Monday, December 31, 2012

Beyond Grey

"Susan Cooper's sequence of five children's stories, The Dark Is Rising, is, you'll have guessed, all about the dark. The dark as velvety, blanketing night. The dark as the keeper of mysteries, ineffable and unknowable. Above all, the dark as counterpoint to the light; as one side of the great battle between evil and good.
     The Dark Is Rising is a Christmas ritual for me. The story starts on 20 December, and it is on 20 December each year that I start reading it. It is the night before Will Stanton's 11th birthday. All is happy anticipation and the busy, noisy stuff of a family coming together for the Christmas holiday. Will goes to bed with not much on his mind except a hope that his dearest birthday wish might be granted: deep, white, enfolding snow. He puts out the light. And then the terror comes."
— Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian
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Get all of Susan Cooper's books here…

Friday, December 28, 2012


"Most difficult was enduring the stigma. Traditional publishers wrote the rules; no one--publishing houses, agents or mainstream media--would touch self-published authors, largely denigrated as hacks who couldn't cut it in the traditional world. Even superstar John Locke, who'd sold millions of e-books, had few fans offline. When Locke struck a sweetheart distribution deal with Simon and Schuster, his books appeared in bookstores, but few owners and shoppers knew who he was; as a result, his books languished in the lower rent area on shelves at the back of stores.
     Happily, the world has changed. In December 2011, Amazon stunned the industry when they introduced their KDP Select program, giving Amazon Prime members free access to thousands of books (now 180,000) in their Kindle Lending Library and offering authors an exciting new marketing opportunity and a brand new revenue stream. To participate, authors are required to distribute exclusively through Amazon, sparking outrage in the publishing world and--surprisingly--opening new avenues and presenting new opportunity for self-published authors."
 — Terri Giuliano Long, Huffington Post
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brain Teasers

"[...] So the artist, musician or author's challenge is to create a work that retains a freshness, according to Case Western Reserve University's Michael Clune, in his new book, Writing Against Time (Stanford University Press). And, for the artist, musician or writer, creating this newness with each work is a race against 'brain time.'
     Clune explains how neurobiological forces designed for our survival naturally make interest in art fade. But the forces don't stop artists from trying for timelessness.
     While the phenomenon is true for all art, the assistant professor of English focuses on the intersection of literature and science, describing what writers can do to block or slow that natural erosion over time."
Science Daily

"My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word,
to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, above all, to make you see."
—Joseph Conrad

"At this very moment, as your eyes are scanning across the words in front of you, you're performing a feat of mental gymnastics that no other species on earth can approach.
     Mere milliseconds after the photons leaping from the screen hit your retinas, you not only recognize the words and letters, but you extract meaning from them. Before a second has passed, you've assembled an idea of what the sentence as a whole means, and as a result, you can make inferences that are unstated; you can prepare an appropriate response; and you can even predict what word is going to come potato.
     I mean, 'next.' How you do this -- how you make meaning out of photons or sound waves -- is one of the great, persistent mysteries of the human mind. And until recently, we had no idea how our brains make meaning. And worse, we didn't even know how to figure it out. But that's all changing."
— Benjamin K. Bergen, Huffington Post

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

English — Whither Goest Thou?

"The digitisation [sic] of the world’s books reveals how the popularity of English words and phrases has evolved since the 16th century. And the database is now freely browsable online
     Last year, the Google Books team released some 4 per cent of all the books ever written as a corpus of digitised text, an event that has triggered something of a revolution in the study of trends in human thought. The corpus consists of 5 million books and over 500 billion words (361 billion in English) dating from the 1500s to the present day.
     In a single stroke, this data gives researchers a way to examine a whole range of hitherto inaccessible phenomena. Since then a steady stream of new results has emerged on everything from the evolution of grammar and the adoption of technology to the pursuit of fame and the role of censorship.
     Today, Matjaz Perc at the University of Maribor in Slovenia uses this data to examine the evolution of the most common English words and phrases since 1520. "
MIT Technology Review
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