I spent today at Mount Holyoke College, at the Books to Blogs & Back program: a set of “interactive activities and exhibits relating to the history of book creation and publication,” a talk by Jason Epstein about “how new digital technologies make the book publishing industry obsolete, but not the book itself” (he’s involved with a company that sells on-demand book vending machines), and a panel discussion on “The Past and Future of the Book” with Terry Belanger talking about how books as physical objects will survive as prestige objects (like horses) even after their utilitarian functions have been taken over, Sven Birkerts prognosticating about how the internet is going to turn us into a “hive mind,” and (by far the best to my mind) Lisa Gitelman taking a sceptical look at predictions of literary doom (including “how in 200 years moral panic about reading novels has shifted to moral panic about not reading novels”). It was all very stimulating, and I picked up a free (if heavily marked-up) copy of Se questo è un uomo by Primo Levi (the Italian original of Survival in Auschwitz, which I already had), and when I got home I found waiting for me the copy of Time of troubles, the diary of Iurii Vladimirovich Got’e: Moscow, July 8, 1917 to July 23, 1922 (“Among the few diaries available from inside early Soviet Russia none approaches Iurii V. Got’e’s in sustained length of coverage and depth of vivid detail… . This remarkable chronicle, published here for the first time, describes the hardships undergone by Got’e’s family and friends and the gradual takeover of the academic and professional sectors of Russia by the new regime.”), which I had only learned about last week and had found for a couple of dollars on Amazon. A good day.

Oh, and today’s NY Times has a feature by Roger Mummert, called “In the Valley of the Literate,” on the Pioneer Valley (where I now live): “There are many explanations for why the valley is so rich in bookstores and author readings, but two are paramount: many book lovers live in the valley, and so do an extraordinary number of writers.” I had lunch today (with Songdog and his wife) right next door to the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley whose photograph graces the start of the article.


  1. And delighted we were that you could make it!

  2. My Abacus translation of “Se questo è un uomo” was titled “If This is a Man”

  3. Yeah, different versions/translations have different titles.

  4. I’ve only seen something like the last half of “If This be a Man” on the telly, but I’ve wanted to read it for while now.
    My undergraduate advisor gave me “The Periodical Table” and I enjoyed it immensely.
    Levi’s is a sad and yet very … lifeconfirming story.

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