Monday News: “Literary necrophilia,” octopi, history of book covers, and bad holiday cards
Book Lovers: Literary Necrophilia in the 21st Century – A very interesting piece from Joanna Walsh on the continually evolving relationship between author and text. The necrophilia in the title relates in part to the conceptual “death of the author,” and the reader’s attempt to mark their relationship to the text via “knowing” the author, in some sense. From author photos to social media accounts, there is an artificiality to the author’s persona, and yet readers searching for authenticity still attach to those artificial constructions, while some authors reach for authenticity through their own texts. It’s a complicated relationship that never seems to resolve itself one way or the other.
In 2016, an author undertakes the labor of self-accounting online. Of course it is possible to avoid self-accounting, just as it would have been possible for Capote, in 1948, to have written a novel that gave an open account of his life, but the demands of contemporary culture weigh against both. On social media authors fake themselves, drawing up accounts of themselves as digital objects, differently from the ways an author-figure can be constructed via the pages of a book. Dyer’s croissants made me and my friend feel cool as readers not only, perhaps, in the sense of being post-morally disengaged from the affective possibilities of the text (its characters, its language) but also in the McLuhanian sense, drawn into a critical game of constructing the author from a series of associated objects across different media, in this case crucially beyond the limits of the text. The game (as Federici says, the “perspective”) seemed the point. – Los Angeles Review of Books
Meeting an octopus with children’s book author Jan Brett – Jayne sent me this nifty article on the cool underwater culture of the octopi, and when I ran across this piece on Jan Brett’s octopi outreach, it seemed like a perfect match. It turns out that octopi are not solitary animals, and their cleverness and intelligence make them much more versatile than, uh, some fiction has suggested. Hey, we’ve had ‘muskrat love,’ why not octopi in love?
Brett is an animal lover, and her more than 40 books feature a menagerie of characters including badgers, polar bears, skunks and turtles. To help make her drawings more accurate, she tries to meet the animals that appear in her illustrations in person.
She said that in her experience, octopuses are most similar to elephants in terms of personality.
“They are both mischievous,” she said. “You always have to watch your back with an elephant, and I feel the same way with the octopus.” – Los Angeles Times
Book World: A colorful history of judging books by their covers – In light of the post on book covers last week, this review of Martin Salisbury’s history, The Illustrated Dust Jacket: 1920-1970, is particularly timely. While not everyone regards cover design as an independent art form, Salisbury’s book makes the case for cover art as art, especially in their power to shape and be shaped by reader experience and cultural forces.
The first dust jackets, known as “wrappers,” were not usually prized or conserved by their owners. The earliest ones existed quite literally to keep dust off cloth bindings. In fact, they were often discarded by shopkeepers as a courtesy upon purchase. But by the 1920s, as jackets became more colorful, they also became more meaningful to the reader’s experience.
Not all were pleased. Max Beerbohm wrote cantankerously of them “violently vying with one another for one’s attention, fiercely striving to outdo the rest in crudity of design and colour.” It is this supposed “crudity” that makes jackets, like that for Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (a book curiously missing from this volume), so desirable to collectors today. – SF Gate
Family Sends The Most Awkward Christmas Cards For 15 Years, And It’s Too Funny – I am of two minds about this – on the one hand, the creativity in these cards, and the hilarity of a family doing its own bad holiday cards is impressive. On the other hand, there are a couple of moments where the satire feels culturally insensitive (at best).
If you think you’ve already seen the funniest family Christmas card of the season, think again. Every year since 2003, the Bergeron family has been ringing in the holidays by producing the most clever and hilarious greeting cards we’ve ever seen, and just like the snow outside, they’re showing no signs of stopping.
Mike Bergeron, his wife Laura, and their two daughters known online as ‘Gigi’ and ‘Juju’ have made an annual tradition out of the refreshingly original photoshoots, and each December, they choose a new knee-slapping theme. Whether they draw on pop culture, local culture, or embarrassingly awkward family cards of yore, they always seem to pull it off as a team. Special credit is due, of course, to the JC Penney Portrait Studio, which has seen them all the way from ‘white trash Christmas’ to a full drag ensemble. – Bored Panda