It seems reasonable that I've never heard of "Stoner," a novel by John Williams.
It was published in 1965, when I was just graduating from high school and was heading off to read the likes of Shakespeare, Hemingway, Faulkner, Milton, Dickens -- folks in the great Western literature tradition.
Other than college-required materials I basically read nothing on the best-seller list from 1963 through 1980. Heck, I didn't even watch anything on television from 1972 through 1980. I was in two graduate programs.
So, no wonder I missed "Stoner."
Everyone else did, too, apparently.
Publishers Weekly recently reported, though, that "Stoner" is back -- at least overseas.
It's the No. 1 best-seller in the Netherlands. The Ducth edition, out in 2012, has more than 100,000 copies in print. And it's moving quickly in the rest of Europe.
Nobody knows why, except to say that it's a "perfect" novel about a man who gets out of school and goes to work.
It was highly praised when it first came out, and then quickly forgotten.
Now, I have the time. I just need to find the book.
Fortunately, I can take advantage of inter-library loan. So I have ordered "Stoner."
You can, too. Just drop by the library.
It's just taken 13 years for Stephen King to wake up.
In the year 2000, he jumped on the e-book bandwagon and allowed publication of a novel in digital format only, selling it online for $2.50.
Now, he's backing off.
He told The Wall Street Journal recently that his new book, called "Joyland," will not have a digital version.
"Maybe at some point," he's quoted as saying, "but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."
Wonder if that means the book will not be sold via Amazon, since that is not an "actual" bookstore in the traditional sense.
This is not a quibble.
King owes the publishing world more than an offhand comment. He perrsonally helped kill off America's bookstores.
So, it's a little late.
Except, then, it is all about getting a bigger cut of the cover price, isn't it?
-- Carroll Wilson, circulation librarian
About 30 years ago, I produced a piece for a television magazine program about the decline in the use of apostrophes in signs around the Amarillo area. (I was a TV reporter in Amarillo at the time.)
The problem was so widespread I had no trouble finding examples of confusion caused by the lack of these little devices.
Of course, nothing changed.
And nothing will change, according to two reports this week, one in "The Wall Street Journal" and the other posted at The Atlantic Wire by Jen Doll.
See, something called The Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names is in charge of assessing proper names of things like mountains and villages and historic sites around the country, and the board hates apostrophes. I don't know why.
I like apostrophes because I think they make things clearer at a small cost.
But, clarity just isn't that important any more -- especially in a world that texts and tweets everything, adopting acronyms and shortcuts for every word and phrase.
About which all one can do is rail until one is hoarse.
By Carroll Wilson
For years as a newspaper editor I tried to figure out how so many minor typos and similar errors got into print.
I did a number of experiments where I tried my best to control all the variables, and I finally concluded that the error rate increased when we moved to computer screens, away from typewriters.
I never did find any scientific evidence or study results showing this to be the source of the problem. But, I still firmly believe that there is some sort of disconnect between the working brain and the computer screen that keeps normally error-free people from seeing the mistakes they make. The same sort of problem keeps copy editors from finding errors in the work of others.
I'm certainly prepared to be shown that I have been wrong.
One other effect of the move toward computers and away from typewriters was this: reporters' work was less organized and longer when generated on a computer rather than a typewriter. It was as if they became less thoughtful as they joyously typed away on their stories.
So, I found it interesting that NBC Nightly News reported yesterday evening about a writing teacher in California, I believe, who has his kids do their composing, not on laptops, but on typewriters -- old-fashioned typewriters.
It seems that, like me, he believes that the kind of device affects the end product, and when the device is a computer the end product is not better but worse.
I think people are just more deliberate when they use a typewriter. They're more careful. They're more thoughtful, too.
How nice to know someone somewhere agrees with me.
Perhaps you've never heard of OpenStax College.
I had not heard of it until I ran across an article today at a library website.
OpenStax College is a book publisher based at Rice University, and among other things, I guess, it publishes college textbooks.
It's making news because OpenStax has announced that it will double the number of online textbooks it publishes by 2015, thanks to a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
The books are offered for FREE.
The grant will let OpenStax develop and post books in six subjects -- precalculus, chemistry, economics, U.S. history, psychology and statistics.
Ultimately, according to the article I read at Infodocket.com, OpenStax plans to offer books for 25 of the nation's most-attended college courses. The university estimates students would save $750 million over five years.
What a great thing for a university to be doing. Instead of holding students and their parents under until they blubber (or quit), here's a university trying to help their constituents out by reducing their costs substantially.
As I have mentioned here previously, the text for a college course I taught at UT-Austin in the spring of 2012 cost north of $100. I didn't require students to buy it, and because of that I spent a lot more time and trouble developing materials.
Not complaining. But, a text would have been nice to get into their hands.
Some day soon it's to be hoped that colleges will let their students use these OpenStax books and save all that money.
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