The Slow Death of the American Author
Author Scott Turow discusses the impact of a new Supreme Court decision to allow for the importation of foreign editions of American works into the US.
Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.
This may sound like a minor problem; authors already contend with an enormous domestic market for secondhand books. But it is the latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams. It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense.
Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.
Thoughts, dear readers?
According to the Times, The Guardian and other sources, Things Fall Apart author Chinua Achebe has died. Last October, we published a review of his final book, There Was a Country, which you might want to reread as a first step to considering his legacy. (You could also check out our piece on Things Fall Apart.)
At the LARB, Scott Korb interviews Rosie Schaap, who offers up a theory that bars and churches are both a kind of “sanctified space.” To get more insight, you could also check out her Rumpus interview, or even go watch her mix cocktails (above) with Kurt Andersen of NPR. (You could also just go buy her book.)
Ouch, right in the grammar!
“As the women gathered their things to leave, I asked if any of them liked poetry. As soon as the question was translated, a wisp of a woman leapt to her feet and began what looked like freestyle rapping in Pashto. She shook her bony shoulders to four-beat lines that ended in a rhyme of ‘ma’ or ‘na.’ Gulmakai was 22 but looked 45. She made up poems all the time, she explained, as she cooked and cleaned the house. She said,
‘Making love to an old man is like
Making love to a limp cornstalk blackened by fungus.’
The women roared with surprised laughter, which I, hearing the poem in translation, took a minute to understand (the first, sanitized version offered to me was something like ‘Being married is like corn’). ‘I know this is true,’ she announced. ‘My father married me to an old man when I was 15.’ She tried to say something else, but the workshop leader, a man, silenced her. Time was up. The participants needed to go home, or their families would worry.”
- Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry by Eliza Griswold