Sunday, May 14, 2017

accents of Colombia

HT Margaret Sherman, video on BBC Mundo.  (Yes, there probably IS a way to embed this video.)

Monday, May 8, 2017

what is (and is not) to be done

My initial prejudice against Facebook took a dent when I managed to get in touch again with Margaret Sherman, who was my best friend in Cali, Colombia when I was 13.  If the Internet (and email) had existed back in the day we would not have lost touch, but it didn't.  Both sets of parents moved frequently; we weren't good correspondents; we had no contact for (at a guess) 40 years.  
Margaret has now put up a post on influencing Congress which is largely useless to me (I'm based in Berlin, none of the US ZIP codes with which I might claim affiliation entitle me to vote in the relevant state).  I'm copying it here because, erm, I probably have more in common with the readers of PP than with my miscellany of FB friends. The post told me something I didn't know; I wish it weren't true (given my anomalous status), but I'm still glad to know it.  So I think some readers of PP will be glad to  know, which I can't necessarily assume of my FBFs.
What Margaret has sent my way:
From Damsels in Defiance: "This post is long because of all the practical information. Only those who are trying to actively speak out on the political scene need read it.

Reposting advice from a friend who knows how things work in DC. Please heed this guidance from a high-level staffer for a Senator: You should NOT be bothering with online petitions or emailing. Online contact basically gets immediately ignored, and letters pretty much get thrown in the trash unless you have a particularly strong emotional story - but even then it's not worth the time it took you to craft that letter.

There are two things that everyone opposing what is happening in DC should be doing all the time right now, and they're by far the most important things:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

a jar in Tennessee

My inbox is flooded these days with appeals from PEN, the Authors Guild, all sorts of people who want me to agitate against (among other things) cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts.  I have mixed feelings about this (quite apart from the cluttered-inbox factor), because many of the things that bother me most about the forms taken by support for the arts are off the agenda of every single one of the entities availing itself of my e-mail address.

Having said that,  I was moved and impressed by a piece I read today by Margaret Renkl on LitHub. Renkl talks about the virtual collapse of (what shall I call it?) a public books culture (a hideous phrase, so I wish I weren't settling for it) during and after the recession - newspapers cutting book coverage, bookstores going bankrupt, and the role of the NEH and Federal Government in turning this around. 

Renkl has done such a splendid job of sketching out the importance of regional reviews, of local independent bookstores, and how these fit into the bigger picture (national press, publishers' support), that no isolated quote can do it justice.  It is hard not to warm to a piece, though, which includes the following:
The publication Humanities Tennessee dreamed up is called Chapter 16: A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby. (The name is a reference to Tennessee’s history as the 16th state to join the union.) They built the site in-house by reading a book called Drupal for Dummies, and they hired me to run it.
The whole thing here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Amazing news.

I make myself miserable these days by following people outside the anglophone world on Twitter (publishers, newspapers, magazines, writers, others).  I have already done much to make myself miserable by signing up for newsletters from various online bookstores, also outside the anglophone world.  The source of misery is that I hear of all sorts of books that sound interesting, but which would be prohibitively expensive once shipping costs were added in.  (In the past, when I've succumbed to temptation, I've often found that the cost of shipping was as much as the cost of the book.)

I had often thought how much simpler it would be if I could buy the e-book instead.  But if you are in the wrong territory for a digital product Amazon thwarts you at every turn.  Amazon had refused to process orders for so many other things that I'd never bothered to see if this applied to, as it might be, Italian e-books.  Today I suddenly thought: Wait. English-language books are sold in different markets, territorial rights to which are fiercely guarded; if an e-book is only sold in one territory, and you are in another territory, you may not be allowed to buy it.  But maybe it doesn't work that way for other languages, or at least some other languages.

So I put in a trial order for Calvino's Le città invisibili, Kindle edition, and lo and behold, though I am in Berlin the order instantly went through!  (Not that this book is new to me, but it was the first to come to mind when I wanted something for the trial.)

I don't know whether this would work for books in every language that might interest me, and I don't know whether Amazon would be so accommodating if I were in a different country.  If it really is possible to buy foreign-language e-books in the US, though, this would radically change one's access to  non-English literature.  I understand why books in other languages are thin on the ground in bookstores and libraries, but it's terribly inhibiting to have to figure in obscenely expensive shipping charges every time one wants a book.

This does only help, of course, if an e-book is available, but  it still the good news of the day.