More than 100 Harvard faculty members just co-signed a letter to the university’s president and fellows, demanding that the Harvard Corporation — which manages the 32 billion dollar educational endowment, the largest in the world — commit to divesting from the fossil fuel industry. Now they need support from the climate movement. Sign the petition to support them! If Harvard does it your own alma mater may be next.
All the world’s a stage when an actress and a terminally ill TV executive meet in this biting comedy.
It takes a special kind of talent to simultaneously skewer Hollywood and Shakespeare while writing a thought-provoking novel, and Dark Lady of Hollywood proves Diane Haithman has this genius. As a former arts and entertainment writer for the Los Angeles Times, Haithman’s book explores themes of the ephemeral nature of show business, a human desire to connect, and what really matters in life, while causing chuckles at the same time.
As the story opens, TV executive Ken Harrison’s life and career slide downhill fast. Demoted from his job due to the fickle whims of television ratings, he struggles to find meaning in his life while trying not to think about the aggressive form of cancer that he has which other people seem to think has taken over his life. Fate brings him together with Ophelia Lomond, a biracial thirty-two-year-old wannabe actress who finds herself in a rut. Shakespeare aficionado Ken quickly determines that Ophelia will be to him what the Dark Lady of the Sonnets was to the Bard: his inspiration. However, Ken and Ophelia have decidedly different ideas of what being a muse involves.
In a brilliant coup, the author allows Ken and Ophelia to narrate alternating chapters from the first-person point of view so that the reader gets to know each intimately. In this way, Ken becomes more than a one-dimensional cancer survivor, and Ophelia becomes more than just a biracial beauty.
Both Ophelia and Ken have wry, wise viewpoints on the entertainment industry, which will keep readers laughing along. Additionally, the pair is shrewd and intelligent. They play off each other well, making it easy to root for them and their budding relationship. One can empathize with why Ophelia would change her name and pretend she is from an imaginary island, because the author astutely shows the hoops anyone has to go through in hopes of landing the role of their dreams. It is refreshing to see someone like Ken, who, in the face of terminal illness, goes about stubbornly living his life, even when everyone around him says he’s going to die.
Furthermore, the author gently satirizes Los Angeles and the industry while making the Bard of Avon drolly relevant. She begins every chapter with an apt quote from a Shakespeare play. Anyone who appreciates comedy and either loves or disdains Tinseltown will adore this breezy, biting book.
Scribd, the exhaustive eBook library, monitors popular books by state. It counted how many times registered Scribd users read a book. The results are all over the map.
Horror and fantasy top the list in the Midwest, while hilarious and poignant memoirs won the coasts (Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter tops New York and Patti Smith’s Just Kids is big in California).
Alaska remains an enigma. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book was their number one read. Stay tuned to find out what people living in sub-arctic temperatures do with ice cream.
By EDWARD FRENKEL
IN Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita,” the protagonist, a writer, burns a manuscript in a moment of despair, only to find out later from the Devil that “manuscripts don’t burn.”
While you might appreciate this romantic sentiment, there is of course no reason to think that it is true. Nikolai Gogol apparently burned the second volume of “Dead Souls,” and it has been lost forever. Likewise, if Bulgakov had burned his manuscript, we would have never known “Master and Margarita.” No other author would have written the same novel.
But there is one area of human endeavor that comes close to exemplifying the maxim “manuscripts don’t burn.” That area is mathematics. If Pythagoras had not lived, or if his work had been destroyed, someone else eventually would have discovered the same Pythagorean theorem. Moreover, this theorem means the same thing to everyone today as it meant 2,500 years ago, and will mean the same thing to everyone a thousand years from now — no matter what advances occur in technology or what new evidence emerges. Mathematical knowledge is unlike any other knowledge. Its truths are objective, necessary and timeless. (more…)
William Lashner‘s latest novel, the Kindle-only thriller The Barkeep, topped last week’s Digital Book World ebook bestseller chart with two more Amazon Publishing titles coming in at four and 11. Not bad for a company which George Packer characterises as having no real interest in books.
The way the money is moving … dollar bills being minted in Washington. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
William Lashner‘s latest novel, the Kindle-only thriller The Barkeep, topped last week’s Digital Book World ebook bestseller chart with two more Amazon Publishing titles coming in at four and 11. Not bad for a company which George Packer characterises as having no real interest in books.But why would an author who wants to break out into “the true mass market” limit herself to the Amazon universe? It seems that it’s all about the future, with Amazon offering terms for digital royalties which Quinn’s agent described as “decidedly more generous” than those offered by traditional publishers.
According to new figures from the self-publishing champion Hugh Howey, ebooks may account for as much as 90% of current sales in bestselling genre fiction and signing with Amazon unleashes the shopping site’s “incredible ability to market their own works”. Amazon Publishing puts out only 4% of bestselling genre ebooks, but those titles manage to snag 15% of daily sales. As for the big five, they’re converting 28% of these titles into just 34% of daily unit sales.
(via The Guardian)
Readers to voted on their top 10 favorite books of the year, and the results are filled with literary hotshots and household names. From Donna Tartt to Khaled Hosseini to Dan Brown, the titles that turn up on our list of readers’ 10 favorite books of the year are going to be familiar whether you consider yourself a big reader or not.
Yet not all the spaces were taken up by the well-known greats: at least one book, “Reconstructing Amelia,” was threatened to be overshadowed by the fall’s onslaught of heavy-hitters, but CNN readers hadn’t forgotten its suspenseful tale.
Another surprise entry was John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” which, being a 2012 release, we didn’t expect to see on a list of 2013 picks. But thanks to the numerous readers who wrote in votes for the tough but engrossing novel, Green’s work shines for another year…[more via CNN]
Renowned Harvard Law Professor Stephen Ripley discovers his brightest assistant brutally murdered after he exposes a conspiracy that leads all the way to the Pope. Working closely with Sigourney “Ziggy” Penance, a beautiful Boston Globe journalist and his contacts within the FBI & CIA, Professor Ripley is thrust into a very sordid world with immense international intrigue.
As the shocking revelations of his assistant’s research explode across the front page of the Boston Globe, plots of retribution are set in motion and Ripley rushes to Rome to identify a mysterious Vatican contact and uncover murderous plots against the Pope, a former Archbishop of Boston, and himself. This labyrinth of intrigue draws in the Pope’s personal army of Swiss Guards and the passionate sect of Opus Dei, who join forces to defend the Church against a stream of vengeance. Discover who prevails as these fast paced multi layered events over six days comes to a cataclysmic end.
The Papal Enclave by James O’Brien is a thoroughly researched mix of historical facts, recent events, and intriguing characters intertwined with an absorbing finale. The Papal Enclave is the first in a series of thrillers that weaves a tapestry of suspense utilizing fictional characters through actual current events while mingling them among authentic personalities of the famous and infamous.
What the Professionals say about The Papal Enclave…
“A well-crafted tale where reality is woven tightly in the warp and woof of its words. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and hope it has great success.” – Stephen Boehrer, Author of The Purple Culture
Paula Sunsong’s Twilight of the Star Vampires just hit #1 in the Kindle Store in Humor: Parodies. Book 2 goes free on December 13th.
What happens when Twilight Saga vampire Edward Cullen meets Darth Vader meets Vulcan Spock? That question is answered in this parody of the Twilight Saga, Star Wars and Star Trek. The book contains space fights, vampire bites and romantic nights with a Jetti Knight, Werewolf, Vulcan and Vampire love triangle (quadrangle?).
Paula Sunsong’s novel asks the age old questions: Can a Jetti knight find love with a Klingon vampire? What if Chewbaca was a werewolf? Will Edward defy his vampire instincts and satisfy his desire in a different way with Padma, Princess Leia’s and Luke Skywalker’s mother?
Paula Sunsong has been a private investigator, journalist and film production crew member (“High Crimes” with Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, Sundance Film Festival picks: “Tecknolust” with Tilda Swinton, and comedy “Haiku Tunnel”). She is the author of the Twilight of the Star Vampires Trilogy: A parody of the Twilight Saga, Star Wars and Star Trek. Book 3 will be free December 19-23/13.
A memoir about growing up before, during, and after the height of the disability-rights movement, Ben Mattlin’s Miracle Boy Grows Up: How The Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity (Skyhorse Publishing) has received impressive blurbs from the likes of Jay McInerney, the National Council on Disability, and our own Antje Clasen.
“I simply could not stop reading [it],” she wrote in her Amazon review. ”‘Miracle Boy Grows Up’ is an extraordinary book. It is a literary voice telling a story worth listening to. Ben Mattlin was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that confines him to a life in a wheelchair. In this memoir, he describes his life in which he beats the odds: becoming a pioneer in his elementary school and his high school in New York and then Harvard. Ben Mattlin is among the firsts to attempt and accomplish a life in a competitive world created for able bodied people. One cannot but admire his extraordinary courage, persistence and ability to overcome obstacles. Ben Mattlin describes how he learns to navigate uncharted territory – although he sometimes feels ‘unmoored, lost at sea’ – he succeeds at graduating cum laude, moving to California, marrying and finding his career as a journalist. He also becomes an advocate for disabled rights. Words are certainly his friends – he is an intelligent and perceptive wordsmith. Ben Mattlin has become a fine writer.”
According to a recent poll, almost half the U.S. population knows someone with a disability, but only a third is comfortable around the disabled. Too often people treat those with disabilities as if they’re doing something heroic or extraordinary for living a normal life. Miracle Boy Grows Up demystifies disability and educates, as much as it entertains, about the realities of living with a severe, debilitating, even life-threatening disability. With wit and humor, it skewers stereotypes and misconceptions, showing how in some ways disability is much harder than most people imagine yet in others is very much easier. It is also a coming-of-age story about one Harvard grad’s learning to cope.
by Keith Raffel
Sometimes good things do happen to us writers. In September an editor from Amazon Publishing got in touch. She wanted to buy rights to A Fine and Dangerous Season, the Cuban Missile Crisis thriller I’d published as an ebook on my own last year.
Amazingly, six weeks later — today! — the book is out in a re-edited version with a new cover in both ebook and trade paper editions.
Here in Palo Alto, it’s bright and sunny and in the high 60s.
What a glorious day!
This article first appeared in the Telegraph
An original sheet from Charles Darwin’s manuscript ‘On the Origin of Species’, which has been covered in a drawing by one of his children, is to go on display for the first time.
Darwin created “a mound” of papers whilst he drafted his seminal work but less than 35 have survived.
Archivists believe the majority of the remaining sheets have only survived because he gave them to his children as drawing paper and kept the pictures.
Next week one of these sheets is to go on display for the first time with specimens from his Beagle voyage as part of a new exhibition at Cambridge University Library.
The charming children’s drawing, named the “Battle of the Vegetables” by Cambridge University Library staff, shows two mounted figures facing each other in battle.
One figure wearing a turban is riding what archivists think could be a stale potato and the other is on what appears to be a giant carrot, crossed with a dog.
It is not known which of Darwin’s 10 children drew the picture but it is thought the child would have been between eight and 10 years old.
The picture sheds light on the life of the Darwin and shows him as a man who put a high value on family life and did not work in isolation.
John Wells, exhibitions officer at the Library, said the story of they survived is remarkable.
He said: “There are just thirty or so of these original sheets in existence and the vast majority have a child’s drawing on the back.
“It’s quite amazing to think these priceless historical exhibits have only survived because of a child’s drawings on the back.
“It demonstrates the importance of his family and brings it home that he surrounded himself with family, and friends, as he worked.
“The picture is absolutely brilliant. It’s glorious and shows great imagination.”
A spokesman at Cambridge University said it was believed that this is the very first time the drawing had been put on display to the public.
Another 23 sheets from the original manuscript are held at the Library and it is thought there are approximately 10 more in existence.
The new exhibition is to be opened on Monday July 6 by William Huxley Darwin the naturalist’s great-great grandson.
It brings together items from the Darwin archive, preserved at the Library, and a wealth of Darwin collections held around the University.
Included in the exhibition will be Darwin’s books and correspondence and a letter offering the 22-year-old Cambridge graduate a place on board the Beagle.
Curator Alison Pearn (cor) of the Darwin Correspondence Project, said: “This is a wonderful and unique opportunity to share the University’s remarkable collections.
“Individually, the manuscripts and specimens are invaluable to scholars; together they bring Darwin and his ideas powerfully to life in a way that everyone can enjoy for the rest of this Bicentenary year.”
By Sarah Strange
I thought they would come back to me
Those years I lived in Kent
In the Sixties when both young and free
A degree was my intent.
But as the bus came round the hill
I saw to my dismay
Though Eliot college stood there still
There were buildings in its way!
We strolled around the grounds awhile
Found a cinema on site,
And library – modernised in style
PCs, not books, in sight!
Even the bus stop is displaced
And instead of lawns, paved ways
Of my time there barely a trace
What tricks my memory plays!
(c) Poet in the woods 2013
Gio Messale is president and CEO of GiMe Productions
by Mary Yuhas
Gio Messale is president and CEO of GiMe Productions. Most recently, he was part of the producing team for AT&T’s Love, Making History films: Jenny and Tale of Two Dads. His first two feature films, Love or Whatever starring Tyler Poelle, Kate Flannery and Jennifer Elise Cox and Real Heroes will be released in 2014.
Before taking the leap into the independent producing world, he worked at Paramount Pictures on such films as J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, Indiana Jones 4, MI:3, and Shutter Island directed by Martin Scorsese. Currently, he is attached to produce: No Baby directed by Matthew Mishory, an Australian film named Skool Night and Kate Danley’s Maggie MacKay Magical Tracker book series.
LitVote: What elements in a book make it desirable to turn it into a film.
Gio: I always look for something that tells a great story and moves and elevates me, as well as one that takes me out of my current reality. If it works for me, it might work for millions of other people. Also I look for what is the next big thing. In the fantasy world, there were magicians, then vampires, and now zombies and witches. Who knows what will be big two years from now.
I also consider the author’s fan base. Is the book on the bestsellers list and how many books have been sold? Does that translate into making a profitable film? Is the book a series and does it have franchise capability. The author’s presence in the social media world is very important because the fans will be first in line to buy tickets when the film is released.
But above all, if I am passionate about the book and can see it as a film, I will find a way to make it. For me, It’s about the story. (more…)
This article first appeared in the New York Times
Say you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.
That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.
Photo: Casey Kelbaugh
Emanuele Castano, left, and David Comer Kidd, researchers in the New School for Social Research’s psychology department.
“This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”
“Thank God the research didn’t find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries,” she added.
The 5-Minute Empathy Workout
Curious to see how you do on a test of emotional perception?
The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.
The researchers, social psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City, recruited their subjects through that über-purveyor of reading material, Amazon.com. To find a broader pool of participants than the usual college students, they used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where people sign up to earn money for completing small jobs.
People ranging in age from 18 to 75 were recruited for each of five experiments. They were paid $2 or $3 each to read for a few minutes. Some were given excerpts from award-winning literary fiction (Don DeLillo, Wendell Berry). Others were given best sellers like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” a Rosamunde Pilcher romance or a Robert Heinlein science fiction tale…[more]
This article by Alex Blackwell, author of The Butterfly Effect: It Started on 9/11, first appeared at White Seahorse
Having written a book, any book, the hardest thing for most authors is working with an editor. An editor’s job is to critically review the writing, perhaps tearing it apart and putting it back together in a form that will appeal to a wider audience.
Crowd editing The Butterfly Effect
White Seahorse is looking for more people to read and comment on the book. Buy the book (here), be one of the first to review it and we will reimburse 100% of your costs. Sales have already commenced, and it is a fast read.
Here is the deal:
- They will reimburse the full purchase price of the printed or digital book to the first 100 respondents.
- They will reimburse the full purchase price of the printed or digital book to every 100th respondent after that through to December 31, 2013.
- All respondents will be eligible for special offers on future White Seahorse Publications…[more]
This article by Mark Memmott first appeared in NPR.
Seamus Heaney, “acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats,” has died, the BBC and other news outlets are reporting.
Heaney was 74 and had recently been in ill health. According to The Irish Times, he died Friday morning at the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin. Sky TV has a short statement from Heaney’s family announcing his death. The Associated Press adds that Heaney’s publisher, Faber & Faber, has also confirmed the news.
Heaney was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Writer and literary critic Ola Larsmo said then that Heaney’s poetry reveals “a profound experience … that a gap exists between the totality of what can be said and the totality of all that can be witnessed, between the limits of languages and the margins of the actual world in which we live. For Heaney ‘poetry’ is a means of measuring this gap – if not bridging it.”
In 2008, Heaney told All Thing Considered that “I have always thought of poems as stepping stones in one’s own sense of oneself…[more]
by Greg Satell, from Digital Tonto
In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published his book, The End of History in which he argued that, with the cold war over and liberal democracy triumphant, the major historical narrative dialectic of history was over.
He was, of course, somewhat mistaken. The world today looks much more like Samuel Huntington’s vision of The Clash of Civilizations than anything else. There doesn’t seem to be any less division and strife now than before.
However, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that something has fundamentally changed, albeit the shift is technological rather than cultural (a fact which Fukuyama himself alluded to in a later book). History, as we know it, is over not because we’ve figured it all out, but on the contrary because we’ve unleashed forces that render the future inscrutable.
1. From Linear Advancement to Accelerating Returns
For most of history, stasis was the rule. There were different people, various empires, power struggles and perhaps the occasional discovery, yet life went on pretty much as it always had. The events we read about in the history books had little impact on most who lived at the time. A thousand years could go by and daily life would be much the same.
That’s changed in a resounding way. Life is substantially different…[more]
by Shelagh Watkins
It’s easy to see why one reviewer called Shelagh Watkins A Thousand Words of Poetry “beautiful words, beautifully written.”
The small collection of ten poems had a total word count of one thousand words. This seemed like a good title for a small collection of poetry. Shelagh added ten photographs to the collection of poems and put together the poetry book, A Thousand Words of Poetry.
The book includes poems that were well received by the literary community. In 2005, Shelagh Watkins’ poem, Hope for a Safer Place, was accepted for inclusion in the anthology, Stories of Strength. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the anthology of short stories and poems helped to raise funds for disaster relief charities.
The poem was re-published in Soul Feathers in 2010. The anthology of poetry helped to aid the work of Macmillan Cancer Support in the UK. Other poems that have appeared online were equally well received.
Although Shelagh considers herself to be a writer of fiction, she has written several poems that have been included in the Forever series of anthologies: Forever Friends, Forever Travels and Forever Families. One of the poems received the following comment from a reader of the anthology, Forever Friends:
“May I say that your poem “Forever Friends” is BEAUTIFUL! Infinite forgiveness… the test of true-blue friendship… Thank you for writing this poem!” reviewer Sharon Fulham said.
I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.
My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soon — the ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.
Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.
The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.
Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.
There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.
An insect lands on my foot — without opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)
Mirror Talk has been described as “A wonderful reflection on the life of an artist and poet” (IndieReader) and a “sharp, witty writing style…reminiscent of a wisecracking reporter Hildy Johnson in the Ben Hecht comedy His Girl Friday or even the ultimate wit – Miss Dorothy Parker herself.” (Silver Birch Press).
Poet Barbara Alfaro is a recipient of the IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir for Mirror Talk. Memories of her early New York theatre experiences include being a young actress so shy her “thoughts trembled” and cast in an off-Broadway experimental play where she was told by the director, “I am casting you against type, the character you play represents man’s inhumanity to man.”
As a middle-aged student completing her bachelor’s degree at Goddard College, she chooses classic fairytales as her senior study. “Surely, every prospective employer would like to chitchat with me about The Psychological Meaning of Redemption Motifs in Fairytales by M. L. von Franz.”
Here’s one of Barbara’s poems from Mirror Talk.
‘BEFORE DARK’, from Mirror Talk
“Home before dark,” our mother’s voice
trails after my brother and me like a kite tail
as we scamper to stickball. Sundown
happens too soon so we run to the blue
house as if our lives depend on time.
After supper, in the hallway, I hear
“She’s got to stop following me around”
and imagine his pals poking fun at
a skinny kid sister tagging along.
Today, I can’t help it; I’m happy.
God knows why.
I’m holding on to heaven.
If I let go, what’s there? Nothing
but memory and pain.
I confess I’ve been unfaithful
to my dreams and my stories,
leaving them alone and unwritten
in the distant shimmering house,
the house they burst forward from,
rushing and true. I have to keep writing.
That’s how it is, before dark…
There is a higher probability of doing time in the ‘land of the free’ than in any other country.
On its way to becoming a prison state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the U.S. seized the center stage again when it provoked the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.
Wall Street Journal reporter and author Jess Bravin (HC ’87) highlights some of the differences between U.S. prisons and Guantanamo and discusses where to try suspected terrorists in this exclusive author interview.
Jess: There’s one tremendous difference. In U.S. prisons, people are there because they have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of years or life. At Guantanamo, as we know, almost no one there has actually been convicted of anything. They’re being held preventatively. (more…)