As we noted here recently about the rise and fall of Motown, the real issue was money — who earned it, who kept it, who never saw it. Now Barrett Strong, who co-wrote and sang the Detroit label’s first hit in 1959, “Money (That’s What I Want),” tells The New York Times that he never saw a penny of royalties for a song that became a classic and generated millions of dollars for the label. Strong’s story is the story of Motown boiled down to its bitter, ironic essence.
Paula Fox, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1983 National Book Award (among other honors), died this week. Contributing to our Year in Reading series two years ago, Parul Sehgal said she couldn’t stop rereading Desperate Characters, perhaps Fox’s most popular book for adults. “It’s really a wallop of a book,” Sehgal wrote. “A barbed portrait of a marriage, not to mention a brilliant take on gentrification, white fears of black and brown people, the hostile insularity of the nuclear family, and how power reproduces and how power conceals itself.” (Bonus: Dominic Smith wants to send a scene from that novel into space.)
Few people know that Roger Ebert was an ardent Anglophile, so much so that in 1986 he wrote an obscure little book, The Perfect London Walk, in which the lifelong film critic laid out his preferred walking path through the city. Over at Slate, Katie Engelhart reviews the book, which apparently still functions as a guide to a decent stroll.
PW points out yet another publishing industry totem being torn down by the rise of e-books, the first printing number, once a signifier of how “big” publishers and the media expected a book to be: “In an era when first printings are down because e-books can account for as much as 50% of sales on frontlist titles, the term ‘first printing’ sounds more and more out of place.”
“I’ve been hailed as a hero (hipster poets love me), gotten the rock star reception (by research librarians), and been dismissed with derision, thought possibly to be deranged,” says Jon Danzinger. So what’s his job, you might ask? He’s a researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary.
A number of indie book stores, squeezed by patrons using their shelves only for research into later online purchases, are starting to charge admission for in-store readings and events, the New York Times reports.
Yamaguchi-gumi Shinpo, the largest Yakuza faction, has decided to start its own magazine focused on “haiku poetry, articles on the innocent pursuit of angling and entreaties to its readers to perform good works” among other things. Related: recently photographer Christopher Jue journeyed with People Who Eat Darkness author Richard Lloyd Parry into the four-story headquarters of the Kudō-kai.