Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing snobs

It might not be a good idea nowadays, but in its heyday, looking down one's nose at the little people was the way to go. 'A biography of the poet Edith Sitwell, published this week, shows what a roaring snob she could be...When a member of the public wrote to a newspaper to criticise her work, she said the letter had "taught me the value of birth control for the masses". But then, in Sitwell's lifetime (1887-1964), writers could get away with being loudly snobbish.' More...

E-books lead to better print books?

That's the theory of this short article, anyhow, and it's a theory I subscribe to. New media do not eliminate their predecessors, but they do redefine them. Radio didn't go away when television arrived, but it sure did change. Books are up next. 'E-readers are going to get cheaper, and easier to read, from here on in. Books, by contrast, will continue to look bigger, more expensive and antiquated in contrast. That may sound cold-hearted but it is also a cause for optimism.' More...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The top ten Oscar books

You can't argue with the timeliness of this list. Or the quality. It was put together, the author claims, 'partly because Academy Award madness is almost upon us, partly because like all former PhD students I love a good reading list, and partly out of sheer nerdiness.' More...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Volume 6, 2011

I made a recent promise (or actually, since it hasn't been published yet, I've made a forthcoming promise) to announce new titles in Select Editions when they were chosen. So I'll start making good on that now. The publication date of volume 6 is 10/31, which means that readers will get it in the mail some time in November.

The Orchard by Jeffrey Stepakoff
Worth Dying For by Lee Child
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal
On Borrowed Time by David Rosenfelt

Odd titles

I just have to reprint this: "A inspirational guide to Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way" is emerging as the early favourite to win this year's Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year... The author points out that, while "some in the west see him in negative terms, the Mongol leader created one of the world's greatest empires" and is thus a model for the modern dentist. More...

Book reviews with a sense of humor?

Publisher's Weekly pointed us to Ron Charles, and now we'll do the same for you, if you haven't discovered him already. 'For many, the book review is in dire need of a savior, or at least some hope, a tiny green sprout poking out of the tattered, yellowing rubble of the postprint landscape. Enter a middle-aged man with slices of raw bacon draped over his head.' More...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Top Ten Poets

If you've followed the hoopla over the selection of the top ten composers, you might want to get in on the ground floor of this one. Provided you're a poetry fan, that is. Here's the link. And if Keats and Yeats are not on the final list, I don't want to hear about it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On character names

For authors, this is not an easy business. 'Names are important. There is a big difference between a Bruce and a Guido, a Penelope and a Latoyah. A name can set the tone. Some handles are so ridiculous that they are instantly unforgettable, such as Humbert Humbert, the slippery protagonist of Lolita, or Ignatius J Reilly from A Confederacy Of Dunces. Nineteen Eighty-Four's Winston Smith combines a flash of individuality with a surname that suits his everyman status, while Bret Easton Ellis's works are full of characters whose one-syllable names are as slick and shallow as their lives – Clay, Rip, Spin and so forth. Then there are those as iconic as the book titles themselves: Atticus Finch, Kilgore Trout, Holden Caulfield.' More...

H.L. Mencken

The Bard of Baltimore compared to Michel de Montaigne, the genteel sage of Bordeaux. In this particular pairing, an entertaining reminder of a devilish wordsmith, the former seems the clear winner. 'Mencken did not write, but rather hacked words from the cliff of the English language and set them on a column in his beloved paper, the Baltimore Sun. Each one was unveiled with the blast of an ecstatic trumpet and a puff from an enormous cigar. His political maxims became bywords: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." "The worst government is the most moral … when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression." Most famous of all was: "No one has ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the masses."' More...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Chandlers, finally together

If you're a Raymond Chandler fan, you'll find this tidbit of interest: he and his beloved wife have finally been buried together long after their deaths. Chandler, of course, is the bard of L.A. and paladin private eyes, as well as the credited screenwriter on two of my favorite classics, Double Indemnity and Strangers on a Train, although one imagines that Billy Wilder was the dominant team member on the former. Anyhow, if this advice from Chandler to aspiring writers isn't inspiring, I don't know what is: "If in doubt, have three guys come through the door with guns."

Roald Dahl's finest moments?

When you're talking about Dahl, you know you have to be talking about some pretty fantasic material. The Telegraph lists their 10 favorite moments, but I find the list a little lacking in including nothing from his memoirs. Something about the lion and the chef's wife, at the very least?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thoughts on Howl

The movie Howl about Allen Ginsburg's poem is around these days in the US, and about to open in the UK. I haven't seen it, but I certainly know the poem. I do some work with high school students, and it's a very popular piece for them in performance, which is rather remarkable, considering that in its day many thought it actionably obscene. Times change. This article provides interesting background. 'The compound heaviness of all this – insanity, death, crime, self-loathing, literary failure – lifted one day in August 1955, when Ginsberg sat at his desk in Montgomery Street, in the North Beach area of San Francisco, a stone's throw from City Lights bookstore, and typed this line: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, mystical, naked . . ." ; More...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The joy of not reading

Well, it's an odd joy, a mixture of expectations met and unmet. And it's a fun article: 'I save books. I buy a book with every intention of reading it, but then the more I look at it and think about how great it is going to be, the less I want to read it. I know that it can’t possibly live up to my expectations, and slowly, the joy of my own imaginings becomes more precious to me than whatever actually lies between the covers.' More...

Rendezvous with Rama

This is one of my favorite science fiction books. It's nice to see it reappraised. 'Rendezvous With Rama is a stone-cold classic. There's no doubt that Clarke won the Hugo on merit – not to mention the Nebula, British Science Fiction award, Jupiter award and Locus award. This book is, as Martin Amis wrote back when he had a science fiction column in the Observer, "triumphant".' More...

Illustrating Jane Austen

Sure, we love the convenience of electronic books, but there's something missing. Like art, perhaps? Read here about illustrator Joan Hassall for an idea of why. (Via)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Young Dickens

I have become enamored of the Victorianist blog. This time out, they tell us about young Charles Dickens, on the 199th anniversary of his birth. 'His parents were neither particularly affectionate nor loving toward him, and he would go on to describe himself in his childhood as a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy". As such, he spent much time alone between the ages on ten and twelve, which helped little Charles to develop a vivid imagination that he would return to again and again in his work. John was a poor father, who neglected the educational needs of Charles and his siblings. Even with the funds the family had at their disposal, the boy was denied any schooling.' More...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The real Sleeping Beauty

The fairy tale in depth, going back to the original sources. It's not particularly Disneyesque. 'Most obviously, there is an outrageous fact that the story passes over and that most children do not consciously note: Beauty is a century older than the prince who kisses her and ends her sleep. When he enters her dusty room she is one hundred and fifteen years old. As the reader bends with him over her inert form, adoration is tinged with something else entirely—the apprehension of death.' More...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A rejection is a rejection is a rejection

The best rejection letter ever? (Via)

An evening with J. D. Salinger

Actually, a pretty weird evening. 'Now Salinger began talking of something else; I didn’t immediately grasp his subject. Buddhism, his studies in that religion, and his wish to go further in those studies. He said, “I’d be surprised if any of you think of yourselves as Buddhists.” He talked about the discipline of meditation, of what might be reached through its practice, of a book that had helped him to appreciate its benefits. Of “levels,” or did he say, “stages of enlightenment.” He spoke more quickly as he went along. Perhaps it was simply impatience with our ignorance. I was not keeping all the information straight.' More...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mandated e-textbooks

It was just a matter of time, no doubt. I've always believed that text books is one of the best areas for ebook use, for so many reasons. 'There’s a new rule coming from Florida’s state board of education. Within three years, all school districts will be required to spend half their textbook money on ebooks! “Students ‘cracking the books’ to study for a class or exam could be a thing of the past someday,” joked one Florida newspaper. And when an educational publisher submits their textbook to the board for review — it will have to be an ebook!' More...

The Alexandrian library

News from Egypt tells us that the library is safe. 'When unrest broke out on Friday, a cordon of young people rushed to surround the Library complex (which includes conference halls and a planetarium) and protect it from vandalism.... The Library has become an essential symbol of Egypt, or perhaps of civilization in general. In any event, the move to protect the Library—as with similar efforts by protesters in Cairo to protect the Egyptian Museum after a group of looters smashed display cases and destroyed two mummies—is not only a matter of guarding the books and other splendid collections housed beneath its circular roof: it is a matter of guarding an idea.' More...