Unprintable Books, Hong Kong Bookstore Sells Banned Titles, 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:

To counteract slowing e-book sales, one digital publisher is putting out “unprintable books.” Visual Editions, a London-based publishing company, has teamed up with Google Creative Lab to create Editions at Play, an online bookstore that sells e-books that feature interactive and multi-media experiences, and “cannot be printed.” “People like to talk about how physical books have qualities that don’t transfer well to digital,” says publisher Anna Gerber. “We want to show that digital books can have narrative and visual qualities that champion writing but can’t be transferred to print.” (Guardian)

NPR features a profile of bookseller Paul Tang, owner of the People’s Bookstore in Hong Kong. Tang sells books that are banned on China’s mainland—books critical of Chinese leadership, political sex scandals, and the like. “In theory, the mainland enjoys freedom of the press,” says Tang. “But in reality, we’re not allowed to mention these forbidden topics. So many mainland readers come looking for these books out of curiosity. To put it simply, over here, you can read the truth.”

“In short, the American reader of translated novels is predisposed to read a rather different, non-standard English.” At the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks examines the intimacy of diction lost in reading novels translated into English, prompted by his reading of two different English translations of Primo Levi’s novel The Truce.

T. S. Eliot was a big fan of detective fiction, and had quite a few ideas on what makes the genre great; for example, a good detective story must not “rely either upon occult phenomena or…discoveries made by lonely scientists,” and “elaborate and bizarre machinery is an irrelevance.” (New Yorker)

It has been twenty years since the publication of David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest, and the book, which is set in the near future, seemed to predict some of our present technologies—like Netflix, Selfies, and Smartphones—and “how these would usher in new anxieties.” (Telegraph)

Over at Brevity’s nonfiction blog, author Jill Talbot interviews Paul Lisicky about his new memoir, The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship. Lisicky talks about the evolution of the book’s structure, how form lends itself to content in the context of writing about loss, and the importance of including the reader in the process.

If you need a dose of writerly inspiration today, read best-selling science fiction author and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Octavia Butler’s 1988 letter to herself, which was recently published by the Huntington Library. “I shall be a best-selling writer,” she states. “So be it! I will find the way to do this. See to it! So be it! See to it!” Yes, be inspired! (Electric Literature)