As writers struggle to make anything you might call a living, Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy and current president of the UK’s Society of Authors, has asked British publishers to offer fairer contractual terms: “We authors see a landscape occupied by several large interests, some of them gathering profits in the billions, some of them displaying a questionable attitude to paying tax, some of them colonising the internet with projects whose reach is limitless and whose attitude to creators’ rights is roughly that of the steamroller to the ant,” he writes. “One thing hasn’t changed, which is the ignored, unacknowledged, but complete dependence of those great interests on us and on our talents and on the work we do in the quiet of our solitude. They have enormous financial and political power, but no creative power whatsoever.”
And over here, the Authors Guild has taken its case against Google for “copyright infringement on an epic scale” to the Supreme Court (though it’s unlikely to get anywhere).
Edward Mendelson, scholar, critic, and literary executor of W. H. Auden’s estate, praises Barack Obama for the quality of his youthful thoughts on T. S. Eliot—”This is what the finest literary criticism has always done”—but wonders what else they might tell us about the president: “Like everyone, I imagine, who was moved and hopeful after the 2008 elections,” he writes, “I have mixed feelings about Barack Obama’s presidency, and I doubt that ‘a fatalism I share with the western tradition’ is desirable in a practical politician.
Kelsey Osgood visits the remaining members of a commune inspired by the thought of Leo Tolstoy.
Michael Dirda finds the new memoir by the hundred-year-old novelist Herman Wouk, author of The Caine Mutiny and Marjorie Morningstar, a bit lacking in revelations, but it does hint that more might be forthcoming from “a frank private diary” that runs to over a hundred volumes.