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  • Obamania continues

    Tue, 03 Nov 2009 05:30

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    Michiko Kakutani reviews the two latest Obama-related volumes over in the New York Times:

    One year after Barack Obama was voted into the White House, does the public want to relive the marathon 21-month campaign that began long before the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire and churned on through the seemingly endless calendar of primaries and the general election? After useful campaign books by Richard Wolffe (Renegade: The Making of a President) and Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson (The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election), is there anything illuminating left to say about the long, winding road to his historic victory?

    In the case of Hendrik Hertzberg's new book, Obamanos!, the answer is a definite no. Although some of Mr. Hertzberg's political pieces for the Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker and his blog entries at the magazine's Web site, newyorker.com, were insightful at the time, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to go back and reread them now in book form -- unless you really crave some transient acid flashbacks to the campaign and the waning years of the Bush administration.

    The Audacity to Win by the former Obama campaign manager, David Plouffe, is considerably more interesting. While Mr. Plouffe doesn't serve up a lot of news and obviously retraces lots of familiar ground (including the by now tiresome debates about the debates, the gas tax and the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries) he gives readers a visceral sense of the campaign from an insider's point of view (more...)

  • Each Monday, here on Editor's Corner, I'm going to take a look at some of the news that has been dominating the book industry in the preceding week.

    The news, as usual, is mostly gathered thanks to the excellent resources that are the Publishers Weekly website and the GalleyCat blog.

    • The Publishers Association, "the trade organization for British book publishers, announced plans to partner with Adobe Systems in an effort to discuss and expand the interoperability of e-book formats across the various operating systems and hardware. The Publishers Association also announced preliminary plans to organize a seminar on interoperability to be held in Britain in January 2010"
    • a standing room only crowd "of about 70 crammed into the small dining room at the Hotel Rex in San Francisco [earlier last week] to hear a few experts take on "Publishing in the Digital Age: Renaissance or Revolution," the topic of this month's meeting of the Northern California Book Publicity and Marketing Association... As with other digital-publishing panels, the question of monetization largely went unanswered. "Most people here are still trying to figure it out"... But the panelist urged publishers to experiment and share their successes and failures. Being in the San Francisco Bay area there are plenty of technological success and failures to observe and learn from, he observed. The worst thing, it seems from this panel's perspective, is for publishers to stand on the sidelines and watch the new media world go by"
    • After losing his own book deal, "South Carolinia Governor Mark Sanford has turned to literary criticism -- singing the praises of novelist Ayn Rand in a Newsweek essay. Here's a sample: 'I still believe firmly that her books deserve attention, and in that regard, Anne Heller's Ayn Rand and the World She Made provides important and meaningful insight into the evolution of Rand's world view. The Fountainhead is a stunning evocation of the individual and what he can achieve when unhindered by government or society"
    • Two-year old "BookGlutton.com, the Web-based reading platform that allows members to read and annotate books and form online reading groups, launched a bookstore this week in conjunction with O'Reilly Media. Up to now, BookGlutton users could only read and share annotations for free public domain novels, cookbooks and narrative nonfiction. The social networking site has also offered some free samples of contemporary books. This summer it partnered with Random House to let readers preview four chapters of several new books, annotated by the authors"
    • Phaidon Press "is opening a "pop-up" store in Soho, New York City, [this] week. The 2,500-square-foot store, at 100 Wooster Street, will be open from November 2 through January 2010. Store hours will be 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday"
  • The horror of total recall

    Thu, 29 Oct 2009 05:19

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    Via the always excellent wood s lot blog I note a link to a New Scientist magazine article Memory and forgetting in the digital age: Yadin Dudai reviewing Total Recall: How the e-memory revolution will change everything by Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell and Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger...

    Just as Moliere's bourgeois gentleman spoke in prose without being aware of it, most of those who fear forgetting do not realise that they have amnesiphobia. But perhaps this tiny lexical blind spot is not important any more. Amnesiphobics, unite and rejoice: Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell (and Bill Gates, in his enthusiastic introduction) now inform us that we need never fear forgetting again. Total recall is around the corner. But alas, in such a world, even our phobia of forgetting cannot be forgotten.

    Even if we wished to forget, Bell and Gemmell say, we couldn't, as somewhere in the cyberspace cloud engulfing us the engram of our old fears will live for eternity -- or at least until the software is updated to a version that can't read the original files.

    Total recall is an extended corporate US manifesto, whose explicit slogan is: "I hate to lose my memories. I want total recall." The subtext is a bit more naive: I want total control over my life, I want immortality. If only I could record and store everything, I would become Homo eternicus. This is the same philosophy that feeds the US's mammoth pharmaceutical, food and health industries (more...)

    Those of a literary bent may themselves recall Jorge Luis Borges' short story Funes the Memorious (which can be found in his superb Fictions). It doesn't end well! Forgetting is as much part of being human as remembering...

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    Via the always excellent wood s lot blog I note a link to a New Scientist magazine article Memory and forgetting in the digital age: Yadin Dudai reviewing Total Recall: How the e-memory revolution will change everything by Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell and Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger...

    Just as Moliere's bourgeois gentleman spoke in prose without being aware of it, most of those who fear forgetting do not realise that they have amnesiphobia. But perhaps this tiny lexical blind spot is not important any more. Amnesiphobics, unite and rejoice: Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell (and Bill Gates, in his enthusiastic introduction) now inform us that we need never fear forgetting again. Total recall is around the corner. But alas, in such a world, even our phobia of forgetting cannot be forgotten.

    Even if we wished to forget, Bell and Gemmell say, we couldn't, as somewhere in the cyberspace cloud engulfing us the engram of our old fears will live for eternity -- or at least until the software is updated to a version that can't read the original files.

    Total recall is an extended corporate US manifesto, whose explicit slogan is: "I hate to lose my memories. I want total recall." The subtext is a bit more naive: I want total control over my life, I want immortality. If only I could record and store everything, I would become Homo eternicus. This is the same philosophy that feeds the US's mammoth pharmaceutical, food and health industries (more...)

  • Each Monday, here on Editor's Corner, I'm going to take a look at some of the news that has been dominating the book industry in the preceding week.

    The news, as usual, is mostly gathered thanks to the excellent resources that are the Publishers Weekly website and the GalleyCat blog.

    • A "broad group of opponents to the Google Book Search Settlement filed a letter with the Court on October 22 urging judge Denny Chin not to restrict comments on a revised settlement and to allow more time for would-be class members to assess any proposed revisions. In the letter, opponents write that the parties' requests to "limit the notice, time and scope of objections" would be "unfair." It comes after an October 7 status conference at which Chin set November 9 as the date by which the parties must submit revisions to the settlement for the court's preliminary approval"
    • Guernica ("a magazine of art and politics") "is celebrating its fifth anniversary next week with a major fundraising event at Brooklyn's powerHouse Arena"
    • In a letter sent to the antitrust division of the Department of Justice Thursday, "the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association requested that the government begin an investigation into what the organization believes is the illegal predatory pricing policies being carried out by Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target in selling 10 hardcover titles for as low as $8.98"
    • John Wiley & Sons has "inked a deal with fitness guru Tony Little for a motivational business book called There's Always a Way. Little, who adopted the name "America's personal trainer" and sells fitness videos, exercise equipment and other products on TV -- Wiley says he's sold over $3 billion worth of stuff -- will discuss his rags-to-riches tale in the December 2009-slated title"
    • Vampires may live forever, "but the recent vampire trend in YA fiction won't. Author Michael Grant, for one, is "sick to death of vampires," and he is not alone. But when one hugely popular trend ends, what will take its place? Some readers have their fingers crossed for postapocalyptic fiction (more...)

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