“The [book] review’s pre-eminence is irrefutable: most people are acquainted with far, far more books through reviews than they could ever hope to read. And that is, generally, to the good.” Joseph Mackin explores why we write and read book reviews for the New York Journal of Books.
The Mississippi was integral to Mark Twain’s fiction, so David Carkeet traced Twain’s path on the river in the new issue of Smithsonian. “What would Samuel Clemens have made of the Riverwalk? He was a grown child who readily took a God’s-eye view of life on earth. He would have loved it.” Pair with: Our essay on Twain’s travel writing.
“It’s not clear whether he really went mad or not, but he was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics—an admirably blunt name, no?”— Frank Key writes about Christopher Smart, “an intimate of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Henry Fielding” and an excellent cat poet, for the Public Domain Review.
Librarians might frown on P.D.A. in the library, that is, Public Displays of Affection by canoodling college couples. But another kind of P.D.A. might bring a different, more welcome sort of disruption to the library: Patron-Driven Acquisition, a model of e-book licensing that aims to relieve library purchasing agents from spending thousands on books nobody will end up reading.
Renaissance Learning has released its annual report on what children are reading. The NYDaily News books blog takes offense at some of the more popular books named in the report, suggesting that kids and teens deserve to be challenged by better literature. The Huffington Post mines through the report to discover that American teenagers on average are still reading at or near the level of fifth graders.
Want a book blurb from Margaret Atwood? Expect a poem instead. Atwood has retired from the blurbing business and now declines in rhyming verse. “But now I am aging; my brain is all shrunk,/And my adjective store is depleted;/My hair’s getting stringy, I walk as though drunk;/ As a quotester I’m nigh-on defeated.” Pair with our essays on the blurbing blunder: a history of blurbs, blurbs as publicity stunts, and the fundamental question — to blurb or not to blurb?