The print versions of the books had previously been published by Penguin Books and the e-books were released by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., a company run by family of the author. Now Vintage Books, a Random House imprint, will publish both for the next 10 years, according to the new agreement.
The Bond series was first published in 1953 through Jonathan Cape, also a Random House imprint.
“We are delighted to be reuniting James Bond with his original publisher," Corinne Turner, the managing director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., told Reuters.
Vintage will be republishing Fleming’s 14 Bond novels in addition to his books “The Diamond Smugglers” and “Thrilling Cities.”
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
"This is a man's, a man's, a man's world," sang James Brown. But when he was on stage, it was one man's world and one alone. He danced like his pants were on fire and sang as if his soul felt the heat. If he felt good – and he did, never mind all those trials and tribulations, the drugs and the arrests, the grooves that he couldn't get back – you did too. RJ Smith, a Los Angeles-based music journalist and author of the new book The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, may have come closer than anyone to understanding how James Brown became James Brown. "This book’s sparkle speaks for itself, as does Mr. Smith’s ability to take on his screaming, moaning, kinetically blessed, unbeatably shrewd subject," wrote Janet Maslin in The New York Times.
In an interview this week, Smith talked about the best of Brown's music, the singer's bold choices regarding race and the challenges Smith himself faced in getting Southerners to be more than just hospitable when he came a-knockin'.
Q: If a Martian landed in front of you and asked about James Brown, how would you describe him?
A: He's the ultimate intersection of singing, dancing and stagecraft. If you had one line for great performers, like a Fred Astaire or Michael Jackson, and another line for a great soulful vocalist, and another line for great people who knew how to command your attention, respect and response – at the intersection of all these lines would be James Brown.
He was one of the most important creative forces in the world in the 20th century, the rare artist who was able to be incredibly creative and transform the culture around him – somewhat in the '50s, hugely in the '60s and '70s, and somewhat in the '80s.
He had this amazing influence. Other than maybe Bob Dylan, I can't think of an artist who's done anything like that.
Q: Do you remember the first times you heard James Brown?
A: As a kid, I was the proverbial boy with the transistor radio glued to his ear and under my pillow at night. I remember there was one guy who didn't sound like everyone else on the radio. There I was in Detroit listening to Motown, and here he was with these screams, grunts and groans.
Q: One of the most popular Super Bowl commercials this year featured his great song "Get Up Offa that Thing." It inspired me to look for the song online, and I found a brief and amazing video of him performing it on YouTube. He's in his 40s but dances like he's… well, my friend put it this way after watching it: "he certainly does shake that thing, doesn't he?" Where on earth did he find all that energy, that BAM! factor?
A: It came from fear. This was somebody who grew up with so little and with so little control over what he had that he was always aware everything could go away. All his money could disappear, and it did from time to time, and all his friends and love could disappear. He didn't take his talent for granted either. Every show was a test of his ability to still be him, still get the things he loved, the respect and the feedback.
Q: He grew up in Augusta, Ga., and spent much of his life there. What did you discover about Brown and his world there?
A: Augusta is very commercial. It's always been the waterfront, with a lot of cotton and tobacco, not only a port but a place of exchange. That must have had some kind of effect on Brown.
It's a place where people roll up their sleeves and go to work. You see that in Brown. He’s all about being the hardest-working man in show business.
Q: What I know about Augusta is from "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil": "We have a saying: If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, 'What's your business?' In Macon they ask, 'Where do you go to church?' In Augusta they ask your grandmother's maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is 'What would you like to drink?'" Was it hard to break through the bonds that hold people together in Augusta?
A: Going in, I wondered about the biggest obstacle I would encounter to doing interviews and having people be willing to sit down and talk.
I'm a white West Coast guy, and I'm not in any sense fluent in the South. I thought naively that the biggest obstacle would be the racial one, that I’d have to put people at ease.
In truth, I found it was that I wasn't from around there, wherever there was, most of all Augusta. I had to go there a lot and put people at ease. The fact that I was an outsider was the first thing, whatever color.
They were always incredibly polite and friendly, but they'd not want to talk to me until they'd seen me around a few times. That Southern thing was fascinating to me.
Q: Unlike some other black singers of his era, Brown didn't let his race speak silently for itself. He embraced and celebrated being black. What was behind that?
A: Look at Aretha Franklin, whose music had lots of resonance but didn't feel comfortable sitting down with interviewers period, and wasn't going to talk about politics or candidates or the issues in any kind of divisive way.
Brown didn't mind being divisive. He spoke to everybody, he didn't mind stating an opinion, and he made sure that he had opinions and made sure you knew them.
The great thing was that as his success got bigger, he kept growing as a mind, a thinker, a public figure. When reporters started asking his opinion on issues, he made sure he could say something intelligent and useful. The only person who changed and had so many different sides that I can think of in culture would again be Bob Dylan.
Q: Do you think his outrageousness was a hindrance?
A: For lots of people, he became a bit of a joke, someone who wasn't human. And that’s really sad.
Q: What's his best work?
A: Ultimately some of those live shows at the Apollo Theater, and one from Paris that’s incredible. You can sense his connection and closeness to the audience and the energy he picked up and projected back to them.
"Cold Sweat" is pretty hard to beat, Suddenly the pace is coming forward and each instrument is playing like a drum, whether it's a guitar or even Brown's voice. They're making a rhythmic pattern that when they all fit together it has this three-dimensional pull.
Q: What's his worst work? Was it around the era of disco?
A: He made some decent funk music in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, but he made too many bad attempts to be of the time with disco. He was at his best trying to be himself, whether he was of the moment or not.
Q: Do you think he was happy despite his life's troubles?
A: He was poor, and he was beaten a lot as a kid, and mocked for not having wearable clothes. Kids would take his overalls off him and throw them in the trees.
In the end, I know he had fun, he was capable of going out and enjoying himself. But by the '80s and the '90s, I think he was pretty lonely and not easy to be around.
Q: Where can we find his legacy now?
A: In many ways it's in hip-hop, the whole culture of pride and love of self in socially conscious ways. And certainly the ego, the huge lavish ego of a Kanye West.
It was much more socially acceptable after Brown was out there talking about himself in the third person and pumping himself up. There's this idea that any publicity is good publicity. That's part of why he liked his hair looking so crazy. He wanted to walk in a room and not have people say "Where is he?" but "There he is!"
He didn't care if people giggled a bit. He thought if you made a first impression you got people's attention. He didn't care what kind of noise he made as long as it was a loud one.
He was one of a kind.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor correspondent.
“50 Shades of Grey” is not exactly your typical book club read. An erotic novel with fan-fiction origins, penned by a mysterious British mother named E. L. James, this first book of a now infamous trilogy, includes explicit scenes and heavy doses of bondage and sado-masichism. It's being described by bloggers and reviewers as “Mommy porn."
Needless to say, Oprah has yet to bestow her seal of approval.
But across the country, this originally self-published romance which now stands at the top of The New York Times bestseller list, is taking over the discussion at book clubs – mystifying more than a few industry experts and dismaying some social commentators in the process.
In Shari Von Holten’s neighborhood, it started with a buzz among friends on Facebook. Then Van Holten’s Long Island neighbors started asking each other about the book the street, discreetly, or during chance encounters the market. “My friends were saying things like: 'I just finished it, it’s the best,'” says Von Holten.
Intrigued, she floated the title at her book club’s next meeting, and the women quickly agreed to read it for March. “I knew it was a little explicit,” Von Holten says, “but I thought maybe we could try it."
A mother and the owner of her own celebrity news and review blog, haveuheard.net, Von Holten admits it wasn’t the easiest read – at first. “Initially, I had to put it down,” she says. “The sexual part was just, it was disturbing to me. At one point, I couldn’t even read it. I wasn’t enjoying it.” But in the name of her book club, Von Holten persevered, and this time, she couldn’t put it down. “Once you get through the initial shock, like anything else, you become desensitized in a way, I think,” she says.
Von Holten went on to finish the next two books in the series on her own. In her review of the book on her blog, Von Holten wrote: “If you do read the series, consider yourself warned. Once you pick it up – there is a 99.9999% chance you will not put it down.”
"50 Shades of Grey" tells the story of the very unconventional “romance” between the dashing, wealthy Christian Grey, a tycoon with a taste for the whip, and the innocent Anastasia Steele, a college literary student who willingly enters into a complicated dominant-submissive relationship with Grey.
“It’s erotic and sadomasochistic,” says Rose Fox, Publisher Weekly’s fantasy and romance reviews editor.
It's also a spin-off of sorts on the Bella and Edward dynamic from the popular young adult "Twilight" series. Although James created different lovers and a different plot, she drew her original inspiration from the romance between the "Twilight" characters – one a 100-plus-year-old vampire and the other an innocent young teen.
"Twilight," however, has been noted for its rather chaste depictions of love and romance. "50 Shades of Grey" takes readers into a very different universe.
“James got her start on fan fiction forums, where word of mouth recommendations are highly valued and readers tend to really get into works that sexualize a familiar story in outrageous ways,” Fox says.
When the book first began receiving some attention on sites like The Huffington Post, more than a few commentators accused James of ripping off the idea from a 2009 story entitled “Master of the Universe,” published on fan-fiction site www.fanfiction.net. It has since been established, however, that Snowqueens Icedragon – the author of “Master of the Universe” – and E.L. James are indeed one and the same.
Fan fiction itself is not without controversy, however, and some famous authors, including Anne Rice, the prolific writer behind the "Vampire Chronicles" saga, among many others, is a vehement opponent to the movement. In a message posted to her website, Rice wrote, “I do not allow fan fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters."
But despite the objections of some that fan fiction is less flattery and more intellectual theft, the fandom community is thriving, and as James is finding out, potentially very lucrative.
Originally, James published the first book of her trilogy through small Australian press The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House and print copies were extremely hard to come by. Demand was so high that booksellers with copies available began advertising in the comments sections of blogs. Many women, including Von Holten, took advantage of their Kindles to purchase copies online, which is how the majority of the book’s over 250,000 copies have been sold. As a bonus, online books come with their own coverless guarantee of anonymity.
“Romance and erotica have been at the forefront of the e-book revolution because you can take e-books anywhere without telltale lurid covers revealing your reading habits,” says Fox.
Without the benefit of a sophisticated publicity campaign, the title has soared to No. 1 on The New York Times combined print and e-book fiction best-seller list for sales for this week, and is the No. 3 position on Amazon’s best-seller list, behind two installments of blockbuster young adult series "The Hunger Games."
Last week, however Vintage Books, a paperback division of Random House Inc., announced it had acquired the series, affirming the widespread popularity of the title, as well as ensuring a second wave of copies both in print and online. Even Hollywood has taken notice, and talk is swirling of a potential Tinseltown deal as well.
But what of the elephant in the room – the book's highly sexualized content, which ventures well beyond what has typically been considered mainstream. Is anyone talking about that?
This goes beyond the “swept away” fantasy, he said, arguing that the book might even go so far as to advocate violence against women and children. “It says something socially about us that’s a little bit disturbing,” he said.
Absolutely not true, said Dr. Logan Levkoff, a relationship expert, author and sexologist. “This is a relationship that is strictly consensual, and the power dynamics between the couple keep going back and forth.... While it may be politically incorrect to fantasize about being submissive or taken care of, this is kind of an escape for people who are always taking care of everyone else.”
For Westchester-based mother and professional blogger Stacy Geisinger of StacyKnows.com, another early reviewer of “50 Shades of Grey,” the appeal of the book is perhaps less complicated. “These are hard times,” says Geisinger. “Not everything needs to be so serious. Sometimes you can read a book just for enjoyment. [The book] makes you giggle when discussing this with your girlfriends.”
And from an "average" male perspective? Frank Santo offered his take on the book in The New York Daily News this week. According to Santo, "50 Shades of Grey" is "pornography, plain and simple," but its popularity shouldn't be a surprise. "When sex is used to sell blue jeans or bubble-gum, the effect is cheap and cynical," Santo said. "But in "50 Shades" sex is used to sell, well, sex. So who is shocked that women are buying?"
Meredith Bennett-Smith is a Monitor correspondent.
Bestselling young adult author Cassandra Clare will write a new series that will have its first installment published in 2015.
The new books, titled "The Dark Artifices," will continue the story of the organization called the Shadowhunters, young adults who fight creatures like vampires, werewolves, and demons. The story of the Shadowhunters began with Clare’s "Mortal Instruments" series, which takes place in the present day, and was continued with a prequel series, titled the "Infernal Devices." Both series have upcoming installments.
"The Dark Artifices" will follow a girl named Emma Carstairs, who shares a name with a hero from Clare’s "Infernal Devices" series, James "Jem" Carstairs. (No further details on their relationship have been released.) Emma and her partner in arms Julian both work as Shadowhunters, and the two are forced to try to get to the bottom of a strange plot based in Los Angeles.
“Readers have often asked what will happen in the Shadowhunter world after the events of 'The Mortal Instruments' and this series will give them a chance to find out,” Clare said in a statement.
The paperback version of the second book in Clare's "Infernal Devices" trilogy – "Clockwork Prince," which is her latest book – is currently number 10 on the Children's Paperback Books New York Times bestseller list.
The new series will be published through Simon & Schuster Children’s imprint Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
“In his hands, flat sheets sprang to life as the birds of the air, the fish of the sea and the flora and fauna of the earth.”
The art of paper folding was considered children’s play until the master paper folder from Tokyo raised it to a serious art form. He was inspired by the natural world and his paper masterpieces were known for their simple elegance and lifelike animation. Yoshizawa also pioneered a new form of origami known as wet folding, in which dampened paper was molded into sculptural forms. This technique allowed the origamist to coax more detail and animation into an origami figure.
RELATED: Google Doodles you'll never see
“He folded graceful peacocks with lush fanned tails. He folded lumbering gorillas with protruding jaws and sunken eyes. He folded huge flying dragons, and an elephant so small it could stand atop a thimble. His origami was not so much folded paper as sculptural art…” the NYT wrote in his obituary.
Fortunately for his fans, the self-taught father of origami left a series of instructional books explaining the art of origami and ensuring his techniques would live on. Between 1954 and 1986 the master origamist wrote some 18 books on origami including “Origami Geijutsu-Sha,” “Origami Reader I,” “Origami Tokuhon, Vol. 1,” “Creative Origami,” “Origami Tokuhon, Vol. 2,” and “Origami Reader II.”
Yoshizawa’s books were notable for illustrating an innovative notation system that made origami instructions universally accessible and easy to follow. That system – using dotted lines to indicate folds and arrows to indicate the direction of the folds – is widely used today.
In March 1998, Yoshizawa exhibited his extraordinary origami at the Louvre in what was arguably the greatest origami exhibition ever held. He crafted an estimated 50,000 pieces of origami over the course of his 93 years (he died on his 94th birthday). Google is marking the artist’s centennial with a signature origami-inspired Google Doodle Wednesday.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Whether it was a prized possession paid for in installments and lovingly displayed on the top shelf, a neglected doorstop, or simply non-existent in your household, you undoubtedly grew up familiar with the sight of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But now the days of the handsome gold-lettered reference books are over.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced Tuesday it will stop publishing print editions of its signature product for the first time in its 244-year history. In an acknowledgment of the shifting media landscape and the increasing reliance on digital references, the company said its current encyclopedia – the 32-volume, 129-pound 2010 edition – will be unavailable once the existing stock runs out. (If you’re interested, it’s yours for $1,395 and there are only 4,000 sets left.) The digital version of the encyclopedia, however, will live on.
“This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google,” said Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. President Jorge Cauz in an interview with the AP. “This has to do with the fact that now Britannica sells it digital products to a large number of people.”
Despite his comments, it’s easy to see how Wikipedia, the 11-year-old crowd-sourced encyclopedia, and the rise of similar online research materials have eaten into Encyclopaedia Britannica’s market. As The LA Times’s Jacket Copy blog puts it, “The 11-year-old crowd-sourced encyclopedia is online, and it's free. Encyclopaedia Britannica's most recent edition sells for $1,395.”
Though Wikipedia and Google may be the prevailing research modes of choice today, those who came of age before the instant-access of Internet retain a sense of attachment and goodwill toward Britannica and the authority and reliability its bound volumes represented.
The print form of Encyclopaedia Britannica was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768. Sales of Britannica peaked in 1990 with 120,000 sets sold in the US. In contrast, Britannica has sold about 8,000 sets of its latest edition, the 2010 set, and has 4,000 more in stock.
Today, print encyclopedias account for less than 1 percent of Britannica’s revenue, reports The New York Times. (Instead, some 85 percent of the revenue comes from educational products and 15 percent from the $70 subscription to its website, which about half a million households pay.)
“A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it," Cauz told the AP. "Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.... The sales of printed encyclopedias have been negligible for several years. We knew this was going to come.”
Indeed, most libraries have shifted the bulk of their resources to digital materials, though print reference materials continue to be available. And though older generations uncomfortable with digital technology prefer print reference materials, the vast majority of students and younger generations simply go online, where material is readily accessible and continuously updated – if slightly less authoritative.
Nonetheless, the discontinuance of the flagship reference set will be mourned by those for whom “having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class,” writes The New York Times.
“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” Cauz told The New York Times. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
After various communication problems and an underwater mortgage have led to the possibility of losing her house, young adult author Francesa Lia Block has taken to the Web to urge readers to express their dissatisfaction with Bank of America, the institution that holds Block's mortgage.
Block told The Los Angeles Times she has never missed a payment, but that the problem lies in the mortgage. Her mortage is interest-only, and the payments she would be required to make in a year would skyrocket.
Block, who is perhaps best known for her "Weetzie Bat" series published in 1989, bought the house with her mother in 2007. Then, when her mother died in 2008, Block says she spoke with a lawyer about the best way to proceed because the loan for the house had been through her mother. The lawyer, according to Block, didn’t think there would be a problem.
“She and I were very open about what was going on,” Block told The Los Angeles Times. “She, more than anything, wanted me and the kids to stay here. But it didn't help.”
The loan wasn’t able to go to Block because the amount of the loan was currently more than the house’s value, Block says the bank told her. The bank then said she’d be required to pay them $150,000 in cash, but Block says that while trying to search for a way to gather that money, she encountered communication problems with the bank and never heard back from them.
Block says she’s been talking to various representatives at the bank since then, some of whom have promised to call her back and haven’t, some of whom have called her back but haven’t been able to give an answer, and others who have provided conflicting suggestions as to what she should do.
Meanwhile, Block is encouraging others to tell Bank of America what they think of the bank’s treatment of her. The writer wrote about what was going on through her Facebook profile and on the site Save Francesa’s Faerie Cottage. On the website there are templates of letters and e-mails to send to Bank of America executives.
A recent post on the site, however, says that e-mail addresses of bank CEOs posted there don’t seem to be working, so visitors are urged instead to sign a petition at www.change.org.
On the website, Block posted the letter which she says she sent to the bank.
“I ask in good faith … that you give this responsible customer the opportunity to assume the loan and then pursue a modification so that we may all avoid the ensuing costs (financial for you, emotional for me and my two children) of foreclosure,” part of the letter reads.
The writer also posted a thank-you letter to visitors on the site.
"I ask that you let as many people as you can about this situation in the hopes that it will help others who have gone through what I am going through and perhaps, in some way, help me save my home for my family," Block wrote.
Block told The Los Angeles Times that she’d spoken to a bank representative who said the company had seen her website and wanted to talk things over with her, but she doesn’t know if anything will come of it.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
That’s the latest question circulating publishing forums and tech blogs since last Thursday’s news that the Justice Department may be close to filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five publishers. What’s more, interested parties like the Authors Guild, a writers’ advocate group, are coming forward to defend Apple’s agency model.
“The irony bites hard,” writes Authors Guild President Scott Turow in an open letter defending the agency model. “Our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.”
Let’s back up. The DOJ is threatening to file a lawsuit against five publishers (Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan, Penguin, and Harper Collins) and one distributer (Apple), all operating under the agency model and all suspected of e-book price collusion.
There are two competing models for distributing books, print or electronic: the wholesale model and the agency model. Under the wholesale model, a publisher sells its goods to a distributor for a fixed price and the distributor is free to decide the actual price for the public (including selling at negative margins to dump books on the marketplace in the case of Amazon). Under the agency model, publishers set the retail price and the distributor gets a fee (30 percent in the case of Apple).
The problem, writes Turow of the Authors Guild, is that wholesale pricing gives distributors control at the expense of the publishing industry. “Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open,” he writes.
That’s because the primary purpose of the wholesale model is to serve the retailer’s (in this case, Amazon) interests, even if it means throwing publishers under the proverbial bus. (For example, it is in Amazon’s interest to price-dump top-selling e-books at a loss in order to promote sales of other products or up-sell high-margin items through its recommendation engine, writes Guardian tech reporter Frederic Filloux.) What’s more, the wholesale model is deflationary, encouraging retailers to push margins ever lower to attract and capture customers. That threatens physical books, and with it, bricks-and-mortar bookstores, writes Turow of the Authors Guild.
He explains Amazon’s pricing scheme in detail:
“Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets. Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.”
It’s no wonder, he writes, that when Apple entered the market with its iPad and Apple’s newly-pioneered Agency plan, publishers “leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft.… [I]t was seize the agency model or watch Amazon’s discounting destroy their physical distribution chain.”
It’s unclear whether or not the publishing industry colluded in entering the agency model, but it appears it did move in accordance with its best interests. And, if we are to believe Turow’s argument, with the best interests of readers and bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
Whether the DOJ reconsiders its lawsuit or continues to pursue Apple and its agency model remains to be seen.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
On March 12, 2012, the Girl Scouts of the USA celebrate their 100th birthday. And as they do, some would argue that their iconic founder, Juliette Gordon Low, is not as well known as she deserves to be.
In some ways, Low – born to an affluent Southern family who called their adored but occasionally off-beat second daughter "Crazy Daisy" – was an unlikely founding figure for the Scouts. She never had children of her own. Her marriage to a wealthy Englishman failed in an era when divorce was still a serious stigma. Also, she suffered for most of her adult life from a hearing disability first brought on by a medical mistake and later compounded when a grain of rice flew into her ear on her wedding day.
For Stacy Cordery, author of "Alice," the bestselling 2007 biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Low has been a life-long hero. I recently had a chance to talk to Cordery about Juliette Gordon Low, her new biography of the Girl Scouts founder. Following are excerpts of our conversation.
Q. Why did you choose to write a book about Juliette Gordon Low?
A. I never lost my fascination with her from my earliest moment of awareness in the Brownie circle. I’m sure I had a good troop leader who told us about Juliette Low and I remember being impressed by her deafness and that it did not stand in the way of her creating this organization, participated in by me, my mom, and my grandmother.
On a professional level, my interest stems from being a woman historian. Our mandate is to write women back into history. But here’s a woman, we know nothing about her and she’s created this fundamentally important organization, not just for women, but for the entire nation. So for me, as a historian, how exciting is that, to bring her story to a wider audience?
Q. It seems that one of the most formative events of Low's life was her unhappy marriage. Had she not made an unfortunate choice when it came to picking a life partner, would she ever have founded the Girl Scout movement?
A. The easy argument is that being brokenhearted and having to pick up the pieces of your life brings about the preconditions for an enormous life change. You have to go, "Mwwaaah! What do I do now?" That kind of shakeup does cause people to analyze, reevaluate, to think. On the other hand, one thing I learned from researching Juliette Low's life is that she’s deeply steeped in notions of duty and responsibility and giving back and civic awareness. I don’t think that Juliette Low would have responded as positively to the message of boy scouting and girl guiding had the ground not already been planted with those seeds.
By every standard of her day Juliette Gordon Low at the age of 45 was a failure. She had failed at motherhood (in that she had not become a mother), she had failed at being a wife. But [those seeming failures] also play a role in her saying, “You know, one of the things I like about [scouting] is that there’s a Plan B here for girls." And from the very beginning there was that equal emphasis on domestic skills, housekeeping, the things that are important to women, from flower arranging to invalid nursing. But there’s also that avenue of what we would today call career training that was pretty radical and cutting edge at that time.
Q. Low's mother Nelly Gordon was a formidable figure in her own right. What role did she play in all this?
A. Juliette Low's mother Nelly was a terrific role model for all kinds of things. To have a mother who founds the Colonial Dames of Georgia, who brings the Red Cross chapter to Savannah, these sorts of things are priceless lessons in what women can accomplish. She started a convalescent hospital for the wounded of the Spanish American War. She just rolled up her sleeves and said, “There’s a need here.” Holy mackerel.
Her mother plays a very important role in Daisy's life as most mothers do in most girls' lives. But Nelly was more bigoted than Daisy. Had Nelly founded the Girl Scouts there wouldn’t have been integrated troops [as early as there were.] Her mother talked about the “common, common people” that Daisy hung out with. Maybe there wouldn’t have been factory girls, maybe she wouldn’t have let them in. It have been a very different organization had Nelly founded it. Juliette Low had a wider experience than her mother did.
Q. Why did her family give Low the nickname of "Crazy Daisy"?
A. I think there was an angle to this “Crazy Daisy” side of [Juliette Low]. When she was young [she tended to] take on the role of the comforter and the amuser, the one who makes things better by putting on a positive and cheerful spin on them. She got strokes in the family for making people happy and being amusing.
Aas she got older, 15, 16 or so, that range of Crazy Daisy stories disappears from the narrative, as though she’s maturing, growing up, becoming herself. I think she’s on a path then to no longer being known as Crazy Daisy.
Then the accident with the ear and then the rice in the ear. Now she’s in a position where she’s making mistakes through no fault of her own. She can’t hear. So part of [not] hearing [well] is that someone says “XYZ” and you respond “ABC.” It makes you respond in a way that other people around you interpret as a little bit odd. So she comes back to this Crazy Daisy thing. I think part of it anyway was her way of coping with her disability. No one ever has to say to her, “Poor pitiful Daisy.” Instead they say, “Oh, she’s such a crackup.”
Q. One surprising thing about Low's role as the founder of a major organization is that she was not actually very organized. Did that stand in her way?
She was not a good organizer of some things. In fact, her more important skill than organization was her ability to choose the exact right person for the job. So she didn’t have to be the great organizer because she could find a great lieutenant who could organize for her. And then if she didn’t appear when she should have or if she just appeared on the fly, it was just "Crazy Daisy" all over again.
Juliette Low was confidently a happy, outgoing, optimistic type person. All reformers were. A progressive-era reformer was an optimist. If you don’t believe you can’t reform. It all comes together into a picture of a women who really wasn’t crazy. She couldn’t be flighty or a little bit dumb or daft to found the organization that she did. And she didn’t just found it. She created it, she organized it, she grew it, she monitored it.
She’s someone like Donald Trump. When you engage with her you know that there’s a huge personality out there. I think she would have been phenomenally successful if she had started this in 2012 because she would have gotten all the media sensibility that we need today. I think she would have aced that.
Q. If she could be here today, what would she say about the Girl Scouts?
A. I think that, with that preternatural optimism of hers, the only thing she’d be surprised about is that there aren’t more girls involved.
Q. You mean three million-plus Girl Scouts wouldn’t seem like enough to her?
A. Not for Daisy.
Q. The Girl Scouts today are stressing the importance of STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] learning skills. What would Low say about that?
A. She would say, “That’s exactly what I had in mind.” Remember, the first [Girl Scout] manual said, “Girls can go anything.” You can be an engineer. You can be an astronaut. Whatever. Juliette Low was fascinated by new technology. She loved anything new. She loved airplanes. Cars. I think that for Girl Scouts today to talk about cyber bullying and financial literacy and the dangers of sexting for girls, this is cutting-edge stuff and I think that she would say, “Yes. Perfect. This is just what I wanted.” The first [Girl Scout] manual had a badge on aeronautics.
Q. Did Juliette Low ever find happiness?
A. Because her whole world view was constructed around this cluster of ideas about duty and responsibility and doing good in the world, I think her brother nailed it when he said, “My sister was lucky enough to see her dreams turn into reality. Not everyone is that lucky.”
I think there was a tremendous satisfaction for her in life in working with these girls, working with the women, maintaining these long-term friendships, doing good in the world. Remember that her last decade was about the world. It was such a brave thing to move into international peace through international understanding or friendships. It was very counter-culture. I think that Juliette Gordon Low understood that a life well-lived, challenges successfully met, lives touched in a positive way, was for her the definition of happiness.
Q. What would the world be without the Girl Scouts? What has their great gift been?
A. The great gift of Girl Scouts to girls and women has been to teach us that we really can do anything we can dream about doing. For me is was to learn sign language and to learn how to communicate with the deaf. Because I thought, "Wow, how cool is that? If I learned Sign language I could communicate with Juliette Low or with people who had a similar disability." That was the first thing that, when I was 6 or 7, she inspired me to do.
I know there are girls and women all over who open that manual and go, “Whoa, really? I could do that? Other girls do that? Together we can build a prosthetic arm or whatever?” I think it puts before girls new vistas with the compelling message that says, “You can accomplish this. You. Not the girl next to you. You. And all of us together, we can do ten times that.”
Q. So much has changed over the last century. Why have the Girl Scouts have endured?
A. The traditions of Girl Scouting endure. I speak to women who say, "Those traditions matter to me and I want to teach them to my daughters."
Juliette Gordon Low was visionary. She understood that girls wanted to be taken seriously, wanted to be involved in the fabric of their communities and their nation. There was a hunger, a deep abiding hunger for stuff that only boys had then. She got that. She knew that.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's Books editor.
E-books are at the center of a government crackdown and that might mean lower e-book prices ahead.
The antitrust lawsuit alleges Apple and five publishers, including HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin Group Inc., and Simon & Schuster Inc., colluded to fix e-book prices. Some of those publishers have already moved to settlement discussions with the government before any such suit could be filed, in the hopes of avoiding a public fight, according to the WSJ report.
At stake: Apple’s signature agency pricing model. When the iPad was released, Apple introduced a pricing model with major publishers that allows publishers to set prices. In this model, publishers set fixed prices across all e-bookstores and retailers get a fixed percentage of sales. (In contrast, Amazon takes pricing decisions out of publishers’ hands.)
The DOJ’s concern is that this fixed pricing model, adopted by five of the big six publishers, has reduced competition in the e-books industry and raised e-book prices for consumers.
Following the dead-tree book model, e-books were traditionally sold to retailers under a wholesale model. “[P]ublishers and retailers negotiated a fixed cost per unit, and retailers are then free to charge customers whatever they like,” explains Wired’s Epicenter blog. “But wholesale pricing causes two problems for publishers: it gives market leaders (read: Amazon) disproportionate negotiating power, and makes it possible to use heavily discounted e-books to boost sales figures, capture market share and sharply undercut sales of printed books.”
That’s when the late Steve Jobs, then-chief executive of Apple, introduced the agency model, under which publishers set book prices and Apple takes a 30 percent cut. According to the WSJ, “Apple also stipulated that publishers couldn’t let rival retailers sell the same book at a lower price.”
Hence the price fixing lawsuit.
What’s ahead? Publishers will likely want to reach a settlement soon – which may involve modifying or completely eliminating the agency model.
It’s too early to tell what a settlement might look like for consumers but it’s likely to translate to lower e-book prices.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.