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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Controversy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The Beat Podcasts! – Mike Dawson interview

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngRecorded at Publishers Weekly, it’s  More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s podcast  Heidi interviews comics creator, Tumblr personality and podcaster Mike Dawson, creator of Freddie & Me and Troop 142 about his trials as a mid-career creator, his recent Tumblr musings on the subject and the unexpected comics blogosphere notoriety that followed.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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2. The Beat Podcasts! More To Come – Exit the Batwoman… Creators

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.png

Straight from the offices of Publishers Weekly, it’s More to Come! Your podcast source of comics news and discussion starring The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s episode, Heidi and the rest of the More to Come Crew – Calvin Reid and Kate Fitzsimons – discuss Batwoman, J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and DC’s editorial interference issues, the revived Penny Arcade “Dickwolves” controversy and ramifications for PAX, iFanboy stops operations, Mark Waid turns print comics retailer, Heidi MacDonald gives a talk about less known influential graphic novels at the Library of Congress and much more in this podcast from PW Comics World.

Now tune in Saturdays for our regularly scheduled podcast!

Catch up with our previous podcasts or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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3. Making and mistaking martyrs

Jolyon Mitchell


A protestor holds a picture of a blood spattered Neda Agha-Soltan and another of a woman, Neda Soltani, who was widely misidentified as Neda Agha-Soltan.

It was agonizing, just a few weeks before publication of Martyrdom: A Very Short Introduction, to discover that there was a minor mistake in one of the captions. Especially frustrating, as it was too late to make the necessary correction to the first print run, though it will be repaired when the book is reprinted. New research had revealed the original mistake. The inaccuracy we had been given had circulated the web and had been published by numerous press agencies and journalists too. What precisely was wrong?

To answer this question it is necessary to go back to Iran. During one of the demonstrations in Tehran following the contested re-election of President Ahmadinejad in 2009, a young woman (Neda Agha-Soltan) stepped out of the car for some fresh air. A few moments later she was shot. As she lay on the ground dying her last moments were captured on film. These graphic pictures were then posted online. Within a few days these images had gone global. Soon demonstrators were using her blood-spattered face on posters protesting against the Iranian regime. Even though she had not intended to be a martyr, her death was turned into a martyrdom in Iran and around the world.

Many reports also placed another photo, purportedly of her looking healthy and flourishing, alongside the one of her bloodied face. It turns out that this was not actually her face but an image taken from the Facebook page of another Iranian with a similar name, Neda Soltani. This woman is still alive, but being incorrectly identified as the martyr has radically changed her life. She later described on BBC World Service (Outlook, 2 October 2012) and on BBC Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour, 22 October 2012) how she received hate mail and pressure from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence to support the claim that the other Neda was never killed. The visual error made it almost impossible for Soltani to stay in her home country. She fled Iran and was recently granted asylum in Germany. Neda Soltani has even written a book, entitled My Stolen Face, about her experience of being mistaken for a martyr.

The caption should therefore read something like: ‘A protestor holds a picture of a blood spattered Neda Agha-Soltan and another of a woman, Neda Soltani, who was widely misidentified as Neda Agha-Soltan.’ This mistake underlines how significant the role is of those who are left behind after a death. Martyrs are made. They are rarely, if ever, born. Communities remember, preserve, and elaborate upon fatal stories, sometimes turning them into martyrdoms. Neda’s actual death was commonly contested. Some members of the Iranian government described it as the result of a foreign conspiracy, while many others saw her as an innocent martyr. For these protestors she represents the tip of an iceberg of individuals who have recently lost their lives, their freedom, or their relatives in Iran. As such her death became the symbol of a wider protest movement.

This was also the case in several North African countries during the so-called Arab Spring. In Tunisia, in Algeria, and in Egypt the death of an individual was put to use soon after their passing. This is by no means a new phenomenon. Ancient, medieval, and early modern martyrdom stories are still retold, even if they were not captured on film. Tales of martyrdom have been regularly reiterated and amplified through a wide range of media. Woodcuts of martyrdoms from the sixteenth century, gruesome paintings from the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, photographs of executions from the nineteenth century, and fictional or documentary films from the twentieth century all contribute to the making of martyrs. Inevitably, martyrdom stories are elaborated upon. Like a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean, they collect barnacles of additional detail. These details may be rooted in history,unintentional mistakes, or simply fictional leaps of the imagination. There is an ongoing debate, for example, around Neda’s life and death. Was she a protestor? How old was she when she died? Who killed her? Was she a martyr?

Martyrdoms commonly attract controversy. One person’s ‘martyr’ is another person’s ‘accidental death’ or ‘suicide bomber’ or ‘terrorist’. One community’s ‘heroic saint’ who died a martyr’s death is another’s ‘pseudo-martyr’ who wasted their life for a false set of beliefs. Martyrs can become the subject of political debate as well as religious devotion. The remains of a well-known martyr can be viewed as holy or in some way sacred. At least one Russian czar, two English kings, and a French monarch have all been described after their death as martyrs.

Neda was neither royalty nor politician. She had a relatively ordinary life, but an extraordinary death. Neda is like so many other individuals who are turned into martyrs: it is by their demise that they are often remembered. In this way even the most ordinary individual can become a martyr to the living after their deaths. Preserving their memory becomes a communal practice, taking place on canvas, in stone, and most recently online. Interpretations, elaborations, and mistakes commonly cluster around martyrdom narratives. These memories can be used both to incite violence and to promote peace. How martyrs are made, remembered, and then used remains the responsibility of the living.

Jolyon Mitchell is Professor of Communications, Arts and Religion, Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI) and Deputy Director of the Institute for the Advanced Study in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh. He is author and editor of a wide range of books including most recently: Promoting Peace, Inciting Violence: The Role of Religion and Media (2012); and Martyrdom: A Very Short Introduction (2012).

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday!

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Image credit: A protestor holds a picture of a blood spattered Neda Agha-Soltan and another of a woman, Neda Soltani, who was widely misidentified as Neda Agha-Soltan, used in full page context of p.49, Martyrdom: A Very Short Introduction, by Jolyon Mitchell. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

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4. Why we are outraged: the New York Post photo controvery

By Barbara Zelizer


A New York Post photographer snaps a picture of a man as he is pushed to his death in front of a New York City subway. An anonymous blogger photographs a dying American ambassador as he is carried to hospital after an attack in Libya. Multiple images following a shooting at the Empire State Building show its victims across both social media and news outlets. A little over three months, three events, three pictures, three circles of outrage.

The most recent event involved a freelancer working for the New York Post who captured an image of a frantic Queens native as he tried futilely to escape an approaching train. Depicting the man clinging to the subway platform as the train sped toward him, the picture appeared on the Post’s front cover. Within hours, observers began deriding both the photographer and the newspaper: the photographer, they said, should have helped the man and avoided taking a picture, while earlier photos by him were critiqued for being soft and of insufficient news value; the newspaper, they continued, should not have displayed the picture, certainly not on its front cover, and its low status as a tabloid was trotted out as an object of collective sneering.

We have heard debates like this before — when pictures surfaced surrounding the deaths of leaders in the Middle East, the slaying of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, the shattering of those imperiled by numerous natural disasters, wars and acts of terror. Such pictures capture the agony of people facing their deaths, depicting the final moment of life in a way that draws viewers through a combination of empathy, voyeurism, and a recognition of sheer human anguish. But the debates that ensue over pictures of people about to die have less to do with the pictures, photographers or news publications that display them and more to do with the unresolved sentiments we have about what news pictures are for. Decisions about how best to accommodate pictures of impending death in the difficult events of the news inhabit a sliding rule of squeamishness, by which cries of appropriateness, decency and privacy are easily tossed about, but not always by the same people, for the same reasons or in any enduring or stable manner.

Pictures are powerful because they condense the complexity of difficult events into one small, memorable moment, a moment driven by high drama, public engagement, the imagination, the emotions and a sense of the contingent. No surprise, then, that what we feel about them is not ours alone. Responses to images in the news are complicated by a slew of moral, political and technological imperatives. And in order to show, see and engage with explicit pictures of death, impending or otherwise, all three parameters have to work in tandem: we need some degree of moral insistence to justify showing the pictures; we need political imperatives that mandate the importance of their being seen; and we need available technological opportunities that can easily facilitate their display. Though we presently have technology aplenty, our political and moral mandates change with circumstance. Consider, for instance, why it was okay to show and see Saddam Hussein about to die but not Daniel Pearl, to depict victims dying in the Asian tsunami but not those who jumped from the towers of 9/11. Suffice it to say that had the same picture of the New York City subway been taken in the 1940s, it would have generated professional acclaim, won awards, and become iconic.

At a time in which we readily see explicit images of death and violence all the time on television series, in fictional films and on the internet, we are troubled by the same graphic images in the news. We wouldn’t expect our news stories to keep from us the grisly details of difficult events out there in the world. We should expect no less from our news pictures.

Barbie Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Chair of Communication and the Director of the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of About to Die: How News Images Move the Public.  

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5. Why we are outraged: the New York Post photo controversy

By Barbie Zelizer


A New York Post photographer snaps a picture of a man as he is pushed to his death in front of a New York City subway. An anonymous blogger photographs a dying American ambassador as he is carried to hospital after an attack in Libya. Multiple images following a shooting at the Empire State Building show its victims across both social media and news outlets. A little over three months, three events, three pictures, three circles of outrage.

The most recent event involved a freelancer working for the New York Post who captured an image of a frantic Queens native as he tried futilely to escape an approaching train. Depicting the man clinging to the subway platform as the train sped toward him, the picture appeared on the Post’s front cover. Within hours, observers began deriding both the photographer and the newspaper: the photographer, they said, should have helped the man and avoided taking a picture, while earlier photos by him were critiqued for being soft and of insufficient news value; the newspaper, they continued, should not have displayed the picture, certainly not on its front cover, and its low status as a tabloid was trotted out as an object of collective sneering.

We have heard debates like this before — when pictures surfaced surrounding the deaths of leaders in the Middle East, the slaying of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, the shattering of those imperiled by numerous natural disasters, wars and acts of terror. Such pictures capture the agony of people facing their deaths, depicting the final moment of life in a way that draws viewers through a combination of empathy, voyeurism, and a recognition of sheer human anguish. But the debates that ensue over pictures of people about to die have less to do with the pictures, photographers or news publications that display them and more to do with the unresolved sentiments we have about what news pictures are for. Decisions about how best to accommodate pictures of impending death in the difficult events of the news inhabit a sliding rule of squeamishness, by which cries of appropriateness, decency and privacy are easily tossed about, but not always by the same people, for the same reasons or in any enduring or stable manner.

Pictures are powerful because they condense the complexity of difficult events into one small, memorable moment, a moment driven by high drama, public engagement, the imagination, the emotions and a sense of the contingent. No surprise, then, that what we feel about them is not ours alone. Responses to images in the news are complicated by a slew of moral, political and technological imperatives. And in order to show, see and engage with explicit pictures of death, impending or otherwise, all three parameters have to work in tandem: we need some degree of moral insistence to justify showing the pictures; we need political imperatives that mandate the importance of their being seen; and we need available technological opportunities that can easily facilitate their display. Though we presently have technology aplenty, our political and moral mandates change with circumstance. Consider, for instance, why it was okay to show and see Saddam Hussein about to die but not Daniel Pearl, to depict victims dying in the Asian tsunami but not those who jumped from the towers of 9/11. Suffice it to say that had the same picture of the New York City subway been taken in the 1940s, it would have generated professional acclaim, won awards, and become iconic.

At a time in which we readily see explicit images of death and violence all the time on television series, in fictional films and on the internet, we are troubled by the same graphic images in the news. We wouldn’t expect our news stories to keep from us the grisly details of difficult events out there in the world. We should expect no less from our news pictures.

Barbie Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Chair of Communication and the Director of the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of About to Die: How News Images Move the Public.  

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6. Monumental decisions

By Margot Minardi The new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC, attracted criticism from an unlikely corner recently when poet Maya Angelou complained that one of the inscriptions made the civil rights leader seem like an “arrogant twit.” In a sermon on “The Drum Major Instinct,” delivered two months before

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7. Is Tau Better Than Pi? Irrational Arguments

Happy Tau Day, the most exciting math holiday you’ve yet to discover! Today, June 28th is 6/28, which contains in order the first three digits of tau (τ), the rival of math’s most popular irrational number, pi (π). In 2001, Bob Palais wrote an article for The Mathematical Investigator called ,“π is wrong!” In it, he insists that the choice of using π in our mathematical formulas for hundreds of years is no good. He argues that the use of τ would simplify many formulas and its derivation is much more intuitive. (Notice that the symbol resembles that for pi, but with one "leg" instead of two.) The significance of our beloved irrational number π is that it is equal to the ratio of the circumference of any circle to its diameter--in notation, π = C/d. However, the most defining characteristic of a circle is not its diameter but its radius. A circle is defined as the collection of points on a plane that are exactly the same distance, its radius, from a point, its center. Palais argues that intuition should direct us to the use of a more elegant Circle Constant, tau, where τ is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius--in notation, τ = C/r. Self-described “notorious mathematical propagandist” Michael Hartl takes the argument even further in his now-famous “The Tau Manifesto,” which he published on Tau Day of 2010, exactly one year ago. He demonstrates with many adapted formulas that the factor of 2 is unnecessary if we incorporate it into the ratio itself. For instance, the periods of basic trigonometric functions f(x) = sin(x), and f(x) = cos(x), are in both cases 2π. Why not change them to tau instead? Palais and Hartl each list numerous other examples from calculus and physics, in which the factor of 2 is rendered obsolete by replacing 2π with τ. The really intuitive part is revealed if you think of angle measure. How things are done now with π, a half turn of the circle is π radians, and a full turn is 2π radians. Should we adopt τ instead, τ radians would be a full turn, τ/2 radians a half turn, τ/4 radians a quarter turn, and so on. There are, of course, instances where π appears un-doubled. For instance, the formula for area of a circle: A = πr2. Hartl shows, in a mathematically sophisticated way, that the replacement of π by τ even in this instance is the more sound choice, since it is analogous to similar formulas in physics. An article in today’s BBC News paints the issue as a violent conflict, with pi detractors up in arms over a lifetime of educational betrayal, which seems to this mathematician something of a manufactured controversy. (I can imagine you'd be upset if you are the sort of mathematician that has memorized pi to the nth digit. If you are one of these folks, here's the start for your new parlor trick: reciting tau, 6.283185307...)
Is it worthwhile to switch to tau use, an

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8. Mary McDonagh Murphy to Release Harper Lee Documentary

Filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy has created a new documentary about celebrated author Harper Lee entitled Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird.

According to Shelf Awareness, the film will feature interviews with Anna Quindlen, Tom Brokaw, James McBride, James Patterson, Wally Lamb, and Oprah Winfrey. Some of those celebrities can be seen in the trailer embedded above.

Initially, the film will have a limited release in New York City and Los Angeles starting May 13th with a nationwide release to follow. Last year, Murphy published Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird for the book’s 50th anniversary.

continued…

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9. Sexism in Children's Books?

I feel the need to weigh in on this, or at least to fling it out there. So apparently there's a new study out that says children's books are inherently sexist because of the disparity between female and male heroes. It was conducted at Florida State University and reported in the Daily Mail. Clippage? Don't mind if I do.

Overall, 31 per cent of the best-sellers featured a female lead character, compared to 57 per cent featuring a male. The remainder gave equal weight to a male and female protagonist, or had a gender-neutral character.
Hmm. Damning numbers, those. And yet, we've been bewailing the dearth of "boy books" for awhile now.

What to think? I think it's too late at night to be reasonably coherent about this, especially on the same day as a major program (head-to-toe pinata paste here, people. Hot tip: pack extra clothes).

Those of you in the trenches with me (hi!), be my brain. What do you think? Is sexism alive and well in the children's section? And here's more: do you think there are differences between different age levels? Are picture books more or less sexist than chapter books? Are different genres more or less sexist?

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10. ‘Why I Left My Children’ Author Generates Thousands of Comments

In her memoir (Hiroshima in the Morning) and personal essay (“Why I Left My Children“), author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explained why she left her husband and two sons (ages three and five at the time) to become a part-time parent.

The video embedded above features a Today Show clip with Rizzuto and relationship expert Argie Allen. A recent profile of the author on Shine generated more than 16,000 comments, 360 re-tweets on Twitter, and 75,000 “likes” on Facebook.

What do you think? Here’s an excerpt from the article: “In any case, it’s evident that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to motherhood. But does striking out on your own or being a ‘Hiroshima Mom’ take free-range parenting to an extreme?”

continued…

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11. 2012 Olympic logo irks Iran - World - CBC News

2012 Olympic logo irks Iran - World - CBC News:

Olympics logo LondonOnce again, an Olympics graphics controversy…. not my favorite design in any case, “zionist” or not.

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12. Christopher Smith Fights Homophobic Campaign

In October, film critic Christopher Smith (pictured) self-published the thriller, Fifth Avenue. When his book cracked Amazon’s top 10 bestseller list, he faced homophobic insults and death threats in a now-deleted post on an Amazon.com discussion board.

We caught up with Smith to talk about the controversy. Our interview follows below…

Q: Did you expect to deal with controversy when you put Fifth Avenue out there?

A: I did ask friends about a few specific scenes in the book and wondered if I should censor myself from telling the truth in those scenes. I don’t believe in censorship, so I decided not to self-censor, especially after reading Stieg Larsson‘s books, which can be brutal.

continued…

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13. Controversy Report: It’s a Book

I have an uncanny ability (see also: curse) to agree with both sides of an argument. Although I am an avid fan of sports programs where everyone yells their hastily-formed, yet brazenly unwavering opinions at each other, I personally try to avoid blowhard-ism at all costs. I try to see both sides.

Which is why I’ve waited to say anything about It’s a Book by Lane Smith, which has been stirring up a bit of controversy lately for its use of the word “Jackass”.

School Library Journal recently published a story describing the book and the hubbub surrounding it. Interesting stuff. Click the image below to read it.

Part of the reason I didn’t feel the need to chime in earlier is because others were covering the topic pretty well.

I agree with Philip Nel’s assertion that Smith’s word choice isn’t simply an “easy” joke.

I concur with What Adrienne Thinks About That’s belief that those who don’t like the book shouldn’t bother those who do.

I’m with MotherReader, who expressed that reading the conclusion with youngsters causes a certain level of discomfort.

I can’t argue with A Chair, a Fireplace & A Tea Cozy and Kids Lit who both say that the themes of It’s a Book make it better suited for readers who are older than the standard picture book audience.

So what do I think? I look at it from an elementary school librarian’s perspective. While I’ll certainly have this book around, I don’t see myself reading it aloud to a group. Am I a prude? Maybe. But I also am not a fan of using what is, in many families, an off-limits word in a group setting. Should the book be in libraries? Yes. Would I read it to my child? No question. And while I’m with Kirkus Reviews in calling the use of the word in question a bit “gratuitus”, there’s no real harm done here.

What say you?



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14. The Top 10 Banned Books I’ll Make Sure Kids Read

When I have children, these will be among the best books on their shelf, but people around the country have found them much more controversial.  So instead of saying “why not”, here’s WHY they are so great:

1. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell / The adorable true story of two male penguins in Central Park who, with the help of the zookeeper, hatch a beautiful baby daughter. While one of the most challenged books in 2008-2009, this may be my favorite story about a “modern family”.

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson / Victims should never be blamed or silenced, and anyone that sees rape as pornographic is severely disturbed. I was appalled at how Anderson’s novel was targeted last week. Teens should be encouraged to #SpeakLoudly… and they can get the courage to do so from this book.

3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling / Obviously.  Since I am the kind of person that labelled myself as a “Christian witch” when I was 12.

4. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary / If kids are reading the dictionary (even if it’s to look up the definition of “oral sex”), the only consequence is that they’ll probably do better on the SATs. Also, if your children have to look up what sex means, you probably need to work on your parenting skills.

5. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison / Ooh muttis and vatis may have a nervy spaz because Georgia’s diary contains gorgy sex gods, but if you cannot grasp the hilariosity, you are probably a wet tosser and in need of a duffing up. Now let’s go down the disco!

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15. Banned Book Week Ahoy

Banned Book Week is coming up again (huzzah?), which means that book banning is in the news. Banned Books Week happens one week a year, but that doesn't mean the banners and challengers and nay-sayers and finger-wavers go away for the other 51. Y'all, I puzzled over this deeply last year before realizing that when Banned Book Week is nigh, the reporters notice news of book banning more. Face, meet palm.

This week's book-banning news/reason for crawling under your bed and sobbing gently over the future of America comes to us from Missouri, where a university professor (I know. I know!) has decried the curriculum of his local school district. Under attack: sex ed (natch), and required reading, specifically the high school's, which asks students to read the Vonnegut anti-war classic Slaughterhouse-Five, Sarah Ockler's beautiful and sensitive Twenty-Boy Summer, and Laurie Halse Anderson's yes-yes-yes-it's-really-that-good Speak.

But you know what burns my butter? And that of a lot of other people? This quote:

In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography.

One such book is called "Speak." . . . As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.
Pornography.

Jeebus Christmas.

Some more facts about this prof: his children do not go to the school under attack. So apparently he's prompted by his deep sense of . . . community welfare? Or something? He was also a speaker at a recent seminar called "Reclaiming Missouri for Christ."

I am religious. Some of you know this, some of you don't. (Now you do.) It's very dismaying to see an entire group of people painted with the Crayyyy-zee Brush because some isolated members choose to use religion as a club. Y'know what? Most of us want to live our lives and love our neighbors, not batter them into a fine paste that can then be reshaped in our own image. There's only One who gets to do that, and trust me, Scroggins, you ain't Him.

Something fascinating and new this year is the amount of religious response to this book banning. Like this, from Paul, who writes his post as a dialogue between himself and Christ. This is the final line:
“Paul (I love it when Jesus calls me by my name), I got crucified by a mob. Mobs come from fear. And fear happens when you don’t trust people to think for themselves… For the love of God, give your kids the freaking books.”
Thanks to David Lubar for that link, which almost made me cry at work.

Laurie Halse Anderson's post on the challenge to Speak has some great links by which you can respond to Scroggins, the school board, and the news media in Republic, Missouri.

Author Shannon Hale, blogging from bedrest (the woman is expecting twins any day now and still blogs! Hard-core, Hale. Hard. Core.) had this to say:
"The purpose of literature is not to represent perfect characters, an ideal world, where everyone acts kindly and appropriately. There's no benefit to reading that story, there's no learning, no questioning, no growing for the reader. I want to share just one more thing about the power and importance of great books, and why we need them free and available in libraries."
She then quotes from another blogg

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16. FARENHEIT 451 redux

by Miriam

I was on vacation last week, trying to keep off e-mail and the internet, and failing on both counts. When I found myself needing a break from the non-stop thrills of The Hunger Games trilogy, I’d wander over to the computer and check out my favorite news sites to see what or who was going to hell now. Paris Hilton banned from Vegas? Jan Brewer smiling idiotically at the camera for an hour and a half or so in the worst debate ever? Stephen Hawking jumping on the Christopher Hitchens bandwagon and dissing God? (Well, it does seem to sell books….)

But then my pleasure reading dovetailed nicely with my need to keep up with the relentless news cycle. I was still savoring Collins’ wonderful referencing of Fahrenheit 451 in Mockingjay when I read about the Florida pastor who seems to think it a novel and fine idea to burn the Quran as a 9/11 protest and I was once again struck by the thought that it’s amazing that our civilization has managed to survive our seeming inability to learn anything from history. And, why is it that religious and political zealots always seem to vent their general hatred of humanity on books? From Savonarola to Hitler to all those crazy fundamentalists who feel threatened by the dictionary, it seems that every time someone’s pissed off about something, there’s a marshmallow roast at a literary bonfire.

Now, we here at DGLM try to stay out of the political fray as much as possible. One of the tenets of our business is the freedom of ideas and expression. Most of us who work in publishing understand that no matter how loathsome an idea it is necessary to defend its author’s right to communicate it. As readers, we can choose not to buy the book. Or, we can choose to debate and counter that author’s arguments and defeat his/her position with rational and well-conceived rebuttals. Everyone who has been a publishing professional for any length of time has occasionally had to be involved with the publication of a book whose message or viewpoint s/he did not agree with. And most of us are appalled when certain groups rally together to boycott or ban a certain title on political, religious or moral grounds.

The Florida pastor planning the latest book burning is just following in a long tradition of intolerance and ignorance. Clearly, he doesn’t understand that books, like phoenixes, rise from the flames of censorship. The Quran, the Bible, and the Torah, have survived many of these gory ceremonies and come back stronger than ever. As have Anne Frank, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, and Webster’s dictionary (last I heard they keep adding new words, some of them objectionable). Of course, that kind of attempted repression often (and perversely) makes for the premise of great literature.

What do you think? Is it ever okay to burn books?

11 Comments on FARENHEIT 451 redux, last added: 9/8/2010
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17. Lines being crossed

by Lauren

Jim, Miriam, Jessica have already tackled two of this late summer’s most hotly anticipated releases, but the one I’m most excited for is one that I’ve already read. Emma Donoghue’s Room is on the Booker longlist and recently came out in the UK, where it’s receiving some very nice reviews. My BEA galley made the rounds in this office and has also been read by many of my friends, even though it’s not released in the US till mid-September. No one could deny Donoghue’s genius.

Apparently, though, at least one person feels that the book’s quality as a work of fiction is irrelevant given that it’s inspired in part by real events. The idea for Room came from the idea that when Josef Fritzl was captured, the children his daughter had borne while his captive had never seen the world outside where they were held. The story isn’t about the Fritzl case, and it’s not (unfortunately) the only case of that nature, but Donoghue admits to getting the idea for the book because of it. Writing in the Guardian, Darragh McManus objects to using a major tragedy as inspiration for a fictional work, presuming, apparently, that it’s a cynical choice motivated by greed. McManus grants an exemption for those with personal ties (Maus is okay, because of Spiegelman’s father) and apparently reserves no such negative judgment for people writing about smaller, less “newsworthy” tragedies, which I suppose is for the best given that it’d leave novelists with precious little to write about.

I think that McManus’s conclusion in the piece really misses the mark, in that I don’t think Donoghue is doing those things he claims are the reason for his “no big tragedies” policy in his concluding paragraph. That aside, though, I’m just not convinced that it can reasonably be considered wrong to write novels based on real events. Can it be crass and cynical? Absolutely. Though I doubt that most people writing stories inspired by, say, the Holocaust are being deliberately, consciously manipulative, I’m certainly not beyond finding some of them to be schmaltzy and cheap. But for me, it doesn’t follow that they shouldn’t have done it because I happen to feel that way. I’m just not comfortable with the notions that a) anyone owns particular tragedies, b) some tragedies are more important or sacred than others, or c) we’d be well served by declining to fictionalize them. Novels are a large part of the way that we understand the past and process our feelings about it in the present. I can only imagine how much we’d lose of our understanding of life, death, and what came before us if we saved it for the history books that many never bother to read.

In this case, I’m taking the old standby: if McManus isn’t comfortable with it, he doesn’t have to read it, but that doesn’t mean Donoghue shouldn’t write it.

5 Comments on Lines being crossed, last added: 8/28/2010
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18. Dog receives communion - people outraged

NOTE TO SELF: SOME PEOPLE CAN BE SO UNCHARITABLE

So a man and his 5-year old pooch, Trapper, walk into an Anglican church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the man wants communion. Nothing wrong with that - right? Think so? The priest welcomed the pair and when it was time for the human to receive communion, his dog followed him. The priest, Margaret Rea, didn't see anything wrong with giving both human and pooch communion, an act which is causing an uproar.

Rea said she had nothing to add to the apology she has already offered to her congregation.

"The incident is done, it's over and I have no more comment about it," she told AFP. "I am not going to discuss anything about it."

Thing is, presumably, the offense is giving a non-human communion. One wonders if the Higher Power finds it as equally offensive as some church members. The whole incident has made some people smile but one parishioner took it further and filed a complaint with the Toronto Diocese.

There's a nice photo of Trapper who is luckily oblivious over the stir he caused here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100728/wl_canada_afp/canadareligionanimaloffbeat_20100728141055

0 Comments on Dog receives communion - people outraged as of 1/1/1900
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19. Reading forbidden material

by Rachel

With the recent release of Vladimir Nabokov’s never-before-published and not-quite-finished novel, The Original of Laura, I thought it might be interesting to touch on the debate that was brought about because of its publication.

After having written the incredible Lolita, and some of my all-time favorite short stories, Nabokov was working on The Original of Laura at the time of his death, in 1977. With strict instructions for his yet-to-be-finished novel to be burned upon his death, the manuscript was not burned, but rather placed in his wife’s hands, and then, upon her death, passed on to his son, Dimitri.
A great article on the matter was written by Ron Rosenbaum for the New York Observer back in 2005, pleading for Dimitri Nabokov to allow the manuscript to either be published or gather dust, but to never let it burn. I suggest you read the article to see just how passionate some people are in the literary world--the poor guy is at the point of panic towards the end of his article. So, I’m gathering he’s pleased now that Nabokov’s unfinished, semi-unauthorized work has finally been released.

Message boards have been filled with comments regarding the publication, and the topic was touched upon in morning news shows as well as in blogs and newspaper columns. Rosenbaum stated that Nabokov’s son, Dimitri, had a "responsibility to the literary world” to publish the “last fragments of his father’s genius."

Many questions arise from this debate: Did Dimitri really have a responsibility to publish his father’s work, despite being told not to? In Leland de la Durantaye’s Boston Review article, "Last Wishes," he writes that Vladimir Nabokov’s wife had to stop her husband from burning a draft of Lolita. Lolita! Was his son, then, afraid of a possible new masterpiece being overlooked, never to be appreciated?

With all these thoughts filling my head, I tend to get a little philosophical and start to wonder about the ethics of the situation. It’s certainly sad to think that another masterpiece could have stayed locked up in a safety-deposit box forever, but was it ok to go against Nabokov’s final request?

How much say or ownership can an author really have upon their death? And, do you think it’s ok to go against an author’s wishes for the sake of art?

7 Comments on Reading forbidden material, last added: 12/24/2009
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20. Oh, no. Not again!


So I guess there’s another Bloomsbury “coverfail” or “racefail” or whatever kind of fail you want to call it.

If you, like me a few minutes ago, haven’t caught wind of Chapter 2 get introduced here:
Really Bloomsbury? I’m Done. The Publishing World Needs to Take Note at Reading in Color.

Unlike some of the people who have blogged about the fail, I do not like this cover – it’s a run-of-the-mill, assembly line cover just like many, many other covers. It seems some marketing departments figure they’ve discovered the formula for selling lots of books. Boy, I like to think it’s not true.
Some have asked “where is the outrage” on this issue. I thought there was plenty of outrage with the first blog outing of a “racefail” cover. I guess not enough. I’m hoping this second run does the trick.

I, for one, will be looking to see/highlight people of color on more book covers. And real people, not just the beautiful ones.

6 Comments on Oh, no. Not again!, last added: 1/20/2010
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21. Cover controversies

by Michael

Nothing causes author duress like the unveiling of the book cover. In my experience, it’s one of the most stressful parts of the publishing process, and there are days when I wish we could go back to the days of unjacketed books, when the only thing to get fired up about would be the font type! I’m sure Bloomsbury Children’s Books is wishing the same thing right about now.

This past summer, Bloomsbury had a big controversy on their hands when people noticed that the cover model for the book Liar by Justine Larbalestier didn’t exactly match the description of Micah, the protagonist in the book. At first, Bloomsbury tried to explain away the decision, saying that this was somehow a reflection of the character’s compulsive lying. They eventually relented, and a new jacket was prepared in time for publication. Though there was some residual blogger anger, things simmered down.

Until Bloomsbury did the same thing again. This time with Jaclyn Dalmore’s Magic Under Glass (a great book, by the way). This time, there were no liars to blame. While the book describes the protagonist, Nimira, as “dark-skinned,” the cover depicts a fair-skinned, corseted girl. While people were upset about Liar, the reaction to this cover was scathing. Jezebel’s (linked above) headline read “The White-Washing of Young Adult Fiction Continues.” Some bloggers went so far as to call for a boycott of Bloomsbury, though they realized they’d be hurting the authors as much, if not more, than the publishing company. And there’s much more to read on the subject at Reading in Color, Bookshelves of Doom, and Chasing Ray, as well as many others (you could spend all day linking between the blogs—and I hope you do).

So why do I bring this up? I think it’s important that we’re all paying attention to the issues involved here, and by linking to these other smart people and their opinions, I hope to generate more good, healthy discussion. As Justine Larbalestier pointed out when the controversy erupted around her book, the reason this happens is that booksellers believe that books with people of color on the cover don’t sell. Yikes. I really don’t think that’s true, despite what people tell me. The publishing industry has neglected people of color in the past, claiming there was no audience for books by and for people of color. Can you imagine? They learned their lesson when authors started self-publishing and selling hundreds of thousands of copies of the books that the publishers turned down. And now those same authors do big business with New York publishers, making them millions.

I hope some progressive, enterprising publishers start to prove these booksellers wrong by designing covers that prominently feature people of color. And when one breaks out and becomes a huge bestseller, maybe we can stop being so cynical. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, and as always, let’s keep the conversation respectful and positive.

8 Comments on Cover controversies, last added: 1/26/2010
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22. What was Jeff Bezos thinking, or John Sargent is my hero

by Jane

Amazon’s recent move to remove the “buy” buttons for nearly all of Macmillan’s books including bestsellers, top releases, and Kindle editions was in my opinion incredibly short-sighted and could in the end really hurt the retailer. And now it seems it has backfired.

This move occurred during the same week that Steve Jobs and Apple launched the iPad which could compete head to head with the Kindle. Apple has met with at least five of the six major publishing giants with regard to pricing (of the Big Six, only Random House’s logo was missing from the iPad announcement, though they’re said to be in discussion with Apple). In this model, publishers will be able to set their own prices for books and pay a commission to Amazon, as opposed to the Kindle model where Amazon sets the price.

Now, John Sargent’s strategy has succeeded and Amazon has acknowledged that “ultimately, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms.” At the time of posting, they have not reinstated the “buy” buttons, but Amazon and Macmillan are in discussion. Certainly, the other publishers will follow suit here, which in my opinion is as it should be.

Hopefully, a lesson has been learned here. Amazon should not be bullying publishers. Rather we should all be working together in this electronic age to keep the publishing industry alive and healthy. There are too many people predicting the death of book publishing these days. We all need to work together to make sure this is far from the truth.

If you subscribe to Publishers Lunch Deluxe, you can see the whole story as it developed here.

9 Comments on What was Jeff Bezos thinking, or John Sargent is my hero, last added: 2/1/2010
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23. Author’s Guild Buy Button Site

In the recent controversy between Amazon and Macmillan over pricing of ebooks, Amazon took the unusual step of pulling all “buy buttons” from Macmillan books; that is, you couldn’t buy Macmillan books on Amazon.

WhoMovedMyBuyButton.com

(This is the text of an Author’s Guild announcement to its members, used by permission.)

The Authors Guild is pleased to announce the launch of WhoMovedMyBuyButton.com, which is now live in fully-functional beta form. Who Moved My Buy Button? allows authors to keep track of whether Amazon has removed the “buy buttons” from any of their books.

WMMBB_title

Simply register the ISBNs of any books you’d like monitored, and our web tool will check daily to make sure your buy buttons are safe and sound. If there’s a problem, we’ll e-mail you an alert.

Ongoing monitoring. Although we’ve launched WhoMovedMyBuyButton.com in response to Amazon’s wholesale removal of buy buttons from Macmillan titles, we believe Amazon should be monitored for years to come. Amazon’s developed quite a fondness for employing this draconian tactic (there’s a chronology at the website); it’s only grown bolder with its growing market clout.

Vigilance is called for: sounding off is our best collective defense. Register your ISBNs today — it’s free and open to all authors, Guild members and not. (Though we’d prefer you join.)

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24. The blown “publishing coup of the century”

by Jane

The majority of authors are concerned with having some control over the way their books are published. They (rightfully) want to have a say in the title, the quality of the paper, the look of the interior, and the cover art and design. And, often, publishers fight authors on these things–sometimes tooth and nail.

So when I read this piece in last week’s New York magazine, it was nice to see, for a change, what might happen when an author doesn’t maintain the control he wants over his book’s publication.

I would be interested to hear what you think.

10 Comments on The blown “publishing coup of the century”, last added: 4/13/2010
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25. Sunday grumble

Been doing a bit of reading on Laura Ingalls Wilder's portrayal of Native Americans in Little House on the Prairie, and if one more historian sees fit to remind me that "Wilder's genre was fiction -- and children's fiction at that," I'm going to blow a gasket.

1 Comments on Sunday grumble, last added: 7/28/2010
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