Books in General

Your Signed Books and Artwork Just Got Harder to Sell in California

29 September 2016

From Eureka Books:

On September 9, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia into law.

The law requires dealers in any autographed material to provide certificates of authenticity (COA) for signed item sold for $5 or more.

The idea is to crack down on fraudulent autograph sales. “That sounds pretty reasonable,” you are probably thinking. I, too, can get behind the motive.

Unfortunately for you, the consumer, the legislators never seem to have considered that buyers of autograph material eventually become sellers of autograph material.

Let’s say you like to go to author events and get books signed. Eventually, your shelves fill up, and you want to trade books in at a shop like Eureka Books.

Guess what? Remember that Certificate of Authenticity that sounded so reasonable? Well your name and address has to go on the certificate of authenticity because I (as the person issuing the COA) have to say where I got the book. This applies to signed books, artwork, and any other autographed items you own.

. . . .

Maybe you’d like to sell that Morris Graves painting you inherited. You send it to an auction house, where it sells for $40,000. Good for you. But did you supply a Certificate of Authenticity? What? Why do I have to issue a COA? What do I know about authenticating Morris Graves paintings?

Guess what? AB1570 requires YOU, as the owner of the painting, to guarantee its authenticity. And you don’t issue the COA? You can be liable for TEN TIMES damages, plus attorneys fees. Call it a cool half mill, because you didn’t know you were supposed to issue a COA.

Maybe you decide to sell it at an auction house outside of California. Good luck, because if the person who buys your painting lives in the Golden State, the law still applies.

. . . .

Consider bookstores that do a lot of author events. Let’s imagine that Neil Gaiman does one of his typical massive booksignings in February for his forthcoming book, Norse Gods. Say 1000 people show up and buy books at $25.95. The bookstore either has to issue 1000 COA, or risk being sued for $25.95 x 1000 x 10, plus attorney’s fees. Call it $300,000.

Is it any wonder that many of California’s best bookstores are very worried that this law will make it much harder to hold book signings and other author events.

Link to the rest at Eureka Books and thanks to PS for the tip.

PG hasn’t studied this law and can’t vouch for the conclusions in the OP, but California does like to have a law for everything.

The Classic Books You Haven’t Read

29 September 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

 Nearly everyone who considers themselves well-read, or just desires to be, has a book, or several, that haunts them—the classic they haven’t read.

Some take that one book on vacation, a seemingly surefire way of plowing through, and never crack the cover. Others keep an ever-lengthening list of books they feel they must read, or never forget the one they lied about completing in high school, or lied about at a cocktail party last week.

Is book guilt effective inspiration, or should it be left on the shelf with that lonely copy of “Ulysses”?

. . . .

“Moby-Dick” is one Maria Stasavage, a high school English teacher in New York City, has read twice. She hated it during her own high school years, then enjoyed it more as an adult. Sitting unread on her bookshelf, however, is Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” with a cloth-wrapped cover.

“Because I bought this beautiful copy,” she told herself, “I’ll enjoy it that much more.” But while Ms. Stasavage loves Wilde’s witty shorter pieces, something keeps stopping her when she tries to sit down with “Gray.”

“Probably the internet,” she says.

She understands how similar distractions might keep her students from making it to the last action-packed scenes of “The Odyssey.” While it’s required reading for her freshmen, she knows it has a good chance of ending up as a source of future book guilt, no matter how hard she tries to break down Homer into understandable bites.

. . . .

Nigel Cameron says the classic books many come to believe they must read—“the canonical expectations of an educated community,” he calls it—are so many in number that no one can ever feel fully secure in his own reading accomplishments. Mr. Cameron, the president of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies in Washington, D.C., laughed as he recalled his pride in making it halfway through a Marcel Proust novel only to learn a friend had just finished it in the original French.

Though Mr. Cameron plowed through many classics early—“War and Peace” at 13, he says—one that stands out on his list of not-read regrets is E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web.” And because it is one whose magic is most felt by younger readers, his guilt is even more acute. “It isn’t just that I haven’t read ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ it’s that I can never read ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ These are awful things!” Mr. Cameron says.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

For the record, PG has read A Tale of Two Cities (and loved it). Ulysses is on his “never to be read or attempted” list.

Can You Read a Book the Wrong Way?

28 September 2016

From The New York Times:

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes debate whether some methods of reading are more correct than others.

. . . .

[Adam Kirsch]

When Virgil wrote the “Aeneid,” in the late first century B.C., he had more than one purpose in mind. Clearly, he intended to write a Latin epic to rival the Greek classics, the “Iliad” and “Odyssey”; he also wanted to glorify the Roman Empire and legitimize the new regime of Augustus Caesar. One thing he surely did not think he was writing was a fortunetelling guide. But soon enough, readers began to use the poem to perform the sortes Virgilianae, or “Virgilian lots,” in which you would think of a question and then select a verse at random to answer it. Using the “Aeneid” as a kind of oracle remained popular for a very long time: The emperor Hadrian did it in the second century A.D., and King Charles I was still doing it 1,500 years later.

Here, if anywhere, is surely an example of reading a book the wrong way.

. . . .

 Which of these ways of reading is permissible, and which is out of bounds? Obviously, it depends on whom you ask and what their assumptions are. In this way, literary interpretation resembles ethical reasoning. Everyone has strong intuitions that certain things are morally wrong, and every reader instinctively believes that certain readings of a text are false or absurd. But when you start to try to ground these intuitions, things quickly become complicated. Truth shouldn’t change over time, but literary meaning plainly does.

No one knows this better than writers themselves. Any published writer will have the experience of thinking you were saying one thing — one very clear and seemingly unmistakable thing — and then encountering a reader who thought you were saying something totally different. In this situation, the writer might seem to have the last word; who would know better what the text means than its creator?

Yet wise writers decline to engage in debates over the right way to read their own words.

. . . .

[Anna Holmes]

In answer to this question, several possibilities immediately came to mind. Approaching it with preconceived notions about writer or subject. Reading elements of it out of order. Skipping — or skimming — portions of the narrative. Turning the book upside down.

But none of these (except, maybe, the last one) qualify as wholly “wrong” to me. Preconceived notions, for instance, are impossible to avoid, and I’m not sure it’s even desirable for a person to try to divorce herself from her own experience — deriving meaning from a work of art has as much to do with audience interpretation as an artist’s intention — or to ignore what book editors and publishers want to communicate about a story. After all, part of the point of cover design — not to mention advertising other things, like the author’s name, gender, race and age — is to telegraph to readers what a book might be, and to shape how it might be received. This can be done for mercenary reasons, yes, but it can also help a book find its readers.

As for reading portions of a narrative out of order, some books are obviously meant to be consumed this way (collections of essays and poetry; reference books and anthologies) — or, at the very least, manage to dispense with the very idea of a “beginning” and an “end.” Skipping or skimming parts of a narrative should not only be expected but encouraged, particularly if an author is writing without clarity or purpose or showing off. Life’s too short to slog through some smarty-pants attempt to demonstrate a mastery of mechanical engineering or botany.

Link to the rest at The New York Times 

The banning of books in prisons

27 September 2016

From The Guardian:

Dan Slater’s new non-fiction book Wolf Boys recounts the story of two Mexican-American teens in Texas seduced by the violent cartels across the border and the Mexican-born Texas detective who hunts them. It is grim and violent, yet it is a detailed and thoughtful look at American society and the war on drugs. It has also been condemned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Directors Review Committee, which declared Wolf Boys off limits to all Texas prisoners before it was even published this month.

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark cites one page, which “contains information on how to conceal and smuggle illegal narcotics.” In other words, while the book shows the downfall of the two boys who cross over to the dark side – both are serving decades in the TDCJ system — it was banished for these two sentences on page 124:

Mario purchased pickup trucks from which he removed panels and lights. The trick was packing the drugs in a part of the vehicle where the body wouldn’t lose its hollow sound when slapped.

“The system is so aggressive and arbitrary,” says Slater. “If you asked me to name 100 sentences that might have gotten my book banned those would not have made the list.”

. . . .

“It’s truly tragic,” says the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom deputy director Deborah Caldwell Stone, referring both to the removal of Wolf Boys and the larger issue. She says prisoners who read tend to behave better and rehabilitate sooner but prison officials care only about maintaining power and control. “There is probably a new story every day like this.”

Paul Wright, executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center and editor of Prison Legal News, says Texas has 15,000 banned books but the list “is growing exponentially. Once a book goes on it never comes off.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

How Long Until a Robot Wins a Pulitzer?

27 September 2016

From Literary Hub:

The internet was originally built to withstand nuclear war. It’s decentralized, so even if part of its physical workings were destroyed, there are many other parts remaining, some run by wind or solar power, some in high-security bunkers. It’s not crazy to speculate that, in the case of an apocalypse, the internet might be one of the last standing traces of human technology. Sometimes I think it would be kind of funny if the last evidence of humanity was a Twitter bot, still tweeting into the void.

The first time I was contacted by a Twitter bot was a couple years ago, after Margaret Atwood replied to a tweet I’d tagged her in. Being @-ed by a user as high profile as Atwood must have put me on some whitelist for spambots; over the next few months I received tweets that ranged from exclamations with no context (“I aint got time for it tonight!”) to punctuational gibberish (“ˆ¯ „„ „ˆ ‚   · ˆ„  ¯‚ … …„ˆ ¨ „ „…… ¨´”). Some had snippets from tweets that other usersactual humanshad tagged me in. Some were accompanied by images, from a picture of the Kansas State Wildcats mascot to a Samsung ad.

. . . .

But the tweets were also fascinating. With algorithms that drew text and photos from other accounts, they’d become a smorgasbord of cultural artifacts. One bot had created a collage from photos of Taylor Swift’s perfume, the latest iPhone model, and a selfie. They repurposed song lyrics, inspirational quotes, passages from novels, and pleas for more followers. They were like fun house mirrors, reflecting our words and photos twisted out of context, without human reason to familiarize them.

* * * *

But not all robots just regurgitate nonsensesome write poetry.



in the
lines on the



inscribed in
the depths

That was written by Janus Node, a “poetic program,” and it’s certainly better than any of the poems I wrote in high school. Janus tweets too. Her pinned tweet, fittingly, is a quote from Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human that reads: “One can almost say that wherever there is happiness there is joy in nonsense.” I sent an email to the contact info I found on Janus Node’s website asking for more information about how she worked. Within an hour, I received a reply from Janus’s creator, Chris Westbury, a neuropsychologist and author. He explained that Janus (formerly known as “McPoet”) starts a poem with a sentence template and uses word list groups to fill them in. It sounds simple enough, but things can get complicated quickly. The rules that Janus uses to fill in the template call on other rules, which call on more rules, and so on and so forth. This method is called “rule-based computation,” and can lead to some pretty complex writing.

It’s also useful for more than poetry. When an earthquake hit Los Angeles in March of 2014, the LA Times was the first to report on it, just minutes after it happened. While human journalists were still re-shelving their fallen knickknacks, the algorithm “QuakeBot” was pulling data on the quake from the U.S. Geological Survey and plugging it into a template, ready to be published. Narrative Science has built an entire company around this idea, creating programs that “transform data into meaningful and insightful narratives people can simply read.”

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

Let’s Try Something Old

27 September 2016

From Authors Electric:

The fight over the supremacy of ebooks or “real” books roars on. Everywhere I look (on my Facebook feed), people are arguing back forth with the same venom and aggression as mildly inconvenienced English professors in a faculty meeting discussing the proper placement of desks and lecterns.

. . . .

5 Reasons Stone Tablets Are Better than Books

1. Stone Tablets Are Durable 

Lets face it: Neither ebooks nor traditional books have the staying power of a good stone tablet. Ebook batteries die eventually, necessitating replacement of the entire device since most ereaders do not have replaceable batteries. Many ebooks require replacement even before the battery life expires: they are not water resistant worth a damn, and their screens can break sometimes if you just stare at them too long.

Books either moulder in damp or dry up into brittle tissue in the dry air. Their pages tear if you’re not careful or if you just put them in your satchel or if you turn them too quickly. Spines break if you read the book too much.

Not so with stone tablets. Stone lasts centuries. It requires no batteries. It requires no ideal climate (I mean sure it does, but it’s only a problem for your million-greatgrandchildren, and we’ll have long destroyed ourselves before then).

. . . .

4. No One Is Damn Sure Going to Steal a Stone Tablet

The author of the linked article above, implies that no one cares enough about books to steal them because they are not as expensive as ereaders. Well, this is patently false. I am no angel. I have done my fair share of unethical things. I have stolen things, and the most common thing for me to steal has always been books. The first thing I ever stole was a Star Wars novel, The Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. I have stolen from libraries, bookstores, even Goodwill stores. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

No one, though, is going to steal a stone tablet. Not even if they wanted to. Assuming they can lift it, they probably are not going to be able to slip it nonchalantly in their pocket as they leave.

Link to the rest at Authors Electric and thanks to Catherine for the tip.

Talking to Writers at Parties

24 September 2016

From BookRiot:

I got an extremely salient piece of advice at WorldCon, for approaching writers of whom you are a fan: ‘I love your writing’should be the last thing you say to them before ‘goodbye.’

Now, if all you’re looking to do is a drive-by squee, this is not a problem. But if you’re looking to try to have slightly more of a conversation, this is great advice. Writers are, believe it or not, regular people. You can have really interesting conversations with them about things other than their books; I had some great discussions with non-writers at WorldCon this year regarding topics we’d discussed on panels, for example. (Also, please keep in mind that as actual real people, normal rules of conversation apply when approaching writers. Don’t interrupt them when they’re talking to someone else, for example, because you wouldn’t do that normally.)

But there really is something about “I love this thing you wrote” that completely changes the dynamic of the conversation. You suddenly go from being two sort of cool people with overpriced hotel beverages talking about a thing, to the Artist and the Fan. And that’s a one-way conversational transformation.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

The Art of Making a Book

21 September 2016

From YouTube:


Thanks to Maggie for the tip.

If you can’t afford Gatsby’s mansion, how about Fitzgerald’s old house?

20 September 2016

From The Washington Post:

In the summer of 1919, a brokenhearted 22-year-old Army lieutenant climbed to the third floor of his parents’ rowhouse in St. Paul, Minn., and began to write a novel. He pinned the outline of his manuscript to the curtains of the bedroom window.

Those pages became “This Side of Paradise,” and the months its young author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, spent toiling on it made him a literary sensation. Published in the spring of 1920, the novel sold out quickly and earned him acclaim, remuneration and the woman of his dreams: He married Zelda Sayre, who had quickly reconsidered his romantic entreaties in light of the promise of his debut.

At least partially, Fitzgerald owed his career to the solitude of that quaint bedroom on the top floor of his parents’ St. Paul home. In 1971, the Interior Department recognized the significance of the brownstone by declaring it a registered national landmark.

And now that home is for sale. Just think about it: A relic of America’s cultural history can be yours for $625,000.

The 3,500-square-foot residence dating to 1889 is located at 599 Summit Ave., just blocks from the governor’s mansion in a leafy, upper-class neighborhood. The home has four bedrooms, including the one occupied by Fitzgerald in July and August of 1919. He was known to step out for cigarette breaks onto a narrow ledge beyond the bedroom windows. Attached to the wall next to a door is a brass speaking tube that he used to call down for lunch.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post



The 3 Golden Rules Of Writing A Western

20 September 2016

From Standout Books:

Westerns are a strange genre of fiction. They’re generally set in one place, deal with one kind of character and utilize a specific but limited aesthetic language. At first glance, it seems like such a specific setup that this fully fledged genre should actually be just a niche interest. Cowboys on their horses always seem to belong to the generation before, yet the Western never really leaves, with constant new films, novels and video games published in the genre year after year.

. . . .

Rule #1 – It’s not about the cowboy hat

As I mentioned above, Westerns have an easily identifiable aesthetic (or ‘look’). The cowboy hat, horse, revolver and spurs are shorthand for a familiar, trustworthy character. In the Pixar children’s movie Toy Story, the writers use Woody the cowboy doll to support and introduce an outlandish world in which toys come to life. Dropped into this strange setting, children are greeted by the familiar and orientating presence of the dependable, recognizable cowboy.

But what makes a cowboy such a reassuring presence? For a start, they are highly masculine figures, something which is compounded by their cultural significance. The cowboy is an icon of the West (this time in terms of world culture, not literary genre) and especially of America. In contrast to other iconic figures such as the alien, the vampire or the pirate, the cowboy is firmly rooted in a single place and time – cowboys exist pretty much exclusively in the American West.

Understanding this, it can be confusing that the Western remains so popular. Why are so many people so excited by stories set in a single time period of one country? The answer is that the Western is actually the most visible aspect of a wider literary genre – one which is often obscured by lines of culture.

. . . .

It’s no secret to film buffs that old Western movies take a huge amount from samurai narratives. From borrowed plot points to stolen shots, films like Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai informed cowboy movies such as John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven to degrees that can, in hindsight, feel closer to plagiarism than inspiration.

This was possible because these very different figures are used to tell the same sort of story – the aesthetic varies, but the themes explored are constant. It’s for this reason that novels like Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men or Jason Aaron’s Scalped can be accurately called Westerns, despite the first one being a police drama set in the 80’s and the latter a modern-day crime story following a Native American protagonist.

. . . .

Here we can see the true value of the cowboy’s iconic tools – the horse is a living thing in a position we’ve delegated to machines, and the simple six-shooter is presented as a basic and honest weapon (we always know how many shots the cowboy has). Trains and small towns are recurring visuals, examples of urbanity encroaching on the natural world and often coming under attack for its hubris.

This is the core conflict of both Western narratives and anachronism fiction as a whole – conflict between the insistent new and the persistent old. This is a central theme of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, as an aging police officer pursues a younger hitman he cannot quite understand as human. McCarthy asks hard questions, leaving it unclear whether society has changed for the worst, or if it has just left his characters behind.

I got set next to this woman… She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well ma’am I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin’ I don’t have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin’ to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.

– Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Link to the rest at Standout Books

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