Michael Silverblatt on books

Michael Silverblatt on the rebirth of indie publishers.

I'm going to twist the lid off a well-kept secret: Great new American writing isn't dead, it's just hiding. While mainstream publishers piss and moan about literary (it used to be called quality) fiction's flagging audience, their independent counterparts are experiencing an explosive rebirth, where thrilling new writing is being published practically every week. It's a renaissance1 of extraordinary proportions. But what's that? You haven't heard? Of course you haven't, because practically no one is writing about it.Some time ago, the publishing landscape changed, and stories about books became stories about business. Gone are the days of the gentlemen publishers-people whose interest in publishing shaped literary and literate culture-and it's the idlest of nostalgia to even think about them. Now, large international corporations own practically all the major American publishing houses, and their demands for mammoth sales have made it nearly impossible to publishsmall new books by emerging (and even established) writers. The considerations of the major companies are depressingly about the bottom line. Meanwhile, though, independent publishers are delivering books that matter. This is a call for a "Declaration of Independents." As readers we want to find the extraordinary new books and we don't care where they come from.I first noticed something was up when I read Chris Kraus' new novel Torpor, an amazing book by anyone's standards. It is explosively funny, pitting the death of a marriage against the death of art, culture, and Europe in a way that is so unusual that it essentially reinvents-then destroys-the bourgeois novel in a fell swoop. So where were the ecstatic reviews? Damn, where were the reviews at all? As usual, lazy reviewers, who only search the usual places for the usual things, overlooked it. Had they looked to the recently renewed and reinvigorated Semiotext(e), one of the most interesting presses of the '80s and '90s, they might have found Torpor. I did. Then I started to look around.From New York Review Books, consistently a magnificent source for literary rediscoveries, I found Grief Lessons, a new translation of four tragedies by Euripides by Anne Carson, one of the most interesting contemporary poets in North America. She provides spare, strange, and smart introductory essays and ends the volume with a speech by Euripides himself. He asks, "Is all anger sexual?" and quotes his own Hippolytus Unveiled: "Instead of fire-another fire / not just a drop of cunt sweat! is what we women are-/ you cannot fight it!" These are fierce, galvanizing, infuriating translations. Why aren't critics and scholars up in arms, cheering, or reopening questions about the relevance of Greek tragedy to our own wars, sexual and otherwise? Could it be that when Knopf, Carson's usual publisher, opted to stay away from Grief Lessons, the book was condemned to the lazy indifference of a book culture that doesn't know how to open its eyes and look around?We can't blame the readers, though-most of them probably don't even know these books exist. Even in book reviews, the independents are frequently marginalized4, when they are reviewed at all. Dismissed as obscure, experimental, nonlinear, or plotless, independent books are also hard to find: Some are published by subscription (incidentally, one of the best ways for a new press to fund itself); some are hard to find in stores. Another determining factor: Most independent presses can't afford to advertise.Of course, mainstream publishers are still publishing good books. I'm particularly high on All Aunt Hagar's Children, a devastating collection of stories by Edward P. Jones, published by Harper Collins' imprint Amistad Press. Against the Day, from Penguin Press, Thomas Pynchon's longest novel yet, is making me stay up night after night, breathlessly marveling at its daring inventions. Even as they publish important books, though, mainstream publishers regularly announce that the audience for literary fiction is dying, and every season they publish still less of it. As a result, year by year, the backlist of the commercial presses is being sold off; books by André Gide, William Faulkner, John Barth and William Gass are being sold to university and independent presses. Even worse, some are simply disappearing from print.In a landmark essay, the Situationist philosopher Guy Debord5 called "the society of the spectacle" a circle of self-appreciation in which "what appears is good, and what is good appears." Today, in the new jaded society of indifference to the spectacle, what is good disappears, and what appears is touted beyond its merits. The reasons are simple and, again, financial. For a major press, a book that sells fewer than 10,000 copies can't even repay a publisher's investment of capital and time. The independents can thrive off sales of 2,000.Buy a book at random, any book, from Dalkey Archive, Soft Skull, New York Review Books, McSweeney's, Semiotext(e), Coffee House, Les Figues, Archipelago, Akashic, Clear Cut, Copper Canyon, Graywolf, Make Now, Black Square, Wave Books, or from the great standard-bearers of independence, City Lights and New Directions. Consider the publishing climate today an opportunity to explore and develop your own taste, without the silly guidance of marketers and taste engineers. Best, when you buy a book from an independent press, you are supporting the efforts of altruists. Take care to remember that without altruism there is no culture. Besides, they provide the best example for the survival of culture: None of them publish junk.
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

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September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

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The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

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via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

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