Links of Literacy – May 27, 2009

May 28, 2009

Another week, another five snippets of literary news to be shared with the masses.

1. Put the book back on the shelf: 13 book-to-film adaptions that the authors hated, by Josh Modell, Keith Phipps, Leonard Pierce, Nathan Rabin, Scott Gordon, Scott Tobias, Tasha Robinson, and Zack Handlen; The Onion, May 26, 2009

A piece by the marvelously talented team at the Onion A.V. Club, I enjoy it because it touches on the negative side of film adaptations, one of my pet interests. It’s hard enough to please the fans of a book, I can’t imagine authors are any easier to work with. I was surprised to see Ken Kesey or Anthony Burgess didn’t make the list, but that just frees me up to spend more time on them in my upcoming Text-to-Screen Ratio: Retrospectives.

2. Then and Now: Robert Downey Jr. brings a new look to Sherlock Holmes, Jonathan Crow, Yahoo! Movies, May 20, 2009

pseudoblog_sherlockholmes425aAnother post on the topic of film adaptations, but this one even dearer to my heart since it deals with probably my favorite character in literature: Sherlock Holmes. I’m approaching this adaptation very cautiously, as while I love both Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. I’m very skeptical of a film that appears to have a steampunk Holmes channeling Jack Sparrow to fight vampires. Yes, it sounds awesome, but so apart from the Holmes I know and love I don’t know what affection I can give it. I do like the article’s points on how it might gel with the more “Bohemian” perspective of Holmes, but I shall remain a skeptic.

3. Small sf press rallies despite recession, Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, May 25, 2009.

This one’s not exactly a major news article, but it cheers me up for the soft spot I have for independent presses. It’s a bad climate for publishing (as my recent unemployment from a project management position at Macmillan can attest to) but some people are stillgoing forward and I’m happy for them.

4. Worried book industry gathers for convention, Hillel Italie, Associated Press, May 26, 2009.

And here we of course have the sign of dark clouds unable to be banished from the industry. I will not be attending this convention as I am nowhere near important enough to warrant an invitation,  but I shall keep my eyes on what comes out of the area and keep you posted.

5. 1984: The masterpiece that killed George Orwell, Robert McCrumb, The Observer, May 10, 2o09

Something for the academics of my reader base, a stunning article on just how much “1984” killed its author. It’s certainly not an unheard of occurrence for a writer’s masterpiece to devour its composer (Truman Capote comes to mind after “In Cold Blood”) but “1984” is rarely thought of in that light.


Article Repost: Longing for Great Lost Works

April 20, 2009

For your reading pleasure, here’s an interesting article I located on the WSJ’s arts section. It’s always an interesting concept to think about just what could be laying in wait for us if we could locate it, Hemingway’s briefcase of stories or Capote’s final manuscript for “Unanswered Prayers” – and always a sense that the mystery of looking for it is better than actually digging it up.

pt-al393_lostbo_dv_20090417220231Longing for Great Lost Works

By Stephen Marche

The Wall Street Journal

April 18, 2009

In 1995 Unesco named April 23 World Book Day because of a morbid literary coincidence. Both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died April 23, 1616, the same exact date but 10 days apart, since England was on the Julian Calendar while Spain was on the Gregorian. It’s a fortunate coincidence (or near coincidence) because collectively, they produced one of the greatest missing literary works of all time, the play “Cardenio.” And on World Book Day I always find myself thinking about the books that don’t exist more than the ones that do.

(Read more here)

Death of a Writer Notice: J.G. Ballard

April 19, 2009

jgballardBBC News and Boing Boing have noted that acclaimed author J.G. Ballard passed away today as a result of a long illness. Credited as a pioneer of science fiction writing, he was best known for his novels “Empire of the Sun” and “Crash,” both of which were adapted to film.

While I personally have not read enough of his work to write a formal obit as I have done previously, Ballard was a legend in the field of literature and his bibliography is impressive by any writer’s standards. Take a moment of silence to acknowledge his passing, and then I urge you to get your hands on some of his works. For an intro, the Boing Boing story has quite a few related articles of interest at the bottom of the page.

“All over the world major museums have bowed to the influence of Disney and become theme parks in their own right. The past, whether Renaissance Italy or ancient Egypt, is reassimilated and homogenized into its most digestible form. Desperate for the new, but disappointed with anything but the familiar, we recolonise past and future. The same trend can be seen in personal relationships, in the way people are expected to package themselves, their emotions and sexuality in attractive and instantly appealing forms.” – J.G. Ballard, “The Atrocity Exhibition”

Book News: Amazon deranks “adult” titles, uproar follows

April 14, 2009

As CNET reported this weekend, major online bookseller Amazon has come under fire for delisting titles in their ranking system,  particularly titles with gay and lesbian themes. Titles affected include books on homophobia and novels such as Radclyffe Hill’s classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, “The Well of Loneliness,” and Mark R. Probst’s (who uncovered the story) novel “The Filly” about a young man in the wild West discovering that he’s gay. Not only did this remove them from the ranking system, it also meant the titles no longer came up in Amazon’s main product search.

A furor rose online in reaction, criticizing the company of offenses ranging from censorship to homophobia, and now Amazon has issued a statement claiming that it was an “embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error.”

Personally, I’m actually willing to give Amazon the benefit of the doubt here, as I have doubts that any corporation would be stupid enough to actually make a move like this with the awesome power of Twitter now able to unite against them. My money is on it being either a computer error or some overzealous Puritan employee who got their hands on the ranking system, who the company will now be burying in the bureacracy.

It is interesting that so many people are making a fuss over the ranking on Amazon though, something that outside of the Top Ten I’m guessing very few ever pay attention to. God bless the mix of anti-homophobia and big corporation paranoia that leads to a news story when space is short.

What’s your thoughts, Hive Mind? Are Amazon secret bigots or is this just an error that is being blown out of proportion? Or is the answer somewhere in between?