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The Secret Society of Women Writers in Oxford in the 1920s

18 November 2019

From The Literary Hub:

“The group was named by its best-known member, Dorothy L. Sayers, who would go on to be a famous detective novelist and popular theologian. Let’s call ourselves the Mutual Admiration Society, she suggested, because that’s what people will call us anyway. The name both captures the spirit of the group and misrepresents it. They supported each other boldly and emphatically: no false modesty or feminine shame here. They were willing to be relentless and did not insist on being liked, crucial qualities for taking advantage of the real but tenuous space they had to work within. But they were the exact opposite of the simple echo chamber of praise that the name could imply, in its pejorative sense. They were critical, and they were at odds. They fell apart and came together again, over the course of decades and remarkable careers that ranged from birth control advocacy to genre fiction, from classrooms to the stage.”

. . . .

Charis’s closest friend was Dorothy Rowe, or D. Rowe, the joking trickster of the group, who never missed an opportunity for a wisecrack or a limerick that would skewer the foibles and pretensions of those around her. D. Rowe became a beloved English teacher, as well as the founder of a prominent and progressive amateur theater club in Bournemouth.

They were joined by a few others at points along the way: the spiky, cynical Muriel “Jim” Jaeger; the otherworldly Amphilis T. Middlemore; and the quiet, serious Catherine “Tony” Godfrey, in particular.

. . . .

Their words are preserved in libraries scattered across England and the United States, creating a composite archive that is at once deliberate and accidental. Even though they produced copious and vivid letters, stories, poems, and photographs, the members of the MAS resist any attempt by outsiders to know them completely. Jim would stipulate that her personal papers be burned after her death. DLS probably would have destroyed more of her papers if she hadn’t died suddenly and relatively young. The members of the MAS kept each other’s secrets, too. The question of who knew the truth about DLS’s illegitimate son, and when, has always exercised her biographers, but the members of the MAS are like a wall on this subject: the solidarity of their friendship will not be breached.

. . . .

The women of this generation were well placed to take advantage of the victories won by the previous era of feminist activists. Whereas the women of the late 19th century had to fight to gain access to higher education, the members of the MAS enjoyed nearly all that Oxford had to offer, at least in intellectual terms. In their young adulthood, they saw a raft of legislation passed that transformed British women into citizens. Women over thirty, subject to certain property restrictions, would gain the right to vote in 1918; they were granted the vote on equal terms with men in 1928. Women were allowed to stand for Parliament, to sit on juries, and to become lawyers and magistrates. They had increasing access to birth control and well-paid jobs, as well as scope to smoke cigarettes, wear trousers, and socialize in ways that would have scandalized their grandparents.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Excitable Edgar under fire: John Lewis plagiarism claims are now Christmas tradition

18 November 2019

From The Guardian:

There are two traditions that are rapidly becoming as good markers to the start of the festive season as an advent calendar: John Lewis releasing its Christmas ad and children’s authors accusing the retailer of ripping their books off.

Five years ago, readers spotted similarities between Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found, about a boy and a penguin, and John Lewis’s ad about a boy and his penguin. Last year, it was the turn of former children’s laureate Chris Riddell, who noticed similarities between John Lewis’s blue furry monster that hid under the bed, and his own creation, the blue furry Mr Underbed. “The idea of a monster under the bed is by no means new but the ad does seem to bear a close resemblance to my creation – a big blue unthreatening monster who rocks the bed and snores loudly,” said Riddell at the time; Mr Underbed went on to sell out.

This year, more than one children’s writer is feeling aggrieved about John Lewis’s new ad, Excitable Edgar, in which a small dragon keeps spoiling festivities for a village – burning down the tree, melting a snowman – until a girl finds him a job to do (lighting the Christmas pudding). Author Jen Campbell wrote on Twitter: “If you enjoyed this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert, then you’ll love our book Franklin’s Flying Bookshop, all about a dragon called Franklin (who the locals are scared of) & his best friend, a red-haired girl called Luna. Y’know. Just saying.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Judi Dench appeals for public help to bring rare Brontë book to UK as auction looms

13 November 2019

From The Guardian:

Judi Dench, Jacqueline Wilson and Tracy Chevalier are among several names throwing their weight behind the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s bid to keep one of Charlotte Brontë’s tiny manuscripts from being “shut away in a private collection”, with public donations topping £50,000 with just a week to go before the miniature book is auctioned.

Written in 1830 when Brontë was 14, the manuscript measures just 35mm x 61mm and features three hand-written stories, one of which describes a murderer who is driven to madness when he is haunted by his victims. In private ownership since the death of Charlotte in 1855, the last of the famous literary sisters to die, it is one of six tiny booklets produced by the writer at the Parsonage in Haworth. Only five are known to have survived, and the museum owns the remaining four of the “little books”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and here’s a link to the Brontë Parsonage Museum

PG notes that at the museum’s web page, you can see how very tiny Charlotte’s tiny manuscripts were.

And PG just discovered this close-up of another of Charlotte’s little bitty books were on Wikipedia Commons (for non-metric visitors, 5 centimeters is just under two inches):

English: Juvenalia: Homemade miniature issue of Blackwoods young mens magazine (August 1829) by English novelist and poet Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855). With ruler to show size. Information on this item: “The Genesis of Genius”. MS Lowell 1 (6), Houghton Library, Harvard University

 

Self-publishing is opening up avenues for Tamil writers to shine

13 November 2019

From The Hindu:

The emergence of platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing has created opportunities for aspiring authors writing in regional languages

Senthil Balan always had a penchant for writing.

A doctor, who practises in Muscat, Balan could neither afford the time nor focus his energies towards gleaning the attention of traditional publishing houses, considering the exacting nature of his profession. So, he logged in to Amazon and self-published his book through the global e-commerce giant’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

Earlier this year, Balan was picked as one of the winners of KDP’s Pen to Publish contest for his self-published book, Parangi Malai Irayil Nilaiyam (St Thomas Mount Railway Station), part of a series of books based on the character he created, Detective Karthick Aldo. “Five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed if someone told me that an NRI like me could be a published author and reach millions of readers,” says Balan, in a recorded message played at a panel discussion, put together by Amazon KDP.

. . . .

The programme discussed how the evolution of online publishing platforms has opened up lucrative avenues for Tamil language authors. Says Vaishali Aggarwal, head, Amazon KDP — India, “KDP is an easy way to publish and has led to a more diverse set of voices telling their stories to people.”

There has been a considerable increase in demand for these texts. “At least 10 out of 100 trending Kindle e-books are self-published ones. The numbers are higher when it comes to Tamil, and this shows that the reader is open to experimenting,” adds Vaishali.

Writer and filmmaker Cable Sankar, who was one of the panellists, noted that the emergence of avenues similar to KDP has broken the notion that only famous names could publish books in Tamil. “It has also taken away the fear of publishing costs from the author,” he says.

Noted Tamil language author Pa Raghavan concurs with Sankar and adds, “There is a high readership for fiction-based books on KDP. But the demand for fiction books exceeded my expectation. For example, one of my 1200-page novels, which was published by a prominent publishing house, took about eight months to sell 600 paperback copies. When I put it up on Kindle, it sold more than 1,000 copies in less than two months.”

Link to the rest at The Hindu

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: a novel that comes from both the head and the heart

12 November 2019

From The Guardian:

At first glance, The French Lieutenant’s Woman appears to be a modish, postmodern product of the 1960s, a dry intellectual exercise carefully designed to draw the reader’s attention to its own artificiality. In the very first paragraph, John Fowles tells us his book is set in 1867, 100 years before he wrote it. From then on, he drops in invitations to step outside the text and think about the person writing it, alongside the variously fraught characters he’s pushing around Victorian Lyme Regis.

He even interrupts himself in chapter 13, just to say:

I do not know. This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my own mind. If I have pretended until now to know my characters’ minds and innermost thoughts, it is because I am writing in (just as I have assumed some of the vocabulary and ‘voice’ of) a convention universally accepted at the time of my story: that the novelist stands next to God. He may not know all, yet he tries to pretend that he does.

Fowles may be denying omniscience, but he makes no attempt to pretend he isn’t a smarty-pants, adding: “But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes: if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word.”

That begs the question of what the novel “in the modern sense of the word” may be? The implication, confusingly enough, is that a modern novel is a postmodern one, since Fowles names both a leading postmodernist (Barthes) and a thinker credited with pointing the way towards it (Robbe-Grillet). The latter’s big contention, when he wrote Towards a New Novel in 1963, was that the novel is a form that must constantly evolve. Meanwhile, Barthes argued that the author is dead; authorial intentions should be disregarded.

. . . .

Fowles expanded on this idea in an essay published in Harper’s Magazine in 1968, called Notes on an Unfinished Novel. There, he wrote that The French Lieutenant’s Woman started not with an intellectual idea, but an image: “A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea. That was all.”

The quay became “specific” to him, as he could see the famous Lyme Regis Cobb from the bottom of his garden. The woman “seemed” Victorian, but since she was standing “with her back turned”, she struck him as a “reproach” to the age. And so the novel began to build. “Follow the accident, fear the fixed plan – that is the rule,” says Fowles. “Writing is like eating or making love: a natural process, not an artificial one.”

Fowles relied on his imagination; he even claimed to have been writing “science fiction” at certain points because no “respectable” (the scare quotes are his) Victorian novelist had ever described a couple in bed, leaving him with no guide when he came to write such a scene himself.

Link to the rest at The Guardian
.

.

As the OP mentions, this book was written in 1967 and, PG will add, was published in 1969.

PG will note that those who graduated from high school or college in 1969 may have received invitations for their 50th class reunions at some time during the current year.

He asks the question – “Is a fifty-year-old novel still ‘post-modern’ or has it become an historical novel?”

Perhaps, it is post-post-post-modern now. Or prehistorical? Or post-historical?

FutureBook Live 2019 Ramps Up: Maintaining the Cultural Caché of Books

12 November 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

Those of us on the annual international tournée de livres can tell you that, as advertised, FutureBook Live really is the largest of today’s conferences in terms of turnout. Not trade shows, mind you, this is a conference, a one-day outing which includes not only plenary sessions but four strands of focus.

. . . .

  • Hook the Readers sessions (purple)
  • Take Smarter Risks sessions (navy)
  • Seize the Agenda sessions (pink)
  • Hack the Process sessions (a kind of worried blue that’s not navy)

. . . .

As Flatt announced earlier this autumn, you’ll find appropriate change afoot this year in the show. “As we approach our 10th anniversary,” she wrote, “you may have noticed that we’ve dropped both ‘digital’ and ‘innovation’ from our tagline and marketing. Why?

“Because in this extraordinarily unstable time, those terms no longer feel very useful. Everyone who works in publishing, whatever their seniority or specialism, must now understand digital; everyone, whether a conglomerate CTO or a self-published author, must innovate or die. And nor are digital solutions or splashy innovations always the best way to answer the challenges exploding around us.

“We have to use everything at our disposal, from woodblocks to Weibo, to restore books to a central place in our culture and to keep book businesses afloat.”

. . . .

Bookseller editor Philip Jones writes, “The conference began as a digital event, morphed into one concentrated on innovation, and is now squarely focused on the business in its entirety, particularly, ahem, the future bit.”

He goes on, as Jones is still perhaps the best in the business at doing, at capturing exactly the challenge that world publishing–don’t tell the Brits it’s not just them–faces today: “How we maintain the cultural caché of books.” Exactly.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG found it interesting that British (and perhaps other European) publishers are worried about the “cultural caché of books.”

PG speculates the unspoken extension of this concern is the “cultural caché of traditional publishers.”

If an intelligent and well-meaning young person who loves books were to ask PG about going to work for a publisher, PG would paint a dire picture of the future of traditional publishing. The echo chamber of New York (and, likely London) publishing is growing smaller and smaller by the day.

If the traditional book business is losing cultural caché, how will it justify its high prices and low royalties?

Fixed Book Prices in Germany

8 November 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

A new defense of Germany’s fixed prices for books has been issued this morning (November 8) by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels—the country’s publishers and booksellers association.

In 2018, the Börsenverein commissioned new research on the issue—described as a team of economists and a legal scholar—to study what the organization today calls “the impact and legitimacy of Germany’s fixed book price system in an independent and comprehensive manner using the most up-to-date information possible.”

. . . .

For some brief background on the issue, fixed prices on books in Germany have long been a tradition and were codified in law in 2002. The effect of the fixed price is that a book—whether sold online or in a physical retail setting—has exactly the same price nationwide. A publisher sets the price for its books in each format. After 18 months, that publisher can cancel the fixed price, and discounting is allowed in cases of defective copies or bulk pricing.

As today’s media messaging points out, 13 European countries have fixed pricing on books, and those nations include Austria, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Hungary. Outside of Europe, books are sold on a fixed price system in markets including Mexico, Argentina, and Japan.

And as it turns out, the Börsenverein’s study is a kickoff to a campaign hashtagged #dankbuchpreisbindung, or “thank fixed book prices.”

The organization is offering posters, site banners, email signature graphics, and other collateral materials to spread messages—in bookstores and other venues—such as “Price Comparisons Are Futile” and “We Have More [Books] for the Same Price.” This signage also reads, “You pay the same for a book anywhere in Germany. With us you get competent advice and a smile for free.”

. . . .

And the release of the new pro-price-fixing report today—in news reports characterized as costing some €300,00—is an answer, in part, to a report from the country’s Monopolies Commission which, in 2018, recommended discarding fixed prices on books. In very general terms, the commission’s opinion last year indicated that price fixing wasn’t based on a clear demonstration of its value and was out of step with contemporary market dynamics.

. . . .

The key statement issued today by the Börsenverein is: “Germany’s system of fixed book prices and the extensive landscape of bookshops it supports play a key role in the dissemination of books as essential cultural goods, while also fostering the quality and variety of books available to consumers. The system is also in line with EU law.”

. . . .

In a prepared statement, Skipis is quoted, saying, “Once again, it’s all there in black and white. Germany’s fixed book price system acts as a guarantor of quality and diversity on the book market.

“It’s one of the factors contributing to Germany’s reputation as a role model across the globe and its status as the second-largest book market in the world.

“The findings show very clearly that fixed book prices fulfill their obligation to protect books, especially in the contemporary market situation.”

. . . .

“For almost 150 years now, Germany has had a system of fixed book prices. The system guarantees a dense network of bookshops that act as key locations for the dissemination of literature and as indispensable distribution channels, especially for small and medium-sized publishers. Precisely because of this key role, price fixing for books is also widely supported in the political sphere.”

. . . .

Beurich, the bookseller, adds, “The research findings show how indispensable the stationary book trade is, especially for cultural diversity in our country. When bookstores disappear, people lose important contact points and thus access to books. Bookstores are places that foster exchange among local residents, while also promoting literary education, cultural work, literacy and a love of reading.

“The study also showed that a number of highly interesting books and authors would never have been discovered without stationary bookstores.”

. . . .

“Fixed book prices make books less expensive on average. Following the abolition of the system of fixed book prices in the UK, the average price of books there rose by 80 percent between 1996 and 2018. The increase was much stronger than in the same time period in countries that have fixed books prices, such as France (+24 percent) and Germany (+29 percent).

“Only bestsellers are less expensive in the UK than in Germany. With roughly the same share in overall sales, the 500 top-selling books make up roughly 26.6 percent of total revenue in Germany; in the UK, they make up 21.5 percent of total revenue. The analysis of the 50,000 best-selling books in the UK from 2005 to 2018 showed that the higher the sales rank a book has, the higher the average discount retailers offer on the publishers’ suggested retail price, and therefore the less expensive the book will be for the client.”

. . . .

“The stationary book trade fosters the discovery of unknown titles and authors. The studies showed that sales at stationary bookshops foster the future success of a large number of lesser-known titles and authors. Out of 420 fiction titles that did not reach the top twenty spots on the bestseller lists until after three weeks or more between 2011 and 2018, sales in local bookshops were solely responsible for that rise in 237 cases (56.4 percent) and largely responsible for that rise in the case of 171 other titles (40.7 percent).”

. . . .

  • “The system of fixed book prices in Germany does not hinder market access for foreign mail-order companies or online sellers;
  • “If, in a hypothetical case, there was an existing interference with the free movement of goods, it would be justified by the protection of books as essential cultural goods; and
  • “Germany’s system of fixed book prices is compatible with European competition law.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

“[A]ll is in a man’s hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that’s an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most.”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

The Third Reich of Dreams

7 November 2019

From The New Yorker:

Not long after Hitler came to power, in 1933, a thirty-year-old woman in Berlin had a series of uncanny dreams. In one, her neighborhood had been stripped of its usual signs, which were replaced with posters that listed twenty verboten words; the first was “Lord” and the last was “I.” In another, the woman found herself surrounded by workers, including a milkman, a gasman, a newsagent, and a plumber. She felt calm, until she spied among them a chimney sweep. (In her family, the German word for “chimney sweep” was code for the S.S., a nod to the trade’s blackened clothing.) The men brandished their bills and performed a Nazi salute. Then they chanted, “Your guilt cannot be doubted.”

These are two of about seventy-five dreams collected in “The Third Reich of Dreams,” a strange, enthralling book by the writer Charlotte Beradt. Neither scientific study nor psychoanalytic text, “The Third Reich of Dreams” is a collective diary, a witness account hauled out of a nation’s shadows and into forensic light. The book was released, in Germany, in 1966; an English translation, by Adriane Gottwald, was published two years later but has since fallen out of print. (Despite ongoing interest from publishers, no one has been able to find Beradt’s heir, who holds the rights.) But the book deserves revisiting, not just because we see echoes today of the populism, racism, and taste for surveillance that were part of Beradt’s time but because there’s nothing else like it in the literature of the Holocaust. “These dreams—these diaries of the night—were conceived independently of their authors’ conscious will,” Beradt writes. “They were, so to speak, dictated to them by dictatorship.”

Beradt—who was born Charlotte Aron, in Forst, a town near the German-Polish border—was a Jewish journalist. She was based in Berlin when Hitler became Chancellor, in 1933. That year, she was barred from publishing her work, and she and her husband, Heinz Pol, were arrested during the mass roundups of Communists that followed the passage of the Reichstag Fire Decree. After her release, she began secretly recording the dreams of her fellow-Germans. For six years, as German Jews lost their homes, their jobs, and their rights, Beradt continued making notes. By 1939, she’d gathered three hundred dreams. The project was risky, not least because she was known to the regime. Pol, who once worked for Vossische Zeitung, Germany’s leading liberal newspaper, soon fled to Prague, and Beradt eventually moved in with her future husband, the writer and lawyer Martin Beradt.

. . . .

To protect herself and those she interviewed, Beradt hid her transcripts inside bookbindings and then shelved them in her private library. She disguised political figures, turning dreams of Hitler, Göring, and Goebbels into “family anecdotes” about Uncles Hans, Gustav, and Gerhard. Once book burnings and home searches became fixtures of state control, Beradt mailed her notes to friends overseas. In 1939, she and Martin left Germany and eventually arrived in New York, as refugees. They settled on West End Avenue, and their apartment became a gathering place for fellow-émigrés, such as Hannah Arendt (for whom Beradt translated five political essays), Heinrich Blücher, and the painter Carl Heidenreich. In 1966, after retrieving her transcripts, Beradt finally published the dreams, in Germany, as “Das Dritte Reich des Traums.”

. . . .

Beradt’s work uncovers the effects of authoritarian regimes on the collective unconscious. In 1933, a woman dreams of a mind-reading machine, “a maze of wires” that detects her associating Hitler with the word “devil.” Beradt encountered several dreams about thought control, some of which anticipated the bureaucratic absurdities used by the Nazis to terrorize citizens. In one dream, a twenty-two-year-old woman who believes her curved nose will mark her as Jewish attends the “Bureau of Verification of Aryan Descent”—not a real agency, but close enough to those of the time. In a series of “bureaucratic fairy tales” that evoke the regime’s real-life propaganda, a man dreams of banners, posters, and barracks-yard voices pronouncing a “Regulation Prohibiting Residual Bourgeois Tendencies.” In 1936, a woman dreams of a snowy road strewn with watches and jewelery. Tempted to take a piece, she senses a setup by the “Office for Testing the Honesty of Aliens.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

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