VQR has published an essay by Chris Fischbach of Coffee House Press that provides an overview of some of the innovative small presses at work today. Fischbach specifically mentions Tin House, Melville House and Two Dollar Radio as “nimble” publishing houses that “can try things big publishers might not find worthwhile or consistent with the aims of a traditional publishing program,” such as producing micro-budget films or illustrated versions of classic works of literature.
Writers of facial stage direction, beware: it is not actually the epitome of irony that smiling and crying can seem so oddly similar. At Aeon, Princeton professor Michael Graziono argues that the seemingly opposite gestures may just share evolutionary origins. (Pair with: Darwinist theories about “the evolution of the novel.”)
New this week: Paul Auster’s latest, Sunset Park; a new collection of short stories from Stephen King called Full Dark, No Stars; The Memory Hole, a memoir by the historian Tony Judt who recently died from ALS (the essays collected here appeared in recent months in the New York Review of Books); and the latest obligatory obfuscatory presidential memoir Decision Points.
In The Age of The Crisis of Man, a new book by n + 1 co-founder and editor Mark Greif, the author examines the life and death of the concept of “man,” aka a unified humankind that could be said to suffer from particular conflicts. It was born in the thirties, with the rise of Fascism, but persisted for decades, eventually giving way to a more diversified view of humanity. In Tablet, Adam Kirsch dives into Greif’s arguments.
Recently, both Batgirl and the Norse god Thor (as conceived by Marvel) have been updated to suit the times. While DC Comics simply gave Batgirl sensible, combat-appropriate clothing, inspiring happy fan art; “female Thor” has met a mix of excitement and bewilderment. Fittingly, a new piece out at Aeon explores our conflicted desire to see male protagonists in fiction — the Harry Potters and Bilbo Baggins’ of the world — reimagined as women. (Also, because no roundup of imaginary characters is complete without fake social media updates, here’s Thor lamenting the loss of his hammer on Facebook.)
“To me a book is not just a particular file. It’s connected with personhood. Books are really, really hard to write. They represent a kind of a summit of grappling with what one really has to say. And what I’m concerned with is when Silicon Valley looks at books, they often think of them as really differently as just data points that you can mush together. They’re divorcing books from their role in personhood.” Digital pioneer and theorist Jaron Lanier fears that the Internet might be destroying not just literature, but also the middle class.