The pilgrim’s progress

I broke ten thousand words on a new novel this week. Still not certain it’s The Next One, but it’s looking promising. I’ll see what my editor thinks in another month or so.

Meanwhile, five things make a post:

* As part of the research for the new book, I spent some time earlier this summer poking through back issues of the Chicago Defender. The Defender archives are available digitally through ProQuest, which the University of Washington library subscribes to. If I were a UW student or faculty member I could access the archives from home, but because I’m not, I had to physically travel to the campus and use a guest computer. Which had me wishing, on more than one occasion, that I could subscribe to ProQuest directly. Unfortunately, they don’t sell database access to individuals, only to institutions. I’m sure with enough money there’s a workaround for this—e.g., get the home office accredited as a research library—but it’d be simpler if one of you Internet startup wiz-kids would just create a Rhapsody for newspaper and magazines. (I know a lot of publications, including the Defender, actually do sell individual access to their online archives, but it’d be great to be able to do one-stop shopping.) ETA: The always helpful Lee Drake notes in comments that ProQuest now does offer a service for individuals, called Udini. Thanks, Lee!

* In a weird bit of synchronicity, the night before Neil Armstrong died, I rewatched Capricorn One, a 1977 movie about a faked Mars landing. There are some serious plot holes and plausibility issues (one of the most glaring being the use of an Apollo-style command module and lander for the months-long Mars mission) but if you can suspend your disbelief it’s a fun ride with some great character moments. I loved the banter between Elliott Gould and Karen Black, and David Doyle (Bosley from Charlie’s Angels) has a nice snarky turn as Gould’s boss.

* Along with the Neil Armstrong obituary, today’s New York Times breaks the news that dancer, artist, and writer Remy Charlip has died. Charlip was the author of one of my favorite (and most surreal) children’s books, Arm in Arm: A Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia. He also wrote and illustrated many other baby boomer classics.

* Speaking of surreal things, the mystery of the floating feet has been solved. (It’s been solved for a while, actually, but I was on book tour when the news broke.)

* Can you imagine a world with Hover Bacon?

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4 Responses to The pilgrim’s progress

  1. jenny says:

    Hey–librarian here checking in! Digital subscriptions REALLY depend on who holds the copyright and the years of publication. For example, a lot of papers/journals are on google and jstor free for the taking, but some very esoteric journals you can only access in one place.

    I imagine a lot of the problem is your location. Here in Chicago (where I live) I am sure schools & libraries will pay for all access to local papers as opposed to where you are, where most people probably do not care about the Chicago Defender!

    Here are some possible solutions:
    1. Your public library. Most people don’t know this, but with your public library card you have access to tons of databases from your home.
    2. Universities. It sounds like you’re doing your best to get access through these, but many schools give student-like access to people who are alumni members, or allow you to buy student like access as a local (esp. state universities).
    3. Worldcat. A search for the defender here brings up a few records, and when you look at them it will show you the library closest to you that subscribes to them. So you may not have to rely on the most local library. http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=ti%3Achicago+defender&fq=x0%3Anews&qt=advanced&dblist=638
    4. Private libraries. There are private libraries that you can get a subscription to that would allow you to do this. Usually the price is pretty low. Offhandedly something like the Newberry Library might be helpful.

    It sounds like you’ve worked pretty hard to get the info so you may already know this, but just in case! I think proquest doesn’t sell individual subscriptions because they doubt anyone would be interested in the prices–generally they are tens of thousands of dollars a year! 🙂

    • Matt Ruff says:

      Hey Jenny, thanks for the suggestions! I do get a lot of from-home access to newspaper and journal archives through the Seattle Public Library and Google, and what they don’t have I can generally track down elsewhere, it’s more a matter of wishing that someone would establish a single, comprehensive, Internet archive that I could use for a low monthly fee. I agree ProQuest wouldn’t get many takers if they charged individuals the same amount they charge libraries, but for a $20 or $30 a month rate I bet they’d get a lot of interest. The real question is whether the people who hold the original copyrights would let them do it.

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