Cultural historian Jacques Barzun

Is Rupert Murdoch planning to buy Penguin? Last week it was reported that the publishing giant was in talks about merging with Random House (a deal which would “create a combined entity that would control nearly 25 percent of the United States book market”), but this weekend, news emerged that News Corporation will likely make a bid on Pearson, Penguin’s parent company, for around 1 billion. Murdoch already owns HarperCollins, one of the other “big six” publishers.

J.K. Rowling and Hilary Mantel have both taken the UK government to task for rolling back welfare benefits. In a recent interview, Mantel said that Britain was “going back to the Middle Ages,” in its treatment of the poor, while Rowling told the Daily Show that she wouldn’t have been able to start writing without government support.

An entity called Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC, which may or may not be associated with William Faulkner’s estate, has sued Sony Pictures because Woody Allen’s recent movie Midnight in Paris quotes Faulkner in passing. At the Rumpus, Michelle Dean senses something strange going on: “That’s pretty textbook fair use; it’s curious they found a lawyer willing to take this on. It’s further curious that in all the press I can find of anyone working with the Faulkner estate before, the executor is listed not as 'Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC,' but a lawyer named Lee Caplin...”

In the New York Times opinion pages, literary critic and A Jane Austen Education author William Deresiewicz argues that food has replaced art as an indicator of high culture: “Foodism has taken on the sociological characteristics of what used to be known—in the days of the rising postwar middle class, when Mortimer Adler was peddling the Great Books and Leonard Bernstein was on television—as culture.”

Spanish author Javier Marias has turned down a 20,000-euro prize from the Spanish government on the grounds that he doesn’t believe in public prizes. "All my life I have managed to avoid state institutions, regardless of which party was in government, and I have turned down all income from the public purse," he said. "I don't want to be seen as an author who is favored by any particular government." Earlier this year, Marias rejected a 15,000-euro award.

Historian, cultural critic, and public intellectual Jacques Barzun died last week. He was 104. Barzun was the author of dozens of books, including the nearly 900-page From Dawn to Decadence, which argued that Western civilization was in a state of decline.

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