Alison Flood

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No matter how many more stories Margaret Atwood writes in her life, the one she is currently working on will be her last, in a sense. The last one read for the first time, anyhow. The author’s current work will be buried in a time capsule for 100 years as part of a deep-future project which runs counter to our insta-culture. From Alison Flood at the Guardian:

“Depending on perspective, it is an author’s dream – or nightmare:Margaret Atwood will never know what readers think of the piece of fictions he is currently working on, because the unpublished, unread manuscript from the Man Booker prize-winning novelist will be locked away for the next 100 years.

Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.

‘It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long,’ said Atwood, speaking from Copenhagen. ‘I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, ‘How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'”

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There’s no corporation, including Google, that should be trusted with our private information. Of course, there’s no way to avoid such a faustian bargain in this world of clouds. Everything is free, but it still costs a lot. There’s the rub.

Later this year, Julian Assange is to release a book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, the description of which sounds bombastic, grandiose and borderline crazy, like Assange himself. But that’s not to say it won’t contain truth. Just because the messenger is deeply flawed doesn’t mean the message is completely wrong. Sometimes, it’s only the truly damaged person who’ll step forward. From Alison Flood in the Guardian:

‘Julian Assange is writing a ‘major’ new book, in which the Wikileaks founder details his vision for the “future of the internet’ as well as his encounter in 2011 with Google chairman Eric Schmidt – a meeting which his publisher described as ‘an historic dialogue’ between ‘the North and South poles of the internet.’

The book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, will be published in September this year, announced publisher OR Books this morning. It will recount how, in June 2011 when Assange was living under house arrest at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, Schmidt and ‘an entourage of US State Department alumni including a top former adviser to Hillary Clinton’ visited for several hours and ‘locked horns’ with the Wikileaks founder.

‘The two men debated the political problems faced by human society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network – from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently,’ said OR Books in its announcement.

The title will include an edited transcript of the conversation between Schmidt and Assange, as well as new material written by Assange, who has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, for the last 18 months.”

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I’m starting to believe that Philip Roth is serious about his retirement from writing novels. Of course, he’s spoken recently about how he feels the novel itself is “retiring.” It’s kind of difficult to argue based on the evidence, based on how much storytelling has changed, how much more it will likely soon change. I still hold out hope, still think words will be everywhere. Maybe careers won’t be literary anymore, but I believe there will still be literature of high quality. The opening of Alison Flood’s new Guardian piece about the great novelist in (at least) repose:

A happily retired Philip Roth is spending his days swimming, watching baseball and nature-spotting, revelling in the fact that ‘there’s more to life than writing and publishing fiction,’ according to a new interview.

Reiterating his bleak view about the future of literature – that ‘two decades on the size of the audience for the literary novel will be about the size of the group who read Latin poetry’ – the 80-year-old Roth told Stanford scholar Cynthia Haven that his disengagement from the world of writing is still very much in evidence. Asked by Haven if he really believes his talent – which has won him the Man Booker International prize and made him a perennial contender for the Nobel – will ‘let [him] quit’ writing, Roth responded: ‘You better believe me, because I haven’t written a word of fiction since 2009.’

‘I have no desire to write fiction,’ said the Pulitzer prize-winning literary giant. ‘I did what I did and it’s done. There’s more to life than writing and publishing fiction. There is another way entirely, amazed as I am to discover it at this late date.’

Instead: ‘I swim, I follow baseball, look at the scenery, watch a few movies, listen to music, eat well and see friends. In the country I am keen on nature.’

He is also studying 19-century American history.•

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