Books in General

The Pillar Box and Anthony Trollope

19 August 2014

From Wikipedia:

The advent of the British wayside letter box can be traced to Sir Rowland Hill, Secretary of the Post Office, and his Surveyor for the Western District, and noted novelist, Anthony Trollope. Hill sent Trollope to the Channel Islands to ascertain what could be done about the problem of collecting the mail on a pair of islands. The problems identified in the Channel Islands were caused by the irregular sailing times of the Royal Mail packet boats serving the islands due to weather and tides.

Trollope subsequently arrived in Jersey in the early Spring of 1852 and proceeded to survey both islands. His recommendation back to Hill was to employ a device he may have seen in use in Paris: a “letter-receiving pillar”. It was to be made of cast iron, about 1.5 metres high, octagonal in design and painted olive green. Trollope estimated that four would be needed for Guernsey and five for Jersey. The foundry of Vaudin & Son in Jersey was commissioned to produce them and the first four were erected in David Place, New Street, Cheapside and St Clement’s Road in Saint Helier and brought into public use on 23 November 1852. Guernsey received its first three pillar boxes on 8 February 1853.

They were an instant success, despite some obvious problems with rainwater ingress. One Vaudin box still stands in Union Street, Saint Peter Port, Guernsey whilst another is in the British Postal Museum & Archive collection in London.

Link to the rest at Pillar Boxes, Wikipedia

Stamps were widely available at every shop, but, prior to the advent of the pillar box, people still had to travel long distances to the main post office or sometimes a coaching inn where the Royal Mail coaches stopped to mail their letters.

The first pillar box was installed on November 23, 1852. PG cannot confirm the date upon which an author first posted a manuscript to a publisher. He can’t imagine how one of Trollope’s manuscripts could possibly fit through such a narrow slot. Trollope would have found the Save and Publish button to be a distinct improvement over the pillar box.

Here’s a photo of one of the original pillar boxes in Guernsey. Note the V.R., which PG assumes to mean Victoria Regina:

Pillar Box, Guernsey, public domain via Wikimedia

Pillar Box, Guernsey, public domain via Wikimedia

Robin Williams’ death rekindles questions about creativity and depression

13 August 2014

From PBS:

Following news of Robin Williams’ suicide — which the Marin County Sheriff’s office confirmed today as the actor’s cause of death — it was immediately clear that the comedy giant’s impact spanned generations. It seemed that anyone who had ever watched one of his films, sat breathless with laughter during one of his comedy routines, or shouted “Oh Captain! My Captain!” and thought of Williams before Whitman, had flocked to Twitter and Facebook to collectively voice their sadness and disbelief.

. . . .

Williams is not the only creative genius to have suffered from depression. That much is clear from history.

In June’s Atlantic Monthly, neuroscientist Dr. Nancy Andreason wrote about “The Secrets of the Creative Brain.” For decades, Andreason has spent time with creative minds from Kurt Vonnegut to George Lucas, those who had some connection to melancholy, bipolar disorder or another form of mental illness. Andreason noted that many of those subjects had a shared personality style.

“They have to confront doubt and rejection. And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do … Persisting in the face of doubt or rejection, for artists or for scientists, can be a lonely path—one that may also partially explain why some of these people experience mental illness.”

Regardless of these anxieties, those she spoke with associated “their gifts with strong feelings of joy and excitement.”

Link to the rest at PBS

Reading Upward

13 August 2014

From The New York Review of Books:

“Frankly, I don’t mind what they’re reading, TwilightHarry Potter, whatever. So long as they are reading something there’s at least a chance that one day they’ll move on to something better.”

How many times have we heard this opinion expressed? On this occasion the speaker was a literary critic on Canadian radio with whom I was discussing my recent blog post “Reading: The Struggle.” Needless to say the sentiment comes along with the regret that people are reading less and less these days and the notion of a hierarchy of writing with the likes of Joyce and Nabokov at the top and Fifty Shades of Grey at the bottom. Between the two it is assumed that there is a kind of neo-Platonic stairway, such that from the bottom one can pass by stages to the top, a sort of optimistic inversion of the lament that soft porn will lead you to hard and anyone smoking marijuana is irredeemably destined to descend through coke and crack to heroin. The user, that is, is always drawn to a more intense form of the same species of experience.

. . . .

In 1948 W.H. Auden published an essay, “The Guilty Vicarage,” on what he calls his “addiction” to detective novels. The point he makes is that these schematic narratives serve the escapist needs of readers who share his particular psychological make-up. These people will not, as a rule, Auden claims, with some elaborate argument, be the same readers as readers of light romances or thrillers, or fantasy fiction. Each genre has its pull on different types of minds. In any event, if he, Auden, is to get any serious work done, he has to make sure that there are no detective novels around, since if there are he can’t resist opening them, and if he opens them he won’t close them till he’s reached the end. Or rather, no new detective novels; for Auden notes this difference between the stuff of his addiction and literature: that the detective novel is no sooner read than forgotten and never invites a second reading, as literature often does.

. . . .

I’m forced to pause here to admit the objection that much supposedly literary fiction also repeats weary formulas, while some novels marketed as genre fiction move toward the exploratory by denying readers the sameness the format led them to expect. And of course many literary writers have made hay “subverting” genre forms. However, if the “I-don’t-mind-people-reading-Twilight-because-it could-lead-to-higher-things” platitude continues to be trotted out, it is because despite all the blurring that has occurred over recent years, we still have no trouble recognizing the difference between the repetitive formula offering easy pleasure and the more strenuous attempt to engage with the world in new ways.

. . . .

When I speak to my students, what is most striking is that the majority of them, who are content on a diet made up exclusively of genre fiction, simply do not perceive any difference in kind between these and literary works; they do not see the essentially conservative nature of the one and the exploratory nature of the other. They register no need to widen their reading experiences. Often they propose theses on genre works of no distinction whatsoever, unable to understand why their teachers might put these in a different category from, say, Doris Lessing or D.H. Lawrence.

. . . .

What no one wants to accept—and no doubt there is an element of class prejudice at work here too—is that there are many ways to live a full, responsible, and even wise life that do not pass through reading literary fiction. And that consequently those of us who do pursue this habit, who feel that it enriches and illuminates us, are not in possession of an essential tool for self-realization or the key to protecting civilization from decadence and collapse.

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books and thanks to Karen for the tip.

The True History of Paperbacks

12 August 2014

From author Edward W. Robertson:

Yesterday, Amazon touched off something of a firestorm by emailing hordes of readers and KDP authors for help, requesting authors email Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch to explain why lower prices are better for readers and the publishing industry.

Today, Pietsch has been responding to everyone who’s emailed him. I find his response reasonable enough — for the most part, he claims, Hachette’s ebooks fall beneath Amazon’s preferred $9.99 cap — but there’s one part that stuck out to me.

“The invention of mass-market paperbacks was great for all because it was not intended to replace hardbacks but to create a new format available later, at a lower price.”

This is false.

Well, technically, it isn’t false — it’s true that mass market paperbacks weren’t invented to replace hardbacks. But they weren’t published in the modern fashion, with a publisher releasing them months after the more expensive hardback. Rather, paperback rights were purchased by competing publishers who were able to sell their paperbacks for 10% of the price of the original hardcovers.

In other words, they were invented to disrupt the hardcover industry.

. . . .

[P]aperbacks blew up the market so well that by 1950, publishing houses were publishing paperback originals. It was feared these paperback originals would “undermine the whole structure of publishing.”

And they might have.

For more than twenty years, paperback prices held steady. They even declined; in 1961, some paperbacks cost as little as $0.35, just $2.79 in modern dollars. Then a funny thing happened. Starting around 1966, costs climbed to an adjusted $4-5. By 1975, they hit $6-7. And by the mid-1980s, mass market paperbacks cost the equivalent of $7-9.50. They’ve hung around $7.99-9.99 ever since.

After 25 years of steady prices, what happened to cause paperback prices to triple over the next twenty years?

When I first did this research two years ago, I stumbled onto the fact that this timeline coincided precisely with the conglomeration of the publishing industry. Beginning around 1958 and accelerating in the ’60s, small and medium publishers were gobbled up by the majors, culminating in today’s environment of the Big 5 (formerly 6).

. . . .

First, most of the independent paperback publishing houses were bought up by larger houses. In other words, not only was competition decreased, but in many cases, it was gone. Meanwhile, tenfold disparity between the price of hardcovers and the price of paperbacks may have felt like far too much. Undermining the value of literature, if you will.

Second — and this is pure intuition; more research is required here — I expect that major publishers quit selling off their paperback rights. Likely, they used their newly acquired paperback imprints to handle publication of that format. No longer did you have two different publishers competing on price for the exact same title. Rather, you had a single company whose interest, obviously, was that these two separate editions wouldn’t compete at all.

Link to the rest at Edward W. Robertson and thanks to Ashe for the tip.

Here’s a link to Edward W. Robertson’s books

Hunter S. Thompson: Huevos Rancheros

7 August 2014

From Pepper and Salt:

Every day begins with breakfast, and every breakfast begins with a profound dilemma: Sweet or savory? For the reliably indecisive (myself included), reading a brunch menu is like watching two heavyweights sweat it out in the ring. Pancakes vs. omelets. French toast vs. hash browns. Doughnuts vs. bacon. Our brains weren’t equipped to handle decisions of this magnitude before noon.

Leave it to Hunter S. Thompson to figure out the two optimal solutions to this problem. One: Never get up before noon. Two: Order everything on the menu.

“Breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess,” Thompson wrote in The Great Shark Hunt . He goes on to list his preferred meal: “four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned-beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert.”

Link to the rest at Pepper and Salt

New Scrabble words, new Scrabble rules

7 August 2014

From The Washington Post:

Well, there’s a new Scrabble dictionary in town. To be published August 11, the dictionary boasts includes but should apologize for 5,000 new words, including “fracking” and “hashtag.”

Is nothing sacred? These words shouldn’t be in Scrabble when they don’t even pass the red-line test when I type them in Word, surely?

. . . .

What I mean to say is, this is change, and change is bad, especially where the dictionary is concerned. I don’t think this makes me a joyless pedant. I have plenty of joys: for instance, correcting people’s grammar and draining the fun out of life.

. . . .

But for those of us who are proud to be sticklers and who have opted to die on this molehill rather than win, battling selfie, hashtag, bling, chillax, dubstep, vlog, schmutz, beatbox, fracking, frenemy, funplex, jockdom, joypad, mixtape, sudoku to our last tile, here are some suggestions for new Purist Scrabble rules.

• If you can prove that you had all the letters for, say, VLOG or DUBSTEP but opted not to use them, everyone at the table has to give you 25 points, just out of respect.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

Traditional Print Book Production Dipped Slightly in 2013

6 August 2014

From Bowker:

Production of print books by traditional publishers slowed in the United States in 2013, declining from 309,957 titles in 2012 to a projected 304,912 titles in 2013.

. . . .

The two percent decrease reverses the sector’s growth in 2012 over 2011, but points to a relatively stable market for print works despite competition from ebooks.

. . . .

The non-traditional publishing sector had a far more significant decline over 2012. Its print output for 2013 was projected at 1,108,183 titles, a decrease of 46 percent from its production of 2,042,840 titles in 2012 and a dramatic reverse from its 55 percent growth in 2012 over 2011. The non-traditional sector is comprised primarily of reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and ”micro-niche” publications. Their titles are marketed almost exclusively on the web and printed on-demand.

Link to the rest at Bowker

The Free and the Antifree: On payment for writers

5 August 2014

From N+1:

For a young writer who hopes to produce literature, the greatest difference between now and twenty years ago may be that now she expects to get paid. Twenty years ago, art and commerce appeared to be opposing forces. The more you were paid for your work, the more likely you were to be a hack.

The term of art was “sellout.” Any artist who tried to make money would end up unable to make art. Record producer and guitarist Steve Albini outlined the story of the sellout in the Baffler in 1994. A sympathetic scout would persuade a band to sign a letter of intent, and from that moment forward the terms of the deal would become the most important factor in their work. An incompetent producer would make their songs sound “punchy” and “warm.” (“I want to find the guy who invented compression and tear his liver out,” Albini wrote.) Worse, the band wouldn’t even make money. Their manager, producer, agent, lawyer, and above all label would turn a profit, but the members would probably end up in debt.

. . . .

The changes in other cultural realms were slower to arrive and are still ongoing, but you could trace them in the increasing visibility of the unpaid internship. This was a practice that began in government and finance, was taken up by colleges, and finally was adopted wholesale by a grateful culture industry; by the mid-aughts, interns had become the butt of jokes in popular culture. “Don’t point that gun at him,” Bill Murray’s eccentric oceanographer says to an angry pirate in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), “he’s an unpaid intern.” Anderson’s film was among the first to portray interns as so stupid they didn’t deserve to be paid.

. . . .

By the mid-aughts, a day job was no longer an inconvenience but an aspiration, and attitudes toward it changed. The work writers could get at corporations—as listings editors or fact-checkers—may have remained secondary to artwork in their minds, but that work, so much less reliably available than before, demanded a new level of effort to find and to keep. Not only one’s position but one’s entire department could, without much warning, disappear.

These writers and copy editors were among the many who, faced with limited resources and their own cultural omnivorousness, came home each night eager to download MP3s, PDFs, and other digital copies of artworks and research they would otherwise be unable to access. Around the reality of these thefts a powerful ideological movement emerged, taking as its inspiration not just facts on the ground but also the libertarian, antigovernment, “hacker” spirit of the earliest personal computing and internet communities. The apostles of the Free Culture movement, as it came to be called, argued that stealing digital content was a progressive politics and should be brought into the open.

. . . .

Free Culture ideology appeared to be approaching mainstream consensus when the 2008 recession made users feel, both rightly and perversely, that culture–producing corporations were fragile. In book publishing that year, hundreds of midcareer editors, writers, publicists, and other industry workers were pushed out. In the first week of December alone, the Observer reported a “massive reorganization” with layoffs to follow at Random House; a reorganization and layoffs at Macmillan; layoffs at Simon & Schuster; and an acquisitions freeze and layoffs at Houghton Mifflin. Some of these people eventually found new publishing jobs, but the industry had contracted. Many were the twentysomethings who had sold out in the Nineties and now, a decade later, ran up against the possibility that they no longer had anything to sell.

. . . .

OR Books, founded by longtime independent publisher John Oakes and former Scribner senior editor Colin Robinson, was a perfect example of publishing veterans using reduced online costs to modify industry standards. Rather than investing in large print runs and taking a loss on returned copies, the company would sell only ebooks and print-on-demand editions. Old hands rather than visionaries, Oakes and Robinson presented this cost-saving model matter-of-factly. For them the project was simply the prospect of “high efficiency, and minimal, or nonexistent, returns,” as Oakes wrote in Publishers Weekly.

. . . .

Freelance writers rightly began to demand more transparency from these publications. The most notable effort has been the blog Who Pays Writers (the source of some of the above figures), where writers anonymously submit pay rates for magazines they’ve worked with. Its founders went on to start the online magazine Scratch, “about the relationship between writing, money, and life,” which modeled itself as an ethical startup, openly sharing the terms and outcomes of its profit-sharing contracts with writers.

. . . .

And so, strangely enough, it was smaller publications that seemed most vulnerable to the shaming critique produced by Who Pays Writers. Not only the publications but the writers, too, had to be shamed, as full-time freelancer Yasmin Nair did, when in a controversial blog post she called academics and others with steady jobs who wrote for small fees “scabs.” Both the people who gave and the people who accepted unpaid internships at these publications, further perpetuating their existence, would have to be shamed as well.

. . . .

The Free movement had a few professorial spokespeople and millions of adherents; antifree was a small group of interested artisans speaking up for the dignity of being gainfully employed. As antifree grew beyond the small world of left-wing blogs, it attracted 25-year-olds who objected to being paid $50 by a corporate website that presumed them lucky to get the experience. It attracted veteran journalists who balked at being asked to write for a large, profitable magazine’s website for chump change. And it attracted unpaid interns, who at profitable media corporations (ranging from Condé Nast to Gawker), actually filed suit for violations of labor laws. These were individual stories, but they added up. The entities that had once supported journalists and writers were now doing their best not to pay them for the simplest of reasons: they could get away with it.

. . . .

Across a whole range of issues, a simple defense of intellectual property is right now a rebuke to the corporations, not a sop to them. “Show me the money” is a necessary slogan at a time when giant firms leverage a million retirement accounts for a split-second gain in the ominously named dark pools of the financial world.

Link to the rest at N+1 and thanks to Karen for the tip.

5 Stages of Grief When Bad Things Happen to Beloved Characters

5 August 2014

From BookRiot:

So. You were reading along, minding your own business, and Something Very Bad has suddenly happened to characters you like a lot. You’re having all kinds of emotions right now.

. . . .

Don’t worry. We’re here for you. Knowing the five stages of reading grief will help you work through dem feels.

Stage 1: Re-Reading

“Did … did that really just happen? No, surely not–I better re-read to make sure I didn’t miss something.” Because hey, it’s TOTALLY POSSIBLE that you read that passage wrong and your favorite character didn’t just die or that the couple you’ve been shipping didn’t just break it off FOREVER when one of them married SOMEONE ELSE. You’d better re-read it just to be sure, and then re-read it a whole bunch more times, to be more sure.

. . . .

Stage 3: Rationalization and Hope

“Surely the author wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t want to let down their fans! And hey, look how many pages are left–there are TOTALLY ENOUGH PAGES to turn this whole thing around. People can come back to life or get divorced! Mistakes can be corrected!” Stage 3 often includes scouring the text for any potential foreshadowing that leads to this ghastly event being undone in the end and occasionally includes peeking ahead because you just. Can’t. Stand it.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

The Economics of Jane Austen

4 August 2014

From The Atlantic:

When Jane Austen died in 1817, her reinvention began. Her brother Henry Austen published, as the preface to the posthumous edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, a biographical note that praised her modesty and her financial disinterestedness. According to Henry, Jane accounted herself astonished when her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, made her £150. “Few so gifted were so truly unpretending,” Henry tells us. “She regarded the above sum as a prodigious recompense for that which cost her nothing.”

It is in every way a deeply felt, generous obituary, but the self-effacing, even “faultless” Jane character it imagines has more in common with Emma Woodhouse’s altogether-too-perfect bugbear Jane Fairfax than it does with the author who complained in a letter to a friend that she would have really preferred a bigger advance than the £110 she received for Pride and Prejudice.

It’s no great secret that Austen’s novels are fascinated with the microeconomics of the “three or four families in a country village” that she made her lifelong theme. These days, however, we tend to slap Twilight-style romance covers on them and try to forget that her most charming heroines are actually fortune hunters.

I will pause for a moment as a thousand Janeites around the world cry out in unison. But to resume: The likeable and impecunious Bennet girls, the disinherited Dashwood daughters, and even gentle Anne Elliott are by any standard, contemporary or Georgian, truffling for funds. This was the occupation of a gentleman’s daughter in the late 18th century.

. . . .

Austen was a year old when the modern science of economics was invented. Adam Smith, Jane’s neighbor to the north in Scotland, published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, commonly known today by its pithier final four words. Its most famous line is the rallying banner for free marketeers even in 2014, a winning defense of the power and driving force of the very commercial self-interest that the established churches of Europe derided: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their self interest.”

Austen—the highly literate daughter of a highly educated parson, well read in that polymath way that seems impossible to us now—probably did not attempt the slog through the two-volume treatise of political economy, or at least no good evidence that she did exists. But Smith’s work was at the cutting edge of liberal opinion, and permeated the culture around it, as much as any bestselling book today.

. . . .

But if any Smith book was likely to have sat on an Austenian side table, it wasn’t The Wealth of Nations, but the work that Smith himself considered foundational, and thus revised a staggering six times over the course of his lifetime, up until the year of his death. The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) introduced Smith’s concept of sympathy. This was a word used slightly differently in Smith’s time than in our own, and doesn’t have much to do with the modern tendency to click like on a Facebook friend’s engagement announcement to show our support, or to feel terrible about the plight of child soldiers. It referred instead to the mortar of civilized society, the way that we modify our behavior as we come to an understanding of how others see us and realize that they cannot regard our problems in the same close and passionate way that we do.

. . . .

One of the problems of any adaptation that moves Sense and Sensibility forward in time is Marianne Dashwood’s illness. Germ theory tends to get in the way of the story here; young ladies do not get a fever because their hearts are broken by cads, generally speaking. And then there’s the problem of what this episode is even doing for the plot, other than to allow Colonel Brandon to go fetch Mrs. Dashwood as a sign of his devotion: an anomalous contrivance in an author who Walter Scott commends for a “truth in painting” the scenes of ordinary life. Marianne’s sudden fever makes perfect sense, however, when we see it in the light of Smith’s ambiguities about the acquisition of wealth and its impact on personal happiness.

To understand it, we must go back to a certain financial equation set up earlier in the text, in the middle of a seemingly innocuous conversation between the Dashwoods and Edward Ferrars. Edward is a rich man’s son visited with no ambition whatsoever, whose “wishes are all moderate.”

Marianne, the Henry Austen of the moment, takes great offense when her sister Elinor points out that fame of the kind that Edward’s family seeks for him might have little to do with happiness. Wealth, on the other hand, is always useful. “For shame!” scolds Marianne.

But it turns out that Elinor’s idea of “wealth” differs substantially from her sister’s. When Elinor asks Marianne what her idea of a subsistence-level “competence” is, it turns out that it is nearly double what Elinor would consider gross wealth. “And yet two thousand a year is a very moderate income,” she says. “A family cannot well be attained on a smaller. I am sure I am not extravagant in my demands. A proper establishment of servants, a carriage, perhaps two, and hunters, cannot be supported on less.”

Two thousand pounds a year in late-18th-century Britain was a substantial sum, enough to place a family in what we would now call the one percent. But the real joke of the scene is that Marianne’s pretense to abstract reasoning about the moderate amount of wealth that will make her happy is highly imaginatively specific. The word “hunters” is the clue. She isn’t theorizing about what will make her happy; she’s imagining her establishment with her love interest, John Willoughby, once they are married. Willloughby is a consummate hunter, and when Edward points out that hunters are a bit of a luxury and not everyone hunts, Marianne “colours” and replies that “most people do.”

Marianne, alas, does not get her hunters. This is one of the ways in which Sense and Sensibility differs from Pride and Prejudice. Jane and Elizabeth Bennet don’t really compromise in their happily ever afters. They don’t have to trade wealth for happiness, despite Elizabeth’s occasional pert speech to Charlotte Lucas that she won’t simply marry anyone for the sake of keeping Mrs. Bennet off a cat food diet in her senior citizenhood. (Who would?) These little tirades preserve our affection for Elizabeth, although the fact that she doesn’t have to follow through on these severe principles is what we tend to forget. But Marianne Dashwood’s attempt to unite fortune and the happiness of a dashing young suitor fail miserably.

Ironically, Marianne does get her two thousand a year. The very sum that she thought necessary to support her gentility is in fact what Colonel Brandon, whom she marries at the end of the novel, brings to the table. The toils and labors she undertakes in the meantime are comparable to those of the poor man’s son in Smith’s parable. When Willoughby jilts her, the feminine art of writing letters of love and reproach to her erstwhile suitor is intensely time-consuming and energy-sapping. Marianne is up “before the house-maid had lit their fire next day,…kneeling against one of the window-seats for the sake of all the little light she could command,….and writing as fast as a continual flow of tears would permit her.” She is at her desk as hard as any bank clerk scrabbling after a fortune in a London counting house, and reading the winds and weather to figure out whether her lover’s lack of an answer has to do with his hunting.

Marianne, at least according to the precepts of the dismal science, has sacrificed the real tranquility that was at all times in her power. Of course, a strictly numerical analysis ignores that she believed herself in love with Willoughby and not with Brandon. The novel gradually reveals the worth of Brandon and the worthlessness of Willoughby, which makes the math even clearer. Arguably, the 18th-century reader would have recognized Willoughby for the shallow playboy he is sooner than Marianne ever did. Samuel Richardson’s Lovelace and a pantheon of earlier smooth-talking men with hunters and sweet promises under their mustaches prepared them for the type.

As for Marianne’s mysterious late-in-the-game illness, it also contains curious echoes of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith never can decide how one should feel about the pursuit of wealth. On the one hand, it keeps in motion the industry of mankind. On the other, it doesn’t make people very happy. So how is the individual character—after all, the subject of a treatise on ethical conduct—to treat wealth?

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

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