Monday Miscellany

Weirdest Writer Deaths

“Here are some of the most bizarre ways that writers have had their story end.”

Rate This Article: What’s Wrong with the Culture of Critique

The Internet-begotten abundance of absolutely everything has given rise to a parallel universe of stars, rankings, most-recommended lists, and other valuations designed to help us sort the wheat from all the chaff we’re drowning in.

Chris Colin suggests that the ubiquity of rating systems for everything in the world is harming more than helping us:

There’s an essential freedom in being alone with one’s thoughts, oblivious to and unpolluted by anyone else’s. Diminish that aloneness and we start to doubt our own perspective.

When we’re overwhelmed by everyone else’s opinion about something, it’s hard to focus on, or even articulate, what our own opinion really is.

There’s an essential freedom in being alone with one’s thoughts, oblivious to and unpolluted by anyone else’s. Diminish that aloneness and we start to doubt our own perspective.

‘Mad Men’ fashion line debuts

Oh, hey, remember how we told you AMC is eager to keep its hit series Mad Men in your consciousness even though the show has been on extended hiatus during contract negotiations? Well:

“Mad Men” has gone beyond a fashion fad. The AMC show about a 1960s ad agency — in which style is as important as the characters and plot — continues to influence runways and retailers with a new branded collection at Banana Republic. . . . The new clothing line also provides a temporary fix for “Mad Men” devotees awaiting the show’s return in 2012. No new episodes of the show aired this year.

Read how the new clothing line marries the fashion of the 1960s to the fabrics and comfort demands of today.

Bad Romance: History’s Ill-Fated Literary Couples

Writers who marry or woo other writers — it’s a bold move, considering the egos involved and the social isolation necessary to get a decent amount of good work done. And yet the authors below tried to make it work; some stayed together for months and some were even able to make it last years. Many of the following authors even acted as mentors to their younger paramours, giving their careers a boost by introducing them to editors and other important members of literary circles. If you’re interested in learning more about writers’ affairs of the heart, Katie Roiphe details some of the following relationships in her book, Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages.

 

Still Nickel and Dimed a Decade Later : The New Yorker

The Book Bench: Still Nickel and Dimed a Decade Later : The New Yorker

Picador is marking the tenth anniversary of Barbara Ehrenreich’s modern classic “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” in which she chronicled her attempts to make a life on minimum wage in three states, with a special anniversary edition. The new edition includes an excellent afterword by Ehrenreich (reprinted in part at TomDispatch), in which she takes stock of the past ten years and revisits some of the workers she met while reporting her book.

This piece reminded me of an incident when my library book group read Nickel and Dimed a year or two after it came out. One of the employers that Ehrenreich studied was Wal-Mart. A woman had recently joined the group; the discussion of this book was her second or third time with us. At the end of the discussion she announced angrily that she had worked at Wal-Mart after retiring and liked her job there.

She never came back to the group. Apparently she was unable to distinguish between someone who took the job as supplementary income and something to do after retirement, and someone who, like an uneducated single mother, had no other work options.

It always saddens me to see reading close rather than open someone’s mind.

Read this short article to see how the working situation has deteriorated rather than improved for the nation’s working poor.

The hidden charms of occult books | Seattle Times Newspaper

Books | The hidden charms of occult books | Seattle Times Newspaper

Alchemical books inhabit a subcategory of books on the occult — books on magic, books on astrology, books on witchcraft, metaphysics and alternative-belief systems, including hermeticism, a world view based on Greek and Egyptian writings. Books embedded with double meanings, puzzles, rebuses. Books believed by some to be talismanic objects with their own power.

William Kiesel of Seattle has poured his love of antique and rare books into Ouroboros Press, ” which specializes in new, high-quality editions of old and occult books (the word ouroboros refers to an ancient symbol for reincarnation and renewal; that of a snake swallowing its tail).”

He has also helped organize the third annual Esoteric Book Conference, to be held in Seattle September 10-11.

Thanks to “The Da Vinci Code” and the Harry Potter books, the 21st century has been reintroduced to ancient signs, symbols and magical practices. (Kiesel gives J.K. Rowling credit for “doing her homework.”) Hard-core enthusiasts for the original material are thinner on the ground — last year’s conference drew 120 ticket buyers. But they came from all over. This year, collectors and exhibitors will travel from as far afield as New Zealand to attend.

Monday Miscellany

Great Authors To Follow On Twitter

These eight writers are sometimes hysterical, sometimes insightful, and are sure to give you words for thought in 140 characters or less.

Of interest to both readers and writers.

Overrated

Authors, critics, and editors on “great books” that aren’t all that great.

Some of these may surprise you. Or perhaps they’re also the books that you secretly love to hate.

Back-To-School Reads: 13 Big Books To Read While The Leaves Fall

Beach-reading season is just about over. NPR checks in with a lucky 13 suggestions of books to curl up with this fall.

If you’ve read the Discworld novels by popular fantasy writer Terry Pratchett, you’ve surely encountered Death. He’s an actual character — a skeleton in a black hood who’s portrayed as not such a bad guy after all.

So maybe it’s not so surprising that at 63, Pratchett — who has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s — speaks openly about causing his own death.

NPR discusses assisted suicide with author Terry Pratchett.

Deciding on a Book, and How to Read It 

Recently several people who know I have a Kindle have asked me whether they should buy one. I love my Kindle, but it may not be the correct choice for everyone. So if anyone else asks me in the future, I’m going to point them to this article in the New York Times, in which Nick Bilton compares several reading options:

I set out to try them all, reading a chapter on each: the Amazon Kindle, the first- and second-generation Apple iPads, the Barnes & Noble Nook, an iPhone, a Windows Phone, a Google Android phone, a Google Android tablet and a laptop computer. To be fair, I also read a chapter in that old-fashioned form — a crumply old print paperback.

 

Monday Miscellany

Like Books? Like NPR? We Invite You To Explore The New NPR Books!

NPR has spent 18 weeks significantly redesigning its books coverage. It looks like there’s a lot more information that’s a lot easier to find. This is a welcome change when print sources are cutting back on books coverage.

Librarian finds digital divide has changed his job

A librarian in the Seattle Public Library system discusses how his job has changed in the 26 years since he got his master’s degree in what was then called library science.

Vonnegut Sold Saabs: 11 Author Day Jobs

We all have that same romanticized image of The Writer: sitting alone, hunched over his/her desk, pen in hand, thinking deeply about Writing before putting the pen to the page and Writing. But, unfortunately, doing this for long stretches of time doesn’t pay the bills

Contemporary Books I Wish I’d Read as a Kid

Josie Leavitt writes, “man, there are books I would have devoured had they been written in the 1970s and early 1980s.” See what books are on her list of books she wishes she could have read as a kid.

 10 Books You Really Should Have Read In High School: An Alternate List

This list, which riffs off a selection from last week’s Monday Miscellany, includes a diverse list, from Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

Literature from Librarians: Great Reads Written by the Experts

The authors on this list range from the top dogs at the Library of Congress to folks who have worked at the national libraries of Argentina, France and Sweden, and people who have checked books in and out at public and school libraries.

 Famous Books Inspired By Dreams

five examples of famous novels that were inspired by their author’s sleeping mind

 Mark Twain House employee embezzled $1 million

An employee of the Mark Twain House and Museum in West Hartford, Conn., has admitted in court to embezzling $1 million from the organization that maintains the author’s historic home. The Mark Twain House, like the homes of some of America’s other best-known writers, has faced financial difficulties. Most, however, were not systematically plundered.

My first reaction when I saw this story was “The Mark Twain House doesn’t HAVE $1 million.” Like the recent warnings about Poe’s house in Baltimore, the Mark Twain House is periodically threatened with closure because of lack of funds. But the former staff member managed to amass $1 million by spreading her theft out over 8 years.

Attention, Bookworms! Here’s Your Mad Men-Inspired Summer Reading List

AMC doesn’t want you to forget about its hit series Mad Men, which has been on extended hiatus because of contract negotiations. So to keep you up to speed, they’ve assigned you homework with their list of books that have appeared on the show’s first 4 seasons. And if you finish your reading early, you can get extra credit by purchasing from the AMC store and reading a few books ABOUT Mad Men. Offerings include Sterling’s Gold: Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man by Roger Sterling.

Cool New Websites Every Bookworm Should Bookmark

We’ve been excited about all the new literary and creative nonfiction websites in the past year that have sprung up in order to show us that the big bad Internet didn’t kill reading after all — it improved it.

Ten informative resources you might not have yet heard about.

Movie Review – ‘The Help’ – Life In The South, Through The Eyes Of ‘The Help’

Movie Review – ‘The Help’ – Life In The South, Through The Eyes Of ‘The Help’ : NPR.

Even reviewers who don’t care for the film adaptation praise the acting of Viola Davis. Here’s what NPR’s Ella Taylor has to say:

In his lumbering way, Taylor makes Stockett’s story his own by expanding the book’s mild lavatorial metaphors for the ill-considered farce that pretty much takes over the movie’s last act. All of which shoves into the background some beautifully tempered acting by one of our great character actresses. Holding the line for intelligent restraint, Davis’ Aibileen subtly navigates the blend of loyalty and rising anger that binds her to her employers, then leads her to break free. Under Davis’ skillful hand, Aibileen emerges as the reluctant heroine of The Help, the dignified face of nonviolent resistance, and the one who argues wordlessly for the union between two people on opposite sides of the racial divide that ends this rather wishful tale.

 

Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books : NPR

Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books : NPR.

Back around the first of August NPR asked readers to vote on their favorite science fiction and fantasy novels (or series). The results are in.

I’m not a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, so when I finished counting I was surprised to find that I had read 22 of the books on this list:

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  7. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  8. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  9. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  11. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  12. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  13. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  14. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  15. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  16. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey NIffenegger
  17. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  18. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  19. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  20. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  21. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  22. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Of course a lot of these (Bradbury, Orwell, Vonnegut, Heinlein, Verne) are classics that I read many years ago, and I remember how disappointed I was in  Stranger in a Strange Land.  But still. . . .

How about you? How many of the works on this list have you read?