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Meet Your New Favorite Poet

20 February 2019

From The Paris Review:

I like to tell poetry students about pleasures that are “on reserve” for them—meaning pleasures they’re too little to have now, but which they will have, someday, if they just stick with it. Good example of this: owning other poets.

How can you own a poet? Simple. You have to find a poet whom no one has read in a long time, a poet with no living fans. Then you have to sincerely love that poet’s work. That’s the hard part. But if you love the poet’s poems, and no one else has even read them, there’s your opportunity to plant your flag. That poet is now your private property. Your interpretation of that poet’s work is by definition correct. Your right to be there is indisputable.

. . . .

James Thomson (1700–1748) is my private property. I keep him in my pocket and take him out and look at him sometimes. He always looks good. There are many James Thomson poems that I have never read. Consequently, those pieces do not exist. The ones I have read I have read many times. I’m talking about The Seasons, a 5,500-line poem that used to be approximately as famous as the Aeneid or whatever. It was translated into a bunch of different languages, Goethe revered it, it was imitated all over the place. People used to sit there, stunned or rocking back and forth, muttering “Oh man, oh man, oh man!” about The Seasons. These days, however—2019—the sun has quite gone down on this great poet.

It’s not hard to see why. His stuff doesn’t sound like it’s going to be good AT ALL. Number one, it was written in the eighteenth century. Nobody likes that century’s poetry. Number two, it’s in twisted-up Miltonic blank verse. In other words, it’s hard. Number three, it’s 5,500 lines of nature imagery. There’s no plot, no characters—it’s nature imagery, floor to ceiling.

Do not adjust your laptop. That sound you hear is fleeing multitudes.

. . . .

Exhibit A: This is just to give you an idea what kind of diction-syntax we’re talking about. This is really early 0n in the poem, and Thomson has been talking about how the coming of spring affects the air and the wind; now he draws your attention to the soil and leaves:

Nor only through the lenient air this change
Delicious breathes: the penetrative Sun,
His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
Of vegetation, sets the steaming power
At large, to wander o’er the vernant earth
In various hues …

For God’s sake, look at the word lenient there; the word penetrative; the word retreat. And the construction “sets the steaming power at large.” But, more subtly, consider the strange way that this:

Nor only through the lenient air this change delicious breathes,—

is so much better than:

Not only does this delicious change breathe through the lenient air,—

This latter point instantiates a deep mystery. In 2019, no one would dare Latinize their syntax like that. It would look like if you went to school one day in an Elizabethan ruff. And even in the eighteenth century, this wasn’t always done with grace and élan. Thomson, however, has the touch. He always knows when it would be better to say “Something wicked this way comes” rather than “Something wicked comes this way” (which, incidentally, has the exact same scansion).

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

During college, PG spent a lot of time analyzing poems and other literary work for class assignments. (He might have been better off if he had studied computer programming, but that field was pretty gross before personal computers. At any rate, his résumé got him a good first job out of college, then a good second job, which is about all you can expect from an undergraduate degree. During his second job interviews, nobody asked him about his undergraduate studies).

At any rate, while PG liked a lot of things about the OP, he must take exception to the author’s slander of 18th-century poets and poetry. Here’s a short list of poets PG thinks did fine work during that era:

William Blake
Robert Burns
Lord Byron
Samuel T.Coleridge
John Keats
Percy Shelley
William Wordsworth

Here’s the opening of Endymion by Keats:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

The entirety of Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by Wordsworth:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

And, by Robbie (pronounced Rabbie) Burns, “The National Poet of Scotland,” John Anderson my jo:

(The poem’s narrator is an old Scottish women speaking about her husband of many years and their life together.)

John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw,
but blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo!

For those who are a bit rusty on Gaelic and its effect on 18th-century Scottish pronunciation of English words, here’s a cheat sheet:

jo – darling
acquent – acquainted
brent – smooth
beld – bald
pow – crown of your head
clamb – climb
thegither – together
cantie – happy
maun – must

.

Australian Author Sees Similar Plot to His in Trailer for New Danny Boyle Film

20 February 2019

From The Guardian:

When Nick Milligan decided to self-publish his speculative fiction novel, Enormity, he knew it was going to be a hard slog to find an audience. But seeing a similar plot play out in the trailer for Danny Boyle’s new film, Yesterday, came as a shock.

“I had high expectations for Enormity’s success,” Milligan said. “I wrote it with a movie in mind.”

That goal seems even more out of reach now.

Written by Richard Curtis and starring Himesh Patel and Lily James, Yesterday follows a character called Jack (Patel) who has a bicycle accident during a worldwide blackout. According to the trailer, which was released last week, when Jack wakes up, he finds himself in an almost identical version of Earth in which The Beatles never existed. He passes off their music as his own, and havoc ensues.

It’s a plot that bears remarkable resemblance to the Australian Milligan’s novel, which also follows a character called Jack who, after a journey into deep space, finds himself on a planet that’s almost identical to Earth, with a few exceptions – including that its people have never heard of The Beatles.

“He passes off classic music as his own material, including that of The Beatles, and the story then explores the consequences of that lie,” Milligan told Guardian Australia.

. . . .

“The central premise and general exploration of the concept are the same. Both Jacks experience inner turmoil in regard to the lie they’re living and perpetuating,” Milligan said. “They’re both morality tales. Both are satires on the music industry. And the trajectory to superstardom, with Jack performing to a crowded stadium etc, appears to be in both.”

But there are differences in tone, Milligan points out.

“The tone of both, outside of the central premise, appears quite different. Yesterday is a more light-hearted family-friendly film, where Enormity is far more dark and twisted,” said Milligan. “It’s probably just a horrible coincidence and they mean me no disrespect.”

Milligan self-published Enormity in 2013, selling on Amazon. He estimates with giveaways and direct sales, he saw some 20,000 downloads of his book.

He chose to self-publish rather than trying to find a traditional publisher because he felt his idea “didn’t quite fit into a particular genre, so it might have been put in the too hard basket” by commercial publishers.

. . . .

Since speaking out over the weekend about the similarities between Enormity and Yesterday, Milligan said he has seen a modest spike in sales of his own work.

. . . .

Grant McAvaney, CEO of the Australian Copyright Council, told Guardian Australia that to prove copyright infringement, one creator would need to prove that the other had taken a material portion of their work. “So that’s not just the idea alone, but it’s the way the idea is explored … by reference to things such as structure, characters, key plot points and language used,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

In answer to questions that may come into the minds of TPV visitors, the OP doesn’t tell enough for PG to come to any conclusions about copyright infringement. Additionally, PG is not an Australian attorney, so he doesn’t know enough to comment on the application of Australian copyright law.

The quote from the representative of the Australian Copyright Council sounds similar to PG’s initial reaction about a similar circumstance occurring under US law.

At any rate, PG thought that Mr. Milligan’s self-published work deserved a link. It’s also available via Kindle Unlimited.


KNV, Germany’s Largest Book Wholesaler, Files for Bankruptcy

14 February 2019

From Shelf Awareness:

KNV-Gruppe, Germany’s largest book wholesaler, filed for bankruptcy today, according to Börsenblatt. The filing does not involve the subsidiary LKG.

KNV said that a deal to sell the company, which was close to being finalized, suddenly collapsed, and that its creditors were no longer willing to provide necessary financing. It’s expected that KNV will continue to operate under court supervision. KNV’s customers include 5,600 bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

. . . .

[L]ast year, while book sales as a whole were estimated to have risen just 0.1%, sales at indies and chain stores declined 0.6%.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

The Uk’s Selfies Award Announces Its First Self-Published Shortlist

5 February 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

At this time of year, shortlists, longlists, and calls for submissions swirl like snow showers up and down the UK. And a new book awards program today (February 5) is adding to the wintry mix something almost as distinctive as the proverbial snowflake’s design: the Selfies Awards has announced its first set of self-published finalists.

Produced by BookBrunch in association with the London Book Fairand the public relations and author services company Bookollective and IngramSpark, the Selfies represent the judges’ choice of a work of fiction self-published in 2018.

. . . .

In an interesting reflection of the task of self-publishing, the prize recognizes not only quality of writing but also, per the program’s media messaging, “the cover design, blurb and sales and marketing campaigns too,” a reminder of the breadth of activity demanded by self-publishing. And this was communicated to authors entering their work by describing the criteria beyond the writing as (quoting the organizers):

  • A well produced ebook or print book
  • An enticing cover and blurb that successfully addresses the target audience
  • An effective and creative marketing and publicity strategy
  • Great sales potential

. . . .

Those familiar with the ALLi community will recognize some of the authors whose work now appears on the Selfies’ inaugural list. The program has opened with submissions limited to adult fiction titles, but organizers have said they expect to expand the award to cover more categories in the future. Entries are limited to authors “based in the UK who are predominantly or only self-published, ie where the author themselves acted as the publisher and/or creative director.” Short stories and unfinished works are not accepted for consideration.

The winner of the Selfies 2019 will be awarded £1,500 (US$1,952) plus a special self-publishing package from the sponsoring IngramSpark for a next book. In addition, Bookollective will offer the winner a customized book cover design created by Aimee Coveney and a book publicity campaign that the company says is worth £1000 (US$1,301).

. . . .

The Selfies 2019 Shortlist

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Why Do the French Love American Noir?

30 January 2019

From Crime Reads:

French readers appreciate superb writing, especially superb noir, especially when that noir is from the US. This has been proven time and again in the post-war period, but it first came to my attention in 2008 when I started reading New Jersey-based author, Mark SaFranko. I became a fan of his work and was surprised he wasn’t more popular in his home country. Then I learned he had a huge following in France. That story repeated itself a few times in the following years, and eventually I accepted a blanket truth: the French have great taste in books. Now, after years of being an author and a reviewer, I know more about publishing than I did back when I first read SaFranko or learned the extent to which the French love Harry Crews. I also know many more American writers with thriving careers in France. So I thought, why not ask them what they think this French love of American noir is all about?

The perfect example of this cultural phenomenon may be Benjamin Whitmer and his latest novel, Evasion, published by Gallmeister, a French publisher specializing in American noir and nature literature. Evasion has been nominated for awards and recently became a bestseller in France; it hasn’t been published in the US. Let that sink in. Whitmer, author of Pike and Cry Father, is one of the finest purveyors of noir in this country, and francophones are enjoying his latest while American publishers are sleeping on it.

. . . .

“To be honest, I’m not sure it’s especially a French thing. I think people all over the world read noir, read tragedy,” said Whitmer. “The only place where there is no place for noir or tragedy is America. As David Vann said, ‘We have the idea in America that a book should have likable characters and make us feel good by the end. This is a new and idiotic idea and erases 2,500 years of literary culture.’ No other culture is dumb enough to believe that. That takes a specifically pathological self-concept and denial of reality.”

Laura Lippman, the New York Times bestselling author of SunburnAfter I’m Gone, and many others, thinks the French obsession with American writers stems from their love of stories that depict the country as they imagine it, and not because of American noir’s gloomy, violent nature.

“I think other countries like fiction that presents the US as they think it is,” said Lippman. “And while noir is a big part of that, so is what I’ll call suburban suspense, the kind of novels that won Harlan Coben such a huge following in France.”

While I don’t disagree with Lippman and Whitmer, I think there is a special place in the heart of French readers for noir. Even the term comes from them. While there are rumors that the term had been used since 1939, the most commonly accepted origin narrative traces it back to French film critic Nino Frank, who started using it in 1946 to refer to black and white Hollywood films influenced by American hardboiled fiction.

Jake Hinkson, author of The Blind AlleyNo Tomorrow, and The Big Ugly, has had his work translated to French and has won the Grand Prix des Littératures Policières and the Prix Mystère de la Critique.

. . . .

“I think the French are fascinated with American noir because they’re fascinated by America,” said Hinkson. “They view noir as a body of literature that is critical and revealing of American culture. I don’t think the French have much respect for things that Americans think are classy (your average Oscar-bait movie, for instance), and they tend to be a little weary of all the stuff that is NYC-centric or overly LA. But they’ve always had a fascination with other parts of the country, the ‘real America’ if you will. That’s why the French were the first ones to the recognize the artistic merits of things like jazz and gospel. It’s why they embraced regional artists like Faulkner. And it’s why they were the first ones to recognize that guys like Thompson and Goodis weren’t just failed pulp writers but rather authentic and unique literary talents.”

Link to the rest at Crime Reads




Russian Booksellers Say Online Retail Competition Is Gaining Fast

29 January 2019
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From Publishing Perspectives:

Russian booksellers say they share with their Western counterparts a rising concern that competition with online stores is deepening quickly, even as government plans call for new retail space support for independent bookstores.

In recent years, the Internet has become a major channel for the market’s book sales, as shopping online has expanded and taken business from physical retail, according to media reports.

Last year the Russian book market grew by 7 to 8 percent in value terms over 2017, to 79 billion rubles (US$1.19 billion)—according to Eksmo-AST’s CEO, Oleg Novikov, in a report from Ekaterina Bryzgalova at Vedomosti—though experts predict a slower rate of growth for this year.

Publishers and booksellers confirm to Publishing Perspectives that the slowing growth seems to be caused, in part, by a consumer shift towards online sale channels.

Novikov says, “When we assess the annual turnover of the common bookstores we already have operating, we find that that turnover is stagnating.”

. . . .

Novikov describes what is called in Western markets “showrooming,” or people browsing physical stores, choosing books, then ordering them online. And that, he says, is clearly driven by Internet outlets’ lower prices.

A spokesman for the ministry of science and culture tells Publishing Perspectives that it sees price differences between traditional book retail and online channels to be as high as 25 to 30 percent, so the savings for consumers can be significant.

. . . .

The growth online is confirmed by more statistics from the ministry, which says that in 2018, online sales of books in Russia grew by more than 25 percent over 2017. This increased the online percentage of the overall book market’s sales to roughly 20 percent—a figure well behind that found in some Western markets but a serious section of the market for a nation still adjusting to the impact of digital consumerism.

In an Eksmo-AST study of the situation, Nobikov told Vedomosti, in September, he could see a rise of 18 percent in online sales for books in 2018. “The development of online stores is faster than traditional bookstores,” he told Bryzgalova, adding that he could see the overall online percentage of book sales reaching 35 percent within five years.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

The Whiggish View of History

27 January 2019
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From The Wall Street Journal:

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel “A Handful of Dust” (1934), Lady Brenda Last remarks of her husband’s beloved ancestral home, Hetton Abbey: “I detest it . . . at least I don’t mean that really, but I do wish sometimes that it wasn’t all, every bit of it, so appallingly ugly.” Her husband, Tony Last, will do anything to keep up the old ways. Though lacking any semblance of religious feeling, he dutifully attends the village church every Sunday and sits in the pine pew that his great-grandfather installed there generations ago. While Tony is fussing over his neo-Gothic pile, Brenda takes a flat in London “with limitless hot water and every transatlantic refinement.”

These two figures represent opposite strains of the approach of the English to their own history: One, the Tory disposition, is backward-looking, full of reverence for authority and the shared continuities that the past provides; the other is forward-looking, ever conscious of the seemingly steady march of progress—the Whig view. The two strains were well in evidence in the 18th century, the so-called Georgian era in which differing versions of English self-definition jostled for ascendancy.

In “Charting the Past,” the prolific British historian Jeremy Black aims to examine the ways in which 18th-century English writers and thinkers studied their country’s past and, often, formed narratives to serve their own ends or special causes.

. . . .

To take one rather fanciful example, the anonymous pamphlet “Letter From a Gentleman in Worcestershire to a Member of the Parliament” (1727) invoked the ninth-century Viking invasions to urge the importance of fending off a Russian-led invasion from Norway–Denmark. Other lessons were more explicitly political. The Whig historian (and member of Parliament) George Lyttelton in 1735, touted the idea of an “ancient constitution” that had originated with the Saxons, survived the Norman Conquest and continued on in common law as England’s guarantor of freedom from tyranny—that is, in his view, freedom from the divine-right absolutism of the Tories. Meanwhile the Toryish Mary Astell could argue by analogy for a strong contemporary monarchy in 1704 by maintaining that “there were many causes that contributed to the felicity of Q. Elizabeth’s reign, but her magnanimous resolution and stout exertion of her just authority, were none the least of it.”

. . . .

History now shows us that the accession of the staunchly Protestant William and Mary in 1689, replacing the Catholic James II, ensured that a Catholic would not again sit on England’s throne. But the threat (or thrilling prospect) of Catholicism was rarely far from the minds of English historians. To some, the suppression of the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745—aimed at restoring the Stuarts by installing the descendants of James II—suggested that the “papists” were defeated and would not menace England again. But to others, the uprisings meant that the Catholic threat would be ever-present. Bishop Lavington of Exeter—in a tract called “The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compar’d” (1749)—even argued that Methodists were crypto-papists.

. . . .

Here we encounter men like William Hutchinson, “a solicitor and topographer, who found time, as clerk to the Lord Lieutenant of Durham, to write history,” wherein he gloried in the Druids and blamed the ancient Romans for introducing licentiousness to the British Isles. And though learned men are well represented in Mr. Black’s account, he is also attuned to the many chancers on the scene, such as Thomas Percy, “a grocer’s son who sought to show his descent from the medieval Dukes of Northumberland.” Percy chased fame by publishing “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry” (1765), “an edition of old ballads, which promoted a revival of interest in the subject.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal


The Disillusionist

23 January 2019
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From The New York Review of Books:

We live in a golden age of reissues. Every publishing season seems to bring fresh editions from a vital but ignored past: say, Clarice Lispector, who had one book come out last year, or Lucia Berlin, who had two. For readers, republication offers something rare: the possibility of reclaiming history simply by opening a book. The proper response to this is surely celebration. But I can’t help feeling a bit depressed that so many of the cool new writers are dead.

I’ve been particularly interested in the resurgence of midcentury women novelists who share certain characteristics. These women were underappreciated in their own lifetimes. They may have gotten prizes and awards, but they never earned the fame or money of their male peers or, in many cases, their more successful husbands. They distanced themselves from the women’s movement. They were rude in ways that were probably deeply unpleasant for their contemporaries but now translate nicely into witty anecdotes and retorts.

Take Elsa Morante. Like many of the authors who are regularly discovered and rediscovered, Morante never became internationally famous. Her novels are not widely read outside of Italy, unlike those of her husband, Alberto Moravia, or the works of many of the artists she collaborated with over the course of her life, like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Natalia Ginzburg. Her novels are not difficult, but they are also not easy: violent, emotionally tangled, lushly written in a way that often reads in English as more melodramatic than dramatic, and almost overwhelmingly ambitious.

“Elsa was a bit totalitarian,” Moravia said of his wife after her death. A man who had escaped fascism could not have meant that lightly, but it comes across as accurate and sincere. Morante’s novels have the drive of a general ready to obliterate the field. She’s also one of Elena Ferrante’s favorite writers, and the one from whom she derived her pen name. The connection is made very clear by the fact that this new translation of Arturo’s Island is by Ferrante’s translator, Ann Goldstein, and has a quote from Ferrante on the back.

. . . .

For Morante, the tangled entrapment of family wasn’t theoretical. Poverty and cramped quarters made independence early in her life impossible. Her parents had hoped to create a happy household. But on their wedding night her mother, Irma, a schoolteacher with thwarted literary ambitions, discovered that Augusto Morante was impotent. Irma punished her husband by making him sleep in the basement. Elsa and her siblings later came to learn that their real father was someone they had been introduced to as “Uncle Ciccio.” In Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante (2008), the novelist Lily Tuck describes how Morante’s mother used to wait until everyone was asleep before she went to the bathroom. The home was so small that even the facts of living had to be hidden.

. . . .

She met Alberto Moravia in 1937. He later recalled that they “had supper together with some friends, and as I was saying goodnight to her, she slipped the keys of her house into my hand.” During the war they married, then fled to southern Italy. Both worried about being arrested by the Fascists. This period of panic was in many ways the high point of their relationship. The chaos of war seemed to create a greenhouse that allowed the otherwise fragile marriage to thrive. Morante, who throughout her childhood had read stories of heroes and gods, could act bravely and boldly, as a character in a romance or myth might. She crossed occupied Rome to save the manuscript of her first novel, House of Liars, a long and convoluted story of love and disenchantment. Morante and Moravia wandered around the Bay of Naples, he with an owl on his shoulder, she with a Siamese cat on a leash.

Morante could deal with the stress of war. The boredom of peacetime was what she found difficult. “She considered herself, as it were, an angel fallen from heaven into the practical hell of daily living,” Moravia wrote. (Morante herself refused interviews for much of her life and destroyed many of her papers. Biographers are therefore unfortunately reliant on the words of her ex-husband to gloss her own.)

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

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