Friday, April 30, 2010

The Wizard of Oz

Students at University of the Arts In Philadelphia design some very nifty bookcovers. (via)

The Edgar Award Winners

If you keep clicking on "more nominees" at the bottom, you'll see all the categories. Link.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Writers reading

A posting including Truman Capote reading from Breakfast at Tiffany's. An earlier posting from the same site featured Ernest Hemingway, which you also might want to check out. Link.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Animal Farm almost didn't get published

A classic today, it got off to a shaky start. "He rejected the book on the grounds that it seemed too 'Trotskyite.' He also told Orwell that his choice of pigs as rulers was an unfortunate one, and that readers might draw the conclusion that what was needed was 'more public-spirited pigs.' This was not perhaps as fatuous as the turn-down that Orwell received from the Dial Press in New York, which solemnly informed him that stories about animals found no market in the US. And this in the land of Disney . . ." More...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rudyard Kipling interviews Mark Twain

Link (via the Huffington Post). I love this quote regarding Twain's high regard for facts: "Get your facts first, and then you can distort 'em as much as you please."

Servicing the prisons

A library volunteer works at Rikers Island. We delivered books to both solitary confinement and two different "houses," which are the names of blocks within the building. The inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to request books off a list, so we filled these requests from the "library" within this particular building, which was really just two tall shelves of paperback books in the back of the Chaplain's office. More... (Via HufPo)

How well do you know Mark Twain?

He died a hundred years ago. The Guardian celebrates with a quiz.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It takes a writer to hate a writer

"'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is." So said Samuel Johnson, just one of the great putdowns of writers by other writers in this article.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hard-boiled maps

There's a website called Strange Maps which has, well, strange maps. A recent post was something right up our alley. Back in the 40s and early 50s, Dell published maps on the back covers of their mysteries. Pretty cool. And there's links to more. Check them out here.

On Dickens

My favorite author, discussed in the Atlantic. "Dickens was at his best when evoking childhood misery, incarceration, premature mortality, hard labor, cheating and exploitation by lawyers and doctors, and the other phenomena that were the shades of his own early prison house. With these, as we now slackly say, he could 'identify.' More...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

iPad Alice

As I've said, the technology of devices like the iPad will potentially create a new genus of entertainment appropriate to the medium. Meanwhile, we have people already playing around with books and making them into something more. Watch this video of Alice in Wonderland on the iPad and ask yourself, if you were a kid, would you prefer this or a static book version.

This is only the beginning.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The power of physical books

Apparently the mere presence of books in the home will make kids smarter! “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books." More...

Book tweeters

HuffPo posts a list of book folks who tweet. If you can't find someone to follow here, you just don't want to follow anybody.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Saga of Hapworth 16

A small publisher set out to publish the last J. D. Salinger story, originally run in The New Yorker, as a book. The saga is remarkable. "I confessed that my distribution wasn’t great. He told me, 'Nothing would make me happier than not to see my book in the Dartmouth Bookstore.' Distributed but not distributed! Of all the writers I have published, only one has ever asked that his book be kept out of stores." More...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who is cinema's most successful science fiction writer?

John Scalzi's answer, which questions the very nature of SF, might provide some discussion of its own, but I think he's right on the money with his analysis.

Amazing Africa photos

According to the write-up, the photographer does not use a telephoto lens! Incredible. Link.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Parents as villains?

It used to be that the heros and heroines of kids' books were plucky orphans. Now, in the age of the young adult novel, these poor heroes and heroines are weighed down by crumby parents. The NY Times has a great analysis of what's going on in this area of publishing.

The future

Maybe it's just me, but I absolutely have no interest in books on electronic devices as a subject for any great philosophical discussion. There is nothing magical about paper versus electronic screens: whichever allows me to read a book comfortably and at a reasonable price is fine by me. At the point where I'm reading David Copperfield, it doesn't matter to me in the least how I'm reading it if it's just the words written by Charles Dickens.

The thing is, the medium is the message. I read today that the Vook people have some mixed media material ready for the iPad (link). That, unlike the above, interests me. The question is, not whether the iPad (or any other device) is good for reading. Sooner or later there will be an electronic device that you or I think is good for reading, and if the price is right, we'll buy it. No, the question is, what is there that will be unique to the device and to the unique capabilities of the device. The iPad, for instance, plays music and video and games and so forth. It can do all of these things at once. So who will look at this device as a creative tool and come up with something that is simply iPad content? And what will that content be like?

Think about this. Movie cameras were invented around the late nineteenth century. Movies—narratives with a beginning and middle and an end, with closeups and longshots and editing—arrived around twenty years later, with the release of Birth of a Nation. Before Birth, there were short pieces of one sort or another, but that movie put it all together. Avatar isn't much different from Birth except it's technologically more sophisticated. They both share the basic cinematic cross-cutting and visual storytelling.

We're nowhere near The Birth of a Nation on the iPad (or whatever will come along that is the next generation of technology). But when we get there, it will be a new art form. Some kid playing around with a Wii today will be the creator who puts it all together.

I hope I'm around to see it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April is the cruelest month

Via Open Culture, T. S. Eliot reads "The Waste Land." Link.