What Happened Today in the Book World?

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Sylvia Plath letters reveal abuse, while United Airlines squares off against a new foe — the dictionary

Just your typical flight on United Airlines…but wait, what does ‘typical’ really mean?

Today we saw sassy dictionaries, the launch of a campaign for a new kind of bookstore and some dark allegations about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’ troubled relationship. Never a quiet day in the book world. Want to feel a little better about things? Maybe take a trip to your own local bookstore, pick up one copy of The Bell Jar & one book written by a POC. Then repeat.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Weighs in on United Airlines Controversy

Since searches for the word “volunteer” are up 1,900% since United Airline’s curious interpretation of the term (by now you’ve seen the video of Dr. David Dao being forcibly removed), Merriam-Webster weighed in with the word’s official definition, which, predictably, doesn’t jibe with United’s usage. The dictionary also weighed in on United’s misuse of “overbooked”:

“News accounts of the incident made mention of the fact that the flight was overbooked, but, as dictionary people, we also notice that the airline’s statement used overbook adjectivally to modify a noun, a definition that we don’t yet include. This use probably shows one way that language evolves: specialized words that are frequently used within an industry sometimes undergo functional shift and may or may not spread to common usage. We volunteer to watch this one.”

[The Huffington Post/Ed Mazza]

Kickstarter Is Live for Duende District, a Diversity-Focused Bookstore

Washington D.C. resident Angela Maria Spring has launched a Kickstarter campaign to open a bookstore that will be “owned, operated, and managed by a majority of people of color.” Spring, who is a veteran bookseller at the D.C. literary institution Politics and Prose, has set a goal of $9,000 for her shop, Duende District. The campaign is already making great progress.

[Publishers Weekly/Alex Green]

Unseen Sylvia Plath Letters Assert Abuse By Ted Hughes

A new batch of letters written by Sylvia Plath have been revealed. Dated from February 1960 to February 4th, 1963, a week before her death, the letters were sent to her therapist, Dr. Ruth Barnhouse, and help to illuminate biographical doubts about the writer’s highly productive final years. In the nine documents, Plath discusses abuses perpetrated by her husband, the poet Ted Hughes, as well as her emotional processes after discovering his infidelity. The most harrowing account recalls a beating from Hughes that took place two days before Plath miscarried. It may take some time for the letters to reach a wider audience, as their sale is currently on hold due to a legal challenge regarding their ownership.

[The Guardian/Danuta Kean]

Leigh Stein on Abuse, Grief & Enchantment

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