Sarah Fay, associate editor of The Paris Review, has a piece in The Atlantic on the digitization of book reviewing, framed beautifully by references to George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Confessions of a Book Reviewer.” She praises Bookslut, Nancy Pearl, Goodreads, and The Los Angeles Review of Books for their collective skills of recommendation, reviewing, and New Criticism. I’d add The Quarterly Conversation, The Rumpus, The New Inquiry, The Morning News (for their annual Tournament of Books feature), and of course, The Millions.
The unwritten rules of steampunk declare that in every steampunk story, the Hindenburg never caught fire, the world never lost its desire for blimp travel and the skies are dotted with hot air balloons and zeppelins. As it happens, this element of the genre stems from old utopian narratives, many of which depicted a future of widespread balloon travel. At Salon, Kyle Minor reviews the audiobook of a new history of the hot air balloon, written by Richard Holmes, that shows how the rise of air travel changed the world’s imaginative territory.
Pacific Standards profiles Ken Layne who quietly started the popular quarterly literary magazine, Desert Oracle for a town of 8,000 people. Now it has gained far more readers than that as it highlights works related to the American desert. “The reason that the Oracle works is that it’s always trying to elicit that feeling, the awe and wonder that the desert reveals to you when you listen hard enough. Layne believes it’s not an accident that religious awakenings, UFO sightings, walkabouts, and other revelations occur in the desert. It’s a consequence of solitude, stark beauty, and the tenacious life that only the desert has.”