Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 37

Good day to all our readers, and welcome back for the thirty-seventh issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature. Today we are going to start off our journey into the world of books with a look at how various adjectives used in stories actually reflect the economic state of a country.

Following that, we will venture into news territory, focusing on the ancient Muslim and Christian texts torched by the Islamist radicals in Lebanon.

Finally, we will close things up by exploring the topic of the digitalization of books, and how ancient works of writing may give us a reason not to jump to the modernist bandwagon so quickly and easily.

Adjectives and the Economy

There are certainly many ways of judging how a country is performing economically, with the main one being its actual financial resume. However, as certain researchers have pointed it out, there are numerous other, unexpected factors by which one can tell how successful a country is economically (or rather, unsuccessful), with one of them being the use of specific adjectives (or “mood words” as they are referred to here) in works of writing.
Literature gloom mirrors economic misery, study finds
Research into use of 'mood words' by Bristol and London universities registers depressed spirits in 1920s, 40s and 80s

In what might portend some particularly gloomy literature in the 2020s, a new study has found a "dramatic" increase in the use of words expressing misery and unhappiness in books written during the 1980s.

Academics at universities in Bristol and London analysed more than five million books digitised by Google, looking at how frequently words denoting different moods were used. They divided their "mood" words into six categories – anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise – with words falling into the "sadness" category ranging from "repent", "regret" and "rue" to "depress", "dismay" and "dispirit". These findings were used to develop a "literary misery" index reflecting mood in English-language books through most of the 20th century.

Literary misery was highest in the 1940s, they found, with the 1980s narrowly in second place, and the 1920s in third. Their research, published yesterday in PLOS ONE, found that an increase in frequency of miserable language in these decades correlated to the economic misery of the respective previous decades.

"Economic misery coincides with WW1 (1918), the aftermath of the Great Depression (1935) and the energy crisis (1975). But in each case, the literary response lags by about a decade," said co-author Dr Alberto Acerbi. "It looked like western economic history," said lead author of the study Professor Alex Bentley of the University of Bristol, "but just shifted forward by a decade."

Bentley suggested the "decade effect" is reflective of "the gap between childhood when strong memories are formed, and early adulthood, when authors may begin writing books".
Read full article: The Guardian - Literature gloom mirrors economic misery, study finds

Literary stars Pat Barker, Martin Amis and Graham Swift

The War on Knowledge Rages On

Religious unrest and disputes in the Middle East are things we have come to get used to, at least in the Western world, but the truth is that it isn’t just a regular part of life for the people living in it; it is a destructive typhoon that chips away at them on all fronts.

Recently, these religious tensions led to a crime against knowledge, as more than 78,000 ancient religious texts and books were burned by radical Islamists in Lebanon.
'Ancient Muslim and Christian texts' torched by radical Islamists in Lebanon
Up to 78,000 books, including "irreplaceable ancient Muslim and Christian texts and manuscripts," were torched in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, Jessica Elgot of the Huffington Post reported Sunday.

Elgot said that the Al-Saeh library in the Serali neighborhood was set on fire "after a local gang took objection to a sheet apparently insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, found hidden in the pages of one of the library books."

Initially, the curator of the library, Greek Orthodox priest Ibrahim Sarrouj, became the target of threats and a protest was planned, but was "called off after Sarrouj's pleas to Muslim leaders."

A news source in Lebanon, Naharnet, however, reported that the "former head of the Internal Security Forces," said the attack was actually "triggered by speculation that Father Surouj had written a study on the internet that insulted Islam."
Read full article: - 'Ancient Muslim and Christian texts' torched by radical Islamists in Lebanon

Al-Saeh Library torched after Islamists reportedly found anti-Mohammed pamphlet in one of the books

The Appeal of Age

As virtually anyone will tell you these days, it is only a matter of time before all works of writing are digitalized, spelling a certain demise for physical books. On one hand, it is hard to argue against the logic of digitalization; less costly, more accessible, cannot truly be lost, saves trees, and probably other things.

However, it seems that many have forgotten that pure logic isn’t always the way to guide ourselves, for after all, we are not emotionless machines. As it turns out, there is a special appeal that physical ancient books bring to the table, one that may give us a reason to hold back on our digitalization of everything.
A Thing of Beauty is an AncientBook
We hear a lot about the wonders of digital media and for several years it has had print in a more than mild state of panic. The Bay Psalm Book is just the latest addition to the list of reasons to choose print over electronic media.

This slender volume is the first book ever printed in America, using a press especially (and very slowly) shipped in from England. This little book of 150 sacred poems is extremely rare, with only eleven copies still extant. But at least there are copies of the work. In four hundred years will we be able to say the same of this year's edition of Wikipedia, or your Facebook timelines?

The story begins with the Puritan pilgrims who arrived in America from England in 1630 in search of religious and political freedom. These settlers decided they needed a new version of the Hebrew Book of Psalms, taylored to their own reformist requirements. Various folk got stuck in to translate the psalms from the original Hebrew, rewriting them in verse so that they could sing the psalms as rhymes, using traditional melodies.

The settlers typeset and printed 1700 copies of the 300 page books on the newly arrived 240 reams of paper and press, some nine or so years after they reached America's shores. Now one of the remaining copies of this amazing book has just made over $14 million at auction, courtesy of financier and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein. Mr Rubenstein also has the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta – quite a collection.
Read full article: FESPA - A Thing of Beauty is an AncientBook

And so comes to an end the second issue of the year. Though we must part ways I remain confident that you have gained something from this experience, whether you learned a new word or eventually found a piece of news that left its mark on you. As always, the next issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature will come around next week, and until then I am sure you have enough reading materials to keep yourself busy, whether its small entertaining novels or expansive ancient texts; all literature is deserving of consideration, none of it deserving of destruction.

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