paper trail

May 25, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

Greil Marcus kills scare quotes dead.

BEA can blur past faster than a Kindle page-turn, leaving the bookish with the uneasy feeling that they've missed something, but now they can map the three day publishing maelstrom in advance with My BEA Show Planner.

"We" would like to "inform" you that scare quotes are "frightening," just "say" what you "mean." Greil Marcus, who recently co-edited the exhaustive A New Literary History of America, found scare quotes—"a narrative disease"—scattered throughout the more than two-hundred essays in the collection, and sees them as "a matter of a writer protecting himself or herself." When Marcus asked contributors if he could rid their texts of the protective punctuation marks, "they said, over and over, yes. It was as if we were disarming them of a weapon they had aimed at themselves."

Surely, there is a middle ground between paper and plastic: while plastic-based reading is advancing in these Silicon Valley-driven times, Stanford University may be a bit too early with its plans for a bookless library. Reference books are able to mix apps and digital content with quirky print titles. Even as rare book dealers become rarer, there are calls for those "who love books as beautiful objects of cultural history" to embrace digital publishing, because if you can't beat 'em, plug in.

The New York Review of Books weighs in on the iPad Revolution, explaining how readers get hooked: "one day, you find yourself housebound, and Wolf Hall has just won the Booker Prize, and you download a sample onto your iPhone, and just like with a book printed on paper you are pulled into the story and are grateful to be able to keep reading, and your resistance disappears."

Is the fierce hacker of the Steig Larsson trilogy a grown-up Lolita? As readers of Nabokov's classic know, Lolita (a.k.a. Mrs. Dolly Schiller) died in childbirth after she was freed from Humbert Humbert's lecherous hands, but if she hadn't, it is hard to imagine her fighting back as viciously as Lisbeth Salander. Thomas Matlack finds that Salander's revenge on her male tormentors may be what makes the Larsson trilogy so intriguing—it isn't the clock-work plots or flat-footed writing—and that Lisbeth's liberation "frees us all of the sexual exploitation that has come to plague not only the news headlines but our very lives." We imagine Nabokov chuckling at Lolita being drafted in service of Matlock's earnest argument, and we think he’d shudder at the comparison of Salander with his beloved Lo, as he once said, "There are some varieties of fiction that I never touch—mystery stories, for instance, which I abhor."