Inkitt raises $16M led by Kleiner Perkins to publish crowdsourced novels in ‘mini-episodes’

From TechCrunch:

The traditional world of publishing has been challenged hard by the digital revolution. Reading as a pastime has been in significant decline, in part because of the proliferation of screens and options for what to watch and do on them. On the other hand, Amazon has led the charge in changing the economics of publishing: the returns on book sales, and profits to publishers and writers, have all seen margins squeezed in the e-reader universe.

A Berlin-based startup called Inkitt has built a crowdsourced publishing platform to buck those trends. It believes that there is still a place for reading in our modern world, if it’s presented in the right way (more on that below), and today it is announcing a $16 million round of funding that underscores its success to date — the Inkitt community today has 1.6 million readers and 110,000 writers with some 350,000 uploaded stories, with a run-rate of $6 million from a new “bite-sized”, immersive reading app it launched earlier this year called Galatea — and its ambitions going forward.

How big are those ambitions? Ali Albazaz, Inkitt’s founder and CEO, said the mission is to build the “Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

. . . .

In addition to continuing to search for authors that might make good Galatea fodder, it’s going to add 10 new languages in addition to English, along with more data science to improve readership and connecting audiences with the stories that are most engaging to them. The company has sourced some of its most successful works from places like India and Israel, so the thinking is that it’s time to make sure non-English readers in those countries are also getting a look in.

“It’s a long plan, and we’re working on it step by step,” Albazaz said in an interview this week. “We are looking for the best talents and the best stories, wherever they are being told. We want to find them, unearth them and turn them into globally successful franchises.”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch (August, 2019)

From The Bookseller:

Former HarperCollins global c.e.o. Jane Friedman has joined Inkitt as an advisor and shareholder.

Inkitt, which claims to have the world’s first bestseller-predicting algorithm, aims to discover hidden talents from all around the world and turn them into globally successful authors.

More than 100,000 authors upload their manuscripts to the platform and 3.5 million readers can read them for free. The best stories are selected based on reader engagement and published on sister reading app Galatea.

. . . .

“Jane’s guidance will ultimately help to build a powerful hybrid publishing model, where cutting-edge technology builds on insights and experience from the world of traditional publishing.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller (March, 2021)

From Inkitt:

We’re crazy about shining a spotlight on talented authors. That’s why we’ve developed a fair way of discovering writers by giving them a platform to showcase their books to the world, and get published through the power of reader feedback

Once you create your Inkitt account and upload your book, you have started the process of getting selected for an Inkitt publishing deal! The process is simple; we analyze reader patterns and engagement on your book to determine if it has bestseller potential. 

When we find a bestseller, our publishing team reaches out to you about getting signed. No barriers to entry. No biases. It’s publishing made fair.

Where does Inkitt publish my work?

We do things differently, and that doesn’t stop at publishing. When we discover your work, we will contact you with an offer to sign a publishing contract. This means that your work will first be adapted to be published on our sister app, GALATEA, and could later then be published in other formats (e.g, print, ebook, etc). 

. . . .

GALATEA is shaping the future of reading to better suit the digital age. Working with a production team consisting of writers and sound designers, GALATEA adapts original Inkitt stories into immersive experiences by enhancing them with chat fiction, sound effects, visual effects and haptic feedback.

When your work is published on GALATEA, your readers will be fully immersed in it – feeling every aspect of the plot – from the beat of your protagonist’s heart, to the music and sound effects that perfectly enhance the scene at their fingertips. Keeping avid readers hungry for more, storytelling has never been more exciting than on GALATEA.

. . . .

How does the GALATEA publishing process work?

Once you sign with us, our publishing team offers you a guiding hand throughout the entire process. Here is what your journey to become a published GALATEA author will look like:

. . . .

Our Publishing Contract at a Glance

  • We decided to simplify our contract and make it accessible to the public 25% royalties on e-books, and if applicable, 5% royalties on episodical adaptations from Royalty Pool of all authors
  •  You can cancel the contract if we don’t generate at least $1,000 in sales within a year
  • Professional cover design, and if applicable, audio and visual effects for episodical adaptations 
  • Professional editing

Link to the rest at Inkitt

Inkitt helpfully embedded its publishing agreement into its website (to facilitate authors signing it online).

When PG skimmed over the publishing agreement, he was immediately transported to the offices of a typical Manhattan publishing attorney.

All the expected nasty bits were there – Life of the copyright contract term, giant rights grab, etc., etc., etc.

Suffice to say, the “Publishing Contract at a Glance” section of Inkitt’s website didn’t include any discussion of what, in PG’s episodically humble opinion, would be the contract provisions that most serious authors would be interested in knowing about.

The vision of Inkitt CEO Ali Abazz to build the

“Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

evidently persuaded the wise folks at Kleiner Perkins & followers to drop $16 mill. into Inkitt a couple of years ago and a former HarperCollins global CEO to jump onboard the Inkitt parade, but PG is unpersuaded and more than a bit skeptical of the whole arrangement as providing any benefit to authors who want to earn a living from their writing.

He would be happy to hear from any actual Inkitt authors concerning their experiences, however.

Re-Word the World: On “Sonnet’s Shakespeare”

From Public Books:

hen Gretchen Bakke invited me to write about “Systems and Futures,” she offered a keyword: overhaul. I immediately thought of Sonnet L’Abbé’s Sonnet’s Shakespeare, an overhaul of major proportions that loosens that cornerstone of English poetic systems: Shakespeare’s sonnets. L’Abbé sets Shakespeare’s iconic status wobbling; in doing so, she troubles inherited ideas of subjectivity and authorship. I find that reading L’Abbé’s poems calls me to do no less than overhaul my fundamental ideas about poetry, poem-making, the role of the poet in society, and even what it means to read.

In the book, L’Abbé writes with and around each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets to compose 154 new prose poems: “Letter by letter,” reads the back cover of Sonnet’s Shakespeare, “she sits her own language down into the white spaces of Shakespeare’s poems, until she overwhelms the original text and effectively erases Shakespeare’s voice by subsuming his words into hers.” The first two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 127 are: “In the old age black was not counted fair / Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name.” In Sonnet’s Shakespeare, the opening of L’Abbé’s corresponding poem reads:

I’m staring at Shakespeare’s poem. Blocked. Carnage because Black was not counted fairly. Torinto faithless weathebecause literature assured Black bodies bore no righto beauty’s name. (emphasis mine)2

While Shakespeare’s poem is contained inside the new text, the letters are repurposed into prose poems. Moreover, L’Abbé’s new prose poems cover a range of topics, from colonialism to climate change, to love and intimacy, to the 2016 US election, to police violence, to cyberculture, to gender and sexuality, to racism, to capitalism.

The subtitle for Sonnet’s Shakespeare gives three names to L’Abbé’s poetics: “154 textile winds, or aggrecultures, or ecolo izations, or.” These three names keep the form in flux. Each name is a mash-up: “textile winds” might invoke text + textile (cloth or fabric) + winds (weather); “aggreculture,” suggests agriculture + aggregated culture; and “ecolo ization” echoes ecology + colonization. “Ecolo ization” also preserves a gap in the middle of the word, encoding ideas of rupture, and reclaiming space for the many histories colonialism tries to erase. Significantly, each of these hybrid terms invokes geographic space: they resituate the page as a field or a world in which nature and culture meet (not unviolently) and poem-making becomes a kind of organic weathering, planting, or grafting.

This book asks large questions, such as: What happens when we dismantle the monumental status of a figure like Shakespeare? What other voices rise to describe the world? By defamiliarizing the sonnets and disrupting Shakespeare’s status, L’Abbé makes both the shape of his influence and the shape of white supremacy more visible. “I now understand this work,” explains L’Abbé, “as a grappling with how to speak in English about being a Black, South Asian and Franco-Ontarian/Québecois person who has been educated by a Canadian system, while searching for the community I speak to and am accountable to, and asking how to responsibly take up space on the land I’m on.” If, as Rossetti wrote, a sonnet is a “moment’s monument,” L’Abbé shows that to dismantle a monument is both to make legible the land and the histories that the monument obscured and to memorialize the necessary act of protest and critique.

Link to the rest at Public Books

The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Decrypted Renaissance Dead Letters

From Inverse:

Simon and Marie de Brienne were the 17th century’s most active postmaster and postmistress, delivering personal and political letters alike across Europe. But the Briennes also had a secret.

In addition to delivering letters, they stored away for thousands of “dead letters” — the typically discarded letters belonging to recipients who couldn’t pay postage. Rediscovered in 1926, the Brienne’s trunk is the final resting place of over 5,000 letters. Nearly half have never been opened for fear of destruction.

Now, using X-ray microtomography instead of a letter opener, a team of scientists has opened one of these letters for the very first time and demonstrated their pioneering new system on four letterpackets from Renaissance Europe.

This system gives scientists a powerful new tool for accessing the daily-lives of Renaissance people and for better understanding what the personal, professional, and political pressures of the day might have been like.

It also offers scientists an opportunity to explore one of history’s ancient security measures, a “letterlock.” This is an early, physical predecessor to today’s modern cryptography.

“[W]e developed virtual unfolding to prove our letterlocking theories, and elucidate a historically vital — but long underappreciated — form of physical cryptography,” write the authors.”

. . . .

Long before the invention of email, or even bitter-tasting lickable envelopes, Renaissance correspondents had to think more creatively about the safety of their epistolatory works. One way that these letters were kept safe, write the authors, was through intricate, origami-like letterlocks.

“Before the proliferation of mass-produced envelopes in the 1830s, most letters were sent via letterlocking, the process of folding and securing writing [materials] to become their own envelopes,” the authors explain.

“Letterlocking was an everyday activity for centuries, across cultures, borders, and social classes, and plays an integral role in the history of secrecy systems.”

The authors write that in their study of 250,000 letterlocked messages (beyond the Brienne haul) from the “Renaissance world,” they discovered a spectrum of security systems, ranging from simply sealed to booby-trapped letters with tamper-evident locking mechanisms to deter “man-in-the-middle” attacks.

In other words, a mechanism that would secretly signal to the recipient if others had snuck a peek at their secret writing.

A striking discovery made during their research was the successful virtual unfolding of a never-before-opened letter from July 1697 from Frenchman Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers requesting a certified copy of a death notice for one Daniel Le Pers.

“Before computational analysis, we only knew the name of the intended recipient, written on the outside of the letter packet,” write the authors.

As these “dead letters” were often never delivered due to either insufficient postage or the death of the recipient, one can wonder if Pierre Le Pers joined Daniel before receiving this final postage.

While the contents of this letter weren’t necessarily world-changing secrets, the authors write that the success of their approach could be used in the future to unlock even more long-forgotten secrets from this era.

The letters, quite simply, are also difficult to read — despite being technically legible. The study authors note that the “idiosyncrasies of a hand” can make it difficult to determine the actual context of letters; paleographers have to use contextual clues and linguistic knowledge to fill in when text is messy or missing. Other times, wormholes have made it impossible to determine a word.

Link to the rest at Inverse

(PG apologizes for the “snuck” in the OP)

The Nature of Conspiracy Theories

From The Wall Street Journal:

In the age of QAnon, it is of little comfort to learn in Michael Butter’s “The Nature of Conspiracy Theories” that such malevolent fables have been around for some time. Cicero devised one. Winston Churchill, at least once, passed along another. What’s different now, claims Mr. Butter, is who believes them, who spreads them and how they are disseminated. Once common among the elites, conspiracy theories were stigmatized, in the West anyway, during the postwar years. “We used to be afraid of conspiracies,” the author relates. “We are now more afraid of conspiracy theories,” a fear that helps account for the attention they attract.

But only partly: Ideas that might once have been confined to a pamphlet are now easily available on the internet, a space where anyone can be an expert and where conspiracy theories can provide a splendid living for those who peddle them. The internet has “largely nullified” the media’s “traditional watchdog role,” a change that Mr. Butter, who writes from a leftish-establishment point of view, mourns more than is entirely healthy.

Perhaps inevitably in these times, Mr. Butter examines the connection between populism and conspiracy theories. The connection is real enough, although support for the former does not have to meansuccumbing to the latter. Nevertheless it’s no coincidence that susceptibility to conspiracism is associated with feeling powerless or (something obviously relevant to the rise of populism) “the fear of becoming so.”

But the underlying appetite for conspiracy theories stems from something far deeper than social and/or political disaffection. It arises, Mr. Butter suggests, from the way “evolution has trained the human brain to make connections and recognize patterns.” We are delighted to “find” these connections, even when there are none—so great, I suspect, is our reluctance to accept a random and indifferent universe. There is a decent argument to be made that conspiracy theories helped fill the psychological gap left by religion’s retreat, even if, as Mr. Butter records, they long predated the Enlightenment’s revolt against God.

But the underlying appetite for conspiracy theories stems from something far deeper than social and/or political disaffection. It arises, Mr. Butter suggests, from the way “evolution has trained the human brain to make connections and recognize patterns.” We are delighted to “find” these connections, even when there are none—so great, I suspect, is our reluctance to accept a random and indifferent universe. There is a decent argument to be made that conspiracy theories helped fill the psychological gap left by religion’s retreat, even if, as Mr. Butter records, they long predated the Enlightenment’s revolt against God.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

The Best 8 Free and Open Source Library Management Software Solutions

From GoodFirms:

For many of us, nothing seems more important than reading a book. “When in doubt go to a library,” said J. K Rowling, the writer who is well known for giving us the fantasy series Harry Potter. Libraries have been a trusted source of information. Going to a library and picking a book was fun those days. Technology has brought significant changes to libraries. These days Libraries function differently due to the digitalization. Access to information is in real-time and universal. Traditional libraries are forced to re-work on their workflow. Library management has evolved and improved to a stage never imaged in the pre-cyber era. To meet the growing demands of the digital generation, it is essential for every library to invest in efficient Library management software solutions.

Why should Libraries invest In a Library Management Software System?

From pure closed stacks of books to open stacks; from digital resources to e-collections – the concept of a library has evolved so much that today we have virtual users from anywhere using the service at anytime they wish. This sudden transformation has brought a pressing need on every library to exchange data and information across the digital library system automatically.  Also, connecting with networks of libraries along with following machine-readable standards and other cataloguing standards are becoming crucial for libraries. Apart from allowing access to resources, typically, a library must be able to handle other actions like; acquisition, inventory, finance, circulation, generating statistical reports, and other references.

From Analog to Digital, Libraries have come a long way. Books are no more restricted to specific shelves now. Access is universal.

. . . .

Traditional Library functions included;

  • Manually Labelling
  • Manually Accessing
  • Manually Sorting
  • Manually Shelving
  • Manually Searching
  • Loads of Manual workflow activities

Since most of the management activities were carried out manually, there were high chances for errors and miss-handling with inventory collections and records management. 

Libraries Today

Today, technology has been helping to manage libraries efficiently. It has got easier for both users and librarians. Library management or library automation software solutions are widely used today.

Benefits of using Library Management Software

Be it standalone or small libraries managed by schools, universities, etc, a good library management system proves to be a worthy investment. The software, on the whole, helps in simplifying the entire library management process.

  • To automate the workflow
  • To reduce handling cost
  • To reduce errors
  • To support the continued visibility of your services
  • To add value
  • To retain intuitive usability
  • To make access convenient
  • To reach relevant content
  • To maintain the database
  • To leverage functionality
  • To enable information sharing
  • To manage your portal efficiently
  • To support growth and innovation
  • To take control and eliminate discrepancies
  • To retain existing readers
  • To generate new readers

Some of the best Library Automation software enables in managing the whole library workflow through an easy-to-use, simple and interactive interface. By using this software, a librarian can handle basic to complicated functions of a library right from collection till controlling bibliography. Users can instantly get information on any book available in the library. Privacy can be maintained, and users’ records are stored safely.

Keeping track of all the books is much easier with a Library Management Software. Added to this, overseeing fee collection, fine, late return, etc becomes much easier with the software.

Library automation software solutions are today used right from small school library to a large public library. In short, enterprise planning and resource management are much easier with library management software.

The ever-growing demand to automate library functions has been driving the library automation software market globally.

Different Types of Library Management Software

A plethora of library management system pervades the industry today. The options are vast though. Over the years, these software solutions have also matured in their functionality and usability and have efficiently adapted to the changing requirements. Pick up the one that fits your goals. Explore your options by purely starting from the most immediate goals. 

Premium:

Commercial Library management software solutions are designed with outstanding features, but the cost factor is pretty high. It gets difficult for many institutions and libraries to afford commercial products. An ideal alternative in such a situation open source software.

Shareware:

Users can try the software for free for a limited period and have to pay to use the service forever.

Cloud-based (Cloud Hosted / Subscription based)

A cloud-based library management system allows libraries to use the software without having to license or install. Hosted by a third party, the software demands some operational control cost.

Freemium:

This version of library automation software allows users to test the software for some time for zero cost. The free trial period can last anytime from a few weeks to a few months.

Open Source:

Open source library management software systems are those whose source code is available for the public to use, copy, modify and distribute. The purpose is to see a rapid evolution of the code and the program. Moreover, it also helps in correcting errors. The key advantage of open source library management software is that users can acquire and download this software freely. No developers can claim any royalties on the distribution. This approach is gaining momentum. Open Source library management solutions can be free for unlimited time or can come with some limitations. The adoption of open-source library management software is in recent days creating lucrative opportunities for market growth.

Free and Open Source

Small and medium-sized libraries very often have a stringent budget and investing in a commercial library management system is very difficult. A free and open source library management software solution enables them to automate their system in a cost-effective way.

. . . .

. . . .

Comparison Chart of the Best 8 Free & Open Source Library Management Software Solutions

Link to the rest at GoodFirms

My Publishing Values

From Hugh Howey:

Value listing is one of the more important thought exercises I’ve discovered over the years. I was introduced to this by a friend, and my first attempt was to list my top 10 overall values in the world. This sounds easy enough, but you have to do it in order. So what goes higher on that list, family or friends? Where do you rank truth and honesty, without which most of the other things we value can’t exist or be trusted?

Does science make the list of things we value, considering the lives it has saved and made more pleasant? Where do you rank education and democracy? One way to answer these questions is to look around the world at places that enjoy the benefits of one more than the other. Would you rather live among one of the remaining hunter/gatherer tribes with no science? Or in a country like China with no democracy?

The list you end up with is not nearly as important as the act of creation itself. It’s the wrestling with the thing that matters. As you imagine going without what’s dear to you, your appreciation of them can grow. And as you order the things you value, you can ask yourself if you are putting your energies into the things highest on the list. Quite often we find ourselves living by someone else’s values and not our own. Because we too rarely sit down and suss these questions out for ourselves.

All this came to mind recently when someone emailed me an old blog post of mine about what we should value in the publishing industry. When I used to travel to book conferences and give talks, a frequent theme of mine was that readers and writers should be the focus of this industry, not bookstores and publishers. That might sound quaint or obvious, but it’s not how the industry is covered. It’s mostly seen as a transaction between publishers (the producers of books) and bookstores (the retailers). How those entities are doing, what they need, where they can improve and grow, was pretty much every article in the trade press for many decades. People obsessed over what B&N was doing and then later Amazon. The rest was agony and gossip among and about the big 6 publishers (now the big 5).

That began to change when Amazon came along and decided to sell books online. And this change was not because of self-publishing or e-books. The Kindle was many years away. It was because of Amazon’s 1995 innovation, the customer review. Suddenly, readers mattered. We take this innovation for granted, but at the time people thought Amazon was making a mistake. Customers would rant and complain! They’d bash the very product the retailer was trying to sell! This happened, of course, but mostly people shared the pros and cons and helped other shoppers make better decisions. A lot of Amazon’s success comes from this early trust in its users.

When Amazon launched the Kindle and allowed anyone to upload a book to its website, an even louder contingent of pundits would decry the decision. This would end bookselling as we know it, they said. It would destroy the book discovery process, they lamented. Even authors got in the act by predicting a tsunami of crap that would make it impossible to find decent reads. First, Amazon was giving the reader way too much power and now they were doing the same for writers. For an industry that valued publishers and bookstores the most, Amazon’s every decision was anathema.

But was that really everyone’s value list? If you ask most people to rank their publishing values, publishers would probably end up near the very bottom, perhaps just higher than professional book critics. Bookstores would go near the very top of most snap lists, but where would they really rank if a proper value list was made? The only way to answer that is to wrestle with our own list and to ask others to do the same. In a very long-winded way, I’m going to do that right now. Come along with me if you like.

One of the joys of value listing are the chicken-and-egg problems that arise immediately. Can you have books and not authors? The answer is yes. Perhaps there’s a future where no new books are written, but we still have all the classics and what came before. Okay, can you have books and no readers? Of course. I wrote books for quite some time with no readers. They just sit there. So is it books we value the most? Or is it the act of them being read?

What about readers without books? It’s not technically reading, but we had a very long and rich oral tradition before writing and literacy became more common. Would I rather have stories being told and enjoyed over a world full of books that no one can read? Now we’re zeroing into the top of my list. Readers win out over books themselves, because if the physical things went away, we could still have Story with a capital s. Audiobooks and the oral tradition could survive. This would be a world without writers, so no new stories, which is a shame. But it’s better than a world full of writers if none of their stories are being heard.

My list thus far:

1: Readers

I’ve already decided that the shape story comes in is not as important as the act of them being told and enjoyed. So books and bookstores are not yet a priority. Right now I just have people enjoying previously concocted stories as they are spoken aloud or listened to from a recording. What we need are more stories, so to the list we add writers:

1: Readers
2: Writers

The audience and the artist. Getting these two down in this order makes almost every decision I’ve made as an author, bookseller, speaker, publisher, blogger jump right out at me. Lower prices and more reading options for readers. Better pay, better contracts, fewer barriers to entry for writers. This is why value listing is so important. If you rank books #1, you value a world of dusty or bare shelves. But with these two down, do books now come third? Or is an e-book only world better if it includes publishers or agents and the value they add? Or is a retailer for e-books more important than a world full of books but not a single bookstore? Where do I rank books, publishers, and bookstores?

Behind editors, that’s where.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors

Whoa. Really? Yes, dear reader. I wouldn’t have published a single book without the input and courage I received from my editors. That includes my mother, sister, cousin, online friends, and my writing club members. Editors go back to the oral tradition mentioned above. They were the people honing and refining story to make them better, offering suggestions and input, often becoming storytellers themselves. They are the super-reader. The beta-reader. The book-perfecter.

Would you prefer a bookstore full of unedited manuscripts over an oral tradition of finely honed masterpieces? I doubt many sober lovers of story would come to this conclusion if forced to decide. Perhaps those who have never seen a rough draft and don’t realize how far that last level of polish takes a work.

Editors are key. They are more important than physical books. and I have to rank them accordingly. Within this group are the agents who act as editors but do so much more. Again, this is why these listing exercises are so useful. Editors add tons of value but are rarely discussed when we talk about our love of books. Speaking of which, can we finally add books to the list?

Not so fast. We are back at the dreaded retailer/book/publisher question from earlier. What does a world without a book retailer look like? This means no sidewalk shops or bazaars. No online retail. No used bookstores. No place that transacts for the sale of a book at all. We have eager readers, talented authors, capable editors… do we want them producing book-shaped things but nobody can earn a living from their efforts? What about having a retailer like Audible, which would allow easy access to all these books, a steady income for many authors and editors, but no physical books?

It’s the earnings side that has me putting bookstores next on my list, before we even have books! So e-books and audiobooks only. For many, I know books would have shown up by now, and that’s a fair call. But then authors and editors are working for free forever. And that’s something I can’t value over the physical shape a story takes.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Retailers (digital only)

Painful, I know. It’s not supposed to be easy. Surely we get books now, please?! I’m writing this as a kid who was obsessed with books and who has remained surrounded by them ever since. I can’t walk past a bookstore without popping inside. When I visit friends, I often end up standing in front of their shelves reading spines, comparing tastes. Any antique rummaging begins and ends with the boxes of books. And yet … they aren’t going to make my top 5. Because now that writers can earn a living in my value list, I have to add the institutions that make sure everyone has access to books. Next on my list is libraries.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Retailers (digital only)
5: Libraries

Libraries without books? I’m as aghast as you are. But if you are going to give stories the shape of a book and not allow libraries in this world, I beg you to reconsider. Libraries are so critical that I very nearly rank them #4 on my list, except that this makes the career of a writer impossible. Libraries do more than provide a place for people to enjoy stories for free. They provide expertise in finding those stories and in cataloging them. As stories have become more and more digital, libraries have added even more value. Yes, I rank them higher than books. But thank goodness the physical object can finally go on the list.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Retailers (digital only)
5: Libraries
6: Books

Whew. Man, that hurt to wait so long, but I can’t reason through it any other way. Now that we have books, we can reclassify retailers as bookstores. Of course our old world could have had e-book kiosks and digital-only brick and mortar stores. All that’s changed is the container our stories go inside.

Once you get past the really hard decisions, it’s tempting to slap the rest of the list together. Resist this temptation. Weigh the rest with the same level of care. Make sure you aren’t leaving anything out. We still need cover artists, audiobook narrators, publishers, professional book reviewers. These will round out my top ten (I consider large scale printers covered by the category of “books” itself).

It’s difficult to choose between cover artists and narrators to be honest. Both deserve much more recognition than they get. Good cover art can make or break a story’s success. But as audiobooks have grown, and to pay homage to the critical importance of how this industry got its start with oral storytelling, I have to give narrators the nod. I know audiobookphiles who choose their next purchase over the voice more than the writer, and for good reason.

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Bookstores
5: Libraries
6: Books
7: Narrators
8: Cover artists

That leaves publishers and reviewers, who should not feel completely diminished. Making the list at all is something. There are entities that add tons of value to the storytelling enterprise who aren’t even mentioned here, like formatters and typesetters, booksellers and bloggers. But the final list goes:

1: Readers
2: Writers
3: Editors
4: Bookstores
5: Libraries
6: Books
7: Narrators
8: Cover artists
9: Publishers
10: Critics

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey

PG will note that he’s read several of Hugh’s books and has enjoyed them all.

How to Recognize If You’re Being ‘Lovebombed’ by a Narcissist

PG realizes that he probably forgot about Valentine Day, so he’s trying to make amends.

From Lifehacker:

Gary Chapman’s 1992 book The Five Love Languages described the various ways that people display affection in romantic relationships. It became something of a cultural touchstone, putting in relatable terms how people use physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and giving gifts to demonstrate admiration. But when do displays of love slide from a genuine gesture into something born of narcissism and emotional control?

It can feel like a nebulous line, but if you’ve ever been in a relationship where a partner would shower you with love in excess, perhaps with a deluge of gifts, praise, and affection only to later use it as an emotional cudgel, you may have been the victim of “lovebombing.”

Being lovebombed is a newer concept, so let’s unpack what it means to be with someone who subjects you to it, and how you might cope if lovebombing happens to be part of your relationship.

. . . .

Lovebombing is inundating someone with waves of affection, compliments, gifts, and the like in an effort to sweep them off their feet, usually in the early stages of a relationship. The darker side comes when the person doing the love bombing uses their effusiveness to hold control over their partner, possibly manipulating them into feeling bad or thinking that they’ve somehow failed to reciprocate the affection.

InStyle points to the recent lawsuit filed by the singer FKA Twigs against the actor Shia LaBeouf, whom she accuses of physical abuse, assault, and emotional distress. In the beginning of their relationship, LaBeouf allegedly sent Twigs (real name Tahliah Barnett) up to twenty bunches of roses a day in addition to hopping the fence of her London home to give her various love notes. The relationship turned dark when LaBeouf allegedly subjected the singer to various forms of abuse, she claims, such as threatening to crash their car unless she told him that she loved him, and physically assaulting her in a public gas station.

The polar extremes of such described behavior is classic lovebombing. Basically, it’s about reeling in another person in an effort to control them emotionally, and it’s usually a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder. As Ami Kaplan, a psychotherapist, told Cosmopolitan in 2019:

It’s about really getting the other person. Then when they feel like they really got the person and they feel secure in the relationship, the narcissist typically switches and becomes very difficult, abusive, or manipulative.

Ultimately, lovebombing is a tool for manipulation, and a way for a narcissist to project the image of a perfect partner. As the psychologist Suzanne Degges-White wrote in Psychology Today in 2018:

Narcissists in particular are known for their skills at manipulation, as much as their penchant for self-love. They may use flattery and attention as tools to build themselves up as the perfect partner, the better to gain your trust, affection — and, ultimately, adoration.

Link to the rest at Lifehacker

PG notes that he has been very happily married to Mrs. PG for some time and is definitely not aware of current romantic trends and pitfalls, so he is not in a position to know if lovebombing is a threat or a menace.

He’s on firmer ground with New York publishers, none of which have ever attempted to love-bomb PG.

Tardiness in Approving New Comments

PG apologizes for not tending the store as usual. The post that immediately precedes this one (chronologically) is his only excuse.

PG especially apologizes to those who posted their first comments during the past couple of days. PG has TPV set to require that the first comment from a visitor be held for moderation to help cut down on comment spam.

Once PG has approved the first comment, subsequent comments should appear nearly immediately (you may have to hit the reload button on your browser) provided that you are not bitten by a werewolf and converted into a comment spammer.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny Teaming up on New Political Mystery Novel

From BookRiot:

If you love political mysteries, you’re in for a treat this October when a novel hits shelves written from an interesting new perspective: that of former Secretary of State and presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton is teaming up with award-winning Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny to co-write State of Terror, which tells the story of a newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State who must solve a series of terrorist attacks. The book will hit shelves on October 12, and is being jointly published by Clinton and Penny’s publishers, Simon & Schuster and St. Martin’s Press respectively.

State of Terror takes place just after a four-year presidential term that pulled America away from the world stage. A novice Secretary of State is appointed by her political rival, and shortly after, the country is rocked by multiple terrorist attacks. The Secretary must put together a team capable of finding the source of the attacks while also preventing the American government from crumbling.

Clinton’s political experience influences several aspects of the new novel. After losing to former President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, Clinton was appointed by Obama to serve as Secretary of State for four years. The novel is also influenced by the Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy tactics.

. . . .

Penny shared that she “couldn’t say yes fast enough” to writing a book with Clinton. “Before we started, we talked about her time as Secretary of State. What was her worst nightmare? ‘State of Terror’ is the answer.”

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG felt an impulse to be snide, but perhaps recent intensive grandchild therapy has mellowed him out.

For the time being.

Curators of our culture are hard at work, even under present circumstances. Where would our culture be without them?

Offspring

The reason that posting has been a bit irregular in recent days is that, after their Covid vaccines kicked in, PG and Mrs. PG entered one of the vehicles that has spent most of its time in the garage of Casa PG and turned on the cruise control.

After a period of time, they arrived at the home of one of their offspring who, in turn, has several offspring of her home.

PG will attest that grandchild therapy is an excellent treatment for a condition PG’s father used to call, “Barn Sour.” When an animal, generally a cow/bull/steer or a horse, is kept in a pen in the barn for too long, that animal will become listless and fail to thrive.

The treatment for barn sourness is to let the animal out of the barn into a corral or other space where it has the opportunity to move and interact with a variety of other animals. Even an older large animal will sometimes kick its back legs in the air and trot around a bit before settling down to the serious business of sniffing as many other animals which will hold still for that greeting/examination.

Like an old barn sour bull, PG has rejoiced in being freed from his Covid barn to kick his back feet in the air. He has not noticeably spent a lot of time sniffing his grandchildren (grandsons who have been permitted to roam about generate a sort of sweaty boy smell, particularly if they have been able to somehow avoid a bath the night before), but he has enjoyed interacting with grandchildren of both genders.

The image at the top of this post is a photo of a group of guard animals arrayed across the entrance to PG’s and Mrs. PG’s bedroom. PG was unable to ascertain exactly what threats they’re guarding us from, but since only pleasant experience have occurred since their first appearance, PG expects that is an indication of their efficacy.

The Future Will Be Monthly: Subscription Models for Authors

From Indies Unlimited:

Netflix. Lootcrate. Amazon Prime. Everyone has at least heard of most of these, and you probably subscribe to one or two of them. From TV to men’s razors, the subscription model is catching on with consumers.

According to Deloitte, 69% of households now subscribe to one or more video streaming subscription services. A survey conducted by Global Banking and Finance Review reported that 70% of business leaders say subscription business models will be key to their prospects in the years ahead.

How can publishing get in on this thriving new trend? Let me count the ways.

Publishers have a big hurdle to jumping into a subscription model: no reader buys every book they publish. But authors don’t have that problem. They can cultivate readers who will read everything they put out, and it is these authors who can benefit greatly from implementing a subscription model of their own.

How do we know this? Because they are already doing it.

Services like Patreon allow authors and artists to cultivate patrons either on a monthly basis, to per creation, while services such as Shopify and Payhip let you sell digital downloads and memberships. Another site, Gumroad, gets you set up to sell everything from ebooks to physical products and create a membership site. Want to keep things simple? Add a subscription payment button to your website with PayPal.

Paypal is what author Dean Wesley Smith uses to process subscriptions to his very own magazine, Smith’s Monthly. Each month, Smith publishes a print and electronic magazine containing several short stories a full novel, and serialized fiction (and he sells the individual issues on Amazon and other sites as well).

. . . .

Indie author and small press publisher John G. Hartness uses Gumroad and Patreon as a subscription service for $5 monthly short stories. Hartness also sells ebooks and audio downloads via Gumroad, and these are often cheaper than Amazon and the other ebook sites because Gumroad takes a smaller cut, so it’s a win-win for both the author and his readers.

You’ll need to have at least some of your books wide on Amazon, and you likely won’t get the traffic that the world’s largest search engine for books does, but over time it can be a nice chunk of change. It works for print books as well. For $25 a month, my patrons on Patreon get signed print copies of my books, with free U.S. shipping, as well as free stories and snippets. And it’s another fun way to interact with your readers.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

PG is old enough to remember various book-of-the-month clubs, so subscriptions are definitely not a new thing in the book world.

That said, indie authors come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. PG knows some that are organizing book projects in which several authors contribute a short story to a collected stories ebook and it is widely-believed that a regular email newsletter from an author to readers who opt-in to receive it is a good way of keeping readers engaged between book releases.

For other authors, writing books is what gets them up and in front of the computer each morning. As much as they appreciate those who buy their books, writing a chatty newsletter instead of the latest chapter in their noir novel is a burden.

Others have day jobs, some in offices, others on assembly lines and others who are shuffling children hither and yon to school, sports, music lessons, doctors, and dentists. These authors may need to spend their writing time focused hard on their first or next book.

A subscription model is fine if you have the inclination, time and energy to pursue it, but, in PG’s HO, getting good books out the door for readers to buy is Job #1.

Can Brotherly Love Produce a Book?

From Publishers Weekly:

I began pondering how to describe what it’s like writing with my brother with the metaphor of a river flowing into a sea in mind. It provokes the notion of something vast and abstract, like cognition, that is then contextualized as a specific memory. I next found myself staring at my morning coffee, wondering just how grandiose our ideas tend to be. A French press stood not far behind with more “liquid gold.” The aha moment during my routine will be found herein. This sort of pivoting is a hallmark of our creative endeavors.

Anyone with a sibling can imagine how uncompromising writing with one could become. And yet one could also likely imagine how rich the experience could be because of an inextricable common bond. Ehsan and I are not “classically” trained writers, and that was a major challenge for us as first-time authors. Writing in the service of story can take on a life of its own. Going into writing the Wild Sun series with procedural naiveties—unencumbered by knowledge about the “right” way to craft a story—was arguably the greatest benefit to our collaboration. We gave each other the confidence to create whatever was boiling to the surface. There were no expectations.

Well, that is not totally true. We expected to find our taste translated onto the page. That is something that we have found to be immensely satisfying. Taste is subjective—for the most part. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” At the same time, it becomes objective within context.

We overcame initial collaborative hurdles with a tremendous amount of preproduction planning… and bourbon… and edibles. The one thing I can say about Ehsan and me is that we are dreamers. Not necessarily fantastical or ideological—more so in regard to the depth of a singular idea. Imagine worldbuilding as breadth and narrative as depth. We relish being 15,000 feet up in the air. High, if you will. This is where the abstract and tectonic elements of a story often dwell. The “river flowing into a sea” stuff. Spending so much time in the clouds growing up together allowed us to envision how the coffee would (should) taste when back on the ground.

This process has also been a look into how meandering thoughts eventually find a way back home. And how I need to explain writing with Ehsan through a French press metaphor.

It begins with a trip to the café for coffee beans. They are whole and require a good deal of grinding before they reach their grittier final form. Emphasis on grinding. This would essentially be our preproduction stage. (Ehsan and I began cutting our teeth on writing with a screenplay concept we had been tinkering with. Wild Sun is actually a fully realized backstory to one of the characters from this movie idea.) I personally have a proclivity to visualize story, and fortunately, while Ehsan also does so, he is more into studying plot and structure. We would take our burgeoning formal understanding of writing and apply it to works we love, film or novels. It is how we began to formulate our concept of taste and what we could actually do with what was in our heads.

Once we take the grounds and add them to a French press, it requires boiling water as the vehicle for creating the coffee. Consider this element of heat as one of the more challenging parts of us writing in tandem. It is often grueling at first. We would both take shots at opening the novel, and once combined it would feel dense, slow. We were too mechanical in the initial goings, and pacing suffered. This caused a good deal of frustration for us, because our taste was completely unmoored from what was landing on the page.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

More Apologies

PG apologizes for another light blogging day today.

He realizes that he has had too many of those in recent days, but this one is unavoidable.

Nothing’s wrong, nobody’s sick, the World ‘O PG is looking good.

Back soon.

Let me tell you this

Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.

Jodi Picoult

But love is always new

But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness.

Paulo Coelho

The Garden

From The Paris Review:

Ma thought it was a good idea. That we work together in the garden. But it wasn’t a garden then, just a long rectangle of funky-smelling earth behind a two-story apartment house in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. An elderly couple named Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz owned the house and backyard. This was in the early seventies, and already the Jews were moving out. I was ten or twelve the summer we worked in the earth. The Schwartzes lived downstairs from us in that house, and on Fridays their apartment went semidark because of the Sabbath. What a beautiful word for something I didn’t know anything about. Then, one day, I saw the tattooed numbers on Mrs. Schwartz’s arm and in a flash everything I’d learned in school flooded my mind and heart: all those bodies laid to waste, gold teeth extracted and made into something else, the gas chambers and the musicians who played as the walking dead stood naked, hoping for water, hoping to be cleaned.

And there was more. There is always more pain and beauty. Recently, a friend told me about the gardens Jews kept for Nazi families who wanted something beautiful to look at while they smelled death at work, had schnapps and what all outside, the condemned Jews not lifting their heads as they worked the earth and tended flowers, such beautiful living organisms thriving on a plantation where murder was grown and harvested. And I think of Mrs. Schwartz now as I think about the earth behind our house—her house—and the numbers blooming on her arm like flowers. I never got to ask her how old she was when she was marked like that, and did she remember or see barbed wire fencing the condemned in like the wiring around flower beds and vegetable beds our innocent neighbors used to keep predators out? Nor did I get to say to her, even as those numbers on her arm blossom and die in my memory, What is it about flowers that no matter where they’re grown—in death camps or by the sea, in private homes or on the border of war zones—why is it they keep on flowering while insisting on their right to inspire feelings in us that we can barely know, or articulate in all our truth and terribleness?

When I think about the Schwartzes, I think about their building, our home, and I think about the steep staircase leading up from the street to our apartment, and the long shape of our apartment itself, and the fact that we lived next door to a gas station where fumes bloomed. This is the only apartment I have vivid memories of—we moved a fair amount when I was a kid—and part of what I remember about it is the garden or, more accurately, how the garden came to be.

It wasn’t anything but overly fertilized rust-colored dirt when Ma said she thought something could grow there. She was always trying to make a family, and to make that family grow. But there was so much bad earth. Our father didn’t live with us; for most of the time I knew him, he lived with his mother, in Crown Heights, a bus ride away. It had always been this way. My parents visited, and on weekends out my father took me and my little brother on long walks around the city. We saw the beautiful consumerist goods on Madison Avenue, and, in the Village, heard women catcalling to passersby from the Women’s House of Detention. Rainy days in Chinatown, and some snowy days at the Guggenheim Museum, or looking at the precipitation falling on the stone lions at the New York Public Library. And then there was my father’s hand, or, more accurately, certainly from an emotional point of view, my hand in his tougher rougher bigger hand and it was the best foreign feeling in the world: I knew his hand but not him, and even now that feels like defeat, my remembering the pleasure of my hand in his, and all that I wanted from him that wasn’t forthcoming. My dreams of him were always tied up with things ending—at the end of our Saturdays together, he took a gypsy cab home—and so with a kind of death. On some level I must have wanted him to stay even though I couldn’t stand him, or stand him leaving. In any case, I can’t believe these memories continue to make me vulnerable to him, the way flowers are to our human hands—cut them or leave them alone? Water them or let nature take care of them? The flowers are vulnerable to us!—and remind me that all I want to do is find my father again, but in a better person, a he who will protect me from the original father who maybe taught us how to cultivate flowers, but certainly not how to find soul-nourishing love when it’s needed, which is always.

I don’t remember when my mother suggested growing flowers. But for sure her impulse was in part inspired by her desire to keep looking for activities that prompted and encouraged our father to be a father to his sons. That was part of what mediocre therapists might call their dynamic—her hope and his pulling back, her cajoling him and telling him what he must do, and him doing it sometimes, but always grudgingly. Daddy was Ma’s only real baby, or the only one who was allowed to be a baby. I remember her saying she would ask the Schwartzes about the land, and I remember my father standing with me at the Schwartzes’ door soon thereafter, and the deeply kind Mr. Schwartz telling my father that the dirt back there had been overly fertilized by someone a long time before, and it had been left untended after that. In my memory or my imagination, which is usually the same thing, my father says to Mr. Schwartz, I’ll take care of it. Or perhaps it was my mother who asked the Schwartzes about the ground, then decided we would make the best of it. Because that’s what she always did. And maybe what I wanted my father to do.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG remembers the nice guy who always wore a yarmulke in the shop where he took his dress shirts and dry-cleaning in Chicago a long time ago who also had blue numbers tattooed on his forearm that showed on warm days when he had his shirtsleeves rolled up.

PG never commented on the numbers since he knew what they represented and thought the nice guy might not want to talk about the experience. The nice guy never made any attempt to hide the blue numbers and had certainly earned the right to show them or cover them a million times over without anyone questioning his choice.

Some other guys who had fought in World War II or Korea also had tattoos that identified them with their experiences as well and some of them were detailed and colorful and said things like “Iwo” or “Chosin” but seeing those tattoos never effected PG as much as the tattoo that the nice guy in the yarmulke showed on warm days. That’s the one PG remembers vividly.

Arrogant people

Arrogant people are non-learners. They invest their energies in maintaining a cozy feeling of complacency, and complacency is the biggest single enemy to the process of continuously learning from experience. Arrogant people are exactly the sort of people who are destined to have one year’s experience 20 times rather than 20 years’ worth of experience.

Peter Honey

Strange Behavior with the Comments

PG has received a couple of messages that describe something he’s observed himself.

Sometimes when PG pulls up TPV and examines a post for which he knows there are comments, when he gets to the bottom of the post, there is no indication that there are a number of comments, only the “Leave a Comment” link that has, in the past, meant that if you click on the link, you’ll be the first to comment on that post.

On other posts which have comments, at the end of the post, the number of comments that have been made is shown in the manner PG expects them to appear.

He has only noticed this behavior over the past few weeks and doesn’t recall seeing it before. In some cases, it seems to come and go, 10 comments listed for a post now and nothing shown a couple of hours later.

PG hasn’t made any changes to the site, theme, etc., to which he can attribute this behavior.

PG has archived about the oldest 20% of the posts on TPV (quite old ones) over the past few weeks simply to reduce the size of the TPV database, but has noticed that the number of comments (over 300,000) have not diminished on the TPV admin dashboard although he would have expected that archiving the posts might do something similar with the related comments.

Clearing his browser cache, opening TPV in a different browser, etc., haven’t yielded any useful information about this odd behavior.

Since PG’s plate has been full lately, he hasn’t had a chance to research the problem, but hopes to find time to do so soon.

For those who have left comments, but haven’t seen them show up in the “XX comments” line below the posts, PG has discovered that, if he clicks on the “Leave a Comment” link below a post that doesn’t indicate that there are any comments, he sometimes finds comments that have been made relative to that post.

That’s not a very efficient solution to this problem, however.

If anyone knows what’s causing this behavior or can point PG to potential causes or solutions, PG would appreciate you leaving a comment to this post. It would save him time spent looking for information online and get things running right around this joint again.

Update on Light Blogging

On the second day following their Covid vaccination, PG and Mrs. PG are feeling better, but still very tired.

Light Blogging – Covid Vaccination Edition

As mentioned earlier, Mrs. PG and PG received their second of two Covid vaccinations yesterday.

Each felt fine yesterday, but both woke up with a lot of aches and pains throughout their bodies today.

PG has been assured that these are among the common after-effects of vaccination #2 and they will subside, likely by the end of the day today.

In the meantime, PG is feeling a few decades older than his chronological age and about the only thing he feels capable of doing is sitting in a very comfortable chair and reading a book.

He has a book he hasn’t yet read yet about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, which infected an estimated 1/3 of the world’s population and caused the death of between 50-100 million people at a time when the world’s population was much smaller than it is today.

He expects that reading about the Spanish Flu may help him put his temporary condition into proper perspective and expects to be hale, hardy and skeptical by tomorrow.

Science knows no country

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.

Louis Pasteur

Covid Update

PG and Mrs. PG each received their second Covid vaccination today (Pfizer for Covid aficionados).

The talking Covid drums have been saying that side effects from the second vaccination can be more difficult than the first. For PG, the only side effects he has experienced from the second is feeling a bit tired, hence, he will do a little blogging after lying down for an extended (and atypical) nap after receiving his vaccination and may take another nap thereafter.

Mrs. PG is still snoozing after watching an episode of Virgin River, based upon a 19-book series of the same title.

What We See When We Read

From The Paris Review:

If I said to you, “Describe Anna Karenina,” perhaps you’d mention her beauty. If you were reading closely you’d mention her “thick lashes,” her weight, or maybe even her little downy mustache (yes—it’s there). Matthew Arnold remarks upon “Anna’s shoulders, and masses of hair, and half-shut eyes … ”

But what does Anna Karenina look like? You may feel intimately acquainted with a character (people like to say, of a brilliantly described character, It’s like I know her), but this doesn’t mean you are actually picturing a person. Nothing so fixed—nothing so choate.

*

Most authors (wittingly, unwittingly) provide their fictional characters with more behavioral than physical description. Even if an author excels at physical description, we are left with shambling concoctions of stray body parts and random detail (authors can’t tell us everything). We fill in gaps. We shade them in. We gloss over them. We elide. Anna: her hair, her weight—these are only facets, and do not make up a true image of a person. They make up a body type, a hair color … What does Anna look like? We don’t know—our mental sketches of characters are worse than police composites.

Visualizing seems to require will …

… though at times it may also seem as though an image of a sort appears to us unbidden.

(It is tenuous, and withdraws shyly upon scrutiny.)

*

I canvass readers. I ask them if they can clearly imagine their favorite characters. To these readers, a beloved character is, to borrow William Shakespeare’s phrase, “bodied forth.”

These readers contend that the success of a work of fiction hinges on the putative authenticity of the characters. Some readers go further and suggest that the only way they can enjoy a novel is if the main characters are easily visible:

“Can you picture, in your mind, what Anna Karenina looks like?” I ask.

“Yes,” they say, “as if she were standing here in front of me.”

“What does her nose look like?”


“I hadn’t thought it out; but now that I think of it, she would be the kind of person who would have a nose like … ”

“But wait—How did you picture her before I asked? Noseless?”


“Well … ”

“Does she have a heavy brow? Bangs? Where does she hold her weight? Does she slouch? Does she have laugh lines?”

(Only a very tedious writer would tell you this much about a character. Though Tolstoy never tires of mentioning Anna’s slender hands. What does this emblematic description signify for Tolstoy?)

Some readers swear they can picture these characters perfectly, but only while they are reading. I doubt this, but I wonder now if our images of characters are vague because our visual memories are vague in general.

* * *

A thought experiment: Picture your mother. Now picture your favorite literary character. (Or: Picture your home. Then picture Howards End.) The difference between your mother’s afterimage and that of a literary character you love is that the more you concentrate, the more your mother might come into focus. A character will not reveal herself so easily. (The closer you look, the farther away she gets.)

(Actually, this is a relief. When I impose a face on a fictional character, the effect isn’t one of recognition, but dissonance. I end up imagining someone I know.* And then I think, That isn’t Anna!)

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

There are a number of additional images in the OP.

Banned Books

From The American Civil Liberties Union:

Ideas are powerful. That’s why intellectual freedom is protected by the First Amendments — and it’s also why sometimes governments try to suppress them.

For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has fought to make sure Americans have the right to read what they want. Despite our many victories, there are still misguided attempt to ban books. The American Library Association keeps track — some of the most frequently challenged books from 2015 include the best seller Fifty Shades of Grey along with Fun Home and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (both of which were turned into Tony Award-winning Broadway shows, by the way).

But you can’t keep a good book down. See the menu below for more on those “dangerous” collections of words.

Link to the rest at The American Civil Liberties Union

PG acknowledges that there are meaningful distinctions between a government agency attempting to prevent people from reading books about certain subjects and a private publisher acting in the same way.

However, he suggests the human impulse of someone with a bit of power to ban the dissemination of ideas that don’t fit in with their opinions or prejudices is at the root of both actions.

Betsy and George

PG isn’t being a slacker, but he thought of this song out of the blue.

Stan Freberg worked for a variety of New York City advertising agencies and was named as one of Advertising Age’s Top 100 People in Advertising at one point in his career.

However, the general public knew him best as a creator and performer of slightly-strange satirical television skits and songs, including the following.

Suite bergamasque

PG will stray far from his normal subjects for a moment.

Sometimes PG has a college radio station that plays classical music playing in the background while he works in his office.

A bit earlier this morning, that station played Suite bergamasque by Claude Debussy.

Debussy began composing this piece around 1890, at the age of 28, but significantly revised it just before its 1905 publication.

The composer had resisted the publication of his earlier piano works because they were much different than (and he thought, inferior to) his mature style. However, a French music publisher persuaded Debussy to allow the publication after Debussy spiffed it up a bit. (PG thinks “spiff” is a musical term. Debussy would have said, “les sous-vêtements de ma mère“)

PG has queued up the best-known portion of this piece, often known as Clair de Lune, which PG seems to recall means moonlight in French.

Or perhaps, eating snails by moonlight. (He barely passed the only French class he attempted in college.)

.

Letter to the Editor: We Need to Define ‘Conservative Publishing’

From Publishers Weekly:

In response to your January 25 story “Houses Divided,” which asks, “In the wake of the events of January 6, will the Big Five think twice about publishing conservative authors?,” it’s important to clarify what publishers mean when they say conservative and why it is that your article and the phrase “conservative publishing” misrepresents exactly what critics take issue with. The fact is, while it may have taken Simon & Schuster a little over 24 hours to change course on its publication of Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book The Tyranny of Big Tech, it took exactly seven business days for Regnery Publishing, which coincidentally is distributed by Simon & Schuster, to acquire it.

Hawley’s response to his contract cancellation included an accusation of the violation of his First Amendment rights. This is a sentiment echoed by some in the industry, who view the responsibility to publish a wide range of viewpoints as a First Amendment issue. S&S is not the American government or a public institution and therefore does not fall under the protection of the First Amendment.

As cultural institutions, publishing houses certainly have a responsibility to document the many faces of society, including the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump. However, the framing of these viewpoints is an even more daunting task. From an innocent pat on the former president’s head by a late-night television host to the publication of a noted transphobic professor, the output of cultural institutions has an impact on the collective consciousness of American society. When the messenger upholds the dehumanization of Black, Indigenous, racialized, LGBT+, and disability communities, their message can and has led to violence against these communities.

For many years, publishers have been quietly profiting off of this violence and vitriol, all the while systematically excluding those on the receiving end from the publishing world. And even in the last decade when strides have been made, largely led by a “new generation” of publishing professionals and smaller indie publishers, to be more inclusive of minority communities both in books and offices, these “controversial” authors have continued to be published under the cloak of “conservative” presses.

The demise of “conservative” publishing is being framed as an issue of liberalism v. conservatism or left v. right. This is not only wrong but dangerous rhetoric. Younger industry members are not calling for the halt to reprints of Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman or the muzzling of Grover Norquist, for a more contemporary example. Conservative houses and imprints like Regnery are responsible for publishing and giving a platform to a particular brand of conservative: far right and inflammatory.

Grouping the Norquists of conservatism with Josh Hawley, Jordan Peterson, and former president Trump and his administration normalizes the spread of misinformation and harmful stereotypes. It continues to frame the discontent of the critics of these titles as “silencing opinions” rather than forcing publishers to contend with the actual harm that is done when they give a platform to these writers. Finally, it also builds a readership that publishers are profiting from while turning a blind eye to the culture they have chosen to curate.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG hesitated before deciding to excerpt from the OP.

For those outside of the United States, in PG’s observation and experience, the nation is more riven now than at any time since those who objected to the United States’ participation in the Vietnam War and the accompanying drafting of young men who strongly opposed the war into the Army to go fight it were demonstrating and rioting in a variety of places across the country.

Many demonstrations were peaceful while others either transitioned from peaceful to violent or included a violent component in them from the start. The extent and vitriol of the protests caused one American president to decline to run for reelection due to the virulent hatred of him manifested by a large number of Americans, particularly those who were fighting in Vietnam or were concerned about being drafted into fighting that war.

Among PG’s age cohort during that time period, it seemed that almost everyone knew someone who had died in Vietnam. For PG, it was an acquaintance who was a hear behind him in high school, a pretty ordinary and low-key guy who started working on his father’s farm after graduation, then was drafted and went to Vietnam.

The army assigned him to carry a flame-thrower into combat. PG understands that it was a terrifying weapon for the enemy, throwing out tongues of flame a hundred feet or more long that incinerated almost anything they they touched.

Unfortunately for PG’s high school acquaintance, carrying a flame-thrower entailed strapping on a pair of tanks that contained highly-flammable gelled liquid that provided fuel for the flames. The word that came back from Vietnam was that PG’s acquaintance had probably died when a heavy bullet hit his tanks, causing a massive fireball than instantly incinerated him. The coffin sent back to his family was firmly sealed.

It took a long time for traditional publishers to begin publishing books by angry former soldiers about their experience in Vietnam in part because the political establishment in the United States had supported Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in their Vietnam policies. That establishment included traditional publishing and a lot of others in positions of cultural power in New York City, Washington DC, etc.

The control of traditional publishing in the United States is still held by the same class and type of people who have controlled it for a long time. As happens with many people who live within a limited geographical space, a relatively narrow sphere of acquaintance and experience, people who work in publishing seldom hang around with those whose political and/or cultural opinion differs from their own.

People who are like those who work in publishing and their social associates tend to publish books reflecting the values of that slice of the United States. These days, they may be willing to publish books by angry racial minorities who excoriate those who are perceived to be oppressing them directly, indirectly or by simply existing. These would be the right kind of radicals or protesters.

However, traditional publishing is highly intolerant of anyone like “the Norquists of conservatism with Josh Hawley, Jordan Peterson, and former president Trump and his administration” and believe that such persons should not be permitted to spread their ideas among those the publishers think of as the sort of people who will purchase the right kind of books and keep traditional publishers from sinking for a bit longer.

It’s a cultural decision, not a monetary one. After all, a significant number among the despicables have money and read and will buy books they think they will enjoy.

Light Blogging Today

PG needs a bit of a break from his usual daily activities and won’t be posting as much as usual today.

He expects the break will help him recharge his pandemically-drained batteries a bit and will return to blogging with somewhat enhanced zest and verve.

Although he doesn’t usually talk much about personal matters here, he will mention that he is scheduled for his second of two doses of anti-Covid vaccine this coming Friday and is very much looking forward to being released from house arrest a few days thereafter.

Although he has been cooped up with Mrs. PG, his favorite person in the world, PG is looking forward to re-engaging with the larger meat-space world on a more frequent basis. He probably knew this before, but he will appreciate his interactions with friends, neighbors and the local physical society to a greater extent than he has in the past as a result of his isolation from them for an extended period of time.

That said, he must also acknowledge that the technology-supported interactions with those who comment on TPV and occasionally interact with him via email have been and will continue to be appreciated to a greater extent than they were before this enforced isolation from the larger physical world.

Thanks to all those who contribute to the conversations here.

11 Fictional Hotels for Your Fictional Vacation

From Electric Lit:

In the epic words of Phoebe Bridgers: “I want to live at the Holiday Inn, where somebody else makes the bed.” Don’t we all, Phoebe—especially after months of various travel restrictions and working from home on top of crumpled sheets that need to be washed. But if it’s looking tricky to stay in a real-life hotel anytime in your near future, there’s fortunately an overwhelming number of books suitable for your fictional getaway.

It’s not surprising that the hotel novel has become a literary genre in its own right—hotels have proven to be fascinating settings for fiction: a mixture of the intimately private and corporate conglomerate, the foreign and the mundane. Going beyond well-known classics like The Shining and Grand Hotel, here are 11 novels to immerse yourself in the world of hotels, hospitality work, and bed-making. And you won’t need to check out of these fictional hotels by 11 a.m.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

What does it cost to craft a pristine hotel experience at an “exotic” location? Here Comes the Sun takes place at a luxury resort in River Bank, a fictional Jamaican town. 30-year-old Margot is a worker there, trying her best to support and protect her artistic younger sister. Although she has sex with the wealthy white guests for extra income, Margot is forced to keep her love for Verdene, the village’s ostracized lesbian, undercover. However, Margot and her community must reckon with imminent destruction when developers plan to build another resort that will put many villagers out of work. Dennis-Benn’s unflinching yet compassionate debut is a searing look into the tourism industry and its effects on women’s communities. 

. . . .

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

The I Hotel (short for “International Hotel”), a Bay Area landmark in San Francisco’s Chinatown, is the centerpiece of Yamashita’s kaleidoscopic novel. Separated into ten novellas on different groups of Asian American activists from 1968 to 1977 (one novella for each year), I Hotel is an ambitious exploration of the Yellow Power Movement, when Asian Americans fought for representation and economic equality. Yamashita uses a diverse array of narrative and structural choices, including forms such as graphic art, stage dialogue, and philosophy; her cast of characters is as equally diverse, including a whole range of hyphenated Asian identities. (And for another book that connects hotels with historical Asian American events, check out Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, which addresses Japanese internment camps during WWII.)

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

The Joy of Trollope

Equestrian statue of Charles I, Charing Cross looking down Whitehall, via Wikimedia Commons

From The Wall Street Journal:

Fans of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) can take comfort in his inexhaustibility. My case is probably typical. I began reading him in my 20s, some 40 years ago, and have turned to him regularly, if in spurts, ever since. In a recent tallying-up I discovered I’d read 18 of his novels, or roughly one every two years. But there are 47 novels in all, leaving me with nearly 30 to go—some 60 years of Trollope to unfold. I find the image heartening: myself as an advanced centenarian, still with a few unread novels before me.

Trollope occupies a peculiar—a distorted—place in the American imagination. Fate has conspired, with the able assistance of the BBC, to portray him as a creator of landscapes so English that, under his spell, the rest of the planet falls under a distant haze. Trollope once remarked, “Visitors to England who have not sojourned at a country-house, whether it be the squire’s, parson’s, or farmer’s, have not seen the most English phase of the country.” Those country houses loom large in the BBC’s fetching Trollope adaptations, emerging in the 1970s with the vast 26-episode “The Pallisers,” continuing in the ’80s with the seven-episode “Barchester Chronicles” and extending into our century with “He Knew He Was Right” and “The Way We Live Now.”

Readers who first meet Trollope via television may be surprised to discover that in his time he was a footloose cosmopolite. Most of his early wanderings were business travel. Trollope worked for 33 years as a civil servant in the British post-office system, 20 of these years in Ireland, where the ghost of his disastrous childhood (“I was ill-dressed and dirty” and “despised by all my companions”) was successfully laid to rest. (“But from the day on which I set my foot in Ireland all these evils went away from me.”) He was later dispatched on post-office business to Egypt and Malta and Cuba. Still later, as a full-time author, he kept journeying abroad and wound up claiming five different continents as backdrops for his books: Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It would be hard to name another 19th-century European novelist whose work was so far-flung.

Trollope’s six Palliser novels are often regarded as the crowning summit of his ranging, mountainous output. They make up a loosely bound set. Conceived singly rather than collectively, they were published over 16 years, in the midst of other projects. What chiefly unifies them are their overlapping characters and their ongoing, clamorous obsession with parliamentary politics, especially the seesawing battle between Conservatives and Trollope’s own beloved Liberals. Pursuing a lifelong dream (“to sit in the British Parliament should be the highest object of ambition to every educated Englishman”), Trollope once stood unsuccessfully for the House of Commons, and the Palliser sextet might be viewed as a benevolent revenge upon an unobliging electorate.

The final—and to my eyes the finest—volume in the series, The Duke’s Children,” has a curious publication history. In 1878, when he submitted the novel, Trollope was in a slough, commercially and critically, and his publisher convinced him to excise 65,000 words from the outsized manuscript. For more than a century, this was the “Duke’s Children” known to the world. But in 2015, on the occasion of Trollope’s bicentennial, the Folio Society published a deluxe limited edition of the restored text in England, and Everyman offered a hardcover in the States. The book, edited by the American scholar Steven Amarnick, now appears in paperback, as an Oxford World’s Classic (678 pages, $16.95). At long last, all the children of “The Duke’s Children” are fully born.

The duke of the title is Plantagenet Palliser, probably the most memorable and certainly the noblest of Trollope’s creations. When we meet Plantagenet, in “Can You Forgive Her?,” he’s a commoner, but life has soaring grandeurs in store for him. With the death of a titled uncle, Plantagenet becomes the Duke of Omnium. And as a shyly reluctant but ever-dutiful politician, his rise is meteoric: initially, Chancellor of the Exchequer; eventually, Prime Minister.

In addition to unrivaled power (“the leading man in the greatest kingdom in the world”), Plantagenet represents something else no less notable: the near-mystical blending of traits that constitute the ideal “English gentleman.” For Trollope, as for his contemporary Gerard Manley Hopkins, the concept subsumed the personal within the national. As Hopkins put it: “If the English race had done nothing else, yet if they left the world the notion of a gentleman, they would have done a great service to mankind.” Trollope in his posthumous autobiography observed, “I think that Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, is a perfect gentleman.” He added, acknowledging the daunting ambition of his task, “If he be not, then I am unable to describe a gentleman.”

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

Entry to the Strand from Charing Cross, 1841

The Therapeutic Value of Reading

From The Wall Street Journal:

This past year, I’ve found myself returning again and again to a line of poetry by Emily Dickinson: “There is no frigate like a book.”

Like many people, I’ve needed the therapeutic effects of reading more than ever this year. As neuroscientists and psychologists (and your high school English teacher) will tell you: Books are good for the brain. And their benefits are particularly vital now. Books expand our world, providing an escape and offering novelty, surprise and excitement, which boost dopamine. They broaden our perspective and help us empathize with others. And they can improve our social life, giving us something to connect over.

Books can also distract us and help reduce our mental chatter. When we hit that glorious “flow state” of reading where we’re fully immersed in a book, our brain’s default mode network likely calms down, says Jud Brewer, a psychiatrist who directs research at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center. That’s a network of brain regions that is active when we are not doing anything else and that can get absorbed in worrying and rumination.

“There’s so much noise in the world right now and the very act of reading is a kind of meditation,” says Mitchell Kaplan, owner of the Miami-based independent bookstores Books & Books and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair. “You disconnect from the chaos around you. You reconnect with yourself when you are reading. And there’s no more noise.”

. . . .

Yet even as people are buying more books, many are reporting they’re having a harder time getting through them. A study of British reading habits during the pandemic conducted this summer by researchers at Aston University in Birmingham, U.K., found that while people were reading more—citing more time to read, a desire to distract themselves, and more time spent reading with children—they were reading more slowly. Many of the survey’s 860 participants said they were distracted, and that this lack of concentration was making it harder to progress, according to Abigail Boucher, a researcher on the study and a lecturer in English Literature at the university.

Of course, it’s difficult for your brain to focus on a book when it’s constantly scanning for threats so it can keep you alive. That’s exactly what’s been happening to most of us since March—our fight-or-flight response has been consistently activated. (Sometimes I picture my brain as a cartoon brain with little arms and legs, swatting away a book I am holding and screaming: “Can’t you see I’m busy!”) Anxiety also causes our brain to release a flood of stress hormones, which zap our energy and make it harder to concentrate.

What can you do when this happens to you? Be more mindful of your reading habits. Here’s how.

Meditate. Clear your mind before you start reading. Sit quietly for five minutes and let your mind quiet down. Or listen to a short guided meditation.

Start short! Our brains are wired to love a reward, says Brown’s Dr. Brewer, author of the forthcoming book, “Unwinding Anxiety.” And finishing something you’re reading is rewarding. “It feels good, so your brain will want to do it again,” he says. He recommends choosing an engaging short story, maybe by a favorite author, and allowing yourself to get immersed. Then reflect on how you felt when you were reading.

Read something relevant. “If you are feeling in a state of flux, you can read in order to understand what is going on around you,” says Mr. Kaplan of Books & Books. If the topic is relevant to your life or current events, it’s also more likely to hold your attention. And research by professor emeritus Keith Oatley at the University of Toronto shows that the more narratives you read—fiction, biography, memoir, history—the more empathic you become. “Someone has worked very hard to take you inside the mind of another person,” he says.

Return to something familiar. When times are uncertain and scary, something familiar can be a source of solace. The survey of pandemic reading habits conducted by the researchers at Aston University found two types of readers: Those who focused on reading something new to them, to expand their knowledge, and those who re-read familiar books for the sense of comfort and stability and the lack of surprises.

. . . .

Go inward. Readers turned to many “quieter,” more introspective books this year, such as memoirs, books on mindfulness, and poetry, says Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Miami and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair. “The language of poetry often provokes a kind of catharsis when someone is feeling conflict,” he says.

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

PG and Mrs. PG each read in bed almost every night. Typically, PG reads until he begins to get sleepy (or Mrs. PG tells him it’s time to stop reading.)

PG’s reading tool of choice is a Kindle Fire he purchased in 2014 and shows no sign of running out of its love of life.

He likes his Fire because its screen is lit from the sides, rather than from the back through the screen. He thinks this is easier on his eyes than his iPad. He also recalls reading somewhere that this sort of light has less tendency to interfere with falling asleep than direct light coming through the screen.

PG has also turned the light intensity down to a level that is not very bright on the theory (unproven to his knowledge) that dimmer light is less likely to disrupt sleep patterns. Low light allows PG to read with all the room lights off after Mrs. PG falls asleep without disturbing her.

PG’s reading-in-bed position is extremely comfortable because he lies completely flat on his back with no propping up of his head with a pillow, etc.

He can see the book while flat on his back with the assistance of a cheap device he purchased on Amazon that looks like this:

Since PG has worn corrective lenses (including a period of time when he wore contact lenses before returning to glasses exclusively) approximately forever, he finds it more comfortable to read through the weird prism glasses with an inexpensive (thanks Zenni!) pair of single-vision regular glasses for which his ophthalmologist provided a “computer glasses” prescription. (YMMV)

With a single-vision “in-between distance” prescription, the angle of PG’s head remains constant as he reads, as opposed to looking higher or lower through regular glasses to view items at various distances through his normal progressive lenses.

Flat on his back, PG can read for hours on end in perfect physical comfort.

However, PG’s preferred and extremely-most-comfortable prism-glasses reading position for long-form works doesn’t work with printed books (he’s tried).

Firstly, he would have to leave some room lights on, so Mrs. PG’s rest might be disturbed.

Secondly, while the Fire shows a single page at a time, a printed book requires PG to turn his head back and forth to read each page when the printed book is open, which is awkward and means that the distance between his eyes, passing through glasses and prisms, and the entire two-page reading area is not.

Thirdly, turning the pages in a printed book while lying flat on one’s back requires more movement and messing about than tapping a screen with one’s thumb. Plus there’s the 90-degree disjunction between what PG is seeing and what his hands have to do with a printed book.

Fourthly, if PG drops a printed book while turning the page or for any other reason, he has to find his place again, which is a much easier job if he takes off his reading contraption. If he drops his Kindle Fire, it just lies there, showing the same page until he picks it up again.

Fifthly, when he turns on his Fire, it’s on exactly the same page where he stopped, so no bookmarks, bending down the corner of the page (like his school librarian said he should never, ever do), etc., are needed.

Sixthly, the Fire runs forever on a single charge and, if PG forgets to plug it in, he can read it while it’s recharging.

Seventhly, when PG travels, the Kindle weighs nothing (11.04 oz, to be exact), fits anywhere and PG doesn’t need to locate a bookstore to obtain a new book if he finishes reading the one he has been reading and has forgotten to load a spare.

One thingly that just occurred to PG is that, since he flies much, much less than he did in former days, he doesn’t know if he can purchase and load a new ebook on his Fire during a flight or not.

One of these days, when his current Fire dies or behaves erratically, PG will instantly order another. They’re dirt-cheap. If PG were replacing his today, he would likely purchase the smallest one because it’s small (screen about the size of a trade paperback) and highly-portable.

Today’s Fires do lots of other things beside show ebooks, but PG suspects his iPad may be better at doing at least some of those other things. However, for reading ebooks, the Kindle Fire is King!

Since he has been so enthusiastically effusive in his praise, PG will disclose that he’s an Amazon affiliate and receives a small commission if you click on any of the links that appear on TPV that end up on Amazon. You don’t pay anything more if you arrive at Amazon by clicking on one of PG’s links than if you went there directly.

That said, because the Kindle Fire is so inexpensive, PG’s affiliate commission will be lower if you click on one of the other links and buy what you then see on Amazon than it will be if you click on this link and buy what appears. (Don’t feel obligated. PG will still be your friend if you don’t buy.)

A tie

If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.

George Brett

Our battered suitcases

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.

Jack Kerouac

A Year for the (Record) Books in Publishing

From Publishers Weekly:

Combined print book and e-book sales hit 942 million units in 2020 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan, a 9% increase over 2019 and the most unit sales recorded in a single year by BookScan since the service was created in 2004. In a webinar held last week, Kristen McLean, executive director of NPD Books, said the gain was due to a combination of strong sales of both print and digital books.

Print sales rose 8.2% over 2019, the largest annual increase since 2005, and the print total of 751 million units sold was the highest since 2009, the year before e-books started to become a meaningful part of the book business. E-book unit sales, as measured by NPD’s PubTrack Digital service, rose 12.6% over 2019 and were at their highest level since 2015, when 208 million units were sold (e-book sales figures for November and December are projections).

McLean attributed the improvement in e-book sales to several factors, including their immediate availability when stores were locked down and people were doing lots of shopping online. Adult fiction had the largest sales increase among e-book categories, followed by adult nonfiction, and McLean said she expects digital sales to continue to do well in 2021.

An important driver of print book sales last year was the continuing increase in backlist sales, McLean said. Backlist titles accounted for 67% of all print units purchased in 2020, up from 63% the year before. In 2010, backlist accounted for only 54% of all unit sales. McLean noted that the increased popularity of online shopping was a major reason in the growth of backlist, since it is easier to find backlist books than it is to discover new titles online.

. . . .

According to NPD’s Checkout service (which measures receipts across a wide range of retailers), online sales rose 43% in 2020. McLean believes a large portion of consumers who shopped online for the first time in 2020 will continue to shop online this year, because of its convenience and the fact that physical retailers are unlikely to fully reopen until the summer and fall. The slow vaccination rollout is also likely to cause more “upheaval” in the physical retail market, as stores that hung on through the holidays may find it difficult to bounce back. McLean sees mass market retailers, who did well with books last year, continuing to champion books—especially children’s titles.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Where Have All the Bowlers Gone?

From The Wall Street Journal:

In one of many audacious assertions in a book that tells the story of Britain from 1952 to the present day, Andrew Marr writes that if Shakespeare was “the hot-glowing cultural figure of the first Elizabethan age, then the Beatles—John, Paul, George and Ringo—performed a parallel role in the second.” The second age is, of course, that of Elizabeth II, whose 69-year reign is the longest of any British monarch, exceeding by more than two decades (and counting) her Tudor namesake’s time on the throne.

Mr. Marr, a journalist of stature in Britain—where he is a TV and radio host on the BBC and a former editor of the Independent—calls his book “Elizabethans.” He spurns the definite article in his title, perhaps to make it more easily distinguished from “The Elizabethans” (2011), by A.N. Wilson, with its focus on the late 16th century. And yet, as you read Mr. Marr’s rich and ebullient account of “how modern Britain was forged,” you learn that it makes no sense, in our own time, to speak of an Elizabethan type or national character in the way we do (however superficially) of “the Victorians.” The Britons of today are notably—and sometimes jarringly—different from those of 1952, when a callow Elizabeth II, then 25, acceded to the throne upon the death of her father.

The packaging of Britain’s story into a “reign’s length” is attractive nonetheless, because it acknowledges that Queen Elizabeth has been the one truly constant factor in a nation that has been an outlier among major Western powers: Britain has attached and detached itself to and from Europe as it has pleased—while enjoying more enduring links on the wider map than even the United States. Contemporary Britain, writes Mr. Marr, is also “unusual in European terms in its porousness to migration from non-European parts of the world.” All of which make it an attractive national laboratory in which to measure social-political change over generations.

Mr. Marr has written an ambitious book in which he accords more attention to subtle social shifts than he does to “the big, visible changes”—things such as the disappearance of bowler hats, the emptying of churches and the springing up of mosques, of which we know already. What fewer of us know, by contrast, are the nuances and shades of change. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, notes Mr. Marr, “the British seem to become cheekier, even rebellious,” and “an insolent contempt for established authority begins to creep in.” The Beatles—whose language, he concedes, was more “banal” than the Bard’s—were part of that rebellion.

. . . .

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, notes Mr. Marr, “the British seem to become cheekier, even rebellious,” and “an insolent contempt for established authority begins to creep in.” The Beatles—whose language, he concedes, was more “banal” than the Bard’s—were part of that rebellion.

This shift in mood, though seemingly a spasm of youthful high spirits, would prove to be a herald of broader changes. The 1960s, Mr. Marr tells us, were a period of “generational conflict.” But for most working-class Britons, they were also “a period of greater material wealth.” The Britain of the previous decade, he reminds us, was “a quietly religious, homogeneous, stratified, socially conservative, proud and comparatively closed-off country.” The insular working classes, as he puts it, “had never been to Spain.” Over time, the country acquired the means to travel and eat better food.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne, Mr. Marr writes, Britons were “a salivating people.” As late as 1960, only a fifth of households had refrigerators. But as the stringency of the postwar years gave way to a wider prosperity, the British palate—and with it the broader culture—became more demanding. The weekend curry became a blue-collar pastime. The middle classes went Mediterranean. “Cultural Europeanism” took root.

Two great projects dominated early Elizabethan Britain—the establishment of a welfare state (of which the National Health Service was a cherished pillar) and the search for ways to hang on to great-power status in a postcolonial age. As Mr. Marr shows, Britain’s accession to the European Economic Community (as it then was) in 1973 and its 2016 vote to leave the European Union (as it became) were both manifestations of this tussle for a global identity that matched Britons’ sense of their worth.

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

10 Spy Novels With Women Protagonists

From Electric Lit:

For the first time in the agency’s 74-year history, women dominate the upper ranks of the CIA. Since 2018, Gina Haspel has been the Director of Central Intelligence, and three of her top five directorates (support, analysis, and science & technology) are also headed by women.  

Women played key roles in espionage operations during World War II, but peace and the Cold War relegated women to largely secretarial or administrative jobs. Cold War fiction tended to mirror the gender roles that were available to women in the real business of spies—books were filled with dedicated secretaries and pretty girls with whom flirty romances might yield intelligence.  

Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, and the first woman to hold that position (from 1992-1996), reflected on the role of women in spy fiction in her introduction to the reissue of Graham and Hugh Greene’s collection of spy fiction, The Spy’s Bedside Book“The true spy story resembles real life as we all actually know it,” she wrote about the stories in the book, all of which were written before 1957. Her only complaint about the old stories in the book is that, except for a nod to Mata Hari, women are of little consequence. 

Fiction’s espionage genre has long been a boy’s club. Wikipedia’s list of top living spy authors still only contains two women among the seventy names: Stella Rimington and Gayle Lynds. But as women rise in the rank of the CIA, spy fiction too is changing. The realistic spy novel has always tried to hold up a dark mirror to the wider world, so it is only fitting that as the world changes, that mirror reflects more women as central characters in spy novels.  

Gayle Lynds’s Masquerade, published in 1996, became the first spy novel written by a woman to become a bestseller, and it helped open the genre for other women. Kate Atkinson, a literary author, entered the spy genre with Transcription, and recently a new group of talented young writers, including Lauren Wilkinson (American Spy) and Rosalie Knecht (Who is Vera Kelly?), have written well-received works.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

The Most Appalling, Appealing Psychopaths

From The Paris Review:

Here’s a question: Can you name the debut novel, originally published in Britain in September 1965, that became a more or less immediate best seller, and the fans of which included Noël Coward, Daphne du Maurier, John Gielgud, Fay Weldon, David Storey, Margaret Drabble, and Doris Lessing? “A rare pleasure!” said Lessing. “I can’t remember another novel like it, it is so good and so original.” Coward, meanwhile, described it as “fascinating and remarkable,” admiring the author’s “strongly developed streak of genius.” Du Maurier—a writer whose own work is famously mesmerizing—declared it “compulsive reading … Endearing, exasperating, wildly funny, touching and superbly amoral.” Gielgud thought it “full of fascinating characterisation and atmosphere.” Never not in tune with the times, Weldon deemed it “a magical mystery tour of the mind,” Storey “a superb piece of confectionery,” while Drabble described it as “strange and unforgettable … Highly original and oddly haunting.”

Yet despite such heaped adulation, I’m willing to bet that hardly anyone reading this will have heard of the novel in question, though some might be familiar with its author. It’s called The Sioux, and was the work of sixty-six-year-old Irene Handl, a famous British actress beloved for her roles on both stage and screen, rock ’n’ roll superfan (and member of the Elvis Presley fan club), fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, not to mention a devoted Chihuahua owner and for many years president of the British Chihuahua Club.

The blurb on the British first edition describes the book as “a sustained tour-de-force, one of the most unusual and remarkable novels of recent years.” Unusual and remarkable is spot-on. “The Sioux” is the nickname the Benoir family call themselves, on account of their fierce tribalism. They’re French—their ancestors escaped Paris during the Revolution, fleeing first to Martinique then, during a slave insurrection, from there to Louisiana—feudal, and astronomically rich. Both The Sioux, and its sequel, The Gold Tip Pfitzer (1973)—which is dedicated to Noël Coward—are two of the maddest novels I’ve ever encountered. The Benoirs themselves are among the most appalling and repugnant, monstrously overprivileged, egomaniacal psychopaths ever created.  To be absolutely honest, I’m not sure these books should actually be republished—the misplaced cultural appropriation of their chosen soubriquet is, if you can believe it, one of the Benoir family’s least egregious crimes—but, just like Drabble before me, now that I’ve read them, I simply haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.

Even the very existence of these novels is something to be marveled at. Handl apparently first put pen to paper when she was nineteen, while in Paris in the twenties, but abandoned the project after only writing a few pages. It wasn’t until the early sixties, while taking a much-needed break from her stage career due to exhaustion, that she found the time to return to her notebooks and finish working on the story she’d begun all those years earlier. (It was another enforced rest that then afforded her the opportunity to write The Gold Tip Pfitzer.) And what she wrote also defied expectation. Who would have thought that a middle-aged British actress famous for playing working-class stereotypes, from meddling landladies to browbeaten wives, would write a sui generis chef-d’oeuvre of high-camp Southern Gothic? Readers today will recognize an ambiance akin to that found in Patrick deWitt’s “tragedy of manners,” French Exit (2018), or the idiosyncratic style of Wes Anderson’s feature films, though compared to the vicious maneuvering of the Benoirs, the dysfunctional Tenenbaums look as picture-perfect as the Waltons.

These novels aren’t just the feat of an impressive imagination. Handl proves herself an original and flamboyant stylist, oscillating between vaudevillian slapstick, demented dark horror, and passages of sheer—if extravagantly baroque—poetry. Perhaps unsurprisingly for an actor who excelled at character parts, The Sioux is driven by dialogue. And what dialogue it is! A Franglais like no other, sprinkled with private endearments and bon mots, the meaning of which are usually known only to the family, with a dash of “Ol’ Kintuck,” “Creole,” and “Miss’ippa” thrown in for good measure. This is more a novel in speech than anything else, not least because if you strip away all the melodrama and the gaudiness, plot is actually pretty thin on the ground. It takes a while for this lack of story to sink in for a reader though, as the showy voluptuousness of the prose enfolds one in a cloying, claustrophobic embrace. Handl writes in the present tense, sharply shifting back and forth between the interior monologues of her various characters, adding to the muggy intensity of the reading experience.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG was about to make a comment on the French, but then remembered some of the wonderful and kind French people he has met during his travels.

He was also reminded about some of the disgusting and depraved Americans he has met during one of his prior lives representing the occasional hillbilly.

So each nation has some of both.

(Except maybe Canada. PG has never met a disgusting Canadian, but he expects they must exist. Perhaps they all remain north of the border. That could be a result of the apparently always-diligent Mounties who are concerned about weird Americans becoming even weirder.)

New Treatment for Writers’ Block

From Dave Farland:

A few months ago, my son Forrest came to me to talk about a new treatment for writers’ block. As you may know, Forrest has been studying neuro-linguistic programming for several years and has been using it and other techniques to help writers overcome writers’ block and increase productivity.

He explained a therapy called TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) that has been developed for people who suffer from depression and anxiety, a treatment that doesn’t require medication but instead stimulates the brain using magnetic waves.

The therapy is effective in about 70% of patients and is covered by insurance—so long as the patient has tried medications first. It’s even approved for people on Medicare. 

What intrigued me about TMS is that it was also being used elsewhere. Interestingly, the treatment has proven helpful for writers who suffer from classic “writers’ block.”

It’s also use by the military. They found that by stimulating the prefrontal lobes of soldiers, they could make them more aware of their surroundings and of possible ways to handle battlefield situations.

A couple of days after I first spoke with Forrest, an award-winning author who spoke to our Apex group mentioned that he had received TMS treatments to help with writers’ block. He said, “After getting the treatment, I wrote three books in the next six months. That’s never happened to me before. I just don’t write that fast.”

Link to the rest at Dave Farland

8 Books About Reckless Decisions

From Electric Lit:

Despite a lifetime of being compulsively apologetic and avoiding conflict, my favorite fictional characters are just the opposite. 

I’m drawn to the reckless and impulsive, those who refuse to toe the line. Perhaps even more so since the birth of my daughter, when there suddenly seem far fewer opportunities for heedless behavior. Instead, I live vicariously through the hedonism of others. Take Josephine, for example, the narrator of my debut novel, The Divines, who hides her past from her husband, books secret motel rooms, squirrels away a lockbox of explicit Polaroid pictures and holes up in a dive bar at nine months pregnant.  

In this vein, the books on this list are an ode to the risk-takers and thrill-seekers in novels, the wild women (and men) who make some pretty questionable life choices, throwing caution to the wind so that we don’t have to.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

At some point, haven’t we all wanted to disappear? In The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, a woman’s backpack is stolen from her Casablanca hotel, stripping her of both her passport and identity. Faced with the prospect of returning to her old life—the regrets and bad decisions—she opts for reinvention.

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier

A pregnant pizza delivery girl becomes obsessed with one of her customers in this firecracker of a debut by Jean Kyoung Frazier. Downing cans of beer in her garden shed, Frazier’s loveable teenage narrator decides to follow her heart in the wake of her father’s death. 

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

A dragon’s toast!

And now, my friends, a dragon’s toast! Here’s to life’s little blessings: war, plagues, and all forms of evil. Their presence keeps us alert— and their absence keeps us grateful.

T.A. Barron

Nil by Mouth

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

WHEN I WAS 13, I was a skinny girl: a brittle frame of seagull bones, all bluff and bluster, cliffs and cartilage, and thin skin woven tight as a fisherman’s net. I was a skinny girl. I took small bites.

This is what I told the school nurse who pulled me into her office and questioned me about my bones. I take small bites, I told her.

I take small bites of the world, so it won’t notice that I have teeth. When I was a little girl, I would bite myself on the arm, when I was bathing, just to see the half-moon indents of my molars. To bite — to leave my own mark upon my own skin — was to know I was real.

But I did not tell her this. I knew nobody wanted to hear that. Just like nobody wants to see bones.

You need to eat, she said.

But I do, I said.

You are an anorexic, she stated.

But I’m not. I wasn’t.

Oh yes, you are.

And that was the end of that.

¤

The psychiatrist asked me if I ate. Yes, yes, I said. I eat all the time.

Do you, she asked. It was not a question.

Yes, I said. I put food in my mouth, and I chew and chew and swallow it all down. Good girl that I am.

Do you, she asked.

Yes, I do, I told her. I can prove it if you like.

She raised an eyebrow in challenge. So, I opened my mouth and bared my hidden teeth.

Do you like chocolate? she asked me.

No, I don’t like sweet things, I replied.

Hmmm, she said, and made a note of it in her little black book.

. . . .

I was sent an appointment for surgery as if it were an invitation to a sleepover. I packed a small bag with my toothbrush and my department store makeup. I packed a new pair of pajamas and some fashion magazines.

The ward was suffocating in its ordinariness. Hospital-issued beds of iron with flaky paint. Above my head, a sign: NIL BY MOUTH. But when they wheeled me into the theater, the taste of garlic was in my mouth.

¤

After they sliced me open, I was not just a skinny girl without a period anymore.

I was a rare skinny girl with no womb, a living sympathy card, there to be studied. The fresh-faced medical students filed into my room with their sturdy clipboards and fish-like smiles. They looked at me as if I were a bug in a jar. The aroma of grief was leaking from my every pore, and they leaned in closer to get the scent of me.

But I would not let them near.

No, I said. You cannot examine me. I am not a curiosity. I am not yours to see.

The students were disappointed. Their fat cheeks expelled their heavy breath as they filed out of my room. I did not care. I have a hole inside where everything maternal should be, I thought. Don’t come looking for comfort here. I am nobody’s mother.

I never will be, so don’t ask me for understanding. I am too busy devouring my own pain.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

Amanda Gorman’s books are topping best seller lists and they haven’t even been released yet

From CNN:

Amanda Gorman is fast becoming a household name after she delivered a powerful inauguration poem at the US Capitol on Wednesday, challenging Americans to unify and “leave behind a country better than the one we were left.”

And if her words to the country weren’t incredible enough, the nation’s first-ever youth poet laureate has two books topping best seller lists — and they aren’t even expected to release until September 21.

. . . .

Gorman, 22, is the writer of “The Hill We Climb: Poems,” and “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem.” The titles are currently topping both Barnes & Noble and Amazon’s best sellers lists. The poem Gorman No. 1 on Amazon’s list.

. . . .

Born and raised in Los Angeles by a single-mother and sixth-grade English teacher, Gorman started writing poems when she was a child, but found performing terrifying due to a speech impediment.
She overcame that fear by drawing confidence from former President Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr., and practicing songs from the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

From celebrities to politicians, Gorman’s words resonated with many and praise on social media was not in short supply.

Link to the rest at CNN

For those outside of the United States, Ms. Gorman’s performance delivering her poem during the inauguration of the recently-elected president yesterday was a perfect antidote to Covid gloom and doom.

Sour English professors may make snide remarks about prosody in the faculty lounge, but the combination of the poem and Ms. Gorman’s presentation of it was wonderful, far better than any speech given by a politician yesterday.

Unfortunately, Ms. Gorman’s first books, published by Viking, are evidently stuck in Publisher Production Hell:

The Hill We Climb, her debut poetry collection (currently #1 bestseller in Books on Amazon US) and is scheduled to be released on September 21 (currently only in 80-page hardcover for $19.99).

A special 32-page quickie edition of her Inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb, (no Sales Rank when PG checked) is scheduled to be released on April 27 ($15.99 for a 32-page hardcover).

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, an illustrated children’s book (currently #1 bestseller in Children’s Poetry on Amazon US) is also scheduled to be released on September 21 in Kindle for $10.99 (no Look Inside available) and hardcover for $16.95. It is also 32 pages.

PG notes that, while the children’s book has an enjoyable cover, The Hill We Climb in both the published in September and the quickie 32-page version each have cheapo-looking covers that PG could have turned out with his mediocre artistic skills in about 10 minutes or less.

Perhaps, Viking is trying to speed up its creaking production process up just a tiny bit and has forgotten to notify the largest bookstore in the country, but any sentient organization, hearing that one of its authors would be featured on nationwide television event watched by a much larger than normal audience, would have whipped the peasants with extra vigor and had at least an ebook and POD edition available for sale before most people had put Ms. Gorman into the mental “Oh, I think I remember her” category of their Covid-impaired memories.

Big Publishing idiocy at its shining best.

6 Outside-the-Box Book Marketing Ideas

From BookBub Partners:

1. Make part of the book’s cover wearable

Some authors and publishers have created fashionable swag from the cover’s design elements or the novel’s plot. Book bloggers, influencers, and readers are often excited to show off these items on social media, creating a unique opportunity for word-of-mouth buzz.`

The cover design for Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson — featuring art by Rachelle Baker and designed by Erin Fitzsimmons — positions its title in an earring worn by the protagonist.

Tiffany and her publisher, Katherine Tegen (an imprint of HarperCollins), created a bamboo version of these earrings as a giveaway item in their preorder campaign. She posted pictures of herself wearing the earrings on social media, effectively generating hype and preorders — Grown launched as a New York Times bestseller!

Some book bloggers and bookstagrammers received these earrings early, and many of them shared pictures of themselves wearing these earrings or using them as bookstagram props. Tiffany compiled some of these images on Instagram, reminding readers that these earrings were part of her preorder campaign and expressing gratitude for bloggers’ early coverage.

2. Self-publish a prequel to a traditionally published book or series to run price promotions

Since authors don’t have control over pricing for their traditionally published titles and therefore can’t discount them whenever they like, some authors self-publish prequels or connected standalones so they can discount those and use them to promote their traditionally published books.

Brenda Novak used this strategy as part of her marketing campaign promoting Face Off, book 3 in her traditionally published Evelyn Talbot thriller series, and this book was an instant USA Today bestseller! Before Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press published book 1 in the series, Brenda self-published Hanover House, a 200-page prequel, and priced it at $3.99. Within the prequel, she encouraged readers to buy the subsequent books via a letter in the front matter and an excerpt of book 1 in the back matter. After the excerpt, she included links to the retailer product page to make it as easy as possible for readers to buy.

Since Brenda had control over pricing for this self-published prequel, she could discount it whenever she liked. For example, about a month before the launch of book 3 in the series, she discounted the prequel to $0.99. She figured that would be the right timing for new readers to buy this prequel, make their way through books 1 and 2, and be eager for book 3 upon launch.

In order to drive as many unit sales as possible, Brenda ran a BookBub Featured Deal to the Psychological Thrillers category. Featured Deals can generate a high volume of exposure and often result in subsequent sales of an author’s other titles — 70% of authors report an increase in sales of their other books (including full-priced books!) after running the promotion. The Featured Deal for Hanover House generated over 6K clicks and 1.5K sales.

. . . .

Note: Brenda cleared this idea with her publisher before writing Hanover House. If you’re under contract with a traditional publisher, communicate your plans to publish connected content early to ensure you have their approval!

Link to the rest at BookBub Partners

PG notes that Mrs. PG has used Zazzle to produce merchandise to help promote her books.

Long Black Veil

Blame it on Covid. Blame it on the crazy US election season that finally ended today.

The song titled, “Long Black Veil” has been running through PG’s mind on repeat since last night.

From Wikipedia:

“Long Black Veil” is a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell.

It is told from the point of view of a man falsely accused of murder and executed. He refuses to provide an alibi, since on the night of the murder he was having an extramarital affair with his best friend’s wife, and would rather die and take their secret to his grave than admit the truth. The chorus describes the woman’s mourning visits to his gravesite, wearing a long black veil and enduring a wailing wind.

In 2019, Frizzell’s version of “Long Black Veil” was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

. . . .

The writers later stated that they drew on three sources for their inspiration: Red Foley’s recording of “God Walks These Hills With Me”, a contemporary newspaper report about the unsolved murder of a priest, and the legend of a mysterious veiled woman who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino’s grave. Dill himself called it an “instant folksong.”

Wilkin played piano on the original recording by Frizzell. The song was a departure from Frizzell’s previous honky tonk style and was a deliberate move toward the then current popularity of folk-styled material and the burgeoning Nashville sound.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

While the song has been performed and recorded by a great many talented performers, PG considers the Johnny Cash performance as the ultimate. That’s the version that has been running through PG’s head.

Here are the lyrics of the first two verses of original Lefty Frizzel song.

Ten years ago, on a cold, dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed
That the slayer who ran looked a lot like me

The judge said, “Son what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else, then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word, though it meant my life
For I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

The following video features Johnny Cash and Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell and PG likes it a lot.

x

A Semi-Colon Moment

From Writer Unboxed:

I was asked to write something to mark the day—something to encourage a re-set as we turn the proverbial page on a difficult and divisive chapter in American history. But the truth is that I don’t know with certainty what this day will bring. I’m not writing this piece on January 20th, and at this point several outcomes seem possible, ranging from peaceful ideal to horrific.

What can be said of such a day, when so many different outcomes are imaginable?

It struck me that we give our protagonist a moment like this toward the end of a story—following a dark moment, there is resolution or there is an even darker moment.

It struck me that no matter what our protagonist experiences, there is an after, whether it’s happily-ever or not.

It struck me that we are—collectively—the protagonist of this moment in history.

Some believe something will end today. Period. But I think it’s safer to say something will change today; it will shift, marking the start of a new phase or chapter [semi-colon].

The semi-colon is a powerful marker of connection. Two ideas are so intrinsically bound that to exist as sentences beside one another without the marker is to weaken the idea. Whatever comes next, whatever happens today, it will be the cause of an effect we won’t know for a while. But make no mistake that our future—at least our most immediate future—will be tied to our now in a way we won’t be able to shake.

This is a semi-colon moment.

What do we do with the rubble of our time? How do we rebuild? What can be salvaged? What do we take from this moment and pull into our future? What’s on the other side of that semi-colon? What do we want to be on the other side of that semi-colon? To undo it all, to go back to “normal”? How wide is that gap, between reality and some impossible dream?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed