Saturday, November 24, 2012

Are the reports of the death of publishing greatly exaggerated?

Books are dying, the print medium is dead, goes the hysterical rumor, and it's Amazon that is killing them.  Well, they are alive and well here.  On the Media did an excellent show on this subject in April and re-broadcast this weekend.

How did J.K. Rowling stand up to Amazon?

Russian e-pirating of books - it creates free loaders, but it also widens an author's readership and may ultimately boost legal sales.

Listen to the podcast here:

Publishing: Adapt or Die - On The Media

It's their usual deep level of reporting - critical, with a somewhat bemused tone. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Humane political thought as it arises from facing the conflict in ourselves (Books - Isaiah Berlin: A Life by Michael Ignatieff)

I had felt enough of the influence of Isaiah Berlin on contemporary political thinkers and writers who I like to read, that I wanted to know who he was.  For this, I turned to Michael Ignatieff's affectionate biography Isaiah Berlin: A Life (Vintage 2000).  Born in Latvia in the early 1900s, living briefly in Russia, and an eventually taking refuge in England, he became more English than the English, rising through the ranks of academia to the level of Oxford don.  He was an intellectual with a powerful gift for talking about ideas. His mature thought brought together history, philosophy, and psychology to consider contemporary politics with complexity and compassion.  He served as a valued advisor to Churchill and John F. Kennedy.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The limits of genius (Books - Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann)

Daniel Kehlmann is a popular German-born writer living in Austria.  With Measuring the World (Quercus, 2007) he has taken the biographies of mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and scientist Alexander von Humbolt as the jumping off point for a novel which vividly and amusingly imagines their inner lives.  Contemporaneous to the late 18th to early 19th centuries, Gauss and Humboldt were endowed with brilliant minds which saw novel ways to answer questions (and defeat strongly held but untested assumptions) about the world in which we live.  Both took on the entire world as their subject - the height of its peaks, the composition and temperature of its core, the shape of planetary orbits, the path of the ocean's currents, the very shape of space - but their methods of measurement couldn't have been more different.  While Humboldt shocked his own spine in testing the nervous system's ability to conduct electricity and travelled to the far reaches of the world at considerable risk to himself - he couldn't pass an Andean peak without climbing it or a mine shaft without dropping himself in - Gauss preferred to make his measurements without leaving his armchair.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The riches and burdens of family legacy (Books - The Scientists by Marco Roth)

Our part of New York City was relatively spared from serious Hurricane effects.  Our electricity stayed on, we had some downed trees, the stores were emptied of bread, and transportation to work was difficult, but being at the highest elevation in Manhattan, we didn't have much flooding.  Thank you to all the friends who checked up on us.  I thought the two days off from work would give me time to read and catch up on a considerable backlog of book posts, but that fantasy was never realized. I was back at work on Wednesday, where a much depleted staff carried on with the Halloween party we had offered to host for the families served by the Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center where I work.  To our surprise, we had over 100 kids show up in costume.  Boy were they and their parents glad to get out of the house!

Another New York story was the subject of The Scientists by Marco Roth (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012) which I was convinced was a novel, but turns out to have been a memoir.  It tells of a thirty-something New Yorker whose father, a medical researcher, contracted the HIV virus in the 1980s.