November 11th 2018’s Book Link Roundup

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There has been many things happening in the book world. Below are some snapshots of some of the things that have happened in recent weeks.

– At Le Monde, Aurélien Delsaux, Sophie Divry, and Denis Michelis written an article expressing a polemic outrage against a series of contemporary conventions of novels (www.worldcrunch.com). Like most articles of this type, the claims and generalities in the article are pretty out there, however it’s still fun to read.

For a number of years, more and more French novelists have succumbed to a pair of troubling trends.


The first is the reality-show novel, a degraded form of autofiction reduced to narcissistic testimonies that satisfy the voyeurism of readers and fill the pockets of publishers. The other is the costume novel, which responds, in a simplistic and backward-looking way, to our need for fiction by limiting itself to a history already understood, without looking at the one that is, the one that comes, a history that is frightening and elusive, certainly, but not indescribable.

– New York’s intense competition amongst elite libraries intensifies as groups of elite library sorters compete in order to see who can process books faster than the others. Below is an excerpt but here’s the full story presented by Atlas Obscura (www.atlasobscura.com).

A day’s work is typically about 40,000 requests, and each one of those books needs to be placed — by hand — onto an empty space on the relentless sorter, with the barcode facing the right way. But November 9, 2018, is no ordinary day. For the sixth time, an elite squad of 12 professional New York sorters — the fleet-fingered men and women who feed books into the machine — will compete with their counterparts from Washington State’s King County Library System to see who can process the most books in an hour. Losing to King County, which serves the Seattle suburbs and was the first library in the United States to get a Lyngsoe sorter, is not an option.

– What’s also posted on Atlas Obscura is an article that explores how people managed to seal letters way before envelopes were invented (www.atlasobscura.com).

To seal a modern-day envelope (on the off chance you’re sealing an envelope at all), it takes a lick or two, at most. Not so for Mary or for Machiavelli. In those days, letters were folded in such a way that they served as their own envelope. Depending on your desired level of security, you might opt for the simple, triangular fold and tuck; if you were particularly ambitious, you might attempt the dagger-trap, a heavily booby-trapped technique disguised as another, less secure, type of lock.

– And finally, at Publishers Weekly, Samantha Harvey explains how historical novelists take their own past work and translate it (www.publishersweekly.com).

Having bestrewn my novel with pockets, for example, I discovered that the clothes of European medieval men and women didn’t have them. No pockets? Where did they put their things? Where did they put their cold hands? How could it be that these people could build splendid cathedrals, yet hadn’t thought to make a pocket?

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