Thursday, February 25, 2010

Doug Savage v. Harlequins

As clever as Doug Savage is ("Night of the Unread"--hee), I take issue with his assertion that reading Harlequins is the same thing as being "unread."  While I don't personally read Harlequins (because I'll admit that they are just too freaking painful for someone who once had ambitions to be published), reading trashy romance novels is, in my humble opinion, ten times better than watching five hours of television a day if only because it stimulates the imagination (if you know what I mean) rather than completely smothering it the way tv does.

Also, for those of you who argue that Harlequins are the equivalent of porn for women, I would say that reading trashy romance novels is, in my humble opinion, a hundred times better than watching five hours of porn a day for very similar reasons.  (There's more to be said on this subject, but I'll wait until another day.)

Denver Book Clubs

Having listed some of the benefits of joining book clubs, here's a listing of Denver book clubs for those of you who are a mile high.  I would highly recommend joining a club, if only to be exposed to some new books, new people, and new ideas. 

By the way, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the below information, so do your research before you go.  I've organized the information below by day of the week/week of the month; blue text indicates library-affiliated book clubs (which encourage you to borrow the book of the month) and orange text indicates book store-affiliated book clubs (which encourage you to buy the book of the month).

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears features another Onion nod to the truth as well as a nod to the act of judging a book by its cover:
  • The Onion yet again hits just a bit too close to home with "Day Job Officially Becomes Job."
  • Dr. Kirkland C. Peterson at wrote an interesting piece about right brain / left brain interaction while reading fiction (and specifically fantasy) in "Fantasy Matters."
  • The Daily Beast has a slideshow exploring "The Best-Selling Books in Your City."  Denver isn't on the list, but the following cities are: NYC, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, SF-SJ-OAK, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Wash. DC, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Tampa, Seattle, and Miami.
  • Joseph Cassara of The Faster Times cracked me up with "To My Whore of a Roommate, Love Jane Austen."  I'm not entirely sure of the point, but I did laugh at this part: "It is a universal truth that a single man with a large fortune is in need of a cock sucking whore. And there you are!"
  • For those of you who, like me, are starting to suspect that the publishing industry is a load of poo circling the drain, David Backer has compiled "Long Live Fiction: A Guide to Fiction Online" at The Millions.
  • And for those of you who are still clinging to the notion that the publishing industry is not a load of poo circling the drain, here's an interesting interview at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about the influence of cover art in the publishing world: "Redoing a Cover, Rebranding a Series: An Interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan."

A Legacy of Weird Book Titles

The Bookseller is currently featuring a poll for the Diagram Prize '09 (which, according to the site, is for the "Oddest Book Title of the Year").  Scroll down a ways and you'll see a list of six titles for which you can vote:
The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Collectible Spoons of the 3rd Reich
Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes
Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots
What Kind of Bean is this Chihuahua?
Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter
I kind of think this is a pointless prize--who cares about which book has the weirdest title?  That won't motivate me to read it.  Still, it's interesting to see how wide the gamut for titles runs, and it's also interesting to see that my favorite of the titles is currently tied for first place. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Love on the Line (2008)

Here's a very clever animated short film (around five minutes) by G. Melissa Graziano, who made the film at the UCLA Animation Workshop. 

Love on the Line is a play on the IMing, chat room, text world in which we live, although it's set in the 19th century and features a very prominent bustle and a telegraph machine. It's well worth watching.

Reader, Party of One?

Last month, Motoko Rich of The New York Times wrote about "The Book Club With Just One Member," contrasting those readers who are attracted to the social aspects of online forums and book clubs with those readers who view books as intensely personal and private. 

I had an initial knee jerk-response to some of the quotations, such as this one from "Laura Miller, a staff writer for Salon and the author of 'The Magician's Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia,' [who] speculated that it was the more bookish people who tended to fiercely guard their private reading worlds. Casual readers, by contrast, are drawn by the social aspects." 

Speaking as someone who misses the read-think-talk-think-talk-think-write pattern of studying literature at the university level, I was quite offended by the idea that only "casual" readers could appreciate discussing what they read with friends.  After a second reading, I realized that Miller was pointing out that someone who is a casual reader would find little appeal in reading a book without having some further interaction with other people--she is not discussing whether or not "bookish" people are capable of appreciating a discussion of literature.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

The Guardian is currently featuring "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction" (and part two) from writers like Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates.  Most of them are pretty useless, but Elmore Leonard's advice on using "suddenly," regional dialect, and exclamation points is right on target:
Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
Of course, I disagree with his points on character descriptions and adverbs, so take everything on the list with a humongous grain or salt, or, suddenly, all hell will quickly break loose, y'all!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Lazy Man's Keyboard

For those of you who feel that it's just too much work to type out acronyms for real words, there is now the Fast Finger Keyboard, which gives easy access to function keys that spell out "LOL," "THX" and "TTYL."

And we wonder why kids can't write good no more.  FML.

Female Identity in Daphne du Maurier's REBECCA

While Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, has often been described as a modern gothic novel, in many ways it stands as a direct criticism of many of the tenets of the gothic romance genre.  Most notable of these is du Maurier's criticism of the  structure of romantic relationships that dominate the field--mainly, that of the power imbalance involved in the relationship between a weak and childish heroine and the strong, reserved hero.

Throughout Rebecca, the narrator remains nameless to the reader, establishing her as a weak character without her own sense of identity.  This fact is driven quite firmly home when Maxim de Winter comments, "You have a very lovely and unusual name" and the narrator responds, "My father was a lovely and unusual person" (24).  Her name is not representative of her--instead, it is representative of the the first important man in her life: her father.  The narrator is a kind of blank canvas, an incomplete, nameless person.  In fact, this blank canvas doesn't get a name until she finally assumes her husband's when she arrives at Manderley and is addressed as "Mrs. de Winter," although this is not representative of her any more than her given name.  When Mrs. Danvers first addresses the narrator with her married name, the narrator responds, "'I'm afraid you have made a mistake. [...] Mrs. de Winter has been dead for over a year" (84).  Despite the fact that she has been given a name, that name does not lead to a sense of self in any way, shape or form.

Friday Featured Comic: Calvin and Hobbes

So painful and so true.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Crowdfunding? Micropatronage? Eff that Noise!

If I have to work, sister, then so should you.  This is such unadulterated bullshit that I have nothing else to say on the matter other than this: if this person couldn't get the book done by the deadline, she shouldn't have agreed to do it in the first place.  I pity her family.

Biographical Criticism: Palahniuk and Plath

Historical-biographical literary criticism argues that the events that take place in a person's life play a part--a large part--in determining the meaning behind literary works.  While I once believed this whole-heartedly, I have since wavered back and forth on the influence of a person's life on his/her writing. 

Part of what has changed my mind are the kinds of things I write about--while I was once writing a story about a modern-day prophet who ends up spending quite a bit of time in a psychiatric ward, I don't think that a listing of my life's events would show where my interest in both faith and mental illness come into play. 

Some recent things I've read, however, are making me re-think this stance.  For example, read "Guts" by Chuck Palahniuk and tell me if you believe Palahniuk has led a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of life, or if you find it difficult to believe that some of the more painful things he has experienced haven't had a profound effect on him:
He also began volunteering at a homeless shelter, then as a escort for a hospice where he transported terminally ill patients to their support meetings. He stopped volunteering after a patient with whom he had developed a friendship died. [...] During this time also, Palahniuk joined the Cacophony Society (described by themselves as “a randomly gathered network of individuals united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society through subversion, pranks, art, fringe explorations and meaningless madness”). [...] 1999 may have been the year where Palahniuk became a cult figure but it was also a difficult year for Chuck because his father and his father’s girlfriend were found murdered. The girlfriend’s ex-husband was subsequently charged and convicted for the murders, and Palahniuk apparently began the novel Lullaby during all this time later stating that he used the writing process to help him cope with his decision to help get the murderer a death sentence. (Emphasis mine)
I would argue, of course, that, though exposure to painful things and writing twisted things may be connected, it does not necessarily follow that Palahniuk is a tortured, twisted person.  While the events of his life explain where he gets his inspiration, it may be unfair to write up a biographical sketch in broad strokes that defines Palahniuk as a one-dimensional, terminally unhappy character in history.

On the other hand, we have examples like Sylvia Plath, who based the events of the novel The Bell Jar on her own experiences in a psych ward in "an autobiographical apprentice work which [she] had to write in oder to [herself] from the past."  As she once told her mother, "What I've done [...] is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalizing to add color--it'a pot boiler really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown... I've tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar."*  While is true that the entire book is not factual, it is also true that Plath committed suicide not long after it was written, so her frame of mind was obviously very close to that of Esther Greenwood's in The Bell Jar.  In this case, one almost cannot appreciate the real strength of the book without knowing what happened in Plath's life.

Perhaps it is safe to say, then, that some biographical criticism is both appropriate and necessary, but it is inappropriate to scour authors' biographies, grasping at details in order to understand where they got their ideas.  After all, does it really matter where an idea originated if it has value in the minds of readers?

*From "The Bell Jar and the Life of Sylvia Plath: A Biographical Note by Lois Ames."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's "Dog Ears" feature one of the most depressing pieces on publishing I've read recently, as well as further information on the unfortunate death of Descartes:
  • Feel like writing a novel?  Read this piece by Tatjana Soli at The Millions, "The Writer Career Arc, or Why We Love the Susan Boyle Story" to fix that impulse right up.
  • So you know how the book is always better than the movie?  Apparently that's what James Cameron is hoping for, since he's "Writing [an] Avatar Novel."  Blech.
  • Peter Joseph at Flavorwire wrote an interesting piece, "Honoring William Faulkner's Liquor Legacy."  (Speaking of late-to-the-game alcohol legalization, Colorado only just recently got rid of the Blue Laws, so I can legally buy alcohol on Sundays now.  Whether or not I actually do is another matter altogether, but I'm amazed it took until the end of 2009 for that to change.)
  • Did y'all know that "there’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity"?  Apparently plagiarism is a-ok as long as you call it "mixing."
  • Apparently Rene "Descartes was 'poisoned by Catholic priest'" in an inter-lacing of religion and politics.

Why Read When You Can Play A Game Based on a Comic Book Based on a Classic (Which is Nothing Like the Original)?

With the creation of a video game based on The Inferno (which has, incidentally, been called a "tawdry masterpiece," whatever the hell that means), Wired has a list of "10 Literary Classics That Should Be Videogames."  While their list includes some sure-to-be-hits like Gulliver's Travels and Heart of Darkness, I personally think The Grapes of Wrath would be boring as hell, educational merit or not.

Therefore, I humbly submit my own list of "Books That Should Be Videogames."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not-So-Gentle (Re)Viewer: Pride and Prejudice (1940)

If anyone had asked me, I would have told them that Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World) was one of the last writers I would expect to have been a co-writer for a Pride and Prejudice screenplay.  Imagine my surprise, then, when Huxley turned out to be one of the writers of the 1940 Austen adaptation, directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy.

One thing that wasn't surprising about a Pride and Prejudice version written by Aldous Huxley: this was one of the least-faithful film adaptations I have ever seen.  Some of the key variations from the original text:
  • A carriage race between the Bennets and the Lucases, with Mrs. Bennet shrieking something along the lines of, "Ha!  I knew they wouldn't beat us!"
  • Multiple references by Mr. Bennet about the lost possibility of having drowned his five daughters at birth.
  • A Darcy who, though he does give Miss Elizabeth Bennet an initial verbal spanking as per the book, ultimately proves to be gregarious and charming.
  • An archery contest between Lizzy and Darcy, with Lizzy handing Darcy his conge.
  • Lady Catherine de Burgh acts as a go-between "emissary" for Darcy and Lizzy and ultimately decides Lizzy is her favorite cheekiest girl in all of England.
  • Jane is revealed to be somewhat vain, and her attempts in one scene to keep her profile to Mr. Bingley at all times is quite amusing.
Some other interesting tidbits about the movie:
  • The original tagline was, "Bachelors beware! Five gorgeous beauties are on a madcap manhunt!"
  • The setting of the movie is a bit of a mystery.  One of the characters makes a reference to the Battle of Waterloo (despite the fact that Pride and Prejudice was originally published in 1813 and Waterloo was not until 1815), but it's apparent from the characters' clothing that they are not living in the Regency. 
  • In fact, all of the female characters are running around in American civil war-era gowns, which was not until the 1860s.  (According to IMDB, the costumes were left over from the Gone with the Wind picture which was produced the year before.)
Despite the abundance of "huh?" moments, however, I quite enjoyed the movie--probably because I was laughing all the way through it.

R.I.P. Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton, two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Ruth Lilly Prize recipient, and National Book Award recipient, passed away Saturday morning.

Clifton will perhaps best be remembered for her poem, "Homage to My Hips."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Denver Events: Adam Haslett (2/15)

For those of you who are interested, Adam Haslett will be at the Colfax Tattered Cover next Monday at 7:30pm.  Here's the blurb from the website:

Adam Haslett is the author of You Are Not a Stranger Here, a short story collection which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and won the PEN/Winship Award. Haslett will read from and sign his debut novel Union Atlantic ($26.00 Nan Talese), a deeply affecting portrait of the modern gilded age.

Apparently you can join a book club to get a signed copy, otherwise you're S.O.L.

Literary Valentines

For those of you who haven't yet gotten a gift for that "special someone" and are also less-than-confident about the "Great Loves of Literature" collection, rest assured that you have plenty of time to start panicking. 

Never fear, however!  Your faithful blogger, Lindsay-with-an-A, has compiled a list of free literary Valentines ideas for those of you who have sweeties who are literate. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The "Great Loves of Literature" Free Valentines

(Note: I'm testing how much traffic I get by including the word "free" in the title of a post.  I'll keep you updated!)

For those of you who still haven't figured out what to give your sweetie for Valentines Day, allow me to present my "Great Loves of Literature" Valentines.  They'll be sure to encourage an emotional response in the recipient, one way or the other.  (And, yes, I did actually use scissors and tape for these.  Photoshop what?)

Wuthering Heights, by Charlotte Bronte:

Nothing says "I love you" more than marrying another dude.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen:

I really hope everyone knows that the "wet shirt" scene is not actually in the book. Trust me. I've read it.

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac:

The original bromance.

Grammar Snark: Commas Save Lives

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears features yet more musings on the Twitter phenomenon as well as the philosopher Botul, founder of Botulism:
  • Steve Coll of The New Yorker wonders, "Does Twitter Have Moral Characteristics?"  (*Spoiler: The answer is no.  No word yet on whether Twitter has any actual value.)
  • If you're strapped for cash, you can try to write a cell phone novel and make $600,000 before you turn 16... or, like me, you can wonder why you wasted your teen years in marching band when there were obviously more lucrative things to be doing.
  • Mein Kampf might be making its way back to Germany in the next five years... or it might not.
  • There's an incredibly interesting essay over at Bookslut by Colleen Mondor about "Kids of Color and the New American Whitewashing."
  • The screenwriters for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland apparently took some artistic liberties with Lewis Carrol's children's classic, as evidenced by this L.A. Times interview, "'Alice in Wonderland' screenwriter is ready for haters: 'It's audacious, what we've done.'"
  • The Guardian has an interesting piece about literary practical jokes: "The greatest literary hoax ever?"  (I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, it would be awesome to be in on a joke like this.  On the other hand, I would really hate being caught quoting someone who doesn't exist.) 

Raunch Culture

(Note: I don't actually have much to say about Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture that hasn't been said better by Jennifer Egan over at The New York Times.  Basically, all I can really say is: read it.)

I have pretty much spent the last ten years stumped by the brand of female sexuality that's being marketed to the masses: shows like The Bad Girls Club, The Girls Next Door, and any number of other reality programs show women pushing the envelope of in the name of "empowerment," while Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Tera Patrick's Sinner Takes All, and Izabella St. James' Bunny Tales prove that Americans view sex workers as symbols of female sensuality rather than women forced into unfortunate circumstances. 

There is a plasticizing of feminine sexuality--rather than re-defining sex and gender roles, (some) women are embracing sexual stereotypes in an effort to attract male attention.  In the last month, I've had (girl) friends tell me about how much they love going to strip bars, because the strippers give them lap dances and all the guys sit around them paying attention to them.  It's a way for women who don't fit the stripper mold to partake in the stripper fantasy, although the reality of strippers (which often include histories of sexual abuse) is far from ideal.

Perhaps my favorite quotation from Female Chauvinist Pigs comes from the mouth of a seventeen-year-old young man Levy interviews: "What girls don't understand is guys always want girls.  If every girl dressed casually, you'd still like girls.  It's like, you don't have to exhaust yourselves." 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teaching the Texts of Dead White Men

There is always, in the discussion of literature, the push-and-pull arguments about teaching what is commonly termed, "Dead White Men."  Especially among Americanists and feminists, there is a large population that finds the works of the "canon" (Shakespeare, Milton, Twain) to be repugnant because white men have held such a historical privilege. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Boulder Events: T.C. Boyle (2/9)

If you're interested, there will be a T.C. Boyle "event" (whatever that means) at the Boulder Book Store on the Pearl Street Mall at 7:30pm on 2/9.  Here's the blurb from the website:
Join us for an event with T.C. Boyle, bestselling author of The Women and Wild Child. The event will take place on Tuesday, February 9th at 7:30pm in Boulder Book Store's upstairs Ballroom.

Tickets are free with the purchase of Wild Child or The Women, or $5. If you buy a book and ticket online, the $5 ticket fee will not be processed, even if it shows up in your shopping cart total. If you buy only the ticket online, you may then redeem the lower portion of the ticket in the store for $5 off The Women or Wild Child.
See the Boulder Book Store's website to register for the event.

Review: The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, by Naomi Wolf

I had heard quite a bit about The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women from various blogs (most notably Jezebel) before I finally got around to reading it.  The Beauty Myth is one of the first third-wave feminist novels that helped to highlight some of the challenges still facing women today.  Though some of Wolf's statistics regarding anorexia have been revealed to be, shall we say, exaggerated (i.e. made up), and the book was originally published  in 1991 and most of the information is therefore from the late 80s, it is still a worthwhile read.

In The Beauty Myth, Wolf introduces the metaphor of the Iron Maiden:
"The original Iron Maiden was a medieval German instrument of torture, a body-shaped casket painted with the limbs and features of a lovely, smiling young woman.  The unlucky victim was slowly enclosed inside her; the lid fell shut to immobilize the victim, who died either of starvation or, less cruelly, of the metal spikes embedded in her interior."
Rather than a "body-shaped casket," however, modern women are trapped in a rigid set of societal expectations that puts yet another "job" (appearance maintenance) on a population that is already tired from full-time jobs and full-time household management.  The fact that women are expected to have a varied wardrobe for the office, hair styled, and make-up expertly applied in order to appear "professional" (while men have to have their shirts tucked in an their hair combed) is just one example of how these expectations affect women in the everyday. 

Start 'em Young: Should We Be Teaching Shakespeare to Children?

Speaking to my cousin's seven-year-old daughter this weekend, she announced that she was looking forward to performing "As You Like It, by Wil-liam Shake-speare," carefully but clearly prouncing the Bard's name as though she knew what it meant.

I was taken aback.  "You're reading Shakespeare?" I asked, a bit surprised that any first grader would be expected to understand Early Modern English with its "thous" and sundry archaic verbs.  I wasn't introduced to Shakespeare until my ninth grade Honors English class read Julius Caesar, and I'm not entirely sure I actually understood very much of it the first time I read it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Six Degrees of Walt Whitman

Denver Events: Neal Cassady Birthday Bash (2/7)

If you're interested, there's going to be a Neal Cassady Birthday Bash at My Brother's Bar (15th and Platte) from 2pm-7pm.  Here's the blurb:
The Beat Museum in San Francisco regularly celebrates Cassady’s birthday every year, but in deference to his roots here and spurred by the popularity of Beat events in Denver over the past few years, Carolyn Cassady and the Cassady family decided that we ought to have a party in Denver, too. Locals Heather Dalton and Joshua Hassel, who’ve been working with the family for three years to film a documentary about Cassady, took the reins and will host, along with John Allen Cassady, Jami Cassady Ratto and other noted revelers, a Denver-centric Neal Cassady Birthday Bash today at My Brother’s Bar, located in Cassady country at 2376 15th Street.

“He really inspired all these people, particularly Kerouac,” Hassel says. “He inspired what became a lifestyle, which is amazing for a guy who didn’t do much except be himself.” And, he adds, “This will be a great way to connect with Colorado’s Beat history.” Celebrate from 2 to 5 p.m. with presentations, readings, cake and dollar beers from Great Divide; admission is free. Call 303-455-9991.
Here's more information on Cassady's escapades in Denver, if you're curious.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Realities of Book Signings

Having gone to my first "official" book signing yesterday (Joshua Ferris at The Tattered Cover in downtown Denver), I was a little taken aback by the whole experience.  For the life of me, I don't know how anyone who has actually been to a book signing can think that publishing a book is at all glamorous.

First of all, Ferris arrived at the bookstore looking rumpled and a little tired--he had just gotten off a fairly bumpy flight and come straight to the signing from the airport.  He apologized for not shaving.  He was faced with a very large, mostly-empty room, and he had to read a passage from his book and then talk about himself in the Q&A afterward with a bunch of strangers.  (For anyone who thinks that doesn't sound so bad, try to imagine walking the thin line between sounding like an over-rated idiot and a pretentious ass.  It's not as easy as it sounds.)

He then moved to the signing table and had to make pleasant small talk with every single person who bought a copy of his book.  When asked if he had advice for young writers, he said, "Just write," because what other advice can you give to the children who are our future?  The whole thing lasted only about an hour, but I can imagine that he must have been drained by the end of it.

What must have been the cherry on the sundae, however, was the fact that there were about twelve people at the signing.  Given that each book is about $25, I can only imagine the stress of knowing that a publishing company has paid more for your flight to a city than it made in book sales at the event. 

The reality obviously doesn't live up to the hype.

It Could Always Be Worse: Life in the Iron-Mills, by Rececca Harding Davis

Hate your job? Then, my friends, read Life in the Iron-Mills, by Rebecca Harding Davis: "A reality of soul-starvation, of living death, that meets you every day under the besotted faces on the street."

Originally printed in the Atlantic Montly in 1861, the story is set in a factory in the eighteenth century and will help put things in perspective about what work has meant over the last two hundred years.  Maybe.  Unless you really truly identify with the following quotations, in which case it'll depress you:
  • "You call it an altogether serious thing to be alive: to these men it is a drunken jest, a joke,--horrible to angels perhaps, to them commonplace enough."
  • "You may think it a tiresome story enough, as foggy as the day, sharpened by no sudden flashes of pain or pleasure.--I know: only the outline of a dull life, that long since, with thousands of dull lives like its own, was vainly lived and lost: thousands of them, massed, vile, slimy lives, like those of the torpid lizards in yonder stagnant water-butt."
  • "There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has lain dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you. You, Egoist, or Pantheist, or Arminian, busy in making straight paths for your feet on the hills, do not see it clearly,--this terrible question which men here have gone mad and died trying to answer. I dare not put this secret into words. I told you it was dumb. These men, going by with drunken faces and brains full of unawakened power, do not ask it of Society or of God. Their lives ask it; their deaths ask it. There is no reply."
  • "So long ago he began, that he thinks sometimes he has worked there for ages. There is no hope that it will ever end. Think that God put into this man's soul a fierce thirst for beauty,--to know it, to create it; to be--something, he knows not what,--other than he is. There are moments when a passing cloud, the sun glinting on the purple thistles, a kindly smile, a child's face, will rouse him to a passion of pain,--when his nature starts up with a mad cry of rage against God, man, whoever it is that has forced this vile, slimy life upon him."
It could always be worse, my friends.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

Welcome to this week's Dog Ears, in which we cover a biography of The Ancient Mariner as well as Jack Kerouac adventures in space:
  • A biography about Simon Hatley, the man behind Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner, is reviewed.
  • Beth Potter over at Tor introduces us to Shrek!, by William Steig.  Am I the only one who didn't know the movie was based on a book?
  • Here's a piece on snippateering, which I had never actually heard of before today.  I buy brand spankin' new books so rarely that I would never think to look up a review and put it in the book once I'm done reading it.
  • Alan Bissett of The Guardian bemoans the intellect-destroying tendencies of television in, "Who Stole Our Reading Time?"  (Much more interesting, for me, were the comments below.)
  • There's now a video game based on Dante's Inferno, and a comic book series based on the game, and apparently neither are anything like the original work.  (Big surprise.)
  • A children's book based on Bob Dylan's "Man Gave Names to All the Animals" will be published in September.
  • Ever wondered what On the Road would be like in space?  Here's a podcast from Escape Pod entitled "Still on the Road," in which Kerouac and Cassady take to the skies. It's rated PG for "a little profanity and a lot of beat."

Wives Who Write

The Millions has an interesting essay by Anne K. Yoder, "The Woman Writes as if the Devil Was in Her," which explores the difficulties women writers face when in relationships.  While it is ostensibly about "maintaining the distance and time to write within a romantic relationship," what really struck me was the difference between men and women who are married and try to write.  The problem is not the relationship with another person--the problem is the time commitment involved in a marriage and household management, which falls most often on the shoulders of wives.

"Hiding Behind the First Amendment"

I'm coming to this story a little late, but check out "Too Close to Home," from The Hartford Advocate, which traces the history of a book by Brian McDonald called, In the Middle of the Night.  While the novel is not the kind of thing I normally read (it's a true crime novel which "revisits the morning of July 23, 2007, when Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes allegedly invaded the home of Dr. William Petit, beating him with a baseball bat and raping, torturing and murdering his wife and two daughters" in Cheshire, CT), the hoopla surrounding the book's introduction to the Cheshire Public Library is fascinating in an stomach-upsetting kind of way.

After library director Ramona Harten decided to add two copies of In the Middle of the Night to the stacks at the CPL, residents of Cheshire gathered to demand removal of the book for being offensive while others called for Harten to be fired.  It's a typical small-town knee-jerk book banning fiasco, but I have a hard time understanding why Harten was metaphorically strung up by protestors while McDonald is simply getting (tons and tons) of free press: "In the Middle of the Night had an initial print run of 65,000 — McDonald said that's "middle-of-the-road for this kind of book" — but, at local bookstores, it sold out almost immediately. All over Connecticut, libraries had to start wait-lists — including in Cheshire, where more than a dozen people requested the book."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paging Scarlet Pimpernel

I know, I know, but I'm easily amused and it's been a long day.


Denver Events: Joshua Ferris (2/3)

For those of you who are interested, Joshua Ferris will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover at 7:30pm tomorrow.  Here's the blurb from the website:
Joshua Ferris’s first novel Then We Came to the End won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a National Book Award finalist. Ferris will read from and sign his new novel The Unnamed ($24.99 Reagan Arthur), a dazzling novel about a marriage and a family and the unseen forces that seem to threaten both. Free numbered tickets for a place in the booksigning line will be available at 6:30 pm. Seating for the presentation prior to the booksigning is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis to ticketed customers only.
I'm really hoping to go to this, so I swear to God, if one of you takes the last of the "free numbered tickets" and I find out about it, I'm going to kick your ass from here to Boulder.

Killing Time Online: Contrariwise

Hey everyone, check out Contrariwise, a "website about literary tattoos. That is, tattoos based on books, poems, lyrics, and many other literary sources." 

I'm torn as to how kick-ass this site is--while I love the concept of literary tattoos, I have several reservations: (1) the overwhelming volume of Ayn Rand and Kurt Vonnegut tattoos is entirely too cliche; (2) most of the tattoos are simply in text form, which is a severe disservice to the tattoo as a medium and also incredibly unimaginative; (3) some of them are freaking stupid or ugly or both.

Others, however, are like the tattoo at left, based on "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath, which has taken three lines from the poem ("And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself" / "I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions" / "And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes") and used the words to form the stems of three red tulips.  I would never describe this as cliche, unimaginative, stupid, or ugly.  Instead, it's gorgeous and a real work of art, and it makes me incredibly sad that Corporate America in general frowns on tattoos.

See below for the complete text of "Tulips." 

Allow Me to Step On My Soapbox For a Moment

With the recent death of J.D. Salinger, the blogosphere has been abuzz with "newsworthy" news: stalking his neighbors, reminiscing about what his books have meant to other writers less averse to publicity than he was, tracing the effect that Salinger's military history might have had on his work, postulating hypotheses about what would be found in his files, etc.

I think it's most important, however, to remember the legacy for which Salinger is best-known: his desire to be left alone and for the media to go f*** themselves.  It's a simple enough wish, one would think, yet Salinger never really escaped the Eye-of-Sauron scrutiny of publications like The New York Times.  (Of course, the media only covers what the public wants to hear, so whose fault is it really that Salinger was perpetually annoyed by reporters?) 

For an interesting glimpse into a similar psyche, take a look at the first interview that Calvin and Hobbes comic artist Bill Watterson has granted in twenty years.  Most notable, in my opinion, is when Watterson says, "An artwork can stay frozen in time, but I stumble through the years like everyone else. I think the deeper fans understand that, and are willing to give me some room to go on with my life."

Can we please grant Salinger's  memory the same respect for which Watterson asks and has, for the most part, been allowed?  (You'll notice that I haven't linked to any articles about Salinger, because I really don't want the extra hits to lead the Times and The Guardian to believe that there's a thirst for information about what's in his trash can or medical records.  For God's sake, a man has died.  Leave his family the hell alone.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Denver Events: Connie Willis (2/2)

For those of you who are interested, Connie Willis will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover tomorrow at 7:30pm.  Here's the blurb from the website:
Connie Willis, who was recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, has received six Nebula Awards and ten Hugo Awards. Her novel Passage was nominated for both awards, and her other acclaimed works include Doomsday Book, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and others. Willis will read from and sign her new novel Blackout ($26.00 Random House). In her first novel since 2002, Willis returns with a stunning novel of time travel, war, and the deeds of ordinary people who shape history.
I unfortunately won't be able to make it because I have a water aerobics class on Tuesday evenings.  And before you ask: No, I'm not kidding.

Killing Time Online: Hey Oscar Wilde! It's Clobberin' Time!!!

Hey, check out Hey Oscar Wilde! It's Clobberin' Time!!!  It is, according to the blurb on the site, "an extension of a personal art collection of various artists interpreting their favourite literary figure/author/character that has been accumulated since 03.1998."  It is, according to your's truly, "freaking awesome."  The range of art styles as well as authors represented is truly amazing, and it provides links to artists' websites so you can look at more of their work if you're interested. 

Check it out.  You'll be glad you did.

A Feminist Reading of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD

(Note: I know very well that The Road was written as a kind of "man's man" story in the tradition of Hemingway: it's tribute to the father-son relationship which McCarthy dedicated to his son, John Francis McCarthy. 

(After reading the book, however, I was left with a distinct WTF? feeling regarding McCarthy's treatment of women throughout the novel.  I did a cursory search on-line and couldn't find a real "feminist" reading of The Road, though numerous blogs reported that McCarthy's mother figures could be problematic.  Therefore, bear with me as I hope to God that McCarthy isn't simply a raging misogynist.

(Also, if anyone out there has any insight, it is MORE than welcome.  I'm struggling here.  Am I reading too much into it?  Not enough?

(Oh, and SPOILER ALERT, obviously.)

Last Week's Foot Notes

Due to a cold that incapacitated me last week, I missed out on the chance to blog about:
  • J.D. Salinger's death, as faithfully reported by The Onion, you big phony.
  • The pricing war between MacMillan and Amazon.
  • The unfortunately-named iPad is Apple's next step towards world dominion.
Ah, well.  'Tis the life of a penny-pincher who doesn't have internet access at home.
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