Two Books Plumb the Hidden Depths of the Fairy Tale

From The Wall Street Journal:

Once upon a time, fairy tales were the rage in fashionable Paris. At literary salons and at the court of Louis XIV, ladies and gentlemen beguiled one another with fantastical tales of talking animals and monster-husbands; of djinns and sorcerers; of sleeping beauties and ravenous ogres. Many tales had their origins in the nscrutable past of oral storytelling, containing narrative elements that in some cases dated back to the Bronze Age and could be traced to no single creator. In time, they began making their way into print—and acquiring authors.

In 1697 the French writer Charles Perrault published the first volume of European fairy tales, “Tales of Mother Goose.” A few years later, Antoine Galland thrilled salon habitués with his translation into French of the Middle Eastern folk tales known variously as “The Thousand and One Nights” and “The Arabian Nights.” These stories, glittering with thrilling detail and told through the framing device of a princess determined to keep her homicidal husband hanging on her words, were a literary sensation.

Who told the stories first? Who knows? As Nicholas Jubber writes in “The Fairy Tellers,” “searching for the roots of fairy tales is a process of entangling oneself in mysteries. Delve into the sources and we can find, every so often, the frayed end of the line, but there are always more knots to untie.” Fiddling about with frayed story-ends and pesky authorial knots is the business of this enthusiastic and enjoyable book, in which Mr. Jubber, a British travel writer, explores the lives and work of seven storytellers who are mostly unknown outside academic circles. The exception is Hans Christian Andersen, the 19th-century Danish fabulist who remains a household name thanks to the enduring popularity of original fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Andersen aside, the general reader is unlikely to have met Mr. Jubber’s other subjects and may be amazed to learn the degree to which these unsung men and women have shaped the fairy-tale canon we enjoy today.

Consider, for instance, “Aladdin” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” sensational tales of wealth and trickery that are perhaps the best-known of all the rich story delights of “The Arabian Nights.” As Mr. Jubber explains, neither tale made an appearance in the first seven volumes of Galland’s translations. The Frenchman was able to add them only after his encounters in 1709 with a Maronite Syrian storyteller who was on a sojourn to Paris. The identity of that long-ago traveler remained obscure—a frayed end, we might say—until 1993, when a Ph.D. student poking through Arabic manuscripts in the Vatican archives happened upon the fellow’s memoirs. The man who brought the world the story of a shiftless youth inveigled by a magician into stealing an enchanted lamp; the storyteller who first told of a bandit chief using the words “open sesame” to enter a treasure cave—this man was a former monastery novice from Aleppo named Abd al-Qari Antoun Youssef Youhenna Dyab. Hanna, as he was known, told 16 stories to Galland, who translated them later into French. “Galland did much to colour in the details,” notes Mr. Jubber, “but it was Hanna who provided the characters, the twists in the tale, the settings and resolution.” In a charming revelation, it transpires that this earliest-known teller of “Aladdin” borrowed ideas for his character’s wonderful palace from what Mr. Jubber calls the “fairy tale seraglio” of Versailles. Thus do fairy tales ever adapt, collecting bits of color and changing shape as they travel through time and language from one person to the next.

We see this process unfurling in the stories told by Mr. Jubber’s other tellers: the Renaissance Italian Giambattista Basile, author of the earliest European versions of “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella”; Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, whose 1740 “Beauty and the Beast” was the first of its kind; Dortchen Wild, the amiable young woman who gave “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Hansel and Gretel” to the Brothers Grimm for their 1812 collection; Ivan Khudiakov, the 19th-century Russian folklorist who amassed fairy tales about princes, fools, the witch Baba Yaga and the magical Firebird; and Somadeva Bhatta, the 11th-century Kashmiri court poet and author of a tremendous, multifarious work known in English as “The Ocean of the Streams of Story.” To bring us into the realms of these men and women,, Mr. Jubber interleaves passages of quirky biography, literary history, personal anecdote and his own retellings of their fairy tales. Rosie Collins, meanwhile, supplies neat little drawings to start off each chapter. The result is a handsome book stuffed with surprise and interest.

. . . .

One of America’s most distinguished experts in fairy tales and folklore is on a reclamation mission of her own with “The Heroine With 1,001 Faces” (published last year but due in paperback in September). In this fluent, genre-spanning work, Maria Tatar, a Harvard professor who specializes in German culture, sets out to illuminate the constellation of heroines that spangle the cultural firmament. In doing so, she purposely offers a complement—and compliment—to Joseph Campbell’s model of male heroism as explored in his 1949 book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

To the task of identifying heroic female qualities (not least, care and compassion), Ms. Tatar brings a virtuosic command of story and character, gliding with impressive, almost too-slippery facility from Greek mythology to Buzzfeed; from Scheherazade to Clara Barton; from Fern in “Charlotte’s Web” to Starr Carter in “The Hate U Give.” Heroes, Ms. Tatar reflects, “embark on quests and journeys that have as their goal more than a return home.” Heroines, by contrast, are “habitually bent on social missions, trying to rescue, restore, or fix things, with words as their only weapons.”

Ms. Tatar admits to having been deeply moved by the #MeToo movement, seeing in its revelations the same tensions between speech and silence (and silencing) that have affected women since antiquity. “Rarely wielding the sword and often deprived of the pen,” she writes, “women have relied on the domestic crafts and their verbal analogues—spinning tales, weaving plots, and telling yarns—to make things right, not just getting even but also securing social justice.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

When Story Is Medicine

From Writer Unboxed:

There are many different kinds of stories in this world.

Stories that stoke our curiosity with tantalizing clues and tricky plot reveals. Stories that touch our hearts with “aww, isn’t that sweet, the world isn’t a total flaming Dumpster fire” sorts of moments. Stories that linger with us for a few days, and then lift off and drift away.

There’s nothing wrong with those types of stories. But to my mind, the very best stories do more than that.

The very best stories act as medicine, delivering some emotional insight or understanding that changes who we are, on some level, and the way we operate in the world. And they stay with us much, much longer.

These types of stories often come to us at our hour of greatest need, and one came to me in 2015, when I was recovering from cancer: Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things.

On the surface, this novel offers a fine escape from reality: It’s a historical novel, set in the 1800s, and chronicles the life of a female botanist and her ill-fated marriage to a pious lithographer with an almost otherworldly sense of goodness about him.

For me, it was the perfect novel to read while on the mend from the surgery that, as it turned out, would save my life: immersive, transportive, funny, intellectually stimulating, and even a bit sexy at times. (It also clocks in at 500 pages, which is a great length for putting reality firmly on hold.)

But there’s a message at the heart of this novel (and my sharing this with you won’t spoil the story, because as with any story, it’s the journey, not the destination, that ultimately matters). This message is that being good, being pure of heart, being selfless and giving and kind—being all those things that women especially are taught to be—may get you into heaven but will not save you here on earth. Because here on earth, it is often the toughest that survive—the ones with the strongest will to live, the strongest love for life itself, in all its messy, earthly glory.

You can imagine how visceral this message was for me, at this time in my life. Elizabeth Gilbert gave me a great gift with that novel, and that gift was the emotional, bone-deep understanding that life is not, in fact, fair, but it is precious—and sometimes, if we want to hold onto it, we have to actually fight for it.

There’s an indigenous concept of story as medicine—the idea that the right story, at the right time, can actually heal you, in spirit and maybe even in body. For me, The Signature of All Things is such a story, and like all of the novels I’ve loved best in my life, I carry it with me, inside me, wherever I go.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

HarperCollins Union Authorizes Strike

From Publishers Weekly:

Unionized employees of HarperCollins have voted to authorize a strike if the publisher does not agree to a fair contract.

The union, Local 2110 of the UAW, represents more than 250 HC employees in the design, editorial legal, marketing, publicity, and sales departments. According to the union, current contract negotiations with HC management began in December 2021, when a one-year pandemic extension of the contract was set to expire. The union is bargaining for higher pay, improved family leave benefits, a greater commitment to diversifying staff, and stronger union protection.

Until a deal is reached, the unions will continue to work without a contract. A union spokesperson no new bargaining session has been set, and no deadline for a strike has been announced.

The negotiations are the first to take place since HC bought the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade division, and the union said that it is disputing the company’s refusal to include former HMH Boston-based employees in the bargaining unit or to recognize the seniority of former HMH New York–based staff who now work for HarperCollins. The negotiations also come after HC posted a record year in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021.

“I worked at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for two years before HarperCollins bought my division in 2021,” said Carly Katz, audio coordinator in a statement. “The company’s current offer isn’t even coming close to accounting for the current rate of inflation. If they can buy a whole division and still have record setting profits, they can raise salaries to match the cost of living.”

Indeed, improving low wages is a major objective for the union. “Most of us earn low salaries that are unlivable in major cities like New York and Boston,” Laura Harshberger, a senior production editor in Children’s Books and the union chairperson, said in a statement. The union is comprised mainly of women who have an average salary of $55,000.

“All of our proposals are to make HarperCollins a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace,” Harshberger said. “The company says publicly it supports diversifying the industry, but management is refusing to meaningfully address the low pay rates or codify policy changes in our union contract. Our members are tired of empty gestures. They want meaningful change.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

It’s not pretty working for an organization that is in long-term decline. PG suspects note about the last fiscal year’s financial reports reflects Covid shutdowns, staff pruning and a lot of help from Amazon selling their books.

A union won’t save employees if the enterprise is on a long-term downsizing path.

Readying Authors for Their Close-Ups

From Publishers Weekly:

When an editor recently asked me for a photographer’s credit for my author photo, I paused. The one I’d been using—a selfie taken amid a wall of vintage license plates in Tinkertown, N.Mex.—had, up until this moment, seemed to suit me fine. It was summer. I was relaxed. Genuinely happy, road-tripping through the country and writing every day, taking pictures of the Rio Grande and the cattle-flanked stretches through Texas, and getting my first taste of chili cherry pie. Blissfully unaware—as we all were—of what 2020 and beyond would bring. Unaware, too, that when I took the photo at the roadside attraction off the Turquoise Trail, this would eventually become my official author photo.

Anticipating the March 2022 publication of Proof of Me & Other Stories, a friend of mine suggested this winter that maybe it was time for an update. She connected me with a wonderful photographer (and colleague of mine), Cheryle St. Onge, and we set it up for the following day. I thought I was ready: I’d just had a haircut. I’d wear my turquoise necklace and find my lipstick from the far reaches of my backpack. On the eve of my big book debut, I believed I was set for my rite-of-passage moment and for getting an honest-to-goodness real Professional Author Photo from an honest-to-goodness real Professional Photographer. What could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong was the very thing that Susan Sontag had observed about picture-making in her 1977 book On Photography. Photographs, she wrote, often capture the mortality and vulnerability of their subject, and “do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, a miniature of reality.” And yet, I was hopeful that Cheryle, with her photographic finesse, might help me skip right over the whole mortality and reality part and capture instead just me as a writer. Ah well.

Before our session, Cheryle had suggested I research author photos to find ones I admired, so as to get a feel for my own aesthetic. Looking through dozens of photos of smart, intense faces of other women writers (and musicians—those of Patti Smith and Emmylou Harris were among my favorites) was an absolute gift—each face and setting a story in its own right. It got me thinking about what my own authorial face might say or convey about me and the nature of my work. I didn’t want to look “corporate” or overly polished.

I didn’t want to appear too intense, or vulnerable, or cloyingly pleasant. I wanted my expression to suggest that I was perhaps telling or hearing a joke, and I liked the idea of a textured background—with books or plants or a sense of place.

The conceit of cultivating the conditions to produce a single image that would approximate “Erica as writer” to the wider literary world felt both unnatural and ungainly, and yet there I was in a brightly lit studio, getting my photo taken, lipstick AWOL, borrowing Cheryle’s compact powder to reduce the shine on my forehead, while she endeavored to capture through the lens some version of the writer I sought to be.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG remembers overthinking any number of things a long time ago when he was young.

The Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Georgia

  • Button Gwinnett
  • Lyman Hall
  • George Walton

North Carolina

  • William Hooper
  • Joseph Hewes
  • John Penn

South Carolina

  • Edward Rutledge
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr.
  • Thomas Lynch, Jr.
  • Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts

  • John Hancock

Maryland

  • Samuel Chase
  • William Paca
  • Thomas Stone
  • Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia

  • George Wythe
  • Richard Henry Lee
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • Thomas Nelson, Jr.
  • Francis Lightfoot Lee
  • Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania

  • Robert Morris
  • Benjamin Rush
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • John Morton
  • George Clymer
  • James Smith
  • George Taylor
  • James Wilson
  • George Ross

Delaware

  • Caesar Rodney
  • George Read
  • Thomas McKean

New York

  • William Floyd
  • Philip Livingston
  • Francis Lewis
  • Lewis Morris

New Jersey

  • Richard Stockton
  • John Witherspoon
  • Francis Hopkinson
  • John Hart
  • Abraham Clark

New Hampshire

  • Josiah Bartlett
  • William Whipple

Massachusetts

  • Samuel Adams
  • John Adams
  • Robert Treat Paine
  • Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island

  • Stephen Hopkins
  • William Ellery

Connecticut

  • Roger Sherman
  • Samuel Huntington
  • William Williams
  • Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire

  • Matthew Thornton

From The National Archives

Independence Day, 1941

For visitors from outside the United States, today, the Fourth of July, is celebrated as Independence Day.

The clip below, Indepence Day in 1941, reflects the fact that, although World War II was already raging in Europe, the United States had not yet entered directly into that conflict.

However, in March of 1941, Congress had passed what was generally called the Lend-Lease Act, which permitted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send both military and non-military aid to support Great Britain in the war in Europe.

When Roosevelt gave this speech, France had already fallen to the military of Nazy Germany four months earlier.

The Battle of Britain, which was fought in the skies over Britain, would begin six days later, on July 10, 1941. At first, the German air attacks were primarily focused on shipping in the English Channel separating Britain from continental Europe. Attacks were focused on ships and Channel ports.

Shortly thereafter, the focus of the Luftwaffe was changed to destroying British military aircraft to pave the way for the invasion of Britain. This involved attacks on military airfields and continuing to destroy planes used by the Royal Air Force. British radar stations on the South Coast were also heavily bombed..

August 13 was declared, ‘Eagle Day’ (Adlertag): The Luftwaffe launched intense raids on RAF airfields, focusing their attacks in the south east of England.

August 18 would be called The Hardest Day by contemporary British historians and featured fierce air battles between the Luftwaffe and the RAF, with severe loss of RAF aircraft on the ground.

August 19 – September 6, 1940 – The Luftwaffe continued to bomb towns, cities and airfields across the south coast of England, the Midlands and the north east.

On August 20, British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, spoke in the House of Commons to acknowledge the enormous gratitude the nation owed to British & Allied aircrew: ”Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

24 August: During night bombing of Britain, a lost German bomber formation dropped bombs on London by mistake.

August 25: In retaliation of the bombing of London, the RAF launched their first bombing raid on Berlin.

August 31 : Fighter Command suffered its heaviest losses to date. 303 Squadron (Polish Squadron) – based at RAF Northolt – became operational.

September 7, 1940 – 31 October 31, 1940
Mass bombing raids were launched against London, and continued against other major British cities.

September15: Battle of Britain day. The Luftwaffe launched its heaviest bombing raids on London. Fighter Command successfully fought the attacking aircraft, resulting in heavy Luftwaffe losses.

September 17: Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion) It was not known then, but following this decision, Hitler turned his attention towards Russia and, while the air raids continued, their frequency and intensity began to decline as Luftwaffe planes and crews began to be transferred to the Eastern Front to attack Russia.

Here’s a link to the video above so you can view it on YouTube if the embedded version does now work for you.

Here’s a link that will take you to YouTube if this embed doesn’t work well for you.

Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book policy that allows users to read and return

From National Public Radio:

Earlier this month, Lisa Kessler, a paranormal romance author, logged into Kindle Direct Publishing to check her earnings from the previous month. On her publishing dashboard, she saw something she had never seen before in her 11 years as an author: a negative earnings balance.

The reason for the negative balance? Kindle e-book returns.

Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book return policy, a system they say allows readers to “steal” from self-published authors. Amazon’s current return policy for e-books allows customers to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But, for some readers, seven days is more than enough time to finish a book and return it after reading, effectively treating Amazon like a library.

When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their earnings balance. Authors can end up with negative balances when customers return books after the author has already been paid by Kindle Direct Publishing, an Amazon spokesperson said.

. . . .

Authors and readers want to change the policy

Reah Foxx, a book lover from Louisiana, started a petition to change the policy after seeing “life hacks” circulating on social media that teach readers to abuse the Amazon return policy and read for free. To date, the petition has garnered almost 70,000 signatures.

Kessler said prior to the “read and return” trend, she would normally have one or two book returns a month, something she attributed to genuine accidental purchases. Now, she sees entire series of hers being returned.

“It really rattled me,” she said. “You think, ‘Can I still make a living if this continues?’ and that’s very disheartening.”

Kristy Bromberg, a romance author, said she’s had more returns in the past two months than she had in the entire eight months before that combined.

Those suggesting the read-and-return practice think they’re “sticking it to Amazon,” but in reality are only harming the authors, said Eva Creel, a fantasy writer who publishes under the name E. G. Creel.

“I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”

Link to the rest at National Public Radio

PG wonders if this happens for Kindle Unlimited books where authors are paid by the number of pages read.

How Does Goodreads Make Money?

From Book Riot:

Much of the book industry relies on Goodreads for a lot of things. From readers and authors, to publishing professionals and journalists, the book-focused platform is all-around functional to anyone who loves books. But looking at its website’s design, it feels stuck in the decade’s past. From when Amazon acquired Goodreads for $150 million in 2013 up to the present, the UX hasn’t seen major style changes. Amazon is probably aware that Goodreads desperately needs a facelift, but it’s not doing anything about it. Does that mean that its subsidiary is not profitable enough to warrant precious resources and funding? How does Goodreads make money anyway?

I reached out to Goodreads to specifically ask them that, even going to their website to do a lot of digging and asking some tech experts to weigh in on the subject.

The bookish social media site doesn’t have an official media kit at the moment, according to a representative. But a media kit dated 2017 reveals that its business model revolves around offering “book discovery packages” that consist of “owned, earned, and paid media.”

. . . .

For a social media platform that garners millions of views per month and holds a ton of user data, Goodreads struck gold with advertising. According to Chris Muller, Director of Audience Growth for DoughRoller, Goodreads’s business model is based on the concept of social commerce. “People share book recommendations, reviews, and discuss any books they are reading or want to read in the future, which contributes to the website’s success. This website’s Holy Grail appears to be recommendations from like-minded readers,” he said.

. . . .

Among the top revenue streams mentioned are sponsored newsletters and new releases mailers, which Goodreads sends to millions of users every month; advertorial placements, which is also called the author spotlight; personal selection emails, which can target an author’s fans showing a new release; and sponsored homepage polls.

. . . .

Goodreads’s Giveaways is definitely one of the popular features of the platform. Although international readers can almost always enter a giveaway, the service itself is only available for U.S. and Canadian authors who want to run print book giveaways. For the Kindle book giveaway, however, those who use Amazon’s self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing can take advantage of the service.

. . . .

Whenever a user clicks on the Buy buttons on a Goodreads book page, they would notice that there are affiliate codes attached.

“Goodreads receives a cut of any book sold through partners like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. But, this revenue is likely not important given the strategic value of Goodreads to Amazon. I think this is shown by the fact that Goodreads has killed off its advertising programs aimed at individual authors and smaller publishers,” said Ben Fox, a tech entrepreneur and currently the founder of Shepherd.com, a Goodreads competitor.

Fox was referring to Goodreads’s self-serve advertising — not its direct advertising service — which it shut down in February 2020. Now, Goodreads promotes Amazon’s self-serve ad product instead, which is obviously on a different site.

“They still sell advertising to large publishers, but it seems likely Amazon is subsidizing Goodreads or giving them a custom affiliate deal that gives them a much larger share of any book sold,” Fox said.

. . . .

Goodreads says that it shows interest-based ads on its website. “Interest-based ads are sometimes referred to as personalized or targeted ads. We show interest-based ads to display features, products, and services that might be of interest to you,” it reads on a disclaimer page.

But what do these interest-based ads really look like for a casual user of the platform? According to Goodreads, personal recommendations and other similar features are considered ads. This brings into question the endgame of its recommendations tool — is it really out there to genuinely help a reader find books they might love, or is it just another way to profit off of the user’s activity?

Link to the rest at Book Riot

How hot-girl books became must-have fashion accessories

From I-D:

[B]ooks are markers of taste and self-expression. Picking which books to go on your shelf – or Insta story – is akin to picking out what to wear. TikTok, Instagram and Goodreads are full of ‘hot-girl book’ lists, but when exactly did reading become such a hot pastime? Noughties romcoms would have you believe that being cool and reading books are mutually exclusive, with the hot popular kids teasing the ones who spent lunch breaks with their noses between pages. The tables have since turned, however, with books becoming yet another means to present our most curated selves online through the culture we consume. Ergo, if you read ‘hot-girl books’ then you must be hot.

On the runway, designers are interpreting this trend through a sartorial lens. In recent seasons, we’ve seen fashion’s bibliophiles turn to both classic and contemporary literature for inspiration. Ottessa Moshfegh took up the mantle of fashion’s favourite novelist for AW22, making her runway debut at Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s NYFW show as well as writing a short story to accompany the show notes at Proenza Schouler. Meanwhile, Jonathan Anderson’s AW22 Loewe show featured a voiceover reciting Sylvia Plath’s poem Fever 103°. For SS22, the designer released three JW Anderson capsules inspired by the quote, “the secret of life is in art,” from one of literature’s fashion luminaries, Oscar Wilde.

Bookworm Kim Jones is no stranger to introducing literary codes to collections at both Fendi and Dior. For Dior Men AW22, he looked to Jack Kerouac’s beat classic On The Road, unfurling the original transcript along the runway with the stamp of approval from Kerouac’s estate. Previously, the creative director drew from Virginia Woolf for Fendi Couture SS21 in a collection inspired by school trips to Charleston Farmhouse, a beloved retreat of the Bloomsbury Set of which Woolf was a part. Elsewhere, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli enlisted 17 renowned authors — including André Aciman, Leïla Slimani and Emily Ratajkowski — to create campaign layouts featuring their writing; and thirsty Parisian menswear label Louis Gabriel Nouchi has named each of his collections after a seminal French novel. To put it simply, literary interests have never been so in. Books tell us where we are, where we were and where we’ll be, so it’s no surprise they serve as an endless pool of inspiration for the fashion world.

Link to the rest at I-D

PG reminds one and all that he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he posts on TPV.

Infamous Fictional Psychiatrists

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Dice Man

By George Cockcroft, writing as Luke Rhinehart (1971)

1. In this novel, a character named Luke Rhinehart is a middle-aged Manhattan psychiatrist suffering from depression. Disillusioned with medicine and with life, he finds freedom in the roll of the dice. One roll dictates that he carry out his deeply disturbing fantasy of raping the wife of his close colleague. When he knocks on her door and tells her what he plans to do, he’s taken aback by her compliance. He’s disturbed further when, after two agreeable hours, he realizes that he has changed in some indefinable but significant way. He extends the laws of chance to his clinical decision-making, which alleviates his deep-seated fear of failure and allows him to begin viewing his work as something of a game. He advises a female patient diagnosed with nymphomania to find work in a busy Brooklyn brothel. To a slender young woman from Greenwich Village who likes talking about herself he says, “as human beings go you are mediocre in all respects except in the quantity of your fortune.”

. . . .

Super-Cannes

By J.G. Ballard (2000)

3. Lured by tax concessions, a Mediterranean climate and a Euro-corporate lifestyle, dozens of multinational companies have moved their business into Eden-Olympia, a business park populated by a highly paid elite of senior managers, administrators and entrepreneurs. The flawed and dangerous antihero of this dystopia of technology is the staff psychiatrist Wilder Penrose, an “amiable Prospero” with evasive eyes and an eager smile, who steers his clients’ darkest dreams toward the daylight. Wilder’s vision is to create an intelligent modern city that promotes advanced health screening, up-to-the-minute gadgetry and the replacement of the civic with the commercial. But as the novel proceeds, it becomes clear that Wilder is more concerned with exciting the base instincts of those in charge. He explains to the book’s protagonist, Paul, that ever since he organized the drug and vice rings and a leather-jacketed “bowling club” whose sorties into the outside world leave Arab pimps and Senegalese trinket merchants bleeding in the gutters, the park’s chief executives no longer complain of stress and burnout and profits have soared.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

He’s a 10 but …

From The Austen Connection:

{W]e loved your “He’s a 10” threads and found that the Jane Austen and classic literature versions were by far the funniest of the craze. And this is not surprising since Jane Austen is after all the queen of satire, sarcasm, wit, and meme-friendly moments.

So today to kick off our weekend we’re simply compiling and sharing (you might say: curating) some of these moments that you have created for us – thank you! And a huge shout out to the creators here who are cracking us up on social.

. . . .

He’s a 10 but his first name is Fitzwilliam.

Kicking it off here right away with the most romantic hero of classic literature: That’s right, your beloved Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Or to be more precise, as Margaret McDeadlines Owen reminds us, it’s: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (do we know his middle name? Please advise!)

. . . .

He’s a 10 but I think his father might have murdered his mother.

Love it that we are getting into the mind of the naive Catherine Morland here, who turns out to be near- if not perfectly correct with her wildly imaginitive musings about the villainous General Tilney, father of our Northanger Abbey hero Henry Tilney. A reminder to use your imagination and keep your wits about you – and a reminder that whatever is going on in the family, a 10 is a 10 girl.

. . . .

He’s a 10 but his first wife is locked in the attic.

Now we are moving out of Austen and getting into Victorian and Bronte Sisters territory where things get rather extreme. Love “the moon wife” for boiling Jane Eyre straight down to the gruesome fact of the matter for us here. Discuss.

Link to the rest at The Austen Connection

The Norwegian library with unreadable books

From The BBC:

One recent Sunday morning, in a forest north of Oslo in Norway, more than 200 people gathered to watch a ceremony. They had walked in a procession ­– some with their dogs, others their children – along gravel trails, directed by arrows on the ground made from sprinkled wood shavings. The air carried a scent of pine needles, burnt logs and strong Norwegian coffee.

At their destination ­– a recently planted forest – the people sat or crouched on a slope dotted with spruce trees. Each tree was still only around 1m (3ft) tall, but one day, when the spruces are more than 20-30 times the size, they will provide the paper for a special collection of books. Everyone there knew they would not live to see that happen, nor would they ever get to read the books.

This was the 2022 Future Library ceremony, a 100-year art project created to expand people’s perspectives of time, and their duty to posterity. Every year since 2014, the Scottish artist Katie Paterson – along with her Norwegian counterpart Anne Beate Hovind and a group of trustees – has invited a prominent writer to submit a manuscript, and the commissioning will continue until 2113. Then, a century after the project began, they will all finally be published.

It began with the author Margaret Atwood, who wrote a story called Scribbler Moon, and since then the library has solicited submissions from all over the world, with works by English novelist David Mitchell, the Icelandic poet Sjón, Turkey’s Elif Shafak, Han Kang from South Korea, and Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong.

This year, Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga and the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard came to the forest to hand over their stories (along with returning authors Mitchell and Sjón). Forbidden from revealing the content of their work, they could only share the titles: Dangarembga named hers Narini and Her Donkey – Narini derives from a Zimbabwean word for “infinity” – while Knausgaard submitted a more enigmatic title, simply: Blind Book.

All the manuscripts will be stored for almost a century inside locked glass drawers in a hidden corner of Oslo’s main public library, within a small, wooden repository called the Silent Room. In 2114, the drawers will be unlocked, and the trees chopped down – and 100 stories hidden for a century will finally be published in one go.

The authors ­– and everyone else who was in Oslo that Sunday – knew they would almost certainly not live to see that happen. “It’s a project that’s not only thinking about us now, but about those who are not born,” explains Paterson. In fact, she adds, “most of the authors are not even born yet”.

So, why build a library where no-one today can read the books? And what might be learnt from its story so far?

. . . .

The Future Library is not the first of Paterson’s artworks to tackle the human relationship with long-term time. She traces her fascination with the theme back to her early 20s, when she worked as a chambermaid in Iceland, and was struck by the extraordinary landscape around her. “You could almost read time in the strata, you could feel the midnight Sun and the energy of the Earth,” she says. “It just was a very beautiful, sublime, awakening landscape to be around.”

This led to one of her first works, Vatnajokull (the sound of): a phone number that anyone could call to listen to an Icelandic glacier melting. Dial the number, and you’d be routed to a microphone beneath the water in the Jökulsárlón lagoon on Iceland’s south coast, where blue-tinged icebergs calve away and float towards the sea.

Since then, Paterson has explored deeper timescales from various angles, geologically, astronomically, humanistically: a glitterball that projects nearly every known solar eclipse in history onto the walls, the “colour” of the Universe throughout its existence, the aroma of Earth’s first trees, or a necklace carved from 170 ancient fossils marking each stage of life.

One of her most recent exhibitions in Edinburgh, Requiem at Ingleby Gallery, featured 364 vials of crushed dust, each one representing a different moment in deep time. Vial #1 was a sample of presolar grains older than the Sun, followed by powdered four-billion-year-old rocks, corals from prehistoric seas, and other traces of the distant past.

A few visitors were invited to pour one of the vials into a central urn: when I was there in June, I poured #227, a four-million-year-old Asteroidea fossil, a kind of sea star. Later in time, the vials represent the age of humanity, capturing human accomplishment – Greek pottery or a Mayan figurine – but also darker moments: the bright blue grains of phosphorus fertiliser, microplastic from the deepest part of the ocean, or an irradiated tree-branch from Hiroshima. When your art deals in deep time, there’s no ignoring the onset of the Anthropocene, the age shaped by humans.

. . . .

The Future Library project is one of many artistic projects I’ve encountered in recent years that seeks to foster longer-term thinking. Over the past few years, I’ve been writing my own book called The Long View, which is about why the world needs to transform its perspective of time. Along the way, I’ve heard a musical composition that will play for 1,000 years, read an endless poem being embedded in a Dutch street one letter at a time, and acquired a framed invitation to a party in the year 2269. 

Link to the rest at The BBC

PG is likely a cretin, but none of these projects are likely to appear on his must-see list.

The OP does include lots of photos of trees and pleasant-looking Norwegians, however.

Harry Potter 25th anniversary: things you probably didn’t know about the book

From The National News:

n Sunday, it will be 25 years since a bushy-faced half-giant burst into our lives and changed everything with four monumental words: “Yer a wizard, Harry.”

And, though the wizard in question was bespectacled orphan, Harry Potter, 11, the friendly oaf transformed all our lives on June 26, 1997, when he flung open the doors to the wizarding world with a sweep of his pink umbrella.

The first novel by JK Rowling was published by Bloomsbury in an initial run of 500 copies. Fans would later hear how struggling single mum Rowling spent hours in an Edinburgh coffee shop working on the novels.

Today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has sold 120 million copies and counting, while more than 500 million copies of the entire seven-book series have flown off the shelves.

. . . .

The subsequent film franchise is the fourth highest grossing of all time with $9.2 billion in worldwide receipts, according to fan site Movieweb. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times puts JK Rowling’s earnings at $1.1 billion, in a rags to riches tale that suitably mirrors Harry’s own rise from the cupboard under the stairs.

The 2000s saw Harry Potter mania take over the world, as Potterheads queued up and camped out for every new book release, each declaring themselves a proud Gryffindor, a cunning Slytherin, a brainy Ravenclaw or a lovable Hufflepuff.

But even the Hermione Grangers of the world don’t know everything about Harry and co.

Here, we take a look at some little-known trivia dating right back to the first drafts, from early rejections to the original character names.

Hold onto your sorting hat.

Chapter one — The boy who lived

JK Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter during a train ride when the idea “fell into her head” and later penned the Hogwart’s school houses on an aeroplane sick bag.

And, though Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was an immediate success, at one stage it seemed as though the book would never be published.

Initially, no one wanted anything to do with “a story about a wizard with a stone” and the manuscript was rejected 12 times by publishers before being picked up by Bloomsbury.

Early drafts of the book also detail a slightly different list of Hogwarts school subjects. Herbology was called “herbalism” and divination was compulsory from the first year, along with alchemy and a subject simply called “beasts”.

Even the early character names were different to those published. Hermione Granger’s surname was initially Puckle, while Neville Longbottom started life as Neville Puff.

Draco Spinks was Malfoy’s earliest name, Luna Lovegood was called Lily Moon and Dean Thomas was known simply as Gary.

Over the years, Rowling has revealed countless trivia about the wizarding world and proudly announced that a sorting hat quiz had put her in Hufflepuff.

In a radio interview in 1999, she explained that she named the Hogwarts headmaster after an old English word meaning bumblebee because she always imagined Dumbledore humming to himself.

And, despite being the golden boy in the books, Rowling admitted it is Albus rather than Harry who is her favourite character in the series.

Link to the rest at The National News

Inspector Morse Books in Order

From PBS:

The cerebral TV detective Endeavour Morse first materialized in the bestselling crime novels by Colin Dexter. Morse was a fascinating new sort of cop, a sensitive soul in love with opera and poetry, not stereotypically weary and hard drinking. Inspector Morse proceeded to hook U.S. television audiences from 1988–2001, generated the sequel Inspector Lewis (2006–2016), and the prequel Endeavour (2012–) with Shaun Evans as the young Morse.

Here are all 13 titles as published, with commentary from two crime fiction aficionados who knew Dexter.

. . . .

Last Bus to Woodstock (1975) Dexter first began writing in 1972, creating a police detective who’s passionate about the arts and whose intellect may be wasted in his position. Morse and partner DS Lewis explore the death of a girl beaten outside an Oxford pub. The author “struggled to refine [this debut book] into a form he found pleasing,” says Forshaw. That said, “it demonstrated at a stroke that Dexter was an effortless master of the crime novel.”

Last Seen Wearing (1976) Like most Morse stories, this one centers on a puzzle. “Someone is dead, but not exactly dead,” says Gulli. In fact, the deceased is sending letters. Dexter’s second novel “firmly set his name as a writer who’d one day be the crime fiction heir to Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, and John Dickson Carr,” Gulli adds. “Though his works can be described as literary puzzles, Dexter was more concerned with the ultimate riddle—the motivations of the human mind.”

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977) Like his character Nicholas Quinn, Dexter became a school administrator after losing his hearing. Here, Quinn joins an ad-hoc university committee where his profound deafness actually leads him to unearth a conspiracy. A prologue provides readers with clues Morse and Lewis don’t have as they investigate Quinn’s murder. “With all the books I’ve written, I’ve always known what’s going to happen…I suppose I must be categorized as a whodunit writer rather than the kind who concentrates on the motivation of crime,” Dexter told Gulli for The Strand.

Service of All the Dead (1979) The novel is presented in four parts, each taken from a book of the Bible. Dexter addresses moral questions from personal responsibility to protecting one’s reputation. “The formula with Dexter in his [writing] was that there was no formula,” says Gulli. “This is one of my favorites—steeped with Gothic atmosphere, treachery, and murder. And not only a good book, but instructional for aspiring writers.” The UK’s Crime Writers Association awarded Dexter’s fourth novel its Silver Dagger prize.

Link to the rest at PBS

The 50 Best Book Covers of 2021, as Chosen by Graphic Designers

From Book Riot:

AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Arts) annually announces the 50 best book covers of the previous year, as chosen by a panel of judges. They “evaluate each work’s integrated design approach, including concept, innovation and visual elements such as typography, illustration, and/or information design.”

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Here are a few that caught PG’s eye:

https://50books50covers.secure-platform.com/a/gallery/rounds/181/details/49449

There are videos at the link that show a lot of creativity going on inside the books as well.

You can see them all the AIGA Winners Page

Writing (and Living) in the Midst of Fear

From Writer Unboxed:

In Seattle, June is the cruelest month. Terrifying. Violent, too. A month where people rarely leave their homes, and if they must, they hurry from house to car, exhaling only once safely inside, windows rolled up, doors locked. In June, schools forgive truancy. Non-urgent appointments–dental check-ups, meetings with financial planners, eyebrow shaping–pretty much anything other than trips to the ER–are put off until mid-July.

Have you seen Hitchcock’s film, The Birds? Hitchcock himself claimed, “It could be the most terrifying motion picture I have ever made.”

I bet Hitchcock was inspired by Seattle in June.

Because of Poe’s quothing ravens, I’ve always found crows a bit sinister, but in general, I had no beef with any corvids, not really, until June 2013. While walking to get my daughter at school, a crow–out of nowhere–slapped me across the back of the head with a rolled-up magazine. At least, that’s what it felt like.

The June 2015 NPR story, “They Will Strafe You,” taught me these attacks are common. I was simply in the wrong place (near the crow’s fledglings) at the wrong time (June, fledgling season). This particular crow, undoubtedly sleep deprived and struggling with postpartum depression, deemed me a threat. Thus, she grabbed her June 2013 issue of The New Yorker, or perhaps The Economist, or maybe it was The New Republic, and whacked my head.

I began to fear another strafing.

“No eye contact, people!” I’d yell at my children, my husband, my dog, whenever I saw a crow. “You make eye contact, and THEY WILL STRAFE YOU!”  

The whole world was starting to feel unsafe, and not just in June. Year-round, I felt the beady eyes of crows upon me.

. . . .

At the end of May, bunion surgery left me horizontal with my sad, swollen foot in the air. For weeks, I crutched only between the TV room sofa and my Room of Convalescence. Back and forth, forth and back.

Then May became June.

June!

Bedridden and homebound, I could not escape their terrible cawing, could not ignore the murderous shadows that darkened my windows. Twenty-three days post-op, loopy with a weird mix of boredom and fatigue, tired of my POW status, I raised my fist at the crow-laden spruce in my yard.

“Nevermore!” I shouted. “NEVERMORE!”

After Googling “what do crows eat,” (the answer: “pretty much anything”) I crutched to the kitchen and found a box of stale, generic-brand Wheat Thins. I then crutched awkwardly–it’s difficult to crutch while holding a box of anything–to the sliding glass doors that leads to our backyard. I opened the doors six inches, set my crutches on the floor, sat myself beside my crutches, then frisbee’d a fistful of crackers outside.

And I waited.

Needless to say, by the end of the week, I had a handful of brainy crow-pals, all of whom I christened “Carroll,” a gender-neutral name that ensured I wouldn’t wrongly assume their preferred pronouns. Their crownouns.

Extending the olive branch of generic Wheat Thins, inviting my worst fear into our yard, having the opportunity to applaud the Carrolls for the way they neatly stacked crackers, four at a time, then transported their repast with Henry Ford-like efficiency to their roost, all that made me a little less fearful. Not fear-free, just less fear-full.

Except my husband was uncomfortable. My children, confused. My BFF, Erica, feared I had finally lost my mind. My funny friend, Robin, dropped off a little crow finger puppet.

Worse, there was exponentially more crow crap in our backyard. And things had gone missing: twine that held my husband’s raspberry bushes against the fence, a few of his melon seedlings, the pack of tiny-handed raccoons who sauntered, arrogant and badass, through our yard pretty much whenever they felt like it.

Would my dog be next?

Recently, I think a lot about fear. How, like a contagion, fear infects our hearts and brains, our relationships and communities. Even when there’s good reason to feel scared, fear tempts us to retreat, isolate, blame, hoard. Our hearts become hard, stingy. Our worlds become small. 

But thank goodness for writers! Writers invent stories that connect strangers and expand hearts, stories that make readers’ worlds bigger. Writers arrange words into images that remind people of the beauty that remains, even amid today’s difficult news. Stories, even scary ones, make us feel not so alone, not so disconnected, not so fear-filled. 

On June 1st, after spending ten years writing, and another ten years of rejection and revision, my loyal agent and I found a home for my first novel. 

I am thrilled.

Also, I am TERRIFIED. 

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

While not pretending to be a professional Crowologist, PG did have substantial interactions with crows during his youth.

If you would prefer that crows not hang around where you are, a twelve-gauge shotgun is a reliable preventative measure. Crows are very intelligent (for a bird) and, after only a couple of shotgun blasts followed by a cloud of black feathers drifting in the breeze, they’ll fly over to the neighboring farm for their meals instead of coming to yours.

PG is aware that shotguns are not a status symbol in San Francisco unless they’re in the hands of people with uniforms and badges who are not Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.

PG doesn’t know whether drones are legal in San Francisco, but he speculates that if the author of the OP bought a drone and used it in an aggressive manner to attack the crows, that might do the trick.

If not, the author of the OP could hang a shotgun on the drone and fly it over the backyard to see if the crows have any genetic memory of of twelve-gauge blasts.

Even if you have a uniform and a badge, PG advises one and all to not to attempt to fire a shotgun that is dangling from a drone.

Unless you live in Ukraine and the drone is over a bunch of Russian soldiers.

Sunshine and Glistening Seas on the Cover of Your Beach Read Might Mask Something Darker

PG seldom posts two items from the same source during a single day, but he couldn’t pass on Big Publishing at its finest.

Plus, this is the first time PG recalls the head of Amazon Publishing being quoted in a story that’s all about New York Publishing and its idea of smart marketing, e.g. selling to people exactly like themselves or how they imagine themselves if they’re not the CEO.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The siren call of the “beach read” finally reached Jennifer Weiner, who long considered the term dismissive of writing associated with women.

“After years and years of, ‘This is sexist,’ I was like, ‘You know what? If I can’t beat them, join them,’ ” said Ms. Weiner, whose new book out this spring, “The Summer Place,” is set on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

“I wanted to be at the beach,” said the author, who wrote the novel during the pandemic, the last in her three-book Cape Cod series. “I wanted to be anywhere but stuck in my house with my family.”

Beach reads, loosely defined as any engrossing tale released for summer, are under pressure to perform. June has been the second-biggest month for adult fiction sales for the past decade, according to NPD BookScan, and book sales overall soared during the pandemic. Now, as vacations start in earnest with the Fourth of July holiday, publishers are trying to hang on to those numbers.

Novels with beachy covers are so popular, book industry executives say, publishers put bare feet and glistening seas on all manner of titles.

“Authors perhaps have a darker element only to find that our covers are enormously beachy and sunshiny,” said beach-read novelist Jane Green. “Publishers think that a beachy cover will pull in readers even when it has little to do with the story.”

Ms. Green had a working title of “The Hemlock Sisters” for her 2017 novel about a dying mother who calls her estranged daughters back home to assist in her suicide. It ended up with the title “The Sunshine Sisters” and features an aquamarine sea on its cover.

Last summer’s hit “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid has a cover of surfers shot from above on a seductive blue ocean, but its tale of sibling bonds after a mother’s drowning death is far from a Barbie beach party. This year, “Vacationland” by Meg Mitchell Moore uses a similar image—an overhead view of an ocean just begging the reader to jump in—while the book explores the impact of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease on its characters.

Ms. Reid and her publisher declined to comment and attempts to reach Ms. Moore and her publisher were unsuccessful.

“There’s a reason publishers lean this way,” said Sarah Gelman, editorial director of Amazon Books. “Beach books sell well when people who don’t have time to read say, ‘This is the one book I’m going to pack when I go to the Jersey Shore.’ ”

Successful beach-read authors know what readers are looking for. “They want to hear the scrape of a palmetto frond against a screen door,” said Mary Kay Andrews, author of the new book “The Homewreckers,” about a widow who stars in a beach house renovation reality show. “They want to see those curtains blowing in the summer breeze, and they want to hear the waves lapping at the shore.”

Ms. Andrews mostly writes in her Atlanta home with a scented candle she said “smells like waves” to get into a nautical mood.

Others ponder how to put “summer” in their book titles or find new ways to describe sand. Ms. Weiner pictures the “splayed fingers of a clutching hand” on a shrub-covered sand dune, Nancy Thayer describes an “elbow of sand” while Elin Hilderbrand writes about a “long arm of golden sand.”

“I’ll just be like, ‘I hope I haven’t said this before,’ ” said Ms. Hilderbrand, a novelist who is so associated with Nantucket, Mass., she wrote sightings of herself into her latest book, “The Hotel Nantucket,” which came out in June. (The “local author” is spotted by the ferry and at a bar.)

Sunny Hostin, the legal journalist-TV host who wrote the 2021 bestseller “Summer on the Bluffs,” entered the beach-read genre because she saw it lacking diversity. She set her novel in Oak Bluffs, Mass., a town on Martha’s Vineyard with a history as a summer escape for wealthy Black families.

“I think a lot of people underestimated this book,” Ms. Hostin said of the first novel in her beach-set trilogy. “I knew there was an audience.”

Beach-read writers make efforts to not tread on other authors’ turf. A swath of North Carolina’s Outer Banks often appears in Kristy Woodson Harvey’s books. Isle of Palms, S.C., is author Mary Alice Monroe’s territory. Spots on the Georgia coast belong to Ms. Andrews.

Ms. Green set her 2008 drama “The Beach House” and her 2015 novel “Summer Secrets” on Nantucket. She has since switched to Westport, Conn., where she has a home by the water.

“Today, I would never dare write about Nantucket,” Ms. Green said. “Nantucket is owned by Elin and should be owned by Elin.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

A swarm of Cruise robotaxis blocked San Francisco traffic for hours

From Yahoo Finance:

A small fleet of Cruise robotaxis in San Francisco suddenly stopped operating on Tuesday night, effectively stopping traffic on a street in the city’s Fillmore district for a couple of hours until employees were able to arrive. TechCrunch first noticed a Reddit post that featured a photo of the stalled driverless cabs at the corner of Gough and Fulton streets. Cruise — which is General Motor’s AV subsidiary — only launched its commercial robotaxi service in the city last week. The rides feature no human safety driver, are geo-restricted to certain streets and can only operate in the late evening hours.

Cruise apologized for the incident in a statement, but gave little explanation for what caused the mishap. “We had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to cluster together,” a Cruise spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “While it was resolved and no passengers were impacted, we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced.”

The GM-backed AV startup won the first driverless taxi permit in a major US city, and began offering San Francisco residents free rides in February. After launching its paid passenger service on June 24, early reviews from Cruise passengers came pouring in. One passenger noted that his Cruise car took an unusually long route to get to his home. Another passenger seemed to have a more positive experience, even leaving a cash tip for the driverless car.

Link to the rest at Yahoo Finance

Here’s a photo from the company:

While PG was reading this, he flashed back to Hal and Dave.

Moonshot

From The Wall Street Journal:

We have heard so much about vaccines in the past 18 months that we may not welcome still more. But “Moonshot: Inside Pfizer’s Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible” is well worth looking at closely. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, boasts of saving millions of lives while restoring the otherwise tarnished image of the pharmaceutical industry. Yet his victory lap races by a hard truth: Covid-19 continues to cause disruption and challenge our confidence in science.

To be fair, the number of new cases did decline by 85% during the first few months after the vaccines hit the market in December 2020. But when cases hit a low point, in February 2021, only about 5% of the U.S. population had been vaccinated. Although it is easy to blame recent surges on the people who decided not to get vaccinated, current data show that states with the highest vaccination rates also have the most cases, hospitalizations and deaths. (Because hot spots move around, such statistical profiles change from month to month.) The current wave of new cases is hitting the unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted alike. This is not to say that vaccines don’t work. They do reduce the severity of infection, but they haven’t delivered the promised herd immunity that would end the pandemic.

Pfizer’s ability to develop, test and distribute a vaccine in less than a year is, without doubt, a stunning accomplishment, and Mr. Bourla is right to feel proud. But he overdoes it, dropping the names of the presidents, prime ministers and world leaders who have sought his counsel. At times, he praises his colleagues and advisers, yet often in a context that shows them being subservient to the CEO. He quotes Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, who relays a long-ago comment from his brother (who led the 1976 Entebbe Raid and was killed in action): “There are not good or bad soldiers. There are only good or bad commanders.” Mr. Bourla seems to take this maxim to heart.

Mr. Bourla stresses the importance—for Pfizer and, in general, for the battle against Covid—of high ethical standards, complete transparency and trust in science. Yet “Moonshot” shows, sometimes inadvertently, the difficulty of meeting these admirable goals. Well into the pandemic, in March 2021, Mr. Bourla canceled a trip to advise Israeli researchers. Why? Because Israel denied entry to anyone who was not one week beyond his second Covid jab. That’s right, one of the most prominent vaccine promoters in the world wasn’t fully vaccinated at the time. “Getting vaccinated had created a crisis of confidence for me,” Mr. Bourla writes. “I chose to wait until my vaccination might be used to encourage those with vaccine hesitancy later on.” Does this claim meet a high ethical standard? Mr. Bourla thinks so; others might not. An aghast Mr. Netanyahu said to him: “My wife, who is sitting next to me, is asking when you plan to vaccinate yourself. What shall I tell her?”

How transparent has Pfizer been? In the book’s more than 200 pages, one topic is not explored in any real depth—side effects. Although the vaccine is generally regarded as safe, side effects do appear to be more common—and perhaps more severe—than for other widely used vaccines. In the 2020 clinical trial that provided the basis for FDA emergency-use authorization, more than 83% of 18- to 55-year-old participants (in comparison with 14% of those injected with a placebo) reported arm pain after their first shot, and approximately a third had a fever in reaction to their second (in contrast to less than 1% for a placebo). More serious side effects, like myocarditis, are rare, but they happen slightly more often following vaccination. Mr. Bourla might have paused to address the concerns of those who worry about side effects, if only to put the matter in proper perspective.

Mr. Bourla asserts that, ultimately, “science will win.” Who could argue with that? The problem is that science is a process that works best when research findings are peer-reviewed and when calculations are verified by independent scientists with no vested interest in a commercial product. Pfizer skipped this step. Instead it used internally controlled trials and first made the results public through highly curated press releases that showed its evidence in the best light. “In the past,” Mr. Bourla explains, “politicians and governments would pressure us to share data and learnings more quickly than we were comfortable.” This time, he says, Pfizer held off on sharing data lest it fuel a counternarrative. Even now, Pfizer has not released data that would allow independent scientists to verify its analyses. If the evidence is in the public interest, shouldn’t the data be in the public domain?

At a Dec. 10, 2020, hearing on emergency-use authorization, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, several of the presentations and a number of comments from the general public raised concerns about how long vaccine protection would last. But the one clinical trial used to justify the authorization followed participants for only two months, and Pfizer was so confident of the vaccine’s durable benefit that it vaccinated the placebo group, calling the decision the only “ethical” option. By June 2021, however, Pfizer understood that protection against infection declines after only a few months. When it acknowledged this fact, Mr. Bourla says, officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and at the FDA feared that the disclosure would provoke more vaccine hesitancy. Perhaps it did. But it also helped Pfizer gain the authorization and public financing for a third dose.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

NY Times fires back at defamation plaintiff with anti-SLAPP lawsuit

From Reuters:

The New York Times sued an anti-immigration author for the cost of defending itself against defamation in the first lawsuit of its kind under New York’s recently expanded “anti-SLAPP” law to protect critical speech.

The company is seeking unspecified fees spent fending off a 2020 lawsuit by Peter Brimelow, according to the company’s lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday.

Brimelow had sued the company over five articles published between January 2019 and May 2020 that described him as being “white nationalist” and his VDARE.com website as being “animated by race hatred.”

Brimelow said the lawsuit does not have merit. “This lawsuit, like the five articles at issue in the original litigation, is but another effort to raise the stakes against dissident (but desperately needed) voices,” he said in an email.

The Times said in a statement it was the first anti-SLAPP case by the company which it called an important step in protecting itself from defamation claims.

One of the five articles that Brimelow alleged was defamatory was originally published by Reuters and republished by the Times. Brimelow did not name Reuters in his lawsuit.

The lawsuit by Brimelow, who has said he thinks the United States is a white nation, was dismissed in December 2020 soon after New York expanded its anti-SLAPP law, which is meant to deter lawsuits that are designed to punish defendants for speaking out on public issues.

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” and then-Governor Andrew Cuomo said the expanded law would protect free speech by preventing wealthy interests from using the court to bully their opponents.

The Times lawsuit is the first in which a defendant in a SLAPP case turned around and sued the plaintiffs after getting the case dismissed, according to Daniel Novack, an attorney who specializes in media law.

Link to the rest at Reuters

SLAPP Suits

From The First Amendment Encyclopedia:

A SLAPP suit, or strategic lawsuit against public participation, is a civil claim filed against an individual or an organization, arising out of that party’s speech or communication to government about an issue of public concern. At the heart of the SLAPP suit is the petition clause of the First Amendment.

‘SLAPP’ was coined to recognize lawsuits filed to silence criticism

A SLAPP suit may look like a civil lawsuit for defamation, nuisance, interference with contract, interference with economic advantage, or invasion of privacy, but its purpose is different. About this purpose, Judge J. Nicholas Colabella wrote in Gordon v. Marrone (N.Y . 1992), “Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to First Amendment expression can scarcely be imagined.”

Professors George W. Pring and Penelope Canan coined the term SLAPP suit in the 1980s after noting a surge in lawsuits filed to silence public criticism by citizens.

SLAPP suits arise when citizens erect signs on their own property, speak at public meetings, report violations of environmental laws, testify before Congress or state legislatures, or protest publicly, among many other similar acts, thereby prompting a party who claims to be aggrieved by such acts — often developers, merchants, and even public officials — to file suit.

SLAPP suits can interfere with First Amendment rights

The petition clause of the First Amendment guarantees, in part, “the right of the people. . .to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The abridgment of this right distinguishes a SLAPP suit from other cases based on similar allegations.

Defendants in SLAPP suits who plead a defense of petition clause immunity will almost always succeed in having the claims dismissed. This immunity is often known as the “Noerr-Pennington immunity” based on its role in Eastern Railroad Presidents Conference v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc. (1961) and United Mine Workers v. Pennington (1965).

. . . .

Nonlegal effects of SLAPP suits remain

However, the nonlegal effect of SLAPP suits remains. A defendant in such a suit may succeed legally but lose nevertheless, having expended large amounts of time and money in defending against the lawsuit.

More damaging is the effect that such suits can have on those who have not yet been targeted: the desire to avoid being sued translates into a reluctance to participate in public debate.

Link to the rest at The First Amendment Encyclopedia

Authors Guild Signs Open Letter Supporting Anti-SLAPP Legislation

From The Authors Guild:

On June 23, the Authors Guild signed an Open Letter in Support of the Uniform Law Commission’s Uniform Public Expression Protection Act. This Act provides a framework for states to create their own laws against baseless lawsuits intended to keep individuals from exercising their First Amendment rights.

Thirty-two states already have laws against such suits, known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or “SLAPP,” suits.  However, the need for anti-SLAPP legislation everywhere is greater than ever given the recent increase in lawsuits meant to intimidate writers and publishers and stop them from publishing true information or opinions.

The open letter sets out six features of an effective anti-SLAPP law:

  1. Protection of all expression on matters of public concern. This would protect all speech on matters of public concern in any forum.
  2. Minimization of litigation costs by allowing defendants to file an anti-SLAPP motion in court. This would automatically halt discovery and all other proceedings until the court rules on the anti-SLAPP motion.
  3. Requiring plaintiffs to show they have a legitimate case early in the litigation. This would limit defendants’ legal fees until the court has had the opportunity to assess the validity of the lawsuit.
  4. The right to an immediate appeal of an anti-SLAPP motion ruling. Providing a defendant with the right to immediately appeal is important because lower courts can make an error in judgment. A successful appeal of a ruling denying an anti-SLAPP motion can avoid an expensive and stressful trial that would unduly burden a speaker’s First Amendment rights.
  5. Award of costs and attorney fees. This is a vital deterrent against SLAPP suits and protects a defendant from suffering financial devastation.
  6. Broad judicial interpretation of anti-SLAPP laws to protect free speech. The UPEPA and several state anti-SLAPP statutes instruct judges to read the statute broadly to protect free expression rights.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

The strange case of Elvis Presley’s musical posterity

From The Economist:

At the peak of his fame, Elvis Presley was perhaps the most recognisable individual on the planet. Just as you may conjure Charlie Chaplin in your mind’s eye using only a bowler hat, a toothbrush moustache and a cane, it is easy to picture Presley with no more than a quiff, a curled lip and a high collar. He remains sufficiently alive in the cultural memory to be a mononym: nobody ever asks, “Elvis, who?” Yet Presley has faded from the forefront of the world’s collective consciousness. Reminders of his existence are no longer constant and inescapable.

Perhaps that is inevitable given he died almost 45 years ago, in August 1977, while his contemporaries of a similar stature have continued performing. More than 50 years after their split, the Beatles have retained much of their eminence: consider, for example, that Paul McCartney is headlining Glastonbury festival this year. Bob Dylan, a Nobel laureate in 2016, is earning plaudits for his latest work. The Rolling Stones are in the midst of a stadium tour. All those acts, or their principal members, have had the advantage of living on long after Presley died. John Lennon is an exception: he died only three years after Presley, yet is frequently invoked and commemorated.

Presley may be the bestselling solo artist of all time, but that feat leans heavily on the physical-format era. He ranks only 24th on Spotify’s streaming chart of legacy artists, behind other departed acts including Nirvana, 2Pac and Led Zeppelin. What is more telling is how relatively little he is seen. In the 1990s he was, in that overused and misapplied word, iconic: an object of what amounted to religious worship. He was also a go-to reference for cartoons, film and television scripts and comedy punchlines. Elvis impersonators were an industry: a film of 1992, “Honeymoon In Vegas”, featured an entire planeload of them dropping from the sky on parachutes in a symbolic display of both the singer’s godlike ubiquity and his descent into caricature.

A new film not only seeks to place Presley front and centre once again but also, if inadvertently, offers clues as to why he lost that spotlight in the first place. “Elvis” is directed with typical over-the-top brio by Baz Luhrmann. The Australian film-maker has a noted flair for lavish yet sincere camp and it chimes perfectly with Presley’s own sensibility, which could be gaudy and overblown, but was never less than heartfelt. It is this last quality that Mr Luhrmann has sought to restore to a superstar who became widely perceived as a self-parodic joke in his later years and even more so in his cultural afterlife.

“Elvis” is three different films brought together into a whole that, while unwieldy, is spectacular to look at and not for a moment boring (again, much like Presley himself.) One part is an exploration of the relationship between Presley and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Parker was a former carnival worker who used every bit of that job’s manipulative tradecraft to promote and exploit Presley. In a delicious turn by Tom Hanks, Parker is a melodrama villain and an unreliable narrator.

Link to the rest at The Economist

Here’s a link to the movie’s trailer

Mojo’s Smart Contact Lenses Begin In-Eye Testing

The connection with books may seem wispy, but PG suspects that the majority of adult readers use some sort of corrective lenses.

From Cnet:

I’ve brought a tiny, chip-studded, display-enabled contact lens made up to my eye, but I never was actually able to wear it. But by the end of 2022, I might get a chance. Mojo Vision’s smart contact lenses, which have been in development for years, are finally being worn internally, starting with the company’s CEO Drew Perkins.

Perkins, who I spoke to over Zoom, has only worn the lens for an hour at a time so far. He likens the first tests to a baby learning to walk: “We’ve now taken that first step. And it’s very exciting.”

Perkins tested a few of the Mojo Lens app demos I tried with the lens on a stick earlier this year, reading text off a teleprompter app that put tiny text floating in a display in front of his eye, and looking at an image of Albert Einstein in green monochrome, which Perkins said “looked great.” He also demoed the lens’ compass app that I tried, which used a built-in magnetometer to show compass readouts in real time. “I was able to spin around 360 degrees and see it [go] from north, to northeast, to east, to southeast,” he said. “It was very cool.”

Mojo Vision’s hardware for the lens requires a neck-worn processor that wirelessly relays information to the lens and back to computers that track the eye movement data for research. For the moment, the setup also requires a special cap with an antenna built in that Perkins is wearing to ensure a smooth connection for early testing.

The lenses have a tiny MicroLED display onboard, a short-range custom wireless radio, a tiny ARM processor and motion tracking in the form of an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. It’s the same lens hardware I looked at off-eye back in the spring of this year. The lenses enable eye-controlled head-up displays to appear to hover in-air, approaching a type of monochromatic Google Glass-like AR interface without glasses.

Link to the rest at Cnet and thanks to F. for the tip.

China Bestsellers in May: Emotion and Promotion

From Publishing Perspectives:

In our look at the April bestseller charts in China, we focused on an interesting inflection point in which consumers seem to be waiting for new “online literature” to take to their hearts in book form.

In May, our associates at Beijing OpenBook saw the role of what they interpret to be emotional attraction and canny promotions.

As examples, Yu Hua’s Cries in the Drizzle (Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House) entered the fiction chart at No. 22 and Crystal Spiral (Nan Hai Publishing) by Keigo Higashino arrived at N0. 29, having just been published in April (Nan Hai Publishing).

As our associates point out, Yu Hua’s To Live (at No. 10 in May in a new edition from Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House) had benefited in 2018 by an endorsement from film star Yi YangQian Xi.

This year, e-commerce pr0motions began well before the June 1 to 18 shopping promotional period, so that by May book sales pros were approaching the annual “618” promotions as a chance to push Yu Hua’s book.

And the ability of Crystal Spiral to appear so quickly in China’s relatively slow-moving market rankings reinforces the fascination that the prolific Japanese author Higashino has for so many Chinese readers.

The key to Higashino’s work, OpenBook’s Wendy Pan points out to us, is his work’s high levels of emotional content. “Crystal Spiral is a detective work full of emotion,” Pan says.

“The work makes people feel that the detective element is less important than the emotional ties in it.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

How to Use Gender-Neutral Language at Work and in Life

From Grammarly Blog:

Every day, we make thousands of decisions, including what to wear and eat and how to handle little problems or unexpected moments that pop up. The way we speak introduces more of those choices.

But, unlike many of the other decisions we make, the way we use language can significantly affect those around us. Language can make people feel respected, or it can make them feel excluded, and it’s all in the way we choose to use it.

That’s where gender-neutral language comes into play. Here’s what you should know about it, and how to work it into your daily life.

. . . .

What is gender-neutral language?

Gender-neutral language is simply a way of talking about people without assuming their gender. For example, it’s referring to someone you don’t know as “they” rather than using the pronoun “he” or “she,” or addressing a group as “everyone” rather than saying, “Hey, guys.”

Luckily, the English language is relatively gender-neutral in many respects. For instance, many nouns (think: “writer,” “president,” or “acrobat”) are gender-neutral. However, that doesn’t mean that gendered language is uncommon. In fact, gendered language has been a part of our lexicon for a long time. (The United States’ Declaration of Independence even proclaims that “all men are created equal.”) So you may not realize when you’re using gendered language, even as it shapes how you see the world.

Using gender-neutral language is an important habit because it demonstrates respect for people of all backgrounds, genders, and beliefs, and it includes everyone in the conversation. This is an especially helpful way to show support for members of LGBTQIA+ communities. And while not everyone finds the language people use about them important, it’s best to land on the side of using inclusive and empathetic language.

How to use gender-neutral language in the workplace

One of the common areas where gendered language may appear is in an office or a workspace. For example, a professional email may start with a form of address, like “Mr.” or “Mrs./Ms.” However, if you don’t know the recipient’s preferred pronouns, the one you select may not align with their gender identity. So when in doubt, choose a gender-neutral alternative, like “Mx.,” or use the person’s full name without a title. If you’re not familiar with the person you’re addressing, you can address their profession or group without noting their gender, such as “Dear Professor,” “Dear Members of the Board,” or “Dear Hiring Committee.”

Gender-neutral alternatives to gendered words

While many English words are naturally gender-neutral, some still carry gendered connotations. So it’s also important to pay attention to your language in less formal conversations, like those with coworkers over Slack. Here are a few examples of the types of words that may be common in the workplace, as well as alternatives to use instead:

  • Businessman → Businessperson, business representative
  • Chairman/chairwoman → Chairperson, chair
  • Foreman → Foreperson
  • Salesman → Salesperson
  • Manpower → Workforce, workers 
  • Mailman → Letter carrier, postal worker
  • Manned → Crewed

Link to the rest at Grammarly Blog

PG was born and raised several years ago. He is thankful that his parents taught him to be polite to everyone he encountered and modeled that behavior for him.

At a time when many fathers had served in the armed forces during World War II and brought home racial nicknames for certain nationalities, PG’s father never manifested that behavior.

PG’s closest friends when he was a young sprout was Japanese. Only much later did PG conclude that his parents had likely been held in detention camps for Japanese, including American citizens, during the war because of their race.

One day, someone stopped by the farmhouse where PG and his family were living and asked for directions to someplace several miles away. The man seeking help said that he had asked at the neighboring farm, but didn’t think that the [racial epithet omitted] had given him correct directions.

PG was an upset little boy after hearing that and his father spoke with him about treating everyone with respect and kindness and never using the epithet he had just heard to describe anyone else.

With that rambling background, PG will say that he is happy to use preferred terms to describe others, but isn’t happy when some who prefer a particular form of address or manner of referencing people like themselves become abusive and aggressive towards those who may not have understood that they had not referenced the person by the “correct” term for members of the LGBTQIA+ (which not long ago was commonly understood to be LGBT).

In PG’s experience, too many people assume that others are purposely demeaning them by using general terms that caused no offense five, ten or twenty years ago.

Your Go-To Guide to Writing Effective Blog Posts

From Rytr:

Introduction to Blogging – what is a blog post, how do you create one, and what are the benefits?

A blog post is a type of article that is published on a blog, typically with the goal of providing information, entertainment, or inspiration. Blog posts are often accompanied by images, videos, and/or graphics. Blog posts can be used to share your thoughts and expertise on topics you are passionate about. They can help you build your personal brand and establish yourself as an expert in your field. These worded beauties can also be used to drive traffic to other pages on your site or to other sites that you are affiliated with.

Blogging is a popular form of online publishing. There are many blog platforms, resources, and categories to choose from. When starting your blog, you will need to determine what type of blog you want to create and what blogging platform you would like to use.

One can get into blogging as a profession or merely express themselves. It is a great way to put down your thoughts and build a brand for yourself or someone else. Blogs can be as simple as talking about the day/a trip you took OR complex ones talking about the existence of life.

Whichever your go-to is, we’re here to help you with the simplest of tips to get your blogging game on.

How to Write a Blog Post – Tips and Tricks to Creating a Powerful Blog Post

Blogging is one of the most powerful ways to get your voice heard. Let’s get started with some of the basics which would help you in creating a powerful blog post.

1) Define your topic: We all love defined structures & well-defined topics. You need to be super crisp about the topic you want to write about and stick to it throughout. Remember, we have to present a well-balanced meal, and not a buffet of various exotic cuisines.

2) Create an outline: Once you have zeroed upon your topic, you would want to break it down into sub-headings or outlines. Do I want to write about Global Warming? Yes, but what all aspects must I cover? You see, you would come across a lot of broad topics and it is humanly impossible to cover everything under one write-up. Hence, you must jot down a rough outline of the areas you would want to cover.

3) Give a detailed introduction: Let your readers cut through the chaos with your crisp introduction. Explain what topics you would be touching on, mention what your reader can learn from the blog and try to highlight the keywords for your ‘busy’ reader to skim through.

4) Write the conclusion: A conclusion is like a yummy dessert that gets served after a hearty meal. Remember, a bad sweet serving can often ruin the entire entree experience and we surely don’t want that. We don’t have to go overboard with lengthy conclusions- after all, nobody (mostly) prefers a prolonged goodbye. Some up your blog, keep an open ending where you ask for feedback/opinions or just leave them wanting for more- your call!

5) Proofread your blog post before publishing it: No matter if you’re a beginner or a master, you can (and should) never avoid proofreading. We understand that you may be having a bunch of blogs to complete in a day, but that shouldn’t hold you back from going through your piece once (or twice) before you hit that ‘publish’ button. Trust us, stupid typos and shameful grammatical errors won’t look good amidst your otherwise perfect piece.

. . . .

Blogging For Businesses

Today, online presence has become a (almost) necessity for all sorts of businesses. Whether you’re a multinational brand or upcoming e-commerce, you need to set up an attractive and informative website for your business. 

Once your basic website is live, undoubtedly the blogging section becomes an inseparable part of the same. From dispersing more knowledge about your product/services to SEO purposes, blogs often come out as unsung soldiers of the army of your growing business.

Step 1 – Define Your Blog’s Purpose

A blog is a great way to create content for your business and help you attract new customers. It’s also a good way to provide value to current customers, as well as keep them up-to-date with what’s happening in your industry.

Blogs can be used for many different purposes:

  • To attract new customers
  • To provide valuable information to your existing clients
  • To keep current clients updated on what’s happening in your industry
  • For general knowledge or education purposes (e.g., blogging about life, parenting)
  • For generating targeted traffic to other areas of the website (e.g., blog posts on a specific product)

. . . .

Helpful Tools for Creating Quality Content

It’s 2022 and having some virtual assistants at your disposal won’t hurt. Here are some of the most loved tools you can include in your virtual blogging gang to create quality content.

1. Google Docs: It is a free online word processing tool that allows multiple people to edit the same document at the same time, and it saves automatically as you are typing. Not only this, but it can do some basic grammar/spell check for you and tell you about your word/character count.

2. Grammarly: This is another app that checks for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation on your behalf so that you can focus on what really matters – content creation.

3. Rytr: Well, this one is a no brainer. We’re sure that y’all are aware of our blog use case and more. But hey, that’s not all, here are some other functions that can help you really ace your blogging game.  

  • Plagiarism checker
  • Readability score & time
  • Rephrase
  • Improve text
  • Continue Ryting

Link to the rest at Rytr

PG has posted about Writing Programs that utilize Artificial Intelligence to speed the writing process up and/or improve the resulting copy. He’s been partly impressed and anxious for further development and sophistication from such programs.

PG notes that the author of the blog post, Kriti, didn’t explain exactly how she used Rytr to create this particular post and whether she/he did any spiffing up of the material Rytr produced.

Publisher Gives Away Books It Thinks May Help People Bridge Political Divisions

From The Wall Street Journal:

Simon & Schuster is giving away two books meant to help readers engage with people holding opposing views as the country is divided on issues ranging from abortion to gun rights.

The book publisher, a unit of Paramount Global, is making the digital audiobook and ebook editions of Amanda Ripley’s “High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out,” and Anna Sale’s “Let’s Talk About Hard Things: The Life-Changing Conversations That Connect Us” available for free until the end of July.

Jonathan Karp, the publisher’s chief executive, said it is the first time to his knowledge that Simon & Schuster has given away books outside of charitable efforts—a decision that he said was prompted by a flurry of recent events that further worsened divisions.

“The Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade was on my mind, along with the debates Americans are having about guns, the 2020 election, Jan. 6, climate change and immigration, to name just a few of the issues that divide us,” he said.

Both Ms. Ripley and Ms. Sale are on board with the plan and agreed not to receive royalties for the copies that are downloaded, Mr. Karp said.

“High Conflict” and “Let’s Talk About Hard Things,” which both came out in 2021, have sold more than 19,000 print copies and more than 11,000 print copies respectively so far, according to book tracker NPD BookScan.

Both books are “trying to help us understand how we got to a place where we have turned on each other,” said Ms. Ripley, a journalist and host of the weekly Slate podcast “How To!” She said, “What is a better way to handle conflict?”

She said giving away the books was akin to paywalled news sites making health-related content available to all during the pandemic.

Ms. Ripley said “High Conflict” argues that “there is a kind of malignant conflict that becomes conflict for its own sake, in which everyone ends up worse off, as opposed to ‘good conflict,’ which is healthy and generative.”

“Let’s Talk About Hard Things,” Ms. Sale’s debut book, focuses on how to have thoughtful conversations about such subjects as money, death and identity, while being able to listen to other opinions.

. . . .

“Publishers see that the books addressing the ideological extremes often sell the best, even though polling indicates that a majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle,” Mr. Karp said. “What’s needed are more books that show us how to find common ground.”

Paramount Global agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Bertelsmann SE’s Penguin Random House publishing unit for about $2.18 billion in November 2020. The planned sale was later challenged by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds, and a trial is expected to start Aug. 1.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG would have been more impressed if S&S had paid the authors of the two free books a reasonable sum to replace the royalties they might be losing under the free book promotion.

When PG checked, “High Conflict” had a Best Sellers Rank of #1,765,731 in Kindle Store and “Hard Things” had a Best Sellers Rank of #1,413 in the Free category of the Kindle Store (PG couldn’t find any non-free ranking info for either title). The authors may have concluded they were not likely to earn out their advances, so going free had no financial downside.

A Wall Street Journal article by itself, is a big boost for the authors’ brands and maybe the authors get S&S brownie points until the Bertelsmann acquisition goes through, at which point, “free” goes out the window forever.

Digging Deeper into Hemingway

From Publishers Weekly:

Battles over books are being waged from all sides of the political spectrum. Booksellers, teachers, and students worry that books potentially alienate or harm readers because they contain racial epithets or demeaning depictions. Politicians seek to ban books from curricula out of fear that certain books offend the sensibilities of children, distort the historical record, or present the human experience in ways they don’t like. Although liberals and conservatives often clash in these debates, they attribute great power to the written word.

With tempers high on all sides, it sometimes seems easier to drop some books altogether rather than incite another battle in the polarizing culture wars. But there is a path beyond the apparent impasse of canceling or defending works at odds with today’s sensibilities. It requires recognizing that artistic masterpieces are not defined by perfection but, in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s useful definition, are “endlessly compelling [works] speaking to the human condition beyond time and place.” Canonical works reframe essential questions rather than settle debates; by definition they do not comfort but confound. Such works touch on universal issues in terms partly handed down by tradition and partly invented anew. Honoring the canon does not mean reflexive reverence but putting works to the test of time.

An honest appraisal of Ernest Hemingway’s landmark 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, illustrates how to engage with a work partly at odds with today’s sensibilities. A staple in high school English classes, Hemingway’s first novel introduced countless readers to the post–World War I “lost generation’s” search for a livable code of conduct while drinking, flirting, and watching the bullfights in Spain. But in the space of little more than a single page, consistently overlooked by most critics, Hemingway uses the n-word 16 times. I have been teaching literature to college students for 26 years and know that in a 21st-century classroom, awkward silence or evasive apologies about this conspicuous use of a racial epithet by such an intentional author will not cut it. Failing to analyze this scene is not only a missed opportunity that can easily lead to the book being dropped from the curriculum altogether, it is also an injustice to Hemingway as the progenitor of modern American fiction. Ignoring Hemingway’s obsessive use of the n-word shortchanges his art and fails to grasp that a work becomes canonical not because of shimmering perfection but because successive readings reveal additional significance.

Instead of making apologies for The Sun Also Rises or “canceling” the book, students can be shown how to hold Hemingway accountable to his self-defined standard of writing “the truest sentence” possible. Hemingway’s unsparing use of the n-word serves a complicated function in his book. It acknowledges the pivotal role played by race in the project of establishing American identity without authentically representing the African American characters. In this respect Hemingway’s use of the n-word betrays his own credo of writing the “truest sentence” possible.

In a seminal study of the role of race in American fiction, Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison shows that Hemingway needs African American characters for his project of authentic writing, but also that his use of verbal stereotypes reveals problems in his art. Today’s readers know that race is integral rather than peripheral to the project of collective self-understanding to which Hemingway gave such a resonant voice.

New generations bring new questions, which, in Morrison’s words, “give the text a deeper, richer, more complex life than the sanitized one commonly presented to us.” The question is not whether Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Hemingway, or Willa Cather offend or confirm our sensibilities. Today’s question is whether these classics remain sufficiently rewarding once we notice their often maladroit handling of racial identity. Avoiding the issue is no longer an option.

By examining how such moments shape great works in both content and form, Morrison emphasized, we gain a deeper understanding of the centrality of race in creating an American identity. A clear-eyed analysis of Hemingway’s use of the n-word in The Sun Also Rises shows how to read works that are culturally significant yet out of sync with today’s sensibilities.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

One of the first things students learn (or formerly learned) in any semantics course is “The word is not the thing.”

A corollary is “The map is not the territory.”

A map of the United States is a much different thing than the United States is. There are millions of places in the United States where you can take a step and not have the slightest idea that you have just moved from one state to another. Before the step, you were subject to one set of state laws and after the step, you are subject to a different set of state laws.

PG regularly reads news items that make him think that people are giving words too much power.

One may certainly find a word distasteful or objectionable or obscene, and prefer to not hear that word under any circumstances, but hearing the word does not, in fact change the person who does not like it. Words can have a personal impact on us only if we permit them to do so.

PG certainly knows a number of words he would never use and would prefer not to hear, but if he’s walking along a street and hears one of those words, he’s not changed by that hearing and hearing the word does not change his preference not to hear it.

PG could meander for a long time down this path, but will stop . . . after saying one more thing: Not reading anything Hemingway wrote would have resulted in a slightly less complete and educated PG. Reading Heming way did not convert PG to Hemingway’s manner of speaking, writing or living, but was still a very valuable experience for PG.

How Astonishing Women from Romania’s Past Inspired Me as a Woman Writer

From Woman Writers, Women’s Books:

When I started writing Dreamland, my second book of short stories about Romania’s history and folklore, I imagined I’ll write about what I know best, my native country. As I started my research, I discovered surprising legends and inspirational tales about women from Romania’s past that inspired me not only in writing, but in my life too.

A story was born from a legend that sits at the core of Maramures, this land in northern Romania: “Call of the Heart in Maramures, at Its Birth.” Its folk still share it by the hearth during long winter nights steeped in snow. It explains how the people of Maramures would not have existed if it wasn’t for the love and the self-sacrifice of one woman. She gave up her status just so that she can be with the man she loved. Never mind that she was a giant. Never mind this is a legend. 

More reality than legend, “A wave frozen in stone” was inspired by the oldest cave paintings of Central Europe, located in Coliboaia Cave, Bihor, Romania. Carbon dating placed them at over 30,000 years old; the Palaeolithic period.

Let’s pause for a moment. When we think of cave paintings and the artists who created them, who do we imagine? A man or a woman? Why do we give men priority?

I tried to imagine a woman. Her hands were raw from work and the freezing temperatures of the Ice Age. In brief moments of respite, when she hugged her babe and counted his tiny fingers, basking in their velvety touch, their sweet scent, and unconditional love… had she noticed the transformation her hands would have gone through? When she cured animal hides, had she noticed the snakes coming alive on the back of her hands? We call them tendons and veins. What word she used? Were they a mark of pride, proof of a life of hard labour? The only life she could have known. I like to imagine that she noticed. That she paused to draw breath. And that’s why she could render such anatomically detailed rock paintings. Bone and tendon and muscle. So distinctive that hand, the human hand. And a key anatomical feature by which individuals were, still are, defined.

Creating art, in its many forms.

I gazed at bas reliefs on Trajan’s Column countless times. Discerning the Roman army crossing the Danube River ahead of the first Dacian-Roman war; then battle scenes. I noticed Roman soldiers torching Dacian villages, but also Roman skulls stuck on poles around a Dacian fortress. And then, suddenly, I spotted Dacian women dressed in their beautiful attire, the Romanian blouse, “ia”, today a Romanian national symbol. An entire scene on Trajan’s column was dedicated to them.  I drew breath. What if the Dacian women were depicted on Trajan’s Column for another reason? Imagine the Roman soldiers’ surprise at having to fight against Dacian men… and women! The Roman soldiers were sourced from all the corners of the empire, fighting someone else’s war. But the Dacians, men and women, were defending their land. I imagined Roman soldiers, their arms lifting heavy swords, gladii, about to strike, then frozen in mid-air realising that among their opponents, handling the curved and feared Dacian sword, the falx, were women too. Thus, the story “Girl Warrior” came alive.

But could all women fight in battles to their hearts’ content?

In medieval times the Bistrita fortress was saved by the wealth of a woman. The stories I came across made me question if it was her material wealth that saved the town or her bravery. Ursula is depicted on her tombstone wearing a knit’s attire complete with a sword and a shield. The stone slab is known today as The Knight’s Slab. 

Link to the rest at Woman Writers, Women’s Books

PG had never heard of Maramures prior to reading the OP. He did a bit of online research and found it looked like and interesting place.

For example Maramures has a Happy Cemetery.

From Üdvözlünk a Wikipédiában!, Creative Commons, share and share alike

The author of the OP is Patricia Furstenberg, a Romanian author now living in South Africa.

Here’s a link to her Author Page on Amazon.

7 of the Most Memorable Bartenders in Literature

From Electric Lit:

I have thought a lot, over my decade-plus of drinking and working in bars, about what makes any one establishment stand out over another. Why are there places we love and return to, and others we leave with indifference, ambivalence, even disappointment? On the one hand, if there was an easy answer, opening a bar wouldn’t be such a risky venture. There are so many factors at play—location is a big one, and design, and menu offerings—and there are so many different types of bars, so many success stories and failures. In some ways, defining a “good bar” is an impossible task. On the other hand, ask any barfly and they’ll give you the same answer. It always, in the end, comes down to the bartender.

And yet, there is a strange dearth of memorable bartenders in popular culture. Bars appear, generally, as settings divorced from the people that run them; with the occasional, notable exception (Cheers leaps to mind), bartenders are generally anonymous, interchangeable, forgotten. This is part of what I see as a more general lack of service industry stories, a lack that I felt as I worked on my debut novel, The Bartender’s Cure.

In The Bartender’s Cure, the bars are literally defined by their staff: the protagonist’s place of work is called Joe’s Apothecary, but every other establishment remains nameless—Gina’s bar, Casey’s bar, Timothy’s bar. I don’t think I even noticed myself naming them this way, not at first, but it felt right. The bartender defines your experience, as a guest: they shepherd you through your night, they feed and water you, they look out for your comfort, your safety, and your joy. If you’re very lucky, you get to know them a little bit too.

The novels below understand this, and have created compelling, magnetic bar personalities. At the top of the list are the bartenders we know best—protagonists, followed by love interests, followed by memorable minor characters. I would visit any one of them at work in a heartbeat.

. . . .

The Night Shift by Natalka Burian

The protagonist of Natalka Burian’s upcoming novel is a sort of classic accidental bartender. After leaving her more traditional job working for a successful psychotherapist, Jean Smith takes a job at Red and Gold, a divey bar in early-aughts Manhattan where the nights consist of drunk hipsters and hundreds (maybe thousands) of vodka-sodas. Jean is a newbie, and we see her struggle behind the bar as all newbies do, but she’s hardworking and stubborn, which I respect. And at any rate, The Night Shift isn’t really about the bar—it’s about the nighttime world that bar work introduces Jean to, with its colorful characters and mysterious shortcuts: strange passageways through space and time that are much more sinister than they seem. Jean is a classic reluctant hero type, and Burian weaves together her painful past and troubled coming-of-age with a riveting, high-stakes mystery.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

As it brings its bipedal robots to market, Agility announces a $150M round

From Tech Crunch:

Yesterday, Amazon announced that Agility Robotics is one of the five initial startups benefitting from the company’s $1 billion innovation fund. If I had to guess, I’d say that meant the retail giant was eyeing the Oregon State University spinoff as a potential addition to its warehouse robotics arsenal. After all, logistics has become an increasingly import piece of Agility’s go to market strategy for its bipedal Digit robot, while Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of robots are a big part of how it manages to turn around package deliveries so quickly.

This morning, however, the company raised a massive $150 million Series B, including funds from the aforementioned Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund. This time out, however, it was DCVC and Playground Global leading the way for the investment.

“Agility is set to make a powerful impact, developing and shipping robots that are built to co-exist seamlessly in our lives,” Playgound’s Bruce Leak said in a release. “Since Agility’s earliest days, we’ve believed their unique technical approach stands alone in being able to deliver on the promise of practical everyday robots.”

Born out of bipedal locomotion work on a research robot named Cassie, Agility has continued to impress investors along the way, including names like the Sony Innovation Fund. Ford also famously announced plans to utilize Digit as part of a last-mile delivery strategy, though Agility’s more recent focus has shifted to unpacking trucks and moving boxes around warehouses — a need that has only accelerated during the pandemic.

Link to the rest at Tech Crunch and thanks to F. for the tip.

Who doesn’t read books in America?

From The Pew Research Center:

Roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2021. Who are these non-book readers?

Several demographic traits are linked with not reading books, according to the survey. For instance, adults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the past year (39% vs. 11%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, an increasingly common way for adults to read e-books.

In addition, adults whose annual household income is less than $30,000 are more likely than those living in households earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (31% vs. 15%). Hispanic adults (38%) are more likely than Black (25%) or White adults (20%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months. (The survey included Asian Americans but did not have sufficient sample size to do statistical analysis of this group.)

Although the differences are less pronounced, non-book readers also vary by age and community type. Americans ages 50 and older, for example, are more likely than their younger counterparts to be non-book readers. There is not a statistically significant difference by gender.

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months has fluctuated over the years the Center has studied it. The 23% of adults who currently say they have not read any books in the past year is identical to the share who said this in 2014.

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. 

Link to the rest at The Pew Research Center and thanks to F. for the tip.

She was clean

She was clean: no piercings, tattoos, or scarifications. All the kids were now. And who could blame them, Alex thought, after watching three generations of flaccid tattoos droop like moth-eaten upholstery over poorly stuffed biceps and saggy asses?

Jennifer Egan

Friends smell like one another

PG isn’t exactly certain how, but there has to be a book in this.

From The Economist

Dogs greet other dogs nose-first, as it were—sniffing each other from fore to (especially) aft. People are not quite so open about the process of sniffing each other out. But the size of the perfume industry suggests scent is important in human relations, too. There is also evidence that human beings can infer kinship, deduce emotional states and even detect disease via the sense of smell. Now, Inbal Ravreby, Kobi Snitz and Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel, have gone a step further. They think they have shown, admittedly in a fairly small sample of individuals, that friends actually smell alike. They have also shown that this is probably the case from the get-go, with people picking friends at least partly on the basis of body odour, rather than the body odours of people who become friends subsequently converging.

As they report in Science Advances, Dr Ravreby, Dr Snitz and Dr Sobel started their research by testing the odours of 20 pairs of established, non-romantic, same-sex friends. They did this using an electronic nose (e-nose) and also two groups of specially recruited human “smellers”.

The e-nose employed a set of metal-oxide gas sensors to assess t-shirts worn by participants. One group of human smellers were given pairs of these shirts and asked to rate how similar they smelt. Those in the other group were asked to rate the odours of individual t-shirts on five subjective dimensions: pleasantness, intensity, sexual attractiveness, competence and warmth. The e-nose results and the opinions of the second group of smellers were then subjected to a bit of multidimensional mathematical jiggery-pokery (think plotting the results on a graph, except that the graph paper has five dimensions), and they, too, emerged as simple, comparable numbers.

All three approaches yielded the same result. The t-shirts of friends smelt more similar to each other than the t-shirts of strangers. Friends, in other words, do indeed smell alike. But why?

To cast light on whether friendship causes similarity of scent, or similarity of scent causes friendship, Dr Ravreby, Dr Snitz and Dr Sobel then investigated whether e-nose measurements could be used to predict positive interactions between strangers—the sort of “clicking” that is often the basis of a new friendship. To this end they gathered another 17 volunteers, gave them t-shirts to wear to collect their body odours, ran those odours past the e-nose, and then asked the participants to play a game.

This game involved silently mirroring another individual’s hand movements. Participants were paired up at random and their reactions recorded. After each interaction, participants demonstrated how close they felt to their fellow gamer by overlapping two circles (one representing themselves, the other their partner) on a screen. The more similar the two electronic smell signatures were, the greater the overlap. Participants also rated the quality of their interaction in the game along 12 subjective dimensions of feelings that define friendship. Similar odours corresponded to positive ratings for nine of these dimensions. Intriguingly, however, two participants smelling alike did not mean they were any more accurate at the mirroring game than others, as measured by a hidden camera.

Why scent might play a role in forming friendships remains obscure. Other qualities correlated with being friends, including age, appearance, education, religion and race, are either immediately obvious or rapidly become so. But while some individuals have strong and noticeable body odour, many—at least since the use of soap has become widespread—do not. It is present. But it is subliminal. Dr Ravreby speculates that there may be “an evolutionary advantage in having friends that are genetically similar to us”. 

Link to the rest at The Economist

A Photographer Is Suing Tattoo Artist Kat Von D After She Inked His Portrait of Miles Davis on a Friend’s Body

From ArtNet:

If you copyright a work of art, does that prevent other people from turning that image into a tattoo? That’s the question set to be decided by a jury in California federal court, where the case of photographer Jeffrey B. Sedlik versus celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D is due to go to trial.

“It is, as far as I know, the first case in which a tattoo artist has been sued for an allegedly copyrighted image on a tattoo on a client’s body,” Aaron Moss, an attorney at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP, who is not involved in the case, told Bloomberg.

. . . .

In March 2017, Von D, whose legal name is Katherine Von Drachenberg, published the first of two Instagram posts of a tattoo based on a Sedlik’s 1989 photograph of jazz legend Miles Davis, holding a finger to his lips.

. . . .

In 2021, Sedlik responded by suing Von D, claiming that the tattoo was an unauthorized derivative work, and that creating it and posting it on social media was an infringement of his copyright.

After reviewing legal filings from both sides, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer has decided to bring the case to trial. A jury will be asked to decide whether or not the tattoo falls under the doctrine of fair use, as well as if Von D’s use of Sedlik’s image denied the photographer a licensing opportunity.

. . . .

“A finding of infringement would effectively make public display of the tattooed person’s arm an act of infringement,” Amelia Brankov, a copyright lawyer not involved in the case, told Artnet News. “This could give pause to tattoo artists who are asked to ink third-party imagery on their clients.”

“Holding tattoo artists civilly liable for copyright infringement will necessarily expose the clients of these artists to the same civil liability anytime they choose to get tattoos based on copyrighted source material, display their tattooed bodies in public, or share social media posts of their tattoos,” Von D’s lawyers wrote in a legal filing. “That is not the law and cannot be the law.”

Link to the rest at ArtNet

There are images of the original photo and the tattoo at the OP

Harry Potter’s 25th anniversary

From The Economist

That a quarter of a century has passed since the world was introduced to Harry Potter, Hogwarts and Quidditch feels like a spell in itself. Since the publication of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” on June 26th, 1997, J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series has been translated into more than 80 languages and sold more than 500m copies; it is by some way the best-selling series of all time. The films have fetched more than $9.6bn at the box office.

Link to the rest at The Economist

Fear Thesaurus Entry: Infidelity

From Writers Helping Writers:

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life.

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

. . . .

Fear of Infidelity

Notes
Relationships are built on trust, and when one partner cannot trust the other, the entire relationship is jeopardized. In some cases, the partner may have a history of cheating or questionable relationships. In other situations, the character may be projecting their own self-doubt and insecurities onto their partner. This fear could become so great in the character’s mind that, despite a desire or need for romantic relationships, they’re avoided altogether.

The character doubting their own abilities and attractiveness
Being overly jealous or territorial
Secretly checking up on a partner—accessing their phone without permission, following them, etc.
Trying to “trick” a partner into confessing to suspected indiscretions
Enlisting friends to spy on the other party
The character overcompensating to impress their partner
Worrying excessively if a partner is late or doesn’t call

Checking in obsessively via texts or phone calls
Making unfounded accusations about a lover’s faithfulness
Being overly needy
Forbidding a partner to have relationships that aren’t sanctioned by the character
“Catfishing” a significant other online (or having a friend do it)
Bending over backwards to please a lover
The character agreeing to bedroom activities they’re not comfortable with to appease their partner

Common Internal Struggles
The character wanting to trust their partner but being unable to do so
The character worrying that the partner is disappointed in them (physically, intellectually, etc.)
Experiencing soaring anxiety despite having no tangible reason for it
The character questioning their suspicions (Is this real or am I being paranoid?)
Feeling guilty about spying on or checking up on a partner
The character wanting to discuss their suspicions but also being afraid to find out the truth

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Over 50% Of Adults Have Not Finished a Book in the Last Year

From Book Riot:

While many book lovers would find it hard to not finish a book over the course of 365 days, this is the reality of over half of US adults. In a new study conducted by WordsRated, an international research and data group focused on reading and the publishing world, 48% of adults finished a whole book in the last year.

The American Reading Habits survey asked 2,003 American adults about their reading habits over the last year. This study was done as a means of offering a different perspective on reading than what’s typically offered via groups like PEW. Rather than define reading as a broad spectrum of activities, WordsRated had two criteria: the book must be print or digital (aka: no audiobooks, despite the fact audiobooks are indeed reading) and the book must have been finished in whole.

Image of generational breakdown of those surveyed.

As seen above, those surveyed included roughly 30% of those in the baby boomer generation, 25% of those considered generation x, 34% of those considered millennial, and 11% of those considered generation z. The three largest groups of adults were roughly equal.

. . . .

While it is certainly surprising to see that nearly 52% of those polled did not finish a book in the last year, that 48% did is still pretty impressive. The act of finishing a book as the definition of reading here definitely gives a wholly different perspective–how many of those 52% include people who pick up a magazine or flip through a cookbook or try something and set it aside? How many listen to audiobooks exclusively? 

. . . .

The data also show that a quarter of the same adults have not read a full book in 1 or 2 years, while 11% more have not read a book in 3-5 years.

A tenth of adults have not read a full book in the last 10 years.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

One of the reasons PG chose to excerpt this is the disconnect between the research group and the BookRiot people about whether listening to an audiobook is reading.

What do we think about that?

For PG (and, likely, almost everyone else), reading an ebook or paper book takes far less time than listening to an audiobook of the same same title. That might classify an audiobook listener as one who is more committed to spending time enjoying or learning from a book than someone doing the same thing as an ebook or on paper.

On the other hand, PG zones out while listening to the radio or music all the time and this almost never happens to him with an ebook or paper book. (If it does, PG will start a new book.)

This raises a couple of questions for PG:

  1. What’s the comprehension level for information taken into one’s brain via ebook/pbook vs. audiobook?
  2. Any difference in remembering what one has read between words on a screen/paper vs audio?

Many years ago, PG remembers reading that comprehension/understanding/remembering was better for a person reading from paper than on a screen. This was at a time when a screen was hooked to a computer and a keyboard, not a device like an iPad or smart phone.

In PG’s unscientific observation of himself, he doesn’t think that there is any difference in comprehension/attention for him regardless of whether he reads something on a screen of any sort vs. on paper. He does consume about 95% of the new information he encounters on a given day on some sort of screen and 5% (or maybe less) on paper.