Critical Linking for December 23rd, 2015

As much as I would love to duke it out over which contemporary literary character is in fact the most excellent, sometimes its important to weigh the merits of those characters who have already battled the ravages of time and come out on top.

You could argue all day about the Top Ten Most Timeless Literary Characters.

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Sometime around the beginning of the last century, the author Edward O’Brien was working on an anthology of short stories. He needed a system to rate the thousands of stories he read that year while compiling the book. He eventually settled on a star system—zero stars for a very bad story and three stars for an excellent one—and placed the starred list in the back of the very first edition of “The Best American Short Stories.” Within a few decades, the star system had caught on as a way to rate restaurants, theater, hotels and films.

Wild that the one to five star rating system was invented for literary needs, passed out of use for books, and then came roaring back in Amazon and Goodreads reviews.

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Quite simply, it’s an opportunity to provide something that big internet retailers cannot. First edition clubs typically emphasize literary quality, and the chance to build a meaningful library. Most stores emphasize proper first edition/first printings, and with the eager help of publishers many are able to secure signed first editions. In contrast, if you order a new book from an online behemoth you have absolutely no way to ensure you get a first printing — never mind the good chance your book will arrive all banged up.

On the rise of first edition subscription clubs.

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