”
- The best books of 2014, according to Publishers Weekly.
- Check out Al Jazeera’s webcomic on big data and the future of privacy.
- John Green would like to remind you that we need diverse books.
- Yes, yes, Halloween is over, but it’s still worth watching Neil Gaiman discussing the importance of scary stories.