NY Press has a long look at the history of iconoclastic indie press Soft Skull, which recently shuttered its New York office, effectively ending the publisher’s run as a standalone press and making it just an imprint of California-based parent (and, it should be noted, rescuer from financial straights) Counterpoint. Incidentally, I’ve had a front row seat for all this, as, for the book I’m co-editing, I was initially working with the good folks in New York and then everything was suddenly (and thankfully without a hitch) transferred to the folks in Berkeley. (Thanks, Craig)
"Here’s a challenge for you: find a book jacket that features an image of a woman over 40." Despite being one of the biggest consumers of books, The Guardian writes about the lack of middle-aged women on book jackets. Pair with: an essay on the sexy-backed, faceless-woman book cover trend.
A couple weeks ago, Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll argued in a Salon piece that David Foster Wallace, who wrote an essay about the television and irony back in the early ‘90s, presciently diagnosed the danger of snark in our own age. Now Peter Finocchiaro, a senior editor at Salon, argues instead that we need irony more than we ever have. You could also read A-J Aronstein’s notes from the DFW Symposium.
Here's something to cheer us up (aside from the good weather this weekend). Publisher's Weekly interviews a few Black bookstore owners on how Black indie bookstores have bounced back from a steep decline several years ago. If a bookstore in your city is mentioned, be sure and visit.
A lot has already been said about Nicolas Winding Refn's newest and arguably most provocative film, Neon Demon. At The Rumpus, Jeffery Edalatpour examines beauty and its extremes, and also asks a couple questions of the director, himself: "Refn has revised the mythology of Aphrodite; she dons as much armor as Athena, enjoying nothing but the hunt. When I asked the director if he could cite any visual influences, his flat affect implied disdain for my simplistic question: 'I just photograph what I find interesting. I believe that women are more powerful and more interesting than men. It’s just very much what I like to fantasize about.' Fair enough."
For any Amazon Prime members out there, Amazon has rolled out a selection of streaming movies and TV shows available for free with your Prime membership.
Some amateur biologists are at work replacing lamps with bio-luminescent trees and flowers, reports Andrew Pollack for The New York Times. Meanwhile South Korean scientists have barking up an entirely different tree for the past two years. (I’m sorry for the pun; here’s an image of a glowing beagle to make amends.)
"Knausgaard's work is literary because of what it does, but not because of how it’s written. He gets us all asking…where does my truth really lie?" Recommended listening: James Wood, Meghan O'Rourke and Bill Pierce discuss Knausgaard in a podcast for Open Source.