Bob Dylan Wins Nobel in Literature

bob-dylan

bob-dylan Blowin In the Wind…

Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel prize in literature, says the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius. Announcing the award on Thursday she says Dylan ‘created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’. He is the first songwriter to win the accolade and the first American to win since Toni Morrison in 1993.

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.

Now, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that elevates him into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.

Mr. Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and his selection on Thursday is perhaps the most radical choice in a history stretching back to 1901. In choosing a popular musician for the literary world’s highest honor, the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.

Some prominent writers celebrated Mr. Dylan’s literary achievements, including Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and Salman Rushdie, who called Mr. Dylan “the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition,” adding, “Great choice.”

But others called the academy’s decision misguided and questioned whether songwriting, however brilliant, rises to the level of literature.

“Bob Dylan winning a Nobel in Literature is like Mrs Fields being awarded 3 Michelin stars,” the novelist Rabih Alameddine wrote on Twitter. “This is almost as silly as Winston Churchill.”

Jodi Picoult, a best-selling novelist, snarkily asked, “I’m happy for Bob Dylan, #ButDoesThisMeanICanWinAGrammy?”

Many musicians praised the choice with a kind of awe. On Twitter, Rosanne Cash, the songwriter and daughter of Johnny Cash, wrote simply: “Holy mother of god. Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize.”

bob-dylan-nobel

Bob Dylan wins Nobel for Literature.

But some commentators bristled. Two youth-oriented websites, Pitchfork and Vice, both ran columns questioning whether Mr. Dylan was an appropriate choice for the Nobel.

As the writer of classic folk and protest songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” as well as Top 10 hits including “Like a Rolling Stone,” Mr. Dylan is an unusual Nobel winner. The first American to win the prize since Ms. Morrison in 1993, he is studied by Oxford dons and beloved by presidents.

Yet instead of appearing at the standard staid news conference arranged by a publisher, Mr. Dylan was in Las Vegas on Thursday for a performance at a theater there. By late afternoon, Mr. Dylan had not commented on the honor.

Mr. Dylan has often sprinkled literary allusions into his music and cited the influence of poetry on his lyrics, and has referenced Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and Ezra Pound. He has also published poetry and prose, including his 1971 collection, “Tarantula,” and “Chronicles: Volume One,” a memoir published in 2004. His collected lyrics from 1961-2012 are due out on Nov. 1 from Simon & Schuster.

Literary scholars have long debated whether Mr. Dylan’s lyrics can stand on their own as poetry, and an astonishing volume of academic work has been devoted to parsing his music. The Oxford Book of American Poetry included his song “Desolation Row,” in its 2006 edition, and Cambridge University Press released “The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan” in 2009, further cementing his reputation as a brilliant literary stylist.

Billy Collins, the former United States poet laureate, argued that Mr. Dylan deserved to be recognized not merely as a songwriter, but as a poet. “Most song lyrics don’t really hold up without the music, and they aren’t supposed to,” Mr. Collins said in an interview. “Bob Dylan is in the 2 percent club of songwriters whose lyrics are interesting on the page even without the harmonica and the guitar and his very distinctive voice. I think he does qualify as poetry.”

In giving the literature prize to Mr. Dylan, the academy may also be recognizing that the gap has closed between high art and more commercial creative forms.

“It’s literature, but it’s music, it’s performance, it’s art, it’s also highly commercial,” said David Hajdu, a music critic for The Nation who has written extensively about Mr. Dylan and his contemporaries. “The old categories of high and low art, they’ve been collapsing for a long time, but this is it being made official.”

In previous years, writers and publishers have grumbled that the prize often goes to obscure writers with clear political messages over more popular figures. But in choosing someone so well known, and so far outside of established literary traditions, the academy seems to have swung far into the other direction, bestowing prestige on a popular artist who already had plenty of it.

It’s not the first time it has stretched the definition of literature. In 1953, Winston Churchill received the prize, in part as recognition of the literary qualities of his soaring political speeches and “brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values,” according to the academy. And many were surprised last year, when the prize went to the Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, whose deeply reported narratives draw on oral history.

Mr. Dylan in Paris in 1987. Credit Bertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In its citation, the Swedish Academy credited Mr. Dylan with “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the 18-member academy, which called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” and compared him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was delivered orally. Asked if the decision to award the prize to a musician signaled a broadening in the definition of literature, Ms. Danius responded, “The times they are a-changing, perhaps.”

Mr. Dylan, whose original name is Robert Allen Zimmerman, was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minn. He emerged on the New York music scene in 1961 as an artist in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, singing protest songs and strumming an acoustic guitar in clubs and cafes in Greenwich Village.

But from the start, Mr. Dylan stood out for dazzling lyrics and an oblique songwriting style that made him a source of fascination for artists and critics. In 1963, the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart with a version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” whose ambiguous refrains evoked Ecclesiastes.

Researcher finds evidence that the ‘world’s most mysterious book’ is an elaborate hoax

Researcher finds evidence that the ‘world’s most mysterious book’ is an elaborate hoax
The plot thickens.

BEC CREW The Science Alert 23 SEP 2016

For hundreds of years, the world’s best cryptographers have dedicated their lives to solving the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript – a 15th century book written in a mysterious coded language that no one has ever managed to crack.

With an unknown author – and rumours that a young Leonardo da Vinci or even aliens could be behind it – the Voynich Manuscript has become the stuff of legend. But now new research suggests that the whole thing could just be one elaborate hoax.

Often referred to as the world’s most mysterious book, the Voynich Manuscript is filled with what appears to be an unfamiliar language or a coded text, and is illustrated with grotesque human figures and the tendrils of other-worldly plants blooming from the borders.

As the text could not be attributed to an author, it’s been named after Lithuanian antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich, who reportedly purchased it in 1912 from a collection of rare books in Italy, and was responsible for bringing it out of obscurity and into the public consciousness.

Since then, the book has never been replicated, and has been locked away in the vault of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Because of its age and incredible rarity, very few researchers have actually seen it in person.

“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” Juan Jose Garcia, director of the Spanish publishing house Siloe, told Agence France-Presse. “It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time … it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.”

As we reported last month, Garcia has finally been given permission to produce the first ever replicas of the Voynich Manuscript.

The hope is that when 898 exact copies of the manuscript are made available to the public in libraries and academic institutions around the world, someone – anyone – will finally crack the code.

But are we wasting our time trying?

Gordon Rugg of Keele University in the UK has spent more than a decade studying the Voynich Manuscript, and argues in a new paper that the elaborate ‘language’ in the text would have been easy to fake, if the author was familiar with a few simple coding techniques.

“We have known for years that the syllables are not random. What I’m saying is there are ways of producing gibberish which are not random in a statistical sense,” he told Rebecca Boyle from New Scientist.

“It’s a bit like rolling loaded dice. If you roll dice that are subtly loaded, they would come up with a six more often than you would expect, but not every time.”

The method Rugg proposes for coming up with a language based on gibberish that at least looks genuine is coming up with a whole range of gibberish symbols, and arranging them on a table like so:

voych-grid

On his table, he included symbols that appear to be the roots, prefixes, and suffixes of Voynichese words.

You’ll then have different ‘grilles’ – a piece of cardboard with holes cut in it – and the holes in these grilles will reveal a set of three gibberish symbols to produce a word.

If you move across the table, using grilles with different hole positions as you go, you’ll soon come up with many different combinations of syllables to produce whole Voynichese words.

Once Rugg had his results, he wanted to see if the text followed Zipf’s law, which describes the relative frequencies of words within a real written language.

As you can see in the graphs below, which compare his Voynichese selection to the Vulgate Latin translation of the Book of Esther and Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, he appears to have gotten his answer:

voych-grid-2
voych-grid-2
Rugg et. al.

voych-grid-1
voych-grid-1
Rugg et. al.

“If the words within a text are ranked from most common to least common, and their frequencies are then plotted on a histogram, then natural language texts typically show a nonlinear curve with a steep initial descent followed by leveling off to a long tail of words that only occur a few times within the text,” he writes in his paper.

“The text in the Voynich Manuscript shows this pattern and has a very similar curve to some real natural language texts.”

So is the legend dead after all this time? Well, not everyone is convinced by Rugg’s evidence.

Marcelo Montemurro from the University of Manchester in the UK, who wasn’t involved in the study, argues that the manuscript does contain meaningful text, based on his own statistical analysis comparing Voynichese words to several classic texts written in various languages.

He told New Scientist that the Voynich Manuscript text has far too many layers of complexity for a simple hoaxer to produce, and says he’s found statistical similarities between the botanical and pharmaceutical sections of the manuscript, and has been able to link the art to corresponding, indecipherable words.

“That means whoever made the hoax was aware of these subtle layers of structure that are very difficult to find just by looking at the text,” he says.

“We cannot say for certain whether it is a hoax, or hides a message. But we can say, whoever wants to propose that it is a hoax needs to explain how all of this can arise spontaneously without the author planning all these things.”

At this stage, the researchers will have to agree to disagree, because Rugg maintains that he’s demonstrated how simple it would be for the Voynich’s author to make gibberish look genuine, and the burden of proof now lies on the ‘true believers’ to demonstrate the veracity of this language.

But he admits, “I don’t think there will ever be a resolution that everybody will be happy with.”

As the replica publisher Garcia told the AFP last month, the mysterious author might have been a genius, but “could also have been a sadist, as he has us all wrapped up in this mystery”.

Rugg’s research has been published in Cryptologia.

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Tiny Spanish Publisher Clones World’s Most Mysterious Book

It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one — not even the best cryptographers — has cracked.
Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich Manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers.

Voynich_Manuscript

Voynich_Manuscript

The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale University’s Beinecke Library, emerging only occasionally.

But after a ten-year quest for access, Siloe, a small publishing house nestled deep in northern Spain, has secured the right to clone the document — to the delight of its director.
“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” says Juan Jose Garcia, sitting on the top floor of a book museum in the quaint centre of Burgos where Siloe’s office is, a few paved streets away from the city’s famed Gothic cathedral.

“It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time… it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.”
Eternal youth? Da Vinci?

Siloe, which specialises in making facsimiles of old manuscripts, has bought the rights to make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich — so faithful that every stain, hole, sewn-up tear in the parchment will be reproduced.

The company always publishes 898 replicas of each work it clones — a number which is a palindrome, or a figure that reads the same backwards or forwards — after the success of their first facsimile that they made 696 copies of another palindrome.

The publishing house plans to sell the facsimiles for €7,000 to €8,000 (USD 7,896 to USD 9,025) apiece once completed — and close to 300 people have already put in pre-orders.
Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke Library, said Yale decided to have facsimiles done because of the many people who want to consult the fragile manuscript.
“We thought that the facsimile would provide the look and feel of the original for those who were interested,” he said.

“It also enables libraries and museums to have a copy for instructional purposes and we will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested.”

The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.

Theories abound about who wrote it and what it means.

For a long time, it was believed to be the work of 13th century English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon whose interest in alchemy and magic landed him in jail.
But that theory was discarded when the manuscript was carbon dated and found to have originated between 1404 and 1438.

Others point to a young Leonardo da Vinci, someone who wrote in code to escape the Inquisition, an elaborate joke or even an alien who left the book behind when leaving Earth.
Its content is even more mysterious.

The plants drawn have never been identified, the astronomical charts don’t reveal much and neither do the women.

Does the book hold the key to eternal youth? Or is it a mere collection of herbal medicine and recipes?

Scores have tried to decode the Voynich, including top cryptologists such as William Friedman who helped break Japan’s “Purple” cipher during World War II.

But the only person to have made any headway is… Indiana Jones, who in a novel featuring the fictitious archeologist manages to crack it.

Fiction aside, the Beinecke Library gets thousands of emails every month from people claiming to have decoded it, says Rene Zandbergen, a space engineer who runs a recognized blog on the manuscript, which he has consulted several times.“More than 90 per cent of all the access to their digital library is only for the Voynich Manuscript,” he adds.

The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.

The art of cloning

Only slightly bigger than a paperback, the book contains over 200 pages including several large fold-outs.
It will take Siloe around 18 months to make the first facsimiles, in a painstaking process that started in April when a photographer took detailed snaps of the original in Yale.
Workers at Siloe are currently making mock-ups before they finally set about printing out the pages in a way that makes the script and drawings look like the real deal.
The paper they use — made from a paste developed by the company — has been given a special treatment so it feels like the stiff parchment used to write the Voynich.
Once printed, the pages are put together and made to look older.

All the imperfections are re-created using special tools in a process kept firmly secret by Garcia, who in his spare time has also tried his hand at cryptology.
“We call it the Voynich Challenge,” he says.

“My business partner… says the author of the Voynich could also have been a sadist, as he has us all wrapped up in this mystery.”

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‘Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu’: risking all to save rare manuscripts

Those of you who read this blog regularly may remember that the crisis regarding the manuscripts of the Timbuktu library which were in danger of being destroyed by an al-Qaeda group has been a concern of mine since I first learned of it a few years ago. Now a new book, just out, tells the story of the rescue of in excess of 377,000 manuscripts (work is currently underway to preserve the manuscripts as they were taken to an area with a wet climate). I have just downloaded the book to my Kindle and I will report back with a review – so check back for that…

By David Wright
Special to The Seattle Times

It has all the elements of a classic adventure novel. An intrepid librarian ventures across deserts and through jungles to unearth ancient manuscripts, building a great library in a legendary city, only to be forced to smuggle it book by book out from under the noses of brutal pillagers bent on destruction.

Yet despite its sensational title, Joshua Hammer’s “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu” (Simon & Schuster, 288 pp., $26) provides a sobering look at an ongoing human and cultural tragedy across the Arab world.

Hammer’s reportage highlights a lesser-known front in the ongoing struggle within Islam between the tolerant majority and fundamentalist jihadis, a situation too often framed as a contest between Islam and the West. It is a story that couldn’t be more timely, and yet the tumultuous history of Timbuktu shows just how far this cyclical struggle predates the Arab Spring.

In a golden era from the 14th to the 16th centuries, Timbuktu developed from a wealthy trading hub between north and sub-Saharan Africa into a cosmopolitan city renowned for its scholarly culture, preserved and celebrated in thousands of beautifully delineated manuscripts.

These intellectual treasures have been repeatedly suppressed and destroyed over the years, by repressive warlords and anti-Semitic purges in the 15th century, Moroccan invaders in the 16th century and a Sufi “jihad of the sword” in the 19th century. The colonizing French in 1894 administered the coup de grace, exporting precious manuscripts to European collections, but by that time Timbuktu’s cultural patrimony had largely — and often literally — gone underground.

Starting in 1984, librarian Abdel Kader Haidara devoted himself to restoring his city’s heritage. Prospecting for books for the Ahmed Baba Institute, Haidara managed to recover a staggering number of manuscripts that had been scattered across the region in private collections, cached away in trunks, and buried in pits and caves. Haidara’s intrepid adventures call to mind the medieval book hunters whose efforts to ferret out the forgotten writings of ancient Greece and Rome helped fuel the Renaissance across Europe, as described in Stephen Greenblatt’s 2011 award-winning book “The Swerve: How the Ancient World Became Modern.” Just as then, clouds of intolerance were gathering on the horizon, and now a new Savonarola was kindling bonfires of the vanities under the banners of al-Qaeda.

Hammer does a fairly good job of disentangling the complex factors that led up to the jihadi takeover of Northern Mali and Timbuktu in 2012, a chaotic mix of hostage taking, uneasy alliances between Tuareg rebels and Wahhabi extremists, and the law of unintended consequences of the Arab Spring, when al-Qaeda militants plundered Qaddafi’s abandoned armories.

What is made vividly clear to readers who may be apt to view terrorism as something that happens on U.S. or European soil is the pervasive terror experienced across the Islamic world when “the bearded ones” roll into town to “turn the clocks back fourteen hundred years.” It is against this horrifying backdrop of menacing oppression and summary brutality that Haidara and his associates decide to risk life and limb to save Timbuktu’s libraries from the flames.

There’s no need to reveal here just how these brave librarians and citizens managed to smuggle 377,000 intact manuscripts out of harm’s way past a brutal totalitarian regime, through lawless wilderness and war zones to Mali’s capital city of Bamako far to the south. Suffice it to say that they earn their “bad ass” sobriquet several times over. Riveting skullduggery, revealing history and current affairs combine in a compelling narrative with a rare happy ending. So far.

David Wright is a reader services librarian at the Seattle Public Library.

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World-Class Literary Works Reign At NY Antiquarian Book Fair

Source: Antiques and The Arts Weekley
Gate Up 25 Percent Over Last Year’s Event, Says Promoter Sanford Smith

NEW YORK CITY — Featuring more than 200 international dealers of rare books, maps, illuminated manuscripts, photographs, ephemera and singular items of historical interest, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair returned, perhaps one last time, to the Park Avenue Armory April 7–10. Produced by Sanford L. Smith + Associates, the fair is sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and its parent organization, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

This is a very good article with a great deal of insight and interest. Please be sure to click the link to read the article in full…

Click Here

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Prince Of Tides Author Pat Conroy Dies At 70

Source: NPR.org
Published March 5, 2016 12:20 AM ET
EMMA BOWMAN
BARBARA CAMPBELL
Richard Shiro/AP

Pat Conroy dies at 70.

Pat Conroy dies at 70.

Pat Conroy, author of best-selling novels including The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He had revealed the diagnosis — and vowed to fight it — just weeks ago.

Novelist Pat Conroy, who announced last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, has died, according to a statement from his publisher. Conroy was 70.
He announced his diagnosis on Facebook almost three weeks ago, saying “I intend to fight it hard.”

Today’s statement from Todd Doughty, executive director of publicity at Doubleday included comments from Conroy’s wife and his longtime editor:

“Conroy passed away this evening at his home in Beaufort, S.C., surrounded by family and loved ones. ‘The water is wide and he has now passed over,’
said his wife, novelist Cassandra Conroy. Funeral arrangements are currently being made at this time.

“Pat has been my beloved friend and author for 35 years, spanning his career from The Prince Of Tides to today,” said his longtime editor and publisher, Nan A. Talese of Doubleday. “He will be cherished as one of America’s favorite and bestselling writers, and I will miss him terribly,” Talese said.”

The Associated Press notes that four of Conway’s “novels of troubled relationships and dysfunctional families” were turned into movies, including his best-known books, The Great Santini and The Prince Of Tides.

“Conroy writes from his own experiences, as a child of a violent father,” said NPR’s Tom Vitale in a 1986 Morning Edition interview with the author. “Like his Prince Of Tides protagonist, Pat Conroy grappled with his own conflicted sense of identity, particularly as a Southerner”, Conroy told Vitale:

“I’m a military brat. My father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot from Chicago, Ill. I did not live in Southern towns, I lived on bases. I was a Roman Catholic, which is the strangest thing you can be in the South. Not only that, I married a Jewish woman from Bensonhurst. So when people refer to me as a Southerner … I liked it because I never had a home. It was the first name that was ever associated with me that put me in a place.”

Even 30 years later, Conroy’s determination to crack his identity hadn’t stopped. In the previously mentioned Facebook post, he added:

“I celebrated my 70th birthday in October and realized that I’ve spent my whole writing life trying to find out who I am and I don’t believe I’ve even come close. It was in Beaufort in sight of a river’s sinuous turn, and the movements of its dolphin-proud tides that I began to discover myself and where my life began at fifteen.”

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Harper Lee, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ author, dead at 89

Harper Lee

Source: By Todd Leopold, CNN
Updated 8:31 PM ET, Fri February 19, 2016

(CNN) Harper Lee, whose debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” immortalized her name with its story of justice and race in a small Southern town and became a classic of American literature, has died. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed Friday by the City Hall in Monroeville, Alabama, where she lived.

In a statement, Lee’s family said, “The family of Nelle Harper Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, announced today, with great sadness, that Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.”
Added nephew Hank Conner in the statement, “This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

Her publisher, HarperCollins, also released a statement. “The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness,” said the company’s president and publisher, Michael Morrison. “She lived her life the way she wanted to – in private – surrounded by books and the people who loved her. I will always cherish the time I spent with her.”

“Mockingbird,” which was published in 1960, was drawn from elements of Lee’s childhood in Monroeville. In steady prose shaded by memory and lyricism, she describes how an impulsive girl, Scout Finch, her older brother, Jem, their friend Dill and a variety of other townspeople get caught up in the case of Tom Robinson, a black man who’s been accused of rape in the Depression-era town of Maycomb, Alabama.

Through it all, no character is more indelible than that of Scout’s widower father, Atticus Finch. The scrupulous, fair-minded lawyer who defends the falsely accused Robinson in a racist courtroom set a standard for goodness and bravery that still resonates more than 50 years later.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand,” Atticus says to Scout at one point. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see through it no matter what.”

The book won the Pulitzer Prize, and Gregory Peck, who played Atticus in the acclaimed 1962 movie, earned an Oscar for best actor. Finch was named the greatest hero in movie history in a 2003 American Film Institute survey. His reputation is such that a 2010 poll by the American Bar Association Journal was titled “The 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers (Who Are Not Atticus Finch).”

An earlier draft of the book, titled “Go Set a Watchman,” was published in 2015. The book was criticized for a different portrayal of Atticus, who voices racist sentiments, and questions arose as to whether Lee actually wanted it released.

Despite mixed reviews, the book was one of the top sellers of 2015.

Throughout all this, Lee maintained a low profile. She had assisted her friend Truman Capote, the basis for Dill, while he researched his novel “In Cold Blood,” and though he reveled in the praise and fortune that came with fame, she resisted it.

“I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird,'” she told critic Roy Newquist for an interview published in 1964. “I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”

Even as “Mockingbird” became a fixture on high school reading lists and demands for her became ever more pronounced, she took shelter in New York and Alabama, hiding in plain sight. It wasn’t that she was reclusive, exactly; it’s that she preferred to let her work speak for itself.

At one event in her honor — and there were many — she was asked to address the audience at the Alabama Academy of Honor. She turned down the opportunity.
“Well, it’s better to be silent than be a fool,” she said.

‘I kept at it’

Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926. She was the youngest of five children born to Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch. Though A.C. was not a widower like Atticus, Lee’s mother was mentally ill, so she and her siblings were essentially raised by her father. The two became very close.

She met Truman Persons, who was two years older, as a child. The tomboyish Lee and the sometimes petulant Persons, who was sent away by his parents to spend his summers in Monroeville, became close friends and would spend hours reading and making up stories. Recognizing his daughter’s imaginative temperament, A.C. Lee gave her an Underwood typewriter. She carried it everywhere.

Lee attended the University of Alabama, including a short stint in law school, but didn’t finish. Instead, she moved to New York where Truman Persons, now Truman Capote, had established himself as one of the country’s leading writers.

Lee, too, wanted to write but had little time to pursue the vocation until a pair of Capote’s friends, Michael and Joy Brown, gave her a Christmas gift: They would pay all her expenses for a year. Lee took two to write “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Though the book seems effortless, she told Newquist it came in stops and starts.

“Naturally, you don’t sit down in ‘white hot inspiration’ and write with a burning flame in front of you,” she said. “But since I knew I could never be happy being anything but a writer, and ‘Mockingbird’ put itself together for me so accommodatingly, I kept at it because I knew it had to be my first novel, for better or for worse.”

After she finished “Mockingbird,” Capote — fresh off the success of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — invited her to assist him on a new project: the story of a murdered Kansas family, the Clutters. Lee became part secretary, part interviewer, part go-between for the flamboyant Capote. The work they did would become the foundation of Capote’s 1966 best-seller, “In Cold Blood.”

“Mockingbird” was published in July 1960 and became an immediate best-seller. Indeed, it’s never stopped selling; as of 2006, it had sold 30 million copies and moves a million more each year.
Lee was caught off guard by its success.

“I can’t say that (my reaction) was one of surprise. It was one of sheer numbness. It was like being hit over the head and knocked cold,” she told Newquist.
Book to screen

The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was optioned for a movie. Lee was wary of Hollywood’s attention but was allowed some input. Her choice for Atticus was Spencer Tracy, but he was unavailable. The studio’s first choice was Rock Hudson.

When Gregory Peck was chosen, he traveled to Monroeville to meet with Lee. He became so attuned to the role that Lee burst into tears the first time she saw him in character. The two became lifelong friends. After filming concluded, Lee gave the actor her father’s prized pocket watch; later, Peck’s grandson was named for the author.

The movie has been called “the best-ever book-to-screen adaptation.” It captured Lee’s world just right: the dilapidated homes, the county courthouse (built on a backlot but based on the actual Monroeville building) and, above all, her characters.

The performers who played Scout and Jem, Mary Badham and Philip Alford, were Alabama-born acting novices. Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson, broke away from the heavies he’d portrayed before landing the role. (More than five decades later, he would deliver the eulogy at Peck’s funeral.) Robert Duvall, who played the mysterious Boo Radley, was a screen newcomer. He would go on to a storied career.

With the success of the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” place in the culture was cemented. But Lee never followed up. She worked on a second novel but never finished it. Later she tried her hand at a true-crime book. That, too, would remain incomplete.

“Go Set a Watchman” was an earlier version of “Mockingbird.” The book engendered its share of controversy over concerns that Lee, by then in an assisted-living facility, hadn’t approved its release, despite a statement that she was “humbled and amazed that this will now be published.”

Regardless, “Mockingbird” was a career in itself.

The story was both a steady source of income and, eventually, somewhat of a millstone for Lee. She spent many years sharing a house in Monroeville with her sister, Alice, a centenarian who followed in her father’s footsteps as a lawyer. Strangers would knock on the door and ask for autographs. Lee sued a local museum over trademark infringement. She got caught up in a lawsuit in which she claimed she was “duped” into signing over the copyright to her book. The suit was settled in 2013.

Over the years, biographers and reporters would attempt to get close to Lee. For the most part, she resisted their blandishments, though one teacher, Charles Shields, wrote a 2006 biography, and a Midwestern journalist, Marja Mills, moved next door and eventually wrote a book, “The Mockingbird Next Door” (2014). By then, Harper Lee had suffered a stroke and both Lees needed more detailed care.

Nevertheless, there is no forgetting “Mockingbird.” The film lives on; it’s in the National Film Registry. Each year, Monroeville puts on a staged version of the story.
And, of course, there is the book, still selling, still being read, still moving many to tears.

The book, and its author, offer two qualities that are often in short supply: respect and restraint.

Perhaps there is no more moving example than a famous scene from the book and movie. Atticus Finch has just lost the rape trial. His client, Tom Robinson, will probably be put to death. In the balcony, Scout and Jem sit with Maycomb’s black community in stunned silence. As Atticus quietly leaves the courtroom, the Reverend Sykes, a local black leader, gets Scout’s attention. The citizens on the balcony are all standing. He urges her to do the same. “Miss Jean Louise,” he says, “stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

Lee never married and had no children.

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Van filled with $350,000 rare books stolen in Oakland

Moe's Books

Van filled with $350,000 rare books stolen in Oakland

Source: SFGate
By Jenna Lyons Published 4:51 pm, Friday, February 19, 2016

A man had a van with $350,000 worth of valuable books stolen from outside an Oakland home. It’s believed the men went to Moe’s Books in Berkeley to try to sell a few thousand dollars worth in novels.

Photo: John McMurtrie

A man had a van with $350,000 worth of valuable books stolen from outside an Oakland home. It’s believed the men went to Moe’s Books in Berkeley to try to sell a few thousand dollars worth in novels.

He’s been in the book dealing business for more than 15 years, but Lawrence Van De Carr said he’d never come across such a jewel of a title: a mint copy of Isaac Asimov’s 1950 classic “I, Robot” valued at $8,500. That novel, once a prized possession of Van De Carr’s, is now gone, along with around 400 of his other books worth well over $350,000. Someone stole his van filled with boxes of rare books while it was parked outside a friend’s Oakland home this week.

“The thing about that book is it was as new as the day it was published. Just a perfect, perfect copy. It glistened,” Van De Carr lamented.

“It’s my livelihood, it’s how I make a living,” added Van De Carr, owner of Bootlegger’s Books in Chicago. “Now, I have nothing.”

One suspect has been arrested, he said, but his van filled with novels penned by Faulkner, Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, among other famous authors, has not been found.

Van De Carr has spent more than a decade making several visits to the Bay Area for annual book fairs. Two every February, and two in every October. He just attended fairs in San Mateo and Pasadena, and like always, planned to stay with a friend in Oakland in February, avoiding the harsh winter in Chicago for at least a short while. He said he parked his silver 2008 Ford van outside his friend’s home Monday afternoon. But when he went outside Tuesday morning, it was gone.

First he called the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. The group sent out a warning to its network of book dealers to be on the lookout for the stolen books.
Van de Carr said he called Oakland police around 11 a.m. Monday to report the theft.

“Everyone was on the lookout for these books and sure enough someone showed up four hours later,” he said. Joshua Anderson, 30, went to Moe’s Books in Berkeley shortly after the bookseller’ association sent out an alert. He and an alleged accomplice had four books, valued around $14,000, that they were trying to sale, said John Wong, manager at the store.

Among the classic first-edition they were trying fence were “A Hornbook for Witches: Poems of Fantasy” by Leah Bodine Drake, one of only 563 known copies; “No Country for Old Men” by McCarthy, “Always Comes Evening” by Robert E. Howard, and “Pylon” by William Faulkner. The men said they got the valuable volumes from a deceased uncle, but Anthony, one of Wong’s employees, wasn’t buying it. “Anthony was suspicious because they had said they were left by their uncle,” Wong said, adding that he and his employees had just been made aware of the stolen books when the pair walked into Telegraph Avenue store.

Anthony, who did not want his last named used, stalled the men by sending them up to the fourth-floor rare books section, while he called police. When officers arrived, one of the men escaped through a back door, but Anderson ran out through the front, where he was caught and arrested, Wong said.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office online records show a man with the same name was arrested in Berkeley Tuesday on suspicion of making a false check and appropriating loss property, among other charges. Oakland Police would not comment on the case and Berkeley Police were not immediately available.

“We’re probably the largest open book shop in the Bay Area,” Wong said. “It’s probably natural they would have come here.”

The second man has yet to be apprehended, but he might still be trying to sell the books. Van de Carr said that after Anderson was arrested, he got a call from an El Cerrito bookstore reporting a man was there trying to sell rare books. He said he recognized the titles as those from this stolen van.

Now, Van de Carr, still without his car, is stranded in the Bay Area. He said he will wait until the end of the month before deciding whether to rent a car or fly back to Chicago. Police throughout the Bay Area have their eyes peel for Van de Carr’s 2008 silver Ford van with the Illinois license plate number E-91496.

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Mea Culpa – This Site Was down

Very sorry if you came to this site and it was not working. I just moved to a private server and the database crashed. I am working on some new posts so please check back. I am very glad you are visiting my site.

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Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth discovered inside copy of Lord of the Rings

Source: Guardian

finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years

Perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge…

A recently discovered map of Middle-earth annotated by JRR Tolkien reveals The Lord of the Rings author’s observation that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, and implies that the Italian city of Ravenna could be the inspiration behind the fictional city of Minas Tirith.

The map was found loose in a copy of the acclaimed illustrator Pauline Baynes’ copy of The Lord of the Rings. Baynes had removed the map from another edition of the novel as she began work on her own colour Map of Middle-earth for Tolkien, which would go on to be published by Allen & Unwin in 1970. Tolkien himself had then copiously annotated it in green ink and pencil, with Baynes adding her own notes to the document while she worked.

Blackwell’s, which is currently exhibiting the map in Oxford and selling it for £60,000, called it “an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least”.

It shows what Blackwell’s called “the exacting nature” of Tolkien’s creative vision: he corrects place names, provides extra ones, and gives Baynes a host of suggestions about the map’s various flora and fauna. Hobbiton, he notes, “ is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford”; Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.

The novelist also uses Belgrade, Cyprus, and Jerusalem as other reference points, and according to Blackwell’s suggests that “the city of Ravenna is the inspiration behind Minas Tirith – a key location in the third book of the Lord of The Rings trilogy”.

“The map shows how completely obsessed he was with the details. Anyone else interfered at their peril,” said Sian Wainwright at Blackwell’s. “He was tricky to work with, but very rewarding in the end.”

The notebooks reveal that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford

The notebooks reveal that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, and imply that the Italian city of Ravenna could be the inspiration behind Minas Tirith. Photograph: Blackwell’s Rare Books

Correspondence between Tolkien and the late and acclaimed illustrator Baynes, who also worked on books for CS Lewis, as well as Baynes’s unpublished diary entries, gives further details about the sometimes thorny relationship between the two. On 21 August 1969, Baynes describes a visit to Tolkien and his wife in Bournemouth, “to chat about a poster map I have to do – he very uncooperative”.

The author later apologies for having “been so dilatory”, and a later lunch sees the author “in great form – first names and kissing all round – and pleased with the map”.

Henry Gott, modern first editions specialist at Blackwell’s Rare Books, said the map was “an exciting and important discovery: new to scholarship (though its existence is implied by correspondence between the two), it demonstrates the care exercised by both in their mapping of Tolkien’s creative vision”.

“Before going on display in the shop this week, this had only ever been in private hands (Pauline Baynes’s for the majority of its existence). One of the points of interest is how much of a hand Tolkien had in the poster map; all of his suggestions, and there are many (the majority of the annotation on the map is his), are reflected in Baynes’s version,” said Gott. “The degree to which it is properly collaborative was not previously apparent, and couldn’t be without a document like this. Its importance is mostly to do with the insight it gives into that process.”

Blackwell’s is selling a range of works by Baynes, who died in 2008, aged 85, including a range of her original signed drawings from the Narnia books.

This article was amended on 23 October 2015. The map was not found by a Blackwell’s Rare Books specialist, but found in a book handed into the shop. This has been corrected.

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