paper trail

The publishing crisis that wasn't; top tens to round out the year; Conrad's Heart of Darkness, illuminated

Donna Tartt

With eleven days left in the year, the New York Times’ book critics Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin, and Dwight Gardner have weighed in with their lists of favorite books from 2013, including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light, George Saunders’s Tenth of December, Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, and Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped.

In New England, a vendue is an auction. In the south, a mourner’s bench is a pew set aside for penitents in the front of a church. In the northwest, to hooky bob is to hold onto the back of a vehicle while being towed along across ice and snow. Welcome to the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), in the works since 1965, and now complete and available online, featuring 60,000 words drawn from more than a thousand different linguistic communities. More than a guide for distinguishing shades of meaning, however, the dictionary is a record of vanishing dialects: “DARE is valuable as a documentary rescue mission, in that the regional diversity it documents has been diluting since after World War II.”

At the Los Angeles Times, David L. Ulin calls bullshit on the publishing crisis: “This is the story, for me,” he writes, “that there is no story, or more accurately, that the panic that's defined publishing for the last several years has calmed." He then segues into a fine manifesto for reading: “Call it local, call it artisanal, call it slow reading: I call it a mechanism by which we are enlarged. That, in turn, goes back to why we read in the first place: not to be entertained or distracted but to be connected, to experience a world, a life, a set of emotions we might not otherwise get to know.”

Conrad illuminated: Boing Boing reports on a striking new edition of The Heart of Darkness, illustrated by the artist Matt Kish.

Nabokov vs. Vonnegut, Saul Bellow vs. Raymond Chandler: The Guardian wrestles with the question—Who is the greatest American novelist?—in this three-part series.

The ALCU is circulating an online petition, requesting that President Obama "grant Edward Snowden immunity now."