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How to fall back in love with reading in an age of diminished attention

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From Vox: How to fall back in love with reading, even when your brain feels like mush.

I doubt you need to be told you should be reading more. There’s a good chance you struggle to make time for reading, and it feels like just another obligation, like hitting your daily step goal, or drinking more water.

You’re not alone. In early 2021, nearly a quarter of Americans told the Pew Research Center that they hadn’t read any books at all the previous year. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll revealed that even those who were reading books were reading fewer than ever.

“So many people tell me that they used to be a reader and then they just fell out of it,” Lynn Lobash, the New York Public Library’s associate director of reader services, told me, recounting conversations from the past few years. “It’s hard to get back into a practice once you’ve lost it.”

Because, look, it’s not easy! Books require sustained attention, something few of us have (and some of us have lost altogether) in these pandemic-riddled, anxiety-inducing times. Given some free time, you’ve probably got a million other things you could be doing: shows to binge, movies to half-watch, browser tabs to skim. Even if you loved to read as a child, when adulthood hits, reading can go out the window, relegated to beach reading on vacations and maybe a couple of books crammed into the corners of life.

Read full article on Vox

Author Salman Rushdie attacked on lecture stage in New York

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From WHAM13: Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was attacked as he prepared to give a lecture in New York.

Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday as he was about to give a lecture in Western New York.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing Rushdie as he was being introduced. The author was taken or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained.

Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

A bounty of over $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie.

Read full post on 13wham.com

Melissa Bank, author of The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, has died at 61

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From Vulture: Melissa Bank, Author of The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Dead at 61.

Melissa Bank, the author best known for writing The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is dead at age 61. According to a statement from Viking Penguin, she died August 2, 2022, in East Hampton, New York, after a struggle with lung cancer. Bank’s breakout book, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, debuted in 1999 and was a New York Times best seller for 16 weeks. It is a series of short stories linked by a common main character named Jane Rosenthal. It is generally understood that the book is at least somewhat autobiographical. “Jane and Banks [sic] were both born in Philadelphia and live in New York, they share a neurologist father who died of leukaemia in his late 50s, a background in publishing, an older lover with a history of drunkenness and diabetes,” wrote Simon Hattenstone in a ’99 profile of Bank in the Guardian. At the time of its release, the book was often compared to Bridget Jones’s Diary, though “Bank’s is a far more subtle piece of work, which achieves even more than it aims to,” said The New Yorker in its review.

Bank was regularly associated with being a “women’s” writer, something she grew to both love and resent. “Women identify with Melissa Bank, whether she likes it or not,” began a 1999 profile of Bank in the New York Times. Later, when she published The Wonder Spot in 2005, she spoke of being grouped into the literary category of chick lit. “The problem with chick lit is it’s become more chick than lit,” said Bank in a Chicago Tribune profile. “It’s denigrating to both readers and writers. It’s as if to say these are books by chicks, about chicks and for chicks, and what happens to a single woman isn’t of consequence to anyone but herself or other women … I can’t believe how offensive that is to women.”

Read full post on Vulture

The True Scammer Behind the Fake Diary ‘Go Ask Alice’ Duped Millions of Kids

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From The New Yorker: How a Mormon Housewife Turned a Fake Diary Into an Enormous Best-Seller

If you had twenty dollars and a few hours to spare during the fall of 1970, you could learn about “The Art of Womanhood” from Mrs. Beatrice Sparks. A Mormon housewife, Sparks was the author of a book called “Key to Happiness,” which offered advice on grooming, comportment, voice, and self-discipline for high-school and college-aged girls; her seminar dispensed that same advice on Wednesdays on the campus of Brigham Young University, a school from which she’d later claim to have earned a doctorate, sometimes in psychiatry, other times in psychology or human behavior. “Happiness comes from within,” Sparks promised, “and it begins with an understanding of who and what you really are!”

Such an understanding seems to have been elusive for Sparks, who was then calling herself a lecturer, although she would soon enough identify as a therapist and occasionally as a counsellor or a social worker or even an adolescent psychologist, substituting the University of Utah or the University of California, Los Angeles, for her alma mater, or declining to say where she had trained. But, wherever she studied and whatever her qualifications, Sparks was destined to become best known for being unknown. Although her book on womanhood was a flop, she went on to sell millions of copies of another book, one that even today does not acknowledge her authorship, going into printing after printing without so much as a pseudonym for its author. “Go Ask Alice,” the supposedly real diary of a teen-age drug addict, was really the work of a straitlaced stay-at-home mom.

When “Go Ask Alice” was published, in 1971, the author listed on the cover was “Anonymous.” The first page featured a preface of sorts, an authenticating framework as elaborate as those written by Mary Shelley and Joseph Conrad, explaining that what followed was “based on the actual diary of a fifteen-year-old,” though names and dates had been changed. The diary, according to its unnamed editors, was “a highly personal and specific chronicle” that they thought might “provide insights into the increasingly complicated world in which we live.”

The narrator is unidentified, too. She is not named Alice; the book’s title, chosen by a savvy publishing employee, comes indirectly from a reference in the diary to “Alice in Wonderland” and more directly from the lyrics of the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit.” Early entries dutifully record the nothing-everythings of teen-age life. The narrator frets over diets and dates; wishes she could “melt into the blaaaa-ness of the universe” when a boy stands her up; and describes high school as “the loneliest, coldest place in the world.” She’s from a middle-class, overtly Christian, ostensibly good family, with two younger siblings, a stay-at-home mother, and an academic father whose work takes the family to another state.

Read full post on The New Yorker

Susie Steiner—British crime thriller author and the person responsible for the popularity of those “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters—has died at 51

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From The Guardian: Novelist and former Guardian journalist Susie Steiner dies at 51.

The novelist and former Guardian journalist Susie Steiner, known for the Manon Bradshaw detective series, has died aged 51.

A tweet posted from her account on Sunday said: “Susie died yesterday after being diagnosed with a brain tumor three years ago. She lived with her illness with courage and good humor. She was much loved and will be much missed.”

Steiner grew up in north London and studied English at university. She went on to train as a journalist and worked in newspapers for 20 years.

She joined the Guardian in 2001 where she was a staff writer and editor for 11 years, specializing in lifestyle features. After leaving, she continued to contribute as a freelancer. She also worked for the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

Read full post on The Guardian

It’s officially a Wodehouse Summer, so turn off your TV and grab your Jeeves, chappies!

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From Blackbird Spyplane: There’s too much T.V. and so much drama!! Enter “Wodehouse Summer,” baby.
The “Seinfeld” of books??

P.G. Wodehouse books are a perfect bridge out of “t.v. brain” because they are kind of like the Seinfeld of books: They revolve around a few core heroes and recurring side-characters, all of whom have extremely frivolous concerns, manias and problems that they take extremely seriously, which lead them into all manner of low-stakes capers and jams … but instead of ‘90s-era NYC they hang out at private clubs in ‘20s and ‘30s-era London / cool manors in the British countryside.

When you pick up a Wodehouse joint — such as Joy in the Morning or Summer Lightning, two of our favorites — U R rocking with a master. He writes sublime sentences, each one carefully constructed to be as un-boring as possible. On a word-to-word level, no English-language author surpasses him for craft, rhythm, or ear.

A huge part of the delight of reading Wodehouse is submitting yourself to his zigging, zagging clauses, like you are a feather caught in a series of updrafts, wondering, as you float, how he is going to stick the landing — which he always does, in surprising & unpredictable ways.

Read full post on Blackbird Spyplane

You’re pronouncing Theodor Geisel’s pen name wrong

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From LitHub: Everyone knows that Dr. Seuss is a pen name—I mean, look at it—but not everyone knows where it came from…

Dr. Seuss‘s pen name came from gin. More specifically: getting caught drinking gin in his room at Dartmouth with his friends. Nowadays you might barely get a citation, but this was 1925, and Prohibition was in full swing. He lost his editorial gig at the Dartmouth humor rag, the Jack O’Lantern, “but curiously,” as Jessica Contrera put it in The Washington Post, “many drawings in his style still appeared in the next edition. They were signed with pseudonyms that an eagle-eyed reader might recognize as oblique historical references—L. Burbank, Thos. Mott Osborne, D.G. Rossetti, L. Pasteur—but also, ‘Seuss’.”

But more importantly: you’re pronouncing his pen name wrong. It’s not “Suce.” It’s “Soice”! That is, apparently, the German way. His Dartmouth buddy and Jack O’Lantern co-conspirator Alexander Liang later immortalized the misconception in a casual quatrain:

You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice.

SOICE. Just let that sink in for a while.

Read full post on LitHub