This week has been full of news about unorthodox children’s book authors. First, there was Keith Richards’s picture book, and now an Australian academic claims that Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung wrote children’s books, too. “I was astounded that children’s books (purportedly) written by Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were vastly more readable than one would expect from any political leader in the democratic west, still less a severe authoritarian,” doctoral student Christopher Richardson said.
Gerrard Winstanley’s 1649 “The True Levellers Standard Advanced.” The True Levellers were a radical Protestant sect that founded a commune in Surrey during the English Civil War. In this rather astonishing and neglected declaration, Winstanley argues that God intended the earth to be a common treasury for all and that disparities in property and power between the rich and the poor are unholy and need to be abolished. (Billy Bragg has a song on Back to Basics called “The World Turned Upside Down” that’s based on the Diggers’ Song, also written by Winstanley.)Bookride documents the surprising desirability of W.G. Sebald books among collectors. “At one point his books were making exceptional sums on Ebay and people wanted ephemera, posters, recordings and anything to do with his legendary walk from Lowestoft to Boulge.” The Rings of Saturn is coveted in particular. Only a few hundred copies of the English first edition were printed and they mostly turn up in East Anglia.Many a freelance journalist has pondered the idea of an online marketplace for writing in recent years, one that might ease the inefficiencies and frustration of pitching articles. Attempting to fill that gap is Reporterist, a journalism marketplace. One of the founders offers up details of the project in an interview with the Online Journalism Review.
While calling for the preservation of the wonderful St. Marks Bookshop, Paris Review editor Lorin Stein explains that “magazines like The Paris Review need good bookstores, where the staff knows how to spread the word about good writing, face to face, hand to hand.”
What’s the deal with all of the novels about famous writers? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that, according to Heller McAlpin at The Literary Hub, “there’s a special frisson of pleasure in reading about writers’ early struggles when you know what the future holds for them—which in the case of most of these authors is posthumous literary acclaim beyond their wildest dreams.”
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.