Category Archives: books


Hold on, folks.

Maybe it’s time for me to take back everything I’ve ever said about “the rape culture.”

Like, how it’s slightly deranged to suggest that any modern liberal society has one.

Because, really, what else do you call it when a man can post reams of pornographic fantasies online about a female celebrity, and not only get away with it but get a six-figure book deal to turn those fantasies into a novel?

Oh, wait. My bad.

Correction: When a woman can post reams of pornographic fantasies about a male celebrity and get a six-figure book deal.

Can you imagine the howling in the feminist blogosphere and on Twitter if the genders were reversed?

Anyway. Still no rape culture, sorry. But considering that this is One Direction fanfic we’re talking about, it does make me weep for the future of culture, period.


Filed under books, culture, gender issues

Copyright and creative freedom

My new column discusses the J.D. Salinger lawsuit to stop the publication of a book called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye that is kinda, sorta a sequel to Catcher in the Rye.

My argument: copyright law as it currently exists does the opposite of its original intent (as formulated in the U.S. Constitution, which allows Congress to legislate on copyright, and in the very first copyright statute enacted in 1790): to promote arts and letters and encourage learning, by giving authors an incentive to create new works by ensuring that they can fairly profit from their writings.  (In olden days, it wasn’t at all uncommon for unauthorized editions of books to be legally sold with no profits going to the writer.)  Today, copyright violation claims are commonly invoked to suppress new works — wheter it’s 60 Years Later, The Wind Done Gone (the “Gone With the Wind-from-a-slave’s-point-of-view” novel that was finally declared legal after much wrangling in the courts), a production of a James Joyce play, or fan-made Xena: Warrior Princess videos on YouTube.

My conclusion:

Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig has argued that unless copyright law is reformed, it will end up stifling the creativity of a generation, particularly in the age of digital art. At the very least, the law should focus more on whether the copyright holder suffers actual economic loss, or be denied rightful gain, because of the infringement. As for restricting the use of one’s character or story by other artists of writers, it seems fair that, like the right to sue for libel, this right should be terminated by death. (Personally, I would support a term of 50 years, with a portion of revenues from any derivative work published thereafter going to the original author.)

Actually, I should have been clearer: 50 years or the death of the author, whichever comes first.

While ego-surfing Google Blogs tonight, I spotted my name on the blog, in reference to the column and my “50-year copyright term” proposal.  I just knew I — and Reason — were getting slammed, so I figured it was for disrespect for intellectual property rights unbecoming libertarians.  Well, I was wrong.

Continue reading


Filed under books, culture, freedom of the press, intellectual property

Happy birthday, 1984!

Slightly belated (the actual date was June 8).

My take on the 60th anniversary of George Orwell’s great novel can be found here: “We have met Big Brother, and he is us.”

Meanwhile, here’s a gallery of the covers of the many editions of Orwell’s dystopian novel.  Here’s a quaintly hilarious one from 1955:


1984 as pulp romance.  (That’s a pretty alluring uniform for the Junior Anti-Sex League!)  Pity the poor reader who picked this up expecting a steamy tale of forbidden love, fear, and betrayal.  What a cruel way to sell books.


Filed under books, freedom, philosophical musings

Last WWII-related post for now: “In Defiance of Fate”

Since I’ve been on a bit of a World War II streak, particularly with regard to WWII and Russia, I thought I’d mention that last year I worked on translating a wartime memoir that contains some fascinating material, and which is now published in English.  The book is In Defiance of Fate by Vladimir Rott, a Russian-Jewish emigre now living in Canada, born in 1935 of Hungarian parents who moved to the Soviet Union in 1933.   Rott’s father was arrested as a “Hungarian spy” and sent to the Gulag when he was three years old; his mother, who barely spoke Russian and had no job skills, was left alone with two small children.   The family’s hardships were compounded when the war began and they found themselves under German occupation; miraculously (I won’t explain how) the Nazis did not find out that Regina Rott and her two children were Jewish. 

Rott is not a professional writer; he started to write this book (of which I am now working on the second volume) for his own grandchildren.  However, it is a story told (pardon the cliché) from the heart — a very authentic, vivid, dramatic tale of incredible hardship and survival.  The wartime chapters are particularly gripping, and make you marvel (and shudder) at the things so many people lived through as children in that terrible age.  Since I am specifically focusing on the World War II parts, I should mention that Chapter 1 deals with the fate of Rott’s relatives in Hungary during the war (and it’s pretty grim reading).   For those interested in Soviet history, the book also features a chapter consisting of Rott’s father’s letters from the Gulag camps, as well as a firsthand account of the final years of Stalin’s rule (including the anti-Semitic campaign that followed the “Doctors’ Plot”) and the Khrushchev “thaw.”

The author’s site is here.  The book can be ordered online here.  And no, I am not getting kickbacks.

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Filed under books, World War II