Wednesday News: annotations, book clubs, libraries, and hot dog princesses
Down the Rabbit Hole: The rise, and rise, of literary annotation – An interesting article on literary annotations, particularly their recent re-popularization, especially for children’s literature. Evan Kindley points to the success of the website Genius, which began with annotations to rap songs, as part of the movement, and he uses the famous 20th C annotations to Alice in Wonderland by Martin Gardner to illustrate (it’s impossible to avoid these puns) the function and value of annotation. I think, given the move to offer enhanced, more interactive content, especially for electronic books, the (re)rise of annotation makes sense. But one thing Kindley doesn’t really address is the fact that annotation is also interpretive, and while it can lead to new understanding, it can also guide and even limit the reader’s imagination and engagement with the text.
What makes a good annotator? It’s some combination, apparently, of excess and restraint: an instinct for when to tell us more than we need to know (or more than we knew there was to know) balanced with a refusal to bore us. The obvious is, obviously, out: Most readers of Carroll probably won’t need to be told what croquet is, for instance. More difficult is distinguishing between an alluring obscurity and a total waste of time. Not all rabbit holes are worth going down. . . .
Annotation is a form of literary lingering: It allows us to prolong our experience with a favorite book, to hang around the world of a beloved text a bit longer. But it can also serve as a gateway, for younger readers, to the pleasures of scholarship, by pointing to a larger universe of knowledge beyond. – The New Republic
THE CLANDESTINE ADVENTURES OF ALICE IN SAUDI LAND – Speaking of Alice in Wonderland, Jasmine Bager writes about women’s book clubs in Saudi Arabia, where she grew up and now continues to visit, as her parents still live there. The essay is a different, but powerful, examination of the universality of stories and of the shared pleasures of engaging with them. And, in this case, the political significance of doing so in a cultural space where the government can ban books that are seen as “blasphemous.” As one club member remarks, “We believe that book clubs are incredibly relevant. Where else would we discuss Machiavelli, The Big Bang and Wonderland? This is the start of social change.” Change because this book club is not something to be taken for granted:
Tonight, the Kalimat Literary Book Club, a not-so-secret feminist society of sorts, is meeting in the sleepy city of Dhahran in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Our guest of honor won’t be joining us tonight, but you may have heard of her. A hundred and fifty years ago a book was written about her — Alice, whom resides in Wonderland. . . .
Saudi Arabia is still very much a sheltered society, but Saudi women are ready to talk about things, and in our own voices. There is a possibility of risk with the Internet at our fingertips. The book club could be shut down and the café’s employees might face deportation if a person who finds the club objectionable reports its existence to the authorities. Connecting to others and having our side told is more important than living in fear. – Narratively
Library builder’s monument of books – And returning to the theme of literacy and the universality of books, former Microsoft executive John Wood created a non-profit organization, Room to Read, that “works to eradicate child illiteracy and gender inequality in education,” by building libraries and donating the books. The organization’s original focus was Nepal, but they now operate in ten countries, and Wood works with local communities, including the education ministries, which often necessitates publishing their own books, ensuring that children are able to read materials in their own language.
It has published over a thousand children’s titles in dozens of languages, ranging from Chinayanja from Zambia to Khmer for Cambodia, and from Telugu in India to Xitsonga in South Africa. As far as possible they employ local authors, illustrators and publishers.
It has made Room to Read “one of the biggest publishers of children’s books you’ve never heard of”.
Despite his Microsoft background, Mr Wood remains unconvinced about the value of digital technology at this level of education.
Instead, the charity concentrates on the physical, sometimes literally concrete, resources. It has built 17,500 children’s libraries and over 1,000 complete schools. – BBC News
Disney Princesses Reimagined as Hot Dogs – And now from the lofty to the completely mundane (but not necessarily inane) food stylings of Anna Hezel & Gabriella Paiella. This post on their re-creation of Disney princesses as hot dogs hit almost two weeks ago, but it’s making the rounds again, and this time I actually decided to read the blog entry. Which is hilarious. Even better than the actual hot dog princesses. For example, the recipe instructs you to “Nestle each hot dog inside of a bun. This will keep them secure while you do unspeakable things to them.” And the fate of these poor hot dog princesses after they are finished is not for the faint of heart, either (or the dog with a condition like pancreatitis).
Literally any way you decide to reimagine Disney princesses will be inspiring and beautiful, no matter what. Nevermind that the Disney princesses are the product of a billion-dollar capitalist behemoth, or that they emphasize conventional beauty standards and submission to men. That’s nothing that a good listicle can’t gloss over. – Lucky Peach