A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[URBAN NOTE] “Saving Paris’s Oldest Bookstore”

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The Atlantic‘s Victoria Baena writes about the campaign to save Paris’ Librarie Delamain from rising rents. Baena explores at length the ways in which the French economy is structured to inhibit the growth of chain and online bookstores, protecting independents.

It’s difficult to imagine the shuttering of a bookstore causing a similar outcry anywhere else—not to mention direct government involvement in the matter of a private lease. This has something to do with what the French call l’exception culturelle. It doesn’t just mean cultural exceptionalism; the phrase refers more precisely to the notion that cultural goods should not be subject to the whims of the free market—and should be protected from the homogenizing onslaught of global, and in particular American, cultural imperialism.

In the U.S., such a policy would smack of protectionism. The French prefer to justify it in terms of maintaining “cultural diversity.” L’exception culturelle is the source of production quotas for radio programs made in France. It’s the reason the initial arrival of Netflix executives in France was met with a letter from producers bemoaning the “implosion of our cultural model.” And in a more general sense, it is part of a conviction in France—albeit one increasingly debated—that cultural heritage is a good with its own internal logic and value system, one that the government has the duty not only to protect but to actively promote. France even entombs its most celebrated literary and cultural figures, among other “great men” (and now women), in the Panthéon in Paris.

In the publishing sphere, l’exception culturelle morphs from a committed ideal into concrete policy. It has allowed the French to mount a challenge to the digital revolution in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.

As an independent bookstore, the Librairie Delamain already receives a partial merchandising subsidy—5,000 euros in 2013—from the Centre National du Livre. In 2013, the Ministry of Culture announced a further injection of 5 million euros into the independent bookstore industry, as well as the creation of a new bureaucratic position (the stereotypical solution to all French problems)—the “book arbitrator”—who could, in cases like this one, intervene in legal disputes without forcing the small businesses to involve themselves in expensive litigation. Booksellers like Delamain are also aided by the loi Lang, a 1981 law named after a former minister of culture, which limits discounts on books to 5 percent of their cover price. Earlier this summer, a so-called “anti-Amazon” amendment extended this limit to online booksellers and prohibits them from offering free shipping on reduced-price books.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2014 at 11:26 pm

[LINK] “Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books”

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Mic’s Rachel Grate has a nice piece examining how reading physical books is actually healthier than reading e-books.

It’s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

[. . .]

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page.

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2014 at 11:22 pm

[PHOTO] Photos from The Word on the Street, Toronto, 21 September 2014

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Last Sunday, I visited the Toronto incarnation of The Word on the Street. Queen’s Park Crescent, surrounding the park and provincial legislative assembly of the same name, was blocked off for the day-long street book festival.

I can’t speak about the morning, but the afternoon was a beautiful day. It was quite nice to spend a bright warm September summer afternoon in the middle of the city surrounded by books. Getting my picture taken with Polkaroo was an added benefit.

At Word on the Street, Toronto, Queen's Park. #toronto #Torontophotos #queenspark #torontowots

Looking south on Queen's Park #toronto #torontophotos #torontowots #queenspark

The tents of Word on the Street. #toronto #torontophotos #torontowots #queenspark

More of WOTS. #toronto #torontophotos #torontowots #queenspark

Looking north at the TVOKids stage, WOTS. #toronto #torontophotos #torontowots #tvo #tvokids #queenspark #bloorstreet #bloorstreetwest

Annick Press tent. #toronto #torontophotos #torontowots #queenspark #annickpress

Looking south on Queen's Park, WOTS. #toronto #torontophotos #torontowots #queenspark #cntower

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2014 at 7:50 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Big Picture shares images of Syrian Kurdish refugees flooding into Turkey.
  • blogTO quite likes the new visitor centre at Fort York.
  • James Bow quite liked the Word on the Street festival in the Albertan city of Lethbridge.
  • Crooked Timber suggests that French economist Thomas Piketty, with his writings on inequality, has unusually drawing power.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper proposing new methods for studying the atmospheres of gas giant exoplanets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that scientists have just now developed a new, more efficient method of photosynthesis.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that, according to the US Census, a half-million people have entered same-sex marriages.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig considers a particular post-1918 orthography reform of the Russian language.
  • pollotenchegg considers the institutions Crimean Tatars trust, and not.
  • Savage Minds considers the complexities of ethnographic writing.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc considers overpolicing in Toronto.
  • Torontoist notes that a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio will be on display at the University of Toronto.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy is skeptical of the good sense in pretending Islam is not a religion.

[PHOTO] Purchased at Word on the Street, Toronto

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Purchased at Word on the Street, Toronto

I got the Derek Jarman book for $C5 from the Glad Day booth. The Ke$ha book came free.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Book lovers shrug off storms at Word on the Street”

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Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew’s brief Toronto Star article just touches upon the rather enjoyable time I had at Word on the Street on Queen’s Park. (I’ll have plenty of pictures in coming days.) When I was there in the afternoon, the weather was happily perfect.

Sunday morning’s thunderstorms didn’t dampen spirits at the 25th annual Word on the Street.

The Toronto book and magazine festival drew an estimated 210,000 people to Queen’s Park Circle, mostly in the afternoon, organizers said.

“During setup at 8 a.m. it was really bad. Lightning, rain. Bad rain. We can handle any weather, but lightning does scare us. But that’s over,” spokesperson Stephen Weir said in an interview.

“I suspect the audience we lost in the morning arrived in the afternoon.”

This year’s roster of over 200 authors included Canadian writers Claire Cameron, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Sean Michaels, and Shani Mootoo.

“The festival is huge now,” said one festival-goer, Sue Peters of Toronto. “I haven’t been her for a few years and I can’t believe how big it is.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm

[PHOTO] Polkaroo!

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I went to Toronto’s Word on the Street literary festival yesterday, and had a wonderful time. The streets surrounding Queen’s Park were cordoned off from traffic and filled with booksellers and literary events amid photogenic scenery.

One thing I appreciated was the TVO Kids stage outside of the Royal Ontario Museum. There, Ontario’s public television station had some of the most iconic characters of their programmers posing and taking pictures. Polkaroo, for instance.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm


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