Monday Miscellany

Print Books vs. Ebooks Debate (cont., ad nauseam)

Never one to shy away from controversy, Jonathan Franzen recently condemned ebooks as the harbingers of the fall of civilization:

“I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.

“Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball.

“But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”

After the news coverage of Franzen’s press conference the Huffington Post, never one to shy away from an opportunity to add its two cents, chimed in with Jonathan Franzen Hates EBooks. This article reminds us:

This isn’t new territory for Frazen – back in 2007, when the first Kindle appeared on the scene, he told the LA Times that “the difference between Shakespeare on a BlackBerry and Shakespeare in the Arden Edition is like the difference between vows taken in a shoe store and vows taken in a cathedral,” adding “Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I’m fetishizing truth and integrity too.”

HuffPost then provides a list of other personages who have spoken out against ebooks:

  • Maurice Sendak
  • Ursula Le Guin
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Penelope Lively
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Stephen Colbert

I really don’t see what all the hub-bub is about. Why do we have to be for one type of book and against the other? I love print books, audiobooks, and my Kindle. I just see these as different forms of basically the same thing, a work of literature. Audiobooks allow me to consume the written word in situations when I couldn’t read a printed book, such as when driving, exercising, or doing chores around the house. And my Kindle is a lot easier to carry around than printed books, especially books the size of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and Freedom. The Kindle makes it possible for me to read when I’m in waiting rooms and to take lots of books on vacation. These three versions of literature are not inherently different. They are not mutually exclusive. And the increasing use of ereaders is not going to result in the collapse of modern civilization.

Thank goodness at least one other person in the world understands this, NPR’s Jonathan Segura. In No More E-Books Vs. Print Books Arguments, OK? he very sensibly points out:

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a print book person or an e-book person. It’s not an either/or proposition. You can choose to have your text delivered on paper with a pretty cover, or you can choose to have it delivered over the air to your sleek little device. You can even play it way loose and read in both formats! Crazy, right? To have choice. Neither is better or worse — for you, for the economy, for the sake of “responsible self-government.” We should worry less about how people get their books and — say it with me now! — just be glad that people are reading.

The Greatest Books of All Time, as Voted by 125 Famous Authors

“Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work,” Jennifer Egan once said. This intersection of reading and writing is both a necessary bi-directional life skill for us mere mortals and a secret of iconic writers’ success, as bespoken by their personal libraries. The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books asks 125 of modernity’s greatest British and American writers—including Norman Mailer, Ann Patchett, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, and Joyce Carol Oates—”to provide a list, ranked, in order, of what [they] consider the ten greatest works of fiction of all time- novels, story collections, plays, or poems.”

While admitting that respondents’ first task was to figure out their own definition of great, this article nonetheless proceeds to ask the question and tabulate the answers. You’ll find lists of the top vote getters in the following categories:

  • Top Ten Works of the 20th Century
  • Top Ten Works of the 19th Century
  • Top Ten Authors by Number of Books Selected
  • Top Ten Authors by Points Earned

And, because I know the suspense is killing you, I’ll tell you that Tolstoy beat out Shakespeare as the top author by points earned.

Seattle libraries: No sleeping or eating allowed, but porn-watching OK

The Seattle Public Library has a long list of rules of things you can’t do in the library, to ensure “comfort and safety” of staff and patrons. You can’t eat, sleep, look like you’re sleeping, be barefoot, be too stinky or talk too loudly.

But you can watch graphic porn on a public computer in front of kids. Despite repeated complaints from female patrons about men watching porn in full view of their children, the library has held fast to its policy of unfettered online access for grown-ups.

The reason: It’s not in the business of censorship.

The issue of censorship in libraries is more complex than this article’s set up suggests, as the rest of the piece does, in fact, admit.

The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously

With the publishing industry in turmoil, more and more authors are bypassing the traditional route to publication by publishing their books themselves. Yet, with no editorial staff to insist on writing standards, the quality of such books is often—though not always—quite low. And Melissa Foster and Amy Edelman know why:

  • Big Reason #1: Bad Editing
  • Big Reason #2: Quantity Over Quality
  • Big Reason #3 – The Lack of Gatekeepers
  • Big Reason #4 – Crappy Covers

They have a lot to say about each reason, so click through and read their explanations.

Personally, I’m not too concerned about the covers. But I am concerned about the lack of gatekeepers, or those editors who insist that authors write well and make sense. How about you?

7 Child Protagonists That Adults Can Relate To

Sharon Heath thinks that most of us probably didn’t enjoy our childhood all that much. “Which is where the catharsis of fiction written for adults with child protagonists comes in–offering us a chance to revisit our early years with imagination and wisdom and see the world and our own lives with new eyes.”

Whether the heroes and heroines of these books are precocious or tentative, suicidal or resourceful, disconnected or endearing, each of them bumbles along as we all did–as we all do!–without a handbook. Almost all of them suffer the mixed blessings of uniqueness and otherness, and a number of the current crop view life through the lens of autism–an apt metaphor in this age of preoccupation with iEverythings, where researchers are telling us our kids are losing the capacity to read facial expressions and social cues.

She offers the following books as examples of child protagonists whom adult readers can relate to:

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Ordinary People
  • The Little Prince
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog

To Heath’s list I would add the following child protagonists that I found endearing:

What child characters would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.


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