Friday News: A place for audio, Apple’s $300 design book, women’s writing in Brazil, best webcomics
IS AUDIO REALLY THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK? – Although we’ve talked a lot about the increasing popularity of audiobooks, this essay from Rebecca Rego Barry on the history and reception of aural reading reveals the difficult path to widespread respectability the audiobook has taken. Matthew Rubery has written a book, The Untold Story of the Talking Book, in which he discusses, among other things, the “privileged” position of print relative to audio, and the way in which audio still bears some stigma as an inferior alternative to reading. It would have been even more powerful, I think, if it had been presented in audio, but it’s definitely worth a read.
In 1934, the Library of Congress launched the first talking books program after Congress approved funding through the Books for the Adult Blind Project. There was opposition from the beginning—from groups who felt the money would be better used to publish more books in braille, even though fewer than 20 percent of visually impaired people could read braille; from critics who charged that listening was “a lazy man’s way of reading”; and even, startlingly, from authors like Willa Cather who refused to allow her books to be reproduced in audio, calling it “very distasteful.” Title selection was another fraught topic, as was the best way for a narrator to read aloud. Some listeners preferred books to be read straight, absent any hint of drama or interpretation, while others enjoyed hearing the elocution a professional could provide. – JSTOR
Jony Ive Says Apple’s New Design Book Was a ‘Responsibility’ – I’ve been ignoring the story of Apple’s $300 (okay, you can buy a smaller version for a mere $200) picture book, but this explanation of its publication says a lot about how Apple perceives itself, I think, for better or worse. I imagine that Steve Jobs would have loved it.
Speaking to cultural site Dazed in an interviewpublished this week, Ive said that the company “had a responsibility to…archive” some of its best designs. He noted that Apple AAPL -0.11% has spent the last eight years developing the book it announced this week, Designed by Apple in California, and felt it was only right to release it to the world.
“Honestly, it felt more of an obligation than something that we felt really compelled to do,” said Ive. “The reason for that, and I guess it’s a fairly obvious one, is that as designers, we are far more interested in and consumed by the future; in what doesn’t exist yet. But we’ve been working together for 20, 25 years, and it felt like the right and appropriate thing to do. You get a sense of what we’ve learned as a team and of how technology is evolving.” – Fortune
Women Writing in 21st Century Brazil: Experimentation and Narratives of Self – Even if you are unfamiliar with the writers being discussed in this essay or don’t agree with every argument she makes, I hope you endeavor to read it, because Milena Britto raises a lot of important issues that are relevant to both Brazilian culture and women’s writing more generally. For example, she talks about the cultural devaluation of women’s writing in Brazil and about the way women writers are in conversation with (and sometimes divergence from) the “dominant discourse.” She talks about sex, sexuality, sexual identity, and gender, and about the self-consciousness of women writing about writing (and about various forms of artistic expression).
Keeping in mind the persistent history of struggle that continues to advance and transform society on so many levels, I find that women writers, in addition to adding value to the world of art and provoking varied aesthetic experiences—distinct from one other and distinct in relation to the experience of men—install a sense of liberation in the reader and, more specifically, in the woman reader.
There is an invisible political action on both sides: the woman who writes with sensibility about a black woman’s hair; the woman who writes from a transgender body; the woman who writes of her sex; the woman who reveals the secret of being a writer; the woman who tries to erase her own writing; the woman who frees herself; the woman who… (etc.). There are endless possible themes and they join together with thousands of women readers, who in turn bring to their own lives the symbolism of this personal experience of reading, altering their own position as subject and provoking a political shift within their own geographies.
Feminist criticism must be conscious of this dynamic. We must engage the potential of such writing and help transform the thorny ground of machista culture—a culture which, when it becomes impossible to impede the presence of women, tries at all costs to minimize their significance and the effect of their artistic work. – The Critical Flame
Required Reading: 40 of the Best Webcomics – Okay, so what are your favorites from this list, and what did they leave out?
. . . [O]nline comics remain the perfect gateway into the world of sequential art. We wanted to create a resource for anyone attempting to spread the comic gospel, with (save a few) completely free works that carry the same caliber of quality as mainstream print publishers. In the following list, we’ve curated specific picks from those aforementioned year-end lists while adding 20-plus new webcomics to look into. And we know: there are a lot of webcomics, so this is just the beginning. – Paste Magazine
For some mysterious reason, I like Sarah Andersen’s webcomic, which is largely about being an anxious dork.
My daughter is a big fan of Lackadaisy, which is gorgeously drawn Prohibition with cats. (Ongoing saga, so best to start at the beginning.)
@Ren Benton: Oooh, Prohibition cats – I must check this out.
My personal favorite unmentioned webcomic is Unsounded, an intricately plotted fantasy story with fantastic characters set in an elaborately detailed world. The art is wonderful, the updates are reliable (the comic is currently on a lengthy hiatus, but it was announced in advance, and when off hiatus new pages always go up promptly and on schedule), and the artist does some interesting things that are only possible because it’s online rather than in print. Most of the time it reads like a traditional print comic, but every so often there’s something surprising with the format that makes it clear its true home is online.
JL8 and Lackadaisy are pretty cool.
I used to read Doghouse Diaries, Cyanide and Happiness, and Oglaf, but haven’t visited their site in a while. Thought the webcomics were pretty funny.
My favourite webcomic right now is about gay hockey playing college boys. Its so well written and compassionate.