Archive for the ‘Ebooks’ Category

Monday Miscellany

Monday, February 24th, 2014

The Best Book You’ve Never Read: ‘Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age’

On the Publishers Weekly blog Gabe Habash describes what can be an elusive concept, narrative voice:

Books that are voice-driven are, of course, dependent on the strength of the voice. Think about the best character-narrators you’ve read: maybe it’s Scout or Holden Caulfield or Humbert Humbert. Our favorite narrators have voices that we, as readers, have a desire to keep consuming; their words are as addictive as M&Ms. There’s a powerlessness, a relinquishing, involved when you read a great first-person book, when you fall head over heels–simply through the hypnotic rhythm of the narrator’s words, you choose to give up your own agency in untangling events for yourself and sort-of smittenly accept the narrator’s. The narrator, simply by virtue of his/her voice, gets you to listen.

Why We Can’t Get Enough of Twisted Marriage Thrillers

Gone Girl: cover

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

A new wave of bestselling novels depict the dark side of marriage with secretive husbands and betrayed couples. Lucy Scholes on what they reveal about matrimony today—and their literary ancestors.

A look at the popular appeal of novels like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. Scholes’s discussion of the literary history of this theme is informative. And, if you are as intrigued as I am by these psychological narratives, you’ll appreciate her list of forthcoming books in the same vein.

Farewell Bridget Jones – hello literary bad girls

The [U. K.] Guardian has news of another current literary trend:

With their descriptions of nights out gone wrong and no-holds-barred sexual encounters, a clutch of newly released novels are full of women behaving badly. From Zoe Pilger’s raucous debut, Eat My Heart Out, published this month, to Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical How to Build a Girl, which aims to capture that “moment when you try to discover exactly who it is you’re trying to be”. In February Helen Walsh, whose 2005 novel Brass shocked reviewers with its frank depiction of twentysomething female sexuality, brings out her fourth novel, The Lemon Grove, an atmospheric story of middle-aged female sexuality. In May, Emma Jane Unsworth’s second novel, Animals, memorably described as “Withnail for Girls”, hits the shelves.

But what’s driving this new crop of female antiheroes? Unsworth, 35, who drew on her own friendships for Animals, a gloriously over-the-top account of female friendship, says it’s partially a desire for something new.

What’s Become of the So-Called Literary Bad Boy?

But all the literary news isn’t about the women, although this discussion is more about the persona writers create for themselves than about the characters they create on the page.

James Parker argues that all the great literary bad boys are in the past:

In 2014 we have bad-boy chefs (Bourdain, Ramsay), bad-boy priest-comedians (Russell Brand), bad-boy athletes (the demonic Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suárez). Inspiration and transgression are still tangled up for us, at some level. And it’s possible, I suppose, that some young wordslinger could come along and wring a new twist from the tired repertoire of writerly naughtiness — be a postmodern literary bad boy. But in the end, who cares?

Although these New York Times pieces are set up in the point-counterpoint format, Rivka Galchen’s argument doesn’t seem all that different from Parker’s:

And I would argue that certain traits we associate with the “literary bad boy” . . . have little to do with the genuinely countercultural thinking or the intelligently transgressive prose. Instead they are, upon inspection, just the fairly straightforward qualities of persons with more financial or cultural or physical power who exercise that power over people with less. There’s nothing “counter” about that, of course; overpowering in that way implicitly validates things as they are, and implies that this is how they ought to be. So I presume that when we value literary-bad-boy-ness — and there is a lot to value there — those traits wouldn’t be, if we thought about it, the essence of bad-boy-ness; those traits aren’t even distinctive. They’re just trussed-up versions of an unfortunate norm.

Book Review: Books as History by David Pearson. Obsolescence Guaranteed?

Here’s another wrinkle in the printed books vs. ebooks discussion, the book as object:

The book as object is part not only of the history of communication, but also of art and design.

A book can be altered, beautified or cherished in ways that produce unique objects worth preserving. Each generation leaves its marks: inscriptions, annotations, bookplates, new bindings, armorial stamps, defacements. Readers also often add useful details omitted in the texts. As such, printed books have their own histories which become part of our wider historical heritage and evidence base. Pearson argues that e-books and tablets simply won’t offer these unique, telling attributes.

The Coolest Places On Earth To Read A Book

You must see these 8 photos on Huffington Post. They might influence the plans for your next vacation.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, January 13th, 2014

I’ll be traveling for the next three weeks. Therefore, updates here will be sparse.

The 9 Best Books That Don’t Exist

From Publishers Weekly:

It’s time to make you really sad: here are 9 great books…that don’t actually exist. But while the world would certainly be a better place if they did exist (except #4 and probably #1), if you haven’t read the books they’re from, change that right away.

Commenters have some additions to this list, and I would add The Book of Counted Sorrows from the works of Dean Koontz.

16 Books To Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year

The list includes some big titles: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

30 Books You NEED To Read In 2014

If you’re still drawing up this year’s reading list, Huffington Post has some recommendations from authors such as Karen Russell, Richard Powers, Lorrie Moore, Emma Donoghue, and Alain de Botton.

10 New Ways to Read in 2014 That Will Change the Way You Think About Books

From PolicyMic:

There’s no denying that the world of books is changing. But literature lovers are keeping up. Six years after the birth of the e-book reader Amazon Kindle, we’re no longer groaning about the death of traditional books. Even the most die-hard bibliophiles will admit that not only has technology not killed the book, but it also has extended literature’s boundaries by creating new forms — and has reached new audiences along the way.

Branch out and discover literature in all its hip, inventive, and tech-savvy glory this year, with our 10 reading resolutions that will change the way you think about and interact with books. Whether you’re a print-book fanatic or a Twitter fiend, there’s bound (pun intended) to be something in here for you.

10 Literary Blogs Every 20-Something Should Read

Also from PolicyMic:

The new literary generation is here, and it’s bored — bored with the New Yorker, bored with the New York Times, bored with the New York Review of Books.

We need new literary sustenance. We want writing by people who understand the tremendous attentional effort it requires to read more than three sentences of anything. We want a literary La La Land that gives us gifs and James Joyce in the same breath. Screw it — we want gifs of James Joyce.

While I look for those, take a look at these: The best — funniest, crassest, headiest, least boring, most addictive — literary blogs for 20-something readers and writers.

However, I don’t see why these recommendations should be limited to 20-something readers. I often read several of them myself, and I’m way past 29.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, January 6th, 2014

The Bestselling Books of 2013

Publishers Weekly has gathered some interesting statistics about last year’s book sales. Among their findings: “fiction is the genre of choice for customers who read e-books” and movie adaptations created demand for several titles, including Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

See the books included on these lists:

  1. Nielsen BookScan Top 20
  2. Amazon Kindle Top 20
  3. Amazon Print Top 20

8 books I bailed on in 2013

Laura Miller, book critic for Salon, reads a lot of books and usually writes about the ones she recommends. Here she summarizes 8 books she didn’t finish last year, cautioning “what follows are my responses to books you might possibly have heard of, rather than the absolute worst things I read.”

See why she bailed on these books:

  1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  2. Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
  3. The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
  4. Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime by Adrian Raine
  5. At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon
  6. Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas
  7. Truth in Advertising by John Kenney
  8. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

How Do E-Books Change the Reading Experience?

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes discuss how technology affects the way we read.

Newbery Winner to Promote Her Genre

Television, music, and video games all compete with books for children’s attention. For this reason the Library of Congress in 2008 created the national ambassador for young people’s literature, a new position dedicated to promoting literature for children. A new ambassador is named every two years.

The next ambassador for young people’s literature will be Newberry Medal winner Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux:

With a warm, lively personality and a boisterous laugh, Ms. DiCamillo would appear a natural fit for the post of ambassador, which asks for an ability to relate to children and an overall contribution to children’s literature. She is the fourth person appointed to the position, following Jon Scieszka (2008), Katherine Paterson (2010) and Walter Dean Myers (2012).

The Top 10 Library Stories of 2013

For libraries, 2013 was an eventful year. PW takes a look back at the top 10 library stories of the year, and a look ahead to what might be on the horizon in 2014.

Read what Publishers Weekly has to say about these news stories from last year:

  1. An E-Book Breakthrough?
  2. Google, GSU and Fair Use
  3. The Common Core’s Rough Debut
  4. What Happened to Copyright Reform?
  5. Pew Finds Americans Love Their Libraries, But Use Is Declining
  6. A Bookless Library?
  7. The NYPL [New York Public Library] Goes Back to the Drawing Board
  8. The Digital Public Library of America Launches
  9. Congress, White House Push for Public Access to Research
  10. The Death of Aaron Swartz

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Why GR’s new review rules are censorship – Some thoughts

Late Friday (US time) Goodreads announced a change in review and shelving policy, and immediately started deleting readers’ reviews and shelves. In doing this they became censors. Limiting readers’ ability to discuss the cultural context of a book is censorship designed to promote authors’ interests.

young girl readingOver on Goodreads reader Emma Sea has lashed out against the site’s new policy and has engendered quite a lot of support from commenters. I lead with this entry today because at the heart of the controversy lies the question of exactly what a book review is and what a review should—and shouldn’t—contain.

As soon as I started reading Emma’s post, I knew that the reference to Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game was coming. This very popular book is being made into a movie. Card himself is outspoken in his criticism of gays and gay marriage; as a result, many people have called for a boycott of the movie, even though the book does not deal in any way with gay rights.

So, in terms of book reviewing policy, the question becomes: Is it acceptable to refer to Card’s beliefs in discussions of Ender’s Game?

I have struggled with this very question myself. Ender’s Game is one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I grew up under the school of New Criticism, which holds that literary works should be judged on the basis only of their text, not of their author or of any other external social or cultural context. However, I have reached a point in my life when I believe it’s important for me to stand up and be counted in support of my values and beliefs. I certainly stand by Orson Scott Card’s right to hold and to state his beliefs, but I also reserve the same right for myself.

But the question still remains: Is it appropriate for me—or anyone— to mention a disagreement with Card’s stated beliefs in reviewing a book that does not in any way touch on the subject of those beliefs? I’d love to hear suggestions on how to resolve this dilemma.

Why I Believe I Should Stand Up and Speak Out

Because I keep finding stories, like these, about censorship:

30 Books You Should Read Before You’re 30

some books are best experienced at a certain age, like, say, “Catcher in the Rye.” If you pick it up for the first time when you’re far beyond puberty, you’ll likely wonder what all the hype is about. Likewise, there are certain books you should read in your 20s, due to the age of the characters or the intended audience — books like Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” or Christopher Hitchens’ “Letters to a Young Contrarian.”

There are also fantastic classics that may not have been assigned to you in school but that you should pick up ASAP simply because you’re missing out — books like Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” or “A Collection of Essays” by George Orwell.

Check out the 30 books we think you should read before you’re 30:

I’m not sure exactly why the folks at Huffington Post chose 30 as the magic age. I’ve read several of these recommended books in recent years, and I’m well over 30. In fact, I like to think that I probably got more out of reading these books precisely because of my maturity.

At any rate, this is a good list to use when you’re looking for the next book to pick up.

30 “Guilty Pleasure” Books That Are In Fact Awesome

All books are worth reading, obviously. But some books are slightly more “guilty pleasure” than “classic literature.”

Because you can never have too many good-books lists. . . .

Bookless Public Library Opens In Texas

An all-digital public library is opening today [September 14, 2013], as officials in Bexar County, Texas, celebrate the opening of the BiblioTech library. The facility offers about 10,000 free e-books for the 1.7 million residents of the county, which includes San Antonio.

I’ve always been a big fan of ebooks, but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea of a bookless library. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

The Working Novelist: Writing and the Irrational

Something about the process of writing (and maybe art in general) pushes us toward the parts of ourselves and the world that we don’t totally understand.  Toward the grey areas, the uncertainty, the unsettled.

I don’t write fiction myself, but I’ve heard fiction writers say that sometimes a character will speak up on its own and take over the writing of the story. Here writer Alex Washoe describes how something similar happened to him:

When we read over what we’ve written – if we’ve surrendered ourselves at least a little to the process, to the “vivid and continuous dream” – we often find things we didn’t mean to include.  Stray details, odd comments, small actions – things that perhaps don’t seem to relate to the main action of the story.  Things that sometimes contradict what we thought we were saying.  The first tendency is always to delete these things, the smooth them over, to bring them in line with our plan.  And most of the time, that’s probably for the best.

But if we are willing to stay with these things, to hold them in our minds and find where they lead, they can sometimes open up dimensions of character and story – meaning – we never knew were there.  These stray details, these odd moments, these irrational tics push us away from what the conscious mind thinks it’s doing toward something a little less neat.

Readers, too, often find these little suggestive details in literature, and those details often deepen and enrich our understanding, whether we are aware of that process or not.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook Program

Much of last week’s book-related news involved Amazon’s announcement of a plan to bundle ebooks and print versions of the same title. Here’s a lot of commentary:

College introducing online ‘Dead’ course

I have avoided the zombie craze like the plague (pun intended), although I know that many other people find it indicative of current society.

And now zombies have achieved a certain degree of legitimacy. The Associated Press reports that the University of California, Irvine, is offering an online course about the AMC series The Walking Dead:

AMC says fans of the show know it’s about more than zombies: it’s about survival, leadership and adapting to uncertain situations. Topics addressed in the classroom will include the hierarchy of needs in a crisis, the physiology of stress and population modeling to predict a species’ survival.

50 greatest villains in literature

It’s perhaps the nature of grown-up literature that it doesn’t all that often have villains, in the sense of coal-black embodiments of the principle of evil. And even when it does, it’s not always so easy to tell who they are. Is God the baddie, or Satan? Ahab, or the white whale?

Yet even writers as subtle as Vladimir Nabokov have spiced their work with a fiend or two. And here they are. We hope you’ll furnish a few more we missed.

This is a British list. I’m sure readers from other cultures have their own favorites from their native literary canon to add.

The Top 10 Literary Landmarks of the South

From Trish Foxwell, author of A Visitor’s Guide to the Literary South:

Stretching from Virginia to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and to the tip of Louisiana are some of this country’s most important literary landmarks. Notonly does a visit to the South reveal this region’s haunting beauty, it opens up a window into the lives of some of the nation’s most gifted authors, poets, and playwrights.To visit the landscape that inspired William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, Thomas Wolfe, Edgar Allan Poe, and Tennessee Williams (just to name a few) is an unforgettable journey into the South’s storied literary legacy and the annals of American literature. While every corner of this region offers a fascinating collection of writers’ landmarks, here are my choices for the “Top Ten.”

 

 

Monday Miscellany

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Little Libertarians on the prairie

Cover: Little House on the Prairie

A Libertarian tract?

Christine Woodside argues that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, journalist Rose Wilder Lane, edited her mother’s reminiscences into books that project a Libertarian point of view:

A close examination of the Wilder family papers suggests that Wilder’s daughter did far more than transcribe her mother’s pioneer tales: She shaped them and turned them from recollections into American fables, changing details where necessary to suit her version of the story. And if those fables sound like a perfect expression of Libertarian ideas—maximum personal freedom and limited need for the government—that’s no accident. Lane, and to an extent her mother, were affronted by taxes, the New Deal, and what they saw as Americans’ growing reliance on Washington. Eventually, as Lane became increasingly antigovernment, she would pursue her politics more openly, writing a strident political treatise and playing an important if little-known role inspiring the movement that eventually coalesced into the Libertarian Party.

Today, as Libertarian values move back into the mainstream of American politics, few citizens think to link them to a series of beloved childhood books. But the Little House books have done more than connect generations of Americans to the nation’s pioneer history: They have promoted a particular version of that history. The enduring appeal of the books tells us something about how deep the romance with self-reliance runs through American history, and the gaps between the Little House narrative and Wilder’s real life say a lot about the government help and interdependence that we sometimes find more convenient to leave out of that tale.

And the continued popularity of the Little House books makes it hard to argue against the influence those books have had in shaping our vision of American history and the American spirit.

Mysterious Press to Publish Early Larsson Story

Mysterious Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, announced it will publish a story by a 17-year-old Stieg Larsson never previously available in English. The piece is part of a larger anthology of Sweden’s greatest crime writers, A Darker Shade of Sweden, and is slated for publication in February 2014.

10 Books Every Woman Should Read

From fearless female protagonists realising their dreams in the face of adversity, to witty social commentaries on the female condition as well as two very different feminist manifestos written fifty years apart – here are 10 of the most influential and unputdownable books that celebrate, in their own way, what it is to be a woman.

This list includes some books I expected to find (e.g., The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath) and some I didn’t (e.g., How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi).

Books to Have and to Hold

KindleAnd the debate surrounding print books vs. ebooks rages on. Here’s Verlyn Klinkenborg’s opinion:

When I read a physical book, I remember the text and the book — its shape, jacket, heft and typography. When I read an e-book, I remember the text alone. The bookness of the book simply disappears, or rather it never really existed. Amazon reminds me that I’ve already bought the e-book I’m about to order. In bookstores, I find myself discovering, as if for the first time, books I’ve already read on my iPad.

All of this makes me think differently about the books in my physical library. They used to be simply there, arranged on the shelves, a gathering of books I’d already read. But now, when I look up from my e-reading, I realize that the physical books are serving a new purpose — as constant reminders of what I’ve read. They say, “We’re still here,” or “Remember us?” These are the very things that e-books cannot say, hidden under layers of software, tucked away in the cloud, utterly absent when the iPad goes dark.

Digital reading: not so discreet after all…

I like reading on both my Kindle and my iPad; I also like reading print books. I don’t see what all the seemingly endless discussion is all about. Both print and ebooks are good; neither one is inherently bad.

On the other hand, The Guardian may have a point here:

At the end of 2012 the Electronic Frontier Foundation published the latest edition of its E-Reader Privacy Chart, and the results aren’t great. Almost every service tracks searches for books, meaning not just what you read, but what you’re interested in, is stored. Every book you purchase is linked to your account. . . .

 

 

Monday Miscellany

Monday, July 29th, 2013

The Best Births In Literature

In honor of the birth last week of Britain’s Royal Heir, The Atlantic compiled this list of the five best birth scenes in literature.

Are there any others you’d add to this list?

Literature’s Fight Club

Cover: The Violet HourKatherine Hill, author of the recently published novel The Violet Hour, admits:

I have a thing for lovers’ quarrels—literary ones that is. There’s just nothing quite so dynamic, so conversant in so many emotional and moral registers, as a face-off between sworn intimates doing whatever it takes to win. It’s the proverbial car wreck, the horrific conflagration we can’t look away from, because the fire is actually kind of grand.

In college, I took a seminar called “Doomed Love in the Western World,” on troubled affairs throughout the ages: “Troilus and Criseyde,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Madame Bovary,” “Anna Karenina,” “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” “The House of Mirth,” “The Satanic Verses,” “The Human Stain.” For years after, everything I read seemed to extend the conversation of that class. Social worlds might change, but love would always find agonizing new ways to die.

So when I set out to write my first novel, I had a tradition in mind. How does doomed love look in today’s affluent America, which wants to have its cake and eat it, too? Lavish weddings and gender equity, marching side by side.

Read her account of lovers’ quarrels in works of literature such as D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and of how she incorporated this theme into her own novel.

The Quirky World of E-Reading Apps

Dismayed by the recent news that Barnes & Noble will no longer manufacture its ereader, the Nook, Nook owner Greg Zimmerman began:

looking at and experimenting with the various e-reader apps available for iPad, Android, and Windows tablets. What I discovered is that they are mostly similar — text and background are all customizable, and they all offer the ability to bookmark, highlight text, and take notes. But none of them is perfect. Each has a quirk or two that would prevent it from being my new go-to e-reading app.

Read his report on the following alternatives to the Nook:

  • Nook and Kindle reading apps
  • iBooks
  • Overdrive
  • Bluefire

Resurrected from the archives: timeless women’s fiction

For decades, the label “women’s fiction” has unfairly cubbyholed worthy books. Seattle Public Library librarian David Wright rounds up recent reprints by Penelope Mortimer, E.M. Delafield and Shirley Jackson that showcase the nuance and insight of these novels.

Wright discusses the following books:

  • Penelope Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eater
  • E.M. Delafield’s The Way Things Are
  • D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book and Miss Buncle Married
  • Shirley Jackson’s The Road Through the Wall and Life among the Savages

All have been recently reissued and therefore shouldn’t be difficult to find.

My Favorite Fictional Detectives

Author Martin Walker writes:

It is striking how closely literary fiction echoes real events. The trenches of the First World War gave us the anti-war novel. The Cold War gave us the golden age of spy stories, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The West had James Bond and John le Carre’s Smiley while the Russians had their Julian Semyonov. More recent events have given us the terrorist novel, with Tom Clancy straddling the sub-genres of terrorist nukes and terrorist bio-weapons.

But of all the genres, the detective story seems the most durable, perhaps because the tales are less about crime, more about character. For every cunning murder we recall, from death by icicle which melts to leave no traces to tea being stirred with an oleander twig, it is the detectives and the killers who stick in the mind.

From Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty to Hannibal Lecter and Clarice, the dance of detection is part of a dynamic that goes back to the dawn of humanity. The killer starts by being the hunter and then becomes the hunted.

His appreciation of detective fiction also incorporates the importance of setting. Check out his list of favorite fictional detectives, which includes most of the usual suspects as well as some lesser known ones.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Happy New Year! And welcome back.

Read ahead for 2013

Jane Sullivan of Australia’s The Age clues us in on books (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) to be published this year.

Announcing the 2013 Tournament of Books

To add to your March madness:

The ToB is an annual springtime event here at the Morning News, where 16 of the year’s best works of fiction enter a March Madness-style battle royale. Today we’re announcing the judges and final books for the 2013 competition as well as the long list of books from which the contenders were selected.

. . .

If you’re new to the tournament, here’s how it works: Each weekday in March, two works of fiction from 2012 go head to head, with one of our judges deciding—with elaborate explanation—to advance one title into the next bracket. At the end of the month, the winner of the tournament is blessed with the Rooster, our prize named after David Sedaris’s brother (because why not). Along the way, each judge reveals his or her biases and interests, any connections they have to the participating authors, and, most importantly, how they decided between the two books. Then our ToB Chairmen, authors Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner, weigh in with commentary, and finally leave it up to you, the readers, to add your own passionate thoughts and rebukes to the mix.

Famous Foils in Literature

“Foil” is a literary term to present a character in contrast with another with an aim to project it against a backdrop of opposite traits. The word “foil” was taken from the practice of displaying gems with a backing of foil to project their brilliance. Foil is a literary device to project a character by comparing it with another character similar in some essential traits but contrasting immensely in others. It is usually created to project the protagonist, the main character. The foil may or may not be a major character in a story, but it has something in common with the protagonist, and this diverts the attention of the reader or audience to the protagonist. A foil is like complementary colors which are located on the opposite sides of the color wheel, yet they need one another for their best to come out.

The Little House books as feminist classics

Nobody knows what feminism is any more, but it isn’t just about equal pay and abortion rights. It’s about appreciating femaleness for femaleness’s sake. Wilder was right wing, religious, practically silent as a writer until her 65th year. What pulls these books of hers, unwittingly or not, on to a feminist level derives from her innate rebelliousness, hinted at in the fictional Laura’s moments of indignation, sisterly rivalry and daredevil escapades. Wilder boldly took the American dream and 18th-century individualism to include herself, and wrote without apology about the daily lives of women and girls.

You may never look at these beloved books in quite the same way again.

Digital books leave a reader cold

Or they at least leave Kathleen Parker cold. And here’s her reason:

Paper, because it is real, provides an organic connection to our natural world: The tree from whence the paper came; the sun, water and soil that nourished the tree. By contrast, a digital device is alien, man-made, hard and cold to human flesh.

Are you convinced?

My 5 favorite health/medicine books of 2012

Dr. Suzanne Koven has recommendations for:

works of literature relating to health and medicine published in 2012. This genre is ever-growing, with new memoirs, literary nonfiction, and even novels and poetry collections added each year.

 The 10 Best Narrators in Literature

The first-person narrator descends from the ancient storyteller unspooling his tale around the fire for the delight and edification of his people. But on the page, two things transform him. One, we readers can ask “Who is this speaker? Why is he telling us this story, and what isn’t he telling us?” Two, he can go on as long as he wants. The first case invents the so-called Unreliable Narrator, the second gives rise to what I like to call the World Swallower.

Read Oppen Porter’s choices as the best examples of these two types of first-person narrator.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, November 26th, 2012

For Your Holiday Gift-Giving

book treeNow that the winter holiday gift-giving season has officially arrived, here are a couple of items to keep in mind:

Holidaze, Book Riot’s Pinterest Board

100 books for holiday gift-giving, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Media Elite: The Best Literary Cameos Ever Committed to Film

Though an author’s film cameo is often a lights-on, fully-clothed activity, that doesn’t make it any less sexy, ego-gratifying or even illicit than many of the other perks that go along with presiding over a pop culture empire. The gods of the literary world have long held a special mystique for Hollywood as the Platonic form storyteller; and the movie industry has kissed the ring in the only way it knows how — by pointing a camera at them.

author collage

 

On Our Location: New e-book affirms the crucial relationship of story and setting

Gina K. Hackett, a writer for The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, reports on a fascinating new piece of eliterature: an iPhone/iPad app that uses GPS to allow readers to access a fictional narrative, then contribute to the story. The app reinforces the interaction between story and setting.

Unfortunately, those of us who don’t live in Massachusetts seem to be left out of this new experience unless we’re willing to travel.

A Brief History of the Literary Sea Monster

Author Robert Pobi:

When I sat down to write Mannheim Rex, I had a rich literary history to visit. Forget the things that go bump in the night; here comes a list of sea monsters that could swallow you whole.

Or tear you to pieces.

Take a look at his 10 examples, which range from the great fish in The Adventures of Pinocchio to the shark in Peter Benchley’s Jaws.

One for the Road

Well, whaddya know, Marilyn Stasio, mystery reviewer for The New York Times, has discovered the beauty of audiobooks. I’ve been a big fan of audiobooks for years, and during those years I discovered that mysteries are particularly good for listening to, especially on long drives. One time on a road trip from St. Louis to Florida my husband, teenaged daughter, and I pulled into a gas station for a pit stop but stayed in the car until we had reached the end of an action scene in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger.

Anyway, read why Stasio recommends the following audiobooks:

  • Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  • Creole Belle by James Lee Burke
  • The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain
  • Gun Games by Faye Kellerman
  • Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino
  • Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Speaking Volumes

Also in The New York Times, William Grimes addresses both the pros and the cons of audiobooks:

In reality, the book-length recitation turns out to be a very tricky medium. A good reader can lift a mediocre book above its station. A bad reader can ruin a masterpiece. And there are all kinds of variation in between: A so-so book rich with incident and characters can delight, while a good book can be good in the wrong ways, with sumptuous, tightly written sentences that make it almost impossible to stick with, especially for listeners who are driving, or making dinner — which is to say, most of the intended audience.

Read what he has to say about these recent audio renditions:

  • Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
  • This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
  • Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
  • The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

 

Monday Miscellany

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Some interesting takes on the literary world this week.

Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading

Slate caused quite a stir recently with its publication of this excerpt from Andrew Piper’s recent book Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (University of Chicago Press, 2012):

Amid the seemingly endless debates today about the future of reading, there remains one salient, yet often overlooked fact: Reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies. Reading is an integral part of our lived experience, our sense of being in the world, even if at times this can mean feeling intensely apart from it. How we hold our reading materials, how we look at them, navigate them, take notes on them, share them, play with them, even where we read them—these are the categories that have mattered most to us as readers throughout the long and varied history of reading. They will no doubt continue to do so into the future.

Understanding reading at this most elementary level—at the level of person, habit, and gesture—will be essential as we continue to make choices about the kind of reading we care about and the kind of technologies that will best embody those values. To think about the future of reading means, then, to think about the long history of how touch has shaped reading and, by extension, our sense of ourselves while we read.

KindleThis article elicited the following very clever response from Amanda Nelson over on Book Riot:

“E-Reading Isn’t Reading”: A GIF Response

 Slate has published an article called “Out of Touch: E-Reading Isn’t Reading,” which was actually an excerpt from Andrew Piper’s book, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. The article takes the physical book fetish vs. e-reader debate into a new level of absurdity, pulling in St. Augustine and Aristotle to defend the author’s personal preferences about how he ingests books. Since I’ve already used words to express how ridiculous the idea that e-books aren’t “real” is, I’ve decided to come at my response to this article in a different way: with funny pictures.

WELCOME TO THE LITERARY CEMETERY

If you want to know where your favourite author ended up after their death then The Literary Cemetery should provide you with all the information you need. The writers listed on The Literary Cemetery cover all genres, eras, nationalities and styles – the only thing that they all have in common is that they are no longer with us physically, but they live on through their work.

Here, for example, is the grave of J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan:

grave of J. M. Barrie

Duly Noted: The Past, Present, and Future of Note-Taking

Sebastian Stockman, who teaches at Emerson College in Boston, reports on TakeNote, a conference dedicated to the history, theory, practice and future of note-taking, held recently at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute.

I found the most interesting part of this article to be the comments on the future of note-taking:

Bob Stein, the founder of The Institute for the Future of the Book, had some thoughts about how we might combat this disease. “The idea that reading is something you do by yourself is very, very recent,” Stein said.

His institute created Social Book, a platform for annotating books with your friends. Stein wants us to reimagine the book as less a physical object than a “place to congregate” and social reading as a communal experience of annotation, rather than “me telling you what I’m reading, and taking out a little snippet and then you going to Amazon and buying it.”

Stein gets more radical: He suggested an author’s own annotations might provide an ideal path through that author’s text — a road map for skimming.

There’s a link for the future publication of the conference notes at the end.

Great Gumshoes: A Guide to Fictional Detectives

Here’s a great article on fictional detectives, followed by a list of literary detectives not to be missed.

The list includes several characters you’ll find reviewed right here on Notes in the Margin:

What other fictional detectives would you add to the list?