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December 17th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Media, Blogging, Internet

Editorial Humor for Hump Day, Only This is No Joke

Graeme Reynolds' blogA fussy and censorious reader objected to the use of hyphenated words in High Moor II: Moonstruck, a novel for sale on Amazon written by UK author Graeme Reynolds. Amazon, which likes to trumpet how customer-focused they are, jumped at the complaint and ran a spell check on the book. Finding more than 100 hyphenated words in the 90,000 word ms, which they apparently found excessive, they instructed Reynolds to re-edit the Kindle edition of the book, lest it be removed from sale. Not surprisingly, Reynolds was gobsmacked at the absurdity of the situation. He blogged about it in a post titled Hyphen Hate: When Amazon Went to War Against Punctuation (screenshot at left). The book was indeed removed from sale, and the post drew more than 300,000 readers to his site. Amazon evidently thought better of their decision—or didn’t want more negative publicity—and they reinstated Reynolds’ novel. Via this link you can listen to an interview with the author on CBC’s As it Happens, and ponder Amazon’s ridiculous policies.High Moor II

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December 14th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner Book Productions

Michael Dirda ♥s “The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure”

Readers of this blog may recall I’ve posted occasionally about The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, a new anthology I sold to Pegasus Books as literary agent. The last time I wrote about it, Oct 10, it had just received two excellent pre-publication reviews, from Publishers Weekly and AuthorLink. Now the book is out and available in bookstores and it continues to draw praise, the latest coming from Michael Dirda, a critic whose literary recommendations I’ve enjoyed for many years. Offering his annual roundup of gift books for the holidays, Dirda tendered this brief encomium:

The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure (Pegasus, $24.95), selected and edited by Lawrence Ellsworth. Captain Blood, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Brigadier Gerard, Robin Hood; stories with titles such as “Pirate’s Gold” and “The Queen’s Rose”—this is just the gift for, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s words, “the boy who’s half a man, OR the man who’s half a boy.”Dirda gift books

In the early 2000s, Dirda moderated a weekly online chat on washingtonpost.com in which he consistently offered erudite yet accessible book chat. I rarely missed one of them, and would often print out the whole chat to keep as a reference. In that forum, Dirda distinguished himself as the least snobbish of critics. No matter what readers might throw at him—whether asking about James Joyce, John Milton, or nearly forgotten authors of genre fiction—he always made smart and generous comments. He’s also an author, with several books to his name, two of which I’ve enjoyed (pictured below). It’s fun to have a book be included in Michael Dirda’s gift suggestions, so if you’re looking for a book for a certain kind of reader, someone who relishes pirate lore, swordplay, movies like “Captain Blood,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and “Zorro,” the seafaring novels of Patrick O’Brian, and the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser, The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure is sure to strike the right chord. You can buy it via this Amazon link, where it is currently riding high as their #1 bestseller among anthologies of historical fiction.

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December 10th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Photography, Design; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

Appreciating Ruth Gruber’s Lifetime of Humanitarian Activism and Photojournalism, at the JCC til Feb 25

Ruth at JCC, Dec 9, 2014Kyle, Ewan, and I had a great time last night at the opening reception for an exhibit of Ruth Gruber’s photojournalism at the JCC. This is essentially the same exhibit that was mounted in 2012 at the International Center of Photography, the year that Ruth was awarded the ICP’s Infinity Award. If you’re unfamiliar with Ruth’s work, this show is a great way to begin. If you’re not in NYC to go see it, this link will lead you to many of the images. If you’re not familiar with her remarkable career, here’s a primer:

Born in 1911 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ruth was always precocious. She received her B.A. from NYU at age sixteen; an M.A. in German language and literature from the University of Wisconsin at eighteen; and at twenty was offered a fellowship to participate in an exchange program at the University of Cologne. Early in her studies there, in 1931, she was asked by a professor if she would consider reading the work of Virginia Woolf, and writing a doctoral thesis about her. I’ve imagined that Ruth’s professors must have realized they had this bright female student in their midst, a reader of English and German who could tackle the Englishwoman’s books and write about them, asking themselves when they might again have such an opportunity, especially with the inter-war years—which they turned out to be—increasingly fraught by international peril? Ruth demurred—she had not yet read Woolf’s work, she could afford to be in Cologne only one year, her parents would not let her stay longer, the work would surely take more than a year—but soon, though she hadn’t read any of Woolf’s books when the professors asked her, she said, “I’ll try.” Taping up a picture of Woolf in her room, she undertook to read all of Woolf’s books then published, pondering their meaning and the significance of Woolf’s creative enterprise.

Despite the notoriety that her youthful doctorate brought her (she was heralded in the NY Times as the “World’s Youngest Ph.D.”), the Depression was in full swing and Ruth found little work upon her return to the States. She continued traveling and trying her hand at journalism and photography. In 1935, she was delighted when the thesis on Woolf was published as a book in Germany by the Tauchnitz Press, which had a list of English-language titles, including Woolf’s The Waves. Ruth sent a copy of her thesis to Woolf in London, thus beginning a lengthy correspondence between the two women that culminated in Ruth paying a visit to Woolf at her Bloomsbury home in 1936 or ’37. For more on this period of Ruth’s life, including the meeting between the two women, you can also read my post, Virginia Woolf and Ruth Gruber, Driven to Create as Women her on this blog.

After her experiences in Germany, she won a Fulbright scholarship, which included attending a rally at which Hitler spoke, where the foreign students were seated very near him, she devoted an extended period of independent study to the examination of “women under democracy, fascism, and communism.” She became the first Western journalist to tour the Soviet Arctic, and in 1937 published her second book, I Went to the Soviet Arctic, which she parlayed in to a new career as a public lecturer. In 1940, Ruth continued her association with the peoples of the polar regions when she became a member of the FDR administration, under Interior Secretary Harold Ickes who named her his special field representative for the territory of Alaska. She is doubtless one of the Roosevelt administration’s eldest surviving staffers. She worked for the government off and on during and immediately after WWII, leaving at times to work as a foreign correspondent for the New York Post and the Herald Tribune. In 1944, Ickes assigned Ruth a mission she urged him to give her, that of escorting nearly 1,000 WWII survivors from Naples, Italy, on the Henry Gibbins, a ship that also carried wounded American troops back to the US. In 1947, she was working as a foreign correspondent when she covered the fate of the Exodus ship, and chased its thousands of stateless passengers all over the Mediterranean and central Europe the summer of that year.

To read more about Ruth Gruber’s lifetime of humanitarian activism I recommend any of the six books I published with her, five of which are currently available in new editions from Open Road Integrated Media, whose executives Jane Friedman and Philip Rappaport were also on hand at the JCC. The titles I published with Ruth are 1) Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation, Introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook; 2) Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 WWII Refugees and How They Came to America, which was adapted for a TV movie in 2000 (Foreword by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, and Ruth’s niece); 3) Raquela: A Woman of Israel, winner of the Jewish Book Award in 1978 (Introduction by novelist Faye Kellerman); 4) Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent (also the title of a documentary on Ruth), Introduction by Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner; 5) Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel: My Journey from Alaska to Israel; and 6) Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman.

I have written about Ruth several times on this blog, posts that are all illustrated with photographs by Ruth or of her: 1) Ruth Gruber’s Photojournalism at Soho Photography; 2) My Friend Ruth Gruber, Pioneering Photojournalist; 3) Virginia Woolf and Ruth Gruber, Driven to Create as Women; 4) Celebrating Photojournalist & Author Ruth Gruber’s 102nd Birthday With Her; and 5) Marking Photojournalist Ruth Gruber’s 103rd Birthday. Below are photos I took at last night’s reception, and photos I’ve taken of her book jackets.

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December 5th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Personal history, Family, Friends; Travels

#tbt The Day I Discovered My Two Long-lost Scottish Uncles

#‎tbt In 1989 I toured the Outer Hebrides in Scotland and met these two fellas in a wee shop on the island of Lewis. We became fast friends and I took their picture. The gentleman behind the counter served in WW1, which makes me think now he must’ve been in his 90s when I met him. He owned the shop and his pal kept him company there. I’ve always treasured meeting them.Two old guys on Lewis

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December 1st, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner Book Productions; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

Happy to Be Part of Blurb, Platform Connecting Writers with Quality Editorial Services

Glad to be a collaborator with Blurb, a new Web space where writers can find editors to help them hone their work, and other publishing services, including design. There’s a nice, clean look to editors’ profiles, like mine linked to here, and shown in the screenshot of it below. If you’re an author looking for editorial help, or know a writer who is, please have a look and get in touch.PST Blurb profile

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November 16th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Urban Life & New York City

Katherine Bradford, “Shelf Paintings” at Arts + Leisure, till Dec 14

Katherine Bradford, "Shelf Paintings" catalogKyle and I had lots of fun amid the lively crowd that gathered at Arts + Leisure gallery for the opening of  “Shelf Paintings,” an exhibit of new work by one of our favorite painters, Katherine Bradford. These are colorful object paintings that employ dimensionality with a shelf projecting out at the bottom, with other structural elements arrayed in them. Kyle and I had earlier seen Bradford’s 2012 exhibit at Edward Thorp Gallery, which was also full of terrific paintings. Kyle wrote about that show for the Left Bank Art blog and over the past couple years we have continued to find her work irresistible and enjoyable, not missing a chance to see her work. Below are pictures from last night’s reception at the very convivial Arts & Leisure, located along Lexington Avenue at 101st St, on Carnegie Hill, on the southern edge of El Barrio. It was a pleasure meeting and making many old and new friends, including Shari Mendelson, Rick Briggs, JJ Manford, Elisa Soliven, and David Rich; Donald Cameron and Nick Lawrence of Arts & Leisure; and of course, Katherine Bradford herself, who inscribed a copy of the full-color catalog for Kyle. If you like what you see here of Bradford’s work, go to Arts & Leisure where the exhibit will be up until Dec 14. Also, you can read Kyle’s essay on the 2012 exhibit, and the informative release/essay posted on Arts & Leisure’s site, accompanying “Shelf Paintings.”

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November 10th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

The Sound of a Poet’s Voice

Dylan ThomasDylan Thomas, Collected PoemsI was fortunate to attend an event remembering Dylan Thomas on the 61st anniversary of his death, November 9, hosted by my friend Peter Schulman and New Directions, Thomas’s longtime publisher. Pictures, reportage, and links at my Storify post.

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November 8th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

How Rubble from Bristol, England Became Landfill in New York City

Who knew? Not me, but British urbanite Tom Scott did. Rubble from Bristol, England comprises the landfill for Waterside Plaza on the east side of Manhattan. Post-WWII the British city had many bombed-out buildings, material that was brought back to the US from the UK in ships that used it as ballast. I was at the plaza a couple years ago for a conference, though I had no idea then that the example of modern architecture has this unlikely origin. Check out the video by Tom Scott. H/t my English friend Garry Benfold who brought this cool city story to my attention.