Erich Neumann: Theorist of the Great Mother

In graduate school, I ransacked the library in my quest for inspiration: it was a kind of archaeological excavation. Today, because of online catalogs and specialty Web sites, information can be targeted with pinpoint accuracy and accessed with stunning speed. Hence I doubt whether that kind of untidy, often grimy engagement with neglected old books will ever appeal again to young scholars. But it was through the laborious handling of…

'Lit chick' debacle that damns the publishers

Alloy’s team craft the proposal, shape the plot and create characters. Even the writing of the book is often farmed out to a team of authors. The process is more similar to television writing than most readers’ idea of the creation of a novel and the packaging closer to creating a boy band than promoting a new literary star. Among Alloy’s hit series are The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,…

Hammer & Tickle

It was in Romania, while making a film about Ceausescu, that I first stumbled across the historical legacy of the communist joke. There I learned that a clerk from the Bucharest transport system, Calin Bogdan Stefanescu, had spent the last ten years of Ceausescu’s regime collecting political jokes. He noted down which joke he heard and when, and analysed his total of over 900 jokes statistically. He measured the time…