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February 16, 2013

Harlem Shake at HarperCollins

By Jason Boog
The Harlem Shake meme exploded online last week, as a video maker named Filthy Frank took an infectious beat created by a producer named Baauer and invented a kooky dance sequence.

UPDATE: The Epic Reads team at HarperCollins posted a publisher edition of the Harlem Shake today, bringing the dance craze to a major publishing house (embedded above).

Videomakers around the globe took the same 30-second clip from the song, choreographing surreal dances in everyday locations, including firemen, office workers and an entire news team.

Below, we’ve collected a few other literary video takes on the viral video phenomenon. We would love to see more literary participation, perhaps in a large-scale library performance, a big bookstore dance or even an Amazon warehouse ballet.

We have already uncovered a few examples of librarian patrons doing the Harlem Shake, but our favorite was the West Point Library edition of the dance.

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February 12, 2013

Book site Bookish launches

bookish1| By Charlotte Williams

Book retail website Bookish has launched, featuring content including book recommendations, extracts, articles by a dedicated editorial staff, and partnerships with the Onion and USA Today which are aimed at driving readers to the site.

The initiative is backed by Hachette, Penguin and Simon & Schuster in the US. Users can sign up to receive newsletters, book and author news and create personal bookshelves, and share content over social media and email.

The recommendation engine on the site is fed by Bookish editors, authors, book editors and publishers.

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February 9, 2013

Disconnect: How Logging Off Helps Us Write On

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:49 am

unplugBy Rob D. Young

You hop on your computer to write. Three hours later, you’ve written a whole lot—in Facebook posts, Twitter updates, forum posts, instant messages, and emails—but your story has moved along like a legless turtle. Sound familiar?

We could just disconnect from the web, but somehow having an active connection feels like a requirement for doing anything on a computer. Why do we rely on the internet so fully? How has this led us to “digital dependency”? And how can we get ourselves to log off so we can more effectively write on?

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February 8, 2013

Old Friends Help New York Review Celebrate 50 Years

Joan Didion reading at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The New York Review of Books at Town Hall on Tuesday night.

Joan Didion reading at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The New York Review of Books at Town Hall on Tuesday night.


The eager crowd milling in the lobby of Town Hall on Tuesday night looked ready for the opening of an A-list movie. For one thing, Daniel Craig was present. “James Bond is standing over there,” a man said. A stranger next to him, a woman in a large furry hat, peered over. “Is he really? How exciting!”

The occasion was brainier, if less glamorous, than a 007 premiere: the 50th anniversary of The New York Review of Books, the literary institution that began during a citywide newspaper strike in 1963. Robert Silvers, the publication’s 83-year-old editor and co-founder, was M.C. for a night of readings and reflections by some of his longtime and more recent contributors.

Though charming and literate, a less visually dynamic public event is hard to imagine. Still, ticket holders were kept waiting outside for about 30 minutes after the scheduled start time while a handful of high-powered cameras were set up inside the auditorium. (Martin Scorsese and a crew have been filming the journal’s celebrations this week to help it commemorate the anniversary.)

Even knowing that Joan Didion was among the readers scheduled to appear, the crowd still let out a few audible gasps when Mr. Silvers announced that the writer would be the first to take the stage. Ms. Didion did so daintily, the rock-star essayist now visibly a lioness in winter at the age of 78.


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February 3, 2013

M R Hall reveals crime writing “secrets”

M R Hall

M R Hall

| By  Katie Allen

The Chosen Dead author and “Kavanagh QC” scriptwriter M R Hall has launched a free online crime-writing course, with a competition for crime-writers.

Seven Secrets of Successful Crime Writing comprises a series of weekly videos, each covering a different aspect of crime writing including such “secrets” as: “However big the story, it must take place within a confined world” and “The central character must have a moral centre, but also be conflicted on many levels”. Each week there will also be a detailed worksheet, with podcasts also available.

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January 17, 2013

Academe Is Complicit

By Timothy Burke

I don’t think there’s much more to say about Aaron Swartz. I didn’t know him personally, but like many others I am a beneficiary of the work he did. And I have agreed for much of my life as an academic with the thinking that led him to his fateful act in a closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most centrally, that there are several ethical imperatives that should make everything that JSTOR (or any comparable bundling of scholarly publication) holds freely available to everyone: much of that work was underwritten directly or indirectly by public funds, the transformative impact of open access on inequality is already well-documented, and it’s in keeping with the obligations and values that scholars allege to be central to their work.

Blame is coming down heavy on MIT and JSTOR, both of which were at pains to distance themselves from the legal persecution of Swartz even before news of his suicide broke, particularly JSTOR, which very early on asked that Swartz not be prosecuted. Blame is coming down even more heavily, as it should, on federal prosecutors who have been spewing a load of spurious garbage about the case for over a year. They had discretion and they abused it grievously in an era when vast webs of destructive and criminal activities have been discretionarily ignored if they stem from powerful men and powerful institutions. They chose to be Inspector Javert, chasing down Swartz over a loaf of bread.

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January 15, 2013

Aaron Swartz, American hero

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:57 pm

aaron-swartzBy Tim Lee

Paul Graham, the founder of angel investing firm Y Combinator, has mentored generations of Silicon Valley whiz kids. In an essay about hackers and the role they’ve played driving technology forward, he wrote that “hackers are unruly. That is the essence of hacking. And it is also the essence of Americanness.” Those three sentences are a perfect description of one of Graham’s mentees in particular: Aaron Swartz.

Swartz was not a patient man. With immense talent and strong passions, he had a tendency to attack problems head-on, defying authority and convention if necessary. For a little more than a decade, this approach produced spectacular results. But on Friday, facing federal charges that could put him in prison for decades, Swartz took his own life. He was 26.

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January 9, 2013

10½ Favorite Albums of 2012

reginaBy Maria Popova

By popular demand, here is a music equivalent to complement those favorite books of 2012 — a highly subjective and hopelessly non-exhaustive selection of the 10 or so albums on heaviest rotation this year, many of which you might recognize from past Literary Jukebox installments.

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December 19, 2012

A Reality TV Competition About Reading? Literary Death Match Wants a Show

Literary Death Match guest judges (L to R) Tig Notaro, Michael C. Hall, and Jonathan Lethem

Literary Death Match guest judges (L to R) Tig Notaro, Michael C. Hall, and Jonathan Lethem

By Melissa Goldstein

Make Jonathan Lethem and Susan Orlean into television stars. Literary Death Match, a reading competition judged by novelists, actors, comedians, and musicians, has just taped a pilot.

In case you were watching Homeland instead, last night was the greatest night in literary history. That is, if you ask Literary Death Match founder Adrian Todd Zuniga.

The self-appointed stage mom/pimp to the world’s literary stars, Zuniga began rolling out his plan for world literary domination in 2006, teaming with then-girlfriend Elizabeth Koch and friend Dennis DiClaudio for an event in New York that would pit writers against one another in a drinks-fueled, tongue-in-cheek talent competition to be judged by name authors, editors, and pop- cultural figures.

More importantly, it would “mix a bunch of people together—actors, writers, and musicians in one room,” Zuniga explains, “so that people don’t just have boring literary babies.”

In the years since that first barroom show, Zuniga has exported the format to 46 cities around the world, from London to Oslo to Shanghai to Tulsa, and roped in the likes of Tom Perrotta, Jeffrey Eugenides, Chuck Palahniuk, and Daniel Handler. To date, LDM has lured a combined audience of 35,000 people. TV seemed a natural step.

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December 15, 2012

What Your Email Inbox Count Says About You

largeBy Jen Doll and Rebecca Greenfield

What’s the number of unread emails—right now, at this moment, without changing anything—in your inbox? That would be 3,487 in the case of Jen here; 1 in the case of Rebecca. More about what that means in a second, but first, a bit of backstory: The New Yorker‘s Silvia Killingsworth has embarked on an exploration of what she dubs in her headline as “Zero Dark Inbox,” or having absolutely zero unread emails in one’s inbox. She writes, “I have four e-mails in my inbox right now, but I’m aiming for that number to be zero. Like many practitioners of the ‘Inbox Zero’ system, I treat my inbox like a to-do list, with each e-mail representing a task….” She’s adhering to a method promoted by Merlin Mann, a lifehacker and proponent of Getting Things Done; essentially, it’s the digital version of opening all your letters (what letters?) and bills when you receive them and dealing with them then as opposed to setting them aside and waiting for the bill collectors to start bugging you to pay up (not that we would do that, of course).

Killingsworth took on the pursuit of Inbox Zero for herself, calling it “exhilarating and terrifying”—fortunately, like many a process-and-detail-oriented person, “I am addicted to the gratification that comes from tidying up,” she writes. Inbox Zero is a coping mechanism, a way to move on with conversations throughout the day; on the down side, entire threads may be forgotten, no longer staring you in the face. “And what about when you actually reach Inbox Zero? It doesn’t feel like winning. It feels like staring into the abyss,” she explains. But there are at least many like-minded or attempting-to-be-like-minded commiserators with whom you can share your attempts to get there, so that’s fun, sort of like a support group.

But if Killingsworth and her ilk, wholeheartedly and diligently attempting to get to Zero, are one example of an email-lifestyle, what are the others? We undertook a brief investigation of the staff of The Atlantic Wire to find out What Our Inbox Numbers Say About Us (and therefore, perhaps, you too; remember our book readers diagnostic?). As for our unread email counts, here’s what we found.

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