Readersforum's Blog

August 17, 2011

Growing Pains

The writer Delmore Schwartz is largely forgotten today, but he once captured the anxieties and hopes of the Jewish intellectuals of the 1930s and stunned his generation with his poems and short stories.

Margarita Korol

By Morris Dickstein

In December 1937, a handful of gifted young New York intellectuals set out to revive a literary magazine that had folded the previous year. Partisan Review was founded in 1934 as an outlet for New York’s John Reed Club, a writers’ organization set up by the Communist Party, but funding problems, changes in the party line, and the growing independence of its leading editors, William Phillips and Philip Rahv, made it impossible to continue. A year after its initial closure they returned to the fray, this time as anti-Stalinists asserting their autonomy. “Partisan Review aspires to represent a new and dissident generation in American letters,” they wrote in their editorial statement. “It will not be dislodged from its independent position by any political campaign against it.” They still professed loyalty to Marxism as a method of understanding, but not as a movement that could claim authority over the imagination of individual writers. “Conformity to a given social ideology or to a prescribed attitude or technique will not be asked of our writers,” they wrote. “On the contrary, our pages will be open to any tendency which is relevant to literature in our time.”

To drive home this commitment they assembled an impressive cast of older and younger writers for their first issue. It included poems by Wallace Stevens and James Agee, essays by Edmund Wilson and Lionel Abel, reviews by Sidney Hook and Lionel Trilling. But at the head of the issue, surprisingly, was a story by a young, largely unpublished poet, Delmore Schwartz. “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” would become perhaps the most beloved piece of fiction ever to appear in the magazine.

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August 9, 2011

Tablet or tome?

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:00 am

Can we really enjoy serious reading on electronic platforms? John Bailey puts four e-readers to the test.

Will the mobile phone and slimline e-reader ever totally replace old-fashioned paper and ink? Photo: Robin Cowcher

About 10 years ago I read an article about people who eat books. This is a real thing. Ordinary-seeming individuals are caught tucked away in the lesser-visited stacks of libraries tearing a page from a rare volume and devouring it. The weird fetish has a kind of symbolic logic to it, like the anthropological stories of cannibals who dine on their enemies to ingest their strength or pay tribute to their spirit.

It’s a notion that often springs to mind when I read the laments of those mourning the loss of ”book smell” occasioned by the rise of e-publishing. Cool metal and plastic e-readers are no substitute for the aroma of crisp paper, they say. I’ve been in plenty of bookstores and libraries and I’ve never seen someone with their nose – literally – in a book. If cracking the spine of a fresh hardcover and inhaling its newly released scent is a common ritual, I’m sure it’s one done in the same furtive isolation as book-eating.

It’s the internet that devours books now. E-publishing has been heartily embraced by readers; one estimate suggests at least 30 million users will buy an e-book this year on the iPad alone. How does the digital experience really compare.
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December 22, 2010

E-Book Invasion to Eliminate Brick and Mortar Bookstores ?

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 1:23 pm

A story about Barnes & Noble and similar large book store chains feeling the heat due to lagging sales and the increased popularity of online competitors such as Amazon.com and e-book sales caught my attention a few days ago.

Six years ago while I was attending a writer’s conference luncheon, an industry expert announced to us that smaller chains and independent bookstores were in danger of extinction, being replaced by the mega-bookstores. “If you can’t imagine your book finding a place on the shelf in Barnes & Noble, you haven’t got a chance for success in this business,” she announced to a room full of hundreds of aspiring and published authors.

For more than a decade the publishing industry has been changing dramatically, printing fewer titles, tightening markets, taking fewer chances on new concepts or unknown authors. We expected all those changes with the merging of many of the largest publishers into even larger media groups. I couldn’t imagine e-books replacing printed books then, or ever people preferring to browse websites for books over browsing through a bookstore.

Barnes & Noble and similar large bookstore chains that I once disdained for their influence in publishing industry are now sort of a guilty pleasure of mine….read more

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