By popular demand, TeleRead Links will remain even if our links roundups won’t appear as often, or at a regular time. Our fare today:
1. This morning Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman finally reaches the public after 60 years (the Guardian). You can read the first chapter or hear Reese Witherspoon do so, read a favorable review and keep up with the reactions over at the Guardian.
The TeleRead take: I can’t wait to read the Kindle edition (Amazon buying link—to help us pay our writers). It’s available July 14. Here’s the first sentence of Watchman from the author of To Kill a Mockingbird: “Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose.”
I’m a sucker for novels with mentions of trains in them, and even if Ms. Lee’s prose style contrasts sharply with that of Thomas Wolfe, they both have written memorably of them. As for the use of “Negro”—well, remember that was the word at the time she wrote Watchman.
Wall Street Journal readers can also enjoy a free first chapter.
Update: Publisher’s Weekly says reactions to the book are mixed.
2. There’s a Surprising Number of Obscure eBook Readers Turning Up on Amazon (The Digital Reader).
The TeleRead take: “The ereaders come in a wild range of shapes and sizes,” says Nate Hoffelder, TDR’s editor in chief. “Most have 6″ screens (some even have frontlights with Pearl HD E-ink screens), but the model I find seriously tempting is the one with the 4.3″.” I always enjoy Nate’s excursions into the more exotic regions of e-bookdom. Check out this related video.
By the way, it’s indeed The Digital Reader again—not Ink, Bytes and Pixels. Thanks, Nate. TDR is much easier to remember even if the newer name more accurately described your blog in its current form. TeleRead itself goes far beyond books even though e-books are our main focus. We’re for techies who love books and booklovers who love gadgets.
3. Everything Science Knows About Reading on Screens (Fast Company).
The TeleRead take: More malarkey from academia by way of Fast Company. As usual, the focus is on the negatives, as opposed to ways people can read E more effectively. Michael Rosenwald, the WaPo staffer who so often has knocked e-books, might read this one with interest. By the way, I have new hope for him. We’re both following each other on Twitter right now. Thanks, Mike.
4. How Publishers Make Decisions about What to Publish: The Book PL (Jane Friedman).
The TeleRead take: Expert analysis here by a veteran industry observer and participant.
5. How the New York Public Library Is Bridging the Digital Divide (Huffington Post).
The TeleRead take: Even NYPL could be doing a lot more, but efforts there and at other public libraries are at least a start. The library has been distributing free portable hotspots to low-income people and is developing e-reader apps for the poor and other patrons to use.
6. How Authors Can Use Wattpad to Sell Books and Earn Money (RT Book Reviews).
The TeleRead take: Novelist Linda Poitevin tells how Wattpad freebies from her books helped spark sales. “I originally released Gwynneth Ever After as an ebook in June 2013, ten months before I began putting it up on Wattpad. During that time, the book sold a total of 314 copies across all platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBook). In the first nine weeks following its debut on Wattpad, it sold 399 copies. This was followed by sales of 100-350 copies per month for the entire duration of my Wattpad experiment.”
Will this work for every book? Hardly. Wattpad’s readers are mostly on the young side. I suspect that more than half are female. Those are not the best demographics for, say, the author of a male-narrated newspaper novel set several decades ago (notably, me). But for Ms. Poitevin, Wattpad was a great match.
Interesting that the first chapter seems to suggest the possibility of romance. That’s a surprise for many of us, but probably to be expected. Readers weren’t interest in racial reminiscences in the mid-fifties, but they were in romances.
At that time, I was growing up in Brewton, only 40 miles from the Monroeville (Maycomb) of her tale. Unlike her hometown, it was an actual stop on a major rail line, the L&N. You can find historic pictures of that rail era here.
In the latter, notice how young the boy traveling alone is. Compare that to our contemporary culture’s obsession with kids being kept in a protective bubble. Notice too that in that video the kids can entertain themselves without gadgets. It really was like that. I pity today’s kids.
Even as a little child, I knew the passenger rails were dying. My first grade class took a brief ride on one called the Hummingbird. It was much like she described.
Unfortunately, the illustrator for The Guardian’s sample chapter seems to have made no effort to discover what the rail scenery looks like. What he has looks more like Colorado than the pine woods and gently rolling hills of south Alabama.
–Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan
@Michael: Given your own Southern ties, beyond your lit creds, how’d you like to review the new Lee book for TeleRead in the context of both her first novel and the region itself? No pay, alas (I need to focus on the TeleRead staff), but I will PayPal you the cost of the e-book you buy if I can’t quickly scare up a review copy for you. No length limit. And if you want to make some relevant observations based on your own life down there, that’ll be all the better. Thanks. David
David, when I read the first chapter, I felt the same joy as you in the description of the train ride. I LOVE trains. When I was a kid, my mother and I took a train trip from New York City to San Francisco, then to New Mexico and New Orleans. From New Orleans we took a ship back to New York. Most fun ever.
@Mary: Thanks sharing your recollections. Yes, they evoked old memories.
Did I really ride a Kansas City Southern train pulled by a steam locomotive? Scary, if true, in terms of dating myself. But that’s my vague recollection.
Meanwhile I’m awaiting my copy of the “new” Lee novel–and my reaction to Atticus Finch as depicted there. Here’s an NYT review:
I deplore the racism of yore–and of today–but it’s just possible I’ll find the “Go Set a Watchman” to be more interesting to me personally than Mockingbird.
I’ve always preferred naturalism. And while I have fond memories of visits as a child to the Deep South, I am all too aware of the darker side of the region.
So, so tragic that it’s far from gone.
As for the Confederate flag taken down from the pole near near the statehouse, good riddance! Now–if my hometown of Alexandria, VA, can only move a Confederate statue there from the main street to an African American museum so people see it in context!
David, it’s probably best that I don’t do the review. I don’t want to ruin the book for others. That is why I have been muting my criticism. I’ve read the pre-release first chapter and wasn’t impressed. It sounds like a typical novelist’s first try.
Keep in mind that this first chapter also may not reflect the book as a whole. Leaks suggest her first book takes a more negative view of the dad, Atticus, in its late 1950s setting, than did Mockingbird, set in the mid-1930s. That will disappoint many people
OK, Michael–thanks. I would prefer to read the whole book before reaching conclusions. Either I’ll write the review myself or one of our staffers can. Meanwhile let me say that it is possible to compartmentalize art. We can admire Wagner’s music while understanding what a loathsome bigot he was. Similarly, while Harper Lee created both books, Finch fans like me can think of them as rather separate works–one reflecting an older, wiser Lee, as well as the wisdom of her editor. At the same time, as a fan of naturalism, I’m looking forward to the “South as it was” story. Room exists for both approaches.