Sunday, April 24, 2011

MediaWeek (V4 N17): Morrissey, King James, Big Content, Sneering at Genres, Hitch, + More

Morrissey sees his autobiography as an instant "classic" so does Penguin have an advantage (Independent):
"I'd like it to go to Penguin, but only if they published it as a Classic," Morrissey told Radio 4's Front Row. "I can't see why not – a contemporary Penguin Classic. When you consider what really hits print these days and when you look at the autobiographies and how they are sold, most of it is appalling. It's a publishing event, not a literary event."

Penguin, whose Classic imprint was launched in 1946 to provide the best books for the affordable price of sixpence, said Morrissey's wishes could be accommodated. A spokeswoman told The Independent: "There is a natural fit between Morrissey's sensibility, his artistic achievements and Penguin Classics. A book could be published as a Penguin Classic because it is a classic in the making. It's something we would like to discuss with Morrissey."

There is no minimum time limit before a book can be considered a Penguin Classic, but the list embraces people or works that have "caused scandal and political change, broken down barriers, social and sexual". A provocative figure who challenged rock stereotypes through his celibacy, Morrissey would fit the Penguin Classics lineage, which includes memoirs by Quentin Crisp, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs.

So that settles it then.

The King James Bible is now 400 years old and David Starkey in The Mail on Sunday suggests England can trace her empire back to its publication (Mail):

Called into being by a king, it has carried ideas of truth and freedom and justice and human dignity to the furthest corners of the globe. Its cadences can be heard in the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and President Obama. It is the spice in the new English of the Indian Subcontinent. And yet, extraordinarily, this supreme achievement was the work of a committee – or so we have always been told.

Closer examination reveals a very different story, which overturns our notions of the chronology of this great book and reintroduces an unjustly neglected name to our pantheon of great writers, William Tyndale.

James VI of Scotland succeeded the childless Queen Elizabeth I as James I of England in 1603. There were high hopes for him, and none higher than James’s for himself. He had been king of Scots since he was in his cradle. He was learned; a polished, published author and a patient, canny politician. Above all – and in sharp contrast to the ageing Elizabeth, who had frozen into a sort of querulous immobility – he had vision and ambition.

James I had set himself three main tasks. He wanted to end the long, debilitating war between England and Spain. He was determined to bring about a political union between his two separate kingdoms of Scotland and England. And he even dreamt of reuniting the Christian church, which had been riven by the Reformation into warring factions, as Catholics fought Protestants and Protestants fought each other. All three conflicts, James resolved, would be settled by his deft mediation as the universal Rex Pacificus – ‘the peacemaker king’.
And on the other hand, a journal issue dedicated to discussing evolution, creation and intelligent design generates some controversy (Inside HigherEd):
But the anger wasn’t provoked by any of the articles in the guest-edited issue, which wrestled with questions including “Are creationists rational?” (answer: yes, in one sense) and “Can’t philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?” The outrage sprang from two paragraphs published in the front of the print edition: a note from the journal’s three regular editors-in-chief, apologizing for the content that followed.
In the Harvard Business Review, Big Content is Strangling American Innovation (HBR):

Many in the high technology industry have known this for a long time. Despite making their living relying on it, the Big Content players do not understand technology, and never have. Rather than see it as an opportunity to reach new audiences, technology has always been a threat to them. Example after example abounds of this attitude; whether it was the VCR which was "to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone" as famed movie industry lobbyist Jack Valenti put it at a congressional hearing, or MP3 technology, which they tried to sue out of existence. In fact, it's possible to go back as far as the gramophone and see the content industries rail against new technology. The reason why? Every shift in technology is difficult for them. Just as they work out how to make money using one technology, it changes.

The sensible thing for them to do would be to learn how to deal with the change. Instead, their approach to every generation of technology is either to attempt to stymie it so badly that nobody wants it, or to stop it altogether through their influence with lawmakers in Washington DC.

BBC denies sneering at genre fiction (Guardian):

The programming, which included The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special and New Novelists: 12 of the Best, used a "sneering derogatory tone" to address commercial fiction, focusing instead on literary fiction, the letter read."

The vast majority of novels that are read in this country fall far outside of the contemporary fiction genre – they very much include the three genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, which has produced everything from classics by HG Wells, Bram Stoker, Roald Dahl, Mary Shelley, George Orwell and JRR Tolkien, to modern bestsellers by such authors as Iain M Banks, Sir Terry Pratchett and JK Rowling – these three genres being totally excluded from the BBC's World Book Night coverage," the authors complained. "

The BBC World Book Nights self-indulgent coverage gave the general public the misleading impression that novels are only for an elite, and that unless you're reading Dostoevsky, preferably in the original Russian, you're wasting your time on trash."

But the BBC said today that it was "absolutely committed to celebrating books in all their forms", including science fiction, pointing to Mark Gatiss's adaptation of HG Wells's Man on the Moon, which ran last October on BBC4, and to three-time Arthur C Clarke award winner China Miéville's appearance on The Review Show.

Martin Amis on Christopher Hitchens (Observer):

As a result, Christopher is one of the most terrifying rhetoricians that the world has yet seen. Lenin used to boast that his objective, in debate, was not rebuttal and then refutation: it was the "destruction" of his interlocutor. This isn't Christopher's policy – but it is his practice. Towards the very end of the last century, all the greatest chessplayers, including Garry Kasparov, began to succumb to a computer (named Deep Blue); I had the opportunity to ask two grandmasters to describe the Deep Blue experience, and they both said: "It's like a wall coming at you." In argument, Christopher is that wall. The prototype of Deep Blue was known as Deep Thought. And there's a case for calling Christopher Deep Speech. With his vast array of geohistorical references and precedents, he is almost Google-like; but Google (with, say, its 10 million "results" in 0.7 seconds) is something of an idiot savant, and Christopher's search engine is much more finely tuned. In debate, no matter what the motion, I would back him against Cicero, against Demosthenes.

Whereas mere Earthlings get by with a mess of expletives, subordinate clauses, and finely turned tautologies, Christopher talks not only in complete sentences but also in complete paragraphs. Similarly, he is an utter stranger to what Diderot called l'esprit de l'escalier: the spirit of the staircase. This phrase is sometimes translated as "staircase wit" – far too limitingly, in my view, because l'esprit de l'escalier describes an entire stratum of one's intellectual and emotional being. The door to the debating hall, or to the contentious drinks party, or indeed to the little flat containing the focus of amatory desire, has just been firmly closed; and now the belated eureka shapes itself on your lips. These lost chances, these unexercised potencies of persuasion, can haunt you for a lifetime – particularly, of course, when the staircase was the one that might have led to the bedroom.

Ingrate Paul Brodeur wants his stuff back from the NY Public Library (NYTimes):
In a series of letters and phone calls to Mr. Brodeur over the summer, they explained that, as they did with every donation, they had carefully weeded out what would be useful to generations of researchers (original letters and rare primary documents) and excluded less-meaningful artifacts (photocopied news stories and multiple drafts of New Yorker writings). In the process, an original donation of about 320 boxes had been whittled to 53.

On a recent afternoon, Ms. Thornton, who oversees collections and exhibits, showed off the results of that winnowing, displaying a detailed catalog and a sampling of documents on a long table outside the library’s Rose Main Reading Room. The Brodeur collection appeared carefully labeled by subject and date. There were folders containing fan mail from readers (one called an article he had written for The New Yorker “extremely provocative and well-researched”). There were copies of letters from Mr. Brodeur to his colleagues at the magazine (including an angry missive to Seymour Hersh, who had backtracked on an endorsement of a much-debated Brodeur book about the dangers of electrical power lines in 1997. Mr. Brodeur called him “craven” and “lame.”). And there was an unfinished draft of a novel, titled “Coral Sea,” about an investigative journalist who stumbles on an important secret.

Ms. Thornton said that before last year, Mr. Brodeur’s papers had been largely undigested. The documents, she said, “had no catalog record, no archival finding aid, no collection guide.” She added: “The collection was not usable.”

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