Of course, Words & Matter is a book news site, so we wanted to round up a few items of news for the past month (and a bit before), and then return to more regular updates.
You'll likely notice that there's a political context to most of what's mentioned below. But that's because books are playing a rather big part in the political conversation at the moment (although we suppose you can choose your own sphere of influence, but in any case). We present some book bits that might have been missed by you, as we missed the chance to write about them.
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that George Orwell's 1984 was selling like hot-cakes. Little wonder, given reference to the 'Orwellian nature' of things perceived (most specifically) to be occurring in the United States. Fake news, 'alternative facts' and other distortions or obstructions of truth do - of course - immediately bring 1984 to mind. But, as The Atlantic reports, 1984 isn't the only title which has experienced a recent boost in sales.
- The Winter of Our Discontent - John Steinbeck
- It Can't Happen Here - Sinclair Lewis
- Hillbilly Elegy - J.D Vance
- The Origins of Totalitarianism - Hannah Arendt
Every book broadens horizons, albeit perhaps not necessarily in an enjoyable way. Yet even the titles of these books serve to hint at a certain mood and reaching out for ideas. Uncertainty, wariness, and the seeking of understanding? Perhaps, or simply escapism with a stripe of modern relevance. These books may stand alone, but they're also an intriguing collective...
Push and pull
At the end of 2016, Milo Yiannopolous - who many believe shouldn't be given a platform due to his inciting of hatred - was given a book deal by Simon & Schuster. The deal with Threshhold Editions came with a $250,000 advance - a significant indication of expected reception.
At hearing the news, Twitter - from which Yiannopolous is permanently banned - lit up with comments from left and right ends of the political spectrum. "Free-speech" was the call from some supporters of the news. Others were...well, less impressed. Pullitzer prize-winner Karen Hunter stated she was reconsidering her own relationship with Simon & Schushter, and author Roxane Gay pulled publication of her own title How To Be Heard from publication.
Gay told BuzzFeed:
“I was supposed to turn the book in this month and I kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation.”
Simon & Schuster's view, and an 'explanation' of sorts about the decision to offer the deal through one of its imprints, has been published by BuzzFeed this month. In it Simon and Schuster's CEO, Carolyn Reidy, stated, "First and foremost, I want to make clear that we do not support or condone, nor will we publish, hate speech". The letter goes on to to fully lay out the publisher's view, and was even circulated to employees. A scan of the letter and the transcribed full text can be found here.
Responses to the 'Muslim ban'
The responses to President Trump's decision to block the arrival of nationals to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries were vociferous. We disagree with the block, and so too do many. Yet poet Kaveh Akbar took a direct, literary approach in response - tweeting poems by authors holding citizenship in the countries included in the block.
Our insert link tool is failing, so find Akbar's tweets at this URL (https://storify.com/WordsAndMatter/kaveh-ak):
Thought-provoking and beautiful pieces are included in the seven, and the sentiment from Akbar was marvellous too. Nikesh Shukla, author and editor of the The Good Immigrant anthology, also took to Twitter - while on a trip to the US - expressing his own anger at the news.
We with the final sentiment (that's not all), and we're glad he decided to stay and speak.
On that we come to an abrupt end of a bit of an impromptu, politically-edged round-up here. What's clear to us having written it, is that at the start of 2017 writing, communication, idea-sharing and ultimately books are as important as ever. More structured book-related sense is inbound. But we had to come back somehow.