Wednesday News: Wrinkle in Time, PHR grows, a book is a book, and hundred-year-old words
The Remarkable Influence of A Wrinkle in Time – A sweet tribute to Madeline L’Engle’s book, and in particular its impact on teen readers and the development of the strong, imperfect heroine. I did not know the publishing history of the book, but it makes an interesting comparison to the current state of mainstream publishing. L’Engle felt strongly that books should not speak down to younger readers, and she ended up winning a Newbery for her efforts.
Since its 1962 publication, Wrinkle has sold more than ten million copies and been turned into a graphic novel, an opera and two films, including an ambitious adaptation from the director Ava DuVernay due out in March. The book also kicked open the door for other bright young heroines and the amazingly lucrative franchises they appear in, from whip-smart Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter books to lethal Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games. Leonard Marcus, author of the L’Engle biography Listening for Madeleine, says Wrinkle “set the stage for the reception of Harry Potter in this country.” Previously, he says, science fiction and fantasy were suitable for high-end British authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien in Britain but in the States were relegated to pulp magazines and drugstore paperbacks. . . .
Publishers hated it. Every firm her agent turned to rejected the manuscript. One advised to “do a cutting job on it—by half.” Another complained “it’s something between an adult and juvenile novel.” Finally, a friend advised L’Engle to send it to one of the most prestigious houses of all, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. John Farrar liked the manuscript. A test reader he gave it to, though, was unimpressed: “I think this is the worst book I have ever read, it reminds me of TheWizard of Oz.” Yet FSG acquired it, and Hal Vursell, the book’s editor, talked it up in letters he sent to reviewers: “It’s distinctly odd, extremely well written,” he wrote to one, “and is going to make greater intellectual and emotional demands on 12 to 16 year olds than most formula fiction for this age group.” – Smithsonian Magazine
Hearst will sell its Rodale book division to Penguin Random House – If the Rodale name sounds familiar, it should be, since Romance author Maya Rodale is the daughter of Maria Rodale, who is CEO of the health-related publisher. Hearst is selling the book division, keeping the magazines and expanding their health and fitness holdings. In acquiring the Rodale book division, PRH gains titles including The South Beach Diet and An Inconvenient Truth. Given the growth in adult non-fiction, especially cookbooks and other health and wellness books (especially in print), this acquisition certainly seems to make sense, even as it causes more shake up in personnel.
But sources say they don’t expect any of the remaining 20 or so book people to be making the move, which means Editorial Director Jennifer Levesque and Publisher Gail Gonzales may be job hunting. Neither could be reached for comment.
On the magazine front, Hearst’s acquisition of Rodale gives it a larger footprint in the health-and-fitness category with Rodale’s Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention and Bicycling. – NY Post
Amazon works to reinvent the book, but is it really necessary? – Wow, that anemic Wired piece on Amazon’s book ambitions is still getting play, this time from John Warner, who makes the very sensible argument that books are already a kind of disruptive technology. I actually wish he had spent more time expounding on that point, especially since I think he kind of conflates digital books with non-book technologies, or at least places them on the same side of some artificial divide.
John Gardner argued that fiction should read like a “vivid and continuous dream,” and it is hard to imagine any kind of technological enhancement that would improve on what books deliver.
Books are already a virtual reality experience with the capability of separating us from our senses of time and place. This technology works on humans of every age, even from before we can read the words for ourselves. – Chicago Tribune
A Retrospect Of Words From 1918 – Merriam-Webster has one of my favorite Twitter accounts, and in general I think they’ve done a great job making dictionaries both accessible and interesting for people who may not be natural vocabulary buffs. I think my favorite word in this hundred-year list is dirty pool, but plaintext is interesting, too:
Nowadays, plaintext is the matter-of-fact name for unformatted computer text that is easy to edit or transmit. In its early days, the word was encountered in stories of espionage for communications not yet in cipher or code, or ones deciphered or decoded. . . .
In cryptology, when the plaintext is encrypted, it is called ciphertext, and the inverse operation of encryption is decryption. Like plaintext, the common computer terms encrypt and decrypt—as well as their related inflections—go back to the days of early 20th-century espionage. Encrypt dates to the 1940s and decrypt to the 1930s. – Merriam-Webster