Friday High Five: French bookshops, Woody Allen and the science of Minority Report

We share our favourite internet reads and discoveries over the past week

Why French Bookshops Don’t Get Axed

The New York Times has reported that the French are doing things differently (as is their habit) when it comes to bookshops. Bookshops aren’t closing there; instead, they seem to be booming. From 2003 to 2011, book sales in France increased by 6.5 percent. ‘There are two things you don’t throw out in France – bread and books,’ said Bernard Fixot, owner and publisher of French publishing house XO.

The recently closed Village Voice. 'Running a bookstore is a combat sport,' concluded a French Culture Ministry report, which recommended further measures to delay the decline of print book sales.

The recently closed Village Voice. 'Running a bookstore is a combat sport,' concluded a French Culture Ministry report, which recommended further measures to delay the decline of print book sales.

Looking deeper, what’s saving bookshops (and books) in France is government intervention, with the prices of French-language print and ebooks fixed. While French-language bookshops are doing fine, the Parisian English language bookshop Village Voice, which has hosted everyone from David Sedaris to Mary McCarthy, has recently closed its doors.

Hipster toys: Paper dolls and plush moustaches

It’s the ultimate hipster accessory: Vulture has made print-out paper dolls for the cast of Girls. Fans can now get their Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa fix while they’re waiting for Season 2. The dolls come with fun (paper) accessories like Shoshanna’s ‘just smoked crack’ face, Hannah’s bare chest, diary and memoir manuscript and Marnie’s assortment of overbearing gifts from Charlie.

The Hannah Horvath doll: includes bare chest and memoir manuscript.

The Hannah Horvath doll: includes bare chest and memoir manuscript.

For hipsters who’ve graduated to having kids, there’s a whole new world of toy fun. Buzzfeed has compiled a list of essential toys for hipster kids, including a Fisher Price record player (or ‘phonograph’), a scarily hip dollhouse, an assemble-yourself acoustic guitar made of sustainable wood and a plush moustache.

This plush moustache costs US$20. Seriously though, wouldn't most hipsters of today prefer a plush beard?

This plush moustache costs US$20. Seriously though, wouldn't most hipsters of today prefer a plush beard?

Little Women: ‘a ferocious wolf’

In The American Prospect, a fan revisits Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved Little Women and discovers a subversive element to this moral tale, and the intriguing contradictions between a story that ends traditionally, in children and marriage – and the author’s alternative trajectory, finding fulfilment in literary fame. There’s much background information here on how Louisa May Alcott came to write the Little Women books and on her complex relationship with her eccentric father, Bronson Alcott.

Little Women is brutal, a ferocious wolf dressed up in the curly white sermons and sentimental homilies of children’s stories. Though full of references to a kind and loving father, its fundamental faith lies not in God but in books: in life as a literary construct. It is a great and complicated work, Louisa May Alcott’s American response to English writers like Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters who had posed similar questions about life and love and ambition.

Christian Bale and Winona Ryder as Laurie and Jo in *Little Women*. 'Alcott announced in a letter to a friend that when it came to Jo and Laurie, she was not going to give readers the satisfaction they expected.'

Christian Bale and Winona Ryder as Laurie and Jo in Little Women. 'Alcott announced in a letter to a friend that when it came to Jo and Laurie, she was not going to give readers the satisfaction they expected.'

Video: The many faces of Woody Allen

This year’s annual Woody Allen offering, To Rome with Love, is about to hit cinemas. And he’s back on the screen in this one, though he’s given the ‘Woody Allen’ role to an actor surrogate (Jesse Eisenberg). Flavorwire have created a video mash-up of Woody’s surrogates over the years, from the child actors playing young Woody in flashbacks to the likes of Owen Wilson, John Cusack, Kenneth Branagh, Larry David and Michael J. Fox.

Woody Allen directs Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in *Midnight in Paris*.

Woody Allen directs Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris.

When science fiction becomes science fact

Ten years ago, Stephen Spielberg called a summit of top science and technology thinkers to an ‘ideas summit’, where they were invited to share their thoughts on what society might look like in 50 years. It was in preparation for the film Minority Report, which eventually featured ubiquitous iris recognition technology (used in place of ID and to personally tailor billboard ads at passersby), self-driving cars, ‘predictive’ policing, ‘sick stick’ police batons that can make you spontaneously throw up, and – of course – jetpacks. Wired looks at how close we are to making ten of these technologies real.

'Steven wanted to make it very realistic, but there were a couple of things he really wanted that were not realistic. The most obvious was the jet packs. But the director gets what he wants!'

'Steven wanted to make it very realistic, but there were a couple of things he really wanted that were not realistic. The most obvious was the jet packs. But the director gets what he wants!'

And there’s also a fascinating interview with many of those who were at the ideas summit, recalling how it went down. Screenwriter Scott Frank remembers, ‘These are some of the brightest people in the country and they’re helping us make a movie. I couldn’t get over it.’

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