Why don’t people read poems anymore?

— PH I ask myself that question almost every day. I like to tell myself the reason is because it’s so difficult to get your hands on poetry books. Many poets publish with small presses that have a limited distribution, so if someone happens upon a poet that they think is wonderful and would like to read more of, they might have difficulty locating their book. For example, let’s say a girl reads a poem by Jeffrey Yang and really likes it. She tries to find his book, Currency, in the library and local bookstore to no avail. She orders it online and it takes weeks to arrive, and then she has to read all the way through it once it does — not exactly instantaneous gratification, and you know how important that is these days.

But honestly, a lot of people think poetry… More…

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September 15, 2009. The day publishing died. Or was saved. It’s really hard to tell which, but everyone agrees on one thing: That Dan Brown cat sure did something major to the book industry with the release of his new novel The Lost Symbol.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett. 288 pages. Riverhead. $24.95.

Outside the talk about whether the monstrous sales (one million copies sold in the first 24 hours — a record for adult hardcover fiction) will save reading, or destroy independent bookstores through the competitive discounts of their rivals, one thing is for sure: People are going to overreact to the fact that Amazon is reporting more e-book sales and than sales of physical copies of The… More…

That depends on whether or not you have home delivery.

For several years I lived up a rutted, single-track dirt road on an island a 20-minute ferry ride off the coast of Maine. And each morning at my front door I beheld a small miracle of commerce: there lay The New York Times, neatly encased in its jaunty blue plastic bag, undeterred by distance, rough seas, or substandard road maintenance.

That miracle was repeated right up until the day my perpetually put-upon delivery person somehow got her car wedged crosswise in some ruts, then knocked over the neighbor’s garbage in the getting out, loudly sending a couple dozen beer bottles caroming across the road. When I pulled my newspaper from its bag that morning, a scrawled note on a scrap of brown paper fluttered out: “This road sucks,” it read. “I will deleiver here no more.”

She was good to her word.

I thought of her this summer,… More…

To help both the Uzbeks and myself.

 

One of the few Peace Corps pamphlets I ever read came to my home in Arizona about three weeks before my departure to Uzbekistan. I don’t think I read all the way through, but it told me that I should only bring what I could carry, so I arrived in Philadelphia for a three-day staging event before I would leave the country for two years with relatively few belongings. “What You Should Know About Uzbekistan” said that Uzbekistan got very cold in the winter, it being one of two doubly landlocked countries, the other being Liechtenstein, causing the seasons to be very extreme, with winters often below freezing and summers exceeding 100 degrees. But the hot Arizona summer of 2003 made me regard the prospect of cold weather as a down-right lie: I… More…

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I’m for the kids. It’s crazy not to be. Are you, dear reader, mighty Atlas, going to hold the world in place and keep it from changing into something new? One lesson of all hitherto existing human history is that the kids have the advantage in the long run. This is a function of time and finitude. The only real wisdom comes in realizing that the kids of today will get their comeuppance with the swift passing of a decade or so. They, too, will wake up one day to find themselves representatives of what was, instead of what shall be. The kids keep on coming.

We learned recently (from a New York Times article by Jennifer Schuessler) that Holden Caulfield, the anti-hero of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, has lost his appeal among… More…

 

It seems a bit mean spirited to say that Reading, Pennsylvania feels like an RV kind of town, but that’s what I honestly thought as I pulled up to the Greater Reading Expo Center for its 2009 RV Show.

There were several reasons for this. Some were simply aesthetic. The Expo Center itself is part of a former manufacturing facility, and pipes and tanks crowd the view immediately to the right of the entrance. Looking back out over the parking lot, you can see the Reading Pagoda on a hilltop in the distance. A former owner of the land built it there in 1908; criticized for defacing the hillside with a stone quarry, he didn’t restore the natural landscape but instead built the seven-story pagoda after seeing one on a postcard from the Philippines.

Other reasons were more… More…

Repression of authors aside...

 

Frankfurt by Day

America loves to think of itself as the center of the literary world. Every year we expect the Nobel Prize to go to Philip Roth or Joyce Carol Oates, despite all the evidence to the contrary. We don’t need to import and translate literature, we guffaw. They should be translating us! And when the Nobel permanent secretary chastises us for being insular and irrelevant, our columnists declare that we should separate ourselves from the international community even more. Reject us, will you? We gave you Eat Pray Love, which continues to be a worldwide sensation, you ungrateful bastards.

OK, so maybe it’s not quite so blunt, but the Frankfurt Book Fair, where publishers from around the world come together to do business, does highlight just how little we engage with the whole of literature. America’s… More…

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It starts when you’re in the first grade. All of a sudden, reading is no longer this exciting thing you just figured out how to do, it has become “good for you.” You’re given free books through a program that says Reading Is Fun-damental, way before any of your teachers will tell you what “fundamental” means. Soon after you’re bribed with a free pizza from Pizza Hut if you can finish five whole books. The message is clear: reading is not something you’re supposed to enjoy, it’s something that will make you a better person.

It continues on into adulthood. We’re given continuous updates on the state of reading in our country as if it were the unemployment rate. Orlando Bloom shows up on posters in libraries, holding a book that you’re slightly surprised to see is right… More…

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Quick: How do you tell if a woman in a movie is supposed to be intelligent? First off, she’d probably be brunette, but past that. Glasses, yes. Little to no makeup. Her hair is probably in a ponytail. Clothes she probably bought at the Gap in a size too big. You know she’s the smart one because she thinks about more important things than her appearance.

It’s a stereotype, yes, but it’s constantly reinforced by intelligent women who should know better. Germaine Greer rallied women to taste their own menstrual blood in The Female Eunuch and then attacked fellow feminist writer Suzanne Moore by stating that “so much lipstick must rot the brain.” Feminists must reject the male gaze and use those ten seconds it takes to apply lip gloss to bring down the patriarchy. (Why sensible feminists… More…

The ubiquitous font celebrates a milestone.

If you’re seeking some suggestions for celebrating Helvetica’s 50th birthday, might I recommend a trip to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which is presenting an exhibition devoted to the typeface? To mark the occasion, the MOMA acquired an original set of 36-point lead Helvetica letterforms. Of course, I don’t need to tell you to fly American Airlines to get there (their fuselage bears the grand imprint of Helvetica, as does and Lufthansa). Those looking to save money might consider renting a Toyota from National, or taking a Greyhound or Amtrak to New York (all of the aforementioned companies use Helvetica in their logos). Once in Manhattan, don’t forget to take a ride on the subway system, whose signage utilizes – you guessed it. And be sure to sip some VitaminWater, shop at American Apparel, and memorialize it all with your Olympus camera (powered with Energizer batteries), since all of… More…