Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unsuitable reading

'One of the Library Committee, while not prepared to hazard the opinion that the book is "absolutely immoral in its tone," does not hesitate to declare that to him "it seems to contain but very little humor." ... They all united in the verdict that "it deals with a series of experiences that are certainly not elevating," and voted that it could not be tolerated in the public library.' Okay, this was back in 1885, and the good news is that this year Huckleberry Finn is not among the top 10 banned books in the US. But, sadly, it often is, and in this case hindsight seems an awful lot like foresight. Read it all, including Twain's reply, here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Philip K. Dick

Open Culture points us to a long documentary on the highly respected science fiction author. There's interview material, film clips, criticism—it's quite a show.

Page 99

I like this. English author Ford Madox Ford once said about judging a book: "Open the book to page 99 and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." We are usually tied into beginnings. Does a book grab us from the outset? Or should we be looking elsewhere? This piece in the Guardian is a fun meditation on the whole business.

Overcoming writer's block

Hillary Rettig talks about getting the words down on paper (or whatever) over at HuffPo. You might find the tips useful if you're in a situation of having to produce on a regular basis. 'The work of becoming a prolific writer -- someone who writes easily and quickly, and has fun while doing it -- is the work of managing your moment-by-moment experience of your writing. Writing is one of those activities that looks easy, but really isn't. Besides the basic intellectual challenge, writing is also an act of self-exposure, and often to critical or harsh audiences.' More...

Monday, September 27, 2010

What should college students read?

This is a curious list, and probably not the list I would have come up with. Granted that the students who have read these books will have achieved a level of cultural literacy unusual among their peers, still... The list.

Banned books

It's American Library Association's Banned Books Week again. Roberta Stevens nails it: 'Book challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; they are also an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best -- their parents or guardians.' More...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Connecting Robert Bloch to H.P. Lovecraft

The young Bloch (eventually to become most famously the author of Psycho), was mentored by the elder Lovecraft. 'One of the stories Bloch wrote while Lovecraft was alive featured Lovecraft as a character, killed by a monster. Weird Tales required Bloch to get the victim's permission before publishing the story, and Lovecraft authorized Bloch “to portray, murder, annihilate, disintegrate, transfigure, metamorphose, or otherwise manhandle the undersigned in the tale entitled THE SHAMBLER FROM THE STARS.”' More...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Paris Review interviews

Open Culture tells us that The Paris Review has posted a major website with author interviews conducted over the last five decades. 'Rummaging through the archive, you will encounter conversations with TS Eliot, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, Saul Bellow, Jorge Luis Borges, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, John Steinbeck, Joan Didion, Kurt Vonnegut, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Russell Banks, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Paul Auster, etc. And, amazingly, this list only scratches the surface of what’s available.' More...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Maxwell Perkins

According to this article from LOA, there's a biopic coming soon with Sean Penn playing the role of the legendary Scribner's editor. Hard to imagine dramatizing the life of a guy marking up manuscripts, but one never knows. Perkins is, after all, the gold standard for guys like me. 'In a career spanning thirty-six years as an editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Perkins discovered and published three of the giants of twentieth-century literature: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. He inspired a mostly unswerving loyalty in his authors. No editor has ever had more books dedicated to him—68 at the time of his death.' More...

Raymond Chandler's final resting place

The creator of Philip Marlowe was no saint, by any means. But he unquestionably was in love with his wife. 'The man who put Los Angeles on the literary map with detective novels that dismissed the place as "a big, hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup" was a romantic who had planned to spend eternity alongside his beloved wife, Cissy Chandler. That the two would end up about a block apart, one in a cemetery, the other on a mausoleum warehouse shelf, and that it would take decades to unite them, is a story with as many twists and turns as a Chandler novel.' More...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Wind in the Willows = not a children's book

That's the contention. We may sell it for children nowadays, but that's not how it started out. 'To begin with, neither the author nor the publisher thought it was a children’s book.... The publisher’s announcement described it as ‘a whimsical satire upon life’, reviewers described it as ‘an urbane exercise in irony at the expense of English character and mankind’. More...

Don't throw away those library shelves just yet

The idea was planted by Amazon that, essentially, ebooks were outselling print books. The reality is quite different. 'In July, Amazon announced they’d sold 180 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books...Morning talk shows seem to be informing their audiences that the book is already dying — Regis Philbin is talking about it, and even Whoopi Goldberg on The View. Obviously, the general public doesn’t know that hardcover sales represent a tiny portion of the overall number of books sold.' More...

Why do we need a new translation of that?

Lydia Davis, having recently finished a new translation of Madame Bovary, answers that question in the Paris Review. How many ways, for instance, has even a single phrase (bouffĂ©es d’affadissement) from Madame Bovary been translated:

gusts of revulsion
a kind of rancid staleness
stale gusts of dreariness
waves of nausea
fumes of nausea
flavorless, sickening gusts
stagnant dreariness
whiffs of sickliness
waves of nauseous disgust


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie

And Google is celebrating: 'Today’s Google logo (or Google Doodle, as the company calls its everchanging logo) is one of the most elaborate we’ve seen: It’s a murder scene with one of Google’s o’s depicting a lady lying dead in the middle of a room full of other characters.' More...

Things to do with books, other than reading

We have to admit: these photos are fun. But I'm not tossing my iPad just yet.

What Presidents read

LOA provides some information on the reading habits of our recent Presidents, and what those habits mean. There's even a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: 'Now and then one’s soul thirsts for laughter.... Mark Twain at his best stands a little apart, almost as much so as Joel Chandler Harris.... If any man feels too gloomy about the degeneracy of our people from the standards of their forefathers, let him read Martin Chuzzlewit; it will be consoling.' More...

Friday, September 10, 2010

In honor of Roald Dahl...

This is Roald Dahl month, although I'm not quite sure who was in charge of that pronouncement. But it does mark the publication of an authorized biography of the author, who was, if nothing else, a complex individual. 'Dahl’s kids’ stories, on the other hand, are full of characters who transcend narrative logic....The keynote of Dahl’s children’s books is delight in wild invention—and delight, too, in the way that invention manages to braid the two opposed strands of his personality, the nasty and the charming, into something unique in the history of storytelling.' More...

WSJ book reviews

The Seattle Times reports that the Wall Street Journal will be adding a weekly book review section to it's Saturday edition. This is good news indeed, insofar as most papers are cutting or have cut their book coverage. With all the books being published every day, on paper or electronically or who knows how, more than ever we need help finding the good ones (and avoiding the stinkers).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

George Bernard Shaw online

The Guardian reports that a treasure trove of photos of and by GBS will be coming online. I had no idea how the great playwright had died: 'The Dublin-born writer died aged 94 in 1950 when he fell out of an apple tree at his home in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, having got fed up with waiting for the gardener to prune a rotten branch. He left the house, Shaw's Corner, and its contents to the National Trust complete with an enormous photographic collection of more than 20,000 prints, negatives and glass plates.' More...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A nice free Alexander McCall Smith book

Starting Sept 13, you can get daily installments of McCall Smith's new Corduroy Mansions, either print or audio. Sounds like a good deal to me. Here's all the information.

How to open a new book

Okay, you can't do this on your Kindle. But a tip of the hat to BoingBoing for showing us this illustration.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Arthur C. Clarke predicts the future

In 1964, author Clarke nailed it, although his ideas on cities disappearing may not be exactly right. Still, how many science fiction authors ever predict so much so well? Check out the video at Publishing Perspectives.

This year's Hugo winners

And the nominees as well, courtesy of John Scalzi's Whatever blog. List.

John Le Carre excerpt

From the new book, Our Kind of Traitor. It's been getting very strong reviews, and it's nice to get a little taste of a master. The excerpt is here.