I also went to two talks, my colleague Evan Mwangi's penetrating discussion of Ngugi's Maitagari on Monday, which led to a conversation about translation, local languages, and Kenyan censorship of Gikuyu texts versus their English versions; and then tonight a presentation on the legacy of Aimé Césaire, led by colleague John Márquez and featuring Aaron Kamugisha, Paul Breslin, Doris Garraway, and Barnor Hesse. Brilliant people, to put it simply, speaking with cogency and subtlety about a brilliant man. (Did you know that Discourse on Colonialism was one of the leading political texts of the 20th century? If you didn't or doubt it, I know Hesse can convince you.)
I may try to say more about both events soon, but tomorrow I'm on a panel with another brilliant colleague from my department, Alex Weheliye, in conversation with Daphne Brooks, from Princeton. We'll be taking part in a discussion on African American Studies and the disciplines, with this one being English and American literary and cultural studies.
The news of Teddy Kennedy's malignant brain tumor really saddens me. I know things look grim and it's too early to start memorializing him, so let me just say that I am glad I did once have an opportunity to vote for him, back in 1988, when he ran against Joe Malone, though one of my favorite memories of him was from 1994, when we'd moved from Massachusetts, and Kennedy, again up for reelection, faced a younger Mitt Romney. C-SPAN televised one of the debates that took place in downtown Boston, and we sat cheering, many states away, as Kennedy argued rings around Romney. The TV audience was cheering and applauding so much it sounded like a revival. Of course he won that election, as he has every one since 1962, when he assumed the Senate seat his brother had held before his election (and which a family friend, Benjamin Smith, kept warm for two years). It'll be hard to imagine a US Senate without Teddy Kennedy--but then I said I ought not start memorializing him now, and I won't.
What you reap, you sow. In many cases. In big-league global publishing, this is an old and bleak story, told quite succinctly and with brio by André Schiffrin, and it has yet to get any better or less ridiculous. Out with hatchet man Peter Olson, in with...
New Head of Random Comes from Bertelsmann Printing Unit May 20, 2008
Bertelsmann is appointing the head of its worldwide printing operations to replace Peter Olson at Random House, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Markus Dohle, 39, who heads Arvato Print, one of Bertelsmann's most profitable units, is described as "entrepreneurial" and has helped Arvato expand into such unrelated businesses as repairing cell phones, storing pharmaceuticals and running call centers and billing systems, the paper said. Dohle has a degree in industrial engineering and economics from a German university and has no publishing experience.
Hartmut Ostrowski, who became Bertelsmann's CEO at the beginning of the year, headed Arvato for five years and has "vowed to shake up [Bertelsmann's] slow-growing businesses." In the past year, Random sales fell 6% and operating profit was down 5%. Random represented 10% of Bertelsmann's sales and operating profit last year.
Olson blamed the depressed numbers on a lack of megasellers last year. This year already looks brighter: Barbara Walters's memoir, Audition, has a million copies in print already and forthcoming titles include a new novel by Christopher Paolini and a biography of Warren Buffett.
Ostrowski has said that he wants other parts of Bertelsmann, including Random House, to diversify as Arvato did. According to the Journal, "an area of interest" for Random is educational services.
Now don't you think this news will make Random House's editors, authors, and readers feel a lot more secure? Call centers, Buffett bios, "educational services".... (H/T Lisa Moore).
This is one of the snarkier obituaries I've read in a while. A name I vaguely recalled from childhood, he's probably totally forgotten now. (His white elephant of a personal monument, because rich people still have the power to commemorate themselves as they see fit, no matter how ridiculous the results, however, has been radically transformed.) That still wasn't enough for the New York Times's obituary writer to serve up a dose of corrosive Schadenfreude. Read it, you won't be bored.