Thursday, April 16, 2009

Geraldine Brooks's March, Part II ("I Want to Learn Too Bad")

John March left his regiment and headed south. The commander suggested that March transfer because his abolitionism and difficult personality were ticking off almost everyone in the regiment.

March's new assignment is to establish a school for "contraband" (freed slaves). I am unclear as to exactly where he is but it's somewhere further south. He's just befriended a recently freed slave, Zeke, who he discovered in a dried-up well. Zeke was consigned to the well after his former owner discovered he'd stolen pork to feed his children.

199. Did Brooks have to obtain any sort of copyright permission from the Alcott estate? I assume not, since the copyright protection for "Little Women" has likely expired, but what would be the legal requirements involved in a similar spin-off of a current novel? For instance, if an author wrote a book about Harry Potter's long-lost brother, who'd never been introduced in the actual books, would J.K. Rowling have any recourse?

200. There's a great scene where a recently freed little girl asks March to teach her, telling him "I wants to learn too bad." Is the desire to learn an innate human desire, like the desire to reproduce? In what ways do babies first show a desire to learn?

201. To what extent was it socially unacceptable and/or dangerous to be an abolitionist? I'm thinking of the war protesters on Thursday evenings at the corner of Ridge and Water Streets -- was abolitionism this much on "the fringe," or was it a much more accepted political position?

202. The Obamas announced yesterday (tax day) that their adjusted gross income for 2008 was $2.4 million -- most of it from proceeds of the two books. The number surprised me (approximately $2 million in book royalties for one year) -- how does this compare with other major current authors? How much does John Grisham take in, per book and overall, in a typical year?

203. How's the publishing industry doing so far in 2009? General Growth Properties (which owns Tysons Corner and Faneuil Hall, among others) announced yesterday that it's filing for bankruptcy protection.

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