Sunday, August 22, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 34: Jack London, Philosophy Books & Selling. (And Twitter Highlights)

Jack London covered by The Independent:
But perhaps the greatest act of historical castration is of Jack London. This man was the most-read revolutionary socialist in American history, agitating for violent overthrow of the government and the assassination of political leaders – and he is remembered now for writing a cute story about a dog. It's as if the Black Panthers were remembered, a century from now, for adding a pink tint to their Afros. If Jack London is chased forever from our historical memory by the dog he invented, then we will lose one of the most intriguing, bizarre figures in American history, at once inspiring and repulsive. In his 40 years of life, he was a "bastard" child of a slum-dwelling suicidal spiritualist, a child labourer, a pirate, a tramp, a revolutionary socialist, a racist pining for genocide, a gold-digger, a war correspondent, a millionaire, a suicidal depressive, and for a time the most popular writer in America. In Wolf: the Lives of Jack London, his latest biographer, James L Haley, calls London "the most misunderstood figure in the American literary canon"– but that might be because he is ultimately impossible to understand.
Even as The Call of the Wild became one of the best-selling books in American history, newspaper editorials were calling for London to be jailed or deported for his socialist speeches. By the age of 40, he was broken. He was taking morphine to stop the pain from his booze-burned kidneys and liver. As he lay killing himself with whiskey, London grew increasingly despondent that the United States was failing to become the socialist republic he prophesised. "I grow, sometimes, almost to hate the mass, to sneer at dreams of reform," he wrote to a friend. He resigned from the Socialist Party, saying it had become too moderate and reformist and should be pushing for direct action – but he took none himself. Cut off from his great redeeming cause, he was dead within a year. His manservant found his almost-dead body, accompanied by a note calculating how much morphine it would take to kill him. Flora Chaney's bullet had hit, 40 years behind schedule.

The Independent on the rage in philosophy as subject matter:

What is gaining traction in the books market, however, is the opposite of the academic. It is the philosophy of the everyday. Warburton writes a column on the subject for Prospect magazine. In Practical Tortoise Raising, one essay begins with the quandary of how to choose which beans to buy in a supermarket. And it is applied philosophy that is the driving force behind the Philosophy for Everyone series.

The volume on cycling, for example, features an essay on the implications of performance-enhancing drugs and a phenomenological appreciation of a bicycle ride by a philosopher who is also a keen amateur mountain cyclist. Another contributor, who almost qualified for the Olympics cycling team when younger, writes about the virtue of performance, of pushing one's body to the limit, and what an "honest" victory or defeat means. (Einstein claimed that the theory of relativity occurred to him while he was on two wheels: one begins to suspect that the existence of so many cycling thinkers may be no accident.) Such is its range that Cycling (Wiley-Blackwell, £11.99) is a book which could live as easily on the sport shelves as the philosophy or cultural studies shelves.

How one markets philosophy is key to attracting readers. Avital believes that there are two strategies for getting it into the popular market. One he calls the "straight-ball" approach, which has been taken with Gary Cox, the author of How to Be an Existentialist. The subject of his new book, How to Be a Philosopher, is obvious from its title. Inside, he reads like a jovial college professor trying to enthuse first-year students, with reflections on Red Dwarf nudging up against David Hume. That is a direct sell. "We want someone to buy that because they want to be the smartest person in the room," says Avital. "There is a vanity aspect to the purchase. You want to be seen reading a philosophy book on the Tube."

From the twitter this week (@personanondata)

Vintage TV signs Getty Images deal Guardian

New Arts of Book Building: Challenges for Authors, Editors and Producers Book Business From my friend Gene Schwartz Enhances Website, Introduces Innovative Applications (Press Release) Expanding b2consumer models - interesting.

(RRW) etextbooks - Never Mind iPad and eReaders, PCs Still Dominant - NYT

Tech Weekly podcast: In the BBC archive Guardian A look at how the BBC is digitizing their archive.

OCLC Adds New Info Features to the Homepage; Test Out Genre Finder from OCLC Research OCLC

New Study: $3 Billion in Sub Revenue From Interactive Periodicals by 2014 (Report)

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