America: Now and Here, Modern Language Born in Southern Africa, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

According to new research, the origins of modern language lie in Southern Africa, just as the origins of humanity itself trace back to the region. The findings, from New Zealand biologist Quentin D. Atkinson, measured the number of phonemes—vowel and consonant sounds forming the basic elements of speech—in languages all over the world, and found the number of phonemes in a language diminishes proportionate to its distance from Southern Africa. Some tribal languages in the region have one hundred phonemes, while English has forty-five and the Hawaiian language—at a sort of tip of the human migration route from Africa—has only thirteen. (New York Times)

A scholar has discovered nearly three thousand handwritten pages from Walt Whitman in the National Archive in Washington, D.C. The papers are from his nine-year stint working as a government clerk, a job he got after being fired from the Indian Beaureau of the Department of the Interior for having a copy of Leaves of Grass on his desk and, therefore, being of questionable "moral character." (Guardian)

E-book sales increased in February faster than in January, with a 200 percent jump in sales reported by publishers while hardcover sales dropped 43 percent and mass-market paperbacks dropped 41 percent. E-books were the highest grossing segment in publishing over the month. (Publishers Weekly)

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villariagosa announced his intention to reopen the L.A. public library on Mondays, one of two days cut from library's schedule after budget changes in July 2010. (Jacket Copy)

The London Book Fair was "back with a vengeance" this year according to reports from publishers, agents, and editors compiled by the Bookseller. As one Simon & Schuster attendee remarked succinctly: "Post-volcanic ash, people have flocked to it."

In e-reader news, the Nook Color will soon be available for purchase at Staples (Slashgear), and Amazon has dropped the Kindle DX price by eighty dollars.

The America: Now and Here project will send poets, painters, filmmakers, playwrights, and musicians on a two-year trek by eighteen-wheel truck around the country to help America with its post-9/11 identity crisis. Organizer Eric Fischl says: “America doesn’t usually turn to its artists for help with something like that, but I actually think it’s something that artists do very well. And I thought, ‘If America won’t turn to its artists, then I know a lot of pretty famous artists and I’ll ask them to go out and do it themselves.’" (New York Times)

Check out this new Japanese restaurant in New York City called Brushstroke that has books for walls. (Gothamist)