This month, New Zealand banned a book for the first time in twenty years. Into the River, by Ted Dawe, is a coming-of-age story centered around a Maori boy who receives a scholarship to a prep school in Auckland. Despite winning the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Award in 2013, the book has come under fire by a group called Family First, which claims the book has offensive and overly suggestive language.
I have recently become addicted to The Following. Yes, I know I’m behind the times, but there it is. If you aren’t familiar with this television show, the first season features a serial killer/professor/novelist/cult leader who bases his actions and cult philosophy on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Like any good addict, I had to do some research, and I came upon the following interesting facts about Poe.
- Poe continued to write after his death—or at least this was the claim of medium Lizzie Doten, who published poetry that was supposedly dictated to her by Poe’s spirit.
- Poe’s obituary was a rather colorful, less-than-flattering account of his life in which Poe was deemed a drunkard, an opium addict, and a madman who wrote his tales from personal experience. The author of this obituary was Poe’s rival, Rufus Wilmot Griswold.
- Poe’s compensation for his first book of short stories was twenty-five free copies of the book. Shortly after, Poe championed for international copyright law and higher pay for writers.
- Poe’s death is a mystery to this day. The official cause of death was determined to be “congestion of the brain” and an autopsy was not performed.
- Poe was a cat lover. Yes, he may have killed them in his stories but he loved them in life. His bond with his cat Caterina was so great that shortly after Poe’s death, the cat died as well.
Whenever I’m asked my hobbies, one of the first out of my mouth is reading. Books have changed me for the better. They are an escape, they are an education, and they are friends. I’m honestly not sure who I would be without them.
- The oldest known message in a bottle was found on an island off Germany’s North Sea coast. While it wasn’t a love letter or an SOS, it was part of one of the longest running experiments in history—a study on deep sea currents!
- There was a giant red ball on the loose in Toledo, Ohio. Part of an art exhibit by Kurt Perschke, the 250-pound ball began rolling down the street, over everything in its path.
- There is a collection of bones in the basement of a building on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Each bone provides a glimpse into the person who once housed the bone. Was the person male? Female? Did she die by gunshot? Did she have osteoporosis? Oh, the stories bones can tell.
- Mary Oliver talks about how habits shape us. She relates habits to rhythm in a lovely way. Instead of limiting us, habits can reinforce our natural rhythms: “The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. . . . The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.”
- Dirk Brömmel has a fascinating new series featuring ships from above. The organization, the color, the toy-like view—his work frames these massive ships in a novel way.
Have a great weekend!
Last night I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’d been meaning to sit down with it for a while, since I wanted to read it before seeing the film, but for some reason, I continually put it off. Did I want to immerse myself in a sad story set in Nazi Germany? Was the book really as good as my friends suggested? In the end, it exceeded my expectations and made me think deeply about life. In fact, The Book Thief is the best book I’ve read in a long, long time.
Here are a few things that set this book apart.
- The narrator is Death. Literally, Death narrates the story. It is a beautiful, stark, and intimate retelling of Liesel Meminger’s story.
- The typography is creative. There are bold, centered asides from Death that provide insight into characters and settings. This ingenious technique adds depth and rounds out characters in a succinct, yet powerful way.
- I adore the main characters. Liesel, the title character, has mostly experienced pain and darkness in her young life, but the moments of profound joy are just that: profound. Rudy, her best friend, is somehow both uncomplicated and tangled. You can see her foster parents, Papa and Mama, through Death’s eyes as adults who must make difficult decisions and through Liesel’s eyes as protectors who know all the answers.
- The language is creative and vivid—it is easy to picture the mayor’s wife’s crazy hair and Mama’s cardboard face. The descriptions are realistic while also being creepily cartoonish (like the way Coraline was animated) with sentences like “Trees wore blankets of ice,” “Snowflakes of ash fell so lovelily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them,” and “If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter and bread with only the scent of jam spread out on top of it.”
When I read such works of art, I often wonder what changes I would have made as an editor that would detract from the powerful voice of the author and narrator. Perhaps I would have suggested more common comma usage or queried the use of rarely heard terms like lovelily. It is books like this that make me remember the many grays of editing and how, together, they create their own sort of picture.
We debated on whether to ignore the fact that it is 9/11 and go forth with our typical Friday Fun Facts or acknowledge it like real human beings. We opted for the latter. Because there aren’t any fun facts about this tragedy, we’ve modified the title slightly to interesting. And there are quite a few of those.
- Dogs played a big role in the rescue operation. One dog in particular, a guide dog, is responsible for leading her owner and another thirty people out of the World Trade Center amid all the chaos and panic. After the people were safe, the dog then sought out others to help, including a woman who could not see due to injury from the debris.
- When transportation was shut down in and out of Manhattan, boat owners gathered together to evacuate over a half million people in what has become known as the 9/11 Boatlift.
- On 9/11 all nonmilitary aircraft were grounded—all but one. One plane was allowed to fly from Miami to San Diego in order to secure anti-venom for a man who had been bitten by a taipan, a very poisonous snake whose bite can cause death within an hour.
- Rather than being arranged alphabetically, the names on the 9/11 Memorial are listed by relationship to reflect the bonds of family and friendship and to show the connections between people who stood beside each other that day.
Today our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this tragedy.
Source: 25 Interesting Facts About 9/11.
Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of September 2015. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.
Q. During the past few years, many people have developed the habit of beginning a sentence with the word so, typically when they are responding to a question. This includes politicians, talking heads on television, and others who one might think are “learned” individuals. My view is that the use of the initial so in a sentence is both unnecessary and annoying. Any thoughts? Thank you.
A. There have always been “throat-clearing” words. Even highly intelligent professional speakers need a little thinking room to organize thoughts before speaking. So is no worse than well or um. The trick is not to be annoyed.
Q. At the beginning of each interview in my book, I use an “epigraph” from the interviewee. My publisher, citing CMOS, tells me that the epigraph, which is not signed, cannot be centered. This makes the one or two-line epigraph look like a misprint. Can you tell me what is correct in these cases? The editor has never cited a specific CMOS reference, but just tells me “That’s the way it is.”
A. The position of an epigraph is normally decided by a graphic designer as part of a coherent design for the book as a whole. Depending on the design of the rest of your book, centered epigraphs might look amateurish. Your editor is probably referring to the design specifications, and he or she may be reluctant to ask a designer to change the specs. It’s fine to express your concern and ask whether the design can be tweaked. Centering is only one of many options.
Rachel is off celebrating her one-year anniversary this weekend! What a year it’s been—travels to Mexico, house buying, Inkblot; it’s definitely one for the record books.
A dance party? Noooo!
Clancy loves his best friend Bernie but hates dance parties—he doesn’t know how to dance. So when Bernie invites Clancy to his dance party, Clancy braves the dangers outside his burrow and sets off on a quest to learn how to do the most popular dance, the Mashed Potato. Will he find a mashed potato and learn its dance? Or will he fail and have to disappoint his friend?
Today, I’m bragging on our very own Lesley Bolton. In addition to being awesome and working hard for Inkblot, she is also a newly minted children’s author! I asked her a few questions about her brand-new book, Clancy and the Search for the Mashed Potato.