Posts are flying around the literary blogosphere lamenting the Death of Literary Criticism. Now, by my count this particular demise has been predicted at least three times in the past few decades, so why worry now? The short answer is that more books are published annually than ever, and now there are fewer book reviewers. The LA Times recently folded its freestanding book review into the rest of the weekend paper and newspaper staffs around the country are trimming review positions in favor of syndicated wire service reviews.
Michael Connelly, a crime fiction writer, published an op-ed in the LA Times protesting the move and he paints a dire picture of our cultural future:
The truth is that the book and newspaper businesses share the same
dreadful fear: that people will stop reading. And the fear may be
well-founded. Across the country, newspaper circulations are down — and
this is clearly part of the reason for the cuts to book sections. At
the same time, the book business increasingly relies on an aging
customer base that may not be refueling itself with enough new readers.
Should we blame cash-strapped newspaper companies or a culture that’s shifting away from traditional media altogether? Ladies and gentlemen, start your iPods–to lend reasoned analysis, we now turn to Steven Colbert, who interviewed Salman Rushdie on this subject earlier this week (click below or watch the full show on iTunes):
Cahiers du cinéma: This is not exactly a blog. Rather it’s the site for the very influential French film magazine founded in 1951. If you read French, definitely give it a look.
Cinecultist: This cinema blog comes straight to you from the East Village in NYC, and it’s put together mainly by Karen Wilson, a freelance writer and editor with a film background.
Cinema Minima: A news blog for movie makers that digests information about movie making, acting, distribution, and film festivals.
Cinema Strikes Back: The site covers movies worldwide with news, reviews, interviews and film festival reports. It also offers advanced looks at upcoming movies and DVDs. Has a particular focus on genre, cult and foreign films.
Cinemarati: Created by the The Web Alliance for Film Commentary, this blog brings together online film critics for serious, and seriously fun, discussion about film, and also counters the notion that “anyone with a modem can be a critic.”
Cinematical: Part of the Weblogs, Inc. network, Cinematical keeps tabs on what’s new in film.
Clip Joint: Put out by the Guardian, this blog presents a roundup of top cinema-related clips on the internet.
We’re now six years past 9/11, and four years past the mission being complete in Iraq (wink, wink). But the parade of books by ex-government decision-makers continues. First we had Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies and The Price of Loyalty written almost indirectly by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. Now we get a new one, At the Center of the Storm, by George Tenet, the former Director of the CIA.Though there is now a palpable sense of fatigue in America (even the political right has had it with our Iraq adventure), we apparently still have enough energy to make a bestseller out of another political tell-all book. Yes, we still want to read another recitation of well-known facts — that Tenet warned Condi in 2001 about an imminent al-Qaeda threat but our National Security Advisor did little with that information, or that the Bush circle mentally signed off on invading Iraq as soon as 9/12. Yes, we apparently also want to hear Tenet exlain for the fourth or fifth time exactly what he meant in saying Iraq’s WMDs were “a slam dunk case.” (In an otherwise completely uninteresting book review, Bob Woodward has a couple worthwhile comments on this bit.) And we strangely care enough to read through another mea culpa that isn’t really a mea culpa afterall. (George Packer makes good points on this score in The New Yorker.)If you want to commit time to reading this book, God bless you and feel free to buy it here. But if you would rather cut to the chase, you can listen to Tenet’s recent interview on Fresh Air (iTunes), or alternatively watch his recent 60 Minutes piece below. (The television interview is divided into four chunks. Here are the links to Part 2,Part 3, and Part 4.)
PS One of our readers recommends Terror Timeline, a book by Paul Thomspon that gives you a year by year, day by day, minute by minute chronicle of the road to 9/11.
On Monday night faith and atheism got a verbal workout. Famously vitriolic columnist Christopher Hitchens (a former liberal best-known in recent years for his staunch support of the war in Iraq) faced off against Reverend Al Sharpton in a discussion moderated by Slate editor Jacob Weisberg. Hitchens is a vehement non-believer and the new author of God is not Great (also available on iTunes). Suffice to say that the debate between him and Sharpton was colorful. That should come as no surprise–what makes it worth listening to is that it was also reasoned and intelligent.
Below, you’ll find a list of 20 fine literary blogs. Like our podcast collections, this list will grow over time. In fact, it will become part of a larger list of great culture blogs. Over the coming weeks, we’ll roll out new installments and then mash them together into one larger list. Stay tuned for more.
If you feel that we’re missing some extraordinary blogs, please feel free to email us.
Blog of a Book Slut: Bookslut’s editor-in-chief, Jessa Crispin, provides links and commentary for those who love to read. The popular related website includes feature stories, author interviews, reviews, columns about book-related content, etc.
BookDaddy: It’s your source for intelligent book blather. The stated mission of the site is to “ponder print media, literacy & publishing. Anything on wood pulp, pixels or stone is up for discussion.”
Books, Inq: This blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at a book-review editor’s world. In this case, the book review editor is Frank Wilson, of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Book World: What you get here is one woman’s attempt to read what’s worth reading and say something about it along the way.
Chekhov’s Mistress: An oft-cited literature blog written by Bud Parr, a book lover who also runs a network of literary blogs called MetaxuCafe.
Critical Mass: Offering commentary on literary criticism, publishing, and writing, this blog is written by the Board of Directors of the non-profit that issues the yearly National Book Critics Circle Awards.
Eve’s Alexandria: A nicely balanced multi-person literary blog coming out of the UK.
ReadySteadyBlog: Run by Mark Thwaite, this is an “independent book review website … devoted to reviewing the very best books in literary fiction, poetry, history and philosophy.”
Slate Books: Even though technically not a blog, it should be on your reading list.
So Many Books: Given the tagline ‘the agony and the ecstasy of a reading life”, here’s a lauded blog that takes you into the reading world of Stephanie Hollmichel.
The Elegant Variation: A well-reviewed and respected book blog that tends to give special attention to the LA literary scene. Features a really extensive blogroll that’s worth picking through.
The Guardian Book Blog: It’s not exactly your average independent book blog, but it’s got valuable content and it’s worth your time.
The Kenyon Review Blog: If you’re a writer, you surely know The Kenyon Review, and you should also get to know their blog.
The Litblog Co-Op: A useful blog that unites the “leading literary
weblogs for the purpose of drawing attention to the best of
contemporary fiction, authors and presses, struggling to be noticed in
a flooded marketplace.”
This Space: A literary blog written by Stephen Mitchelmore, a blogger who Ready Steady Book deems “the finest writer we have in the literary blogosphere.”
Vulpes Libris: “Vulpes Libris: A multi-national pack of bookfoxes blogging, reviewing and chatting about books and book matters. Participation welcome.”
Words Without Borders Blog — This weblog is the online complement to Words Without Borders: The Online Magazine for International Literature. And, yes, as you’d expect, it’s a literature blog with an international focus.
The Supreme Court has long taken heat for being in the technological arrière-garde, a criticism that has seemed fair given its unwillingness to even allow cameras into its oral arguments.
Slowly, however, that perception may be about to change. According to the ABA Journal eReport, the Court has stuck a small toe into the technology waters by providing web access to videotaped evidence that figured into a recent case, Scott v. Harris. The url for the video gets referenced within the written opinion for the case, and a link is provided from the Court’s opinions web page. (You’ll need Real Player to watch it.)
The video itself is nothing special. It features very low quality footage of a car chase taken from the dashboard of a police car, and it’s essentially the same scenario that America has seen played out for almost 20 years on Fox’s COPS. As you watch the video, you can’t help but feel that this landmark moment for the court is a non-moment. But that’s perhaps to be expected when a tradition-bound institution banally enters a brave new world.
When Bill Moyers returned to PBS two weeks ago, his first program took a careful look at how the mainstream media has fallen down on the job when it comes to asking tough questions to politicians. Given this starting point, it seemed logical for Moyers to speak next (iTunes — Feed) with John Stewart, host of The Daily Show. That’s because adversarial journalism is now found more readily on Comedy Central than on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc. The interview with Stewart, which is quite substantive and worth a listen, makes reference to John McCain’s recent appearance on The Daily Show and also to Steven Colbert’s famous/infamous roast of President Bush in 2006. You can watch both below.
American television shows have been satirizing politicians for a long time. That’s not new. But what’s new with Stewart is that he’s upending the whole point of television satire. Whether you look at Jay Leno’s tame humor, or the more biting humor of Saturday Night Live, the point of the satire has always been to get a laugh. For Stewart, something else is going on. Watch the McCain interview and you see that the joke is essentially a prop, a convenient means of getting at something much more serious, a way of having a blunt, no nonsense conversation, precisely the kind of conversation that the mainstream media has been largely unwilling, if not downright afraid, to have with our leaders.
The hydrogen-filled Hindenburg went down in remarkable flames exactly 70 years ago in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Below, we’ve posted the dramatic historical footage. You can read here a decent account of what happened on that day, plus interviews with still living survivors.
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