paper trail

Nine million fewer books given as gifts...

In the UK, nine million fewer books were given as gifts in 2013. In the United States, gifts counted for 22 percent of book sales, a drop from 24 percent the year prior. Digital e-books counted for a quarter of all book purchases.

Forty-four states plus Washington DC have poet laureates or writer in residence positions, many of these dating from the past twenty years. Certain cities, including Boston and Los Angeles, have created similar posts. The roles of the poet laureates vary. Some have taken an activist role: Joseph Brodsky tried to get poetry books in every hotel room in the country; Rita Dove brought young poets from Washington to read their work at the Library of Congress. Sometimes they’re commissioned by the state to write commemorative poems. Billy Collins, asked to write a poem to be read before a joint session of Congress on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, said he had to resist the pressure to write a certain kind of poem, one mentioning “the first responders and their heroic job” and “something positive about the future of the country.”

Sarah Palin is launching a TV channel online—according to her, “a news channel that really is a lot more than news.”

At Salon, Jim Sleeper is annoyed by the hypocrisy of magazines who mainly employ the Ivy-educated but nonetheless join William Deresiewicz—whose book, Excellent Sheep, is forthcoming next month—in dismissing the Ivies. Sleeper wrote about Excellent Sheep for our summer issue. At In These Times, Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann also reviews the book, which offers a surprising amount of advice to would-be students. As the “small-bore counsel piles up . . . you realize that, for all his declamations, Deresiewicz remains obsessed with the fine-tuning of elite experience.” Instead, Lehmann advises, we should nationalize the Ivy League.

Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, explains how he works—including the notebooks he uses, the process by which he writes the show, and some of the software and hardware used in its production. Except for living a few blocks from where he works, he has “no time-saving tricks at all,” he insisted. The most challenging part of his work is moving among various tasks: “The new task is like icy water you have to dive into. The old task is a warm bath.”