Archive for August 14th, 2011

The safest place to be in an unsafe time…

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

"Books are like kryptonite to thieves."

For five days, London stared into what CNN called “an abyss of anarchy.” Stores were burned and looted, businesses were trashed, except…

You guessed it:  the local bookstores. According to The Atlantic:

While the rioters in England this week have looted shops selling shoes, clothes, computers, and plasma televisions, they’ve curiously bypassed one particular piece of merchandise: books. The Economist observes that while rioters have a centuries-old history of book burning, “books are losing out to high-end jeans and Apple-made gadgets” in London, with the Waterstone’s bookstore chain emerging unscathed and the WH Smith chain reporting only one incident (some stores closed as a precaution).

I remember reading some years ago, that there was a surprisingly low rate of book theft at the Los Angeles Book Fair some years ago. Explained one of the fair’s organizers:  “Books are like kryptonite to thieves.” Seems to be true in 2011.

According to the Huffington Post:

All of which leads to an interesting question: did the bookstores survive because the rioters respect reading – or because they simply don’t care about books? Is this a positive or a negative sign for the future of the industry? Writer Patrick French tweeted his own hopeful theory: perhaps last night’s rioters only do their reading on Kindles.

Postscript on 8/15:  The well-read Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence has his own take on the riots today, with an historical slant, “Try to Burn a Piece of Granite.”

Portrait of the artist as a young woman

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

One of the misfortunes of late-blooming fame is that people remember you old.

But the long body of time equally remembers the young Julia Hartwig, the Polish poet, essayist, and translator who celebrates her 90th birthday today.

So let’s commemorate the day with his lovely portrait of the artist as a young woman.

Celebrations are being held in her native Lublin, and elsewhere in Poland as well.  Meanwhile, on this side of the ocean, you can catch up with my earlier post here, or catch my profile of her in the July/August World Literature Today, or catch a few video clips here.  Or go to the Web of Stories for more videos here.

Happy birthday, Julia.

because too may of those who distinguished
between what is permanent and ephemeral
have left

– from “Now”