Six Degrees of Voltaire

American culture loves results and products–“deliverables,” to borrow current managerial parlance. (“Deliverables” is the latest entry in my ever-expanding dictionary of the buzzwords that have taken over our working lives.) When time and money are on the line, the final question tends to be “What do you have to show for that?” That attitude puts humanities research… Continue reading »

Rag and Bone Shops

Victorianists! I need your help. I’m on the hunt for information about how people in the Victorian era thought about, managed, catalogued, and got rid of their stuff. And by stuff I mean household possessions: clothes, books, cookware, toys, papers and whatnot–the bric-a-brac and etceteras of daily life. I’m looking for accounts of the trade in… Continue reading »

Literary Housework

A partial list of literary things that just won’t die: print books, independent bookstores, small & print-centric literary journals. I just wrote about one of those journals, The Hopkins Review (“The Craft of Writing,” JHU Arts & Sciences Magazine, Spring 2016), which is expanding its presence online while remaining loyal to its print incarnation. The Review… Continue reading »

Pictures of You

Like a lot of people, I don’t enjoy having my picture taken. Hold on. I typed “like a lot of people” almost automatically, as one of those thumbsucker openings that allows a writer to warm up before diving into what he/she/ze really means to say. As soon as I wrote it, though, I started to wonder…. Continue reading »

The Year of Opening Up the Library

(Cross-posted from Medium.)   For all the hopes heaped on it, 2016 hasn’t gotten off to a promising start. David Bowie left us. Alan Rickman left us. Crises at home and abroad threaten the geopolitical order. I could go on. If you need a shot of optimism to get you through the dark days, look to… Continue reading »

Reading the Commute

Like most writers, I have a day job (a new one that I’m quite enjoying–see previous post). And while I do sometimes work remotely, many days I shuttle back and forth to the office via public transportation. I live two blocks from a Metro stop, which means I spend a lot of time on DC’s… Continue reading »

Books and Birds

Some news! As of Nov. 20, I’m no longer with the Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s been a good 10-year run, and I am forever grateful to have had the chance to dive deeply into humanities research, the digital humanities, libraryland, archives, and publishing/scholarly communication/open access. Why am I leaving? I got a chance to… Continue reading »

How Not to Begin a Book Review

…or almost any piece of writing, really: “In the age of…” [Oh, THAT age.] “We live in an age when…” [Of course we do.] “It’s hard to know what to make of [Title] by [Author]…” [It’s your job to make *something* of it.] (Filed under “Reminders to Self, or Things to Leave on the Editing-Room… Continue reading »

Books in the Wild

This introduces a personal experiment in documenting how we interact with books. First, the context. Literary critics, book historians, publishing types, and cultural spectators and speculators have spent a lot of time of late kicking around “the book” as an idea and as a phenomenon: its past, its hybrid e-and-print present, whether it has a future… Continue reading »

This and That, or Where I’ve Been

I haven’t been anywhere, to tell you the truth, not in the real world anyway. What have I been doing? *I moderated a Google hangout on collaboration in scholarly publishing with several university-press directors. You can help make it go viral on YouTube (or just watch it–up to you).   *Then I wrote a story… Continue reading »