Iraqi Students Aren't Reading Judy Blume

Today in books: Baghdad students don't like American books, zombies invade our literary fiction, popular fantasy author Anne McCaffrey has died, and Penguin stops its e-book library lending programs.


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Today in publishing and literature: Baghdad students don't like American books, zombies invade our literary fiction, popular fantasy author Anne McCaffrey has died, and Penguin stops its e-book library lending programs.

  • It turns out not that many Iraqi kids are interested in taking out a Judy Blume book from the library. Actually they aren't interested in any American books really. The New York Times's Tim Arango has a feature today on a corner of the Baghdad University library reserved for a collection of American books, carefully selected to project a positive image of the United States, and perhaps encourage Iraqi students to study here. "On a recent morning, this section was empty, as it is most days. As far as Kamal Yunis, a research librarian who oversees what is formally called the American Corner, can tell, no student has ever opened one of the books," Arango writes. We admit we aren't particularly surprised that the library's copy of de Tocqueville doesn't have a long waiting list, but they even threw some Tom Clancy in there! Page turners! Students are apparently not particularly keen on reading any books, let alone books in English, Arango says. At any rate, if your library is fresh out of copies of Democracy in America, head on over to Baghdad University.  [The New York Times]
  • America has already ceded much of its territorial claim to the insidious invasion of zombies: That's right zombies, you can have our genre fiction, our AMC shows, and our hearts. But we always figured literary fiction could remain hallowed ground, too snobby and concerned with throwing itself lavish parties to give in to the trend (except when mashing it up with Jane Austen, we suppose.) Not so, says The Guardian's Alison Flood. She reminds us of Code One, in which the acclaimed Colson Whitehead takes on a zombie-hunting plotline. And now, the literary Granta Magazine will publish a horror themed issue featuring a short story by Roberto Bolaño in which a narrator describes watching a zombie flick. So admittedly, the zombies are removed by several degrees of fiction here. But its enough for Flood to wonder whether there's a genuine trend developing. "Zombies: the top new literary fiction trope?" God, why won't this trend just die, already? Oh, right. [The Guardian]
  • Fans of fantasy fiction and friendly dragons are upset today to hear of the passing of Anne McCaffrey, who authored the popular "Dragonriders of Pern" series. The author died in Ireland at 85 after a stroke. She published the first in the "Dragonriders" series in 1968 and eventually made the New York Times bestseller list, carving out a new space in the fantasy fiction world. The Wall Street Journal's Christopher John Farley writes, "McCaffrey’s works featured both men and women as risk-taking heroes and heroines. Her blend of the sci-fi and fantasy genres was also unique and groundbreaking. McCaffrey was the first woman to win a Hugo Award and the first female to win a Nebula Award." On comment boards and blogs, fans are leaving nostalgic messages, recalling their love for her books. "The Pern series was one of my favourites as a kid and yes, of course I wanted a telepathic dragon," comments "Chuffy" on the Guardian site. Us, too, Chuffy. [The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian]
  • In today's installment of publishers versus Amazon, Penguin has announced it will not allow its new titles to be lent in e-book library programs and it will not allow libraries to lend any e-books to the Amazon Kindle. The publisher cited "security concerns," which people essentially interpret to mean "book sale concerns." Publishers worried over declining sales and revenues have long been at war with Amazon about e-book pricing and participation in library lending programs like Amazon Prime, which allows users to take out one free e-book a month. For non-Kindle users, Penguin titles already available in library collections aren't going anywhere, so users can still look for books like Sue Grafton's V for Vengeance. Yes, vengeance -- like the designs Penguin has for whoever invented these blasted e-readers in the first place ... [Huffington Post]
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