Why Books Won’t Die: Critical Linking, September 20, 2019

Critical Linking is a daily roundup of the most interesting bookish links from around the web, sponsored by A Trick of Light by Stan Lee, published by HMH Books & Media.


“In hindsight, we can see how rarely one technology supersedes another: the rise of the podcast makes clear that video didn’t doom audio any more than radio ended reading. Yet in 1913, a journalist interviewing Thomas Edison on the future of motion pictures recounted the inventor declaring confidently that “books … will soon be obsolete in the public schools.” By 1927 a librarian could observe that “pessimistic defenders of the book … are wont to contrast the actual process of reading with the lazy and passive contemplation of the screen or listening to wireless, and to prophecy the death of the book.” And in 1966, Marshall McLuhan stuck books into a list of outdated antiques: “clotheslines, seams in stockings, books and jobs—all are obsolete.”

Books: can’t stop, won’t stop.


“Besides ‘The Nickel Boys,’ fiction nominees include immigrant stories such as Laila Lalami’s ‘The Other Americans,’ Valeria Luiselli’s ‘Lost Children Archive’ and Ocean Vuong’s ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.’ Nonfiction finalists include Patrick Radden Keefe’s ‘Say Nothing’ and Rachel Louise Snyder’s ‘No Visible Bruises. Angie Thomas’ ‘On the Come Up’ and Jerry Craft’s ‘New Kid were among the young readers’ nominees.”

Really digging this list of noms for the Kirkus Prize.


“Asked who her favorite storyteller is, she said, “My mother was the best storyteller I ever knew. If she was here right now she would take my microphone and say ‘Patricia can tell a good story’” — as evidenced by Smith’s stellar “Words and Music” retrospective show last fall, available on Audible — “‘but I have a few more.’ One of her most famous stories was when she met Nat King Cole when she was really young. She used to sing in jazz clubs and she went down to Atlantic City to an after-hours bars and this fella was playing piano” — which Smith pronounced “pianna” — “and then he sang ‘Tangerine,’ and my mother went up to him later and said, ‘You’re a great pianist but you should be a singer — you have a real way of singing.’ And she’d always save that for the [punchline] when she was telling that story: ‘And that man was Nat King Cole.’””

Patti Smith, everybody.

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