Pew Research published 10 Facts About Americans and Public Libraries, and some of the findings may surprise you. For example, would you have guessed that 26% of library patrons say their use has gone up in the past five years? Other findings, of course, won’t shock anybody — such as the fact that e-reading is on the rise, which, as I noted two years ago, poses some serious ecological challenges.
In 1952, John Steinbeck wrote that Al Capp, the cartoonist and Lil’ Abner creator, might well have been the best writer working in the world at the time. In the Times, Andy Webster reviews a new biography of Capp, which reveals that underneath it all lay “a toxic chip on his shoulder.”
“‘There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,’ [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, ‘which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.’ Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance … By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.” This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.
Nicole Krauss has taken her family to deserts in Chile, a lice-infested nursery in Tel Aviv, Sarajevo, Capri, and even the Arctic, but she’s never been on a beach vacation. She tries to relax and searches for the meaning of paradise in Turks and Caicos in her essay for Condé Nast Traveler.
Rebecca Makkai shares the events that we can’t miss at AWP. I’m looking forward to the LA Law Karaoke Costume Party at the Santa Monica Pier, sponsored by VIDA and Pen America, featuring Mary Oliver and Kesha. Tod Goldberg’s dispatch from AWP in 2013 is a nice supplement to the piece.
Recommended Reading: a piece from the New York Review of Books blog on modern attention spans and what they mean for literature. Hint: it’s not looking too promising. Tim Parks closes with a prediction that “the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel, or the novel of extensive narrative architecture, will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”