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Today is the birthday of American writer Laura Hillenbrand (1967)

The author of two best-selling books of nonfiction: Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001) and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (2010).Hillenbrand grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, and spent her childhood riding horses on the family farm, a stone cottage on the banks of the Potomac River that was once used as a hospital during the battle of Antietam. She had to drop out of Kenyon College after suffering her first bout with chronic fatigue syndrome and was confined to bed for the next 18 months. She first published an article about Seabiscuit, the legendary racehorse, in American Heritage magazine (2003). Seabiscuit was small, knobby-kneed, and lazy, and his rider was a half-blind failed prizefighter, but he became the winningest racehorse in history during the 1930s, a symbol of resilience and hope for millions of Americans during the Great Depression. Her agent shopped the proposal to an editor at Random House. The editor wasn’t interested, at first, since books about horses tended to be boring, and the main characters were all dead, but he signed Hillenbrand. She delivered the manuscript 17 months later. The editor read it and sent her an email, which read, “In terms of pure narrative, this is the most satisfying story I have every encountered in my eleven years as an editor. Reading it wasn’t even work; it was pleasure.” Seabiscuit became a New York Times best-seller. The film version starred Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges (2003). Because of her chronic fatigue syndrome, Hillenbrand rarely leaves her house, so she’s had to adjust her research methods. She buys vintage newspapers on eBay and does interviews with her subjects by phone. She also listens to a lot of historical audio books, which she says makes her a better writer. “Good writing has a musical quality to it, a mathematical quality, a balance and a rhythm. You can feel that much better when it’s read aloud.” It was while reading old articles about Seabiscuit that Hillenbrand came across a story about running phenomenon Louis Zamperini, whose bombardier plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 1943. He spent 47 days adrift on a raft, eating seabirds, until he and his companion were captured. He spent the next two years being tortured in three different Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. Hillenbrand’s book about Zamperini, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (2010) has been on the New York Times best-seller list for over four years. Angelina Jolie directed the film version (2014). About writing, Hillenbrand says: “I feel so fully alive when I’m really into a story. I feel like all my faculties are engaged, and this is where I’m meant to be. It’s probably what a racehorse feels like when it runs. This is what it’s meant to do, what its body is meant to do. This is what my mind is meant to do.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®
National broadcasts of The Writer’s Almanac are supported by The Poetry Foundation.

How Books Are Sold in China

Calvin Chik Cheng Wei, I’m a work-in-progress

 Book Sales in China
In the land where copyright is treated as a suggestion?

Books are sold in a novel manner (Pun fully intended).


You enter a bookstore. At first sight, everything seems normal. Your first red flag occurs when you pick a book up. Perhaps the colour on the cover is a little off. Perhaps some pages are printed askrew. Perhaps the pages are flimsier, and you can make out the words printed on the other side of each page.

Or perhaps the contrast of the ink is slightly off and you have just spent the last hour staring at Figure 6.2 and still can’t make out what that arrow is pointing to. 

You look around the dimly lit room. You notice the signs duct-taped over each dusty bookshelf, and it hits you. In lieu of the normal classifications “fiction”, “Non-fiction” … etc, the signs simply read RMB/斤 (price/weight).

Yes, books are sold by their weight. You compare books and find thatRevenge Wears Prada costs more than Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, simply on the basis that it contains more pages.


You bring your books to the counter, and true enough, the store assistant dumps the books onto a scale. You hand over your money, he grunts and then you’re off.

You exit the store and squint in the strong sunlight. People rush around you, caught up in their own activities. Some scan the two rows of stores alongside the road and pass the bookstore where the storekeeper sits, calmly weighing books and conducting his daily business, as if nothing at all was unusual. And you can’t help smiling a little at the chutzpah of it all.

The second edition of “A Penis Manologue” is now available for Kindle.

A Penis Manologue.

An excerpt from “The Penis Manologue.”

Men and Guns –

What is it about men and guns? Is a gun like a penis extender that makes us feel all manly about being able to blow someone’s brains out from 50 yards away? Is that manly? Talking about an extender reminds me of condoms, and the most effective condom ad I ever saw was pictures of fruit with warts all over from not using protection. Natural, robust, assertive masculinity in our society is defined by some as a disease that must be cured. Being a man used to be so simple. Young males had role models and knew exactly how to talk and act like a man. Today all I ever hear is that men need to become more sensitive. Supposedly, we should be as talkative as women and get in touch with our banal feelings.

I see white, upper-middle-class mothers cling to their whiny sons. The result of this stalls the evolution of masculine identity, which requires boys to leave the maternal nest. Is it any wonder that in the U.S., white male children learn to use guns before they learn to use their penises, while Hispanic and black male children learn to use their penises before they learn to use guns? Don’t believe me? Look at the birth rates and see who’s using their Hockey Sticks.

Males need to start a penis revolution—burn our jock straps and jockey shorts as the women burned bras in the 70s. Let penises all hang freely in their natural state. No more penis suppression or imprisonments—give them freedom or they’ll all be deflated.

It’s been proven throughout history that penises are irreplaceable, so maybe they could go on strike, and demand support. Although some may not need support, many do, especially the older ones. Penises need to stand together to demonstrate penis power and demand women support them when requested.