(Oskar Pastior who was deported to labor camp) told me that an elderly Russian mother had given him a handkerchief…Maybe you will both be lucky, said the Russian woman, and you will come home soon and so will my son…
Ever since I heard this story I have had a question of my own: is DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF valid everywhere? Does it stretch halfway across the world in the snowy sheen between freezing and thawing? Does it pass between mountains and steppes to cross every border; can it reach all the way into a gigantic empire strewn with penal and labor camps? Is the question DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF impossible to get rid of, even with a hammer and sickle, even with all the camps of Stalinist re-education?…
Oskar Pastior kept that handkerchief in his trunk as a reliquary of a double mother with a double son. And after five years of life in the camps he brought it home. Because his white batiste handkerchief was hope and fear. Once you let go of hope and fear, you die.
The issues involved with copy protection haven't changed. They're the same on e-books as they are with everything else. Namely:
* Publishers are terrified of piracy, whether it involves music, movies, software programs or books. Everyone remembers how Napster made music easy to duplicate and freely share. Publishers argue that the music industry was badly hurt, and never really recovered.
* Their first reaction, therefore, was to install nasty copy protection of the type you describe, with limits on which brand of player would play a song and how many gadgets you could copy it to.
* In time, everyone realized the silliness of this exercise. It inconvenienced only the law-abiders; the software pirates had plenty of simple, convenient ways to duplicate the songs anyway. So eventually, the music publishers agreed to let Apple, Amazon and others sell non-protected versions of their songs.
In the glamfest that is today’s world of books, all about oomph-oozing advances, slick marketing gimmicks and Disney theme-party book launches, these authors have turned out books that are actually being read, recommended and passed along: the sleeper successes of the year that nobody flared party blowhorns in your ears to make you read.
In the last year or so, these fiction writers have gone on to sell several thousand copies since publication. Many of them have had their books going into a second or third reprint—an index of a book’s currency. And yet, no drums are being beaten for them. Some of them may even prefer it that way. To an author of a certain disposition, there is nothing quite like success without fanfare.
Here are The Middle Stage's favourite nonfiction books of 2009
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