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.
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“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.
Author Edith Pearlman won the 2011 Fiction prize at the National Book Critics Circle Awards, which were given out Thursday night.
Pearlman was awarded the prize for her short story collection “Binocular Vision,” the publication of which the NBCC called “a triumph for Pearlman’s distinctive storytelling, bringing it to a larger audience." Monitor fiction critic Yvonne Zipp found "Binocular Vision" to be "among the best [short story collections] I've ever read."
Pearlman’s work was the first book released by her publisher, Lookout Books.
“Little presses and little magazines are dedicated to keeping literature alive,” Pearlman said during her acceptance speech. “And they deserve thanks from every writer tonight, particularly from me.”
The nonfiction prize went to “Liberty’s Exiles,” a book examining the lives of Loyalists in America after the Revolutionary War, by Maya Jasanoff. Writer Mira Bartok took the autobiography award for her book “The Memory Palace,” saying, “I guess more than 10 people read the book. I think that's kind of cool,” during her acceptance speech.
John Lewis Gaddis’ book “George F. Kennan: An American Life,” focusing on the life of the American diplomat, won the award for a biography. Monitor critic Christopher Hartman called this biography "indispensable" in his review. Writer Laura Kasischke won the poetry prize for her collection “Space, in Chains,” while Geoff Dyer’s book “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition” took the award for criticism.
The prizes were awarded in New York at the New School.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
An incompetent hick, a drunken butcher, and a red-haired lunatic.
If you listened to their enemies, the three men with these descriptions – President Abraham Lincoln and Generals Ulysses Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, respectively – were the biggest threats to America during the waning days of the Civil War in 1864.
Who were these acid-tongued critics? Not the people you might think. They were politicians and ordinary folks in the North who saw Lincoln as a bumbling failure, Grant as a bloodthirsty military killing machine, and Sherman as a nutty man on a fool's mission.
It was a presidential election year, and these angry, frustrated and disappointed Northerners wanted Lincoln out of office.
They nearly got their wish.
Lincoln, who'd become one of the most beloved Americans of all time, came close to being beaten at the ballot box after one term, leaving him to languish among our presidential failures. In the darkest days of 1864, he feared he was through, much as LBJ must have felt as he pondered his own wartime chances in the White House 104 years later.
By his own admission, this author isn't easy to impress, and he finds hardly anyone to praise on either side, not even Lincoln, whom he views as unscrupulous and outmatched. This makes Decided on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln, and the Election of 1864 as surprising as it is colorful and readable.
I reached Johnson in Union Township, N.J., where he's based, and asked him about Lincoln's dire election chances, the egotistical general who came close to taking the White House, and the sole hero the author manages to find in this whole remarkable story.
Q: Today, we might think of Lincoln as having always been popular, at least in the North. As you show, he had plenty of enemies on his own side in the war and was in danger of being voted out of office. How come?
A: From what the people were reading in the newspapers, it looked like the war seemed to be getting lost. Sherman never seemed to be getting to Atlanta, and it looked like Robert E. Lee had Grant pinned down.
It was actually the other way around, and the North was winning the war. But it didn't seem that way to the people in the North. In Washington, soldiers who were being shot up badly were loaded off boats and carried through the streets. You would look out the window and see these poor blokes, with their arms blown off and in terrible condition.
And Lincoln wasn't even popular within his own party. Lincoln was a moderate – he wanted to beat the South but not to kill them. That's what he told Grant and Sherman. But the Radical Republicans wanted nothing to do with his point of view.
The main proponents of abolition, like Senator Thaddeus Stevens from Pennsylvania, wanted to the run the South down, kill everybody and sow salt into the soil – destroy and punish the South.
Q: It sounds like Lincoln was hardly thought of as a brilliant leader in his own time, at least when things seemed so dark for the North. Is that how you see it?
A: If Sherman hadn’t captured in Atlanta in 1864, I don't think he would have been thought of as one of the great politicians.
Q: As you write in the book, Lincoln had a major problem in his generals and his advisers, who almost universally failed him. What were their problems?
A: One of the reasons the war went on so long was that he had idiots for generals, and his advisers weren't much better.
The advisers weren't stupid, but they didn't have imagination. As for generals, Lincoln didn't really find a general he could really trust until Grant. His idea was to go in there and kill the enemy. Everyone else sat on their hands and didn't do anything. They were fools and ninnies, and General George McClellan was the biggest fool of the lot.
Q: You're talking about the man who'd run against Lincoln in 1864 as the nominee of the Democratic Party on a platform of ending the war. How did he go so far if he was so incompetent?
A: He got a lot of good press. The nation wanted a winning general, and the press made him out to be one. All through his life, people were telling him how brilliant he was, and he came to believe it himself.
He did a great job putting the army together, but didn't know what to do with it.
Q: You write that Lincoln interfered in an important local election and threw troublesome citizens into jail. What do you think of him?
A: He's complicated, not the honest and forthright person that you read in the history books. He could be a real stinker when he felt like it.
Q: But he had to keep the country together, right?
A: Yeah, but when you talk about dirty politics, he was an expert. He'd put you in jail to shut you up.
Q: Out of this whole story, who comes out as the most honorable?
A: Grant. I've been writing for 35 years, I've got my 10th book on my desk, and I've probably written 100 magazine articles. There are very few people I can say I admire. One is Grant, and one is Eisenhower.
Grant had a lot in common in Eisenhower. They were both straight shooters.
I haven't met too many people in this world who are honest. Very few. I'm a cynic at heart.
For more about the battle between Lee and Grant from the Southern point of view, check out 2008's "General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse," by Joseph Glatthaar. In my Monitor review, I called it a "perceptive and fascinating history" that closely examines why Southern soldiers fought to preserve slavery when most didn't own slaves.
Last year, I interviewed experts about why Grant's memoirs are considered the only truly great presidential memoirs (and readable too).
If you've got Grant on the mind, read my story for a local publication here in San Diego about Grant's ties to our community. Some of his descendents remain in town to this day, and one of our fanciest hotels is still named the U.S. Grant after his son.
Also: If you're a Southern Californian, you might be intrigued by my story about how our region had no love for Lincoln during his era. In fact, voters thought he should have never been elected in the first place, nor the second.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor correspondent.
Muggles, get your wands ready.
Pottermore, the much-anticipated website which promises an immersive Harry Potter experience but which got bogged down in testing delays, announced today that it would be opening officially early next month.
“We know that the extended wait for those wishing to be part of Pottermore has been frustrating,” read a post on Pottermore Insider, the official blog for the website. “And we’d like to thank you all for your patience so far.”
The website had been open in a beta mode, and the post on Pottermore Insider said that because of the beta testing, a decision was made to switch the website to an entirely new platform.
“This ‘invisible’ change has involved a lot of work behind the scenes but it will enable our users to get the best from Pottermore as it grows and develops,” the post read.
According to the Pottermore Insider post, more features and extras will be added to the website over the next few weeks before the official opening.
The Pottermore website will be the only official source for Harry Potter e-books, but Mark Hutchinson, a spokesperson for author J.K. Rowling, told the Associated Press that a date for Potter e-book availability has not yet been confirmed.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.