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On the Joy of Rediscovered Books

When a culture journalist laments the fact there are too many books to read and too little time, they’re usually talking about new publications. When that culture journalist is me, I’m talking about the staggering number of revived and reprinted obscurities unearthed from decades past that are toppling my TBR pile.

The popularity of Hidden Gems, my annual roundup of notable titles re-issued and rescued from obscurity, inspires me to seek them out.

When it comes to reviving forgotten authors or putting neglected books back into print, many have heard of New York Review Books Classics, the literary journal’s publishing arm. Their 2006 revival of John Williams’ 1965 campus novel, Stoner, put them (and the practice) on the map.

In England, Nicola Beauman founded Persephone Books in 1998 and made a similar splash when their reprint of a 1938 Winifred Bowman novel was made into the very successful 2008 Frances McDormand movie, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; the novel remains their bestseller. The British Library Women Writers series highlights the best “middlebrow” fiction from the 1910s to 1960s, and Crime Classic and other genre imprints challenge the established and accepted literary canon in other ways. Here in Canada, House of Anansi’s A List expands the CanLit landscape and Véhicule Press’s Ricochet Books revives vintage noir mysteries. And all of them generally come with a fresh appreciation, written by an admiring contemporary author, re-assessing their importance in the literary landscape or adding important context.

With the dizzying number of books published every year, what goes into identifying, securing the rights and publishing forgotten books? What makes them worthy of republishing? Curious about the mechanics of how great books get a second life, I sought out a few editors who specialize in rooting out these treasures.

Continue reading this “Lost and Found” article at Zoomer

A Cheat Sheet to Babylon’s Hollywood

Hollywood just can’t stop telling stories about itself.

Set against the backdrop of a transformative time in Hollywood, Babylon’s 189 minutes follow the overlapping stories of rising and established talents from the mid-1920s to 1932, during the film industry’s transition to sound.

What’s ostensibly different is that Babylon, written and directed by Damien Chazelle (First Man, La La Land), is a lurid cocktail of throbbing jazz score, licentious iniquity and nostalgia. Imagine if the Coens’ Hail, Caesar popped a Quaalude and you’ll get an idea of the histrionic highs touted in the trailer for what is, at heart, a traditional cautionary tale. And, for all the razzle-dazzle, the storytelling is prosaic and straight out of central casting, so the movie takes on a certain perfunctory quality.

Babylon is also one of the many major movies this year — Tár, The Batman, Avatar, Elvis, Blonde — inching toward Lawrence of Arabia’s running time, if not its accomplishment. The jury is hung because Chazelle’s maximalist opus elicits polarizing opinion: some early viewers called it a masterpiece while, others (including this critic), felt it is a hollow spectacle of superficial characters that overstays its welcome. And worse, it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Babylon is to early Hollywood denizens what Blonde is to Marilyn Monroe (or The Crown is to the Windsors).

Click here to continue reading the article at Zoomer

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