Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fiction’s One-Hit Wonders

By Karla Accorto
Summer 2017 Intern
While authors like Agatha Christie and Stephen King have published dozens of novels, others are known for their publication of a single novel.

Emily Brontë, for example, only published Wuthering Heights, and it wasn’t well received until after her death. Critics either judged it very harshly or were unsure how to react to her dramatic romance. Whether Brontë ever intended to publish another book is unknown—she died of tuberculosis before she had the chance.

Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell may have been discouraged from publishing again after the great media attention her first novel garnered. While initially a willing participant, Mitchell eventually stopped partaking in interviews and signing autographs, citing poor health. Ultimately, World War II broke out, and she turned to volunteering for the Red Cross.

J. D. Salinger also found himself disliking the spotlight after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye. He was always a private person and did not enjoy the attention gained by his novel. Fame and public scrutiny made him a recluse, and though he published some stories and novellas, he never published another novel.

For some authors, the success of one novel appeared to be too much, discouraging them from publishing a second. For others like Brontë, however, we will never know what might have been.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MASS MoCA: The Mill-Turned-Museum to Visit in MA

by Sarah Terrazano
Summer 2017 Intern

Tucked away in a Berkshire valley, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is one of the most innovative museums in New England—and one of the most fascinating art museums I’ve ever visited.

MASS MoCA was converted from a nineteenth-century mill into a contemporary art behemoth, making the building an attraction in itself. Consisting of 26 buildings, the sprawling property has extensive courtyards, tunnels and bridges—often displaying the factory’s original red brick.

The museum’s vast space allows for especially large exhibits. One of the most striking that I saw is Sol LeWitt’s A Wall Drawing Retrospective, a display of massive wall drawings occupying an entire three-story building. Each wall in the exhibit captivates visitors with large color blocks, patterns and line drawings. Typical of LeWitt’s exhibitions, which are often commissioned for a long period of time, these wall drawings will be on display until 2033.

Another fascinating exhibit I experienced is James Turrell’s Into the Light. Using light as a sculpture medium, Turrell creates mesmerizing holograms, backlit walls and dark rooms with designs so dimly lit that your eyes take 15 minutes to fully adjust to them.

If you’re nearby and have a day to be amazed by contemporary art in refurbished mill buildings, definitely head to MASS MoCA!

Image Credit: Beyond My Ken

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Waltz This Way: How Dancing Can Slow the Aging of the Brain

By Katy Rosen
Summer 2017 Intern
I did not like the dancing portion of high school theater; every dance was a painful experience for me and anyone nearby. To this day, I cannot confidently do the Charleston, but luckily all that time spent on the dance floor wasn’t wasted. It turns out even poor attempts at dancing can help your brain!

A team led by a Colorado State University researcher conducted a study on the effects that dancing has on the brain. The team also set out to find if changes in the aging brain are inevitable. The study focused specifically on the areas of the brain pertaining to memory: the hippocampus and the fornix.

Of the four groups within the study, those that partook in dancing had the least amount of decline within their brains. Within all groups there was some decline, but the good news is that every group that participated in exercise had less of a decline than those that did not!

The takeaway here is that while we know of nothing (so far) that can completely stop the aging of the brain, there are definitely actions that can slow this process down. So, Charleston connoisseur or not, get out on the dance floor and get your groove on!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

An Intern’s Industry Insight: The Other Meaning of “Signature”

By Rachel Matthews
Summer 2017 Intern
Picture this: you’re nearing the conclusion of a thrilling book, and you can feel three pages left in your fingers. But the ending comes more abruptly than you thought—the last two pages are blank!

I used to wonder how those extra pages ended up in my books. But PSG staff members Alyssa and Don clued me in on an alternative definition of the word signature that is little-known outside of the publishing world.

I had no idea that the book pages I see are not printed individually, but in sets called signatures. Since these signatures tend to be 16, 32 or 64 pages each, a book needs to be planned out accordingly. Any unfilled pages in the last signature will still be included in the final product—which finally explains the mystery at the end of my thrillers!

Now that I know that, I understand why I sometimes see advertisements at the end of my books. And if content can’t be reworked to fill the signature, I can definitely see why the best option is to end with a blank page or two.

I feel better knowing the whole story—and that’s just one of the many industry insights I’ve gotten from PSG!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Austen Fancies “Fancying” and Nabokov Loves “Mauve”: Patterns in Popular Literature

By Katy Rosen
Summer 2017 Intern
Synesthesia is generally described as a neurological crossover of the senses. Essentially, the stimulation of one sense causes the experience of another. In his autobiography, author Vladimir Nabokov wrote that his synesthesia caused his brain to conjure colors when he heard different letters and sounds.

In Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, data journalist Ben Blatt seeks to learn more about the Russian-American author, as well as other famous writers, by quantifying their writing styles. Blatt created a database of text from twentieth-century classics and bestsellers to discover patterns within great writing. By analyzing the novels of popular writers, Blatt created an extensive library of data to draw from.

One general trend he found was that shorter opening sentences and fewer adverbs are two characteristics of many popular novels. Other findings were more specific. For instance, Danielle Steel mentions weather in the first sentence of 46 percent of her 92 analyzed novels, and Jane Austen’s top three most-used words were civility, fancying and imprudence. Fancy that!

Based on Blatt’s title, I bet you can guess one of Nabokov’s trends. Blatt found that Nabokov “used the word mauve 44 times more often than the average writer in the past two centuries.” This makes a lot of sense, given his synesthesia. I wonder which words caused Nabokov to see mauve?