Category Archives: Media

Oscar Trivia Quiz

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Kittens and Twitterature

spraggles2

The results of last Friday’s adorable cats poll are in, and it’s looking like a landslide for Professor Spraggles, Futurecat, who took a whopping 47% of the vote. Truly, that cat is the future of cuteness. Of course, we might have tipped the odds in the Professor’s favor by singling him out with a still photo (and an amazing name), but what choice did we have? He was unavailable for filming at the time of the video shoot. Second place was Lo with a respectable 21% of the vote, and last place, with a heartrending 0%, was Mia. Will no one love you, little Mia? We think you’re adorable. Yes we do. Thanks to everyone who voted; the next poll will have a movie theme in honor of our 80 Years of the Oscar volume—and a contest to go along with it!

One final Friday note: we are now officially on Twitter, having realized that just about the entire publishing community (and much of the general reading community) was there already. To be honest, we find the entire concept of “microblogging” slightly absurd, and the word itself teeth-grindingly annoying. The real answer to Twitter’s famous prompt, “What are you doing right now?” is always the same—”Sitting at my computer, posting on Twitter”—forcing the Twitterer to ask serious questions about his or her life that one might otherwise wish to avoid. Still, there’s no arguing with popularity in this business, and our Twitterary offerings will at least keep our readers exceedingly well informed about upcoming Abbeville events, noteworthy posts on this site, and so on. Now if you’ll excuse us, having finished blogging about Twitter, we are about to go Twitter about blogging. And then go stare in the mirror and sigh.

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Paul Simon, Author

paul-simon

As a site devoted to books and art, we don’t normally venture into the world of music, but our subject today is as much a literary and publishing event as a musical one. This month Simon & Schuster has released a complete hardcover collection of the lyrics of Paul Simon, titled simply Lyrics 1964-2008. The book comes four years after S&S gave the same treatment to Bob Dylan’s writings, in a volume also called Lyrics. The format is clearly meant to suggest an elder poet’s collected works, and it may raise a few eyebrows (or shrugs) among critics still unhappy at seeing this kind of literary respectability accorded a rock ‘n’ roll star. At the same time, it may open the floodgates to a host of similar collections intended to please the fans, and massage the egos, of far less worthy artists. (Dare we imagine Meat Loaf: The Complete Works?) For the moment, however, aesthetic justice has been done. In its short history, rock ‘n’ roll has produced a fair number of brilliant musicians, and a handful of successful lyric poems by scattered performers (we’d point to Leonard Cohen’s “Alexandra Leaving” and a few others), but only two artists whose work consistently repays critical scrutiny as poetry: Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.

Of the two, Dylan has attracted the far greater share of critical attention, having already been the subject of a mammoth study by an Oxford literature professor and the reputed recipient of several Nobel Prize nominations—honors that we find to be slightly silly. In fact, as much as we enjoy Dylan’s work, we’ve always felt that his development as a poet suffered somewhat from the fawning overpraise he received from the outset of his career. Simon also rose early to fame, yet he has often been overshadowed in various ways: by Dylan himself, by flashier rock stars, even by his former singing partner Art Garfunkel, whom many fans still incorrectly assume to have co-written the songs they performed together. The somewhat dimmer glare of the limelight seems to have helped Simon refine, and redefine, his art over several decades, but now that he is (sadly) no longer producing great work it is a good time to look back with full appreciation on the output of his glory days.

Those days lasted, roughly speaking, from 1968 (with the release of the Simon & Garfunkel Bookends album) to 1990 (which brought The Rhythm of the Saints). All of his prior lyrics can be considered juvenilia—maudlin and overwrought, though with flashes of real potential—and everything afterward has been a steep falling-off, though with occasional glimmers of past talent. (On the other hand, much of his music from both periods is superb.) In the years between, Simon established a poetic space for himself as a kind of anti-Dylan: perfectionist where Dylan was rough-hewn, urbane and miniaturist where Dylan was apocalyptic and maximalist, witty and keenly-observed where Dylan was deliberately bizarre. The result was a long string of solidly-crafted short poems punctuated every so often by true gems: “Mrs. Robinson,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” “Oh, Marion,” “Hearts and Bones” (notable for its concision and complexity of biblical imagery; the title was inspired by Yeats’s “foul rag and bone shop of the heart”), “Can’t Run But,” and the entirety of Graceland, an album that—more than any other in rock history—works wonderfully as a suite of short poems.

We don’t have the time or space to devote to a full study of Simon’s lyrics, but we would like to share one poem that we think Abbeville readers will enjoy, as it humorously and subtly pays tribute to art history. Its title, adapted from an old newspaper caption Simon came across, is “René and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War”:

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Returned to their hotel suite
And they unlocked the door
Easily losing their evening clothes
They danced by the light of the moon
To the Penguins, the Moonglows,
The Orioles, and the Five Satins
The deep forbidden music
They’d been longing for
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were strolling down Christopher Street
When they stopped in a men’s store
With all of the mannequins dressed in the style
That brought tears to their immigrant eyes
Just like the Penguins, the Moonglows,
The Orioles, and the Five Satins
The easy stream of laughter
Flowing through the air
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog aprés la guerre
Side by side, they fell asleep
Decades gliding by like Indians
Time is cheap
When they wake up, they will find
All their personal belongings
Have intertwined
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were dining with the power élite
And they looked in their bedroom drawer
And what do you think
They have hidden away
In the cabinet cold of their hearts?
The Penguins, the Moonglows,
The Orioles, and the Five Satins
For now and ever after
As it was before
René and Georgette Magritte,
With their dog, after the war

Hardly a portrait of the real-world Magritte and his wife, this affectionate story of an immigrant couple is enriched by original, surreal imagery—the gliding Indians, the seemingly absurd dog, even the names of the old doo-wop groups—that remains true to Magritte’s spirit without confining itself to literal ekphrasis. The closing lines hover on the edge of sentimentality but convincingly oppose a permanent value to the “cheapness” of time. That value, of course, is faithful love, as symbolized by the dog—which Simon sings about with peculiar emphasis at the end and which, as he presumably knows, is a traditional emblem of fidelity in paintings of newlyweds. Thus “René and Georgette Magritte” is both a modern poem and an antique ballad, skillfully linking modern and classic art, new love and old.

We don’t want to overstate our case: like Dylan, Simon is neither in the first rank of poets nor the first rank of composers. He is, simply, one of our very greatest songwriters. Songwriting at its highest level has become a curious hybrid art, invented or re-invented by Dylan out of the old bardic tradition, and within it Simon has produced as beautiful and durable a body of work as any American artist of his era. His music, with its constant experimentation, dazzling eclecticism (he has assimilated everything from Louisiana zydeco to Bach), and obsessive perfectionism, has always earned abundant praise from both musicians and listeners. With the publication of this new volume, we hope to see his words garner equal, and equally well-deserved, acclaim.

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Classic Yachts #4: Podcast

Given the truly perilous state of the world economy, it may seem ridiculous or even flippant to be writing so many posts about yachts. How many of us can come close to affording them even in the good years? And yet here at Abbeville we believe that it’s precisely times like these that require a little fantasy, a little escapism. If we’re all going to get through this thing, it’s going to take more than bailouts or stimulus packages or stiff, delicious cocktails—it’s going to take dreams, by God. And what better dream than the feel of a beautiful boat rocking beneath you…ropes swaying lazily in the wind…somewhere, a gull cries…ah, we can almost see the blessed isles of recovery already.

It is in that spirit that we bring you the latest guest post by America’s Cup winner and all-around man of style Gary Jobson. This time Mr. Jobson has gone the extra nautical mile for us by recording a reading of his Foreword to our new volume Classic Yachts, a recording we have paired with images from the book to bring you our latest Abbeville podcast:

If there’s one voice of spirited command that can steer us not only through the current crisis, but through all the rockiest shoals of the Ocean of Life, we think it’s Mr. Jobson’s. We hope you’ve enjoyed and we’ll be back next week with another battle against the Chicago Manual of Style, a rare non-Abbeville book recommendation, and much more.

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Interview: “Grammar Girl”

grammargirl

Voilà! The identity of our Secret Interview Subject is now officially revealed, though we suppose we tipped our hand a bit by printing that cartoon a couple weeks back. Mignon Fogarty was a magazine writer, science and technical writer, and entrepreneur until her life was taken over by hosting the weekly audio podcast Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and by the related tasks that followed. Each Thursday, for five minutes, she contributes a welcome burst of clarity to our misused, misspelled, grammatically benighted world, parsing the chaos while managing to entertain and delight. The enormous success of her show has launched a New York Times bestselling book by the same title and landed her appearances on CNN and Oprah—echelons to which, we can safely say, no grammarian has ascended before. This week Ms. Fogarty has at last attained the true pinnacle of fame: an interview with the Abbeville Manual of Style.

AMoS: Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Where do you stand on split infinitives?

MF: I like to boldly split infinitives, and I love to dispel the myth that it’s against the rules. I’m actually working on a song about split infinitives. I’ve been working on it for over a year, so it may never see the light of day, but that’s how passionate I am about it—I felt compelled to sing. 

AMoS: How did you get started in your career as celebrity grammarian? 

MF: Like all celebrities, my career began with the heartbreak of rejection after rejection. I sneaked away from restaurant jobs for auditions and took all the small off-Oxford parts I could get, hoping to be discovered by the grammar agents who would occasionally come by the shows. Then one day I realized the Internet existed and I could go directly to the audience without the filter of the establishment. And the rest, as they say, is history.

AMoS: Do you feel grammar rules should be primarily prescriptive or descriptive—that is, should they dictate how the language ought to work or describe and adapt to how it does work? 

MF: I constantly struggle with this question. I hate rules that aren’t logical (like the rule against splitting infinitives), but I also don’t think something should become acceptable language just because a boy band put it in a song. I had a lot of fun writing about the word “funnest” when Steve Jobs used it in his keynote address recently. It’s one of those words that is on its way to becoming acceptable, but isn’t there yet. I usually try to find a middle ground, and I also try to follow rather than lead because people come to my website and podcast looking for answers that will keep them from getting in trouble, not answers that will put them out in front on the language wars.

AMoS: What is the grammatical error that grates on you the most? 

MF: I can’t say that there is one error that grates on me the most. The biggest thing that bothers me is when people don’t try. You know how sometimes you read someone’s writing and you can just tell they don’t even care about getting the words right? That bugs me. (And yes, I did just use “they” as a singular pronoun. And start a sentence with “and.” I believe both are fine.)

AMoS: What is the grammatical error you find yourself committing most often? 

MF: I tend to use “like” as a conjunction. Technically, we’re supposed to say “It looks as if it’s going to rain” or “It looks as though it’s going to rain.” I tend to say “It looks like it’s going to rain.” That’s wrong, but I’ve been saying it that way my whole life and it’s a hard habit to break. I’m constantly correcting myself.

AMoS: How do you feel about our sworn arch-nemesis, The Chicago Manual of Style? Not a loaded question or anything.

MF: It bugs me when they change the numbering of the sections from edition to edition. I mean, they’re like the Bible of copyediting. When I cite “Chicago 6.78” it should always mean the section about irony quotes, but now, in the new edition, 6.78 is the section about inappropriate use of an exclamation point! If you’re going to develop a numbering method like that, you should stick to it. 

AMoS: What is the most rewarding part of doing the podcast? What is the most stressful? 

MF: The amount of listener feedback I get is amazing. I used to write for magazines, and I’d hear from a reader maybe once every five or six articles. With Grammar Girl, I hear from tens of listeners every day. It can be incredibly rewarding to hear about how the show is helping people do better at work or at school. I’ve heard from people who say it has literally changed their lives (in a good way), and that is something I never expected.

The listener feedback is also the most stressful part of the podcast because for every wonderful message I get, there are probably two nasty messages from people who disagree with what I say, or found some error  (or perceived error) in the show. The funny thing is that the more nasty someone is, the more likely they are to be wrong. It’s something I’ve talked about with other public grammarians, and they notice the same thing.

AMoS: What are your future plans for “Grammar Girl”? Will your title be like “Dear Abby”—a hereditary institution, passed on to a new generation via some kind of sacred ritual?

MF: Oooh. I like that idea. I’ll have to develop a sacred ritual! Actually, I would like to see Grammar Girl go on for a long time. One of the reasons I decided to use a cartoon character instead of my own picture in the logo is so that the show wouldn’t be dependent on me to keep going. I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future, but it’s easy to imagine that someone else might take the reins someday. I can’t imagine still being Grammar Girl when I’m 60! I hope to be enjoying a beach somewhere, throwing a stick for a dog and enjoying time with my family.

*     *     *

Thanks again to Mignon Fogarty for answering our questions, ragging on Chicago, and generally being a rock star to humble editors like us. Also, it sounds like as though she’ll be a literal rock star in the very near future! We can’t wait to hear that ditty about split infinitives, which we fully expect to be the biggest thing to hit the grammar music scene since “Conjunction Junction” shook our world forever.

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Interview: "Grammar Girl"

grammargirl

Voilà! The identity of our Secret Interview Subject is now officially revealed, though we suppose we tipped our hand a bit by printing that cartoon a couple weeks back. Mignon Fogarty was a magazine writer, science and technical writer, and entrepreneur until her life was taken over by hosting the weekly audio podcast Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and by the related tasks that followed. Each Thursday, for five minutes, she contributes a welcome burst of clarity to our misused, misspelled, grammatically benighted world, parsing the chaos while managing to entertain and delight. The enormous success of her show has launched a New York Times bestselling book by the same title and landed her appearances on CNN and Oprah—echelons to which, we can safely say, no grammarian has ascended before. This week Ms. Fogarty has at last attained the true pinnacle of fame: an interview with the Abbeville Manual of Style.

AMoS: Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Where do you stand on split infinitives?

MF: I like to boldly split infinitives, and I love to dispel the myth that it’s against the rules. I’m actually working on a song about split infinitives. I’ve been working on it for over a year, so it may never see the light of day, but that’s how passionate I am about it—I felt compelled to sing. 

AMoS: How did you get started in your career as celebrity grammarian? 

MF: Like all celebrities, my career began with the heartbreak of rejection after rejection. I sneaked away from restaurant jobs for auditions and took all the small off-Oxford parts I could get, hoping to be discovered by the grammar agents who would occasionally come by the shows. Then one day I realized the Internet existed and I could go directly to the audience without the filter of the establishment. And the rest, as they say, is history.

AMoS: Do you feel grammar rules should be primarily prescriptive or descriptive—that is, should they dictate how the language ought to work or describe and adapt to how it does work? 

MF: I constantly struggle with this question. I hate rules that aren’t logical (like the rule against splitting infinitives), but I also don’t think something should become acceptable language just because a boy band put it in a song. I had a lot of fun writing about the word “funnest” when Steve Jobs used it in his keynote address recently. It’s one of those words that is on its way to becoming acceptable, but isn’t there yet. I usually try to find a middle ground, and I also try to follow rather than lead because people come to my website and podcast looking for answers that will keep them from getting in trouble, not answers that will put them out in front on the language wars.

AMoS: What is the grammatical error that grates on you the most? 

MF: I can’t say that there is one error that grates on me the most. The biggest thing that bothers me is when people don’t try. You know how sometimes you read someone’s writing and you can just tell they don’t even care about getting the words right? That bugs me. (And yes, I did just use “they” as a singular pronoun. And start a sentence with “and.” I believe both are fine.)

AMoS: What is the grammatical error you find yourself committing most often? 

MF: I tend to use “like” as a conjunction. Technically, we’re supposed to say “It looks as if it’s going to rain” or “It looks as though it’s going to rain.” I tend to say “It looks like it’s going to rain.” That’s wrong, but I’ve been saying it that way my whole life and it’s a hard habit to break. I’m constantly correcting myself.

AMoS: How do you feel about our sworn arch-nemesis, The Chicago Manual of Style? Not a loaded question or anything.

MF: It bugs me when they change the numbering of the sections from edition to edition. I mean, they’re like the Bible of copyediting. When I cite “Chicago 6.78” it should always mean the section about irony quotes, but now, in the new edition, 6.78 is the section about inappropriate use of an exclamation point! If you’re going to develop a numbering method like that, you should stick to it. 

AMoS: What is the most rewarding part of doing the podcast? What is the most stressful? 

MF: The amount of listener feedback I get is amazing. I used to write for magazines, and I’d hear from a reader maybe once every five or six articles. With Grammar Girl, I hear from tens of listeners every day. It can be incredibly rewarding to hear about how the show is helping people do better at work or at school. I’ve heard from people who say it has literally changed their lives (in a good way), and that is something I never expected.

The listener feedback is also the most stressful part of the podcast because for every wonderful message I get, there are probably two nasty messages from people who disagree with what I say, or found some error  (or perceived error) in the show. The funny thing is that the more nasty someone is, the more likely they are to be wrong. It’s something I’ve talked about with other public grammarians, and they notice the same thing.

AMoS: What are your future plans for “Grammar Girl”? Will your title be like “Dear Abby”—a hereditary institution, passed on to a new generation via some kind of sacred ritual?

MF: Oooh. I like that idea. I’ll have to develop a sacred ritual! Actually, I would like to see Grammar Girl go on for a long time. One of the reasons I decided to use a cartoon character instead of my own picture in the logo is so that the show wouldn’t be dependent on me to keep going. I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future, but it’s easy to imagine that someone else might take the reins someday. I can’t imagine still being Grammar Girl when I’m 60! I hope to be enjoying a beach somewhere, throwing a stick for a dog and enjoying time with my family.

*     *     *

Thanks again to Mignon Fogarty for answering our questions, ragging on Chicago, and generally being a rock star to humble editors like us. Also, it sounds like as though she’ll be a literal rock star in the very near future! We can’t wait to hear that ditty about split infinitives, which we fully expect to be the biggest thing to hit the grammar music scene since “Conjunction Junction” shook our world forever.

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Rollicking Pollocking

It’s a pretty dreary Thursday out there, so time for indoor activities, class. Today we’re showing you a site that we hope everyone hasn’t seen already: http://www.jacksonpollock.org. Even if you have seen it, it’s time to get re-addicted. Play Jack the Dripper from the confines of your cubicle, creating abstract action masterpieces and turning the art world on its ear without so much as having to wear a smock! Although, if you feel like wearing a smock, that is your choice and we’re not going to stop you.

Here’s our latest pollock.org creation. We call it Elucidation in Purple No. 7:

pollock2

And here’s our attempt at subverting Pollock’s subversiveness by painting something entirely representational—the word Abbeville:

pollock1

Take that, Jack! Actually that ended up looking like a Ralph Steadman signature.

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Colleen Carroll Podcast Pt. 2

has-jr-babieshas-jr-dogs

has-jr-horseshas-jr-trains

Two weeks ago we posted Part 1 of our podcast interview with Abbeville author Colleen Carroll, in which she discussed her classic How Artists See series of children’s art books. Today we are pleased to present Part 2 of that interview in the Media section of our main site (click here). In this second half, Ms. Carroll discusses her brand-new How Artists See Jr. board book series for preschool-aged children, which includes four diverse collections of art centered on subjects that toddlers love: Babies, Dogs, Horses, and Trains. (All right, we admit, we still love trains too.) Check it out and enjoy!

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Abbeville vs. Chicago: Cartoons

 

Ordinarily our battles against the Chicago Manual of Style are waged on the killing fields of English grammar, usage, and style, but occasionally we like to hit our opponent from a completely unexpected direction. This week no less an eminence than “Grammar Girl,” a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty, host of the wildly popular podcast on all things grammatical, provided us with an opportunity to do just that. Inspired, as she told us, by our poking fun at the Chicago Manual and the reverence accorded it by copyeditors, Ms. Fogarty has drawn the following cartoon for her blog:

Sorry, we’ve forgotten: how many satirical cartoons about Abbeville—drawn by Grammar Girl herself—has Chicago inspired? Here, give us a second to crunch the numbers and ah yes ZERO. This is a heady moral victory for the Abbeville Manual and our more enlightened, more stylish creed, one that we have every intention of lording over our orange archnemesis far into the future. Meanwhile, we are sitting at our desks in full Halloween regalia, looking forward to the debaucherous phantasmagoria of tonight’s parade, which we will be joining as soon as it sweeps by our office door. See you there!

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The Actual Writing Part

Much of the work we do at Abbeville involves online book publicity, so from time to time we search the Web for advice on that topic. That’s how we came across this article by social media blogger Chris Brogan, in which he discusses publicity ideas for his upcoming book Trust Agents (co-authored with Julien Smith). Most of his suggestions, such as “Warm People Up With Blog Posts,” made perfect sense to us, but this one just made us smile:

Record Conversational Podcasts – Julien and I keep threatening to do this: a series of audio podcasts that are essentially a capture of the conversations we’re having while forming the book. We think it’d be fun, because it’d show you how our idea-forming process works, and it’d give you all the crazy exchanges that happen before we get to the actual writing part.

Ah, yes: as writers ourselves, we know the syndrome well. How quickly the grand endeavor of “writing a book” turns into “blogging about debating whether to record a series of brainstorming sessions for the book we’re going to write.” It’s kind of like that band everyone had in college that never recorded a single song, but generated hours of heated arguments over the band name.

But we tease. We’re sure Chris and Julien will get the ball rolling on this, and we agree entirely with their recommendation of podcasts as a book promotion tool. Click here if you don’t believe us!

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