Talking About Books . . .

I remember when Barnes & Noble came to town.  It was a large store with a mezzanine and contained far more books than I could peruse in one visit – or 10 visits.  But something horrible happened soon after it arrived – our local book stores starting closing.  There was no way the local stores could compete with the massive national chain.  Now Barnes & Noble is in financial trouble.  So why should we now hope that it finds a way to survive?  Virginia Postrel with Bloomberg has the answer.

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Vanity Fair has a story in the August issue about Harper Lee’s fight with her agent over the rights to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  Unfortunately you can only read the article if you subscribe to the magazine.  However, there is a short background article about Lee that is accessible and it is worth your time.

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Writer Ann Morgan decided to read a book from every country in the world in one year.  Two questions come to mind.  First, why would she want to do it?  And second, what, if anything, did she learn? 

Beyond the article, you can learn more about the experiment at Morgan’s blog.

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Lily Shiel was the daughter of Jewish refugees from the Ukraine.  Not long after the family moved to London her father died and her mother had to put Lily and her sister in an orphanage.  Her education ended when she was 14 because she needed to go to work to support the family.  Many years later Lily Shiel became a famous gossip columnist in Hollywood, but her name by then was Sheilah Graham.  Though she did well, she always felt inferior to the people around her because of her lack of education.

Soon after F. Scott Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood to write movie scripts – he was desperate for money to pay for his wife’s institutionalization – they met and became lovers.  When Graham expressed her desire to become better educated, Fitzgerald created a curriculum tailored to her needs.  After he died from a heart attack in her living room Graham wrote a number of books about their relationship.  The most famous was Beloved Infidel which was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr.  Another, about Graham’s education under the guidance of Fitzgerald, was College of One.  Thanks to Melville House, College of One is once again in print, and I am very interested in seeing what the curriculum consisted of.

Joanna Scutts reviewed the reissue of Graham’s book for The Rumpus.  Concerning the educational program Scutts wrote “The curriculum of the College of One, described in detail and reproduced in a neatly typed appendix, is eclectic, demanding, and innovative. “Fitzgerald is a firm historicist, assigning novels and poems as illustrations of an era as Graham works her way through the thousand pages of H.G. Wells’ Outline of History.  He helps her through Shakespeare by assigning her “bridges” of famous passages to memorize in advance and then watch out for as she reads, and professor and pupil act out scenes from novels, plays, and poems.”

College of One

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I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Microsoft Word has no problem with the above poem, but it, like the English language, is a mess.  We have multiple words that sound exactly alike, but with different spelling, and our spelling rules have so many exceptions that normal people can’t keep up with them.  Michael Skapinker, an assistant editor and columnist for the Financial Times, discusses the problems in a delightfully enlightening article.

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Some people suspected that J. K. Rowling intentionally leaked – or had someone leak – the true authorship of The Cuckoo’s Calling in order to increase anemic sales numbers, but it seems that the real culprit was Chris Gossage, a partner in the law firm that represents Rowling.  Gossage divulged the truth to one of his wife’s friends, Judith Callegari, with the understanding that she must never divulge the secret to anyone else.  Now his law firm has agreed to donate a substantial amount to a charity after Rowling threatened legal action.  Rowling will also donate all royalties from her book to the same charity.  Find the details here.

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Kelly Clarkson who won the first American Idol TV show in 2002 bought a turquoise and gold ring at auction last year that once belonged to Jane Austen, but she has been barred from removing it from the United Kingdom.  The government is looking for someone to match Clarkson’s $228,000 bid so that the rare ring can remain in the UK.  The ring is only one of three pieces of jewelry known to have been owned by the author.

Austen's Ring

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