Book News: Author Criticizes S.C. School Funding Cuts Over Gay-Themed Books
Friday, February 28, 2014
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Alison Bechdel, author of the graphic memoir Fun Home, has responded to this week's vote by South Carolina's House of Representatives to cut a combined total of $70,000 in funding to the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate because two books with gay and lesbian themes appeared on freshman student reading lists. Bechdel, whose book was assigned at the College of Charleston, said in a statement released to PW, "It's sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book — a book which is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people's lives." State Rep. Garry Smith condemned Fun Home, saying it "graphically shows lesbian acts" and "promot[es] the gay and lesbian lifestyle." Bechdel is well known for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, where she first floated the idea that became known as "the Bechdel Test" — a standard for sexism in movies based on whether a film has two female characters who talk to each other about something other than men. The second book, titled Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, was assigned at the University of South Carolina.
- More than 120 academic papers published by Springer and IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) turned out to be computer-generated nonsense, according to the journal Nature, which says the papers are being withdrawn. A software called SCIgen "randomly combines strings of words to produce fake computer-science papers," Nature reported, adding that "SCIgen was invented in 2005 by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge to prove that conferences would accept meaningless papers." Computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University has been tracking such fake works. Nature says: "Labbé does not know why the papers were submitted — or even if the authors were aware of them. Most of the conferences took place in China, and most of the fake papers have authors with Chinese affiliations. Labbé has emailed editors and authors named in many of the papers and related conferences but received scant replies; one editor said that he did not work as a program chair at a particular conference, even though he was named as doing so, and another author claimed his paper was submitted on purpose to test out a conference, but did not respond on follow-up."
- The New York Times' editorial board offered a sharp assessment of a book deal for the man behind the @GSElevator twitter account, which purported to relay conversations overheard in the elevator at Goldman Sachs: "Mr. Lefevre lives in Texas, never worked for Goldman, lied about it to reporters and presumably his publisher, Simon & Schuster, has just been exposed -- and is getting his book deal anyway."
- The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo donated 300 books on Anne Frank to Tokyo public libraries after hundreds of books on the Holocaust victim were vandalized. At a news conference Thursday, Ryo Tanaka, the mayor of Tokyo's Suginami ward, said, "Through this incident, I believe that people also learned about the horrid facts of history and of racism, and with this knowledge, I hope that our people were given an opportunity to reflect on the preciousness of peace."
- Colson Whitehead talks to The New York Times about writing spaces: "There's always a better apartment, that's the rule. I'm sedentary now, but I keep up the hunt by moving my desk around. Where's the mojo these days? What room, what corner? How about by the window, one story above the street? Pluses: taking in 'the life of the city'; nose-picking deterrent. Minus: overhearing 'Who's that sad man sitting there all day?' A hundred pages in the dining room, 100 pages in the living room while the kid's at school. It adds up. For the first half of a new book, maybe you want your back against the wall. Gunslinger style. Nothing can sneak up on you except your own bad sentences. Try it."