Jeff Chang, whose Can’t Stop Wont Stop I just can’t recommend enough for anyone interested in the history of hip hop, has a great piece in the LARB on rap music and the 1992 LA Riots. The LA Times also ran a compelling essay on Toddy Tee, N.W.A. and other prescient west coast MCs, the forefathers of what became commercial gangsta rap.
"When someone asks me how I know someone and I say 'the Internet,' there is often a subtle pause, as if I had revealed we’d met through a benign but vaguely kinky hobby, like glassblowing class, maybe. The first generation of digital natives are coming of age, but two strangers meeting online is still suspicious..." Ah, the halcyon days of 2004 and internet anonymity.
Recommended Reading: This fantastic essay by Lea Page at The Rumpus on memory, family, and a whole lot more than that: "There could be no argument, no defense. It was, in a literal sense, true. I had said that.Sure, she had left out a significant portion of the truth, but in doing so, she had revealed another. That was the one memory my mother cleaved to. That was the song she chose to sing of me. I was still losing at memory."
"The French writer Marcel Proust paid for glowing reviews of the first volume of his Remembrance of Things Past to be put into newspapers." Letters by Proust, which will be auctioned off at Soethby's in Paris next month, reveal he was willing to pay handsomely for flattering references to his novel. See also: the first entry of The Millions' Hannah Gersen's column, The Proust Book Club.
In her controversial book The Fall of Language in the Age of English, Minae Mizumura argues that English, thanks largely to its global predominance, threatens to lessen the diversity of expression in the world. At Bookslut, she tells interviewer Corinna Pichl about her book, her issues with lingua francas and things you can say in Japanese that you can't say in English.
W.W. Norton puts together a project similar to our Year in Reading (and with some participants in common): Writers Recommend.Another clever batch of recommendations: Village Voice asks several notables to recommend their favorite "obscure" books.Three Percent reveals its 25-book longlist for the "Best Translated Book of 2008" (Bonus Link: The Prizewinners: International Edition)A conversation with South African poet and anti-apartheid activist Breyten BreytenbachTodd Zuniga's (of Opium Magazine and Literary Death Match) "favorite writers we haven't heard of yet."Best book cover designs of the year. (via 3% and kottke)Maud reproduces the memo behind the huge reorganization at Random House (which itself is just one part of the belt tightening hitting the publishing industry in recent weeks.)
Writing for Banned Books Month on the PEN American Center’s blog, our own Lydia Kiesling discusses Judy Blume’s Forever. It’s a book many have “lobbied vigorously to pry … out of the hands of enthralled youth since 1975,” Kiesling writes, which should prove that such lobbyists “weren’t very good readers” in the first place.