21 Excellent Books with Happy Endings

From BookRiot:

If there’s ever been a time to escape into book with happy endings, it’s now. 2020 is not the time for novels that ambush us with anything less than that. Romance novels are a good bet – a happy ending being the defining attribute of the genre – and so, in a way, are murder mysteries, where we know the killer will be caught and justice will be done. At Book Riot, we’ve put together a list of books with happy endings for a heartwarming read. No spoilers here, so I won’t tell you why the ending is happy – though in some cases, like those romance novels, it’s more obvious than others.

. . . .

THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER BY EMILY X. R. PAN

Although the theme of this book is grief, the ending is redemptive – after losing her mother to suicide, Leigh Chen Sanders finds herself through family history, art, and love.

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL BY ABBI WAXMAN

This book made me feel like I’d been hugged when I finished it. It’s the perfect tonic for these times – the story of a young, introverted bookworm whose life is turned upside down when she discovers a whole family she never knew she had. She also meets a boy at her trivia night and has to help her bookstore fight closure, but beyond all the adventures it’s the warm and witty voice that really does it for me.

. . . .

THE COLOR OF BEE LARKHAM’S MURDER BY SARAH J. HARRIS

Jasper is face blind. He also has synaesthesia, which means he sees the world in more colour than neurotypical people: feelings can be red, and voices can be cobalt blue, like his mother’s, whom he deeply misses. This one is a mystery with a happy ending – it’s not just about solving the mystery of Bee Larkham’s murder, but also about Jasper growing, and his dad learning to

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Comments vs. Spam Filter

PG found some comments by long-time visitors to TPV that for some reason, became enmeshed in the TPV spam folder.

TPV has been receiving particularly large amounts of spam lately (as well increased numbers of hack attacks from various parts of the world), so, perhaps the guardians of the blog have become exhausted and a bit inaccurate.

All is fixed and the wrongly-accused comments have been approved. PG apologizes on behalf of his system, including its various servers and each of its guardians.

In Pandemic, Dystopian Fiction Loses Its Luster for Editors

From Publishers Weekly:

The big adult fiction title of this past fall was Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. The sequel to the author’s 1985 bestseller The Handmaid’s Tale was unveiled with a 500,000-copy first printing. At the time, The Handmaid’s Tale was benefitting from a surge of interest in its wildly popular TV adaptation on Hulu, and from a renewed interest in dystopian tales following the election of Donald Trump. Now, with the globe seized by a pandemic and millions of Americans hunkered down because of shelter-at-home orders, editors say they are interested in lighter fare—mostly.

So what are publishers interested in buying during a pandemic? According to a number of editors and agents who specialize in adult commercial fiction, escapism is on the rise, to an extent.

“This is the question I think we’re all dealing with right now,” said Harper editor Sara Nelson, when asked if she’s looking for different kinds of books since the Covid-19 outbreak. “On the one hand, we’re so obsessed with our current moment that it’s hard to know what we, let alone most readers, will want to read a year, or a year and a half, from now. I don’t generally buy dystopian fiction anyway, but I am pretty sure I won’t find dystopian novels appealing for the near future.”

Nelson, who has always loved historical fiction (among her notable acquisitions in the genre is Heather Morris’s bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz), added that she is taking even more comfort in these types of books now as “reading about the past becomes even more appealing as we slide into the murky future.”

Peter Steinberg, an agent at Foundry Literary + Media, said, “When there’s an unexpected shift in society, I think it has an almost real-time effect on editors’ buying habits. Because of the overwhelming nature of Covid-19, escapism is one of the better ways to elicit those intense emotions.”

But many agents and editors warned that escapism is an incredibly broad term—one that makes room for everything from romantic comedies to dark thrillers.

. . . .

When asked what she’s looking to buy right now, Jennifer Enderlin, executive v-p and publisher of St. Martin’s Press, said, “In terms of fiction, I wouldn’t say editors want more uplifting books over thrillers or tear-jerkers.” But, she added, “bad-news books, not so much.”

For Enderlin, the term escapism is problematic, insofar as it confers a certain levity. That, she explained, is not necessarily what she wants now. “Escapism doesn’t have to mean fluffy or light. It can be searing, devastating, romantic, suspenseful, hilarious, or transporting.” She noted that she is seeing a huge uptick in sales of her author Kristin Hannah’s 2015 bestseller The Nightingale, which Enderlin described as a “box-of-tissues read.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

From “A Way with Words“:

The job of a network executive has never been easy. Picking a hit is a tall order even for someone with what the industry likes to call a “golden gut”—a knack for sniffing out what’s likely to sell.» —“NBC Seeks Vision of TV’s Future” by Ronald Grover BusinessWeek May 1, 2009.

PG suggests that the golden gut approach to product design and selection is one that is fraught with the potential for serious mistakes. Particularly when acquisition editors at traditional publishers are making decisions about books that are unlikely to appear before a couple of years from now, the view of someone living in a relatively-fashionable part of New York City about what readers will want may be wrong.

Given the social and educational uniformity among New York City publishing executives and editors, their ignorance of serious readers more than 50 miles west of NYC is often profound. For example, what do the editors quoted in the OP know about the tastes of readers in:

  • Ithaca, New York
  • Pittsfield, Massachusetts
  • Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
  • Ames, Iowa
  • Watertown-Fort Drum, New York

These were The Five Most Well-Read Cities in the United States according to a 24/7 Wall Street study published in 2018. (For the benefit of visitors to TPV who are a little vague about Ithaca and Watertown-Fort Drum, Ithaca is about 230 miles from NYC and Watertown-Fort Drum is about 310 miles from NYC. Both cities are closer to Canada than they are to NYC. (Since PG has never visited either Ithaca or Watertown-Ford Drum, he can’t say for certain, but he would bet good money that each place is very unlike NYC.)

A few quotes from the study:

According to the Pew Research Center, only about 1 in 4 Americans read a book in the last year. That statistic includes e-books and audiobooks, not just the printed word.

. . . .

24/7 Wall St. reviewed a number of measures associated with literacy to determine which American metropolitan areas are most likely to read books on a regular basis. These include the presence of public libraries in a city, residents’ education level, and the presence of higher learning institutions. The best-read cities range from small cities like Ithaca, New York to major metropolitan centers like New York CIty and Boston.

According to Pew’s research, households with higher incomes are significantly more likely to read books on a regular basis. In most of the metropolitan areas to make this list, the typical household income well exceeds the national median household income.

According to the same Pew study, approximately 1 in 5 Americans have never visited a library. And slightly less than half of all Americans have been to one in the past year.

Educational attainment has a significant impact on how likely Americans are to read on a regular basis. Almost 60% of those with a college education visited a library within the last 12 months, but that figure drops to less than 40% for those with no more than a high school diploma.

To determine the most well-read cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a number of measures associated with literacy to determine which American metropolitan areas are most likely to read on a regular basis. Our estimate for the number of public libraries per 100,000 people is based on library listings in the American Library Directory, population estimates are the most recent available, and are from the U.S. Census Bureau. We also looked at education levels and income figures, from the Census Bureau’s 2016 one-year American Community Survey. The number of college and universities in the surrounding county of each city came from the U.S. Department of Education. All age estimates are just that — estimates.

So, where did New York City, center of American trade publishing rank as a well-read city?

#17

Manhattan (Kansas) ranked #6. (The better-read Manhattan is over 1,300 miles from the laggard.)

Once again, PG has ranted for longer than he should have, so he will conclude with his contention that indie authors as a group understand the tastes of readers in the United States far better than Manhattan editors do.

From a his dealings with several of them, PG believes that top-selling indie authors understand their genres and what readers of their genre will look for in a book far, far better than anyone sitting in a tall building in New York City does.

How Book Publishers Decided To Move Publication Dates During The COVID-19 Pandemic

From Forbes:

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused bookstores across the United States to close indefinitely, many publishers decided to push back select publication dates for their titles in order to give them the best chance to succeed in the marketplace. Three publishers shared in interviews how they went about making these decisions and how they’ve approached marketing newly released titles during this time.

Emily Bestler, EVP and publisher of Simon & Schuster imprint Emily Bestler Books, said that every Simon & Schuster imprint has changed some publication dates. The process started in mid-March, after the publisher made the decisions for workers to stay at home. Bestler said that since demand for books by well-known authors has been high during the pandemic, some books had their publication dates moved up, such as novel Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner (Atria), which was published two weeks early, on May 5. Other Atria titles shifted many months forward, such as essay collection Keep Moving by Maggie Smith, which moved from May 5 to October 6, and memoir Everybody (Else) is Perfect by Gabrielle Korn and nonfiction Bad Medicine by Charlotte Bismuth, which both moved from June 2020 to January 2021 publication dates.

. . . .

“For books whose authors we planned to tour, it made sense to move some of those back and wait for travel restrictions to ease, and stores to reopen,” said Bestler. “Certain non-fiction titles dealt with subjects that would perhaps be overlooked during this period or were heavily dependent on media coverage which is no longer available, at least for the time being.” Bestler said the process was done “in collaboration with production, publishing, sales, publicity, editorial and author and agent.”

Link to the rest at Forbes

How The Publishing World Is Staying Afloat During The Pandemic

From HuffPost:

As social distancing reportedly provides the perfect opportunity to, depending on one’s authorial aspirations, either write or finally read “King Lear,” book publishing may seem like the rare industry well-suited to a world altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve had friends and family who are completely outside of the publishing industry be like, ‘This must be a great time for book sales!’” Stephanie Wrobel, whose debut novel “Darling Rose Gold” came out on March 5, said wryly. “I have to be the one to burst the bubble.”

In practice, nothing is quite so simple — and the publishing industry, like nearly every other, is struggling. Last month, not long after scooping up Woody Allen’s controversial memoir, Skyhorse Publishing laid off 30% of its staff. Macmillan Publishers shut down an imprint, instituted salary reductions and laid off a number of employees. Indie bookstores like Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, and McNally Jackson in New York City have also laid off staff, though Powell’s later rehired salespeople to ship online orders.

The inexpert among us are getting a crash course right now in supply chains and revenue streams. Despite the current demand for hospital resources and news media, for example, both industries are facing a financial crunch thanks to lost elective procedures and ad revenue, respectively. And though a book may begin and end as a solitary experience, from a writer’s mind to a reader’s hands, the publishing industry is an ecosystem vulnerable to the pandemic just like so many others, one threaded together by bookstores, festivals, warehouses, delivery trucks and, of course, customers with money to spend.

. . . .

For other authors, with release dates falling amid lockdowns, none of the in-person parties and readings are coming to fruition. Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have brought tours, parties and festival appearances to an abrupt halt, leaving authors, particularly less-established ones, scrambling to sell their books.

Link to the rest at HuffPost

But wait!

PG thought one of the jobs of publishers was to sell the books they publish.

If it’s up to authors to scramble to sell their books, what value exactly do the publishers add to the mix?

When Amazon is by far the largest bookseller in the parts of the world PG knows anything about?

Well, publishers arrange book-signings . . . at physical bookstores that sell a smaller and smaller percentage of total books sold. (Cue ominous Amazon music)

Well, publishers get reviewers to provide book reviews, which appear in newspapers (declining circulation) and magazines (ditto), and reviews drive readers to buy books (on Amazon, where there are zillions of reviews written by actual fans of romance or science fiction)

But printed books! The sensuous feeling when your delicate fingers lightly slide over the pages and feel the price tag on the back!

PG is not very imaginative today, but has no trouble thinking of dozens of things which are not books for his delicate fingers to slide over if he’s in that sort of mood.

PG recently made the mistake of purchasing an excellent physical book by one of PG’s most favorite authors.

It’s a history. Of World War II. With lots of details and comparisons between battles in World War II and the Athenians vs. the Spartans, the Second Punic and Jugurthine Wars, Yorktown, Napoleon, etc., etc. Plus it has 122 pages of end matter.

It’s a great book and, like a lot of PG’s favorite books, about one brick thick (in paperback).

However, it’s just not that fun to hold and, should PG absent-mindedly put it down without inserting a bookmark, it will take him several minutes to relocate his place. (PG realizes that this is a first-world problem, but that’s where he lives.)

PG’s Kindle Paperwhite, which is his favorite reading device (much lighter than an iPad and without incoming text messages, plus it just sips on its battery), is a device designed for one purpose, reading books.

Reading a 1200-page book on the Paperwhite feels just the same as reading a 150-page book. Absent the intervention of one of PG’s younger offspring, the Paperwhite always lights up where PG stopped reading. It won’t fit in a pants pocket, but does slide nicely into the pockets of most of PG’s coats if he wants to read somewhere else.

The only downside to the Paperwhite that PG can think of offhand is that, unlike a collection of books, a Paperwhite doesn’t make a good backdrop during a Zoom videoconference.

Twisted Siblings and the New Era of Psychological Thrillers

From Crime Reads:

Ah, sibling rivalry…something anyone with a brother or sister is likely to understand. The arguments, the jealousy, and in my case at least, the hastily scribbled not-so-nice notes shoved under my older sister’s bedroom door when I was eight. While many of us thankfully grow closer to our siblings as we get older and wiser, it’s no surprise past experiences are fuel for the writer’s imagination, allowing us to tread the darker paths (hopefully) never taken. Mysteries and psychological thrillers are perfect for creating and exploring these twisted relationships. After all, a character’s deeply rooted animosity can fester for decades before exploding and unleashing all kinds of evil wrath on their unsuspecting family members. Here’s a list of ten older, more recent and new sibling stories to take you on a wild ride.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (September 1962)

Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood is eighteen and lives in a big house on large grounds with her older sister Constance, and their wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian. Six years prior, Merricat’s parents, aunt and younger brother died after they were poisoned, and young Constance was suspected of killing them. But did she do it? And how do the surviving family members cope with the increasingly hostile villagers who’d rather see them all burn? This was Jackson’s final work before she died in 1965, age 48.

. . . .

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday, November 2018)

The title alone of this book had me clambering for a copy. Korede’s sister, Ayoola, has a habit of, uh, “dispatching” boyfriends, and alleging self-defense. Korede knows it’s anything but. Now Korede’s expected to help clear up another of her sister’s messes instead of going straight to the police, and she helps Ayoola because she loves her… But what will happen when Ayoola starts dating the doctor Korede’s been in love with for quite some time? What will Korede do and who will she choose to save? Wholly original and utterly surprising.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

How the Black Death Gave Rise to British Pub Culture

From Atlas Obscura:

“I’ll buy you a beer when this is all over,” declares Christo Tofalli, the landlord of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which lays claim to the contentious title of Britain’s oldest pub and is no stranger to pandemics. While closed, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the historic city of Saint Albans, has become a Community Supply Point, providing much-needed groceries and offering free delivery to the elderly. They are even delivering Sunday Roast dinners to residents in lockdown. The threat posed by coronavirus may feel unprecedented, but Tofalli, who manages the pub, says he has been looking to the past for inspiration.

In the summer of 1348, which was some hard-to-specify number of centuries after Ye Olde Fighting Cocks served its first beer, the Black Death appeared on the southern shores of England. By the end of 1349, millions lay dead, victims of what medieval historian Norman Cantor describes unflinchingly in In the Wake of Plague as “the greatest biomedical disaster in European and possibly in world history.”

Medieval society could muster little response, Cantor writes, except to “Pray very hard, quarantine the sick, run away, or find a scapegoat to blame for the terror.” Nobility and wealth was no defense: Princess Joan of England was struck down on her way to marry in Spain, while the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury perished shortly after being ordained by the Pope. The plague even halted (temporarily) the perpetual conflict between the French and English.

This pestilence returned repeatedly too; Cantor writes that “there were at least three waves of the Black Death falling upon England over the century following 1350.”

According to historian Robert Tombs, author of The English and Their History, one of the many repercussions was especially pertinent to establishments like Ye Olde Fighting Cocks: the rise of pub culture in England.

. . . .

When the plague arrived in 1348, drinking beer was already a fundamental component of Englishness. In his tome, Tombs writes that the English fighting the Norman invaders at Hastings in 1066 were suffering from hangovers. Drinking was even enshrined into the Magna Carta of 1215, which “called for uniform measures of ale.”

Drinking pre-Black Death, though, was comparably amateurish. In Man Walks Into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer, beer journalist Pete Brown writes that “Society revolved around popular celebrations known as ‘ales’: bride-ales, church-ales … were gatherings where plenty of alcohol was drunk, and they frequently degenerated into mayhem.” Anyone could brew up a batch of ale in their home, and standards and strengths varied wildly. Homebrewed ale was advertised with “an ale stake,” Brown adds, which consisted of “a pole covered with some kind of foliage above the door.”

By the 1370s, though, the Black Death had caused a critical labor shortage, the stark consequence of some 50 percent of the population perishing in the plague. Eventually, this proved a boon for the peasantry of England, who could command higher wages for their work and achieve higher standards of living. As a result, the alehouses that were simply households selling or giving away leftover ale were replaced by more commercialized, permanent establishments set up by the best brewers and offering better food.

. . . .

“The survivors [of the Black Death] prioritized expenditure on foodstuffs, clothing, fuel, and domestic utensils,” writes Professor Mark Bailey of the University of East Anglia, who also credits the plague for the rise of pub culture, over email. “They drank more and better quality ale; ate more and better quality bread; and consumed more meat and dairy produce. Alongside this increased disposable income, they also had more leisure time.”

. . . .

In spirit, though, the pub was there. Peasants had the time and money for better food, drink, and leisure. “More ale was drunk, and beer (with hops) was introduced from the Low Countries. Brewing became more commercialized, with taverns and alehouses for drinking and playing games,” writes Tombs. “The English pub was born.”

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

What now for authors?

From The Bookseller:

Sanjana Varghese had been working as a freelance journalist in London for around a year when the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

As countries around the world went into lockdown, many organisations froze their commissioning budgets, while others halted business entirely. Several of the pieces Varghese had been working on were cut as a result, having a “huge impact” on both her finances and her level of stress. As both a migrant and someone relatively new to freelancing, she was ineligible for support from the British government. 

“It was really stressful for a while – and it still is,” she says. “I’m increasingly uncertain that freelancing as we know it now will still exist in the same way in a couple of months. That’s something I spiral about when I’m left without something to do for too long.” 

One of the publications Varghese regularly wrote for has already shut down, again leading to increased anxiety about the future: “Basically, I try not to look at my emails too much because I’m anxious I’ll get one with, ‘Sorry, we’re shutting down’ in the subject line.” 

As a freelance writer, she is far from alone. Many currently working across journalism and publishing are facing similar anxieties when it comes to a shared uncertain future. But as a community used to going it alone, it’s a crisis that predates coronavirus. 

In many ways, freelance writers are prepared for periods of isolation. Hours are spent reading, researching or writing alone, while working from home away from the presence of colleagues is an everyday reality. For some it is liberating; for others, the total opposite.

Several of the issues people have faced since being confined to their homes are nothing new to freelancers. Epson research found that a quarter of freelancers had experienced depression, while almost half admitted to finding the experience lonely. On top of this, the publishing and media industries are also deeply unequal: 51 per cent of journalists and 80 per cent of editors are privately educated. For those without newspaper columns, cushy media jobs, family connections or six-figure book deals, lockdown – and its repercussions – have only heightened such disparity.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Regular visitors to TPV know what’s coming now.

As with hundreds of other indie authors, Mrs. PG has been working on her next book every day. The artist who creates her covers has been doing just about the same thing and did another great job on the cover for this next book.

As PG has mentioned in earlier comments, almost every indie author he’s communicated with since the lockdown happened has noticed Amazon sales going through the roof. Mrs. PG is expecting another nice royalty check in a few days and yet another next month.

When you freelance for a person who reports to another person who needs approval from a third person to offer you an advance and you sign a publishing contract promptly and send it back to your contact, time passes before you get anything in the email. How much time depends on a bunch of people who boss around the person with whom you have dealings.

Freelance journalists and photographers are all familiar with receiving messages from the person they’ve been working with saying there won’t be a contract after all. If the publication hasn’t signed the contract (and sometimes even if it has), there won’t even be a kill fee.

A human being

A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion….Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market gardeners.

George Orwell

Coronavirus Lockdowns Spark Boom in Online Learning for Adults, Too

Not exactly to do with books, but a possible way of making money by sharing knowledge included in a book or series of books through a different medium plus as a marketing tool to sell more books to help sell more books.

From The Wall Street Journal:

From her home in Portland, Ore., Peggy Dean perches her iPhone on a tripod and records five-minute lessons on subjects ranging from modern calligraphy to watercolor. Since the coronavirus struck, demand for her videos has soared, with viewing figures doubling from a year ago.

The business of selling skills online—from art to coding—has been booming during the pandemic. Online educators say adults are making time to learn during lockdown, joining millions of children and college students taking classes at home and adding to the raft of in-home activities gaining in popularity. Teachers say online learning was already growing, and lockdowns have accelerated that, but competition is coming from automated lessons powered by algorithms.

Ms. Dean, a former hair stylist, posts her videos along with roughly 6,000 other teachers to Skillshare Inc., a New York-based website that charges $99 a year for unlimited video classes. Ms. Dean, one of the site’s most-watched teachers, said she makes six figures from teaching online.

Daily viewers and time spent on Skillshare have more than tripled from last year, the company said. Revenue shared by teachers like Ms. Dean rose 12% between March and April, and the company expects it to rise again this month and next as free-trial users start paying up.

Last month, the site’s top teacher made $68,000 with videos about how to use Adobe software, said Skillshare, which has 500,000 paying subscribers. All teachers earn a cut of a royalty pool based on minutes watched, with the top 500 earning about $2,000 a month on average but most other teachers earning far less.

Ms. Dean, 33 years old, said she regularly speaks to other teachers on the site who say they are also getting more viewers. “We’re all seeing those minutes skyrocket,” she said, adding that her numbers have doubled to 475,000 minutes in April from last year.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Victorian novels to enjoy in lockdown

From The Spectator:

It’s the perfect opportunity to crack open those classics of 19th-century fiction you’ve always been meaning to read, and I am here to offer some recommendations. But there’s an immediate problem. Do I gesture towards the blindingly obvious? Or do I recommend a variety of obscure and arcane titles? The former strategy is liable only to insult your intelligence — of course you already know Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are worth reading — whereas the latter runs the risk of merely putting you off and making me seem pretentious. There is, though, a third way. What did the Victorians themselves reckon were the great authors of their age?

The answer, above all others, is Sir Walter Scott. I know nobody now reads him, but in the 19th century everybody did. It really is hard to overstate how popular he was. Henry Crabb Robinson, a friend of the great literary figures of his day, was, whatever else he was reading, always reading Scott — when he finished the last of the Waverley novels he would immediately start again with the first. Scott was the first international superstar of letters: the story goes that the Russian ambassador to London once asked whether Scotland had been named in his honor. That is why secondhand bookshops up and down the land carry complete sets of Waverley, a fact that indicates both his former ubiquity and the difficulty booksellers have nowadays in shifting him. I’m not sure I can think of another writer whose posthumous reputation has taken so precipitous a dive.

The reason people don’t read Scott anymore is that they think he’s prolix. They are right. There’s no getting around the fact: he’s a deeply prosy, long-winded writer. If the only thing that will hold your attention is a string of staccato action set-pieces you will surely struggle with him. But the secret to enjoying him is to accept this. Instead of impatiently yearning for things to hurry up, you need to surrender yourself to the prose, to sink into it as into a warm bath.

Critics sometimes recommend starting with the shorter, more action-filled novels such as the melodramatic The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), or the crusader romp The Talisman (1825) — uncharacteristic Scott, in other words. This is entirely to miss the point. Settle down instead to longer, steadier books such as The Antiquary (1816), Rob Roy (1817; not in the least like the Liam Neeson movie) or my personal favorite, The Heart of Midlothian (1818), the only novel to have a football team named after it. There’s nothing of soccer in this novel, mind you: it’s the tale of humble Effie Deans, accused of killing her baby, and of her remarkable sister Jeanie, who travels from Edinburgh to London on foot to seek her pardon. Know in advance that this novel is long and slow, but also that its very length and slowness build extraordinary emotional heft and momentum. Adjust yourself to its tempo. You’ll thank me later.

Link to the rest at The Spectator

Late Start

Apologies for the late start on posting today.

Everyone’s healthy at Casa PG. This morning, PG felt an irresistible compulsion to kill some weeds infesting the grounds of the PG Estate. He was a veritable avenging angel of vegetative destruction.

If Home Depot ever stocks a herbicide for the Covid virus, PG will pick up some right away and start fumigating the world.

This Person Does Not Exist

PG is not getting angsty, but a lot of people are. PG isn’t feeling particularly alienated, but a lot of people are.

So, what’s the ideal website for a person who doesn’t want angst or alienation cured, but would rather wallow a bit?

The title of the site is apt – This Person Does Not Exist.

First, a bit of lingo:

A generative adversarial network (GAN) is a class of machine learning frameworks

. . . .

Two neural networks contest with each other in a game (in the sense of game theory, often but not always in the form of a zero-sum game). Given a training set, this technique learns to generate new data with the same statistics as the training set. For example, a GAN trained on photographs can generate new photographs that look at least superficially authentic to human observers, having many realistic characteristics.

Wikipedia

So, you have two powerful computer networks in a constant duel that makes each one better at producing photographs of people who do not exist. If the two networks were located on a distant planet and had been adversarial competitors for millions of years with no contact with intelligent carbon-based life, you might have an interesting premise for a science fiction story.

Each one of these people is named a1.JPG

From This Person Does Not Exist:

You can prod the battling computer networks yourself by clicking on This Person Does Not Exist

An open letter to newspapers and other media outlets from the Authors Guild and the National Book Critics Circle

From The Authors Guild:

Media outlets in particular have been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, with many losing virtually all their advertising revenues overnight. This has forced many newspapers, websites and other media outlets to lay off or furlough staff and cut back on freelance assignments.

As one response to this revenue crisis, some outlets are reducing or eliminating book reviews. While we understand and truly sympathize with the grave financial pressures behind these decisions, we believe maintaining book coverage now will benefit readers, authors, reviewers and media outlets themselves. We encourage those outlets to continue to make space for the vital conversation around books in their coverage.

With many other forms of arts and entertainment inaccessible for now, more people than ever are looking for good books to read. Many bookstores and libraries are operating online only and unable to hold public events, and book festivals are being postponed or cancelled. 

As a result, authors with new books coming out face an unprecedented challenge in connecting with readership. Many of them have responded in innovative ways, such as virtual book events and streaming interviews. 

Still, authors depend, perhaps now more than ever, on book reviews, and readers look to the media for reviewers’ voices. Strong literary arts coverage not only benefits authors, but nourishes the entire literary ecosystem, including freelance reviewers, publishers, bookstores, libraries, literary agencies, editors, designers and everyone who contributes in one way or another to the world of books.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction

From The Paris Review:

There is no direct flight from New York City to Clinton, Ontario, the Canadian town of three thousand where Alice Munro lives most of the year. We left LaGuardia early on a June morning, rented a car in Toronto, and drove for three hours on roads that grew smaller and more rural. Around dusk, we pulled up to the house where Munro lives with her second husband, Gerry Fremlin. It has a deep backyard and an eccentric flower garden and is, as she explained, the house where Fremlin was born. In the kitchen, Munro was preparing a simple meal with fragrant local herbs. The dining room is lined floor to ceiling with books; on one side a small table holds a manual typewriter. It is here that Munro works.

After a while, Munro took us to Goderich, a bigger town, the county seat, where she installed us in the Bedford Hotel on the square across from the courthouse. The hotel is a nineteenth-century building with comfortable rooms (twin beds and no air-conditioning) that would seem to lodge a librarian or a frontier schoolteacher in one of Munro’s stories. Over the next three days, we talked in her home, but never with the tape recorder on. We conducted the interview in our small room at the hotel, as Munro wanted to keep “the business out of the house.” Both Munro and her husband grew up within twenty miles of where they now live; they knew the history of almost every building we passed, admired, or ate inside. We asked what sort of literary community was available in the immediate area. Although there is a library in Goderich, we were told the nearest good bookstore was in Stratford, some thirty miles away. When we asked whether there were any other local writers, she drove us past a ramshackle house where a man sat bare chested on the back stoop, crouched over a typewriter, surrounded by cats. “He’s out there every day,” she said. “Rain or shine. I don’t know him, but I’m dying of curiosity to find out what he’s up to.”

Our last morning in Canada, supplied with directions, we sought out the house in which Alice Munro had grown up. Her father had built the house and raised mink there. After several dead ends, we found it, a pretty brick house at the very end of a country road, facing an open field where an airplane rested, alighted temporarily it seemed. It was, from our spot, easy to imagine the glamor of the air, the pilot taking a country wife away, as in “White Dump,” or the young aviation stuntsman who lands in a field like this in “How I Met My Husband.”

Like the house, like the landscape of Ontario, which resembles the American Midwest, Munro is not imposing. She is gracious, with a quiet humor. She is the author of seven books of short stories, including the forthcoming Open Secrets, and one novel, Lives of Girls and Women; she has received the Governor-General’s Award (Canada’s most prestigious literary prize), and is regularly featured in Best American Short Stories (Richard Ford recently included two Alice Munro stories in the volume he edited), and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards; she also is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. Despite these considerable accomplishments, Munro still speaks of writing with some of the reverence and insecurity one hears in the voices of beginners. She has none of the bravura or bluster of a famous writer, and it is easy to forget that she is one. Speaking of her own work, she makes what she does sound not exactly easy, but possible, as if anyone could do it if they only worked hard enough. As we left, we felt that contagious sense of possibility. It seems simple—but her writing has a perfect simplicity that takes years and many drafts to master. As Cynthia Ozick has said, “She is our Chekhov and is going to outlast most of her contemporaries.”

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Print Unit Sales Rose 10.1% Last Week

From Publishers Weekly:

Unit sales of print books are proving to be surprisingly resilient despite the massive disruption to the economy caused by the coronavirus. Unit print sales rose 10.1% last week compared to the week ended April 18 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Sales were nearly flat with units sold in the period ended April 27, 2019, and in the year-to-date, units were down 3.2% compared to a year ago.

BookScan estimates that it captures about 85% of print books sold through physical and online retailers who sell books. The service, however, does not record sales to libraries—and with many libraries closed, trade publishers who do significant business through that channel are likely seeing softer sales.

The adult nonfiction category had the strongest performance among the major publishing segments, with units increasing 24.7% last week over the previous week. The religious segment posted a 54.4% increase, led by the release of Jen Hatmaker’s Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire which sold more than 17,000 copies. Another new release, Medical Medium Cleanse to Heal by Anthony William, sold more than 11,000 copies.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Administration Would ‘Eviscerate’ Copyright, Say Industry Players

From Publishing Perspectives:

In what a study from University College of London’s Genetics Institute has revealed this week, by December, the novel coronavirus that would be named COVID-19 likely had left Wuhan and was entering communities in Florida, France, and elsewhere. As Morgan McFall-Johnson at Business Insider reported Thursday (May 7), researchers are now urged by the World Health Organization to reexamine samples from December and January, to see if an earlier-than-expected presence can be detected.
And at that point, Publishing Perspectives readers were learning of an alarm being sounded by scientific research publishers about a proposed policy change in the United States that effectively would require scientific journal articles be made available immediately, without embargo. A group of more than 100 publishing and/or research organizations including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) were telling the administration of Donald Trump that this would “effectively nationalize the valuable American intellectual property that we produce and force us to give it away to the rest of the world for free.”

Copyright protections, in short, would be short-circuited.

. . . .

Documents reviewed by Publishing Perspectives today show that the public comment “request for information” from the OSTP has produced a brace of considered and extensively argued responses from the field and from members of Congress.

. . . .

For a kind of flagship response, we can recommend the article produced on May 7 for the Heritage Foundation by the visiting intellectual property fellow Adam Mossoff.

Titled Radical OSTP Proposal Would Undermine American Research and Sacrifice American Intellectual Property, the article carries special weight because–as our international readership may not know–the Heritage Foundation is an enormously respected conservative think tank with more than half a million paying members. Its condemnation of a Republican administration’s effort to adjust copyright protection policy therefore arrives with tremendous gravity.

In his abstract, Mossoff and his editors encapsulate the foundation’s stance this way;

“The Trump Administration should not permit the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to eviscerate the key constitutional and economic function of copyright law by forcing US intellectual property owners to give away their copyrighted works for free to China and the rest of the world.

“Nor should it allow the OSTP to contradict its own policies on trade and IP.

“It should join with those who have already raised serious legal, policy, and economic concerns about the OSTP proposal. The administration should reject the OSTP proposal and reaffirm the vital role that copyright serves in securing the fruits of the productive labors of those who create and disseminate journal articles.

Mossoff’s article, as presented by the foundation, has three key takeaways, and they’re reflected in the commentary from others responding to the OSTP’s request for information. Quoting those takeaways:

  • “An Office of Science and Technology Policy proposal would give away US intellectual property, undermining US trade positions and weakening US leadership
  • “America’s founders understood citizens would only engage in productive labors if the fruits of their labors were secured to them under law
  • “The Trump Administration should reaffirm the vital role copyright serves in securing the productive labors of those who create and disseminate journal articles”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG is almost reflexively supportive of strong protections for creators’ works via enforcement of copyright laws.

In this case, his inherent cynicism along with a bit of inside knowledge about world of scientific, technical and academic publications leads him to support the proposal of the Office of Science and Technology Policy provided it continues for only a limited period of time.

Long-time visitors to TPV will might recall PG’s prior posts on this topic, so he’ll lay the factual basis out in bullet-point form.

  • College professors and researchers in scientific areas plus similar professionals employed by some other institutions are expected to publish scientific and quasi-scientific (Looking at you, English Departments) research in their area of expertise.
  • Hence, “Publish or Perish”. Absent such publications, college lecturers are unlikely to become Associate Professors, Associate Professors unlikely to become Assistant Professors and Assistant Professors unlikely to become full Professors with tenure.
  • In every academic/professional field with which PG is acquainted, there are a limited number of scientific/academic journals of the quality sufficient to gain an author publishing points.
  • These academic journals pay their authors nothing – Zero – in exchange for publishing the work of the author.
  • Typically, these academic journals require the author to assign her/his copyright in the work to the journal. (PG remembers hearing that some journals allow the author to keep the copyright, but obtain an irrevocable perpetual royalty-free license of all rights from the author, which has the same financial outcome for the author.)
  • The academic journals claim to have some expertise necessary to judge the quality of submissions, but, in fact such expertise is sketchy. What the journals do have is a network of experts in a variety of fields to whom submitted papers are sent for review.
  • By pure coincidence, members of this network of experts are likely to have published articles of their own with the journal and are also likely to want to publish future articles with the same journal and, in connection with those future articles, will be dealing with the same editor(s) who are asking them to provide an expert review of the paper in question with no financial compensation.
  • Whereas scientific and professional journals were formerly nurtured by a variety of different publishers, over the last 20-30 years, ownership of the large majority of prestigious academic journals has been consolidated by a small group of large holding companies, Reed-Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer and Sage.
  • The customers of these publishers almost always include the academic institutions that employ the authors who wrote the scientific papers in the first place.
  • If a particular academic journal is recognized as the most authoritative/prestigious in its field, a respectable university library is going to be required to subscribe to the journal. The publisher of that journal is likely to increase subscription fees over time in order to maximize its revenues and profits. At least some of those subscription fees will come from the tuition fees paid by students at the college/university.
  • None of those revenues the journal’s publisher receives will be paid to the authors of the journal articles, so PG’s innate author-oriented attitude is that complaints about the derogation of copyrights caused by a requirement to immediately make COVID-19 papers public as described in the OP are all about whether the publisher will make as much money as it wants to make from publishing and charging fees to access the COVID-19 papers.
  • Here’s what Reed-Elsevier (an Anglo-Dutch company), generally regarded as the largest academic, scientific and professional publisher, says about itself:

Scientific, Technical & Medical provides information and analytics that help institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare and improve performance.

We help researchers make new discoveries, collaborate with their colleagues and give them the knowledge they need to find funding. We help governments and universities evaluate and improve their research strategies. We help doctors and nurses improve the lives of patients, providing insight to find the right clinical answers.

Elsevier is headquartered in Amsterdam, with further principal operations in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Berkeley in North America, London, Oxford, Frankfurt, Munich, Madrid and Paris in Europe, Beijing, Chennai, Delhi, Singapore and Tokyo in Asia Pacific and Rio de Janeiro in South America. It has 8,100 employees and serves customers in over 180 countries.

We enhance the quality of scientific research output by organising the review, editing and dissemination of 18% of the world’s scientific articles ScienceDirect, the world’s largest platform dedicated to peer-reviewed primary scientific and medical research, hosts over 17m pieces of content including from over 40,000 e-books and has over 17m monthly unique visitors Scopus is a leading source-neutral abstract and citation database of research literature, with over 76m records across 25,000 journals, sourced from more than 5,000 publishers SciVal offers insights into the research performance of over 16,000 research institutions ClinicalKey, the flagship clinical reference platform, is accessed in around 100 countries and territories, and by over 1,900 institutions in North America alone Elsevier journals have at some point featured articles by 195 of 196 science and economics Nobel Prize winners since 2000

“Organizing the review, editing and dissemination” AKA posting it behind a paywall and charging a lot of money for access. The authors are paid nothing. The highly-qualified reviewers are paid nothing. The employee/editors are not paid a lot of money. Elsevier makes the large majority of the money.

PG humbly suggests that is not what the authors intended when they wrote and approved Article I Section 8 | Clause 8 – the Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution.

[The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

What Shakespeare Actually Wrote About the Plague

From The New Yorker:

Shakespeare lived his entire life in the shadow of bubonic plague. On April 26, 1564, in the parish register of Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon, the vicar, John Bretchgirdle, recorded the baptism of one “Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere.” A few months later, in the same register, the vicar noted the death of Oliver Gunne, an apprentice weaver, and in the margins next to that entry scribbled the words “hic incipit pestis” (here begins the plague). On that occasion, the epidemic took the lives of around a fifth of the town’s population. By good fortune, it spared the life of the infant William Shakespeare and his family.

Such outbreaks did not rage on forever. With the help of strict quarantines and a change in the weather, the epidemic would slowly wane, as it did in Stratford, and life would resume its normal course. But, after an interval of a few years, in cities and towns throughout the realm, the plague would return. It generally appeared on the scene with little or no warning, and it was terrifyingly contagious. Victims would awaken with fever and chills. A feeling of extreme weakness or exhaustion would give way to diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth, nose, or rectum, and telltale buboes, or swollen lymph nodes, in the groin or armpit. Death, often in great agony, would almost inevitably follow.

Innumerable preventive measures were proposed, most of which were useless—or, in the case of the killing of dogs and cats, worse than useless, since the disease was in fact spread by rat-borne fleas. The smoke of dried rosemary, frankincense, or bay leaves burning in a chafing dish was thought to help clear the air of infection, and, if those ingredients were not readily available, physicians recommended burning old shoes. In the streets, people walked about sniffing oranges stuffed with cloves. Pressed firmly enough against the nose, perhaps these functioned as a kind of mask.

It was early recognized that the rate of infection was far higher in densely populated cities than in the country; those with the means to do so escaped to rural retreats, though they often brought infection with them. Civic officials, realizing that crowds heightened contagion, took measures to institute what we now call social distancing. Collecting data from parish registers, they carefully tracked weekly plague-related deaths. When those deaths surpassed thirty, they banned assemblies, feasts, archery contests, and other forms of mass gathering. Since it was believed that it was impossible to become infected during the act of worship, church services were not included in the ban, though the infected were not permitted to attend. But the public theatres in London, which routinely brought together two or three thousand people in an enclosed space, were ordered shut. It could take many months before the death rate came down sufficiently for the authorities to allow theatres to reopen.

As a shareholder and sometime actor in his playing company, as well as its principal playwright, Shakespeare had to grapple throughout his career with these repeated, economically devastating closings. There were particularly severe outbreaks of plague in 1582, 1592-93, 1603-04, 1606, and 1608-09. The theatre historian J. Leeds Barroll III, who carefully sifted through the surviving records, concluded that in the years between 1606 and 1610—the period in which Shakespeare wrote and produced some of his greatest plays, from “Macbeth” and “Antony and Cleopatra” to “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest”—the London playhouses were not likely to have been open for more than a total of nine months.

It is all the more striking, then, that in his plays and poems Shakespeare almost never directly represents the plague. He did not write anything remotely like, let alone as powerful as, his contemporary Thomas Nashe’s haunting “A Litany in Time of Plague”:

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
  Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
  Lord, have mercy on us!

In Shakespeare, epidemic disease is present for the most part as a steady, low-level undertone, surfacing in his characters’ speeches most vividly in metaphorical expressions of rage and disgust.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory

From The New York Times:

Imagine that you are a member of the expert class — the kind of person invited to pontificate on television news programs. Under normal circumstances, your expertise might be signaled to the public by a gaudy photograph of skyscrapers superimposed behind your head. But now the formalities of the broadcast studio are a distant memory, and the only tools to convey that you truly belong on television are the objects within your own home. There’s only one move: You talk in front of a bookcase.

As the broadcast industry shelters in place, the bookcase has become the background of choice for television hosts, executives, politicians and anyone else keen on applying a patina of authority to their amateurish video feeds. In March, when the coronavirus put the handshaking and baby-kissing mode of presidential campaigning on pause, Joe Biden conspicuously retreated from public view for several long days as his team scrambled to project an air of competence from within Biden’s basement. When he finally re-emerged, it was in front of a carefully curated wall-length bookshelf punctuated with patriotic memorabilia like a worn leather football and a triangle-folded American flag.

In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

. . . .

The bookcase offers both a visually pleasing surface and a gesture at intellectual depth. Of all the quarantine judgments being offered right now, this one feels harmless enough. One gets the sense that for the bookcase-background type, being judged by their home libraries is a secret dream finally realized. 

. . . .

But often the titles of the books themselves are not legible through the screen; all that can be ascertained is the overall vibe. The presence of gilded, leather bound volumes can overwhelm the expert’s own expertise, recalling the props in an ad for a personal injury lawyer; a library so extensive that it requires a “Beauty and the Beast” style ladder inspires grudging respect.

. . . .

The credibility bookcase, with its towering, idiosyncratic array of worn volumes, is itself an affectation. The expert could choose to speak in front of his art prints or his television or his blank white walls, but he chooses to be framed by his books. It is the most insidious of aesthetic trends: one that masquerades as pure intellectual exercise.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

On the other hand, if you’re going to have an important videoconference and don’t have the time or money to purchase books, you can always just buy a bookcase backdrop from Amazon.

.

But, why limit yourself to Amazon backdrops?

With a little computer magic, maybe with a green screen or maybe without, you can have a library that will put all your fellow celebrities to shame.

Publishing Needs to Face Its Ableism Problem

From Publishers Weekly:

“This is not a remote position. Candidates are expected to perform work on-site in our office,” is a line that I look for in every job posting before I decide whether or not to apply. I’m disabled; I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and I’m autistic, and working remotely is a reasonable accommodation that I need to do my job.

Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, most book publishing jobs have required employees to work in the office with little room for remote flexibility. Now the same publishers who denied disabled and chronically ill people the ability to work from home are requesting that their staff do just that. Accommodations to work remotely are prioritized when public health issues affect everyone, including nondisabled staff, but are deemed impossible when the request comes from a disabled employee.

While there are definitely functions in publishing that can’t be performed entirely remotely, such as warehouse jobs and production jobs, the pandemic has made it clear many tasks can be completely or at least partially remote if publishers allow them to be. Over half of American workers could work from home at least some of the time, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by research firm Global Workplace Analytics.

If there’s a lesson that publishers can learn from this pandemic, it’s that our industry needs more remote-friendly opportunities if we want to address the widespread ableism and inequality in publishing. We need more remote opportunities in book publishing. Of 166 recent job listings for positions at Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster, only two specify that they are open to remote candidates, and one of those two is a contract position, not a full- or part-time job.

Not offering remote-friendly opportunities widens the ongoing diversity gap in publishing. According to Lee & Low’s “2019 Diversity in Publishing Baseline Survey,” 89% of those working in publishing are nondisabled, 76% are white, 97% are cisgender, and 81% are straight. Many publishers are based in New York City, where only one in five subway stations are wheelchair accessible and average rents for a one-bedroom apartment are $3,000 per month, according to the “Zumper National Rent Report.” Glassdoor puts the national average salary for an editorial assistant at $43,761, making it difficult to live on in New York. More than 400,000 disabled employees regularly work from home, so allowing people to work remotely would give publishers a bigger employee pool to create a more inclusive workplace.

Common advice for those pursuing careers in publishing who can’t work in an office or can’t afford to move for a job is to freelance. Copyediting, proofreading, book reviewing, and sensitivity reading are areas where contract work is common. According to Lee & Low’s diversity survey, 19% of book reviewers identify as disabled, while in most other areas of publishing it’s closer to 10%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

After he calmed down from mentally condemning Big Publishing for its multitudinous faults once again, PG was interested in the 19% of book reviewers disabled statistic.

PG didn’t know that anyone was counting book reviewers, let alone querying them about their disabilities.

After a few strokes on his latest keyboard, PG discovered that Lee & Low Books, headquartered in New York City, is, “the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. We are your diversity source.”

Lee & Low sponsors The Diversity Baseline Survey. They conducted their first survey in 2015 and a second in 2019. Here’s a bit more about the surveys:

Why We Created the Diversity Baseline Survey

Lee & Low Books released the first Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS 1.0) in 2015. Before the DBS, people suspected publishing had a diversity problem, but without hard numbers, the extent of that problem was anyone’s guess. Our goal was to survey publishing houses and review journals regarding the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup of their employees; establish concrete statistics about the diversity of the publishing workforce; and then build on this information by reissuing the survey every four years. Through these long-term efforts, we would be able to track what progress our industry shows over time in improving representation and inclusion.

Why does diversity in publishing matter? 

The book industry has the power to shape culture in big and small ways. The people behind the books serve as gatekeepers, who can make a huge difference in determining which stories are amplified and which are shut out. If the people who work in publishing are not a diverse group, how can diverse voices truly be represented in its books?

Here’s a chart from the 2019 survey:

PG (and others) started forecasting the sunset of traditional publishing acting as a gatekeeper some time ago. Since he (and others) began their doomsaying, the publishing sun has continued to drop like a fading orange pie chart in the metaphorical west.

That said, PG entirely agrees that tradpub definitely does not reflect the demographics of the world, the United States or any other place besides a few tiny spots on a map of New York City and its nearby environs.

PG does suggest that indie publishing is a much closer reflection of the demographics of humankind at large.

On Amazon, nobody knows your race, gender, orientation or disability unless you choose to tell them.

The computers don’t care. A self-published book by a genderfluid Navajo asexual paraplegic gets the same amount of space and service as a book written by, edited by and published by a variety of White Cis Woman Straight Non-Disabled persons who also happened to graduate from the right colleges after growing up in the right suburbs.

Like ‘Pride and Prejudice’? You’ll Love This Cult Classic Novel

From The Wall Street Journal:

Each time I reread “I Capture the Castle,”—roughly once a year, or whenever my lagging spirit needs a kick-start—it feels like a homecoming. But I’ll admit: Dodie Smith’s 1948 tale about the fortunes and foibles of the Mortmain family, cooped up together in a crumbling castle and cut off from the outside world, has never seemed more apt than in this age of quarantine. “Castle” is often classified as “young adult” fiction, perhaps because Smith remains better known for her kiddie classic “The Hundred and One Dalmatians.” But its sophisticated charms defy pigeonholing. Would anyone paint “Pride and Prejudice”—the text from which “Castle” is self-consciously descended—with so sloppy a brush?

The cast of characters consists of our protagonist, precocious Cassandra; her pretty, pouting older sister, Rose; a younger brother; and an adopted hired hand; their bohemian stepmother, Topaz, a former artist’s model who resembles a lovely “angel of death”; and their father, a Joycean man-of-letters whose chronic writer’s block underlies most of the family’s woes. Though they have a 40-year lease on the castle, the destitute Mortmains despair of improved prospects—that is, until the Cotton brothers, Americans who have newly inherited the estate, arrive on the scene. With a brazenness that verges on bloodlust, Rose vows to land one for a husband and reverse the family fortunes.

Smith began writing the book, which is set in the 1930s, during World War II, while she and her conscientious-objector husband were living in exile in California. And indeed, as Cassandra strives to “capture” the castle in her diaries, what she most succeeds in recording is wistfulness for a time and place that may never be the same. Sound familiar? At one point, Cassandra considers the letdown one gets from “brick-wall happy endings,” where readers lose “the fun of thinking something wonderful may be just around the corner.” Thankfully hers is not that kind of story.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

What Good are Books, in a Situation Like This?

From The Guardian:

[by Sarah Perry, the author of The Essex Serpent]

Some months ago I stood in the pulpit of Lancaster Priory and spoke on the virtue of art. What do we mean, I said, by “a good book”? I proposed that literature had use beyond pleasure, and that moral purpose was intrinsic to any book worth the cover price: the only way is ethics. I quoted Aristotle; I burnished my halo. My duty, I said, was to write good books, and this was an act of love. Well, a haughty spirit comes before a fall, and I tripped on a virus, and fell into believing that literature was useless and I’d wasted my life in its pursuit. Even before the lockdown began I could not write. It baffled me that I’d ever done such a trivial thing. I have a banner hanging on my study door: “L’amour c’est tout”. It bloody isn’t, I thought. I never went in.

This is not to say I have been unable to create at all. With the privileges of comfort and time, I sew patchwork quilts, make bread, play the piano. This is common: “Everybody is feeling the same thing,” wrote Virginia Woolf of Londoners in the second world war, “therefore nobody is feeling anything.” Social media has become a village hall for the display of sourdough loaves and cross stitch samplers: fear and love sublimated into all the things we think our mothers did. What else can we do, inhabiting a place of present or anticipated grief?

But these are crafts, which distinguish themselves from art by their utility. A quilt will keep you warm; a book can do so only if you burn it. What I felt when I looked at my shelves was not consolation, but contempt. What good were books, in the end? Nobody calls for a writer when their leg is broken; nobody wants a story when they cannot breathe. I am capable enough, I thought: I could have been a lab technician for a brilliant virologist, I could have administered a hospital ward. Meanwhile writers pleaded the case for literature’s place in a catastrophe, and pleaded well. I admired them as I suppose an atheist might admire a priest’s sincerity, and the manuscript of my novel remained unopened.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

With due respect to Ms. Perry, PG thinks books are invaluable for those who are sheltering in place.

The Legal Web

PG notes that many websites operated by lawyers and law firms, while often the source of interesting items for TPV, have been largely abandoned during the age of Covid.

In some cases, well-known legal bloggers, even at the partner level, have been terminated.

It is not unusual for attorneys (including PG) to maintain and attract clients by demonstrating knowledge and expertise in their areas of practice by posting news and commentary on happenings in the legal and commercial world of their clients and potential clients.

If a client goes to the attorney or law firm she/he uses for a variety of purposes and asks for help for something the firm isn’t able to provide because it’s outside the firm’s range of legal expertise, the best way that firm can assist the client is to refer them to someone of the legal persuasion who has the needed expertise. (It is also likely to be a violation of legal ethics for an attorney to provide legal advice to a client if the attorney knows nothing about the subject.)

If the attorney is not personally acquainted with a lawyer with the required expertise and if some brief online research disclosed an attorney with a website or blog devoted to the legal topic the client required, the attorney might point the client to the website or blog for additional information. If PG were doing something like this, he would make clear to the client that he wasn’t personally acquainted with the lawyer and how he had found the lawyer’s name and website. If the attorney’s website revealed that he had written or spoken on his/her area of expertise in connection with state or local bar association publications or activities, that would be another plus.

Back to the firing of well-known legal bloggers, time spent blogging is time not spent billing clients by the hour. Typically in larger firms, either the managing partner, a non-lawyer professional manager and/or a group of senior partners receives regular reports (it used to be monthly, but PG is informed that at least some firms have transitioned to weekly) about how many billable hours each attorney (and sometimes paralegals) have racked up during the reporting period.

If the legal blogger isn’t keeping up with billable hours, even if the blogger has brought in some significant business in the past, evidently the blogger’s promotional and publicity value isn’t enough to avoid the axe.

Typically, when clients are experiencing financial problems, they may ask their law firms to adjust bills (always in the same direction) and may complain about being overbilled on certain matters. Some law firms may proactively reduce their fees for some clients on a temporary basis, informing the clients they are doing so.

Firms with a group of attorneys focused on significant bankruptcy matters tend to be counter-cyclical when it comes to hours billed.

PG wonders if substantial reduction of the firm’s website and other online activities is a good idea. Even considering the value of time that might otherwise have been billed, a law firm’s website is one of the first places a sophisticated prospective client is likely to investigate.

In PG’s almost-illegally humble opinion, a great many law firm websites, even those of large and prosperous firms, are quite lame. Large spaces devoted to meaningless graphics on the landing page, more overly-large spaces devoted to a cookies warning (do law firm sites really need cookies?) and generic headlines like “Innovative Thinkers, Client Service Leaders, Champions of Inclusion,” and “Resilience, Recovery and Renewal” are all too typical.

Like a great many intelligent people in other professional fields, attorneys tend to think that expertise in one area (patent law, for example) transfers over into a great many other areas (advertising, website design, promotion, investment strategies, etc., etc., etc.). Such is most definitely not the case.

Why You Should Read “Home” While You’re Stuck at Home

From Electric Lit:

If one thing will be irrevocably changed by the coronavirus pandemic, it is American’s sense of “home.” By the start of April, almost everyone in the country was under stay-at-home orders. Some estimates indicate that one in five Americans are currently unemployed. Primary and secondary schools are closed until next fall and colleges sent their students packing seemingly overnight. Still others are unable to go home at all, working essential jobs, stranded overseas, or split from their loved ones by brutal immigration restrictions that have only expanded under the pretense of the virus. Like never before, the pandemic has forced us to confront what it means to be home in America, and, ultimately, who in America is able to call this country home.

Coincidentally, the day my office announced its indefinite closure because of the pandemic, I opened a book I had long tried and failed to read: Marilynne Robinson’s Home, her third novel and the second in her soon-to-be-quartet based in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa in the 1950s. This reticence wasn’t due to lack of zeal, as I love Robinson’s work, but because she is a writer who requires immense patience. Her prose is not difficult; in the Gilead sequence, in fact, it is exceedingly simple, almost crystalline. Yet, her language seems to unfold like the layers of a flower, revealing with a slow, measured grace its buried workings. If you don’t take the time to study it and dwell within it, its meaning escapes you, like a dream. And if I saw anything before me as quarantine began, it was––precariously so––time.

In one of the most beautiful passages of Homecoming, Robinson’s first novel, the narrator wonders, “[W]hy do our thoughts turn to some gesture of a hand, some corner of a room on a particular anonymous afternoon… What are all these fragments for, if not to be knit up finally?” Home moves like this, through intimate, almost mundane gestures whose meanings only bloom the longer the book is read, until they become heartbreaking, miraculous, glittering. It tells the story of Glory Boughton, who returns to Gilead to tend to her dying father, and the subsequent return of her brother Jack, who has been absent for some twenty years and now seeks to make peace with a haunted past.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

Hermeneutics and the Framing of “Truth”

Introductory comment by PG:

PG regards himself as reasonably intelligent and possessing a vocabulary that is larger than that of the average homo sapiens in the year 2020.

That said, he did not recall knowing (PG is at the age where there is a very occasional gap between knowing something and recalling that he knows something) much about Hermeneutics.

A quick online search took PG to a Quora comment from a self-described “Ph.D. Apologetics & Hermeneutics” addressing “What is the difference between exegesis and hermeneutics?” that seemed more informed and intelligent than other Quora comments PG has read:

Exegesis is the discipline of extracting, grammatically, out of the text what is says. Hermeneutics is the science of interpreting, based on what the text says, what it means; followed by validating that interpretation of what it means (e.g., “Scripture interprets Scripture), and then discerning the significance of that validated meaning.

Broadly speaking there are four steps to hermeneutics, defined by answering: 1) What does the text say? (Exegesis); 2) What does it mean? (Interpretation); 3) How do I know that’s what it means (Validation); 4) Now that I know what it means, so what? (Significance / Application).

With that background, PG plunged into an OP from The Los Angeles Review of Books titled, “Hermeneutics and the Framing of ‘Truth’.” The author of the LARB article is also the author of a book titled, “The Splintering of the American Mind.

All of which requires a warning to readers of TPV:

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

In his 2018 book Post-Truth, Lee McIntyre sums up what has become a mainstream warning about the complicity of so-called postmodern intellectuals in the rise of “post-truth” as the defining condition of today’s politics. He asks: “[C]an postmodernism be used by anyone who wants to attack science? Do the techniques work only for liberals […] or can they work for others also?” Citing plenty of evidence, in particular Robert Pennock’s convincing argument that intelligent design theory is “the bastard child of Christian fundamentalism and postmodernism,” McIntyre joins a small army of moderate, liberal voices in laying at least part of the blame on literary academics and their bewitchment by such continental thinkers as Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida.

Putting aside McIntyre’s astute-because-obvious prediction that “[s]ome will complain that the account just given is not sufficiently detailed or nuanced” (perhaps because, more than merely unnuanced, it’s flat-out incorrect), the real issue is the way McIntyre’s question, quoted above, misconstrues the philosophical tradition generalized under the misleading moniker of “postmodernism.” This tradition, existentialist and hermeneutic in orientation, is not a playbook of “techniques” to be randomly applied but rather a critical orientation that entails a thorough reformulation of Western thought. On the one hand, it moves away from the general presupposition of reality as a fixed, inert presence awaiting human appropriation; on the other hand, it embraces a suspicion that apparently neutral statements emerge from and promote positions that are themselves far from neutral, but rather rich in presuppositions, dependent on layers of context, and rife with vectors of power.

This background is particularly pertinent for a discussion of Santiago Zabala’s riveting and crucial new book, Being at Large: Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts, which analyzes the emergence of a political reality in which consensus around a basic set of facts seems alarmingly absent, in a way that portends catastrophic results for democracy itself. Zabala’s subtitle, with its reference to “alternative facts,” is a nod to Kellyanne Conway’s infamous defense of Donald Trump’s false claim regarding the size of the crowd at his inauguration. In defending the plurality of mutually contradictory “facts,” Conway has been joined by the president’s consiglieri, Rudolph Giuliani, who on Meet the Press in August 2018 defended counseling his client not to testify before the Mueller Russia probe because he might be accused of perjury if his account conflicted with those of his political enemies. When pressed by Chuck Todd that Trump could avoid perjury by simply telling the truth, this exchange ensued:

Giuliani: [W]hen you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well, that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth …

Todd: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like —

Giuliani: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth …

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

PG notes that truth and politics tend to be uneasy companions. In an era where everything is political, Post-Truth, Hermeneutics and “Validated Meanings” too often create slippery slopes descending to undesirable destinations for much of humanity.

A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

Vladimir Lenin

Admirable Urquhart

From The London Review of Books (20 September 1984), some piffle of the highest order:

Sir Thomas Urquhart, who is known today, if at all, as the 17th-century translator of part of Rabelais, must have been a most peculiar man. At a guess, he may have had to a preternatural degree that quality of mind, not unknown among modern scholars, that causes a man to believe that whatever he thinks, says or does is infallibly true and right, and that whatever he observes in the world is true and right only insofar as it coincides with what is already in his mind. It would be wrong and unkind to call him a liar, as he has been called: he simply stated his own truths. Since he also seems to have been almost completely devoid of common sense, and to have been given to violence, he was hardly likely to have had a smooth life. The wonder, indeed, is that his troubles were not more immediately fatal; what saved him, I suppose, is that no one took him seriously.

The little we know about Urquhart’s early life comes mostly from his own pen, and is therefore not likely to be true. But there is one incident, vouched for in the records, that seems somehow emblematic. In 1636, after his father had succeeded in wasting most of the family estates (around Cromarty, in the north of Scotland), and presumably because of this, Sir Thomas and his younger brother imprisoned their father in an upper room for five days. When the father gained his freedom he instituted legal proceedings, but nothing much came of them, and eventually all were reconciled. What is interesting is the question of Sir Thomas’s motives. Did he think his action would win back the estates or increase his patrimony? Did he propose to keep his father prisoner permanently? Did he suppose the neighbouring gentry would come out in favour of rebellious sons? But it was still a valiant act.

It is reasonably certain that some time before this incident he had been at university in Aberdeen, and had gone on an extended Grand Tour. After 1636, as a Royalist and an Episcopalian, he engaged in some minor warfare with his neighbours, and then took refuge in England, where (according to his own testimony) he was knighted by Charles I in 1641. In 1645 he brought out the Trissotetras, a work which apparently ‘expresses trigonometrical formulae logarithmically’. Urquhart’s biographer, Willcock, says that ‘no one is known to have read it or to have been able to read it,’ and that it ‘dropped at once into the depths of oblivion’. This last statement, at least, is not quite true: Samuel Colvil, in 1681, said of another peculiar book that it

          comes from Brains which have a Bee,
    Like Urquhart’s Trigonometrie.

After that he returned to Scotland, and finally joined the Royalist army that was crushed by Cromwell at Worcester in 1651, in the last battle before Charles II fled abroad. Urquhart, with many others, was taken to London as a prisoner, where, apparently, he determined to recover his freedom and his estates by using his pen. His first effort was a genealogy in which he names and describes his ancestors, going back to Adam. 

. . . .

In Bacon’s phrase, Urquhart studied words and not matter, and while he undoubtedly had a way with words, it is mostly a very long-winded way. Even one of his longer sentences – and there are many of them – would be too long to quote here.

Link to the rest at The London Review of Books

The @PublishrsWeakly Twitter Account Is Calling Publishing to Task

From Electric Lit:

The elements of Book Twitter are usually pretty predictable: unbridled and sometimes smug love for literature, self-promotion, subtweeting. There are hot controversies (spine-in books, anyone?) and baffling debates about the merits of The Catcher in the Rye once a quarter. You can practically set your watch by it. But this week literary Twitter got a lot more interesting when the parody account @PublishrsWeakly (that’s “weakly,” with an a) began racking up followers. The account was started in March but first tweeted on April 20. They caught our attention with a viral tweet calling for publishers, most of whom are based in New York City, to allow employees to continue working remotely in order to diversify the workforce.

. . . .

After gaining 3,000 followers in a day, the account, which is operated anonymously by an “out of work bookseller” and someone who works for indie press, seems to be shifting from parody to activism. 

We talked to the anonymous minds behind @PublishrsWeakly, and we also reached out to Publishers Weekly for comment. Two-Es Weekly passed on the letter they’d sent to the parody account once they became aware of it, which we’re quoting with permission here (we’ve removed contact information):

Publishers Weekly-with-an-e here. We’re reaching out today to say that we recognize that publishing is not above parody, and neither are we. Our only request is that you change your logo to something that isn’t so confusing for readers, as we imagine your goal is to rally support and not to trick people. We see the subtle change to the PW logo that you’ve made, but it’s still likely to cause confusion, especially considering the flow of content that people are seeing on Twitter and particularly because a lot of people now follow us both.

We also want to reiterate that we welcome your opinion in the pages of Publishers Weekly, either as an op-ed or as part of a reported story about dissent toward PW’s #BooksAreEssential campaign. We’d be happy to have you talk with a reporter via DMs so as to ensure your anonymity. 

The Publishers Weakly writers stress that they’re answering collectively, and the Electric Lit questions were written collectively as well, so read on for some hot collective-on-collective action.

. . . .

EL: The perception that people get into publishing out of passion and commitment is often used as leverage to exploit them (“none of us are in this for the money”). But at the same time, a lot of independent and nonprofit publishers really are working with too few resources, out of a sense of cultural duty; they have the freedom to sign books without (as much) regard for commercial viability, but that means they literally do not have the money to do better by staff. What are the ethical obligations of independent publishers? Is there any way for a publisher to be both ethical and solvent? How do you find money to pay people without turning art completely into commerce?

PW: This is a multi-part question that’s going to require a multi-part answer. And we wouldn’t be staying true to ourselves if we weren’t confrontational right off the bat, so:

Saying that independent and non-profit publishers are working “out of a sense of cultural duty” is somewhat of a bad faith argument. As it currently stands, the publishing industry largely serves the interests of the wealthiest higher-ups, and that is the entire reason for any financial strain on publishers without the capital of a corporation. The larger publishers could easily take the risks that smaller publishers do. The only reason for smaller presses to be working with less is because that’s simply how the system has been engineered to function. You see it multiple times a year, the major publishers using the small ones as testing grounds, making the people who are working with less take the risks. Once an author at an indie press proves themselves with things like awards, or cult status, the big publishers will dangle a larger book deal in front of them to try and steal them away. Small presses only work with less because it’s in the corporate publishers best interests to keep it that way.

The only reason for smaller presses to be working with less is because that’s simply how the system has been engineered to function.

Secondly, why ask us about the ethical obligations of independent publishers? The implication there being that we hold them to some kind of higher standard than their larger counterparts. The real question should be: “what are the ethical obligations of publishers.”

The easiest way for a business to be both ethical and profitable is to educate the employees on what they deserve. A happier employee will do better work, and you can achieve these things through things like unionization, a collective understanding of the value of the work that you are doing. Value both in monetary terms, and in terms of importance. Every worker has the legal right to form a union, and it is shameful that people in our industry — the heads of Skyhorse, for one — should feel so comfortable firing those who’ve attempted to unionize.

It should be expected (required) that publishing staff should become acquainted with not only the perspectives of booksellers, but perspectives of workers in distribution and transit. How much money could be saved if we were to look to the workers actually handling the goods being shipped? Publishers wouldn’t have to spend so much money on marketing (and, ahem, Amazon ads) if there were more conversations with booksellers about what people actually want to read, or what the communities would actually need.

And finally, on the subject of “how do you pay people without turning art into commerce”: It’s not entirely just about financial compensation. It’s about our dignity and our rights as workers. Give people healthcare and sick pay and a living wage and then we can talk about the finer points of value and commercial vs. purely artistic output. Furthermore, to some extent, the major publishers have already done exactly that: turned art into a business. And yet they’re still finding ways to mistreat the people at the bottom of the ladder. Crazy how that happens.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG notes that demands by these radical voices include healthcare, sick pay and a living wage, apparently for themselves, while discussing commercial vs. purely artistic output from the organizations that are generating the money to provide these benefits. And don’t forget the perspectives of workers in book distribution and transit should you ever get to know any people like that.

PG further notes that turning “art into a business” is what happens when those who are not independently wealthy would like to spend much of their time writing and (self) publishing books that their readers will enjoy.

For as long as PG has been observing humanity, there have always existed certain types of individuals who know the best way of using other people’s money to make the world a better place. Or something.

Of course, 99.9% of this group want to tell, not show, others how this should be done.

Microsoft Word now flags double spaces as errors

From The Daily Mail:

Typing a double space after a full stop is wrong, period. With one space. 

Microsoft Word is to start flagging the use of two spaces between sentences as an error — reflecting the standard accepted by most style guides.

The formatting error will begin being flagged by the popular word processing application with a blue wavy line.

Popular use of double-spacing is a hangover from the days of typewriting, when the equal-width characters of ‘monospaced’ fonts called for clearer sentence endings. 

The introduction of proportional-spacing typewriters in 1944, however, began the process of rendering the extra space unnecessary for ensuring easy readability.

Nevertheless, the tradition of double-spacing continued — and is often found among those individuals who were first taught to type on a typewriter.

The new rule is being rolled out slowly across Word, meaning that users may not encounter the new warning until they update their software.  

For the militant two-spacers among us, however, fear not — it will be possible to instruct the popular word-processing software to ignore the error.

Link to the rest at The Daily Mail

On an ancient history note, PG will add that proportional-spacing typewriters AKA the IBM Executive Typewriter were hated by secretaries.

(Yes, little Johnnie, there was a time when people called secretaries or typists were hired just for their keyboarding skills. And it pains me to say that those skills were much better than typing ability of anybody who grew up using a computer keyboard.)

The proportional spacing of the Executive typewriters made correcting errors hellish because if you hit the i key instead of the e key, there wasn’t enough space between the character that came right before the i and right after the i to white-out the i and squeeze in an e. So you had to retype the whole page.

At PG’s first job after graduating from college (where there was only one computer terminal in the department with a keyboard and printer that were housed in a separate room with a closed door because the printer made a tremendous amount of noise), only the secretary of the big boss had an Executive typewriter. Everybody else had monospace Selectrics.

PG recalls that the “Executive” secretary qualified for the machine by typing five pages of dictation without making a single error.

Authors Guild Files a Friend of the Court Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Steinbeck Case

On April 28, the Authors Guild, together with the Dramatists Guild, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and former Register of Copyrights Ralph Oman, submitted a friend of the court (“amicus curiae”) brief to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to clarify the law with respect to authors’ control over their copyright termination rights. While the copyright law provides that an author has the  right to terminate their copyright licenses after a certain number of years and that this right is inalienable and may therefore be exercised by their statutory heirs, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Estate of Thomas Steinbeck v. Kaffaga has nonetheless deprived an author’s heirs of these irrevocable and vital termination rights.

In its 1976 revision to the Copyright Act, Congress gave authors the right to eventually terminate copyright grants. This was an attempt to address the fact that authors often lack leverage in the earlier stages of their careers, and thus may enter into deals that deprive them of much of the value of their own work. By giving authors this termination right, Congress allowed authors—and their statutory heirs—to renegotiate the terms of these early licenses. This was one of the many changes that Irwin Karp, then counsel of the Authors Guild, helped draft and negotiate into the copyright law. Many authors, musicians, and other creative artists and their heirs benefitted greatly from this change in the law, and many have relied upon this law in planning for the future and for structuring their own estates.

However, in Estate of Thomas Steinbeck v. Kaffaga, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals nonetheless deprived the Thomas Steinbeck Estate of these inalienable termination rights, based on the actions of the author’s widow with respect to a different set of copyrighted works. This holding not only contradicts the wording of the statute, it throws into turmoil authors’ understanding of their rights under the copyright law. This kind of turmoil can only be resolved by the Supreme Court stepping in and clarifying the law, so authors can enter into agreements and plan accordingly.

Link to the rest at The Author’s Guild

Even though PG attended law school in California and has been a member of its state bar for a very long time (although he categorically denies reports that his state bar number is a single digit), he is still embarrassed by the Ninth Circuit on a regular basis.