Monday, September 26, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 39): Robert Harris, Dickens, Cultural Decline (or not), Colm Toibin + More

A life in writing: Robert Harris: 'I've written a piece of fiction that suddenly starts coming true around me. The markets are crashing, people are blaming algorithms' (Guardian):
"Orwell has always been a huge influence on me," he says. "He first came to mind regarding this project about 12 years ago when I read a book by Bill Gates in which he said one day the McDonald's headquarters in America would know when a Big Mac was sold in Newbury and then a computer algorithm would work out when the cattle had to be slaughtered in Chicago. I got very interested in these ideas but couldn't find a way to make them work in fiction. Then came the financial crash and I realised I could marry the two things. These algorithms that were driving companies were nowhere more dominant than in the City. Was it more scary that banks were run by bad guys in braces smoking cigars, or by computers and mathematicians?"
Recently finished Claire Tomalin's Biography of Pepys which had long been on my shelf and which was ultimately richly rewarding. An interview with her about Dickens (Guardian):
She is confounded by this desire to preserve the Victorian image of Dickens as a monogamous and kindly husband. "When Anthony Burgess reviewed Peter Ackroyd's biography [Ackroyd, whose book came out in 1990, strikingly failed to acknowledge Nelly], he said, 'Now we know. Dickens was a good man. He didn't have a mistress.' What? There are other ways of being good. All writers behave badly. All people behave badly." She agrees with Dickens's clever daughter, Katey, who believed that in the second half of his life, when he rejected Catherine and cruelly forbade her children and even her sister, Georgina, to see her, the great writer went a little mad.

"The young Dickens was so alive, so self-confident, so funny. His wonderful glossy hair! His capacity for friendship, and for work! And then... yes, he went mad. But I know that people do go mad. I expect you do, too. Old biographers have got something extra: they've lived a long life themselves. They're more able to see things in perspective. It's not a matter of forgiving. That would be an impertinent thing to say. But it is a case of trying to understand.

The New Yorker: Changing reading forever (NewYorker)

“Cultural decline is not inevitable,” said Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, upon the announcement that more Americans were reading books than in previous years. It was a small victory—“literary” reading rose seven per cent from 2002 to 2008, in part, Gioia suggested, because of programs like the N.E.A.’s Big Read—but it was a welcome one, because reading has been on the decline in our country for a very long time. The steady drop since the nineteen-fifties correlates directly with the rise of television and visual media, but much of the damage has been done in the past two decades, well after TV had solidified its place in Americans’ lives. Some of the recent bump must be attributed to the rise of e-readers, whose owners report an increase in their own reading habits thanks to the devices’ conveniences. But despite the small gains, a solid half of the country still rarely, if ever, picks up a book for pleasure. In the same press release, the N.E.A. said that “The U.S. population now breaks into two almost equally sized groups—readers and non-readers.”
Colm Toibin: 'The audience always want to know, what did you mean?' - video

From The Twitter:

Pew Media Study Shows Reliance on Many Outlets: (NYT)

EBSCO Rolls Out 64 New Ebook Subject Sets: (Link)

Bodleian Library shows off treasures, from Magna Carta to Shakespeare (Guardian)

Agatha Christie's real-life surfing thrills to be published (Guardian)

Could ebooks open a new chapter in legal publishing? (Guardian)

Are You Kidding? LJ Editor Francine Fialkoff's scathing response to Authors Guild's HathiTrust Lawsuit (LJ)

Apologies for the over reliance on the Guardian - I'm going to have to be more conservative.

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