Search Results for: most_recently_published

There Are Three Types of People Who Can Afford to Write Books

Several editors, agents, and authors told me that the money for serious fiction and nonfiction has eroded dramatically in recent years; advances on mid-list titles—books that are expected to sell modestly but whose quality gives them a strong chance of enduring—have declined by a quarter. These are the kinds of book that particularly benefit from the attention of editors and marketers, and that attract gifted people to publishing, despite the pitiful salaries. Without sufficient advances, many writers will not be able to undertake long, difficult, risky projects. Those who do so anyway will have to expend a lot of effort mastering the art of blowing their own horn. “Writing is being outsourced, because the only people who can afford to write books make money elsewhere—academics, rich people, celebrities,” Colin Robinson, a veteran publisher, said. “The real talent, the people who are writers because they happen to be really good at writing—they aren’t going to be able to afford to do it.”

Seven-figure bidding wars still break out over potential blockbusters, even though these battles often turn out to be follies. The quest for publishing profits in an economy of scarcity drives the money toward a few big books. So does the gradual disappearance of book reviewers and knowledgeable booksellers, whose enthusiasm might have rescued a book from drowning in obscurity. When consumers are overwhelmed with choices, some experts argue, they all tend to buy the same well-known thing.

George Packer, in The New Yorker, on Amazon and the book business. Read more from Packer.

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This Is Not Really the Worst Song of All Time

I’m not here to defend “We Built This City,” though I hardly think it’s the worst song of all time. Instead, I’m here to urge every music fan to dig deeper and interrogate his or her own definition of what makes a song terrible. I feel like we pile on “We Built This City” because it’s too feeble to fight back; because we as a community of music-lovers accept that it’s the worst song ever the way we accept that Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper or A Love Supreme or Blue or Blood on the Tracks is the best album ever. That is to say, we accept these opinions as truth because they’ve been accepted that way before most of us even got here.

NPR’s Stephen Thompson, in a short essay on All Songs Considered, questioning our society’s collective decision to hate Starship. Read more on pop music from the Longreads Archive.

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Regulating the $1.5 Billion E-Cigarette Industry

businessweek-ecigs

Even without the combustion, nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that narrows blood vessels and drives up blood pressure. Doing that a dozen times a day is less bad than getting lung cancer, but it’s still not great. Besides, there is no study on what inhaling those “generally recognized as safe” compounds might do to your lungs if you inhale them daily for a few decades. It’s hard to imagine that the health effects could be worse than setting something on fire and deliberately breathing the smoke. But they’re probably not as good as quitting. “The antismokers think we’re going to win—that we can get to zero tobacco,” says Kleiman. If that’s what you believe, then you’re likely to endorse stiff restrictions on e-cigarettes. On the other hand, if you think U.S. tobacco consumption will stay stubbornly stuck between 10 percent and 20 percent of the population for the foreseeable future—which means tobacco deaths will remain in the hundreds of thousands annually—you’re more likely to be agitating for the federal government to take a light hand, even if it means opening the door to the possibility of a renewed national mania for nicotine.

Among the FDA’s most difficult decisions will be determining whether e-cigarettes will be a gateway product, encouraging young smokers to develop a nicotine habit that might lead to tobacco use. After all, many of the things that make e-cigarettes attractive to smokers make them even more attractive to minors. It’s actually pretty unpleasant to start smoking—it causes dizziness, it causes coughing, and it usually takes kids a while to learn to inhale—but anyone can inhale e-cigarette vapor on the first puff. And since e-cigarettes don’t have much odor, they’re harder for parents to detect. During the debate over New York’s policy, a September report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing e-cigarette use on the rise among teenagers was prominently discussed. Spokesmen for Altria Group (MO), Reynolds American (RAI), and Lorillard—the Big Three of tobacco—are in agreement that children should be prevented from buying e-cigarettes, just as they are prevented from buying the regular kind.

Megan McArdle, in Bloomberg Businessweek, on the regulatory and health questions arising from e-cigarettes. Read more from Bloomberg Businessweek.

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A Think Piece About Think Pieces

Always pick sides! Team Aniston!! The internet demands it, even if it’s only half-thoughts it wants, thoughts like, “This, just this” or “This is everything.” “This” is not a sentence. Nor is “Best. Thing. Ever.” Nor “!!!!” But worse than inchoate enthusiasm is the “think piece” at the other end of the spectrum, a form of recreational sophistry usually in the service of some bullshit. Was Proust a Urologist? Girls, Not Bloomberg, Evicted Zuccotti Park. Does Breathing Make You Smarter? What Breaking Bad  Teaches Us About Building Brands. What Breaking Bad Teaches Us About the War on Drugs. What Breaking Bad Teaches Us About Toxic Relationships. (Those last three are real.) It makes you appreciate the listicle’s honest hypoambition; it’s the true slacker of internet forms. “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is a good listicle. It announces up front how little of your time it will waste.

We assert our right to not care about stuff, to not say anything, to opt out of debate over things that are silly and also things that are serious—because why pretend to have a strong opinion when we do not? Why are we being asked to participate in some imaginary game of Risk where we have to take a side? We welcome the re-emergence of politics in the wake of the financial crash, the restoration of sincerity as a legitimate adult posture. But already we see this new political sincerity morphing into a set of consumer values, up for easy exploitation. We are all cosmopolitans online, attentive to everything; but the internet is not one big General Assembly, and the controversies planted in establishment newspapers aren’t always the sort of problems that require the patient attention of a working group. Some opinions deserve radical stack (like #solidarityisforwhitewomen), but the glorified publicity stunts that dress up in opinion’s clothes to get viral distribution in the form of “debate” (Open Letters to Miley Cyrus) do not. We ought to be selective about who deserves our good faith. Some people duke it out to solve problems. Others pick fights for the spectacle, knowing we’ll stick around to watch. In the meantime they’ll sell us refreshments, as we loiter on the sideline, waiting to see which troll will out-troll his troll.

The Editors of n+1 on Internet rage, American rage, and Constitutional rights. Read more from n+1.

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What Goes On in Joaquin Phoenix's Head When He's Shooting a Movie

When I first started the film [“The Master”] — when I first read the script — there was a great deal of flashbacks where we actually saw all these injuries and these were things we were going to shoot; but as the film progressed we didn’t end up shooting those things so I’d kind of been developing this physical reaction to these things that I thought might be happening that we might be seeing but we weren’t no longer shooting them and seeing them, I imagine, because of budget.

That’s actually what I love about movies; like, when you start kind of investigating them and going into it, you realize that so much of it sometimes is just, like, luck. Because, you know, you just, you don’t know how it’s going to go and I think you just come up with these ideas and you’re just trying things and you don’t know what’s going to work, you don’t know what the final film is gonna be.

That’s why I always give credit to the directors because I feel like they’re the ones that are ultimately responsible for the performance.

Joaquin Phoenix, in a rare interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, on what you don’t see in the movies. Read more Fresh Air interviews.

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Photo: ssoosay, Flickr

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Twitter and the Self-Censorship Society

I don’t know if I care necessarily about other people’s reactions toward opinions. And I’m not even really talking about jokes. I get attacked for opinions. People get attacked for their likes and their dislikes. And mostly they get attacked for their dislikes because to be negative in the Twittersphere is akin to hate speech almost. [Tells the story of him tweeting something negative about Alice Munro] … The next morning when I woke up I noticed that I had some emails and that sometime during the night while I slept a thousand news agencies had picked up that tweet and I became the villain of the narrative of Alice Munro winning the Nobel.

Now, you can say, you know that kind of sucks, should I have done it? But then you get into this weird self-censoring thing and I’m not really interested in doing that. Yea, I had to deal with a lot of shit from people for a couple of days who felt I was attacking an 80-year-old Canadian woman when in fact I was just voicing an opinion; and that’s kind of the problem with Twitter, I guess, but only if you really care what other people think.

Bret Easton Ellis, talking to Chuck Klosterman about Twitter, Alice Munro and Miley Cyrus on his podcast. Read more on censorship and get more podcast picks.

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Longreads Best of 2013 Postscript: 'The Poorest Rich Kids in the World'

Above: Doris Duke

The Poorest Rich Kids in the World

Sabrina Rubin Erdely | Rolling Stone | August 2013 | 38 minutes (9,653 words)

 

Sabrina Rubin Erdely (@sabrinarerdely) is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.

I often deal with interview subjects who tell variations of the truth. People don’t usually out-and-out lie, although that happens from time to time. But memory is a flimsy thing. Even a clear-eyed subject gets details wrong: The sequence of events is off, a sweater was blue and not green, that sort of thing. And then there are those people whose emotions or perspectives have put a filter on their recollections, skewing it this way or that.

The teenage twins Georgia and Patterson Inman, heirs to the Duke fortune, were like an exponential version of that latter category. Their memories had been so warped by trauma that they actually couldn’t separate fact from fiction. I’d never encountered anything like it: Two people with shared memories of events which, to them, felt authentic—and much of which did check out as true—but some of which was implausible, and a few which turned out to be false. It was as though their minds were designed less for record-keeping, and more for coping with their tremendous pain—flexible tools which were bending in all directions in an effort to make sense of their pasts.

When I realized the way the twins were interweaving fact and fiction, with no clue they were doing so, I panicked. Double-sourcing wasn’t going to be enough to report this story; I needed to rethink my reporting methods, as well as the way I approached the writing, relying heavily on documents and secondary sources, and opting to include bits of questionable material as evidence of the kids’ shaky states of mind. After the article was published, the twins were worried I’d portrayed them as “liars,” which couldn’t have been farther from my intention. I know they had told me nothing but the truth, as best they could.

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Photo: Duke University Library

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Lust in the Golden Years

“Still, I decided, age alone was no basis for rejection. That’s exactly the basis on which I have been rejected many times. The bank, given my age, refused my request for a loan when, in my first year of renting, I found a small house I wanted to buy. The loan I could get—based on my future earning power—would have been a very small one and the down payment would have had to be enormous. On the street, the eyes of the young and not so young slid by me. I look my age. Nobody but someone even older than I wants to look my age. Nobody wants to be my age. I am too close to death for younger people to want to pay attention to me. People think it a great compliment to say to me, ‘You certainly don’t look your age.’ Well, what should my age look like? And if I did look my age, would I be unbearably ugly? Should I stay inside the rest of my life? Because I wasn’t going to look better, not ever. So, really, was I going to do the same with the men who answered my ad? No. It would take more than the age of the writer for a letter to hit the no pile. So it wasn’t Herb’s ‘Have Viagara, Will Travel’ that consigned him to the no pile; it was its brevity.”

-From A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance by Jane Juska, a memoir based on a simple ad taken out in The New York Review of Books: “BEFORE I TURN 67—next March—I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.” Read more on romance.

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Longreads Best of 2013: Best Life Lessons from Lindsay Lohan in a Feature Story

Longreads Pick

Jason Fagone (@jfagone) is the author of Ingenious, a book about modern-day inventors; his stories this year appeared in Wired, Philadelphia, Grantland, Men’s Journal, and NewYorker.com.

Source: Longreads
Published: Dec 6, 2013

Longreads Best of 2013: Best Life Lessons from Lindsay Lohan in a Feature Story

Jason Fagone (@jfagone) is the author of Ingenious, a book about modern-day inventors; his stories this year appeared in Wired, Philadelphia, Grantland, Men’s Journal, and NewYorker.com.

Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie

Stephen Rodrick | The New York Times Magazine | January 2013 | 31 minutes (7,752 words)

Steve is a good friend, but I don’t think anyone will accuse me of stacking the deck for picking his widely praised tale of the making of Lindsay Lohan’s “The Canyons.” It’s the story from this year I remember the best—not just because it’s a textured portrait of Lohan, one that made me feel for her and actually like her, but because there are so many indelible moments. Lohan crying in her room: “It began quietly, almost a whimper, but rose to a guttural howl. It was the sobbing of a child lost in the woods.” Lohan negotiating with a pack of paparazzi to clear room for a film shot at a mall: “Lohan turned to her good side and hiked her floor-length skirt up to show a little leg. ‘O.K., five, four, three, two, one. Now you have to go.'” And of course there’s the moment when director Paul Schrader, “the son of dour Calvinists,” takes off his clothes to make a stubborn, emotional Lohan feel more comfortable taking off hers for a film scene:

Naked, he walked toward Lohan.
“Lins, I want you to be comfortable. C’mon, let’s do this.”
Lohan shrieked.
“Paul!”
[Producer Braxton] Pope heard the scream and ran up from downstairs. He turned a corner, and there was a naked Schrader. Pope let out a “whoa” and slowly backed out of the room.
But then a funny thing happened. Lohan dropped her robe.

As detailed and wackadoo as this story is, there’s also something universal about it. We are all naked Schrader, coaxing and begging our inner Lohans.

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