Read the first chapter of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ which will be published July 14
Titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ it was set in the ’50s and opened with a woman named Jean Louise Finch returning home to Alabama. Ms. Lee’s editor found the story lacking but, seizing on flashback scenes, suggested that she write instead about her protagonist as a young girl. The result was a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be published on Tuesday. It has undergone very little editing. “It was made clear to us that Harper Lee wanted it published as it was,” Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins’s Harper imprint, said in a statement. “We gave the book a very light copy edit.”
The first chapter of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ introduces Ms. Lee’s beloved character, Scout, as a sexually liberated woman in her twenties, traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her ailing father and weigh a marriage proposal from a childhood friend. It also includes a bombshell about Scout’s brother.
Hillary Kelly writes: In 1847, an English cleaning woman was extremely excited to learn that the boy lodging in her employer’s house was “the son of the man that put together Dombey” — that is, the son of Charles Dickens. The woman could neither read nor write, but she lived above a snuff shop where, on the first Monday of every month, a community of friends would gather to read aloud the latest installment of “Dombey and Son,” which had begun serialization on Oct. 1, 1846. By that time, the monthly installments of Dickens’s novels — which started with “The Pickwick Papers” in 1836 — were such a staple of British culture that an illiterate woman with no access to the actual book knew the author’s work intimately.
“…the publishing industry is in the doldrums, yet the novel shows few signs of digging into its past and resurrecting the techniques that drove fans wild and juiced sales figures. The novel is now decidedly a single object, a mass entity packaged and moved as a whole.”
More than 150 years later, the publishing industry is in the doldrums, yet the novel shows few signs of digging into its past and resurrecting the techniques that drove fans wild and juiced sales figures. The novel is now decidedly a single object, a mass entity packaged and moved as a whole. That’s not, of course, a bad thing, but it does create a barrier to entry that the publishing world can’t seem to overcome. Meanwhile, consumers gladly gobble up other media in segments — whether it’s a “Walking Dead” episode, a series of Karl Ove Knausgaard ’s travelogues or a public-radio show (it’s called “Serial” for a reason, people) — so there’s reason to believe they would do the same with fiction. What the novel needs again is tension. And the best source for that tension is serialization.
“Since the loss of compelling plot is one of the things that readers most often complain of in the modern novel. it might be a salutary discipline for novelists to have to go back to Dickens, or even James, to learn how it’s done.”
— Critic Adam Kirsch
“The Pickwick Papers” wasn’t the original serialized novel — the format had existed for at least a century prior — but it was the work that truly popularized the form. The first installment had a print order of 1,000 copies; by the time the final entry was published, circulation had reached 40,000. Buoyed by the success of “Pickwick,” Dickens serialized his work for the rest of his career, and scores of other notable Victorian novelists joined the publishing craze. William Makepeace Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair,” Wilkie Collins’s “The Woman in White” and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories all emerged as serials.
Old and new magazines, such as Blackwood’s and Household Words, competed for established and emerging voices. The constant influx of unresolved plots and elliptical section breaks stoked a fervor for fiction in Victorian England. It wasn’t until book production became cheap and easy, and new mediums such as radio arose to fill leisure time, that serialization slowly shriveled away.
“In many ways, the novel is already designed to be delivered in serial form: Chapters and section breaks bring full stops to the narrative, while flashbacks and shifts in perspective and narration create time and space for momentum to build.”
Why can’t the same techniques that once galvanized readers be revived? Today, when a novel is released, it relies on a series of tried (but not always true) advertising methods. The book is accompanied by a simplified synopsis targeting a specific audience, inflated with blurbs from “influencers” and dropped onto reviewers’ desks with the hope that enough serious critics will praise it that it will wriggle onto a prize list. Even greatness doesn’t always guarantee success. As the Telegraph noted in its look at “Why great novels don’t get noticed now ,” Samantha Harvey’s “Dear Thief” received universally glowing reviews — and sold only 1,000 copies in six months. Publishing houses have a brief window to push a work into the public’s consciousness. If the pilot doesn’t light, the novel doesn’t move. But with a constant stream of exposure over a period of six or 12 or 18 months, a novel would stand a far better chance of piquing the public’s interest. Read the rest of this entry »
This April marks the 50th Anniversary of Moore’s Law. Three years before co-founding Intel, Gordon Moore made a simple observation that has revolutionized the computing industry. It states, the number of transistors – the fundamental building blocks of the microprocessor and the digital age – incorporated on a computer chip will double every two years, resulting in increased computing power and devices that are faster, smaller and lower cost.
MOVIE LIFE KYOTO is a video series which aims to introduce Japanese culture to foreigners in a light-hearted and humorous fashion. With English narration and Japanese subtitles, they’re filled with little factoids and hilariously on-point observations that will be of interest to foreign visitors and a source of much ‘that’s so true!’ amusement for Japanese people, too…(read more)
“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.”
— Ernest Hemingway
Here’s some nice news. Kalev Leetaru has been liberating a ton of public domain images from books and putting them all on Flickr. He’s been going through Internet Archive scans of old, public domain books, isolating the images, and turning them into individual images. Because, while the books and images are all public domain, very few of the images have been separated from the books and released in a digital format.
To achieve his goal, Mr Leetaru wrote his own software to work around the way the books had originally been digitised.
The Internet Archive had used an optical character recognition (OCR) program to analyse each of its 600 million scanned pages in order to convert the image of each word into searchable text.
As part of the process, the software recognised which parts of a page were pictures in order to discard them. Read the rest of this entry »
From The Editors of the Intercollegiate Review: The turn of the century is a time to take stock of the path we have followed, the better to discern where we ought to be going. Historical discernment requires coming to judgment about what has been noble, good, and beneficial in our time, but also about what has been base, bad, and harmful. In the life of the mind, what has our century produced that deserves admiration? What has it produced that deserves only contempt?
Earlier this year, the Modern Library published a list styled The Hundred Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century. A list of significant books can make a compelling statement about how we are to understand an age. In judging the quality of a book, one necessarily judges the perception and the profundity which the book displays, as well as the character of the book’s influence.
Yet many were dissatisfied with the several “Best” lists published in the past year, finding them biased, too contemporary, or simply careless…
Prominent on the “Best” list, on the other hand, are many volumes of extraordinary reflection and creativity in a traditional form, which heartens us with the knowledge that fine writing and clear-mindedness are perennially possible….(read the full list here)
This list was edited by Mark C. Henrie, Winfield J. C. Myers, and Jeffrey O. Nelson.
1. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
Pessimism and nostalgia at the bright dawn of the twentieth century must have seemed bizarre to contemporaries. After a century of war, mass murder, and fanaticism, we know that Adams’s insight was keen indeed.
2. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1947)
Preferable to Lewis’s other remarkable books simply because of the title, which reveals the true intent of liberalism.
3. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952)
The haunting, lyrical testament to truth and humanity in a century of lies (and worse). Chambers achieves immortality recounting his spiritual journey from the dark side (Soviet Communism) to the—in his eyes—doomed West. One of the great autobiographies of the millennium. Read the rest of this entry »
Like those other horror classics, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” this notorious novel doesn’t just aim for rawhead-and-bloody-bones gruesomeness. Instead, it raises all sorts of wholly modern questions about personal responsibility and the intricate relationship between sex and violence. It covers every aspect of human bestiality, whether manifested in family feuds, warfare, political revolution, clerical pedophilia, incest, cannibalism, sado-masochistic sexual practices, miscarriages of justice, or the callous abuse of the demented. There’s an old Latin tag “Man is wolf to man” — and “The Werewolf of Paris” proves its universal truth. But don’t worry, horror fans: At the book’s center lurks a shape-shifting monster who rips and devours human flesh…(read more)
From Pretty Sinister Books: Helen McCloy would have made a great writer of TV crime show scripts these days. While readingThe Man in the Moonlight (1940), her sophomore detective novel featuring Dr. Basil Willing, I was struck by the abundance of arcane bits of scientific knowledge that made up the clues and evidence in her usual fascinating plot. She introduces biochemistry, anatomy, abnormal psychology, symbology, and even the construction of heating and air conditioning units in to her multi-layered plot. The story of the murder at Yorkville University could easily have been an episode onHouse or Elementary or any of the dozen of shows in which the plot hinges on little known medical, psychological and historical facts.
Matthew Shepard, college student. Killed, at 21, for being gay.
Or was he?
Jimenez’s The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, out last month, challenges every cultural myth surrounding Shepard’s short life and unspeakable death. After some 13 years of digging, including interviews with more than 100 sources, including Shepard’s killers, Jimenez makes a radioactive suggestion:
The grisly murder, 15 years ago this month, was no hate crime.
Shepard’s tragic and untimely demise may not have been fueled by his sexual orientation, but by drugs. For Shepard had likely agreed to trade methamphetamines for sex. And it killed him.
Read the rest of the story at the New York Post
Elmore Leonard’s life-changing advice.
By Robert Ferrigno
Elmore Leonard was the worst interview of my life. Not his fault. Mine. He didn’t hold it against me; in fact, he gave me an incredible gift, which tells you plenty about the man.
I was a feature writer for a Southern California daily newspaper at the time, and I leapt at the chance to talk to him when he came through on a book tour. He was my literary hero, writing this lean, graceful prose and dialogue that was absolutely true to the little criminals he wrote about — those overeager psychopaths who were just like the rest of us, but freed of the limitations of long-term thinking and responsibility.
The interview took place in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton. I was nervous, too aware of my struggles with my first novel and in awe of him for making it look easy, which is always the hardest part. I taped the interview, to my great regret. I was pathetic, so overwhelmed that my questions tacked from the sycophantic to the rude as I tried and failed to find the right balance. Mr. L remained cordial and polite throughout the ordeal, a scrawny gent calmly smoking a cigarette while I sweated and stumbled.
Near the end, I confessed to my predicament as a writer. Said I had a full-time job at the paper and a new baby at home and weekends were the only time I had to write and I was making no progress at all. I knew his history, knew he must have some kind of method, some secret. He had worked at an ad agency in Detroit while supporting five kids and writing a succession of paperbacks for ten years before he made enough to quit his day job.