Category Archives: Marginalia

Marginalia: BridgemanArt.com

 bridgeman

Some months ago we wrote about the party thrown at the Museum of Sex by the Bridgeman Art Library to celebrate the launch of their revamped website. This gave us an opportunity for plenty of puerile humor, but we never followed up afterward to let you know: how did the site turn out, anyway?

Very well, we are pleased to report; a tour of the new BridgemanArt.com has left us thoroughly satisfied with its handsome design and improved usability. The homepage is dominated by a large-scale slide show of images from the collection, all quite striking (the opening image was originally Collier’s Lady Godiva, as though in continuation of the “Sex in Art” theme of their party; we hope they’ll rotate that one back in at some point, as it made for a stirring first impression). The site is noticeably easier to navigate than its former incarnation, and the collection itself, as always, is superb. We think both will be of great practical use to authors and publishers looking to stock their books with beautiful and difficult-to-find old pictures; certainly we have turned to Bridgeman for numerous projects in the past, and will continue to do so.

Oh, and the article we wrote on the MoSex party, with its jokes about deer ménages à trois and dirty monkey videos? They found it—and liked it, enough so that they offered to mention it in their “News & Features” section. We’re flattered, but they should know this will only encourage us. On the other hand, maybe this means we’ll be invited as officially tolerated, lovable scalawags to all their future events?

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Marginalia: The Reading Experience

Its title is straightforward and its site design strictly no-frills, but Daniel Green’s The Reading Experience is, bar none, the best literary discussion site on the Web. Ostensibly focused on “contemporary literature and criticism,” it actually ranges over the whole of literary history, as any good discussion of books ultimately does. We wanted to single out TRE for praise because, while any number of book blogs have become popular in the past 10 years—many deservedly so—Green’s site seems to us the most erudite, the most passionate, and the most consistently engaging. Even its kooky, ranting commenters (every site has a few) are impossibly high-toned:

“What’s with the ‘Thus’ etc [sic]? You need to understand that using Latinate words and formulations from the last century does not make you the next Ruskin.

Your general thrust is that the choice is either convention or this, another convention, the psuedo-man [sic] of knowledge, armed with a fistful of thuses, railing against the gods of commerce that rule the format and depth of typical book reviews.”

Latinate words and archaic formulations don’t make you the next Ruskin? Nuts, we may have to rethink our whole purpose in life.

Green’s own response to this screed (of which we have excerpted only a fraction) was measured and eloquent, as is all his prose. And it must be said that the majority of commenters on his site know more about literature than most book bloggers and many professional book reviewers. Thus, if you are a serious reader yourself, you will want to start immersing yourself in The Reading Experience immediately.

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Marginalia: Holiday Edition

In an ordinary “Marginalia” feature, we would recommend just one high-quality website for your reading pleasure—a stingy allotment that would have to tide you over for days, sometimes weeks. But all that Waldorf-Astoria eggnog must be making us giddy, because today we’ve decided to show our readers four sites worthy of their discriminating tastes. Thank-you notes, expensive reciprocal gifts, etc. can be sent to Attn: Arbiters of Style, Abbeville Press, 137 Varick St., New York NY 10013.

First up on the slate is You Don’t Say, a blog written for the Baltimore Sun by copy editor and self-described “veteran drudge” John E. McIntyre. Mr. McIntyre keeps most of his posts focused on language and grammar, prescriptions for which he doles out with fair-mindedness and humor, but he also reserves the right (as do we) to digress into “arbitrarily chosen subjects.” As a recent post proved, this can mean making videos of himself telling bar jokes. Nicely played, sir. We liked this blog so much when we discovered it yesterday that we couldn’t resist showing Mr. McIntyre our own grammar-related shenanigans, which he has graciously indulged by providing a Michael Buffer-style ring announcement for our latest bout with Chicago. “Scrappy challengers” we may be, but this man is a champ.

Our next site deserves plugging if only because of its name. Big Bad Book Blog is the official blog of Greenleaf Book Group; its updates seem to have slowed of late, but its site design radiates friendly elegance, while its archive of writing, editing, and publicity advice remains well worth poking through. [January update: we hear through the grapevine that new posts on BBBB will soon be resuming. 2009 is looking up!]

Finally we have BiblioBuffet, the brainchild of former book editor Lauren Roberts and the collaborative effort of six professional wordsmiths of various kinds. BiblioBuffet caught our attention by spontaneously saying nice things about us the other day, thereby melting our Scrooge-like hearts. We’re happy to return the compliment, since the site is a well-tended and fast-growing hub of book links, reviews, writers’ resources, and literary diversions. Readers are advised to take advantage of Ms. Roberts’s humble invitation to “sit down and sample our fare,” which consists of “a bounteous feast of tasty biblio-cuisine.” God bless us, everyone.

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Marginalia: The Art History Blog

Welcome back, one and all. We hope your Thanksgiving brought a bountiful harvest of food and family, and your Black Friday a crazy boatload of steals ‘n’ savings! We’re still too tryptophan-addled to churn out a long post, but we did want to take a moment to point you in the direction of The Art History Blog, the labor of love of a couple of “art-obsessed undergraduates” named Chelsea and Alexander. First of all, let us just say how impressed we are to see undergrads taking on a project of this scope. We give them a non-grade-inflated A for effort. Second of all, for those ungenerous older readers expecting a college art history blog to read something like: “Have you ever seen The Starry Night stoned? ‘Cause that’s totally how Van G must have painted it!”—well, you have sorely underestimated America’s youth, because Chelsea and Alexander get high marks for content as well. They successfully aim for the tone of “a really spunky docent,” because really spunky docents is precisely what they are.

We’ve especially enjoyed their “Art in Real Life” series, in which they show readers the actual size and scale of famous works of art by taking photos of people standing next to them. This, to us, constitutes a more useful art history lesson than can be found in many a textbook. It also reminds us of the time we found out that Raphael’s famous 1506 self-portrait was not only smaller in real life than you’d expect, but also reverently installed by the Uffizi in an awkward corner above a dehumidifier. Anyway, have fun over at The Art History Blog, and be sure to leave Chelsea and Alexander a nice comment, a good grade, or as they wistfully suggest, a job offer.

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Marginalia: Bookninja

Today’s recommendation comes at you with the deadly speed and surprising grace of a throwing star. Actually, Bookninja is one of those sites that practically recommends itself, from the undeniable cool factor of its name and masthead to its crudely-drawn yet finely-observed Litterati cartoons to its centerpiece, the Hearsay newslog, a treasure trove of literary and publishing news, gossip, and entertainment. Quite simply, Bookninja has earned its self-proclaimed status as “the premier Canadian literary site.” (No big-fish-in-a-small-frozen-lake-jokes, please: it is also, as it goes on to say, “one of the top literary sites in the world,” and when its Canadian roots show through at all, it’s in the unusual number of references it makes to Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and Leonard Cohen. See this hilarious reader contest for examples.) Unlike most ninjas, Bookninja deserves and demands to be seen; we suggest you head over there now. Go in stealth, young grasshopper.

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Marginalia: A Different Stripe

As Abbeville website recommendations go, this one’s a gimme. While most blogs over the past two weeks have featured posts called something like “OMG Sarah Palin Tina Fey Wall Street Worldwide Crisis!!! ROFL,” A Different Stripe, a literary blog from the good folks at the New York Review of Books, has given us the post titles “Henry James and the Loquacity of Incomprehension” and, more poignant still, “Remember Angus Wilson?” I really think we need say no more. This is our kind of blog and we suspect it’ll be yours, too. Bonus: their blogroll includes some gems that we’ve never seen linked to elsewhere, including Forgotten Classics, Outmoded Authors, and (title of the day!) Steamboats Are Ruining Everything. If the blogosphere ever suddenly morphs into a rarefied haven of aesthetic discernment and intellectual curiosity, we’ll have sites like these to thank.

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Marginalia: Alltop.com

We got an email today from one of the editors of Alltop.com, informing us that they had linked to our Manual of Style. Who are these strange and generous people, we asked ourselves, then checked out their site and were instantly very flattered! Turns out they’re a new “online magazine rack” that aggregates the best sites and blogs from around the Web, groups them by topic, and displays the top headlines from each in a visual format so appealingly simple that it’s almost a waste of words to describe it. It seems we’ve made the cut for their new Publishing section, along with many of the other fine sites we’ve enjoyed and recommended over the past year (GalleyCat and Booksquare among them). Humbled as we are, we have to admit, we think we’ve got by far the coolest headline among the current crop: “Spontaneous Vehicular Combustion.” Take that, Yahoo! Finance: Publishing—Book Industry News!

Anyhow, many thanks to the editors of Alltop, and we encourage our readers to visit the site frequently to get their fix not only of Publishing news, but of Art and Book news as well. And hey, if you’re the type who can never read too many Textiles or Zoology blogs, they’ve got you covered too.

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Marginalia: Chicken Spaghetti

To the untutored eye, the title of today’s post may look like the subject line of a spam email that mashes together random words in order to sneak past your filter (“Osculate: Manatee Subvention!!!”), but in fact it is a recommendation of one of the best kid-lit blogs out there. That would be Chicken Spaghetti, a blog about “books for children and for the rest of us, too”—a tagline which partly means that it features grown-up books on occasion, but mostly means that “the rest of us” are never too old or lame for children’s books. We agree, Chicken Spaghetti! Just the other day our post about Strunk and White had us waxing nostalgic about Charlotte’s Web. Tonight we’re going to go home and reread that one, and A Wrinkle in Time, and Tom Sawyer, and some late-period Seuss (The Lorax, of course, has never been more timely, but as classic lighter fare Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! can’t be overlooked)…

We digress, but so does Chicken Spaghetti sometimes, as in its inspired recent post on International Rock-Flipping Day. No matter what author Susan Thomsen is blogging about, books or rocks, she manages to make it endearing and lively. Plus the title looks great on our blogroll. Check out Chicken Spaghetti!

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Marginalia: About Last Night

So, about About Last Night: it’s a blog by Terry Teachout, the prolific drama and music critic for the Wall Street Journal and Commentary. It declares its subject to be “the arts in New York City” but actually covers the arts at large, regardless of time or place—from painting to literature to Teachout’s beloved jazz and opera. Its sidebar alone is more formidable than most blogs, and some libraries; if tomorrow a comet came and destroyed everything but About Last Night, the Western cultural canon—and a good deal of the Eastern—could be reconstructed from that mighty roll of links.

Mr. Teachout’s pieces in the Journal, Commentary, and elsewhere are well worth reading, too; we recently enjoyed “Hating the New: Are Joe Queenan’s Ears on Wrong?,” his eloquent rebuttal of fellow critic Queenan’s contention that the past 100 years of classical music have been a cochlea-insulting disaster. In general, Mr. Teachout is one of the best arbiters of style (small capitals) working today, and if for some reason you ever needed an opinion besides Abbeville‘s, we’d be happy if you sought out his.

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Marginalia: Bookscreening

For the last year or so, the major fad of the publishing industry has been “book trailers,” short teaser films that promote new books in punchy Hollywood style. Is this a commendably innovative marketing tool or another symptom of our YouTube-addled culture’s increasing inability to comprehend a medium that consists of mere words on a page, with no flashy visuals whatsoever? The verdict is still out, but either way, it looks as though the book trailer is here to stay—and with our video and podcasts, we at Abbeville have had no shame about climbing aboard the bandwagon.

Still, since the book trailer is such a new, strange breed, no clear frontrunner has emerged among Web outlets vying to be the place to view them. We’ve seen a couple halfhearted or under-construction sites with “booktube” in the domain name, but nothing that made us sit up straighter in our chairs until we came across Bookscreening. Sure, it’s a humble blog for now, but Bookscreening has a nice simple title, a nice simple logo, a nice simple format, and—who knows, it could be the next big nice simple thing. Anyway, we recommend it. The trailers we’ve watched there are entertaining and well-produced, although the books themselves could use a little more…Abbeville. We’ll have to see what we can do about that.

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