1. It won't make the evening news, but this was a rough day of historic proportions in the book biz. Random House
, Simon and Schuster
, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
and Thomas Nelson
all announced layoffs, top-level firings or, in the case of Random House/Doubleday/Alfred A. Knopf/Dial/Bantam Dell/Crown/Nan Talese/Broadway, major consolidations
that will affect the future of book publishing in America.
In the midst of this mayhem, it's interesting to read in GalleyCat that a paperback trend is sweeping publishing
. We've only been yelling for this sweep for years
, but despite GalleyCat's optimism, there is evidence of an opposing trend: book prices are getting higher
. Like malnourished children whose bellies grow, new hardcover prices are swelling -- $40, $45 -- even as retail spending drops. Affordable (paperback, small) book publishing is the right answer, yes -- but I am not as confident as GalleyCat is that publishers are moving towards this trend anywhere near as quickly as they should be.
2. The great folksinger Odetta
has died. I've seen her in concert twice, once at a Gerde's Folk City reunion where she was stunning, and once at a strange Greenwich Village event called the Microtonal Festival which celebrated experimental musicians and vocalists who used tones between the twelve notes of the scale. It might surprise those who think of Odetta as a traditional folksinger to know that she was considered by experts in the field to have a rare way with microtones, and that she delivered the best performance of this night, belting out a few old spirituals and showing us all how much room there really was between a C and a C#. I don't know if that show was recorded, but here's Odetta singing "Rock Island Line"
and here's her "Water Boy"
3. Natasha Wimmer, translator of Roberto Bolano, will be appearing with Francisco Goldman at a very special Words Without Borders
event Thursday night, December 4, at Idlewild Books in Manhattan.
4. Also at Idlewild, apparently a new hot spot
: Ben Greenman
on Friday, December 5.
5. And then comes the big Literary Trivia Smackdown 2.0
this Sunday at 4 pm, and you better believe I'm studying up on my American Lit. Our opponents at PEN America
have been announced: David Haglund, Meghan Kyle-Miller, Larry Siems and Lilly Sullivan. They sound smart, so please come to the Small Press Indie Book Fair
and cheer your favorite lit bloggers on! For real.
6. New Nixon tapes! Choice bits:
"Never forget: The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy. The professors are the enemy."
All your base are belong to us, Nixon.
It's a happy Christmas for Watergate buffs like me, what with the new tapes
and the release of the film version
of the play Frost/Nixon
. Haven't had this much fun since Mark Felt turned up.
7. Christopher Hitchens points out
that the widespread decision to use the city name "Mumbai" rather than "Bombay" actually carries an implicit political message, and possibly a fraudulent one. I was not aware of this, though I remember hearing similar things at a panel discussion
regarding the recent attempt to replace "Burma" with "Myanmar". Since many of us are in the dark about this, it seems that major news organizations like the New York Times (Clark Hoyt, are you out there?) ought to address the significance of these name changes directly.
, a litblogger, dies
9. Frank Wilson remembers the once-popular novel Dharma Bums
, Jack Kerouac's affectionate tribute to the fashionable Buddhism of the Beatnik era, on its fiftieth birthday
. This is one of my favorite
10. Jay-Z gets typographical