Literary Fame is a Fleeting Moment

“The team also investigated the changing nature of fame over the past two centuries. By looking at the frequency of famous people’s names in literature, they showed that celebrities born in the mid-20th century tended to be younger and more famous than those of the 19th century, but their fame lasted for a shorter period of time. By 1950, celebrities were achieving fame, on average, when they were 29, compared with 43 for celebrities around 1800. “People are getting more famous than ever before,” wrote the researchers, “but are being forgotten more rapidly than ever.”

“Mark Twain is among the most famous writers and among the most famous people,” said Michel. “Among the American presidents, it’s Theodore Roosevelt.”

“Aiden warned against straightforward comparisons of historical figures, however. “It’s comparing apples and oranges comparing presidents from the mid to late 20th century and those that precede them. The reason is that they haven’t really had the full opportunity to reach the height of their fame trajectory. By virtue of having been around longer, someone in the mid-19th century is going to have accrued a lot of fame.”

“By the mid 20th century, the most famous actors tended to achieve fame at around 30 years of age, while writers had to wait until they were 40. For politicians, fame didn’t tend to happen until they reached 50 or above.”

“Science is a poor route to fame. Physicists and biologists eventually reached a similar level of fame as actors but it took them far longer,” wrote the researchers. “Alas, even at their peak, mathematicians tend not to be appreciated by the public.”

From: theguardian.com/science/2010/dec/16/google-tool-english-cultural-trends

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Bestsellers Bad for Reading Culture?

“Michael Dirda wrote about book best-seller lists for BookForum, calling them “bad for readers, bad for publishing, and bad for culture. Above all, despite appearances, the best-seller list isn’t populist; it’s elitist. If there are a dozen slots, six are filled by the same old establishment names. For every James Patterson novel on the list, that’s one fewer novel by someone else.” He continued:

The best-seller list functions, in essence, as a restraint of trade, a visible hand that crushes the life out of the literary marketplace. If one were to magically eliminate every form of the list, in print and online, as well as all those best-seller tables in Barnes & Noble, what would happen? People would spend more time browsing a bookstore’s stock, they would skim a page or two of various interesting-looking titles, and eventually they would plunk down their twenty dollars. In short, they would actively engage with a greater portion of our literary culture. Customers might even discuss their tastes with the shop’s owner or staff, who would actually recommend a few appropriate titles. Friends, neighbors, and colleagues might also suggest beloved novels, biographies, and poetry collections.

Without a best-seller list, authors would compete on something like a level playing field, while readers would buy the books that spoke most meaningfully to their particular interests and tastes rather than settling for the one-size-fits-all titles found in the back pages of the New York Times Book Review.”

From” salon.com/2014/06/22/casey_kasem_ronald_reagan_and_musics_1_percent_artificial_popularity_is_not_democracy/

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Writers as Activists

“If [...] creative writers, researchers, playwrights, artists and film-makers care more for how the posterity is going to judge their work and their times, then they should not care for publishers of the Establishments, funding agencies, interviews to corporate media, acceptance by ‘refereed journals’ and the so-called international awards, but should consciously orientate their work for directing the struggle to face its due target and for giving confidence and optimism to the masses”…

From:  tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=37252

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Writers Must be Involved in Every Struggle

“The indispensability of every struggle revolves around the collective intellectual pool … an “intellectual” is a person who produces literature – that is, a novelist, poet, dramatist or any other branch of literary genre. I think it is generally true that in all cultures writers have a separate, perhaps even more honorific place.

What are the responsibilities of the intellectual?

Writers and journalists have often been called upon to act as defenders of free speech … and sometimes have had to pay for their words with exile or with their lives. But their role is vital, especially in rousing opposition to dictatorial or otherwise illegitimate regimes. It is the job of the intellectual to give a voice to those who are unable to speak. As I see it, intellectuals are those who have diverse wisdom and foresight, who apply their intellect and forward-looking visions for the purpose of awakening society. They help to divert the masses from what is unwise and wrong toward what is righteous and the good.

Immanuel Kant believed that intellectuals must get involved.”

From: kashmirlife.net/vol06-issue12-3-60030/

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Warning: Literature Will Stir Your Mind

In “some American universities, novels such as The Great Gatsby and Mrs Dalloway are being tagged with “trigger warnings” alerting students to potentially disturbing material.”

“Why would anyone take an English literature course if they were so fragile they could not cope with the emotions great literature deals with? That is not the main issue, however. The problem with such tagging is that it grossly insults the book itself and literature in general. All other arguments against such overprotective coddling are as nothing to the sheer ignorance such a process displays for the art of writing.”

“Almost all first-class fiction revolves around painful issues of some sort. Trying to protect readers from the corrosive aspects of life is akin to sending a child out into the world without their vaccinations.”

…”writers are mirrors of their times, and a saintly novelist does not and never will exist. We read not to encounter perfect, politically correct or sanitised characters, but to enter the author’s imagined worlds, warts and all. Strip out all conflict or fear, prejudice or unpleasantness, violence, death or heartbreak, and you’d have nothing but Janet and John storybooks.”

From: heraldscotland.com/mobile/books-poetry/comment-debate/good-literature-can-disturb-get-over-it.24094002

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Political Will can Build Cultural Prosperity

“It should be noted that while one’s willingness to read is important, forging a reading-friendly environment is also crucial. From this viewpoint, efforts should be strengthened to build more libraries across the country ― hopefully to put every resident within walking distance of the facilities ― and to organize various events and programs aimed at establishing a strong reading culture. It may also serve this purpose to offer tax deductions on book purchases or provide book vouchers for low-income families, who put aside much less to spend on books.”

The “President [...] has advocated cultural prosperity as one of her key policy goals. Encouraging people to read more books will be the foundation for achieving it and building a society in which all people feel happy and find meaning in their lives.”

From: m.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140501000391

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Deep Reading a Cure for ADD

“Reading fiction, the researchers found, provides a chance to think things through “without concern for urgency” and lets readers think in ways not their own.

Reading, especially the reading of great literature, said Michael Sexson, MSU emeritus Regents Professor in English, is a kind of cure for the attention deficit disorder that seems to afflict everyone in our society, including himself.

“I’m not a Luddite by any means,” said the veteran professor and devoted tablet user. “I’m fascinated by technologies, in particular, communicative technologies.

“At the same time, I don’t think it’s amiss to be severely critical of the ways in which electronic technologies have provided us with so many more options than we’ve ever had before, to the point that these options become the choices of distractions.”

The kind of deep involvement, concentration and the ability to be informed on a productive level are, in his view, largely the result of reading books.”

From: montana.edu/mountainsandminds/article.php?article=12599&origin=news

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Books bring more happiness than money

“A new study by the UK’s Department for Culture Media and Sport shows that people can be just as happy going to the library as getting a £1,359 ($2,282) pay rise. The study, which examined the way in which our cultural engagement can affect overall wellbeing, found that frequent trips to the library gave us a similar feeling of wellbeing to things like the prospect of a pay rise, dancing, swimming and going to theater shows.

It’s unclear whether happy people go to the library or whether the library actually makes people happy. Either way though, it seems the library is where the happy people are at. Given that the UK, like the U.S., has seen many of its libraries closed over the past few years, perhaps this research should prompt a rethink about the worth of our libraries.”

More ways books make our lives better:

http://www.care2.com/causes/5-ways-books-improve-our-lives-and-make-us-better-people.html

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Reading = Personal Growth

“According to psychologists, there are two types of mindsets in the world; one, fixed and the other, growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities are all pre-determined and they tend to live proving their stagnant beliefs instead of disapproving or building the possibility for a positive change in their talents, behaviours or attitudes. A growth mindset is one that accepts failures as well as challenges without losing hope. It believes that intelligence is not decided at birth but cultivated over time.”

Reading books opens minds.

More on the mamy benefits of reading, including weight loss, creativity, mind flexibility: http://www.onlymyhealth.com/reading-reduces-waistline-no-kidding-1397729297

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Literature makes better leaders

A Harvard Professor teaches MBA students how to become moral leaders, and finds lessons in literature:

“the understanding of what makes a good leader starts with searching for truth in works of fiction.”

“It takes something really big to shape somebody … The reason literature can have that influence–these books kind of get under peoples’ skin.”

“Because you read these books, and you might see one of these characters and think, ‘That’s me.”

“I think what you get from serious literature is a warts-and-all view of people and people in leadership positions … In other words, the authors can be basically unsparing. The good stuff and bad stuff and the confused stuff going over (the characters’) heads, it’s all there. You can see it and learn from how these characters made decisions.”

“This course is intensely practical, if the term practical is understood to include preparation for living a morally responsible life … One of the goals of this course is to move you beyond your immediate reactions in challenging situations toward a more considered and analytical approach to moral and ethical decision-making.”

From: m.fastcompany.com/3029202/bottom-line/how-literature-creates-a-more-moral-future-ceo

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