Fiction Libraries Literary Criticism Monday Miscellany

Monday Miscellany

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Time Doesn’t Always Fly When You’re Time-Travelling 

Susan K. Perry, Ph. D., reviews Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63, about an attempt to undo the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She begins her review as follows:

The way I see it, there are at least two kinds of time travel stories. There are those that are science-based, real science fiction. A machine is often involved, and some kind of time-space anomaly is seriously pondered. Then there is what I think of as the romantic genre of time travel. Who needs a machine when you can step through a magic mirror, walk along the sidewalk, or step down an invisible stair?

That last is King’s choice in 11/22/63.

I was drawn in by the title of her blog entry and by this opening, but, in this quite short review, she has very little to say about time travel:

It was an odd choice to have the time traveller having to go back to several years before the main incident. That makes the reading a long haul. History resets with each trip, and when the time traveller says he gets exhausted just thinking about going back again to do things better, so does this reader. The suspense becomes much more keen when we finally get to the assassination scene.

Here’s her conclusion:

King fans: you’ll love it. Time-travel fans: its approach is different enough to make reading it worth the time (unless you’ve got only a month left to live, in which case, find something better to do). Conspiracy theorists: it’s a big book, but it doesn’t break any new ground.

I’ve always liked time travel stories because I find fascinating the questions of what I’d do differently if I had the chance to relive a portion of my life or how I would react if I found myself in a time and place other than my own. I had hoped for some discussion of issues such as these in Perry’s review.

A couple of my favorite time-travel novels are The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Kindred by Octavia Butler. Do you have any favorites?

Related Posts:

The Best Literary Fiction Blogs & Websites

Jane Friedman, publishing mogul and college professor, offers ” a list of the best blogs and websites focused on literary fiction and culture.”

Be sure to read the comments, where other people have submitted their own suggestions.

Doctors Should Use Shakespeare’s Plays To Diagnose Patients

The Huffington Post reports on a study by Dr. Kenneth Heaton, a retired gastroenterologist and researcher at the University of Bristol in the U. K. The study investigated how doctors could improve treatment for patients suffering from psychosomatic symptoms. Heaton concluded that doctors should look at Shakespeare’s plays for help in understanding their patients physical manifestations of psychological distress:

Analysis of the Bard’s major works showed the British playwright’s sensibility of the links between emotional distress and physical symptoms.

Hamlet suffers fatigue after the loss of his father, complaining of his “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” existence, while in King Lear, Gloucester’s despair causes his “senses [to] grow imperfect.”

Heaton hopes that his research, published in the journal Medical Humanities,  “may help lessen the frequent delay in diagnosis for patients suffering from psychosomatic symptoms.”

This Book Is 119 Years Overdue 

The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago

John Plotz admits that thinking about the reading experiences of people in past centuries fascinates him: “I can’t help reading inscriptions, plucking out old bookmarks, decoding faded marginalia. I catch myself wondering who was reading this a century ago, and where, and why?” As a result:

when I learned about What Middletown Read, a database that tracks the borrowing records of the Muncie Public Library between 1891 and 1902, I had some of the same feelings physicists probably have when new subatomic particles show up in their cloud chambers. Could you see how many times a particular book had been taken out? Could you find out when? And by whom? Yes, yes, and yes. You could also find out who those patrons were: their age, race, gender, occupation (and whether that made them blue or white collar, skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled), and their names and how they signed them.

The database contains information from ledgers discovered in the attic during a renovation of the Muncie Public Library building, which was built in 1904. The collection of ledgers was brought to light by Ball State University English Professor Frank Felsenstein.

But the database is only a jumping-off point for Plotz, who has been trying to follow the life of one Muncie resident, the teenager Louis Bloom, through the library books that he borrowed. The search took Plotz to various genealogy sources. Eventually he was able to track down some of Bloom’s descendants and interview them about their memories of the man Bloom became. Plotz’s enthusiasm for these old records and what they can teach us about cultural history permeates this lively article. I highly recommend it.

10 works of fiction that might change the way you look at nature

Science fiction and fantasy have tackled everything from environmentalist utopias, to horrific industrial disasters that create pollution zombies. Here are ten speculative novels that explore environmental themes, from a variety of political perspectives, that could change the way you look at nature forever.

Read fuller discussions of these 10 works:

  1. Ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach
  2. The Quiet War, by Paul McAuley
  3. The Color of Distance, by Amy Thomson
  4. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  5. The Lorax, by Doctor Suess
  6. “The Magic Goes Away” by Larry Niven
  7. The Alchemist and The Executioness, by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell
  8. Lilith’s Brood (trilogy), by Octavia Butler
  9. Watermind by M. M. Buckner
  10. Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood


Book News Censorship Libraries

Celebrate Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week pin



Banned Books Week this year is from September 24 through October 1.

More information is available from the American Library Association: Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Book News Libraries Personal Publishing

Your Loebs! – Harvard University Press Blog

Your Loebs! – Harvard University Press Blog.

I started life as a classics major, so seeing these photos celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Loeb Classical Library, published by Harvard University Press, warmed my heart. These little green-covered (Greek) and red-covered (Latin) gems present the original text on the left page, with a translation on the right page. This series has introduced generations of readers to the big thinkers and writers of ancient Western civilization.

Author News Book Recommendations Libraries Monday Miscellany

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.

Book News Libraries

Twitter: Banned Books’ New Best Friend

Twitter: Banned Books’ New Best Friend –

Perhaps you’ve heard: It’s Banned Books Week, and across the country, libraries, bookstores, teachers and countless readers are celebrating ‘the freedom to read.’

For an event like this, it never hurts to have a cause célèbre, and this year, organizers needn’t have gone very far in search of one. They just had to turn to Twitter, where people have been rallying behind the young-adult author Laurie Halse Anderson, whose best-selling 1999 novel, ‘Speak,’ has found itself at the center of a heated censorship debate.

Two of the censorship attempts mentioned in this blog entry, including the attack on Speak, originated in my own current home state of Missouri.

I gotta get outa here.

Book News Libraries

Banned Books Week (Sept. 25−Oct. 2)

Banned Books Week 2010: Which books drew the most fire last year? –

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the past year’s book-banning efforts:

In total, there were 460 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom in 2009, 410 of them books. The rest are videos, speeches, magazines, and other forms of media. The organization estimates that only 1 out of every 5 or 6 challenges is actually reported, so the actual number of challenges is probably much larger than 460.

More than half of the challenges came from the states of Pennsylvania and Texas.


Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009

Out of 460 challenges as reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom

1. “TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

Reasons: Homosexuality

3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee

Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult

Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Book News Libraries

Booksellers Urged to Participate in Banned Books Week

Booksellers Urged to Participate in Banned Books Week:

There were 460 incidents of people attempting to ban books from libraries last year, according to the American Library Association, including a recent one where a group of parents succeeded in banning an anthology of writings by gay youth from the library of a New Jersey high school and from the local public library. With the 28th annual Banned Book Weeks coming up September 25 to October 2, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is asking booksellers to join the hundreds of bookstores and libraries that already have publicized such incidents.


Amen to all that. It’s almost time to pull out my “I Read Banned Books” button.


Many libraries go quiet as local budget cuts deepen

Many libraries go quiet as local budget cuts deepen —

Just as the bad economy is driving more people to use library resources to save money, so is it forcing some libraries in the Los Angeles area to close or cut back on services. Ironically, “The bad times for libraries are coming just as more people are discovering how useful they can be,” reports the Los Angeles Times.