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Book news: the Liberty Bell, the scribe behind a classic road movie and more

July 2, 2010 |  7:59 am

Just in time for the holiday, The New Republic reviews "The Liberty Bell," a "fast-moving and engaging history" by Gary B. Nash. "In the 18th century, liberty was the dominant value of Anglo-American political culture, but its meaning remained vague and vacuous," writes reviewer Jack Rakove. "To see its existence as a struggle, and not a simple heroic legacy, better captures its essential meaning, and Gary Nash’s nifty quick treatment of this icon explains exactly why."

Hitting the road is also an American tradition; the website The Selvedge Yard takes a photographic look back at "Two Lane Blacktop," the classic 1971 road movie. In it, James Taylor (yes, the singer), Dennis Wilson (yes, the Beach Boy) and Warren Oates (the actor) race along Route 66. The screenplay was written by Rudy Wurlitzer, and before the film was released, was printed in its entirety in Esquire magazine.

Gina Frangello, a major force in Chicago's literary scene and author of "Slut Lullabies," tells Chicago Subtext, about another kind of freedom. Even though a publisher went bankrupt on the eve of her novel's publication, and she's struggling to keep her publishing house, Other Press, vital. "The online community is amazing for indie publishers," she says. "It's basically leveling the playing field so much more than was possible even a few years ago.... Now, the literary community has become very virtual, in a lot of ways."

Feel awkward about using emoticons in your sentences? At Good magazine, Anne Trubek explores the history of emoticons and discovers that way back in 1887, author Ambrose Bierce suggested that a bracket "be appended, with the full stop, to every jocular or ironical sentence." Vladimir Nabokov, too, wanted a curved smile. So if you're tempted to use an emoticon, feel free -- they have quite a literary pedigree. :)

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: the Liberty Bell. Credit: redesai via Flickr

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