The Progressive Review

Writing & Reading






US poetry audience dying

Washington Post In 1992, 17 percent of Americans had read a work of poetry at least once in the past year. 20 years later that number had fallen by more than half, to 6.7 percent. Those numbers come from the national Survey of Public Participation in the Arts , a massive survey that's run every few years as part of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

The survey finds that the decline in poetry readership is unique among the arts -- particularly the literary arts. "Since 2002, the share of poetry-readers has contracted by 45 percent—resulting in the steepest decline in participation in any literary genre," the study concludes. Over the past 20 years, the downward trend is nearly perfectly linear -- and doesn't show signs of abating.

Libraries still matter as politicians slash them

PS Mag - Philadelphia—a city whose school system ranks among the nation's worst—has a major reading problem on its hands. Philadelphia Inquirer's Kristen Graham reported that the city’s school librarian population has dropped by an astonishing 94 percent since 1991. Twenty-four years ago, there were 176 certified librarians throughout the city’s 218 schools—there are now 11. This comes on the heels of the city's 2013 closure of its top schools’ libraries—victims to an unmerciful budget crisis.

With the ubiquity of the Internet, it may seem like librarians—and perhaps libraries in general—are quickly becoming non-essential. While the facts don’t lie—a 94 percent regional drop off rate is practically a death sentence to any profession—the Pew Research Center recently compiled some data on libraries in the 21st century that might surprise you.

People under 65 years old are actually more likely to have visited a library in the past year than their older counterparts. In fact, those between 16 and 29 are just as likely to use a library as those older than 29.

And those younger visitors also feel the library in an integral part of their neighborhood. Some 90 percent of Americans who are 16 and older said closing the local public library would impact their community (with 63 percent saying it would have a “major” impact). Then there are the so-called "distant admirers;" of the 15 percent of Americans who have never set foot in a library, the majority still think of them as being crucial to the community. Two-thirds of these distant admirers credit libraries for “[promoting] literacy and reading,” and “[giving] everyone a chance to succeed.”

Urban problems we hadn't started worrying about yet

Tree Hugger - In Shreveport, Louisiana, a neighbor complained about Ricky and Teresa Edgerton's Little Free Library. According to the zoning administrator, "the book swaps are, by definition, libraries equivalent to Shreve Memorial Library, and under city law a library can only exist in a commercially-zoned area." Neighbors have rallied round, wondering "With everything that's facing our city right now they're going to take issue with this? It's not hurting anyone."

It's happening in Los Angeles too; The LA times starts its article:

Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country's biggest problems: small community libraries where residents can share books.

The owners were given a week to remove their library or the city would fine them. Evidently order came after an anonymous note from "a neighbor who hates you and your kids" was left on their library, ordering them to "Take it down or the city will."

Huge library fire in Moscow

Independent, UK - A library containing over 14 million books, historic texts and other important documents has gone up in flames in the Russian capital of Moscow.

The Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences has 14.2m texts in ancient and modern languages and includes the biggest collection of Slavic language books in Russia.

It was founded in 1918 and holds documents from the League of Nations, UNESCO, and early parliamentary reports dating back as far as 1789.

A fire which started on the building’s third floor spread over 2,000 square meters and caused extensive damage to the building and possibly its collection of literary artifacts, according to a report from Russian news agency Interfax.

According to Kremlin-owned broadcaster Russia Today a total of 147 rescue workers and 38 fire appliances were brought to the library to fight the fire, which has been contained.

A law enforcement source told the RIA Novosti news agency that “a short circuit in the electrical system is currently being regarded as a primary lead” in the cause of the fire.

The University of Michigan Library, the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries and ProQuest have made public more than 25,000 manually transcribed texts from 1473-1700 — the first 200 years of the printed book. Full text access. Multiple format downloads, including ePUB. Or just download the entire corpus.


How the word "So" at the beginning of sentences hurts your credibility

How Amazon is as bad as Wal Mart

Teaching kids to hate reading


The problem with an app named Hemingway

Reading of print books up

Copyright law kills book sales


All E Book library opens in Texas

North Carolina students to get banned book for free

Corporados spyng on your e-book reading

How copyright law is hurting the very book sales it's meant to be helping

Judge rules it's okay to quote William Faulkner

Barnes & Noble on last legs?

Internet a boon for poetry pubs

Why you don't own your e-books

Even though DC has built a number of new libraries, the total number of volumes in its library collection has declined from 2.2 million on 2010 to 1.5 million last year.

E-book makers are spying on you


House GOP staffer fired for making sense on copyright

Major dictionary editor deleted thousands of words he didn't like



Encyclopedia Britannica gives in to the Internet

Expose of Amazon warehouse

The hidden perils of working for a bookstore

Now Barnes & Noble is in trouble



If your story is rejected by all literary journals...

How writers write

"Whatever" is America's most annoying phrase for fifth straight year

Government spying having chilling effect on writers

Huge increase in self published books

Dictionaries now say literally is no longer literally true

How the corporados have changed our language

Print vs. digital in the book business


Now even writers' conferences may be scams


Top 100 banned or challenged books of the past decade

Underground libraries planned to counteract Arizona bigots


In defense of short language


2011 libraries' most complained about books

Major struggle between libraries and publishers over E-books

Why public libraries matter

11,000 U.S. libraries now offer their users the opportunity to rent e-books on Kindle and even annotate them using whispersync technology.

Little free libraries


Local heroes: Vonnegut library sends free books to students whose school banned them

The end of book sharing

Colleges locking away books and images out of copyright fears

Why we still need libraries

America's libraries under attack

University of Denver plans to dump 80% of its books in storage

New York public library selectively archives New Yorker's writer's papers, then threatens to dump the rest

Number of books checked out of public libraries declines

Kindle sales surpass print books at Amazon

Entopy update: OMG, FYI, and LOL enter Oxford English Dictionary

At a loss for words: why Facebook and Twitter are less than they seem

New edition out of Chicago Manual of Style

















The missing predicate in my life

Essays on writing & journalism

Post literate America

SomeRulesForWriting L.L.C. (SRFW)!

Words & Meaning

Words and cruelty

The rise of "fuck"

What's a humanities?



Center for Plain Language
A dictionary of regionalisms



Kurt Vonnegut charts three classic stories


The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution Of 'Proper' English, From Shakespeare To 'South Park' by Jack W. Lynch."It doesn't seem possible to make grammar book writers memorable, but Lynch pulls it off with ease and gusto".- NPR  



Print book sales were up 2.4% in 2014

Copyright laws make books disappear




The average American is subjected to 3,000 commercial messages a day. If you have a good day, a half dozen people will tell you a truth worth remembering. Thus the lies win out 500 to one.

Increasingly, our lives are being run by logos rather than logos, symbols rather than reason.


With writing, the standard for politicians should be at least as high as that for college freshmen. If the latter were to pay someone to write their papers, the full weight of academia would come crashing down upon them. At the higher levels of society, however, such behavior is considered normal and even admirable. At the very least, however, politicians should be required to list the names of their ghostwriters on the ballot and to resign from public office should their scribes decide to change clients.


We don't have to worry about Trojan horses much any more. The real danger comes from Trojan words and phrases — appealing statues of rhetoric concealing the enemy.


Speak United States. Avoid the private languages of academia, technocracy and corporations.

As an English teacher wisely noted, you are allowed only five exclamation points in a lifetime. Use them carefully.

Remember that you are talking to a reader, not your therapist. Since you're don't pay your readers what you pay your therapist, you should give them something they will enjoy.

If you're having a hard time, write for one reader: a friend, a relative, your child, Barack Obama. This helps remove the speechifying and makes the task less confusing.

If you suffer from writer's block, just sit down and write crap. Pay no attention to style, content, or spelling. Just write something. Then read it again tomorrow and save all the good stuff.

Capitalized words can be used for anything that would go on a door, a map, a gravestone, in an address book or at the beginning of a sentence. They are not for words you just think are important.

If you're being funny or ironic, don't feel you have to say so. Never explain a joke. It annoys your good readers and the dumb ones still won't get it.

Harold Ross, editor of the New Yorker used to say if you can't be funny, be interesting.

Avoid abstractions. If the evening was indeed 'fabulous,' give us some solid evidence. And if you do a good enough job of describing an incident, you won't need to call it 'racist.' Think of yourself as a photographer using words instead of a camera. Good photographs speak for themselves.

Stories are almost always more interesting than opinions. Use the southern approach and argue by anecdote.




My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably. - George Bernard Shaw

A writer is a man for whom writing is more difficult than it is for others. - Thomas Mann

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing -Ben Franklin

If a writer is silent, he is lying. - Jaroslav Seifert

The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence. The writer is the man or woman who automatically takes a stance against his or her government. There are so many temptations for American writers to become part of the system and part of the structure that now, more than ever, we have to resist. American writers ought to stand and live in the margins, and be more dangerous. Writers in repressive societies are considered dangerous. That's why so many of them are in jail. - Don DeLillo

The writer's only service to the disintegrated society of today is to create little independent systems of order of his own. - Evelyn Waugh

A free-lance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps -- Robert Benchley

Asking a working writer what he feels about critics is like asking a lamp post what it feels about dogs -- John Osborne

I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: First, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy - once you have these in place, you are set to go. - Joseph Epstein

Our fundamental want today in the United States, with closest, amplest reference to present conditions, and to the future, is of a class, and a clear idea of a class, of native authors, literatuses, far different, far higher in grade than any yet known, sacerdotal, modern, fit to cope with our occasions, lands, permeating the whole mass of American mentality, taste, belief, breathing into it a new breath of life, giving it decisions, affecting politics far more than the popular superficial suffrage, with results inside and underneath the elections of Presidents or Congresses---radiating, begetting appropriate teachers, schools, manners, and, as its grandest results, accomplishing . . . a religious and moral character beneath the political and productive and intellectual basis of the States -- Walt Whitman

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened & after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you & afterwards it all belongs to you: the good & the bad, the ecstacy, the remorse & sorrow, the people & the places & how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer. - Ernest Hemingway

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both -- EB White in 'Charlotte's Web'

[Mary Margaret McBride asked Carl Van Doren if it was hard to write. He replied]: Yes, it's hard to write but it's harder not to.

If you can't be funny, be interesting -- Harold Ross, editor of the New Yorker

The whole duty of the writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Let him start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and he is as good as dead, although he may make a nice living. -- E B White

How do I know what I think until I have written about it? -- E. M. Forster

Writing *** must come from a great emotional upheaval in the soul, and if that upheaval is not present, it must come from the work of any other writer which happens to be handy and easily imitated -- Robert Benchley


The secret of this kind of writing is that it isn't buying anything and it isn't selling anything. - Kenneth Rexroth on the work of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett

Remember to never split an infinitive. The passive voice should never be used. Do not put statements in the negative form. Verbs have to agree with their subjects. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. A writer must not shift your point of view. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.) Don't overuse exclamation marks!! Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing. Always pick on the correct idiom. The adverb always follows the verb. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives. - William Safire

If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing -- Kingsley Amis

Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries. - Christopher Morley

Most of the great works of juvenile literature are subversive in one way or another; they express ideas and emotions not generally approved of or even recognized at the time; they make fun of honored figures and piously held beliefs; & they view social pretenses with clear-eyed directness, remarking - as in Andersen's famous tale - that the emperor wears no clothes. - Alison Lurie, Don't Tell the Grown-Ups

I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows. - Ernest Hemingway

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork - Peter De Vries

I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better. - AJ Liebling

I never knew what was meant by choice of words. It was one word or none. -- Robert Frost

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. -- George Orwell in Politics and the English Language

The one great rule of composition is to speak the truth -- Henry Thoreau

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. - Gene Fowler

Dickens didn't write what people wanted; he wanted what people wanted - GK Chesterton

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. - Dorothy Parker

My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably. - George Bernard Shaw

Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us - George Orwellit 'racist.' Think of yourself as a photographer using words instead of a camera. Good photographs speak for themselves.

Stories are almost always more interesting than opinions. Use the southern approach and argue by anecdote.



Americans stll like libraries

Nation's first bookless library seems to be a success

London readers continue to use a WWII bombed library

Public libraries doing better than you think

San Antonio to have bookless library

The bookless library



Texas town converts abandoned Wal Mart into library