Monday News: The state of print, Austen unboxed, Tracy Norman, and the sight of sound
Against all odds, print books are on the rise again in the US – I’m starting to think that most of the surprise around the persistence of print books is coming from those who are most afraid of its demise, and this Quartz article is a good example of that. What’s interesting here, though, is the inclusion of some of the factors that are contributing to the robust growth of print:
Publishers told the Associated Press this week that the rise of coloring books and books authored by YouTube stars this year seems to have contributed to Americans’ re-investment in physical books. The release of Harper Lee’s much-buzzed-about (albeit bizarre) second novel Go Set A Watchman also may have played a part; Lee’s book sold four times as many copies in hardcover as in e-book format, suggesting that most readers wanted to own a physical copy of the historic book, HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham told the AP. –Quartz
JANE AUSTEN IS PROBABLY MAD AT US. – This article by Amy Watkin is interesting, because she’s taking people to task for simplifying and pigeonholing Jane Austen, for thinking of her as writing “love stories,” and she even makes a passing comment about how Austen is viewed as the “mother of the romance genre,” only to go on to note that Austen isn’t focused exclusively on love. Which, ironically, seems to be the thing that a lot of Romance readers actually get and appreciate about Austen (that she’s writing about the box, not in it). Watkin also speculates that Austen uses the romance plot in order to get her social satire published, which makes me wonder how much Watkin actually knows about 18th C English literature and the comedy of manners. So I’m not completely sure who her imagined audience is, and if it’s Romance readers, is she hitting the mark?
These are not women whose instincts are to follow rules. And the men that they come to love understand and appreciate that about them. That’s the real key to Austen’s romance. Women are not desperate for men, even when financial or social circumstances dictate that they should be. Instead, the men (those who are worthy, anyway) come to love these women because they are well-read, articulate, and intelligent. – McSweeney’s
The First Black Trans Model Had Her Face on a Box of Clairol – A rich and riveting profile of Tracy Norman, a transgender model in the 1970s, whose hair color inspired one of the most popular shades of Clairol hair dye, and who might have been a superstar had she not been quietly blackballed once her secret (she was not open about her transition) was discovered.
Norman’s big Clairol moment came in the mid-’70s as well. The company was looking for fresh faces to adorn the boxes of its new hair-dye line for women of color, Born Beautiful, and brought her in for a test. Under the bright lights, her hair had reddish undertones. They snapped photos and labeled her hue Dark Auburn, Box 512, and concocted a hair color to match. She had never dyed her hair, but she had done a home perm to relax her curls, and the interaction of the chemicals and the sun had naturally lightened it to a shade women would pay money to re-create. She signed a contract for two years’ use, with the agreement that she’d get paid more if they renewed, which they did, twice. “So they used my box for six years, because they said it was the hottest-selling box,” says Norman. “This is what I was told.” Thousands of Clairol customers were emulating the look, and affirming the beauty, of a transgender woman. . . .
Laverne Cox of Orange Is the New Black, too, discovered Norman’s story about five years ago while reading a blog dedicated to the unsung heroes of trans history. “I was just enthralled, first of all, that there was this black model in the ’70s who got a hair contract, who had cosmetic deals,” says Cox. “That’s just a really big deal, for any black model, and then for her to be trans is beyond amazing.” Cox was well into her transition at that point, but she found Norman deeply inspiring — proof of a lineage of black trans women succeeding, and making a living off their looks. “I can’t tell you how many hours I stared at that photo of her on that Clairol bottle and that caption, ‘Born Beautiful,’” says Cox. “Yeah, we are born beautiful.” New York Magazine
What Does Sound Look Like?: The Audible Rendered Visible Through Clever Technology – This is just so cool. And it’s based on 19th C photographic technology! – Open Culture