Non-Fiction

Memoir with Recipes

15 April 2014

From The Heart and Craft of Life Writing:

Although few things bond people like food and sharing recipes, I didn’t intend to include recipes in my mini-memoir, Adventures of a Chilehead, for several reasons:

1) Some of the stories are set in restaurants and I couldn’t include recipes for those.
2) Recipes for things like frijoles, chile con carne and enchiladas are easily found on the web.
3) When I cook, I use recipes as mere suggestions and cook by the seat of my pants based mostly on what’s in the kitchen at any given time. How do you write recipes for that?
4) Some ingredients, like chile powder, are unreliable in strength.

The finished book bears the subtitle “A Mini-Memoir with Recipes.” Obviously I changed my mind, primarily because most people who read early versions of the manuscript told me they wanted recipes.

. . . .

Most memoirs that include recipes put a single recipe at the end of each chapter. For example, Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Judith Newton’s Tasting Home: follow this pattern. Since some of my stories take place in restaurants or feature hot pepper sauce, and some stories spin off three or four recipes, it didn’t make sense to put them with the chapters. Besides, the length of the recipes would interrupt the flow of the stories.

Link to the rest at The Heart and Craft of Life Writing

You’ve Got Mail: On the New Age of Biography

15 April 2014

From The Millions:

At the Edinburgh Book Festival 2011, Michael Holroyd lamented – as aging biographers are wont to do — the decline of biography. “I have a nostalgia for visiting private houses to find letters and journals and to root around in the attic,” he said. “But the fact that a lot of material now is on the computer takes the romance out of it, and now it’s about examining what lies behind the delete button — the horror.”

While his take is self-consciously crankish, Holroyd’s suggestion that the computer represents a turning point in biographical writing carries some weight.  After centuries of shuffling papers, biographers must now deal with the sudden digitization of the self, and the behavioral changes that have followed. Contemporary literary biographies — of Susan Sontag, David Foster Wallace, Nora Ephron, John Updike, all of whom adopted email quite late in their lives — are petri dishes for a new age of biography.

Contemporary literature scholar Stephen Burn, who is currently editing the correspondence of David Foster Wallace, describes compiling emails as an “exercise in reverse engineering.”  Since Wallace does not seem to have kept any of his emails, Burn has had to track down friends, colleagues, editors, and fans who have saved the emails he sent them. As a result, he finds himself “tracing lines backwards from published books, stories, and essays, to make visible the various dialogues along the way that led to the finished work.”

. . . .

In contrast, what Burn identifies as “the real dark shadow cast over scholars by email correspondence” is the fickle nature of fast-changing technology. We may believe that recent history is safely tucked away in the digital fortress, but electronic content actually faces far greater threats than traditional materials like diaries, files, and letters. Whether as a result of bit rot, unstable storage devices, technical failures, or systemic obsolescence, Burn and other scholars fear that “potentially great letters or exchanges [will be] locked within hard drives that can no longer be accessed.”

. . . .

Hermione Lee, biographer of Virginia Woolf,Edith Wharton, and most recently Penelope Fitzgerald, suggests that “when people are at their most frivolous, superficial, gregarious, and chatty is often when they are most revealing about themselves,” highlighting the interplay between “your secret self, your solitary self, your nighttime self, your gregarious, chatty e-mailing self.”

Link to the rest at The Millions

Why Can’t E-Books Disrupt The Lucrative College Textbook Business?

14 April 2014

From Fast Company:

College students today stream movies from Netflix, queue up music on Spotify, and order late-night snacks on Seamless. But when it comes to buying textbooks, many students are still doing things the old-fashioned way: buying pricy paper copies from the campus bookstore at the start of the semester, then selling them back for a fraction of the purchase price when classes are done.

E-books were supposed to be a panacea, but the Kindle and iPad went mainstream and still relief never came. Companies trying to disrupt the industry say it has evolved slower than other content fields because the market is more indirect.

You see, textbook publishers market to professors who pick the books, not students who pay for them–where Apple and Amazon have traditionally directed their marketing. The key to innovation, these companies say, is to not try to beat the big publishing houses at their own game.

. . . .

“Unlike with ordering dinner, students, especially younger students, are very unwilling to do what they perceive could put them at a disadvantage,” says Frank, whose company operates a combination textbook marketplace and price-comparison engine. “They really just want to get off on the right foot.”

. . . .

“The textbook sales cycle is kind of like the pharmaceutical sales cycle,” says Ariel Diaz, the CEO of Boundless, which develops interactive,cross-platform textbooks. “The one making the decision is not the one making the purchase.”

And, says Chegg’s Schultz, traditional publishers developing e-textbooks often contribute their own institutional inertia and just aim to render the successful print version on a screen, not build a new, interactive product.

“In general, publishers are saying don’t mess with my book — I just want you to create a digital representation of that same thing I sell in print,” he says. “I’m losing the ability to create experiences for the student like ‘turn my book into a flash card set’ or ‘turn my book into an image gallery, so I can just use the images to study from.’”

. . . .

Similarly, Boundless began by marketing its books directly to students as a low-cost supplement or alternative to their assigned textbooks, says Diaz. Boundless’ textbook content is generally available for free under a Creative Commons license, and for $20 per book, students get the full interactive package with additional study tools.

“I think the key is to find innovative ways to reach the market,” he says, explaining some students use Boundless’ interactive books to study and then borrow a copy of an assigned textbook from a friend or the college library solely for the homework problems in the book.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Delaware grandfather writes his own hilarious obit

16 March 2014

From USA Today:

After Walter George Bruhl Jr. died Sunday at the age of 80, his family discovered he had written his own obituary.

The obit opens with, “Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person, he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible, he has expired and gone to meet his maker,” referencing a Monty Python sketch.

Grandson Sam Bruhl wrote on Facebook, “Typical of my PopPop: he cut out the middleman and wrote his own … obituary. He’s the only man I’ve ever known to be able to add his own humor like this.”

. . . .

Bruhl requested that he be cremated since his wife refused to honor his request — “to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so that he would appear natural to visitors.”

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

This item raised questions in PG’s mind – Should authors write their own obituaries? Do they need their editor’s help? Would a sci-fi author’s obit differ from someone who wrote romance? Are zombies ever appropriate?

Does their agent get a cut? Are they required to offer the obit to their publisher before it appears in the newspaper? What about a separate obituary for the pen name?

Booksellers warn publishers over direct selling

14 March 2014

From The Bookseller:

Direct-selling to institutions by publishers proved a thorny issue at the Bookseller Association’s Academic, Professional and Specialist conference in Brighton.

. . . .

Dan Johns . . .  the chairman of the BA’s academic group, warned he would stop providing publishers with vital information if they continued to sell directly to universities.

The owner of independent academic bookshop The University Bookseller, Plymouth, said the practice was like “self-killing” by publishers because it damaged the important and long-established relationships which have existed between publishers, booksellers and universities and undermined the market as a whole. “We have had great support in Plymouth from publishers so thank you for that – it has been a great year for you guys (publishers) and your reps,” he said. “However, I am aware that the relationship is being undermined by direct selling. It is incredibly short sighted. If I cannot put my trust in a publisher or a publisher’s rep, I will simply not communicate. I will order my books, but I will not tell you anymore than that. I need to know any information I give to you is not being used to get direct e-book sales.”

. . . .

The issue of Amazon’s dominance in the industry was also raised, with Prescott saying that while he wasn’t “having a bash at” the company itself, he thought the competition authorities, namely the Office of Fair Trading, had “singularly failed to see that Amazon’s 80-90% dominance of the e-book market in the UK  posed any sort of short to medium term dangers for our industry as a whole and by extension their customers”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Rubric

7 March 2014

From The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

rubric, n. and adj.

. . . .

n.

I. Something traditionally written in red, and related uses.

a. A direction in a liturgical book as to how a church service should be conducted, traditionally written or printed in red ink.

. . . .

1649   Milton Εικονοκλαστης xiii. 130   Was it not he, who..with his Sword went about to engrave a bloody Rubric on thir backs?

. . . .
b. An established custom; a set of rules, an injunction; a general prescription.
. . . .

1891   N.Y. Times 28 Sept. 4/5   It is the duty of independents—the duty of all voters—..to..‘weigh the merits and demerits of each candidate and each party’… No better rubric of conduct could be laid down.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

Nippy Sweetie

26 January 2014

From the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

nippy sweetie, n.

. . . .

 1. A drink of spirits, esp. of whisky; whisky.

. . . .

1985   M. Munro Patter 49   How about a nippie sweetie to finish off?

. . . .

2. A sharp-tongued or peevish person, esp. a woman.

. . . .

1992   Herald (Glasgow) (Nexis) 17 Feb. 18,   I was informed by the clerkess, a real nippy sweetie if ever there was one, that they had doled out some 11,000 punts that day.

. . . .

3. A sharp-tasting sweet, or one which makes the mouth hot.

. . . .

1994   Scotsman (Electronic ed.) 16 June,   Latest smart thing to do for the rich young German is to suck a Fisherman’s Friend. For some reason the original nippy sweetie has become a trendy accessory in the land of 1,000 types of sausage.

Link to the rest at Oxford English Dictionary

Language by the Book, but the Book Is Evolving

23 January 2014

From The New York Times:

To compile a dictionary of nearly every word in the English language was an endeavor typical of Victorian times, complete with white-bearded gentlemen, utter confidence and an endearingly plodding pace. After a quarter-century, the first installment emerged in 1884. Its contents? “A to Ant.”

In our own impatient age, the Oxford English Dictionary is touch-typing toward a third edition, with 619,000 words defined so far, online updates every three months and a perma-gush of digital data to sort through. Graybeards are scarce today at its open-plan office, just earnest editors frowning at flat screens, occasionally whispering to their neighbors. For all the words here, few are spoken aloud.

This hush aside, change is afoot at the O.E.D. For the first time in 20 years, the venerable dictionary has a new chief editor, Michael Proffitt, who assumes the responsibility of retaining the vaunted traditions while ensuring relevance in an era of Googled definitions and text talk.

. . . .

 “My idea about dictionaries is that, in a way, their time has come,” he said. “People need filters much more than they did in the past.”

. . . .

 The O.E.D. has stood apart, partly for authoritative definitions but chiefly for its unmatched historical quotations, which trace usage through time. The first edition, proposed in 1858 with completion expected in 10 years, was only finished 70 years later, in 1928. The second edition came out in 1989, at a length of 21,730 pages. Work on the third started in 1994, with hope of completion in 2005. That was off slightly — by about 32 years, according to the current guess of 2037.

. . . .

 For all the tech talk, certain analog ways linger at the dictionary, notably in the Quotes Room, a repository of word citations on little slips of paper, many mailed in decades ago by volunteers around the world, the most prolific of whom are identified by their distinctive handwriting and referred to fondly by editors: “That’s a Laski,” or “This one’s from Collier in Australia.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

When doctors prescribe books to heal the mind

27 December 2013

From The Boston Globe:

More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Fewer than half receive any treatment; even fewer have access to psychotherapy. Around the turn of the millennium, antidepressants became the most prescribed kind of drug in the United States. In the United Kingdom, 1 in 6 adults has taken one.

But what if a scientist were to discover a treatment that required minimal time and training to administer, and didn’t have the side effects of drugs? In 2003, a psychiatrist in Wales became convinced that he had. Dr. Neil Frude noticed that some patients, frustrated by year-long waits for treatment, were reading up on depression in the meantime. And of the more than 100,000 self-help books in print, a handful often seemed to work.

This June, the National Health Service launched a program that’s allowing doctors across England to act upon Frude’s insight. The twist is that the books are not just being recommended, they’re being “prescribed.” If your primary care physician diagnoses you with “mild to moderate” depression, one of her options is now to scribble a title on a prescription pad. You take the torn-off sheet not to the pharmacy but to your local library, where it can be exchanged for a copy of“Overcoming Depression,” “Mind Over Mood,” or “The Feeling Good Handbook.” And depression is only one of over a dozen conditions treated. Other titles endorsed by the NHS include “Break Free from OCD,” “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway,” “Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e),” and “How to Stop Worrying.”

The NHS’s Books on Prescription program is only the highest-profile example of a broader boom in “bibliotherapy.” The word is everywhere in Britain this year, although—or because—it means different things to different people. In London, a painter, a poet, and a former bookstore manager have teamed up to offer over-the-counter “bibliotherapy consultations”: after being quizzed about their literary tastes and personal problems, the worried well-heeled pay 80 pounds for a customized reading list. The NHS’s own promotion of reading goes beyond self-help books. Its Mood-Boosting Books program recommends fiction and poetry. Its public health and mental health budgets fund nonprofits such as The Reader Organization, which gathers people who are unemployed, imprisoned, old, or just lonely to read poems and fiction aloud to one another.

. . . .

In 1916, the clergyman Samuel Crothers coined the term “bibliotherapy,” positing tongue-in-cheek that “a book may be a stimulant or a sedative or an irritant or a soporific.” In the intervening century, doctors, nurses, librarians, and social workers have more seriously championed “bibliopathy,” “bibliocounseling,” “biblioguidance,” and “literatherapy”—all variations on the notion that reading can heal.

Only recently, however, have the mental health effects of one genre—self-help books—been rigorously studied. As early as 1997, a randomized trial found bibliotherapy supervised by therapists no less effective in treating unipolar depression than individual or group therapy. More surprisingly, a 2007 literature review by the same researcher found that books treated anxiety just as effectively without a therapist’s guidance as with it. A 2004 meta-analysis comparing bibliotherapy for anxiety and depression to short-term talk therapy found books “as effective as professional treatment of relatively short duration.”

Link to the rest at The Boston Globe (this article may disappear behind a paywall)

OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?

22 December 2013

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

Do you know which words entered the English language around the same time you entered the world? Use our OED birthday word generator to find out! We’ve scoured the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to find words with a first known usage for each year from 1900 to 2004. Simply select the relevant decade and click on your birth year to discover a word which entered the English language that year.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

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