Today in books and publishing: Fantasy author reflects on a significant encounter; Turkey's obscenity trial grinds on; Jared Diamond says Romney misinterpreted his book; first-edition Shakespeare goes digital.
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Guns, Germs and Steel author says Mitt Romney misinterpreted his book. It's always interesting to see what Presidents draw from books. Barack Obama was inspired by Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals to assemble a cabinet that doesn't always see eye-to-eye. Ronald Reagan's opinions about communism were informed to a large extent by Whittaker Chambers' Witness. On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has cited Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond's 1997 book about the development of modern civilizations, as one of his personal favorites. But the author himself thinks Romney misinterprets the book. Summarizing the book at a fundraising event in Jerusalem, Romney claimed that it "basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth." Diamond, writing in The New York Times, says, "That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it." [The New York Times]
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Piers Anthony recalls a good deed. This American Life recently ran a segment involving fantasy writer Piers Anthony. Twenty-five years ago, he was visited by an adrift 15-year-old who wanted to move in with him. The traveler had been trying to escape a family life and school environment that he couldn't stand anymore. Anthony was sympathetic, but had to insist that he return home. He drove the teenager to the airport, encouraging him to wrestle with and try to overcome all that he hated about his situation. The TAL piece was quite popular. Even The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates had some thoughts about it. The author received an outpouring of positive responses from listeners, many who'd never even read his work. "I just did what I felt was right at the time, as I would hope anyone would," Anthony writes on his blog. "I resolved as a child never to forget what it was like, and to try not to pass along the unfairnesses I saw adults rendering to children and each other." [Ogre's Den]
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Obscenity trial in Turkey drags on. William S. Burroughs' writing is no stranger to courtrooms. Throughout the '60s, Burroughs' groundbreaking novel Naked Lunch was dragged through obscenity trial after obscenity trial until, in 1966, the Massachusetts Supreme Court cleared it of all charges, forever changing censorship standards in American literature. But Burroughs' work is still mired in legal controversy, this time in Turkey. Turkish publishing house Sel recently put out a translation of Burroughs' The Soft Machine, and was quickly accused of promoting "attitudes that were permissive to crime by concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity." Now, Turkey is postponing the trial until 2015, telling publishers that any indecent material they publish going forward will be added to the trial. Bilge Sanci, executive editor at Sel, defiantly says, "The decision means nothing for us in the terms of our publishing policy. We will continue to publish the books that we intend to publish and we will stick to our schedule." [The Guardian]
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Speaking of William S. Burroughs... He was not a fan of In Cold Blood, and he let Truman Capote know it. In this disparaging letter, Burroughs also manages to call The New Yorker "an undercover reactionary periodical dedicated to the interests of vested American wealth." [Letters of Note]
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Digitizing the First Folio. Nearly 400 years after being printed, the first collection of William Shakespeare's plays isn't in the best shape. The Bodleian librarians who guard the First Folio in Oxford have to be extremely careful when handling what the British Museum's Jonathan Bate refers to as "the most important secular book in the history of the western world." Now, the Bodleian library is pursuing a new way to preserve the book for future generations. They've launched a campaign to digitize the it, and so far the attempt has financial backing from British celebrities like Stephen Fry and Vanessa Redgrave. [The Guardian]
Pumping up with poetry. Lots of athletes prep for competition by listening to high-adrenaline music. Some resort to shadier methods, liking steroids or pre-race blood transfusions. But Olympic swimmer Yannick Agnel has his own method. He gets in the zone by reading Baudelaire. [Melville House]
Is R Kelly for real? "Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, Kelly’s breezy, competently ghostwritten memoir, raises as many questions as it answers," writes Andrew Marantz in this New Yorker review. [The New Yorker]
How to get a refund on Imagine. Galleycat breaks down all the ways readers of Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine can get their money back. [Galleycat]