Books in General

Crochety Comment Handling

4 December 2019

A couple of weeks ago, PG installed a new forms plugin on TPV for comments. The plugin was highly-rated and ranked on a variety of testing sites. PG’s former forms plugin wasn’t being supported or updated any more and, as PG has mentioned elsewhere, TPV receives thousands of spam comments each week.

In connection with the install, PG activated a Recaptcha function on the plugin.

Since that time, PG has had some complaints from long-time visitors to TPV whose opinions he respects to the effect that commenting has become too difficult.

A few minutes ago, PG dialed back the plugin’s security settings and disabled Recaptcha to hopefully make the process of leaving comments easier. As he has said several times before, comments are the best part of TPV and he wants those who would like to share thoughts to be able to do so without a lot of hassles.

Feel free to send an email or comment concerning whether the changed settings have removed the petty aggravations involved in commenting.

Road-weary but Back

3 December 2019

PG has been reminded that the United States is a large country and that even if you only drive across about 30% of the nation, it’s a long way.

However, a good night’s sleep has ameliorated the effects of white-line fever and road food and, although PG’s first glimpse of his office this morning prompted an impulse for a clean-up binge, he’ll do a few posts instead.

Black Friday

29 November 2019

For visitors from outside of the United States, yesterday was Thanksgiving Day, typically the second most-observed holiday in the US.

Since Thanksgiving is celebrated on a Thursday at the end of November each year and most major employers give their employees the Friday following Thanksgiving off to enable a four-day weekend, the Friday following Thanksgiving has been claimed as Black Friday by retailers across the country.

Black Friday is usually kicked off when a retailer opens earlier than by retailers who start the Christmas shopping season with a great many discounted items, particularly early in the day, to encourage shoppers to come to spend their money. The term, “Black Friday,” originated with the fact that some retailers sell enough on this day and following days through the end of the year to become profitable T the year (moving from “in the red” to “in the black”) for the first time during the calendar year.

TPV has not experienced any sort of black day, but it has recently had an uptick in attacks from random places attempting to penetrate and take over control of the site.

PG does not suspect this is part of any nefarious scheme by enemies of TPV to take over an advocate for the better treatment of authors, but rather just computer-generating random probing of a large number of websites by those who want to post spam on as many websites and mailing lists as possible.

TPV is also impacted by large numbers of spam members who sign up for the site by a bloated list of members which, in turn, increases the size of the WordPress databases which do the heavy data lifting for its day-in/day-out operations and can affect the responsiveness of the site for legitimate users.

PG has tried a few different commenting plugins to help manage this problem, but isn’t entirely happy with any of them, a sentiment shared by some commenters whose opinions PG respects.

One of the factors that contribute to this problem is a WordPress theme for the blog that PG and many visitors like for its appearance. The creator of the theme gave notice a few years ago that he would no longer be updating or supporting the theme and its increasingly antique infrastructure doesn’t help with responsiveness and site protection.

After several false starts, PG believes that he has found a theme that is fast, well-designed and supported and will provide a nice update for TPV. He’s still checking it out and playing with it on a dummy site, but hopes to roll it out during the next few weeks, It will not mirror the current theme, but will carry over an older bookish appearance.

PG would normally use the Thanksgiving downtime in the book biz (he’s not a participant in Black Friday) to bring the new site along.

However, there are PG offspring about who rightfully expect his time and attention and he greatly appreciates time spent with them, so, other than shutting off a couple of annoying comment plugins, he won’t be making big changes to TPV for a few days.

Here’s a photo of one of the PG offspring that he took a couple of days ago. You may see why PG’s attention should go to her and her siblings.


What Tweets and Emojis Did to the Novel

26 November 2019

From The New York Times:

Until the 2010s, if you were reading, it generally meant you weren’t doing it online. Though change had been in the offing, this was the decade that irreversibly altered how we consume text — when the smartphone transformed from a marvel to a staple. Suddenly, the sharpest cultural and political analysis came in the form of a distracted boyfriend meme. Racists deployed a playful cartoon frog to sugar their messages. From the Arab Spring onward, the best reporters were often panicked bystanders with Twitter accounts.

One of the strangest effects of this transition was that it rekindled very ancient human behaviors. The scroll, one of the earliest technologies for reading, returned, as did the oldest form of writing, the ideogram, reincarnated in the emoji panel. In this weird, narrow sense, opening a paperback in 2019 was more modern than texting with your friends.

That seems ridiculous right until it spills over into being obvious. After all, who could contest the idea that communications, behind a ceaseless inflow of data, have been continually evolving to target ever more primitive brain functions? Think of the obscurely nauseous casino ping of tugging downward on Instagram and seeing it refresh with a notification, the instant dopamine rush. The scroll and the ideogram died out because of their simplicity, only to have been revived for that reason. The scroll is a frictionless waterfall on the screen. And while an entire alphabet of ideograms would be unusably bulky, a handful of key ones, scattered into our language, condense thousands of complicated reactions into a few dozen universal symbols.

It would seem as if few times in history could be less hospitable to literature. Not even 20 years ago we mostly read about things in lag, on thin slices of tree, whereas now we do — well, this, whatever this is. Yet instead of technology superannuating literature once and for all, it seems to have created a new space in our minds for it.

. . . .

The novel thrives on social repercussions, and the fiction that was fashionable during the first 10 years of the century was no exception. Writers produced big, clever, glossy sagas of family and friendship, in a fretfully bravura style that reached its fullest expression in books like “White Teeth,” by Zadie Smith; “The Corrections,” by Jonathan Franzen; and “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” by Jennifer Egan. They were irradiated by the conviction that an author could observe life at the turn of the millennium and repackage it for readers with a set of decisive, fine-grained interpretations.

. . . .

By contrast, Knausgaard and Ferrante promise so little. But they give it. Each recounts, in the close first person, the inside of a human life. That’s something innumerable writers have done, obviously, but they seemed to do it in a newly dangerous way — with a pitiless, dispassionate modesty of ambition. Neither narrator extrapolates larger truths from experience. Both trust themselves as far as their own fingertips; Ferrante portrays the intricate social world of working-class Naples, but in a state of constantly renewed bafflement, while Knausgaard (“He broke the sound barrier of the autobiographical novel,” the novelist Jeffrey Eugenides told a reporter for The New Republic) abandons almost all narrative pretense to describe his time on earth as straightforwardly as he can.

The effect this method had on me, and I believe on many people, was one of immediate trust and identification. Somewhere in the stretch between Sept. 11, 2001, and the 2016 election, such limited claims to certainty came to seem not unambitious, but like the only sane rejoinder to the world as it had become. And the length of the books — their uncompressed, occasionally boring plots — created a profound new version of the self-forgetting that the best stories give us. To read Knausgaard or Ferrante, or indeed other writers of what critics have called autofiction, such as Teju Cole and Rachel Cusk, was less to enter a story than to spend a while as another person.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

For the record, PG frequently reads think pieces in The New York Times as science fiction or installments in the always-growing neurotic autodidact genre.

Canada’s Book Club Memberships Have Doubled This Year

26 November 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

The BookNet Canada statistical research service reports that between 2018 and the first three quarters of 2019, “the percentage of Canadian book buyers who belong to a book club or reading group jumped from 7 to 14 percent.”

As the organization points out, the driver may be assumed by many to be celebrity. BookNet itself has a page of articles from the last two years, each headlined with a “new Oprah?” question—”Is Obama the New Oprah?” and “Is Jenna Bush Hager the New Oprah?” and “Is Reese Witherspoon the New Oprah?” and so on.

But, in fact, the old Oprah may have less to worry about than such giddy excitement might indicate.

“Results from BookNet Canada’s surveying of Canadian book club members,” according to media messaging, “shows that less than half (47 percent) are members of a celebrity book club.

“Among these, Oprah reigns supreme (46 percent), followed by Emma Watson (26 percent), Emma Roberts (20 percent), and Sarah Jessica Parker and Reese Witherspoon tied at 17 percent each.”

. . . .

“Another myth busted by the study,” the BookNet staff writes, “is the stereotype of the in-it-for-the-wine book club.”

In terms of those who responded:

  • 64 percent of book club members reported that they joined their clubs mainly to talk about books
  • 56 percent said their main reason was to be exposed to new books
  • 50 percent cited meeting new friends as a lure
  • 39 percent said they’d like to meet up with existing friends
  • 31 percent said they’d joined a book club because they were interested in taking about life

In the question of how respondents chose their clubs, “The key influencers for members who suggested picks to their clubs were word-of-mouth (52 percent), bookstores (49 percent), and libraries (44 percent),” say the researchers.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG wonders if this is a Canadians-only thing or if something like this is happening elsewhere.


23 November 2019

PG apologizes for those who are having problems with signing in.

He’ll look for an alternate solution that is easier to deal with.

Light Blogging Today

21 November 2019
Comments Off on Light Blogging Today

PG’s posts will be a little lighter than usual today.

He should be back to his usual disreputable form tomorrow.

Change to Comment Form

20 November 2019

PG just received a message expressing concern over his recent change to the process by which visitors can comment on TPV.

His purpose was to help avoid comment spam, which has been flowing in at increasing volumes, so he activated a sign-in plugin and added ReCaptcha to the comment form. There are some other spammy activities circling around the blog for which PG is looking for a solution.

PG has never and will never share emails or other information concerning those who visit TPV absent a court order to do so (which he doesn’t anticipate receiving any time soon). If anyone who has provided this information to TPV would like it removed, PG will do so if he receives a request from such individual.

If any visitors know about a better solution to comment spam than the one PG has installed, he would be happy to hear about it in a message.

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