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news, magazines, webzines

Science, Fiction, and points in between

§ Salon July 29
How to get on the cover of the New York Times Book Review: It helps for a book to be released in July or August, the publishing industry's dog days.

§ Feed July 22
Among several pieces making up its special Books issues is this essay by Matt Weiland, The Myth of the Book Glut.

...if you take into consideration the population increase and disregard the surfeit of children's books the picture changes drastically. ... Measuring the size of the "adult book pool" -- i.e., the number of adult titles published per million adults since 1945 -- reveals that book industry output did indeed jump substantially in the early '60s, a phenomenon consistent with the much-vaunted "culture explosion" that Alvin Toffler hailed in 1964. Yet since the mid-'70s the figure has stayed virtually the same. In the period 1975 to 1995, while overall title output increased some 60%, the adult book pool increased less than 7%, from 317 to 339 books per million.
(Thu 29 Jul 1999)

Why Write?
From Anna Quindlen's commencement speech to Mount Holyoke College, May 23, 1999:

When young writers write to me about following in the footsteps of those of us who string together nouns and verbs for a living, I tell them this: every story has already been told.

Once you've read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had. And that is herself, her own personality, her own voice. If she is doing Faulkner imitations, she can stay home. If she is giving readers what she thinks they want instead of what she is, she should stop typing. But if her books reflect her character, who she really is, then she is giving them a new and wonderful gift.

(Tue 20 Jul 1999)

§ Salon July 16
An feature by Ray Sawhill asks the questions, What do publishing professionals read for fun? What would they never read again if they didn't have to? Among the ''list of living writers my subjects would willingly continue to read'': ''...J.G. Ballard, the sci-fi writer Connie Willis...''

It's enough to remind you of the (true) story of the architect who, as a professional, designs thorny modern buildings, but prefers to live with his family in a rambling old country house. And it begs a question: How can we account for the widespread illusion many of us have of an ongoing literary world? In architecture, it's an open secret that the buildings that are sold to us as "architecture" (as opposed to mere "building") aren't the ones that people find comfortable, delightful, pleasant or well-built. Instead, they're the buildings that photograph well and that give critics and journalists plenty to write about. With books, could it be that many of the writers who win the most enthusiastic coverage aren't the ones whose books are enjoyed most by knowledgeable, educated readers, but are instead the ones who, whether consciously or not, write to get literary notice and win literary prizes?

Alternate Lunar History
Several recent news stories have revealed that Richard Nixon had a speech (written by William Safire) ready to deliver in the event the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the moon, unable to return to Earth. This ABC News article includes the complete text of the speech. It ends:

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

(Fri 16 Jul 1999)
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