Links: Foot Traffic

The New York Times has a sad obituary for Charles Wright, who wrote three novels about black street life in New York City between the early ’60s and early ’70s; after that his life was largely defined by his alcoholism. Mercury House’s page for its reprint of 1966’s The Wig quotes from Ishmael Reed‘s introduction:

“Charles Wright’s THE WIG marked a change in African-American fiction. All of us who wanted to ‘experiment,’ as we were seeing our painter and musician friends experiment, used it as a model. Though some would call me the literary son of Ralph Ellison, in the 1960s I was the younger brother of Charles Wright.”

Henry Kisor, my old editor at the Chicago Sun-Times who’s now writing mysteries, gets a little testy at a proposal that authors boycott for the sake of preserving independent bookstores:

As an author I’m going to support whoever sells me. If an indie likes my book enough to put it in the front of the store and invites me to come and do an autographing, I’ll happily do so. So will I if the store is Barnes & Noble or Borders. And I will most certainly maintain my relationships with and other online retailers — before, during and after my books have sold through. That’s how the world, not just Main Street in Podunk, becomes — and stays — aware of them.

Lastly, I thought I didn’t need to read one more word on the Nobel Prize foofaraw, but Inside Higher Ed’s Scott McLemee does a nice job collecting assessments of it from a range of scholars, publishers, editors, writers, and bloggers. Including this bit from Stanford professor Franco Moretti:

“Engdahl seems to me to be perfectly right. But unfortunately I am traveling, and cannot do any better than that. Sorry.”

Bloodbath and Beyond

I’m no stranger to staff cutbacks, budget cuts, and whatever other slicing and dicing newspaper owners now feel they need to do to preserve profitability. (See here.) I’m sad to see what it’s done to my shop, and I feel bad as well for the folks at the Chicago Sun-Times, which has provided a home for a lot of my book reviews, interviews, and cultural pieces in recent years. That’s thanks to Henry Kisor, the paper’s former books editor–now retired but busily managing a successful career as a mystery author and blogger. Henry was generous enough to take a chance on me when I was just about to give up on doing cultural journalism, and I can’t imagine any young, ambitious critic would have the same kind of luck I did cold-calling the paper now; Henry’s post today has an accounting of some of the damage that’s already been done as the paper plans 30-some layoffs. Among the losses are Lloyd Sachs, one of the best cultural reporters in Chicago, and Avis Weathersbee, who, by all reports, defended the role of the the books section in the paper–clearly a thankless job in this decade.