I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of Emdashes' Ask the New Yorker Librarians series.Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Franzen's new memoir, The Discomfort Zone. Kakutani's wrath filled pen aside, Ed explains why she's right, and I have to agree. I looked back through the archives here and realized I hadn't elaborated on it much beyond writing back in 2003 that "Franzen's non-fiction bugs the heck out of me," but it put me off enough that I avoided reading The Corrections for a long time because of it.Speaking of reviews, it's a good thing Bob Dylan didn't get the Franzen treatment. He tells contactmusic.com that while he doesn't care about music reviews, the reviews for Chronicles Vol. 1 meant a lot to him: "Most people who write about music, they have no idea what if feels like to play it, but, with the book I wrote, I thought, 'The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they're talking about. They know how to write a book, they know more about it than me.' The reviews of this book, some of 'em almost made me cry - in a good way. I'd never felt that from a music critic, ever."Even though it seems like there's another "book banning" story in the news every week, the AP reports that the 405 challenges reported to the American Library Association last year is the smallest number since they started keeping track in the early 1980s. The challenges have dropped by more than half since the ALA started Banned Books Week to promote free expression. Kudos to the librarians.The second most brilliant magazine in the world (refer to the top item in this list for the first), The Economist has a characteristically well-considered a piece on the newspaper industry's timid efforts to embrace the Internet. Thanks to Millions contributor Andrew for sending this along.
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Friend of The Millions, proprietor of Pinky's Paperhaus, and all around great gal Carolyn Kellogg has landed at the LA Times book blog Jacket Copy. We have little doubt that she'll do great things there.Following Heath Ledger's untimely death, BBC looks at the myriad ways in which Hollywood has dealt with losing an actor mid-production, dating back to 1937 "when Jean Harlow died, aged 26, during the making of Saratoga. With filming 90% complete, a lookalike and two Harlow sound-a-likes (voice doubles) took up where the star left off."Bookride is back with an intriguing look at the collectors' market for Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. Don't miss this tidbit: "By the way sending books to authors for signing is something of a gamble - Thomas Hardy used to keep all the books sent to him neatly shelved in a spare room."Speaking of Garcia Marquez, Edith Grossman, the translator who has shaped the Latin American canon for English speakers over the last few decades, is profiled in bookforum.The New Republic offers the story behind the controversial New York Times John McCain/lobbyist story.The Morning News returns with its third annual Tournament of Books. Sadly, there will be no Bloggers' Pool this year (despite our being eager to participate again), but Coudal Partners is sponsoring a betting pool for charity this year. As of this writing, On Chesil Beach and Run have had the most money thrown their way.A cartoon drawn on the pages of Moby DickAnd finally, McSweeney's offers up some sweet Ashton Kutcher fan fiction.
"The problem is that young children have terrible taste and enjoy garbage. Another problem, which compounds the first problem, is that they want to hear the same books hundreds of times in a row. So for all the joys that storytime can offer, it frequently entails a kind of dismal self-abnegation that’s too excruciating even to describe as tedium—an actively painful sense of my precious time on earth being torn from my chest and tossed into a furnace." Gabriel Roth writes about the terrible Poky Little Puppy for Slate, and his complaints pair well with Jacob Lambert's Millions series, "Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray?" and "Again, I Ask..."
If this Curiosity was presented to you in person, it'd go like this: "Hey, Nick, you haven't posted a beautiful video in a while." "Oh, I'm sorry. Here's a 1080p visualization of the ocean's surface currents between 2005-2007. It looks like Van Gogh painted it."
You may not expect much from a write-up about The Smiths' new collected box set, Complete, but that's about to change. In a phenomenal piece on the relationship between racial (in particular Asian) otherness and the UK band's music, Sukhdev Sandhu explains how Morrissey's "lyrics and persona mapped out a structure of feeling that spoke to my own floundering selfhood."
New releases this week include The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood, a limited edition of Stephen King’s illustrated poem The Dark Man and The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, which we covered as part of our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview. Now available in paperback is Alice Munro's Dear Life.
Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich passed way this afternoon at the age of 82, the LA Times confirms. Her influence on writing and activism is immeasurable, and this is a sad day of all of literature. The Poetry Foundation's short biography of the poet is not to be missed, and nor are her poems "Final Notions," and "For the Dead."