Monday, December 23, 2013

What I’m reading #107

Lloyd Shepherd wonders in the Literary Review whether pirating books on the Internet is as bad as people like me and my colleagues at Copyright Licensing NZ make out. Quote unquote:
Markets such as Russia remain a problem for publishing. By some estimates, 95 per cent of e-book downloads in Russia are illegitimate. But the big players in e-books – specifically Amazon – do not operate in Russia and there is a paucity of legitimate titles available (perhaps only 60,000). […] In such an environment, piracy becomes the convenient option, not the outlaw one.
All of which raises an interesting question: if your book isn't being distributed in Russia but is being merrily downloaded there, how should you feel? Before the internet, such piracy (in physical formats) would have been invisible to you. Now you know about it, what should you do? Should you even be (secretly, of course) pleased?Neil Gaiman, whose titles seem to make up a large proportion of all the books on Library Genesis, has said that piracy in Russia has, in fact, increased his sales there. In this light, there is only one thing worse than being pirated and that is not being pirated, at least in those countries where you’re not receiving much distribution anyway. […]And that itchier question remains: if you find a copy of your book on a service such as Library Genesis, what do you do? Do you hit the ‘takedown’ button in Muso and get it removed? Or do you ask yourself whether it’s better to be read illegitimately than not to be read at all? It is, at the very least, a question worth asking.
There is a new edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I have two already – what’s weird about that? – so am afraid I don’t have room for this one, and not just because the entire novel has been hand-written by Charlene Matthews onto 38 seven-foot tall, two-inch diameter poles. Quote unquote:
Each pole has sixteen ‘cels’ comprised of four pages, a total of sixty-four pages per pole.  The first cel has the first line in it and then Matthews measured down 9" and wrote that line in the next cel and so on, with the last cel containing the last line on the pole. 
You know it makes sense.

A.D. Miller (here is my diary of a weekend with him) in the Economist on Nowheresville. Quote unquote:
Trowell service station, slap in the middle of England on the M1 motorway, is not a place many people would associate with intrigue or passion. For most people motorway services are scarcely places at all, but blurred nowheres on the way to somewhere else. Spend 24 hours here, however, and this bland yet strange locale—a sort of amenity that almost everybody visits but hardly anybody notices—emerges as a microcosm of modern Britain’s complexion and pathologies. A day here reveals Trowell’s special rhythms and ecosystem, its microdramas and eccentricities, murmured sadnesses and hopes.

Economist Matt Nolan on empty calories and fake food. Spoiler alert:
In this case I purchased the Tim Tams and had a few with a coffee.  
Matt Nolan again on that Avatar deal that sees three sequels to a film I hope never to see being made here in New Zealand. Quote unquote:
We may say “the government is doing it, because people feel good having a movie shot here – it makes us proud!”  Yeah sure, that is relevant – so we need to think about it.
Ok, so who are the people who get all this “pride” from the movies?  Generally, middle class New Zealanders.  Who is paying, generally wealthier New Zealanders (as they pay most of the tax).  What spending is likely to be sacrificed in order to pay for subsides, poor New Zealanders.  Directors law, once again.  If you don’t agree with how I’m conceptualising it, then why don’t we get government to get private New Zealander’s to pay into a fund based on the “pride” they get?  You may complain that people will “free-ride”, but then I would quickly point out that merely imposing a preference for “pride” on everyone in order to get them to pay for something you want is problematic!
It is inconsistent, nah hypocritical, to support this type of protectionism and then complain about inequality and poverty in New Zealand.  And yet, that is what I see a bunch of people doing as they see it as “sexy” – and also because they don’t actually know what the terms “poverty” and “inequality” mean.  If only more people thought clear, transparent public  policy based on the positive economics that allows it was sexy instead …
A graphic tribute to Peter O’Toole from JAKe in the Guardian.

Finally, a book. Distant Intimacy: a friendship in the age of the internet, by Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein (Yale University Press, 2013), in which two Jewish men of a certain age who have never met, one English, one American, email each other to kvetch about life, the literary world, politics, stuff like that. Wonderfully funny, often suddenly poignant – they have grief to spare – and either of them is quotable on any page. Here is Raphael being rude about Malcolm Gladwell, discussed here recently):
I call publications such as Outliers skipping-rope books: they’re meant to give you a little gentle mental exercise, or the illusion of having had a mental work-out, but raise no kind of a sweat.You think you’re learning something because that kind of text almost always has diagrams to make it look academic. The marketing persons always bulk them up fatter than they need to be, rendering their prosthetic prose as void of meaning or flavour as those jelly-fishy mammary inserts which raise a girl’s alimony prospects along with men’s amorous propensities (Dr Johnson again, re Garrick’s chorenes, I think).
And here, later, is Epstein to Raphael, being rude about Saul Bellow:
At the centre of Bellow’s fraudulence is his creating in his fictions figures clearly intended to be he who are inevitably sensitive, kindly, sweet, not to say great souled, whereas in so-called real life Bellow was touchy, unkind nasty, and black-hearted: a prick, in other words, and a particularly malevolent one. Bellow and my dear friend Edward Shilswere once close friends, but had several fallings out. When Edward lay on his deathbed, Bellow asked if he might come over to make things up. Edward told me that he didn’t want him to come over, that he had no wish to make things easy for “that son of a bitch”. After Edward died, Belllow put a character clearly meant to be Eward in his last novel, Ravelstein, claiming that he smelled (which Edward never did) and that he was homosexual (whch he most distinctly wasn’t). Ah, me, why is it always raining in the Republic of Letters? 
Good question. So here is Rick Danko in 1989 singing Buddy Hollo’s “Raining in My Heart” with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band (Levon Helm, Joe Walsh, Dr John, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons etc):


Nicholas Reid said...

Hard-writing "Ulysses" onto poles? This really is in "engraving-the-Lord's-Prayer-onto-a-grain-of-rice" territory. Ingenious that it can be done at all, but why bother doing it?

Stephen Stratford said...

Have you clicked through to her website? "The pens are archival. water proof, sun resistant. The poles are lightly washed and sanded before I begin."

She has previously done a JG Ballard story in this format. But again, why? Still, two years' work on anything is impressive.

Bumpkin that I am, I did not know that Joyce had inscribed a Star of David on the map of Dublin through the course of the novel - the four places the Blooms lived, and also where the Joyces lived that Bloomsday. It seems clear enough in her photo - or is she just making this up?

Nicholas Reid said...

I've now looked at her website, and I'm impressed by her ingenuity. Although I have only one copy of "Ulysses" on my shelf, I have read it all the way through twice, which I think is twice more than most self-proclaimed Joyce devotees have ever done, and I think that perhaps such an obsessively acrostic writer is suited to such a monument as she is creating. As you may be aware, I expressed my own (admiring but decidedly mixed) views on "Ulysses" and on Joyce in two posts on my blog "Reid's Reader",at
timed to appear on St Patrick's Day ealier this year. You will find them on the index of the blog under the headings "Ulysses" and "Me and James Joyce".

Katherine said...

I periodically enjoy myself exploring the territory that is the overlap of art and artifact.
Perhaps Matthews's work is in the overlap between art and literature. I can feel a Venn diagram coming on. Which is the overlap between literature, art and maths, perhaps? Ha!

helenalex said...

I question whether Raphael has ever used a skipping rope as an adult. My experience is that if you can keep going for more than a minute, you work up a lot of sweat, then collapse in a painful heap. Gladwell's books are more like a stroll to the dairy for chips.

Stephen Stratford said...

@Katherine: that sounds like a job for XKCD(

@helenalex: I think he was thinking of it as child's play. Agree it is far from play fr an adult - and I do like "a stroll to the dairy for chips".