Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oprah Romances Kindle and Kills Off Beauty

Linda the Designer (no relation to Joe the Plumber) was bemoaning how Oprah came out last week and announced her love for the artless cold aesthetic of the Kindle. The woman who singlehandedly made books relevant to the lives of millions of daytime TV watchers and generated untold millions of dollars for big US book publishers has told her audience to stop, don't buy a book, think of the trees you'll be saving instead by downloading everything you need onto a little plastic and silicon brick.

You get one font, but in lots of sizes! Text can be justified or not, your choice! That whole notion of giving life to the text by allowing room to breathe on the page, or suggesting an elegant argument with a classic typeface? Well, fuggadeboutit. The only thing a "designer" has to "design" now is how to deliver a pdf to the kindlemaker.

Am I unhappy? Not entirely. It'll be good to save the cost of fuel, not to mention the occasional tree. No more happy UPS delivery screwups!

But I'll miss the look and feel of the book, and the unique personality given it by its designer. With fewer aesthetic qualities to interfere with the message, maybe language will become more about content and less about the vehicle of transmission.

I suppose that could apply to human interactions as well. We say that we judge people on their deeds and their words, but that's not entirely true. We need to see and touch other humans to take their measure, to see if they're a good fit, believable, appealing, whatever. It'll be a while before a human kindle stirs Oprah into a froth of ecstasy, but I bet that day is not too far off.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's Sunday, thinking about wisdom and leadership

Okay, students, this question comes from this year's SAT: visual pattern recognition.

Of the three figures shown in the photo, which one does not belong with the other two?

(Quiz courtesy of Stone Bridge Press, your source for crazy wisdom.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ideas for authors to boost their visibility and power

I don’t usually do this, but I want to advise all authors (in particular Stone Bridge authors) that they click on the headline link or here to read a very succinct summary by Stephanie Chandler of things you can do to increase your online visibility and, ultimately, your sales and earnings. Very good stuff, and a fine “meta-ironic” example of an online article doing exactly what it is recommending to others. (Published on the Publishing Basics site.)

And it has also occurred to me . . . Why is it not enough to have just a book these days? Just a book! The market does demand it, but isn’t it a bit tiresome to keep drilling down and through the internet blogs and discussion groups and featured websites until there is nothing left to learn? Knowledge is an addiction; once you “like“ something it’s hard to stop pursuing it. Beyond a certain point, the whole viral marketing/blogosphere/webcentric hoohah may be just a non-nutritive excercise in feeding the brain’s sweet tooth.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Murakami at Berkeley this weekend; lecture + symposium

This past spring we published A Wild Haruki Chase: Reading Murakami Around the World. This book was compiled and edited by The Japan Foundation and contains an introduction by Jay Rubin as well as essays by Richard Powers, Shozo Fujii, Roland Kelts, and others, as well as a special essay on translation by Haruki Murakami. We're happy to announce that the book has been very well received, and we are now about to reprint it. (Copies may be in short supply, but should still be available on Amazon and in the bookshops that were farsighted enough to order them in the first place!)

And now, if you live in or near Berkeley, California, you can experience the Murakami phenomenon first hand!

As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Center for Japanese Studies, Haruki Murakami will present a reading and lecture in Japanese and English, to be followed by a conversation with Roland Kelts. The presentation will take place on Saturday, October 11, 2008, at Zellerbach Hall on the Berkeley campus.

From the event description: "The author's numerous works, which have been translated into 36 languages, lead the reader along the interstices between the mundane and the sublime. His work has been described as easily accessible, yet profoundly complex. Murakami's reading and lecture in Japanese and English will be followed by a conversation with Roland Kelts (Tokyo University lecturer and author of Japanamerica) and a question and answer period with the audience."

The next day, Sunday, October 12, at The Alumni House on the Cal Campus, there will be a special program examining Murakami's works in translation.

This event is free and open to the public.

Japanese Literature on the Global Stage
The Murakami Symposium
Sunday, October 12
10:00 AM-1:00 PM
Alumni House


"Crazed Translator Gives Japanese Author Excedrin Headache"
Jay Rubin (Harvard Univ.)

"Lost in Translation? Murakami Haruki and the Japanization of the English Language"
Rebecca Suter (Univ. of Sydney)

"A Spatial Odyssey or, It‚s All Greek to Me: East Meets West in Murakami Haruki's Kafka On the Shore"
Matthew Strecher (Winona State Univ.)

"Are There Any More Like You at Home? Cloning Murakami Haruki for the US Market"
Stephen Snyder (Middlebury College)

Moderated by H. Mack Horton (UC Berkeley) and Alan Tansman (UC Berkeley)