April 25, 2020, The Economist
Readers across the world are finding solace in “War and Peace”
Over the past 15 years Yiyun Li, a Chinese-American author, has read “War and Peace” at least a dozen times. Her hardback copy of Leo Tolstoy’s 1,200-page saga bristles with coloured notes, like some exotic lizard’s spine. The novel is not just a masterclass in fiction, Ms Li believes, but a remedy for distress. At the most difficult times in her life, she says, she has turned to it again and again, reassured by its “solidity” in the face of uncertainty.
October 19, 2015, The New Statesman
The Evil Genius Theory: do you have to be a nightmare to be truly innovative?
From Johann Gutenberg to Steve Jobs, extraordinary creativity is often coupled with callous disregard for others.
August 29, 2015, The Economist
Ties that Bind: Elena Ferrante
Novels become literary blockbusters for many reasons. Some are created by mountains of marketing cash, some by media saturation. “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Harper Lee’s long-lost work, “Go Set a Watchman”, both fit this mould. Others are fuelled by something quite different, and their success is impossible to predict. In recent years “The Neapolitan Novels”, four volumes by an anonymous Italian author calling herself Elena Ferrante, have become a fictional juggernaut that not even the author’s English-language publishers, Europa Editions, saw coming.
March 2, 2015, The Millions
A Thousand Hands Will Grasp You With Warm Desire: On the Persistence of Physical Books
The Gutenberg Bible is a book of extraordinary beauty. One might even say it exudes beauty: its gleaming hand-tooled leather cover beckons to the hands to touch, to open, to reveal what lies inside. The day I saw it, it was sitting on the library table like a fat monarch laid in state, a foot wide by nearly a foot and a half long, light reflecting off the metal cornerpieces a binder had affixed for its protection half a millennium before. I asked Paul Needham, the librarian at Princeton’s Scheide Library, if I should put on gloves. He shook his head.
September 18, 2014, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Insight
Print technology, the original disruptor, can live with digital publishing
The world’s first insanely great tech startup wasn’t born in a garage in Cupertino. It saw the light some 560 years ago in a German city on the Rhine. A small and driven team — one inventor, one scribe, one venture capitalist — presented a radical new technology called printing, in a monumental Bible unveiled at the Frankfurt Fair.
December 14, 2014
The Gift of Apprenticeship: In printing, novel-writing and life
I remember with searing clarity the day I printed a thousand envelopes with the wrong zip code in Yolla Bolly red. It was my trial week in a fine letterpress shop in a remote California valley. The master printer bellowed, and I cried. I had hoped to become the Yolla Bolly Press’s first apprentice, but for a while it looked like I would be the last.
Sept. 23, 2014
A Forgotten Apprentice gets his due
A chance discovery of an old biography at The Strand inspired journalist Alix Christie’s debut novel, Gutenberg’s Apprentice. In this essay, Christie explains how her lifelong love of letterpress printing left her uniquely suited to fictionalize this remarkable true story.
September 24, 2006, The Washington Post
She was, and still is, a nobody. He is Germany’s most famous writer. But Margarete Barthel and Guenter Grass share a great deal in common.
November 24, 2010, More Intelligent Life
We Ten Million
Somewhere in the world right now, ten million souls are hunched over their keyboards writing novels. Ten million hopeful scribblers in their holes. Good Lord, I’m one of them.