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Book News: Cache Of Letters From 'Frankenstein' Author Found

An image of author Mary Shelley, circa 1830.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
An image of author Mary Shelley, circa 1830.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A British academic stumbled upon a trove of unpublished letters written by Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, who was the daughter of women's rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft and the wife of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Nora Crook, emerita professor of English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University, said that she found the letters at the Essex Record Office. "I knew right away they had never been published before," she told The Guardian. Written to Shelley's friend Horace Smith and his daughter Eliza, the letters, which date from 1831 to 1849, discuss the suthor's declining health — in one, she apologizes for her "blotty and invalidy" writing. Other letters are lighter: She says that she called a hairdresser at three in the morning the day of William IV's coronation, and that she was "mortified" her son wasn't taller. The letters will be published in the Keats-Shelley Journal.
  • Barnes & Noble appointed Michael Huseby its new CEO on Wednesday, replacing William Lynch, who abruptly left the company in July. Huseby, who has a finance background, has been running the company's Nook digital media division. Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio said in a statement, "Although a relative newcomer to the retail book business, he has quickly developed a comprehensive understanding of the unique opportunities and challenges the Company faces, and he has a vision for the future in which I am in complete accord." The New Yorker's James Surowiecki argues that, in this case, promoting an insider "makes a good deal of sense. To begin with, hiring from within is generally an underrated strategy. ... It's not that companies should only look inside for potential hires; outsiders can shake up ossified ways of thinking. But the search for a corporate savior is usually an exercise in wish fulfillment rather than a sensible business strategy."
  • Next year, the National Book Festival will move from the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center, the Library of Congress announced in a press release. The National Park Service's concerns about damage to the mall lawn prompted the move.
  • The American Dialect Society has named "because" as the word of the year for 2013. Although of course the word itself is nothing new, a new usage has sprung up online. With this new usage, "because" is followed by a single word, often a noun, instead of a whole clause. Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, explained the usage in a statement: "This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use. No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like 'because science' or 'because reasons.' You might not go to a party 'because tired.' "
  • Poet Paul Beilstein has a new poem in Guernica, called "Psychopomp." An excerpt:
  • "The popular literature says I got
    the right amount of sleep,
    but does not say how to return
    safely from sleep's charcoal rot visions."

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

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