Please note the date on this issue and don't put too much faith in the links, some of which may be centuries old in Internet time by the time you're reading this.

At The Margin
Vol. 2, Issue 7 (Whole Issue #21)
July 30, 2001

Details, many bizarre and obscure, from the world of books.

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This Issue:
1. Will Jackbooted Thugs Help eBooks Prosper?
2. The Struggle over C. S. Lewis
3. Success and the Good-Looking Author
4. Get Yourself a Dictatorship and You Could Be a Best-Seller, Too
5. Messages to the Editor
6. Do You Know Me?
7. Blue Underlined Words


1. Will Jackbooted Thugs Help Ebooks Prosper?
Michael S. Hart of Project Gutenberg tells a story about his days as a computer consultant, when the staff on the telephone support line at Lotus Development Corporation walked him through the steps of disabling the copy protection on their own software. They asked him to pass the steps on to others to save Lotus the distribution costs:
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/bplist/archive/2001/2001-07-19$2.html.

Ultimately Lotus Development Corporation gave up its copy protection scheme, and even replaced customers' disks with nonprotected ones, because it cost them too much to maintain copy protection. The problem was that any time a user upgraded a machine, bought a new one, or restored from a backup, the copy protection prevented the software from installing, prompting a call to the Lotus support line and pushing up the company's support costs. This doesn't even get into the public relations and marketing costs the company incurred by implicitly accusing anybody who bought its products of being a thief.

This story (don't worry, we'll get around to books in a minute) suggests what the supporters of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) are letting themselves in for. Under the act, you risk five years in prison and a half-million-dollar fine for "trafficking in a product designed to circumvent copyright protection." (The quote is from a Department of Justice press release.)

On July 16, the Justice Department took action under the law and arrested Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian programmer who was in Las Vegas for a convention. Sklyarov works for a Moscow company called ElcomSoft. ElcomSoft created and marketed a program called Advanced Ebook Processor, which allows a user to decode the encryption on Adobe Acrobat Ebook files. Sklyarov never infringed on any copyrights; he merely worked on the Advanced Ebook Processor program. The program allows a user to convert an Adobe Acrobat Ebook file, which can only be read by eBook software, to an ordinary PDF file, which can be read by a number of programs, at least one of which (Adobe's own Acrobat Reader) is free. Note here that Adobe's encryption scheme effectively prevents making a backup of an ebook file. (Russian law, incidentally, requires software licenses to allow users to make backups, which makes this story not exactly ironic but sort of poetic.) Sklyarov was in Las Vegas to give a presentation on how ElcomSoft's software breaks the encryption scheme, as a technical analysis of encryption and decryption techniques.

Adobe asked the Justice Department to make the collar. Adobe had lodged a civil suit against Sklyarov's employer and the suit wasn't getting anywhere, so the company wanted to try a criminal prosecution.

But the Internet erupted into a frenzy of denunciation, which spilled over into street demonstrations sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which defends free expression on the Internet. Much of the protest voiced anger that the Justice Department would arrest the man simply for being employed by a particular company. He's only 26 years old, and he has two small children at home, for Heaven's sake. But the EFF tried to keep the discussion focused on the "chilling effect" of arresting a man for the content of his speech and on the encroachment that the DMCA makes on fair use traditionally enjoyed by product purchasers.

After meeting with representatives of the EFF, Adobe recommended Sklyarov's release and said it was withdrawing its support of the charges against him. But as of late Friday, July 27, the Justice Department had not agreed to the release. The Department has stated before that it wants to pursue criminal suits under the DMCA. In the meantime, the Association of American Publishers (it's Pat Schroeder again!) stepped up to the microphones with its support for jailing the guy: "Distribution of the means to strip e-books of their access and copyright protections is not a public service, any more than it be a public service to distribute the keys that unlock a bookstore or public library. It merely facilitates theft and makes it less likely that e-books will become a popular reading format."

If you buy an Adobe eBook and install it on your desktop computer, will you be able to take it with you on your laptop if you want to do some reading on a trip? Will you be able to go back and reread it when you move up to a new computer three years later? If you install more memory or a peripheral card in your computer, will the eBook assume it's on a different machine and refuse to load? What about if you decide to get out from under Microsoft's bootheel and adopt Linux or the Macintosh? Even aside from the morality of the DMCA (of which there is next to none), how does Adobe expect readers to accept a book that can only be read under circumstances dictated by Adobe? People believe that when you buy a book, you get to read it as many times as you want, and you can lend it to a friend, and you can resell it if you want. It doesn't matter how many Russians Adobe puts it jail, they can't change public beliefs about how books work.

The EFF has a comprehensive archive about the Sklyarov case on its site: http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/US_v_Sklyarov/.


2. The Struggle Over C. S. Lewis
A recent web search on the topic of "C. S. Lewis" found over 400,000 pages. He was the kind of author who inspires readers to live much of their mental lives in the worlds he created, and it's not surprising there would be 400,000 pages dealing with him.

Lewis's science fiction seems a little dated now (he depicted Venus as being covered with water), but many people love the novels, which include Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra: A Novel (1943), and That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-tale For Grown-ups (1945), for their Christian spirituality. And the following he continues to enjoy as a children's author is very strong. His children's books include

The Horse And His Boy (1954)
The Last Battle
(1956)
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
(1950)
The Magician's Nephew
(1955)
Prince Caspian: The Return To Narnia
(1951)
The Voyage Of The "Dawn Treader"
(1952)
The Silver Chair (1953).

Now it seems Lewis's publisher, HarperCollins, recently had a plan to repackage the Narnia books, minimizing the religious imagery in order to jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon. When a memo leaked about the plan, the publisher backed off and promised to publish the books without alteration. The publisher was presumably acting in concert with C.S. Lewis, Pte Ltd., an international corporation.

Here it gets really interesting. According to a long article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kathryn Lindskoog, an independent scholar who has a new book coming out in August (Sleuthing C. S. Lewis: More Light On The Shadowlands), some of the C. S. Lewis work certified as genuine by C.S. Lewis, Pte Ltd. is forged. Since 1978, Lindskoog has been pursuing (in a sort of literary way) Walter Hooper, who is the literary advisor to the estate of C. S. Lewis and an employee of C.S.Lewis, Pte Ltd. Hooper worked briefly as Lewis's secretary before his death and went on to advise the estate and to prepare Lewis's essays and poetry for publication. Over the past 36 years, Hooper has prepared editions of 27 books by Lewis.

Lindskoog says that the novel The Dark Tower, attributed to Lewis and first published posthumously in 1977, is not Lewis's work. She says it reads like pulp fiction and it includes uncharacteristic homoerotic content. She says computer analysis of the text supports her belief, as does the work of a document authentication expert.

We have simplified the story considerably. There have been libel suits and counter-suits. There are legitimate scholars who support Lindskoog, but there are also those who don't. There is a whole spiritual dimension and veiled suggestions of satanic influences.

Since readers have actually converted to Christianity under the influence of Lewis's work, the stakes here are fairly high. Lewis died in November, 1963, so if you make sure you read versions of his works published before that date, you can avoid most of the merchandising and the mess. The Chronicle's nine-page article is online at http://chronicle.com/free/v47/i45/45a01201.htm.


3. Success and the Good-looking Author
Some years ago, I chanced to catch a daytime television show that featured an interview with a writer named Jackie Collins. I am interested in book merchandising, so I remember watching it fairly closely. I found the author to be well-groomed, glamorous, not unattractive, and devoid of wit. Maybe she was asked stupid questions or maybe she was having a bad day, but she gave no indication of intelligence or even a moderately rich vocabulary.

The show's studio audience loved her.

I learned later that the books of Jackie Collins sell in unimaginable quantities. I bought one and managed to read four pages of it before its vapidity brought on a despair I could only relieve by closing the book and walking away from it. That someone would trouble to write it and someone else would go to the effort of publishing it did not speak well, I thought, for the prospects of humanity. I don't remember anything about it now except that there were descriptions of clothing and jewelry and that the book did not seem even to aspire to cynicism.

My theory, as a result of this experience, is that a substantial number of readers (enough to assure great wealth for a personally charming author) don't want a reading experience as much as they want a relationship. There are people who apparently consider a book not so much a way of broadening their outlook as a means of getting close in some way to its author. This may be why well-known actors who write second-rate novels produce runaway best- sellers. It certainly has something to do with the extraordinary commercial success of celebrity autobiography as a genre. Why in the world would any intelligent person want to read the life story of a 25-year-old singer?

A July 2 article in The Washington Post, "Judged by Their Back Covers," takes this another step by suggesting that author photos have become a much more important part of book merchandising. "It's a closed-doors secret in contemporary American publishing, but the word is leaking out. Not that you have to resemble Denzel Washington or Cameron Diaz, but if you can write well and you possess the haute cheekbones of Susan Minot, the delicate mien of Amy Tan or the brooding ruggedness of Sebastian Junger, your chances are much greater."

One theory is that writers must be salespeople for their books, and better-looking salespeople are generally more successful than ugly ones. Another theory is that good looks don't sell books, but they sell exposure, which means better-looking authors are more likely to be booked on the Today show or on Larry King. Another theory, which helps explain the success of Jackie Collins (who writes about rich and glamorous people), is that it is important for the writer to look the part in order to give his or her message credibility.

I don't know about any of those theories, but I've decided to get my next author photo at Glamour Shots. The Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6490-2001Jul1.html.


4. Get Yourself a Dictatorship
And You Could Be a Best-seller, Too

Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf ("My Struggle") has been banned in Germany since World War II. It is also banned in Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland. A detestable antisemitic tirade, it tests the idea of free expression.

It was a source of pride to Adolf Hitler that the book had the largest sales of any book worldwide excepting the Bible. Well, duh. The Nazi government bought and distributed six million copies. Hitler proved beyond doubt that becoming the absolute dictator of a country is a reliable way to get your book on its best-seller list.

Mein Kampf is unlikely to be un-banned in Germany in the foreseeable future. Conventional wisdom has it that a politician who would advocate unlimited distribution of the book in that country courts political suicide. The German government continues to make official protests whenever new editions of the book are published in the U.S. or the U.K. Amazon.com acceded to a German government request not to sell it in Germany. But the book isn't difficult to find on the Internet, to buy or download. The German government must know that its ban becomes less effective all the time, but in Germany, regular distribution of the book would be offensive to many people.

To give you some insight into modern corporatism's respect for national governments: Hutchinson, the U.K. publisher of the book, was acquired by Random House, which was bought by the German publisher Bertelsmann. So the book, in a sense, is being sold in Britain by a German company.

In the U.S., the book has been continuously published by Houghton Mifflin since 1933. Sometime in the 1940s, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. Government seized the rights to the royalties and put them into the War Claims Fund, from which they were distributed to prisoners of war and others. In 1979, however, Houghton Mifflin bought back the rights for about $35,000. The book is not a big moneymaker for Houghton Mifflin; it sells about 15,000 copies a year. But last October, when U.S. News interviewed an executive at Houghton Mifflin as part of an investigation into the disposition of the royalties, the firm said that although the income wasn't that much, it would begin donating the royalties to charity. It had done so before: during the period 1939 to 1942, it leased the rights to the book to another publisher, which donated all profits to the Children's Crusade, a charity helping refugee children. Houghton Mifflin doggedly insists it keeps the book in print as a cautionary tale. It is, after all, difficult to argue the Holocaust never took place when the blueprint for it is readily available.

The U.S. News article, "Money from a Madman," is at: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/001016/book.htm. There is a link there to a follow-up article as well.

 

5. Messages to the Editor
This Month's Brian Doyle Message
Hilarious and informative as usual [
ATM #20]. Your note on book sections reminds me of a conversation I had once with the late crusty novelist George Higgins, who liked red wine, strong coffee, cigarettes, roast beef hash, and two newspapers for breakfast. Higgins was annoyed by much in life, especially the fact that, as he said (in stronger language), the [Boston] Globe carried more pages about tires than it did about books.
George also said, memorably, that writing was a benign neurosis, a line that makes me grin still.
I lift my glass to his memory.
Brian Doyle

Remarkable That There Are Conscientious Book Reviewers
If you liked that Komodo Dragon skit [see the links section of
ATM #20], you would absolutely love Frank Sullivan's many "expert" humor pieces, of which the Komodo one is a modernized shadow.
As for book reviews, I still feel it's remarkable that there are so many book review editors who truly care about reviewing books by publishers who don't advertise and whose books could easily be ignored without anyone noticing. If there were an equal percentage of people like this at bookstores, we'd both be rich. It's somewhat the same at big publishers: it's just short of a miracle that so many good books are still published by the conglomerates. There is such a thing as self-respect, and it's a pretty powerful phenomenon.
How's Cold Vampire coming?
Rob

[Editor's Note: Rob is Rob Wechsler of Catbird Press, which has published five of your editor's novels, making him in a manner of speaking your editor's editor. The "Cold Vampire" he refers to is a novel with the working title Dark Plantation, your editor's current project, a Civil War vampire novel. It's going famously: 92 pages, so far, of military valor and blood-curdling fiendishness. Thanks for asking, Rob.]

A Reader Outside Computer Culture
Dear Floyd (forgive the familiarity as we have never met):
I have been reading ATM through the courtesy of our mutual friend, Patty Hodgins. I myself stand outside the PC culture. On several occasions, I have been tempted to write to you but have desisted. The recent piece on the Archimedes Palimpsest pushed me over the line, so here are some accumulated sentiments.
The piece on Archimedes [ATM #20] might give your readers the impression that the Palimpsest discovery has revealed for the first time all of the works of Archimedes mentioned. However, The Equilibrium of Planes and On Floating Bodies, among many others, survived the vicissitudes of centuries in numerous translations (probably Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew and finally Latin), and became available in English (I have to guess here) about a hundred years ago in Sir Thomas Heath's The Works of Archimedes (Dover Books). We included Planes and Floating Bodies in our syllabus of original scientific writings for undergraduates in the College of the University of Chicago in the forties and fifties.
Another stimulus was the piece, some months ago [ATM #10], on Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and its widespread influence, especially on social scientists (as you noted). I used to lunch with Kuhn in Harvard Square when I was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard in l952-53, and I shall never forget his saying to me on one such occasion (he was a graduate student at the time) that he proposed to write a book that would have the same influence on the philosophy of science in the twentieth century that Karl Pearson's The Grammar of Science had in the nineteenth. In a sense, he succeeded, for the book created a tremendous stir in both academic and lay circles, though few natural scientists were willing to concede that scientific theories, even in part, are a cultural phenomenon, and some philosophers of science found inconsistencies in his reasoning.
Sincerely yours,
Aaron Sayvetz

[Editor's Note: Aaron is one of two regular readers I know about who read ATM as a printout provided by a subscriber. If you know someone who would enjoy the newsletter but who doesn't use a computer, you have our permission (encouragement, even) to print it out and share it. Thanks for the gloss on Thomas Kuhn and for clarifying the status of Archimedes's works, Aaron.]

Our Readers Love Google
I was delighted to read that you are a fan of Google, which I consider one of my all-time best discoveries on the Web. Not only does it turn up much better content than any other search engine I've found, but it resides on a site blessedly free of the normal clutter and flash. Besides, I like the name, which seems to exude a 1920s jazzy, winking charm, unlike Yahoo (loud and inclined to mix plaids and checks) or Alta Vista (a failed, low-end car model?)
I commend your taste in online tools, as well as books.
Regards,
Joanne

Oh, you sly dog! Introducing the thought of a Google search... of course we are all going to try it... then choosing the puzzler that you did... try putting in "Armand Bergeron" and "long time to die" and you are guaranteed an amusing but fruitless search. You did that on purpose, no?
Adilee

I don't wish to comment on your anonymous subscriber's moral tone [ATM #20]. Intellectual desperation has driven many a soul around the situational-ethics bend, after all. I might even invite the guy into my own home. (One does hope, though, that he won't attempt to artificially prolong his own limited celebrity with further messages describing the nuances of his craven act.)
All that said: Google was a wonderful choice for him to have made. You probably know this, but what makes it so wonderful is not that it depends, like other engines, on a page's own content just for association with keywords. It does do that, of course. What's wonderful is that it does not, however, rank results based on some kind of semantic analysis of the page's content. Results are ranked by counting the number of other pages that link to a "hit" page -- on the assumption that the more a page is linked to, the more valuable a resource it is on those keywords.
There are lots of interesting little back corners and seldom explored features of Google. One handy one is the "translate this page" feature returned on some hits. Of course, automated translation can be pretty dreadful. But if you type in a couple of keywords like, oh, say... "talleyrand novel" you will of course find links to many French-language pages. Note that these links are followed by "Translate this page" links, as well. Following one of the latter links will display, after a pause, a page with the text translated (in machine-rudimentary form) into English. A boon for the wretched, English-only American reader. (I wouldn't be surprised if your anonymous cheater were in that category.)
Another curiosity is found on the Google Preferences page:

http://www.google.com/preferences

Pull down that list of available Interface Languages. Scroll to the top of the list and select (currently) the 4th one -- the one ending with an exclamation point. Then click on the Save Preferences button.
The Muppets' Scandinavian chef must be very proud!
(Note that there's no way currently to translate results into this particular language; it affects only button labels, window titles, and other components of Google's own pages. All the more reason to be impressed, actually, as there is thus absolutely no practical advantage -- it's purely for entertainment!)
Thanks as ever for ATM,
John

[Editor's Note: John is John Simpson, whom readers will remember for his able guest-editorship of ATM #7. Some may think he has way too much sympathy for the reader who cheated on last month's "Do You Know Me?"]
[Another Editor's Note: Here's another great Google item: "Google Zeitgeist," at
http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html. It shows the week's 10 fastest-growing queries, the week's 10 fastest- declining queries, the top five misspelled queries, and all kinds of cool charts, such as a comparison of hits for "angelina jolie" and "lara croft" and the distribution of languages used in Google searches.]
[Yet Another Editor's Note: readers should remember that many search engines (Google most definitely excluded) rank hits not only on "some semantic analysis of the page's content" but on the fees paid by websites to the company that runs the search engine.]

At The Margin has 1032 subscribers, most of whom are interested in what you have to say about books or items you have read in ATM. Send a message to the editor and get those thoughts out to 1031 others. Please limit your comment to 200 words and send it to ATM's editor, Floyd Kemske (fkemske@thirdlion.com).

6. Do You Know Me?
For those who like puzzles as well as books, this department brings you the first sentence of a book, currently out of print in the U.S., by a famous writer. The name of the author and title of the book will be in the next issue, so write your guess down. If you want to send me your guess, email it to fkemske@thirdlion.com.
Please include your name (so I can congratulate you in this space if you're correct) and let me know if you recognized the writer's style or if you know the book, or both.

This Issue's Sentence:

Peter guessed that he must have been hurt in the accident though he could not remember very much from the time he had left the safety of Scotch Nanny's side and run out across the street to get to the garden in the square, where the tabby striped kitten was warming herself by the railing and washing in the early spring sunshine.

I'm waiting for your guesses.

Last Issue's Sentence:

It took Armand Bergeron a long, long time to die and even then there was no dignity to his dying.

Nobody tried to guess this time, although Adilee entertained herself by searching for the sentence in Google. The sentence is from No Adam in Eden (1963) by Grace Metalious, a writer best known for her blockbuster debut novel, Peyton Place (1956).

Sometime in the late 1950s, if memory serves, Mad Magazine ran an article that purported to show how cocktail party conversation would be affected if countries traded celebrities the way baseball teams traded players. In the article two men are talking, and one says, "England has traded William Shakespeare to the U.S. for Grace Metalious." The other man says, "Shakespeare is dead." The first man replies, "The U.S. is still getting the better deal."

It was a risky joke for Mad Magazine, which has always based its success on a core audience of adolescent and teen-aged boys. Adolescent boys are not usually what you might call well-read, but it is safe to say that in the late 1950s, they probably considered Grace Metalious a national treasure. No adolescent boy clubhouse in those days was without a dog-eared paperback copy of Peyton Place. We could have wished the descriptions in the sex scenes had been more explicit, but at least the language was fairly coarse, and there was never any mistaking what was going on in them.

"In an age when the average first novel sold two thousand copies," writes Ardis Cameron, "Peyton Place sold sixty thousand within the first ten days of its official release. By year's end, almost one in twenty-nine Americans had purchased the book, putting it on the top of The New York Times best-seller list, where it stayed for fifty-nine weeks." The quote is from Cameron's introduction to Peyton Place, written for the new edition (1999) published by Northeastern University Press (a university press, yet!).

The book presents lust, incest, abortion, adulterous affairs, and family secrets in the context of a small, picturesque New England town. It is actually rather mild by modern standards, but it set off a conflagration of censure. Libraries banned it, "respectable" people excoriated it, Mad Magazine ridiculed it. None other than the late William Loeb, editor of the Manchester [New Hampshire] Union Leader (and in many ways the godfather of today's hydrophobic political right), wrote, "This sad situation reveals a complete debasement of taste and a fascination with the filthy, rotten side of life that are the earmarks of the collapse of civilization." Manchester was Metalious's hometown.

For a book that achieved such popularity, it has been mostly ignored by serious commentators, and it is lumped in the popular imagination with the trashy novels of Jacqueline Susann. Ardis Cameron says this is unfortunate: "Uncompromising in its attack upon class inequities, poverty, male privilege, and the sexual closet, Peyton Place gradually has become a salacious trope for erotic excess, serial philandering, and the trivialization of sex."

Peyton Place may have artistic integrity, but Grace Metalious's life was like something out of the trashy novels she was accused of writing. She was born Marie Grace de Repentigny in Manchester, New Hampshire in what her biographer (Emily Toth, Inside Peyton Place, 1981) described as a "French Canadian ghetto." She began writing when she was a child. She married at 18, already pregnant. She had three children. As a young mother, she was ostracized in New Hampshire for her unconventional behavior. By 1955, she had written two novels which she began peddling through an agent, The Quiet Place and The Tree and the Blossom. The Tree and the Blossom was eventually published as Peyton Place. In the months before its publication, Metalious began drinking heavily, she and her husband began to live apart, and she had affairs with local men. Her publisher began a prepublication publicity campaign, fabricating a history for her as a conventional New England housewife and saying that her husband lost his teaching job because the book she'd written was so scandalous.

Once the book was published, Metalious began to receive hate mail, and her children were picked on at school. Her affairs got even more flamboyant, and she and her husband were eventually divorced. Peyton Place became a movie with Lana Turner. The movie was said to have "whitewashed" the story. In the space of 30 days, Metalious wrote Return to Peyton Place and received a lucrative advance from Hollywood. But the publisher judged the manuscript to be so bad that a ghost writer was brought in. The book was published in 1959 to unfavorable reviews. In 1959, Metalious, her daughter, and her mother were in an auto accident, which resulted in her mother suing her for negligence. In 1960, she divorced her second husband and remarried her first. Also in 1960, her third novel, The Tight White Collar (said to be her own favorite) was published. In 1961, the Internal Revenue Service billed her $163,000 in back taxes on underreported income.

Through all this, her drinking got worse and worse. In 1963, No Adam in Eden was published to unfavorable reviews. She and her husband separated again, and she became friends (and later lovers) with an Englishman named John Rees. In 1964, she died from cirrhosis of the liver. The doctor who examined her said her liver was as damaged as it would have been from drinking a fifth of liquor every day for five years. In the hospital, however, she had changed her will to give everything to John Rees. When her children contested the will, it came to light that Rees was married with five children in England. The probate court ruled that Rees's claim was valid, but the estate was consumed by debt. On her deathbed, she is said to have advised Rees, "Be careful of what you want, you may get it."

Here's a newspaper story about how the town of Gilmanton hates her: http://www.cmonitor.com/stories/top100/grace_metalious.shtml. Here's an outline of her biography based on Inside Peyton Place: http://icarus.ubetc.buffalo.edu/willbern/bestsellers/Peyton/metabio.html.

7. Blue Underlined Words
I follow a lot of links in the course of compiling this letter, and some of the pages I visit look like they may be interesting or useful to you. I have only visited them and know nothing about them beyond what I could gather from the visit. So I'm not endorsing anything, just bringing it to your attention. Click at your own risk.

The Three-day Novel Contest
The 24th Anvil Press International 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, "the world's most infamous literary marathon," takes place Labor Day Weekend, September 1-3, 2001. You have to register by August 31 (fee: $25), and you get to write anywhere you want, but you are on your honor to write your whole novel over the long Labor Day weekend. (If you're tempted to cheat, Google is not going to help you with this one!)
http://www.anvilpress.com/3daynov/index.htm

Lincoln's Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation
This is pretty hilarious.
http://www.norvig.com/Gettysburg/index.htm

The Meaning of "Hotel California"
Charlie Bertsch explains in a charming article how the lyrics to the Eagles' 1970s hit, "Hotel California" ("you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave") taught him the skills of critical reading.
http://eserver.org/bs/56/bertsch.html

CryptoCross
If you like crossword puzzles but think they're mostly too wimpy for you, you may want to try CryptoCross. CryptoCross is a new kind of puzzle that "combines the features of a traditional crossword puzzle with an added cryptogram letter-substitution step." There's a free one at this site, and you can subscribe to a weekly puzzle for $6.95 for six months (limited-time introductory offer).
http://www.cryptocross.com/

My Cat Hates You
We've had some minor controversy here at ATM about the relative merits of cats and dogs and whether bookstores should always have cats. This page presents a gallery of cats that hate you. Our favorite is the cat who "hates you and the horse you rode in on."
http://www.mycathatesyou.com/othercat.htm

If you liked this issue of At The Margin, forward it to a friend, and encourage him or her to subscribe.

A Commercial Message From Avenue Victor Hugo
Come to a place where the cat doesn't hate you. At Avenue Victor Hugo, we are (except for the cat) real people selling real books. If you still read, you may be getting rarer, but you don't have to be alone. Come for camaraderie, advice, something to read, or all three.
Of course we sell out of print titles and will help you find any we don't have in our 150,000 book stock or among our 250,000 magazines. Inquiries and searches cost nothing. Just make your request on our "Feedback" page: http://www.avenuevictorhugobooks.com/feedback.php3
In the lower 48 states of the U.S., we ship via UPS at $4.50 for the first book and $1 for each additional book (UPS ships to street addresses only; no P.O. boxes). Overseas shipping is postage plus $1 per book.
Avenue Victor Hugo is your bricks and mortar alternative. Let us know what you're looking for. You can even give us a price range! You'll find us at http://www.avenuevictorhugobooks.com


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At The Margin is published monthly, but is otherwise charmingly erratic. It aims for release sometime during each calendar month.

(c) Copyright 2001 Floyd Kemske

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