Amazon has unveiled its “Kindle Singles” store. Says Amazon: “Typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words, each Kindle Single is intended to allow a single killer idea — well researched, well argued and well illustrated — to be expressed at its natural length.” In practice, this appears to mean short stories as well as journalistic pieces that have (perhaps) been expanded upon. For example, a piece from n+1 is included, “Octomom and the Politics of Babies” by Mark Greif. Amazon writes that in this piece Greif “updates his insightful essay from last spring, where only the journal’s 10,000 readers had access to his dead-on critique of the American media culture that produced its own eight-headed monster.” Bottom line: Amazon is fishing for higher quality content at the low price points that Amazon readers have come to crave.
At The Morning News, Ben Shattuck explores the similarities between paintings and fiction writing. He explains that pictures convey emotion the way stories convey plot, through composition. Pair with this Millions essay on learning about a book from paintings.
Public radio program Science Friday has quite a lineup on tap this week: "Science and art often seem to develop in separate silos, but many thinkers are inspired by both. Novelist Cormac McCarthy, filmmaker Werner Herzog, and physicist Lawrence Krauss discuss science as inspiration for art and Herzog’s new film on the earliest known cave paintings." (via @maudnewton)
You must obey (and read) your robot overlords! As if winning a literary award wasn't already hard enough, a story co-authored by computers just made it through at least one round of judging at the Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award competition in Japan. But don't worry, you haven't lost your job quite yet–the good news is that the programs still have "some problems … such as character descriptions.”
Penelope Fitzgerald has been getting a lot of attention lately, largely due to Hermione Lee's newest biography. In an article for the Paris Review, Bridget Read considers the impact a better understanding of Fitzgerald's life could have on her modern reputation, and argues that "it is not extraordinary that she became a prize-winning novelist, though you may have heard otherwise. ... It is vital to emphasize that Fitzgerald’s novels were not achieved in spite of her domestic life; they were borne directly out of it. Her work is radical in that it suggests that, in fact, a feminine experience, a liminal experience, might be better equipped than a male one to address the contradictions of human existence taken up by the greatest literature."
Eleanor Catton has been getting a lot of press for being the youngest author ever to win the Man Booker prize, but she claims that the new fame is a mixed blessing that often brings up sexism. "In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them," she told The Guardian.
This month, a Brentwood School archivist unearthed a two-page poem entitled "A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining.” The kicker? It was written by a 17-year-old Douglas Adams, nine years before he published The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
The Economist gives a succinct explanation of "why books come out in hardback before paperback," but their answer feels almost too simple. For a fuller understanding of the paperback / hardback question, pair The Economist's article with Nichole Bernier's Millions piece on "The Point of the Paperback."
For The Guardian, Rafia Zakaria writes on the new wave of confessional “feminist” memoirs. As she puts it, “We’re on an uncomfortable tightrope between a bold new dialogue about women and sex, and the monetisation of that conversation by powers that recognise that as a gap in the market.” Pair with this Millions essay on feminist pop anthems.