The question of access continues to plague the academic community—if academia is truly about knowledge and discovery, why are there still so many barriers to the unfettered sharing of information? The architects of digital “pirate libraries” around the world are trying to resolve that contradiction, violating copyright laws to bring expensive scholarly materials to the researchers (and data-hungry laypeople) who need them....more
Posts Tagged: slate
The canon is what it is, and anyone who wishes to understand how it continues to flow forward needs to learn to swim around in it.
Responding to Yale students’ protesting the English department’s course requirements, Slate’s Katy Waldman argues that English majors should still have to read the “sexist, racist, colonialist, and totally gross” canon of English literature, in addition to a broader range of perspectives....more
I became tantalized by the idea of a genius poet whose talent was nourished not by extensive travel, nor by formal literary training, but rather by an intimacy with the kinds of creatures Americans routinely encounter and rarely appreciate.
For Slate, Ferris Jabr dives deep into the imagery of Emily Dickinson’s poetry to find new appreciation for the level of detail Dickinson’s knowledge of nature lent to her work....more
Taking a different stance on the men-only book clubs that have everyone rolling their eyes, Slate’s L.V. Anderson argues that feminists should applaud men embracing an activity that has been so coded as feminine—and eagerly await the day when men do not feel like they have to declare their masculinity in order to do so:
Men who deliberately take time to discuss literature with other men are subverting and challenging gender norms, no matter how jokily macho their book club names might be.
Certain ways of avoiding a childbirth scene in contemporary fiction have become almost predictable, as clichéd as the clothes scattered on the floor in a movie rated PG-13: the frantic car ride to the hospital, followed by a jump cut to the new baby; or the played-for-laughs episode of the laboring woman screaming at her clueless husband, followed by a jump cut to the new baby.
Amazon just announced its newest Kindle model—there are slight technological enhancements over its predecessor, but the bigger shift is in significant aesthetic changes meant to make the device feel more like a book. But plastic polymers are never going to have to same feel as paper, even if a device can hold an entire library....more
A connection so fundamentally optional doesn’t provide the same ambivalence and tension you get with alcoholic parents, narcissistic spouses, or resentful bosses. If your friend abuses you or your trust, you can just walk away.
Slate’s Laura Miller explains why nobody writes memoirs about their friends, and then looks at two recent books that take up the challenge of doing so....more
A new study has revealed why academic adjuncts are paid so little: living wages would cost universities a lot more money. A new study says that converting adjunct faculty to tenure track positions would cost $27 billion dollars. The study also suggested that as more faculty became full time, as many as 450,000 adjuncts could lose their jobs....more
Slate’s Laura Miller details the bizarre tale of the copyright lawsuit between two No. 1 New York Times best-selling fantasy authors, showing the potential messiness of fan fiction going mainstream:
If these tropes sound familiar to you, you’re not alone.
Slate is on the case, looking at why so many book trailers are self-loathing:
Behold Jonathan Franzen, opening his book trailer for Freedom with the words: “This might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this.” Behold Slate editor Gabriel Roth, who transformed the trailer for his novel The Unknowns into a comment on the existential futility of book trailers.
Over at Slate, writer Elizabeth McCracken muses about what people miss most about home and how reminiscing on Twitter creates a shared experience. She writes:
Previously I would have said that nostalgia can never be experienced secondhand, but it turns out Twitter is the perfect delivery system for other people’s nostalgia: each tweet was a little pressurized jolt of somebody else’s longing for something lost.
For Slate, Laura Miller reviews the way old age is explored and rendered through literature, especially by those of old age themselves:
The essays in Alive, Alive Oh! resolve in a stubbornly untidy fashion; Athill rejects the unspoken, oppressively conventional “wisdom” that dominates the personal essay today.
Slate’s Rebecca Onion and Andrew Kahn analyze the overwhelming maleness of both the subjects and authors of history books, discussing their findings with book publishers:
Our data set revealed some answers about the publishing of popular history that we expected: Authors are largely male, biographical subjects too; “uncle books” make up a third of the total titles published.
The union effort prompted my discovery of an egregious pay discrepancy, which I brought up with male writers and editors to their either mild interest or argumentative dismissal.
For Slate, Jacob Brogan suggests that despite “shrinking book racks,” libraries play an important political and social role. This is particularly true in low-income areas, as libraries provide computer access for job searchers and entrepreneurs:
Libraries are powerful precisely because they’re spaces of potentiality.
If “show, don’t tell” were really that great advice, why bother writing anything at all? Slate’s Forrest Wickman makes the case for saying what you mean:
Twenty-first-century tastemakers like to think of themselves as beyond highbrow vs. lowbrow—that monocle popped long ago—but our eye for subtlety persists.
For Slate, Ruth Graham suggests that improved access to books and a decline in censorship has turned Banned Books Week into “crock”. So “instead of hand-wringing about a nonexistent wave of censorship,” Graham encourages readers to think about the week with some positivity and celebrate that “books won.”...more
In response to Slate’s viral article about the rise of the “harrowing personal essay,” prominent editors from different publications weigh in on the importance of confessional writing, reasons for its gender divide, and the publishing process behind it....more
Wittgenstein explains why discourse on the Internet sucks. And it’s not just because of your crazy uncle.
So, language is quicksand—except it’s not. Unlike the parlor tricks of the deconstructionists who bloviate about différance and traces, there clearly are rules that shouldn’t be broken and clearly ways of speaking that are blatantly incorrect, even if they change over time and admit to flexible interpretations even on a daily basis.
After reading the first two books in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, Sara Goldsmith enlisted her mother to translate the third book from Italian so that she didn’t have to wait another year for the English release. Now, for Slate, Goldsmith shares how the experience generated a new respect for the scope and craft of Ferrante’s novels, as well as how the project influenced her relationship with her mother:
For my mom and me—who, like all mothers and daughters, sometimes have a difficult relationship—the novels have given us a way to stay in closer touch and a subject to return to and discuss.
After 13 years, another Milan Kundera novel has been translated into English for all us provincials who never learned French. At Slate, Benjamin Herman praises The Festival of Insignificance for its lighthearted wisdom:
Insignificance is the work not of a grumpy old man but of a grinning old man.
Gabriel Roth has some hard truths about The Poky Little Puppy, and he’s not wrong.
Millions of people enjoyed The Poky Little Puppy as children, because it was cheap and because, being children, they had no standards. They grew up to be parents, remembered the book fondly from childhood, and purchased it for their own children.
Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling story “The Lottery” is probably the last thing anyone wants to associate with Mother’s Day, yet her lurking plot twists and sharp character insights are the perfect tools to write about parenting. In this month’s Slate Book Review, Dan Kois explains how Jackson’s books depicted family life well before any of us knew what to expect when expecting:
Airy unconcern about the state of one’s home, marriage, or children, masking a deeper unspoken acknowledgment that all will forever exist in a state of chaos?
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is driven by the search and discovery of Kurtz, the man turned mad by Africa. Kurtz is the pale white colonizer who rapes the continent, is also worshiped by the native population, and provides fodder for an endless stream of undergraduate English papers....more
For Slate, Cristina Hartmann explains how The Great Gatsby went from a marginal publication to a central part of America’s literary canon. According to Hartmann, much of the novel’s early struggles emerged from criticism that misrepresented Fitzgerald’s satirical position, as critics stood too close to a cultural moment:
Fitzgerald’s contemporaries were unable to see the novel for what it was—biting satire of the hypocrisy of the profligate Jazz Age—because they were in the thick of it.