Monday News: Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies, Mark Twain as mentor, fascinating history of paperbacks, and the 2014 Peeps Show
Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Who Gave Voice To Latin America, Dies – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, and innovator of the style known as magical realism, is dead at 87. Garcia Marquez had recently been ill, so his death was not a complete surprise, but he remains a literary star of intense magnitude, not only for his talent and his literary contributions, but also for the way his voice and his presence influenced Latin American literature and politics.
Garcia Marquez was part of a Latin American literature boom in the 1960s and ’70s, along with Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes and Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, with whom Garcia Marquez differed sharply in his political beliefs. The Colombian got his leftist leanings from his grandfather, and they shaped his writing.
“I write mostly about the reality I know, about the reality of Latin America,” Garcia Marquez said. “Any interpretation of this reality in literature must be political. I cannot escape my own ideology when I interpret reality in my books; it’s inseparable.” –NPR
Mark Twain, Writing Coach and Role Model – Speaking of literary influences, this essay on Twain by Ben Tarnoff is, I think, quite relevant for the current writing and publishing climate, as Tarnoff writes it. Twain was a writer who understood the value of commercial fiction as a business enterprise, in part because he was an investor of varying success, and often needed the money writing brought him to support himself and his family. But Twain was also a journalist and a man who wrote like someone who could do little else (he would literally write page after page, tossing each to the floor as he finished, writing too quickly to stop). A nice little read.
At first I had pictured Twain’s time as a less precarious one for writers. I was surprised to discover that he lived through a publishing upheaval much like our own, when rising literacy, an expanding population, and improving printing methods were conspiring to create a crowded media landscape. In 1776, the country had only thirty-seven newspapers. In 1861, the year Twain went to Nevada, it had more than five thousand. These papers formed a kind of analog Internet. A few big nodes in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia predominated, but smaller papers took root in all corners of the country, networked by telegraph wires and railroad tracks and post roads, churning out everything from jokes to novels to partisan screeds. –Daily Beast
How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read – There is so much of value in this article, I wish I could quote the whole thing. a history of the paperback (mass market, “pulp,” and beyond), for those who think that digital is the only true book revolution, this history is mandatory reading. Pocket Books and Penguin led the way in the 1940s, with books that sold for a quarter and could be produced quickly and in great numbers. By 1944, Pocket had sold a hundred million copies, and Penguin needed to keep up. Initially they were largely re-publishing books from the UK, so the Ballantines (Ian and his 19-year-old wife), who were in charge of US operations for Penguin, started putting out new books with illustrated covers, shocking Allen Lane, who had hired Ian Ballantine to handle the US market.
After the war, Lane was horrified to see his prestigious Penguin logo stamped on such tawdry covers. In 1945, he forced the Ballantines out. Lane expected his new hires, German publisher Kurt Enoch and American Victor Weybright, to fall in line with his refined sensibilities, but they too failed him. Graphic (and sometimes lurid) illustrations were necessary for the American market, Weybright argued. “The general intention of our covers is to attract Americans, who, more elementary than the Britishers, are schooled from infancy to disdain even the best product unless it is smoothly packaged and merchandised,” Weybright wrote to Lane. –Mental Floss
Peeps Show 2014 winners and finalists – Everyone Peeps might be my favorite; what’s yours? –Washington Post