Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" feature new biographies of McCartney and Lennon, as well as a characterization of readers by their favorite writers:
  • Two new Beatles biographies have been released, if you're interested in reading one more thing about Paul McCartney (who is "more artistically and intellectually complex than the sweet and bubbly caricature we have known") or a "haunting, mammoth, terrific biography of John Lennon." 
  • The Guardian features an original short story by Hilary Mantel entitled "Cinderella in Autumn," which offers a very interesting view on Cinderella's "happily ever after," as well as on the cyclical nature of the world.
  • Elizabeth Bachner has an interesting essay at Bookslut, "A Million Easy Histories," which focuses on the rash of fake memoirs in recent history, as well as the American public's sadistic interest in reading about others' pain which fuels it. 
  • The Times Online has an article which delves into John Keats' sensitivity to his critics, citing a letter written by a friend of his five months after his death.
  • Here's an interesting categorization of readers by their favorite authors, written by Lauren Leto.  I like that she prescripts the list with, "By the way, I respect all the authors on this list--kind of."

Monday, December 21, 2009

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter Six

Chapter Six
People are so annoying--they kept talking to me about my fainting episode, which was really irritating.  Saturday a bunch of us got together to go to La Push, and Mike proved once again that he's pathetically easy to please by asking me to ride in his car with him. When we got there, we ended up meeting another group of kids, one of whom was named Jacob.  I had to roll my eyes when he called me Isabella, because--duh--my name is Bella.  Then he gave me an appreciative look that I recognized easily because every boy I know is in love with me.

Jacob mentioned that the Cullen family does not come to La Push, and, since I'm curious about all things Cullen, I flirted with him until he finally told me a story about how the local natives are werewolves and they think the Cullens are vampires.  Then I continued to flirt with him in order to make him as happy as possible, because apparently I don't have any problem toying with other people's emotions.

Partial Credit for Partial Readings?

I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that there are many, many books that I have not yet finished for one reason or another.  Some I've dropped because they were badly written, boring, or offensive.  Others I stopped reading simply because I ran out of time or got distracted.  Still, I firmly believe that I--or anyone--should get partial credit for the partial readings, if only because reading part of a book is better than reading none of a book.  (Of course, as has been already discussed, partial readings do not equal full readings.)

Here are the books for which I could  retroactively claim partial credit:

, by George Eliot
This is one of the best-written books I've ever read.  Eliot's characterizations are amazing, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my time reading it.  However, as previously discussed, the book is about the size of three books all stuffed between two covers, and the sheer length of the novel is not only intimidating, it is also a very powerful de-motivator. 
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I've really been meaning to get around to finishing this book, to the point that I made it my New Year's resolution this year to finish it.  I'll give you three guesses as to which book I not only didn't touch but didn't even think about touching this year, and the first two guesses don't count.
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The scene: 10th Grade American Lit, 2002.  We were given the option to read The Red Badge of Courage, Huckleberry Finn, and The Scarlet Letter.  I chose to read parts of all of them, instead of reading all of any of them, mostly because all three of them were incredibly boring.  Huckleberry Finn was my favorite of the three options, but only because it was easy to fake the answers on the test because all of the chapters included Huck and Tom arriving via raft, doing something cool, and then leaving via raft.  Easy peasy.
Ahab's Wife, by Sena Naslund
I have tried to read this book on at least three separate occasions, when I found the book at the library and thought it sounded interesting.  Each time I cracked it open with full intention of reading it and realized partway through the first chapter that I have already tried to read the book several times.  For those who are curious, I do not claim partial credit for this book, as I remember so little of the book that it is not until I am five pages in that I realize that (a) I've already read those five pages, and (b) the pages were incredibly forgettable.
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
I really enjoyed the first half of this book, but I became convinced partway through that I could already tell what would happen.  Either it felt predictable or I am psychic, because I had no desire even to flip to the end to see if my predictions were correct.  Needless to say, I am only able to recommend the first half of the book, and I would also recommend that you take that recommendation with a grain of salt.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale is a book that has more unfulfilled potential than any other book I've read recently.  (I figured I should at least read one book of Atwood's, since I've taken the liberty of making fun of her so much in the past.)  Plus, I've enjoyed most of the dystopias I've read in the past, and a feminist dystopia seemed to me to be awesome merely by existing.

Unfortunately, the "awesomeness" that I predicted was not quite delivered.  While I will not argue that a dictatorial theocracy such as Gilead is improbable and therefore unbelievable in a story (as Mary McCarthy did in The New York Times in 1986, the year after the book was published), I will say that I found the supposed pacing of the government take-over slightly unlikely.  In addition, Offred (the main character's) wide swinging between I'm-fleeing-to-Canada-to-escape-the-religious-right-regime to I'm-a-concubine-whose-only-value-is-found-in-my-uterus-and-I'm-going-to-act-like-I'm-totally-cool-with-that to I'm-breaking-all-the-rules-and-my-give-a-damn-is-broken was incredibly distracting.  The weaknesses of the story were, in my opinion, character-based and not premise-based.

In addition, the ending was a total cop-out.  Did Offred escape her place as a sex slave?  Didn't she?  What's Atwood's main point?  The "Historical Notes" at the end of the story are no help--they seem to imply that the religious fanaticism in Gilead was short-lived and, in hindsight, a bit of a joke, which completely lessens the impact and import of the story as a whole.  As I wasn't entirely invested in the story of Offred, anyway, her disappearance and the dissection of her words seemed to me be tedious and unnecessary.

The only people to whom I would recommend this book are those who just finished The Feminist Mystique and are looking for a good pairing.

Friday Featured Comic: Hume

I'm not the biggest fan of Hume, so this strip by Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant made me smile.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter Five

"He was towing me toward his car now, pulling me by my jacket.  It was all I could do to keep from falling backward.  He'd probably just drag me along anyway if I did."  This is totally my idea of romance.

Chapter Five
Edward made me sit by him at lunch today, just the two of us, telling me he might as well "go to hell thoroughly."  I didn't really know what he meant, but he went on to say that he's stolen me from my friends and may not give me back.  I was kind of creeped out but figured he wanted us to be friends now.  He told me once again that I wouldn't hang out with him if I was smart.  When I surmised that he was calling me stupid, he didn't bother to disagree.  He's always laughing at me--not with me, but at me--and he warned me once again that he's bad and dangerous. How romantic!

He skipped bio today, where we were doing blood tests.  As soon as I saw the blood, I got nauseous and had to go to the nurse.  Of course Edward met me half-way there and insisted on taking me the rest of the way.  He managed to get permission from the nurse for me to go home early, but when I tried to drive my own truck home, he grabbed me and pushed me against his car.  Then he made me get in, threatening that he'd just drag me back again if I tried to leave.

As he drove me home, he began to interrogate me about my family.  All of my answers seemed to irritate him for some reason.  Then he kicked me out of his car and told me that I'm so accident prone I should try to be a little more careful.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears include a look at the e-books litigation, as well as a blogger who pulled a Bronte (or Eliot, or Sand, or Rowling):

300 Posts!

My Penpal: Twitter

I am now officially engaged in a social experiment.

Some of you may have noticed the Twitter widget I've added to the already-impressive array of links for Not-So-Gentle Reader.  You should also know that I have no intentions of using said social experiment to reach out to people I actually know.  Instead, I'm curious to see if Twitter increases my feeling of "inter-connectedness" with people whose work I respect at least on some level--a kind of informal "My Penpal."

I'm also a bit intrigued because Twitter is all about the written word--in a limited form, of course.  There's the opportunity to do really neat things with a form of communication that is so bite-sized.  I'll keep you updated, but so far the experiment has been less than thrilling due to the overwhelming volume of incredibly boring tweets. 

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter Four

"I couldn't allow him to have this level of influence over me.  It was pathetic.  More than pathetic, it was unhealthy."  Amen.

Chapter Four:
I've started dreaming about Edward Cullen every night, but more importantly, I'm soooo popular now, and it's really, really annoying!  There's a bunch of drama about who's going to take who to the dance, and everyone wants me to go with him even though it's girl's choice.  So annoying!  I've started the story that I'll be going to Seattle just so everyone will leave me alone.

Of course, I don't really want everyone to leave me alone, just anyone who's actually nice to me.  Edward Cullen finally started talking to me again, but only to tell me that he's not talking to me anymore, but it's really all for my own good.  Then we got into an argument about nothing.  He gets mad really quickly, but he is also always laughing at me.  But I'm still fascinated by him, because he's "interesting... and brilliant... and mysterious... and perfect... and beautiful."
Then Edward started talking to me again, to ask me if I wanted a ride to Seattle.  I think he may have multiple personality disorder, and he told me yet again that it would be better if we aren't friends.  We have a date on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Trumpet of the Swan Says, "Read to Your Children!"

I went to my cousin's house last week and helped put her daughters to bed (and by helped, I mean, provided moral support while my cousin did all the work).

After the girls were settled in their respective bunks, my cousin took out a copy of The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White, to read to the girls before they went to sleep.  While I would have to say that there are problems with the story from a feminist perspective (because there always are), the fact that my cousin took the time to read to her daughters warmed the cockles of my heart.  I lay down next to my youngest cousin-once-removed (or second cousin or whatever she is) and absorbed the scene.

It reminded me of similar scenes with my mother, when she would read The Chronicles of Prydain to me and my younger brother.  There's a warmth in these scenes that is emotional more than physical, and I was wrapped in a feeling of well-being.  Despite the fact that the stressors of the world were hovering just outside the little bedroom, I was absolutely satisfied and content, and I have to believe my cousin's children had to feel at least a little of that.

Anyway, in the name of all that is holy, read to your children!

Friday, December 11, 2009

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter Three

(My favorite line of the book so far: "They wheeled me away then, to X-ray my head.")

Chapter Three

Ohmygod, Edward Cullen totally saved my life today!  I was standing in the parking lot at school minding my own business when a van started careening towards me.  Edward somehow pulled me out of the way and then held my truck in place so that it wouldn't crush me.  He did it so fast that I almost couldn't believe what I had seen.  He's so awesome, every time I said that my head hurt, he laughed or smiled patronizingly.  Then, when I tried to figure out how he saved my life, he got mad at me. 

I was soooo embarrased when the EMTs put a neck brace on me and made me get in the ambulance to make sure I didn't have any brain damage.  Some people are so over-protective when girls are in near-fatal car crashes, you know?  And then Tyler--the guy who was driving the van--kept apologizing for almost killing me, which can be so annoying.

Edward's adopted father was my doctor, and he was such a Hottie McHottie!  Somehow Edward was able to check me out of the hospital even though I'm a minor.  When I tried to talk to him about how he saved my life, he turned into such an asshole, and, this being me, of course I was on the verge of tears.  Of course, he showed one moment of unexpected vulnerability, so that makes it all okay.  Swoon.

The Defense's Argument in Austen v. The World

Members of the jury, I offer here evidence that Jane Austen was not, in fact, a prudish stick-in-the-mud pre-Victorian spinster lady writer.  I strive to prove that Ms. Austen was in possession of a sense of humor that may be described as "subtly raunchy."  Below are two exhibits from Persuasion to prove this point.  The pertinent passages have been bolded for your convenience.

Exhibit A: Read first this description of Mr. Elliot, the villain of Persuasion, from Chapter Fifteen:

They were describing him themselves; Sir Walter especially. He did justice to his very gentlemanlike appearance, his air of elegance and fashion, his good shaped face, his sensible eye; but, at the same time, "must lament his being very much under-hung, a defect which time seemed to have increased; nor could he pretend to say that ten years had not altered almost every feature for the worse.
Members of the jury, now read Exhibit B, this scene from Chapter Nineteen, in which Anne Elliot and Lady Russell pass Captain Wentworth, the hero of the story, in the street:
"You will wonder," said she, "what has been fixing my eye so long; but I was looking after some window-curtains, which Lady Alicia and Mrs. Frankland were telling me of last night. They described the drawing-room window-curtains of one of the houses on this side of the way, and this part of the street, as being the handsomest and best hung of any in Bath, but could not recollect the exact number, and I have been trying to find out which it could be; but I confess I can see no curtains hereabouts that answer their description."
Ladies and gentlemen, is it a coincidence that Mr. Elliot is described as "under-hung" (which at the time also meant he had a weak chin), while Lady Russell is looking for the "handsomest and best hung of any in Bath" when Captain Wentworth is walking by?

The defense rests.

Jane Austen, Moralist Extraordinaire?

My time available to work on Not-So-Gentle Reader has been waning (due to a possible job promotion *fingers crossed*), but I had to mention Robert Fulford's piece in the National Post that I just stumbled upon, "Snide and Prejudice."  In it, Fulford argues that Jane Austen is, in fact, a "vicious gossip" because she makes it abundantly clear which characters are not to be liked and then skewers them every chance she gets.

Some choice excerpts from the essay:
"When she doesn't like one of her characters, she ceases to be the subtle, witty ironist everybody writes about and turns into a moral harridan."
"Jane Austen intensely dislikes these people, and expresses herself by chopping them to pieces for our amusement. She does it so often that she acquires the characteristics not of a moralist but of a vicious gossip."
I'm not going to disagree with him, but I think there's a larger point to be made.  Jane Austen wrote to make money, and her books were meant for entertainment.  She was not the messiah, telling parables of the Good Samaritan to make a moral lesson.

Instead, I think we need to look critically at how people today view Jane Austen.  She had, from all accounts, a biting humor that occasionally bordered on the dirty.  In fact, the modern perception of Jane Austen has a lot to do with the PR campaign her family ran after she died--her letters were burned, and nothing bordered on the unladylike was alloweed to be associated with her name.  Therefore, while I don't feel that Jane Austen was a great moralist in the truest sense of the word, neither do I think she was a "vicious gossip."  As usual, the truth falls somewhere between these two extremes.

Friday Featured Comic: Robespierre

Another strip by Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant. Perhaps it's not strictly "literary," but it's so spot-on that I laughed out loud. The story of the The French Revolution that we learn in public school is not, shall we say, strictly accurate.

Friday, December 4, 2009

For The Literary Nerd in All of Us

Check out Novel-T's literary baseball t-shirts, which include such literary favorites as Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, and Thoreau.  I'm personally drawn to the shirts that feature writers rather than characters, but they're all pretty much awesome.

Friday Featured Comic: Twilight

It's almost too easy to pick on Twilight, but the third block in this strip from Head Trip cracks me up. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BookMine's Stupid Quotes

Check out this collection of stupid quotes from customers who entered Bookmine, a bookstore specializing in old, rare, and out-of-print books.  Having worked in a bookstore for a brief period of time, I can easily believe that all of them were said at one point or another.

My favorite quotation, however, has to be this one:
A very nice, well-appointed lady spends about an hour browsing the stock, including the locked cases. After building a rather formidable stack of unrelated books worth over $3,500 (including some very scare Mark Twain first editions), I couldn't resist asking:
What do you collect?
Oh nothing, but I will purchase these.
(My curiosity getting the better of me) A gift?
No. I am going to use them to decorate my daughter's bathroom.
(Silly me! I failed to notice that the books were all various shades of green. This is a good thing, since the books will soon be color-coordinated with the mold).
Let me help you carry these out to your car.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" feature a piece defending Mr. Scrooge as well as the sale of a fifty-year-old typewriter:
  • This "Scrooge Defended" piece from the Ludwif von Mises Institute is probably written ironically, but it's still funny and worth reading... especially if you know any Libertarians.
  • The New York Times has released a list of "100 Notable Books of 2009."  I've read approximately .5 of them, because I haven't actually finished the one book I started.
  • The Guardian has yet more speculation on the cause of Jane Austen's death.  I'm betting TB, just because it's so fashionable for literary figures to have coughed up blood at the end of their lives.
  • Some dude named Rick Moody has decided to write a novel via Twitter.  When asked what the book is about, Moody replied, "It’s about online dating, I suppose, though that is a reductive description. A Twitter-ish description."  In other news, Ricky Moody is not as clever as Ricky Moody thinks he is and--surpise, surprise--he has a "traditional" book coming out next year.
  • The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about ghost writers, with a focus on the hot topic of cover credit.
  • Cormac McCarthy is set to sell the typewriter with which he's typed all of his books thus far--proceeds will go to the Santa Fe Institute.

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter Two

(For those of you who haven't yet read Twilight, here's one of the lines that made me laugh out loud: "I made the Cowardly Lion look like the terminator." Classic.)

Chapter Two
Ohmygod, Edward totally wasn't in school today, and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with me even though we didn't even talk to each other yesterday. My dad can't cook, even though he's lived as a bachelor for most of his life, and then my mom actually expected me to respond to the emails she sent me over the last several days.  She's totally unreasonably and obviously prone to hysterics.

The rest of my first week at school is really boring, with pages and pages of smalltalk and me complaining about the weather.  By the way, I'm really popular already and everyone knows my name even though I don't know all of theirs. 

Then--can you believe this--Edward Cullen came back to school and actually talked to me in Biology.  We're both brilliant and can identify phases of mitosis, which might sound interesting to read about but really actually isn't.  Then I told Edward my life story, and he actually seemed fascinated by it even though it really just makes me seem like a whiner.  He immediately understood how difficult my life is, though, which is incredibly validating for an angsty adolescent like me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Letter to a Whale Regarding the Dismal State of Modern Libraries

Dear Moby Dick,

I went to the library several weeks ago to check out Herman Melville's account of Captain Ahab's unreasonable persecution of you, but unfortunately the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library didn't have one copy of the book.  Not one.

While I am sure you do not mind this oversight, I feel obliged to point out that there are many other classics missing from the shelves of the central branch, which should (in my opinion) be the most complete collection of books in the system.  In addition, there are four copies of Sarah Palin's masterpiece Going Rogue: An American Dream.  Four copies, and we can't afford one copy of Moby Dick

You might be interested, Mr. Dick, in reading the following article, about a library that is in fact bordering on getting rid of the classics because there isn't enough demand for them: "Checked Out: A Washington-Area Library Tosses Out the Classics."  I guess my question is whether or not demand for the classics should dictate general availability of the classics, or whether a high school student who is interested in reading a novel featuring perhaps one of the best examples of hubris should be able to get his hands on a copy right away, or whether he should have to send away for a copy from another branch?


Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Going West

The New Zealand Book Council has a cool video entitled, "Going West," which features cut paper work and is incredibly impressive.  Definitely worth viewing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Killing Time Online: Words Move Me

Sony Style has a cool promotional feature called "Words Move Me" which endeavors to "connect readers around the literary moments they love."  It's strangely addictive to sit and watch the ever-revolving blocks of text to see what passages have inspired other readers.  Take a look.

Oscar Wilde's Advice for You

Oscar Wilde has always been one of those historical figures who holds a place curiously close to my heart.  Though much of what he did seems to have been for the sake of notoriety alone, he was something of a late-Victorian rebel, and he went to jail for being different from the norm.

I was pleased, therefore, when I stumbled across his "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young."  Though I disagree vehemently with many of his ideas, his devotion to hedonism in the face of Victorian disapproval is really a marvel to behold:
The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has as yet discovered.
Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.
If the poor only had profiles there would be no difficulty in solving the problem of poverty.
Those who see any difference between soul and body have neither.
A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and Nature.
Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.
The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.
Nothing that actually occurs is of the smallest importance.
Dulness is the coming of age of seriousness.
In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential. In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.
If one tells the truth one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.
Pleasure is the only thing one should live for. Nothing ages like happiness.
It is only by not paying one's bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.
No crime is vulgar, but all vulgarity is crime. Vulgarity is the conduct of others.
Only the shallow know themselves.
Time is waste of money.
One should always be a little improbable.
There is a fatality about all good resolutions. They are invariably made too soon.
The only way to atone for being occasionally a little overdressed is by being always absolutely overeducated.
To be premature is to be perfect.
Any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct shows an arrested intellectual development.
Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.
A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it.
In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.
Greek dress was in its essence inartistic. Nothing should reveal the body but the body.
One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.
It is only the superficial qualities that last. Man's deeper nature is soon found out.
Industry is the root of all ugliness.
The ages live in history through their anachronisms.
It is only the gods who taste of death. Apollo has passed away, but Hyacinth, whom men say he slew, lives on. Nero and Narcissus are always with us.
The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.
The condition of perfection is idleness: the aim of perfection is youth.
Only the great masters of style ever succeeded in being obscure.
There is something tragic about the enormous number of young men there are in England at the present moment who start life with perfect profiles, and end by adopting some useful profession.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" include an argument that all literate people should, in fact, boycott books as well as advice for literate people who are trying to write books:
  • Michael Wolff at Newser argues that "Books Are Bad For You," his final advice being that "Literate people should boycott books."
  • With Oprah announcing the end of her show, publishers are left with the problem of where to get their next golden ticket to great book sales.
  • The world is up in arms about the fact that there was not one woman author named on the Publisher's Weekly "Top Ten Books of 2009."
  • Speaking of book lists, remember those "10 Essential Penguin Classics" we talked about previously?  Now there are trailers for all of them.  As I do all of my blogging at work, I unfortunately cannot watch any of them, so let me know how they are if you can.
  • The "mainstream liberal media" has jumped on the Sarah Palin bandwagon by producing a response to the former-governor of Alaska's biography entitled Going Rouge: An American Nightmare.
  • J.C. Hutchins over at Tor has a pretty spot-on article, "What If? and What Happens Next? Two secret weapons for aspiring writers," calling What if? and What happens next? narrative carrots on sticks.  None of this is new for anyone who has ever taken a creative writing class, but it's a good refresher nonetheless.

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter One

Well, I tried--and, obviously, failed--to resist the Twilight phenonemon.  It has now become such a mainstay in our culture that I feel like a bit of a pariah for never having read it, no matter that I had deliberately chosen not to read it as a protest against what it stands for.

How the mighty have fallen.

Anyway, I've decided to liveblog the reading experience, if it's possible to "liveblog" a book.  From what I've seen so far, it shouldn't take too long.  (By the way, I should mention that I did try to read this book with an open mind.  It just didn't work.)
Chapter One

I'm Isabella "Bella" Swan and I'm a responsible teenager because my mom is sooooo immature.  I move to the Pacific Northwest and call my father by his first name to show just how alienated the two of us are, despite the fact that I've seen him every summer since the day I was born.

I'm depressed.  Like, super depressed, and I cry a lot.  I'm not very pretty, no one understands me, and I'm a social misfit who's a bit of a klutz.  In fact, I'm so un-pretty and un-fit-in-able that one boy at school develops a crush on me on the first day at school.  But I don't care about him or any of the other people who go out of their way to be nice to me--they're just overly friendly "chess club types."

The boy that I like is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and even paler than I am, even though I make jokes that aren't funny about how I look like an albino.  But what makes him so attractive to me is that he's a huuuuge asshole!  He doesn't even know me, but it's obvious by the look in his beautiful black eyes that he thinks that I'm scum between his toes, and I can't get enough of it!  I got to sit next to him in biology and he leaned so far away from me in his seat that I was forced to make sure whether or not I had kept up on my personal hygeine--I'm clean, by the way. Edward Cullen is just a bit of a jerk off.

I think I'm in love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gawker Sells Sarah Palin Slam Book

I'm apparently easily amused this afternoon.  Gossip blog Gawker is currently selling a copy of Sarah Palin's Rogue: An American Dream that has been signed by numerous famous people in an effort to raise money for charity.  Some of said famous people include Colum McCann, Sloane Crosley, and Salvatore Scibona, to name a few.  Here's the ebay page (in which the book is classified as being under "folklore, mythology"), although bidding is already over $1000, so I'm about as likely to get Alice's copy of Through the Looking Glass as I am to get this.

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: A Book at Bedtime

For today's video, here's the classic and slightly tedious skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus, "A Book at Bedtime."

The Million Dollar Books

For those of you who have more money than sense--or maybe just more money than I do--next month a company called Profiles in History is set to auction off the copy of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There which belonged to Alice, the little girl who served as the original inspiration for Lewis Carrol's books in Wonderland.

Also at the December 16th auction will be Beatrix Potter's copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, "a first edition copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and signed, limited edition copies of author A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner."

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Painful Selling Out of Lindsay-with-an-A

In case any of you were wondering, I have officially sold out.

All of my previous selling-outs were nothing compared to this selling-out.  Of course, this selling-out has been far less painful than previous selling-outs, as well, so I'm not so ashamed of myself that I'm not willing to share it with my faithful readers.

Lindsay-with-an-A is now officially writing a romance novel.

I know, I know.  You're probably thinking to yourself, "But Lindsay-with-an-A is the biggest cynic I know!  She laughed at the end of The Notebook!  She mocks Jared diamond commercials!  How could she possibly write a romance novel?"

Here's the thing: I do enjoy reading romance novels, despite the inevitably cheese-tastic endings.  They're like cotton candy for the brain, only they're less guilt-inducing than romantic comedies because reading requires more effort and brain cells than watching movies ever will.  In addition, most heroines in romance novels today are spunky and don't take nothing from nobody, so of course I would enjoy that aspect.

But I digress.  My somewhat-shamefaced reading of romance novels has never before made me actually want to write one.  The incredibly depressing state of my bank account is the main motivating factor here, and as we've discussed before, romance novels are one of the few fields in publishing in which sales are not negatively affected by the economy.  It's probably one of the most stable supply-and-demands out there.

Anyway, we'll see how far I actually get in my historical romantic suspense.  The last time I tried to write a romance novel, I got bored about 40 pages in.  I'm pretty sure if I check my bank account at least once a day, it'll keep my enthusiasm going pretty steadily.

Killing Time Online: Noveller

Hey, guys, check out Noveller, the new macroblogging service with the tagline, "Share and discover what masterworks are being novelled right now."

Though I haven't personally tried it yet (I can barely keep up with my blogging!), it is purported to be "the only online service in which users can post a major multivolume epic in the morning, and have it read, critiqued, and reNovelled by thousands of other people around the world before lunch."

For more information, here's a pretty good article about the service.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Featured Comic: Mary Sidney

Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant is so freaking funny. I love all the mystery around Shakespeare--it's to the point that all of my Elizabethan lit teachers absolutely refused to even debate the point, saying, "No one can prove anything, so we're not going to waste time arguing about it."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grammar Snark: "How to Use an Apostrophe"

Check out this flowchart from The Oatmeal about how to use an apostrophe.  I especially like the last rule: "When in doubt, don't use an apostrophe."

... I guess this technically isn't a snark, but I'm sick of getting an email saying, "I hope you're problems have been solved."  Ugh.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Featured Comic: The Fitzgeralds

Here's another piece by Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant. It's accompanied by this explanation: "So, I said I would work on something with the Fitzgeralds, and here they are in all their glory, ruining each other's dreams. First Zelda got a bad rap for mucking things up for Scott, then the other way around. But the truth is, they were both a big mess, let's call it a tie."

What's In a Name?

Upon first glance, Ruth Axtell Morren's A Bride of Honor seems like many other romance novels with a "traditional values" spin--having watched Love's Enduring Promise on the Hallmark channel one rainy afternoon, I think I have a pretty good idea what to expect as far as plot devices and themes goes.

The back cover--the location of the "blurb"--is where things get a little more interesting:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady of rank and distinction is no match for an impoverished preacher. Yet Damian Hathaway is entranced from the moment he spies Miss Lindsay Phillips entering his church. She doesn't appear any different from the other pampered society ladies—and she's betrothed to a gentleman of the ton. But Damian is determined to find the pure heart he's sure exists underneath all the ruffles and lace. The unlikely friendship formed by Damian and Lindsay is a revelation to them both, but is frowned upon by her parents—and Damian's parishioners. Torn between two worlds, the pair must trust that their love can bridge the divide—and conquer all.
Huh.  I'm not sure I could make it all the way through a book which features a character with the same name as me.  Even books where the main character has only the same first name as me reminds me a little too much of that eternal classic Click for Love.  Such books immediately seem like a joke because I'm incapable of separating myself from the name every time it appears on the page.  In the case of A Bride of Honor, the joke is even more pronounced, as Lindsay wasn't even a woman's name in the general "back in the day" setting for which Morren seems to be reaching... it was a man's name. 

Research helps.  I'm just saying.

The reason I bring this up, however, (other than fanning my narcissism with a post that is indirectly all about me) is that it makes me wonder if people with more common names suffer from the same problem.  "Back in the day," after all, everyone seems to have either been named John or Mary or to have known someone named John or Mary.  Would it be distracting for such a person to read a book (Middlemarch, for example), which prominently features characters that share the same name?  Or is the name so common that such a person casn successfully separate him/herself from the name on the page and read the book uninhibited?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fortune Cookies Never Lie

Denver Events: Al Gore (11/16)

Al Gore will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover on Monday, November 16th at 7:30pm signing copies of his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. 

Tickets were available beginning on Tuesday the 3rd, so you may be SOL., but it can't hurt to try is you're a fan of the Gore.

Grammar Snark: The Grammar Secret Police

This is totally gimmicky, I admit, but this video made me laugh.

(If, by chance, any of you don't know how to use a preposition correctly, here's a School House Rock vid to help you figure it out.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" features a writer coattail-riding Ayn Rand to success as well as ways for you to do the same:
  • features a powerful short story by Rachel Swirsky, "A Memory of Wind," which explores the Agammemnon-Iphigenia myth.
  • Yet another Ayn Rand biography is released to capitalize on the Americans who count Atlas Shrugged as the most influential book they ever read.  Next in the news, I can't believe that Atlas Shrugged is supposed to be the second-most influential book in America.  Blech.
  • David L. Ulin wrote a fairly intereting piece in the LA Times entitled, "The Lost Art of Reading," which is both accurate (in that it details some of the problems I've had with reading) and disheartening (in that it makes me worry about the kids who are growing up today and the problems that they'll face reading).
  • Jane Airhead, a children's book by Kay Woodward, tells the story of Charlotte, a girl who decides to find a "Mr. Rochester" for her mom.  "So when Charlotte finds the ideal man, she can’t believe her luck. He’s dark, brooding and mysterious. He’s PERFECT. But the real-life romantic hero also turns out to be sarcastic and rude. Does Charlotte really want her mum marrying him?"  Did Kate Beaton read this before she drew "Dude Watching with the Brontes"?
  • 60 Second Recap offers students short clips that sum up aspects of culturally-relevant novels and plays in a minute.
  • "Making Money Reading Books" at InfoBarrel tells how to "get in on some of the money generated from their books by blogging on the coat tails of [your favorite author's] success."  While this definitely has some potential, don't you dare try to publish your blog, or J.K. Rowling will make you cry in public.

Defining Definitions: Spoilers

When I was in high school, a friend of mine took to carrying around The Complete Works of Shakespeare, proclaiming that he was going to read every single play the Bard had ever written.  He told me that he was really enjoying Othello, and, cue my foot-in-mouth syndrome, I said, "I can't believe that he kills Desdemona!"

My friend was a bit irritated.  Apparently he didn't know even the basic storyline of Othello and I had ruined the whole thing for him.  I, on the other hand, couldn't believe that he hadn't already known the basic premise of the play--Othello-the-Moor is tricked by Iago-the-Asshole into smothering Desdemona-the-Wronged-Innocent.  Who hasn't at least been exposed to that much of the play?

This brings me to the newest Defining Definitions.  Linda Holmes at NPR wrote a piece entitled, "The Spoiler Problem (Contains Spoilers)," and while Holmes focuses explicitly on the role television spoilers play in blogs and other publications, I think it fair to say that a similar argument exists in the world of literature.  Therefore, allow me to present my definition of spoilers:

An important and not generally well-known piece of information regarding plot that is revealed to someone who was not previously aware of it.  This does not include character names or general story details that are revealed early in the story.
Since that day in high school, I've taken to prefacing all possible spoilers with the giant label SPOILER ALERT to try to circumvent making an ass of myself ever again.

Killing Time Online: The Pandora Radio of Blogs

For those of you who love the "if you liked that, you might like this" aspect of Pandora Radio, Blogger has upgraded the "Next Blog" option at the top of the page.  Now, when you click on "Next Blog," Blogger will take you to a blog that relates to that which you were previously perusing. 

Let me just say that it warms the cold, cold cockles of my heart that there are so many book blogs out there.  Sometimes I worry about the future of humanity, but those blogs make me feel just a little bit better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Imagine That With Ernie (1991)

In celebration of Sesame Street's 40th anniversary, here's a link to my favorite Sesame Street skit ever, "Imagine That With Ernie."  To this day, I still occasionally get this song stuck in my head.

Denver Events: John Irving (TONIGHT)

If anyone is interested, John Irving (author of The World According to Garp, among other books) will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover tonight at 7:30pm. 

Doors open at 6:30pm, so show up early to get a seat.

The (Philosophy) Baby and the (Ethics) Bathwater

The New York Times has an interesting article ("An Ethical Question: Does a Nazi Deserve a Place Among Philosophers?") regarding the current debate over Heidegger's classification in most university libraries as a philosopher.  Though Heidegger has had a significant influence on contemporary philosophical thought, it is his involvement with the Nazi movement for which he is best-known.  Though he has always before been placed in the ranks of philosophers, there is now a movement to re-classify the German writer and move his writings to the history section of libraries under "N" for "Nazi."

For example, Emmanuel Faye, the author of Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,
calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.
Those who support Fayes' argument feel that it is ethically necessary to re-examine the fundamentals of Heidgegger's philosophies as well as those fields which have been strongly influenced by his writing, including but not limited to "existentialism and postmodernism as well as attendant attacks on colonialism, atomic weapons, ecological ruin and universal notions of morality."  Obviously, erasing his name from the annals of philosophy is not the same thing as simply moving the shelves that hold the books.

This begs the question, then, if whether such a re-classification is at all appropriate.  While it is important to be vigilant in how we view racist material, it is also important that we keep in mind the historical period in which the material was written.  For example, Plato, whom many consider the father of Western philosophy, also supported genetic selection and infanticide.  Do we move his books into the history section of the library, as well?

I would argue that this is not the case.  Though we now view parts of these philosophies as morally reprehensible, they have played an important enough role in the formation of modern philosophy that it is a bit ridiculous to try to expunge their names for all time.  In addition, most responsible philosophy professors are able to present the basics of Heidegger's work without instilling neo-Nazi tendencies in their students.  It is the responsibility of the philosopher to think critically about what s/he reads, and it is therefore unnecessary to re-classify Heidegger (and Plato and every other racist philosopher ever) because the philosopher should be able to recognize that which is of value and that which is not.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Wicked (A New Musical)

Having the good fortune to see Wicked when it came through Denver, I was curious as to how it would handle the storyline of Gregory Maguire's novel of the same name.  The book, after all, is not uplifting.  Most of the characters die, and those who don't become such warped caricatures by the end that Elphaba's death (and the end of the story) finally comes somewhat as a relief.

You'll be happy to learn, then, that, much as Wicked the novel is nothing like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked the musical is nothing like Wicked the book.  Most of the focus shifts away from Elphaba's various failures throughout her life and instead highlights the now feel-good friendship between her and G(a)linda.  The whole story receives a Broadway sheen that (thankfully) makes it virtually unrecognizable as an adaptation of the novel.  While some might argue that many of the powerful themes of the book (religious and philosophical questions, social injustice, etc.) were lost, I would reply that they weren't that powerful in the book, anyway, and so their disappearance is no great loss.

In addition, the performances of the actresses were stunning.  The most powerful song, "Defying Gravity," induced goosebumps.  The sets and costumes were whimsical and imaginative, and the entire production delightful.  I would highly recommend you see it if you get the chance.

The Return of the Native

As promised, "Not-So-Gentle Reader" has returned!  Over the course of my two-week mini-vacation, I've discovered several interesting things:
  • I'm bored by myself when I'm not making a concerted effort to think critically about "life, the universe, and everything."
  • I have apparently earned the reputation of being a blogger as several of my friends asked how my blog was going.
  • Those friends obviously don't actually read my blog, though I have continued to get hits every day despite the fact that I haven't posted anything new.
It is the first of the items above that has convinced me that it is time to return to the blogging sphere.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Hemingway Hype

Let me preface this by saying that I don't hate Hemingway.  Having just finished The Sun Also Rises, I can appreciate some of his appeal to the "lost generation."  I will also say that I find his descriptions of landscapes to be beautiful in their simplicity, as I first discovered when I read his short story "Hills Like White Elephants."

However.  The problem that I've discovered is that I simply cannot identify with any of Hemingway's characters.  Every character distinctly feels that his/her life is lacking something (which I completely understand), but they all seem to be looking outside themselve in their attempts to find whatever that "something" is.  For example, the main character of The Sun Also Rises is obviously an alcoholic who spends most of the book "tight."  The rest of the male cast is in love with Lady Brett Ashley, who moves from one man to the next in her own search for that "something."

They are unhappy, unproductive, and rootless.  I can see the appeal for the "lost generation," but it is not an appeal that holds true for me.  I'm done with the Hemingway hype, and he has now joined the list of authors who, when named as someone's favorite author, will illicit a somewhat-judgmental "hmph" from me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Featured Comic: Jane Austen

Here's yet another comic from Kate Beaton over at Hark! A Vagrant, which Beaton accompanies with the rather dry question, "Man I wonder what Jane Austen would think of some of her crazier fans, now that she has fans." Don't we all. (Cough--Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--cough.)
(For those of you who don't believe that Jane Austen did write social commentaries, I recommend you re-read Persuasion and pay especially close attention to the different roles that Anne Elliot plays, as well as the different ways in which she is treated by different classes.)

Non-Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I don't feel entirely qualified to write a real review of Seth Grahame-Smith's book as I only read the first nine pages before I abandoned the effort out of complete boredom.  The premise behind the book has the potential to be amusing, but as it is, the book is both too long and too long-winded for what is essentially a big joke.

I ended up flipping through the book looking at the pictures and decided that I had made a good decision in choosing not to actually read the book.  If zombies in Regency England weren't ridiculous enough, the ninjas that make an appearance partway through would have capped it off.  Who has time to read garbage like this? 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: Stitches, by David Small

I requested Stitches from the Denver Library as soon as I first heard about it, before it even came out, and by that time I was already sixth on the waiting list.  I wouldn't be surprised if the waiting list is even longer than that by now, because I finally got my hands on a copy of the graphic memoir and it is excellent.  Completely and totally excellent from beginning to end.

Between Small's brilliant illustrations and the well-written text, I was engrossed from the moment I picked it up until I turned the last page. It was a fast read--I read the whole thing in less than an hour--but it was powerful and moving and so good that Small has probably ruined me for all other graphic novels forever.

Read this.  Now.

Nobel Prize Goes to Yet Another European

Herta Mueller, a Romanian-born German, has walked away with the Nobel Prize in Literature... and Americans are pissed.

Frankly, I don't care one way or the other.  Politics shows up everywhere--beyond the Eurocentric focus of the prizes, Mueller is also only the 12th woman ever to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Obviously the awards are not based on merit alone.  Obviously. 

I don't understand why people are so surprised that Americans--or Asians, or females--have less of a chance to win a prize given by European men.  Are all those people who are so outraged really that naive--or am I just that cynical?

Grammar Snark: "The Way I 'Are'"?

Hey, folks, check out HotforWords' video parody of Timbaland's "The Way I Are."  Pretty amusing, despite the reliance on sex appeal, since I've discovered a latent passion for parody videos.

(Well, redisovered the latent passion--I freaking love Weird Al, and he doesn't insist on wearing low-cut blouses.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears include a movie about John Keats, an essay on "self" in literature, and more:
  • Jane Campion's Bright Star, a film about the love between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, is now in theatres.  As much as I would love to see it, I will restrain myself until it comes out on DVD.
  • Nancy Rawlinson over at The Faster Times wrote a fairly right-on piece entitled "Writing Advice: How to Embrace the Suck."  I so need to keep this in mind this winter, as writing is just about the only winter sport I take part in.
  • Emily St. John Mandel's essay over at The Millions, "Working the Double Shift," about working full-time while also writing in one's free time, is both accurate and not particularly surprising, for anyone who actually does work full time and write at all.
  • Conservapedia reports the creation of the Conservative Bible Project.  Most interesting is the intention to un-do the recent "emmasculation" of the Bible, as well as removing the liberal-created "adulteress story."
  • Random House has begun publishing a new edition of Frankenstein which they credit to "Mary Shelley (with Percy Shelley)."  I'm torn as to whether this is a good idea or not--it's true that Percy influenced his wife's writing, but the fact that he is named (when he really only edited the final draft) undermines Mary's standing as a writer.
  • Yet another list of essential reading has been released, this time from Penguin Publishing under the name "10 Essential Penguin Classics."  The company is also hosting a sweepstakes drawing for all ten of the titles--if anyone cares.
  • J.C. Hallman wrote an essay entitled "The Exuberant Self" which argues that stripping the "self" from literature--as most literary critics are apt to at least try to do--is in direct conflict with what writers have always tried to do, which is illicit a response from the self in every reader.
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