Archive for the ‘linkage’ Tag

Various articles and opinions

I have never known why time travel has held such an interest for me. I must have watched the Back to the Future trilogy over a hundred times. There was a time when I boasted that I could recite the movie by heart, and could answer any trivia about said trilogy. So I ran across this today: Charles Yu’s picks for the best time travel books, via the lovely Guardian. They are definitely worth a look.

Also, found on The Rumpus, is this article at the Telegraph about how to download e-books absolutely free. I think I talked about this in an earlier post. Back then, I cared about this job and it’s longevity, because it was in my self-interest to do so. Now, well. Let’s just say I have a more balanced view of e-books.

While I would never trade my physical books for e-books, an e-reader has an attractive and consolidated quality. Whenever I think of moving all my books, yet again, I suddenly get a desire to take a nap. I would do both, probably, if I had enough money for an iPad, which I don’t.

The main point that my bosses use in arguments against e-books, because they fancy themselves liberal and Marxist, is that e-readers are an example of conspicuous consumption, and that they alienate poor people making reading inaccessible to them. Anyone can buy a fourteen dollar paperback to. It’s literacy! It’s imaginative escape! It’s making you a citizen of the world! You could go to college! Oh wait, if your choices are between college and books, and you’re picking up the latest James Patterson instead, then your priorities are way off, mate.

Anyway, so let’s say you have access to these books, paperback, fifteen bucks for a trade size. The cheapest e-reader (and they’re going to get cheaper) is $150. That’s equivalent to 10 trade size paperback books. Now, if books are as easy to get as Adrian Hon says, then you pay $150 once and get thousands and thousands of books for free. Now, which is option is going to make you more literate?

I do realize that this argument leaves out some major points: like how are authors are supposed to make a living if their books are being distributed free on the interwebs; like how not shopping at your local independent business is bad for your economy; and how transferring every printed word into a data file lends itself to an inevitable apocalypse of Skynet proportions.

I do think that some authors may WAY too much money to begin with and could do with a little less. I also think that you can shop locally and online, you just don’t need to confess it to you local bookseller every time you log on to Amazon in an apologetic email. However, I do think we should watch the Terminator movies more carefully and learn something. James Cameron may be the prophet we didn’t know we had.

Booker Prize Winner 2010

I was really looking for a reason to read Tom McCarthy’s C, I know I shouldn’t need a reason, but I thought it would give me a really good reason to. Unfortunately, the Booker judges did not heed my letters, phone calls, and emails, and chose Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question. This was really the only one I didn’t want to read. I can’t say that it’s undeserving, because I haven’t read it.

In other news, look for an upcoming writing experiment on comparing Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna to President Obama, socialism, and Tea Party rhetoric. It’s time to get serious here.

Also, in case you haven’t got to it yet, a new issue of Bookslut is up. I always try to take a late night to scoop it all in.

Also, halfway through Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I know I’m a little late to the train on that one. But it’s a long train and makes frequent stops. The paperback isn’t coming out until January of 2011, so I figured I’d try it. It definitely has an interesting subject: black maids in 1950’s Mississippi get together with a white woman to tell stories about how they are mistreated. The big political issue of the book  ist that a young white woman wants to install all white homes with “negro” bathrooms. The voices are varied, maybe a little stereotypical, but not unlikable.  The writing is mediocre, but the story is powerful enough that one overlooks it. Full review is forthcoming.

Also in the middle of Yiyun Li’s The Vagrants (she just won a MacArthur Genius Grant, how wonderful) and Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, published by the beautiful people at Melville House. Check out their blog MobyLives, if you haven’t yet. They always have thoughtful and in-depth opinions about the publishing industry, the business of selling books, and the ever-constant, ever-annoying debate on e-books.

It’s been awhile… I know.

Life gets in the way of blogging, which I suppose is a good thing. So as not to get worn out on the first post after my unannounced break, here are some links.

At bookslut.com, for their 1ooth issue, Michael Filgate interviews Lee Rourke about his new(ish) novel The Canal, along with his thoughts about the role of boredom in modern life, and Rourke reveals a quite impressive knowledge of Greek mythology. (Of course, you should read the rest of the September issue, it always has books I’ve never heard of and really want to read.)

Also, yesterday, the Man Booker Prize shortlist was announced. I was very disappointed not to see A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell on the list. I finished it last month and was completely enveloped by his writing, his plotting, everything.  It also happens to be the only one I read on the longlist, so perhaps my bias is showing there. The list is:

C by Tom McCarthy

Room by Emma Donoghue

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

The Long Song by Andrea Levy

Two of these, The Finkler Question and In a Strange Room are not yet available in the States. I already plan on reading C, having loved Remainder about 3 years ago.  I will probably read Room and The Long Song, but for some reason Parrot and Olivier does not appeal to me. I am sad that Skippy Dies did not make the list, I really wanted a good reason to read that one.

Also, ran across this short piece via my googlereader from the Telegraph, about Sir Tom Stoppard’s death wish, which would actually be quite painful, but very poetic.

Lastly, I am very intrigued over the ire sent toward Jonathan Franzen by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, because of the glowing reviews of his new book.  She said that it’s easy to get a rave review in the NYT if you are  a “white, male, literary darling”, and argues that commercial fiction (like what she and Weiner write) should get more critical attention. In the HuffPo, she was asked why, she said,

Because historically the books that have persevered in our culture and in our memories and our hearts were not the literary fiction of the day, but the popular fiction of the day. Think about Jane Austen. Think about Charles Dickens. Think about Shakespeare. They were popular authors. They were writing for the masses.

This is interesting. The authors she cites are considered writers of the “classics”, they were commercial writers at the time, because they wrote to make money, commerce=money for goods, but their books have lasted because they have universal themes that are still applicable today. Now, I’m sure that there are thousands of writers that wrote at the same time as Dickens and Austen that we have no clue about (see any Literature Doctoral dissertation title), but I doubt there was a distinction, as there is now, between commercial and literary. The thing is, Weiner, Picoult, and Franzen are making money, and a lot of it. Since Austen and Dickens were clearly writing to make money, as these three are, so they are all working in the tradition of Austen and Dickens. They want their books to make money and last forever.

I don’t want to outright criticize Picoult and Weiner, because I haven’t read their books. But I will say this: New York and it’s book reviewers and publishers live in a tiny world where they think they decide what the country will read and not read. Whether or not the actually do is up for debate, but its the game that must be played. If you want critical reviews, you have to write something that is able to be reviewed critically. You can’t rely on a formula to make you a crap-ton of money and then wonder why no one discusses the individual merit of your book. In the glut of books published every year, books are singled out by reviewers because they stand out from the rest. If your books follow the same basic format, you are not only lost in the lard pool of other formula writers, but also your work in no way stands out from the other books you have written. Just saying.

I would say look for upcoming reviews on David Mitchell’s newest, Barbara Kingsolver’s latest in paperback, and Jonathan Franzen’s very much praised Freedom but that might be a lie. Might be.

Little Bee and Other Thoughts

Some things I’ve discovered:

a. I subscribe to a lot of book review blogs via googlereader, and the ones that go on and on (rather like some of mine), I kinda skip over most of what they say. Unless it’s a book I’m really interested in reading, I just scroll through. So because of this realization, my posts will be a little shorter, more focused, and less rambling.

b. I like links, so expect to see more links. I look to link, if liking linking move…

c. I’ll be posting more often.

So let’s begin.

First, a piece of Wordsworth’s Prelude found in the marginalia of Virginia Woolf’s letters (via Fernham)

“The matter that detains us now may seem, 
To many, neither dignified enough
Nor arduous, yet will not be scorned by them,
Who, looking inward, have observed the ties
That bind the perishable hours of life
Each to the other, & curious props
By which the World of memory & thought
Exists and is sustained. ”
–Wordsworth, The Prelude, 7:458-65

It would seem that this is something in the way of what Woolf was thinking when she wrote Mrs. Dalloway. It is amazing the way that we look at the hours of our days, how they string together, unending, and sometimes we think we cannot face them.  And it suggests, along with Mrs. Dalloway, that all we have are our undignified moments, thoughts and memories to bind us to the outside. That we cannot always be forthright and meaningful in our actions and thoughts is not only something to accept, but something to embrace.

Also, I know I’m behind the ball on this, but Jose Saramago died last week. I think Blindness was one of THE best books I’ve ever read. So good, in fact, that I didn’t want to read Seeing because I loved the pessimism of the first. The excerpt from the interview at Second Pass really illuminates why. Read it here.

And, finally, Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I read this book in two sittings of about an two hours a piece, because I absolutely loved it. It moved very quickly, the pacing and the plotting, even though it switched perspectives. It is the story of Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee who has escaped to London and arrived at a woman’s door on the day of that woman’s husband’s funeral. The three of them had meet a year or so earlier on a Nigerian beach and something that happened there changed their lives forever. So you gotta know, what happened? Well, you get Bee’s perspective and Sarah’s. And don’t worry, Cleave won’t let you down. In the meantime, or real time, Sarah and her adorable son, who will only answer to Batman, are dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s death. Sarah’s lover shows up and doesn’t take to Bee at all, but Sarah feels it is her duty to help Bee become a legal citizen of the UK.

In addition to the plot, the characters are so wonderful. They are flawed, yet they care. They are complex and thoughtful, they make mistakes. Except for Batman. He only sees “goodies” and “baddies”, though sometimes he isn’t sure which is which. In a grey world, he reminded me of that childlike simplicity of needing to know whether someone was going to help you or hurt you. The effect was sometimes humorous, and sometimes sad.

Other than that, I can’t tell you much about it. There are a lot of surprises and I don’t want to ruin it. You should read it. Go and do it. Now.

Some Old News

In lieu of a review or rant, here are some links that I’ve found particularly interesting in the last few days. Look forward to reviews on Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Peter Singer and Jim Mason’s The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, Adam Foulds’ The Quickening Maze, and perhaps, if you’re lucky Columbine by Dave Cullen.

First, Book Shelf Porn. I have a lot of books and I like to arrange them in interesting ways. But these are just incredible. Some of the pictures are personal collections, others are large libraries that make you wish you were a librarian.

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna just won the UK’s Orange Prize, beating out Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winner Wolf Hall and the much-praised The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. Read about a first-hand experience at the awards ceremony here (via dovegreyreaderscribbles.typepad.com)

I also enjoyed reading this essay about World War I poetry at The Millions. I don’t think I’ve seen such a extensive treatment of the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon outside of academia. It made me think a lot about the way we study literature and how we often take it completely out of its humane and historical context.

As always, the wonderful clan over at biblioklept put me on to a new Jeffrey Eugenides short story in the New Yorker. You should really read it, especially if you’ve ever endured a literary theory course. Also, the book referenced in it, Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments is real and just as brilliant as it sounds.

I do love literary feuds, and the idea that so many of them were borne out of being drunk while writing a review. I wish I was erudite and aware enough to write a review while drunk. Anyway, read about Philip Kerr and Allan Massie at The Telegraph.

Last, a Virginia Woolf essay contest (via bloggingwoolf@wordpress.com) If I ever thought I had anything to contribute to the wonderful canon of Woolf-ania, I would do it through this contest.

Do enjoy.