paper trail

Dec 17, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

Sheila Heti, photo from

The Observer investigates the curious lack of stateside interest in Toronto author Sheila Heti’s second novel, How Should a Person Be? (recently excerpted in n+1’s new issue, and only available from the Canadian indie-publisher House of Anansi Press.) n+1 co-editor Mark Greif wonders if the sex scenes in the novel are too frank, and adds: "If I had a publishing house, the first thing I would do is publish How Should a Person Be? . . . If a book like this, that is so visibly of our moment, can't be published in America, it makes me wonder, what do we even bother with literature for?"

Google’s Books Ngram Viewer allows users to search a collection of millions of digitized books to trace how words and phrases have moved in and out of favor over the years. For example, use of the word tofu saw a sharp uptick in the late 1970s and has died off considerably since 2001, while use of fascinating has remained fairly steady aside from a brief vogue in the 1930s. Wow! The greatest finding thus far, as Jacket Copy has discovered: “Love conquers all.”

Is your e-reader snooping on you? Most e-book devices can keep track of what you read, and (thanks to GPS) where you read it, but many of the devices’ manufacturers will not answer questions about how the data is used. The companies that will talk about privacy issues—such as Apple—offer unsettling answers, saying the data is sent to the company to “understand customers and customer behavior.”

An all-star chorus of authors, including Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Ames, Francine Prose, Sam Lipsyte, and others will be reading at “What the Dickens: A Christmas Carol Marathon” at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe this Sunday. Drop in any time after 1pm to get your requisite dose of Dickens’s holiday tale read by a cadre of cheery literati.