Seen and Heard

Last week we focused on stuffing ourselves along with the turkey, but this week we’re filling up on literary gossip, news and highlights. Mmm mmm good.

Linktone has launched a first-of-its-kind mobile literature channel in China, called the “m-Novel” Channel. The first literature being published through this channel is a romantic story titled, “Distance”, written by Taiwanese novelist Xuan Huang. This is just another example of the growing trend to marry literature to rapidly expanding technology to increase readership and promote literacy. Other examples include the newfound popularity of audiobooks (thanks to the iPod craze) and daily feeds such as tinywords, which provides daily haiku offerings for various types of portable technologies.

— Organizers of the Virginia Festival of the Book have announced that early signers for the event include former NPR host and current XM Radio journalist Bob Edwards. During the festival, poet Robert Creeley will be participating in a conference celebrating Walt Whitman. Whitman manuscripts will be on display courtesy of Special Collections at the University of Virginia. The 11th Annual Virginia Festival of the Book will be held March 16-20, 2005 in Charlottesville, VA. Also appearing at the festival is Rupert Holmes, author of the novel Where the Truth Lies and the musical “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”. Beyond being an accomplished songwriter and dramatist, Holmes is probably better known as ‘that guy who sang The Pina Colada Song’.

— In the tradition of state poet laureates making headlines, Nevada’s Poet Laureate Norman Kaye has been in the news for a few weeks now. The state is seeking to replace Kaye, but he’s not so willing to be put out to pasture. There has been some controversy with Kaye holding the position in the first place. Why? Because he’s never actually written a ‘poem’.

— Just in time for your holiday gift lists, Sotheby’s has announced it will be auctioning off 17th century British porn on December 16. The auction house’s book specialist describes the 1670 work , titled “Sodom”, as “the quintessence of debauchery”. Take that, Howard Stern. Also appearing on the auction block this Friday is an unfinished manuscript of Truman Capote’s first novel, Summer Crossing. Capote publicly claimed to have destroyed this first work, but the manuscript was found among other papers retrieved from his abandoned apartment at the time of his death.

— The untimely death of poet Dylan Thomas is generally attributed to heavy drinking, but a new biography published this week theorizes that it was actually pneumonia (and medical negligence) that ended his life. The new book, Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, sheds light not only the Welsh poet’s death, but provides insight into Thomas’ life through interviews with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Book Thing, Baltimore’s no charge bookstore boasts a weekly turnaround of over 20,000 books donated and distributed. Free books to whoever wants them? Sounds too good to be true, but Book Thing’s been doing its thing for about six years now. Unfortunately, Charm City’s treasure is facing the same harsh reality that many non-profits and independent booksellers face and may be forced to close its doors soon.

— Book Thing and unique destinations like it are the focus of a new book Bookstore Tourism by author and literary tourguide Larry Portzline. This new book (available in softcover or as a free download) offers insight on making literature a focus of your travel plans, from visiting independent booksellers, literary festivals and other hot spots for bibliophiles. The book is mainly an overview of the process Portzline uses for his own tours, but it is useful as a starting point and the appendices are extremely helpful for those wanting to take a lit trip of their own.

— If you want to travel even farther without leaving your keyboard, the online magazine for international literature, Words Without Borders, is offering a showcase of children’s literature from around the globe. Through December, you can find previously untranslated versions of tales from Israel, Japan and Egypt. Many fairy tales, stories and characters familiar to English audiences originally appeared in foreign languages; Words Without Borders continues this tradition with this diverse and enjoyable collection of what we can only imagine to be future classics.

— The Top Ten Words for 2004 have been announced by Merriam-Webster. It’s not too much of a surprise to hear the top word of the year was “blog” or that many of the words are election-related. But it is definitely heartwarming to find that “cicada” emerged at #6. The list is based on users’ anonymous hits to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Online Thesaurus.

These are just a few things that have caught my eye over the last few days. Found anything interesting about your favorite publisher, author or literary scene? Or perhaps you’ve made a Top Word List of your own? We want to hear about it.

14 Responses

  1. Do you like Pina Coladas?All
    Do you like Pina Coladas?

    All of those events mentioned sound really awesome. But let’s stray away from the cities for a moment. In my travels round the Southern United States in the past year, I’ve witnessed the power of literature. In places you would not expect, community groups or centers have gotten together the idea of getting area people, normal people, to contribute poems and stories for community literary anthologies. What this does for the poor and rural towns is bring a bit of publicity, and sometimes thus perhaps their economy, I saw one town that seemed to have no arts base get a local theater together after they published their anthology. This idea seems new to me, and maybe it’s not, but it’s something I’ve noticed around the South. I enjoy learning about normal people who are not normally writers sharing stories. It’s cool to see when these anthologies help poor and rural areas. I’m just sharing this idea. That literary magic can occur where you least expect it. Anyone who is living in a town where they think nothing artistic happens or they have no arts center might want to consider this type of idea.

  2. Some WordsI have such a
    Some Words

    I have such a love-hate relationship with words. Some days I sit atop of my hutted desk and with a relentless tenacity peruse the shite-colored dictionary of my youth…other days I tumble down the hill to borders, buy 20 dictionaries and create a famous fortune-teller’s fire cascade! Burn baby, burn you belly aching louse!

    God I love it!

    some words I love:
    (no particular order)


  3. Book ThingThis place is
    Book Thing

    This place is absolutely wonderful. Imagine a basement filled floor to ceiling with books, sometimes so many books that there isn’t any room to walk. It really sucks what’s happening to them. The city is blind to their plight, and there just isn’t any money coming their way for the amount of space they need. I live like two blocks away and will miss my Saturday morning trips for my free box of books.

  4. UK Guardian Digested ReadsNot
    UK Guardian Digested Reads

    Not new, but funny. What they do, see, is they read a book, and then it is, in their own words “Condensed in the style of the original” for those of us who don’t have time to read. Sometimes they are right on the money, sometimes they may be too clever by half. On the good side, for example, here’s an excerpt of the Digested read of Sting’s autobiography.

    This is not intended to be a straightforward autobiography. Rather it will be like my music: a series of atavistic, yet profound and moving sounds that combine to create something utterly predictable and dull.

    I was born in the north-east. My father was a milkman and my mother felt constrained by the routine of their lives.

    “Oi, Gordon help your mum with shopping,” my father barked.

    “My name’s Sting.”

    “Next you’ll be telling us you think you can sing.”

    “We are a family cloistered in silence,” I replied smugly.

    I was far more intelligent than all my friends, and their resentment fuelled my inner sense of loneliness. My search for understanding drew me further into my music, and I remember hearing the Beatles for the first time and thinking that one day they might even be nearly as influential as me.

    And I actually think new levels of post modern ironic hipness may have been hit when Digested Reads attempts to deflate Dave Eggers’s landmark work of postmodern ironic hipness AHWOSG (using his own weapons against him, which only makes him stronger, don’t they realize?)

    On the bad side, it’s always been easy to mock, and any book can sound stupid when selectively boiled down to the basics.

    Check out the full archives

  5. Thanks for chiming in on this
    Thanks for chiming in on this one. I’ve never been there, but it sounds like a great place. Sounds like there’s a slim chance of survival for them — or any similar places. Let’s hope they can get some funding together or find a sponsorship deal somehow. A nice idea, just maybe not feasible within financial realities … perhaps?

  6. Ouch. Great stuff — thanks
    Ouch. Great stuff — thanks for the tip. I think there is a certain subtle art to parody and skewering that, when done carefully and cleverly, really strikes a chord. Sometimes writing of this sort (not the Guardian example, but perhaps others) misses the mark and seems to exercise the right to mock just because it can.

  7. Great point — thanks for
    Great point — thanks for sharing your observations on this phenomenon. Always nice to hear.

  8. Like any good writing, good
    Like any good writing, good parody writing requires a certain fine tuning of the ear, not just capturing the particular style of something, but the mindset that created that style.

    Good parody writing is usually, I think, sort of uncomfortable to read because it gets under the skin by pointing out certain presumptions and mindsets we’d rather not acknowledge, getting a bit too close to uncomfortable truths like when the master parodists and The Onion parodied the JonBenet Ramsey frenzy (and could apply to the Peterson case and numerous others as well) several years back with an article headlined : “Ugly Girl Killed: Nation Unmoved by not-so-tragic death.”

  9. First Female US Poet Laureate
    First Female US Poet Laureate Dies

    Mona Van Duyn, the first female poet laureate of the United States, died Wednesday night at her Missouri home. She was 83. Van Duyn served as the nation’s poet laureate from 1992-93 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection Near Changes. Her poetry was credited with “making the ordinary extraordinary” and she was described as a pioneer of the poetry of the suburbs.

  10. Her deathHer death made
    Her death

    Her death made headlines here in Missouri, but not grand enough in my mind. Hers was poetry that held up that we should be ourselves. She certainly did as she instructed us.

  11. ThanksThanks for sharing your

    Thanks for sharing your local perspective on this, jcarman.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!