From Lisa VanDamme:
I am writing to notify you about two big Read With Me announcements.
The first is that the app is now available free of charge, to eliminate the financial barrier in front of anyone who can’t afford it or doesn’t understand its value. If you go to the web app, or download the app for iPhone or Android, you will have immediate access to the full library of works, including Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris and Ninety Three, Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, and more.
The second is that on December 2nd, a week from Sunday, I will begin leading readers through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. If you’d like to join me and other members on this literary journey, now is the perfect time to download the app.
Dostoevsky said of his faith, “My hosanna has passed through a great crucible of doubt.” I believe it is that crucible – that fathomless depth and merciless rigor of thought, that unyielding determination to leave no psychological stone unturned, that intensity of moral ambition – that makes Dostoevsky required reading for everyone, believers and non-believers alike.
Too often, we adopt our own convictions with unthinking ease, rather than subjecting them to a crucible. My goal in starting Read With Me was to create a community of readers and accompany them on a journey through great works of literature that will challenge, deepen, and expand our outlook on life. Dostoevsky will.
As I said, anyone and everyone can now try Read With Me, because there is no longer a required subscription fee. I am a zealot on a literary mission, determined to show people what they stand to gain when they crack the pages of musty, old, beautiful, timeless books. Those who enjoy, and can afford, and want to support the existence of this program can become voluntary $10/month subscribers through Patreon.
I am not a professional actor. I am not a literary scholar. What I am is a sincere reader and a passionate lover of literature. You can think of the Read With Me app as providing you a book-loving friend in your pocket, always happy to read to you from my heart and to share with you what fascinates me about what we are reading.
Try Read With Me. Share it with the would-be readers in your life. Make literature part of your life.
Nina Martyris over at the Paris Review recounts the delightful story of How ‘Les Misérables’ Was the Biggest Deal in Book History:
Signed in 1861 on a sunny Atlantic island, it tied an exiled French genius to an upstart Belgian house, resulting in the printing of that perennial masterwork, Les Misérables. In a new book, The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of ‘Les Misérables’, the professor and translator David Bellos condenses tranches of research into a gripping tale about Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.
The deal, Bellos points out, was pathbreaking on several levels. First, Hugo earned an unprecedented sum: 300,000 francs (roughly $3.8 million in today’s money) for an eight-year license. “It was a tremendous amount of money, and since it entitled the publisher to own the work for only eight years, it remains the highest figure ever paid for a work of literature,” Bellos writes: “In terms of gold it would have weighed around ninety-seven kilos [213 pounds]. It was enough money to build a small railway or endow a chair at the Sorbonne.”
Second, the neophyte Belgian publisher Albert Lacroix was the antithesis of a Penguin Random House. At the time, the twenty-eight-year-old Lacroix had cut his teeth at his uncle’s printing press, and he didn’t have so much as a sou to his name. Determined to sign Hugo on, he set up his own firm—Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Co—and borrowed the entire amount for Hugo’s advance from the Oppenheim bank in Brussels, where he had contacts. Bellos marks it as “probably the first loan ever made by a bank to finance a book,” which means “Les Misérables stands at the vanguard of the use of venture capital to fund the arts.”
Third, Lacroix signed on knowing full well that his client was a political outcast….
Read the full story: How ‘Les Misérables’ Was the Biggest Deal in Book History:
Get The Book:The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of ‘Les Misérables’ by David Bellos
Movies should cast the best actor for the part — whatever their race or gender. Sadly many viewers are race-conscious rather than race-blind.
Quoting Opinion: A look at Whitewashing and Ethnicity Swapping in Television and Movies
Diversity is important for movies. The whole world watches Hollywood movies, and our films should include a great variety of talented actors, regardless of race or gender. Traditionally, American television and movies have been less than stellar at casting people of color or women for parts that could be portrayed by any ethnicity or gender. The raunchy comedy South Park, even shamelessly goes after this trend in television and movies by having one African American character who is named “Token”.
If a new movie is released and it isn’t based on older movies, or history, then Hollywood should strive to bring more diversity to their cast. For example, take a science fiction movie like Edge of Tomorrow. The film takes place in the future and involves battles between humans and aliens. Hollywood can and should cast a diverse team for these original movies, as it’s new territory not built on past franchises.
The real diversity that matters — whether in schools, work, sports, or movies — is intellectual (performance), not racial.