Mindell Dubansky, preservation librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a personal collection of 600 items that look as if they are books. They are made of stone, wax, straw, wood, soap, plastic, glass and other materials. Some 200 items from Dubansky's curious collection went on display last week at Manhattan’s Grolier Club until March 12.
The exhibit inspired a major article in the Times that was titled “Blooks: The Art of Books that Aren’t.”
Among the “blooks” (short for book-look) on display are an alcohol flask, a cookie jar, a bookshelf spice set, a cigarette dispenser, and an alarm clock.
VILLAIN INCLUDED: A Beatrix Potter story, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, includes an older Peter Rabbit. It will be published in September, 100 years after it was written and forgotten. Potter died in 1943.
The story includes several familiar Potter characters—arch-villain Mr. Tod, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Ribby and Tabitha Twitchit— but just two original sketches by Potter have been found. Quentin Blake, the illustrator of Roald Dahl's books, is doing the art. “I liked the story immediately," Blake told The Guardian. "It’s full of incident and mischief and character – and I was fascinated to think that I was being asked to draw pictures for it."
“I have a strange feeling that it might have been waiting for me.”
WELL STACKED: Dean Koontz has written more than 100 books. In an interview with Rumpus quoted last weekend in the Times, he said, “I kind of build a novel the way marine polyps build a coral reef; it’s millions and millions of little precarious bodies stacked on one another.”
WHY MEMOIRS: “There is something deeply satisfying about reading memoirs. Even bad ones,” Carlos Lozada wrote in The Washington Post. “It lets me be voyeuristic and judgmental, and if I’m lucky, it offers insights into my own life through the well-told experiences of strangers.”
The book under review was Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, edited by Meredith Maran. The headline for Lozada's review was "Never Have an Affair with a Memoir Writer."
HOT: A new bestseller, Trump Temptation: The Billionaire and the Bellboy, was written by comic Elijah Daniel. The author had warned ahead on Twitter: “I’m going to get drunk tonight and write an erotic sex novel [about Donald Trump] like 50 shades of grey and put it on Amazon.”
Within days, The Los Angeles Times reported that Temptation had shot to No. 1 in not one but two Amazon categories: "humorous erotica" and "gay erotica." It also had 174 reviews, most of them giving TT five stars. A sample: "This has to be the single most impressive piece of writing in modern American literary history," wrote one reader. "When I am on my death bed I will be reading this book and my family will say 'Again?' and I will say 'Yes, now and forever'."
ALL THIS TECH: “Email has now acquired the status of a utility,” Molly Young writes in the Times’ “Help Desk” column. “Many of us couldn’t quit e-mail any more than we could quit electricity or running water. The only way out of these anxieties, especially if your job depends on connectivity, is through them: We must get better at managing our entanglements with technology.”
Young was reviewing Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.
IN THE BEGINNING: “Dreams have been the stuff of divine inspiration ever since Jacob, in the Book of Genesis, dreamed of a ladder that connected heaven and earth,” wrote Amanda Foreman in her Wall Street Journal column. She mentioned several famous books that had been inspired by dreams.
Foreman then ended with: “Before aspiring writers pray for a nightmare or reach for mind-altering-drugs, they should remember E. B. White’s simple explanation for Stuart Little: 'Many years ago I went to bed one night in a railway sleeping car, and during the night I dreamed about a tiny boy who acted rather like a mouse. That’s how the story of Stuart Little got started.'
"Let us all dream on.”
FEMINISM TOO: At a ceremony in London last week, Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree was named the Costa book of 2015. The Guardian reported that the “multi-layered page-turner set in the fiercely male-dominated Victorian scientific community has become only the second children’s book to win one of the UK’s most prestigious prizes.”
The Lie Tree is about a 14-year-old girl who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and study natural science. The author said her book was “a Victorian Gothic mystery with added paleontology, blasting power, post-mortem photography and feminism.”
FREEDOM FAVORED: What’s the last great book Helen MacDonald has read? She is the author of the bestselling H Is for Hawk.
She told the Times Sunday Review that the book “I’ll be pressing into people’s hands forever is Lolly Willowes, the 1926 novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner. It tells the story of a woman who rejects the life that society has fixed for her in favor of freedom and the most unexpected of alliances. It completely blindsided me: Starting as a straightforward, albeit beautifully written family saga, it tips suddenly into extraordinary, lucid wildness.”
BIG BUCK BOOK: One of the bonuses of being host of TV’s “The Daily Show” is a book contract. Trevor Noah’s untitled memoir will be published in November. He was born in South Africa. His father is white and his mother is black. The Times said, “The Associated Press reported that he will be paid more than $3 million.”
WHITE AND FEMALE: A survey of the workforce at 34 book publishers and eight review journals in the U.S. revealed that 79% of staff are white and 78% are female.
Publisher Jason Low, of Lee & Low Books, which conducted the survey, was quoted in The Guardian: “What is at work here, or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is a tendency—conscious or unconscious—for executives, editors, marketers, sales people and reviewers to work with, develop and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”
The Guardian cited statistics from the Cooperative Children's Book center as well: "Of 3,500 books published in the US in 2014, just 84 were by black authors and 180 [were] about black characters.
VARIETY OF NOVELS: Brian Doyle, whose fifth novel, Chicago, is due out in March, had this to say about different kinds of novels.
“Some novels delight their readers with an intricate and irresistible plot, in which pace and clues and the stumble of events offer an alluring puzzle. Others are wonderful at evoking a time, a place, an emotion. Still others are notable primarily for the way the author creates unforgettable characters—beings so real, so complex, so absorbing that you think about them long after you finish the book, and you cannot quite believe they will no longer be holding your attention, provoking that startled pang of understanding and fellow feeling.”
Doyle was reviewing Roger Rosenblatt’s new novel, Thomas Murphy. He placed it in the unforgettable character category.
POETRY AS LEAVES: “If Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all,” wrote John Keats, quoted by Sarah Manguso in a meditation on writer envy in the Times. Manguso is the author of Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.
Manguso picked up the thread of the Keats quote: “As leaves to a tree. A tree does not leaf out of envy of other trees. It leafs out all by itself, within a system of life and light, matter and time. Writing out of envy will not produce an expression of envy, and envy’s voice is ugly, small, cheap and false.”
THE POWER OF POETRY: “Some of us hold fast to the belief that poetry must make things happen, that, in order to matter, it must act upon its readers in vital ways that are sometimes even transformative,” writes Rosie Schaap, the author of Drinking With Men, in the Times.
She was reviewing The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, edited by Robert Alter, and ended the review with: “The useful and beautiful poetry of Yehuda Amichai can make much happen: It might just make us more compassionate, and more humane, for having read it.”
BIO FOR BOWIE: The Age of Bowie will be the title of a biography being written by rock journalist Paul Morley. Bowie died January 10.
Morley told the Times that after Bowie's death, he thought, “it would take a book to help fully process what Bowie meant to me, to music and popular culture, and to the world out there that changed because of him. Then I thought, I need to write that book.”
The biography is scheduled for release later this year.
ENDURING WORDS: “Of course I like reading my own work, and often do it, “E.M. Forster said in a Paris Review interview. “I go gently over the bits that I think are bad. . . . My regret is that I haven’t written a bit more—that the body, the corpus, isn’t bigger. . . . I have always found writing pleasant, and don’t understand what people mean by ‘throes of creation.’ I’ve enjoyed it, but believe that in some ways it is good. Whether it will last I have no idea.”
That quote was published in 1957 Review and it has lasted almost sixty years. So have the classic A Passage to India and other Forster novels.