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How Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet became a quiet cultural powerhouse

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From BookRiot: It has sold more than 100 million copies in dozens of languages. It has never been out of print since its original publication in 1923. And the author’s status as the third best-selling poet in history puts him in the company of Shakespeare and Lao-tzu.

The book is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. And with that kind of track record, why isn’t he a household name?

Kahlil Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883. His mother brought him and his siblings to the United States when he was 12, while Gibran’s father, who reportedly abused her, was in jail. They settled in Boston, joining relatives who were already there.

“At the time, immigrants into Boston, found the least expensive housing in Chinatown, which is where they settled. Gibran was already 12 when he came, almost 13, and was put into public schools. And there he was in a Boston school with Chinese children. I think was quite bewildering. He only gradually learned English and he was very good at art.”

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New Bambi Translation Reveals the Dark Origins of the Disney Story

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From Publishers Weekly: The first English version since 1928 uncovers the deep, painful significance of the beloved tale.

The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest by [Felix Salten, Alenka Sottler, Jack Zipes]

While at a Modern Language Association annual conference a few years ago, Jack Zipes was approached by representatives from one of his former publishers with a proposition. Would he like to do a new translation of Bambi from the original German? An English version had not been published since 1928. Zipes hesitated to take the idea seriously. As one of the nation’s pre-eminent fairytale scholars (he was the first to translate the entire Brothers Grimm collection from the original German), he knew as much about the story as most people—that the story was a classic Disney film, bursting with cheerful woodland creatures and swells of orchestral music. But as editor of Princeton University Press’s Oddly Modern Fairy Tales series, he was intrigued.

As he researched, Zipes made “a stunning discovery”: a nearly forgotten author and a story much richer than he could have imagined. First published in Austria in 1922, Bambi, a Life in the Forest by Felix Salten was anything but the “shallow, sentimental story” portrayed in the Disney movie. Instead, Zipes said, the novel is “a brilliant and profound story of how minority groups throughout the world have been brutally treated” and an “allegory about the weak and powerless.”

“I was shocked,” Zipes said. Calling it “dystopic and sobering,” he said the story “was never intended for children.”

His translation of The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest will be released February 22 by Princeton University Press, featuring an introduction by Zipes and black-and-white illustrations by Alenka Sottler that capture both the stillness and interplay of animals in the forest.

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Nearly 1 in 3 Americans are reading eBooks

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From BookRiot: A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that 30% of Americans now read ebooks.

One of the key findings from a new study by the Pew Research Center shows that 30% of Americans now read ebooks, up from 25% in 2019. The number of those who read a print book stayed the same in that time period, while audiobook reading increased from 20% to 23%. The Pew Research Center conducted its study between January 25th and February 8th, 2021. Data is available on their site for the years 2011-2021.

Print books still remain the most popular format, with 65% of the study’s respondents saying they had read a print book in the last 12 months (compared to 30% and 23% for ebooks and audiobooks respectively). 75% of Americans have read a book in any format in the past 12 months. That number includes people who have read a book completely or part way through.

The study shows that Americans read an average of 14 books in the last 12 months. The typical American read five books in that time (the median). This shows that “power readers” — those who read many more than five books a year — brought up the average number of books read, but the average, middle-of-the-road American read five.

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2021’s biggest literary stories: After 40 years, the man convicted of Alice Sebold’s rape, detailed in her memoir Lucky, was exonerated.

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From LitHub: The rape conviction at the center of The Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold’s memoir, Lucky, was overturned after an executive producer on its film adaptation started asking questions about the guilt of Anthony Broadwater, who served 16 years in prison after his conviction and spent 24 more on the sex offender registry.

Following the exoneration, the film adaptation was canceled and Scribner pulled Lucky from shelves.

In Lucky, Alice Sebold wrote about being raped as a first-year university student in 1981 and then recognizing a man in the street months later as her attacker. “He was smiling as he approached,” wrote Sebold in Lucky. “He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street. ‘Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ . . . I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel.”

After Broadwater—who is Black—was arrested, Sebold identified a different man in a police lineup. But Sebold identified Broadwater as her rapist on the witness stand, after a prosecutor purportedly told her Broadwater and the man she identified in the lineup were friends conspiring to trick her. Overturning Broadwater’s conviction, the defense argued that the case had relied solely on Sebold identifying Broadwater in the courtroom and microscopic hair analysis, which is now considered junk science. “I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it,” Onondaga county district attorney William Fitzpatrick said at the court hearing where Broadwater was exonerated. “This never should have happened.”

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Eve Babitz, author who chronicled Hollywood hedonism, dies at 78

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From Washington Post: Eve Babitz, who chronicled and reveled in Hollywood hedonism, dies at 78.

Ms. Babitz, who once reportedly said that “anyone who lived past 30 just wasn’t trying hard enough to have fun,” was 78 when she died Dec. 17 at a Los Angeles hospital. Anolik said the cause was Huntington’s disease, which causes a progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.

Eve Babitz was in her teens when she declared to her mother, “I think I’m going to be an adventuress.” Then she added, “Is that all right?”

Ms. Babitz would have more adventures than most, growing up fast and voluptuous in Hollywood, reveling in almost every form of excess from sex to drugs to booze and still more sex — and never feeling the least bit of shame over any of it.

She was 20 when she sat down at a chessboard opposite the 75-year-old conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp. He was fully clothed. She was wearing nothing at all.

Ms. Babitz designed album covers for the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Linda Ronstadt. She had affairs with famous men when they were still unknown, including actor Harrison Ford, artist Ed Ruscha and comedian Steve Martin.

She recalled her first encounter with rock star Jim Morrison: “I met Jim, and propositioned him in three minutes. … Being in bed with Jim was like being in bed with Michelangelo’s David, only with blue eyes.”

But Ms. Babitz was far more than just a Hollywood party girl or rock-and-roll hanger-on. She was one of the most incisive chroniclers of late 20th-century Los Angeles, drawing on her experiences to write several novels and essay collections that have come to be recognized as modern classics. Her books, written in a bold, gossipy, wry and unsentimental prose, were largely ignored when they first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, but a recent revival of interest has made Ms. Babitz a literary touchstone for a younger generation of writers, many of them women.

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Joan Didion, legendary author and journalist dies at 87

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From Pitchfork: Joan Didion Dies at 87

Iconic American author Joan Didion has died at 87 from Parkinson’s disease, The New York Times reports. Didion became most well known and regarded for her nonfiction which often blurred the lines between journalistic feature and personal essay. For her 1968 collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem, she covered musicians like Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, and more. Over the course of her career, Didion published five novels, six screenplays, and many more works of nonfiction. Her most recent, South and West: From a Notebook, came out in 2017. Another collection of essays, Let Me Tell You What I Mean, was issued earlier this year. Didion was also the subject of a Netflix documentary about her life and work, titled Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold.

Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California, where she grew up reading and writing a great deal. After earning a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, she won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue and landed a job as a research assistant at the magazine. She stayed with Vogue for seven years, eventually becoming the magazine’s associate features editor.

Didion published her first novel in 1963, Run, River. She met her husband, fellow writer and editor John Gregory Dunne, while working on the novel, and the two eventually relocated back to California. Didion and Dunne’s partnership extended beyond support for each other’s work; they wrote several projects together, including the screenplay of Didion’s 1970 novel Play It as It Lays, as well as a biography of journalist Jessica Savitch, titled Up Close & Personal. After losing both Dunne and their daughter Quintana in the early years of the millennium, Didion wrote two books about grief, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. She won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for the former.

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2021’s biggest literary stories: Goodbye Sunshine! Reese Witherspoon sold her media company for… a lot of money.

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From L.A. Business Journal: Reese Witherspoon Sells Production Company for $900 Million.

Hollywood hyphenate and Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon has agreed to sell her Playa Vista-based media company, Hello Sunshine, for more than $900 million to a new company backed by private equity firm Blackstone Group Inc.

The deal, which was announced Aug. 2, came after interest from multiple companies in Witherspoon’s production business, which develops films, TV series and digital content.

The Blackstone-backed company making the acquisition is run by former Walt Disney Co. executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs.

Hello Sunshine Chief Executive Sarah Harden will join Witherspoon on the board of the yet-to-be-named holding company and will continue to oversee day-to-day operations.

“Today marks a tremendous moment for Hello Sunshine,” Witherspoon said in a statement. “I started this company to change the way all women are seen in media. Over the past few years, we have watched our mission thrive through books, TV, film and social platforms. Today, we’re taking a huge step forward by partnering with Blackstone, which will enable us to tell even more entertaining, impactful and illuminating stories about women’s lives globally.”

Read full post on L.A. Business Journal