Pretty much everyone who reads sometimes uses books as a way to escape. A book is a door to another world, a way to get away from reality for a few minutes or hours and focus on characters and circumstances wholly and blessedly unrelated to one’s own life. Sometimes, the more unrelated to one’s own life, the better.
I love literary fiction; it’s the genre I read most frequently. But literary fiction also tends to be about things that are distinctly related to my life—heartbreak, money, family troubles. So when I have a particularly bad day, I tend to turn more and more to science fiction and fantasy. Reading a book about a wizard or a spaceship is my version of taking a stress nap. While literature about serious, familiar, recognizable problems is both necessary and important, sometimes life is hard and I want a space opera where the gods are real and teenagers can conjure up demons.
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[S]ometimes, when I start to wish literature offered more of an escape from reality, I find myself scanning my shelves full of novels about family and death and imagining that they’re about wizards and dragons instead.
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Infinite Jest – A small town in Maine is bewitched so that all the inhabitants live forever as long as they never stop laughing.
Wolf Hall – The exact same book, but with wolves.
The Corrections / Freedom / Purity – A Hunger Games-style trilogy about a spunky kid escaping a repressive dystopia in which “blood purity” is valued above all things and children are “corrected” in order to gain higher status and please the authorities. Our hero, Jonathan, sees his world’s cruelty for what it is and must infiltrate its highest echelons of power and take them down from within.
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The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo – A heartwarming series of books about the adventures of a girl and her dragon, Tattoo.
Launched late last year, Grano de Sal—as in a grain of salt—is a Mexico City-based publishing company focused on contemporary debate in politics, natural sciences, philosophy, society, and the arts for Spanish-language readers.
While concentrating initially in Latin America’s markets, “The next goal is Spain, because we have the worldwide Spanish-language rights to all the books,” says Tomás Granados Salinas, the company’s founder and editor-in-chief. “That was a priority strategy.”
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Publishing Perspectives: Is it Grano de Sal’s intention for all the books it publishes to be works in translation?
Tomás Granados Salinas: It’s our intention, yes, for them to be the first Spanish-language editions, which is the case of our books by Jan Werner-Müller and Barbara E. Mundy.
PP: Has procuring the rights for the books been an obstacle?
TGS: Of the 10 books we have taken on, eight have a co-publisher, and that’s our business model—to have the books bought or financed before bringing them to market. And in the face of the critical situation we’re facing with a lack of bookstores, we’re unable to live off what’s sold from the shelves. Therefore our model is prior sales.
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PP: Would you also publish a first edition Spanish-language book with a view to selling the rights?
TGS: Yes, but the advantage of working in translation is that the book has already been worked on, so it’s a little less risky, even though it can be costly initially.
We’re also interested in the books being visually pleasing, with attractive colors and a granular texture. And we aim to have a touch of humor in their presentation, in contrast with academic books.
All of which comes right back to our goal of provoking a reaction among readers. We’re trying to be controversial.
Not exactly about books, but definitely about language.
From Atlas Obscura:
Before children learn how to speak properly, they go through a period of imitating the sounds they hear, with occasionally hilarious results, at least for their parents. Baby talk evolves into proto-words, so that “octopus” might come out as “appah-duece,” or “strawberry” as “store-belly.” But it’s not just children who ape the sounds of spoken language. There’s a long tradition of songs that “sound” like another language without actually meaning anything. In Italy, for example, beginning in the 1950s, American songs, films, and jingles inspired a diverse range of “American sounding” cultural products.
The most famous is probably “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a 1972 song composed by legendary Italian entertainer Adriano Celentano and performed by him and his wife, Claudia Mori. The song’s lyrics sound phonetically like American English—or at least what many Italians hear when an American speaks—but are clearly total, utter, delightful nonsense. You really have to hear it to appreciate it.
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[T]he 72-year-old Celentano was interviewed for an episode of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” “Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did,” Celentano said.
He wasn’t alone. After World War II, American culture started to exert its influence in many parts of Europe. The phenomenon was especially strong in Italy, where the arrival of American troops in Rome in June 1944 helped mark the country’s liberation from fascism.
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“Americanization” was captured in films such as 1954’s An American in Rome, in which Italian actor Alberto Sordi plays a young Roman who is obsessed with the United States. He seeks to imitate gli Americani in his daily life, and one of the most well-known scenes sees him trading red wine for milk.
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By the time Celentano’s song came out, the sound of American English had been “contaminating” Italian culture for decades. Linguist Giuseppe Antonelli analyzed Italian pop songs produced between 1958 and 2007, and revealed the ways in which Italian singers have incorporated American sounds into their music.
One way was to use intermittent English words, with preference for trendy terms. The most notable example of this is “Tu vuo’ fa l’americano” (“You Want to Be American”), a 1956 song by Renato Carosone about a young Neapolitan who is trying to impress a girl.
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Similarly, in the 1960s there was a trend of bands in England singing in Italian—with strong English accents. Both phenomena resulted in a similar hybrid sound, one that Italians responded to. According to Francesco Ciabattoni, who teaches Italian culture and literature at Georgetown University, this Anglo-Italian pop genre grew from Italy’s collective interest in America, as well as the British Invasion of the 1960s. “I am not sure how much thinking they put in it, but producers must have realized that imitating English and American sounds would sell more,” he says. Linguistics may have played a role, too. “The phonetic structure of English makes it more suited to rock or pop songs compared with Italian,” he adds.
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But the roots of Celentano’s song go much further back than the end of World War II. “What Celentano is doing, inventing a nonsense language, was already done by Dante and by medieval comedians before him,” says Simone Marchesi, who teaches French and Italian medieval literature at Princeton University. And that practice, Marchesi explains, goes back even further, to the Old Testament.
Genesis 11:1–9 says that after the flood, the people of Earth, who all spoke the same language, founded the new city of Babel, and planned to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven. In reaction to this act of arrogance, God decided to confuse humans by creating different languages so that they could no longer understand each other.
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And so, in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the author encounters a giant named Nimrod next to the ninth circle of hell. In non-canonical writings, Nimrod is associated with building the Tower of Babel. He approaches Dante and Virgil, and says “Raphèl maí amècche zabí almi,” a series of words that has no meaning but, according to some scholars, can sound a little like Old Hebrew.
Virgil says, “every language is to him the same/as his to others—no one knows his tongue.” Nimrod speaks a failed language, and failed languages are the result of divine punishment.
Carrefour is one of the largest supermarket chains in France and they have been involved in the e-reader space since 2013. The company has announced that it is closing their digital bookstore and suspending their relationship with Bookeen, who provided devices to them under the Nolim brand. This is going to result in over 2,400 people losing their jobs.
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The French ebook market will generate $442 million dollars in 2018 and 9.2% of the population reads digitally. The vast majority of users purchase their e-readers and ebooks via two companies; Amazon and Kobo. Kobo has a strategic relationship with numerous booksellers such as FNAC and Auchan. Amazon continues to be the most popular device.
Accountants have FIFO (first in first out) and LIFO (last in first out). Product designers have HFEL (hard first easy later) or EFHL (easy first hard later).
No matter the project, there are things you’re more confident about and things you’re less confident about. No brainers, maybe brainers, yes brainers. Assuming you have limited time to complete a project (we spend a maximum of 6 weeks on most projects), you have to decide how to sequence the work. Do you pick off the hard stuff first? Easy stuff first? What to do?
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Does this feel like a full project? Is it probably going to take all the time we have? Lots of moving parts? Does this work touch a lot of other things, or is it mostly self-contained? Do we feel like we’ve mostly got it down, or are there some material unknowns we haven’t quite nailed down yet?
If it feels big, and full, and challenging with some significant unknowns, we almost always start with the hard stuff first. The worst thing you can do in that situation is kick big challenges down the road because you’ll inevitably run out of time. You’ll either make bad big decisions that way, or you’ll push the schedule out, or you’ll work late or work weekends. All those are big no-no’s for us, so we tackle the hard stuff first.
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Once we have a sense of where we’re at, we think about what we need, as a team. I don’t mean what does the team need as far as tooling or technology goes, but what do we need emotionally? Do we want to slog along without any short-term visible progress, or can we grab a quick win and start to pick up some momentum? It depends — how did the last project go? Are we coming off a high or a low? If a low, maybe we should find some quicker wins to fuel the spirit. If a win, maybe we’re already feeling good enough about ourselves to go heads down without anything material to show for a few more days. The past plays a surprisingly important role in the present.
It may surprise some visitors to TPV, but the process of building a technology product – computer program, web-based software product, etc. – can be a very emotional. In a typically busy tech open system office, it’s not uncommon to hear a big cheer from the programmers when a piece of a new product finally works right. On a bad day, various objects may be heard bouncing off cubicle or office walls.
PG was interested in some potential parallels between the varying writing processes of authors and the product design processes described in the OP.
A professional author is creating a product. While on the surface, it may be a science fiction story or a romance, ultimately, if it is to achieve commercial success, the book needs to be a product that readers will want to buy. The product will be the combination of the story, the cover, the book’s description and the way in which the book is marketed and positioned in the market, etc.
Some authors outline, others write a killer book blurb first, etc.
The revolutionary science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away January 22, understood something important about ideal worlds and societies: Utopia is not perfection. Utopia is process. It is reflection and adjustment, learning and growth. It is communication and respect, self-awareness and honesty. This concept echoes throughout her body of work, but she explores utopia-as-process fully in one of her most radical novels, Always Coming Home, published in 1985.
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Certainly, we hear life stories from individuals in the Kesh society depicted in the book, but traditional narrative isn’t the only means by which Le Guin tells this story—she includes poems, plays, illustrations, musical notation, and other ephemera as part of the tale. This nonlinear narrative structure, along with the stories included therein, synthesizes Le Guin’s beliefs on the unavoidable, destructive outcomes of a patriarchal, capitalist society by rejecting them whole cloth.
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Indeed, in Always Coming Home’s utopic society, the Kesh live in a reclaimed post-apocalyptic California. Although some land remains arable, much of what was formerly the United States is inhospitable to human life. The text implies that the conquest-driven, consumptive culture of the 20th century directly led to the continent’s ruination. Despite the harshness of their environment, the Kesh thrive. But how do you build utopia from destruction and ruin?
Remember when the Harry Potter books first came out and you lined up at midnight to get your hands on them? Well, Barnes and Noble is throwing it back to the good old days with an epic party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States.
The bookseller is hosting a Harry Potter Book Night in different locations across the country, where you will be able to take part in a Sorting Ceremony to figure out your Hogwarts house.
Link to the rest at Pop Sugar and thanks to Dave for the tip.
WI13 keynote speaker Junot Diaz delivered a blistering political statement on Wednesday morning, in what will surely enter the annals of Winter Institute history. Diaz denounced the nativism of white conservatives who catapulted Donald Trump into the White House, as well as the hypocrisy of white liberals, in the publishing industry and beyond, who do little more than talk about promoting diversity.
Quoting Malcolm X, Diaz said that people of color always know where they stand with white conservatives, who don’t hide their beliefs. However white liberals, he said, “lure” people of color to them by pretending to be their allies. The liberals, he went on, then fail to support people of color in substantive ways.
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Admitting that he and his friends were desperate to find some respite from the daily abuse, Diaz said that while some of them turned to music or sports, or “[lost] it completely,” he “found books,” thanks to his elementary school librarian. She took Diaz on a tour of the school library and told him that “all the books on the shelves were mine.” Books, Diaz said, saved his life by providing “shelter against a white world that sometimes felt like it was trying to destroy me.”
“In a better world,” Diaz said, “that is where this story would end.” The books he read, though, reinforced the messages he was receiving in his community. From Laura Ingalls Wilder writing that there were “no people, only Indians” on the plains, to J.R.R. Tolkien’s comparing black people to trolls, books reinforced Diaz’s sense of being an outsider.
“Kids like me did not exist in the literature,” he said. “What kid doesn’t want to see themselves represented in the literature they’re reading?”
While praising the fact that there is more attention being paid to diversity in the publishing industry, Diaz said that it’s not enough. Criticizing the book industry for being a business where predominantly white gatekeepers publish predominantly white authors, Diaz said there needs to be a diversification of “our publishing infrastructure.” The book world, he declared, has to resist “white supremacy’s cruelest enchantment: that whiteness is at the heart of absolutely everything.”