Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears feature an expounding on free speech, as well as a free story from Stephenie Meyer:
  • Like Neil Gaiman and your first ammendment rights?  Then you should tune in (does that term even apply, anymore?) for  "An Evening with Neil Gaiman," from 6-8pm on April 12th.  The live internet event is hosted by the American Library Association to kick off National Library Week.
  • The Huffington Post explores "The 11 Most Surprising Banned Books" in a shameless attempt to draw those people who might be interested in the above event.
  • Here's Vanity Fair's "Bookopticon," which explores the "tangled, incestuous web of the publishing world."
  • Kristy Logan of The Millions explores several retellings of Snow White in "The Problem with Fairy Tales," with an interesting take on several of them.
  • Check out the literary prescriptions of Jezebel in "Books to Cure What Ails You: A Guide for the Neurotic Nerd."  Take two pages and call me in the morning...
  • There is a God!  For those of you waiting with bated breath for the newest in the Twilight saga, your anticipation is soon to be temporarily satisfied by the release of a free short story on June 5th, "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner."

Writing Bad Guys

(Note: I'm generally not a fan of nonfiction "self-help" kind of books, and I very rarely recommend them, but I think everyone should read The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker.  Here's a pretty good review of it, and trust me when I say that it puts violent behavior in a different context than that most of us are used to thinking in.)

However, from a "writerly" standpoint, I couldn't help but be struck by how useful Chapter Four, "Survival Signals" could prove to be to someone who is writing a book that features a character with less-than-honorable intentions towards another person.  The chapter outlines some of the methods which can indicate that a person is a predator.  These include:

Forced Teaming
Using the word "we" to indicate that two people are on the same side.  This makes it difficult for the victim to say no to whatever the predator is requesting.
Charm and Niceness
In the words of Red Riding Hood from Into the Woods, perhaps the ultimate victim, "Nice is different than good."
Too Many Details
Anytime a person lies, s/he tends to fill his/her story out too much with more details than are necessary.
Typecasting
Applying an undesirable label to another person in an attempt to get him/her to agree with what you want him/her to do.  In our Red Riding Hood example, the wolf might say, "You're probably too snobby to pick flowers for your grandma, anyway."  Red Riding Hood's response?  "No, I'm not!"  It's easy to prove she's not snobby, but not so easy to catch up again when the wolf has run ahead to eat her grandma.
Loan Sharking
Performing some unasked-for task, only to subtly demand something in return, afterwards.  The guy who asks you if you need help loading your groceries in the car is an obvious example.
The Unsolicited Promise
Anytime someone who is over the age of 12 says, "I promise," take a moment to wonder why.
Discounting the Word "No"
It may seem obvious, but no means no.  Unless you're a bad guy who doesn't want to listen to it.
Seriously, if you're having a hard time with a "bad guy," try reading parts of this book.  And even if you're not, you should read this book anyway.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: "A Boy Named Sue" (1970)

Am I the only one who didn't know that Shel Silverstein (of Where the Sidewalk Ends and There's a Light in the Attic fame) was a lyricist in addition to poet, with perhaps the most notable of his songs "A Boy Named Sue"?  Here's a video of Silverstein performing on the Johnny Cash Show.

You Can't Fight the Twilight: Chapter Seven

"And it felt good, despite my depression, to make him happy."

Chapter Seven
I had a nightmare that was a little heavy on the foreshadowing last night--Jacob turned in a wolf and then Edward showed up and got in a fight with the wolf.  I was so scared I woke up in a sweat.  Then I did a bunch of stuff (like take a shower and get dressed) that has nothing to do with my storyline, then sat down and did an internet search on vampires which I explain in excrutiating detail.  My final verdict: I'm still not sure if Edward Cullen is a vampire, and it takes me four pages to reach that conclusion.

Anyway, I did a bunch of other tedious things like homework and walking around, and then I went to school and Mike asked me out because I'm like a siren for all males.  I told him it would hurt Jessica's feelings and then do some other everyday stuff.

Ironically enough, my favorite things to read are all from the eighteenth century (rather than fluffy, contemporary tween literature about vampires), so I sat outside and tried to read some Jane Austen books (Sense and Sensability and Mansfield Park), but they all reminded me of him because apparently just the names Edward and Edmund make me think of him.  I just decided to take a nap, which is about as  thrilling to read about as you would expect.  Made dinner for Charlie, watched tv, blah blah blah.  For a character in a book that is best classified as escapist reading, I sure do a lot of boring stuff.

Anyway, I'm going shopping with my new girlfriends because I'm the most popular boring person ever, apparently.  Should be exciting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Blogger Issues

Blogger is apparently having problems with pictures.  Rest assured that the issue has been reported.  Meanwhile, I'm going to go elsewhere on the internet because the preponderance of red X's is pissing me off.

Killing Time Online: John Anealio's Sci Fi Songs

Hey, folks, check our John Anealio's blog Sci Fi Songs.  A man who writes songs like George R. R. Martin is Not Your Bitch (based on a Neil Gaiman tweet) or Sarene (based on Brandon Sanderson's Elantris) deserves all the page views we can give him. 

You can also buy his CD or download his songs at CD Baby

(via Tor.com)

Hop A Ride on the J.K. Rowling Money Train!

...unless, of course, you're part of the estate of late children's writer Adrian Jacobs, in which case you're about nine months ahead of everybody else.  Everyone else, all aboard!

First stop, "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," set to open June 18th at Universal Studios Orlando.  The only thing the conceptual pictures are missing are the hordes of screaming children, irate parents, and absurdly high prices.  (In all honesty, I would probably go to this if I lived anywhere close to it.)

Next stop, Nuremberg to check out the J.K. Rowling Barbie Doll.  Apparently, Mattel is trying "to shed its 'air-head' image of their Barbie dolls" by making raging writers instead.  If you're hoping to pick one up for yourself, though, think again--they aren't actually selling the new "role model" dolls.  They're just making them.  (Does that make sense to anyone else?  No?  Good, I was afraid I was missing something.)

Finally, check out the trailer for the first movie of the last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I'm really curious as to what they're going to call the eighth film.  Harry Potter and the Master of Marketing, maybe?

 

And, yes, I do realize this isn't actually an official trailer, but what the hell?  Some teenage boy spent a lot of time putting it together, thank you very much.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Featured Comic: Married to the Sea


Check out Married to the Sea.  For some reason, every other one makes me do that laugh that's basically a gurgle in my throat, mostly because I'm at work and am trying to keep it down.  Still, "Shakespeare got to get paid, son," is pretty funny.  They even put it on t-shirts, if you have more money than fashion sense.

A Visual History of the Beast

Patrick Garson at Tor.com has a really interesting piece on the visual history of The Beauty and the Beast, exploring different versions of the beast and what those differences mean in "No Beast So Fierce."  While I grew up thinking that the story was about looking beyond the surface of how s/he appears to others, I've since decided it's actually about how one's attitude and behavior affect how one appears to others, so it is interesting to see different interprtations of what exactly it means to be a "beast."

With that said, let me add a couple of things that are distinctly plebian in comparsion.  

Regarding the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, which is how I was first introduced to the fairy tale: does anyone else find it hard to believe it came out twenty years ago (next year).  Twenty years?  I remember sitting in the theatre bawling when I thought the beast had died.  It was the first movie I ever saw where it seemed like things might not end up as happily as I hoped they would.  (Since this was the case, it's probably pretty obvious that Bambi was banned from my mother's house.)  In addition, the movie helped reinforce the idea that reading is freaking awesome, which has over the years become integral to my personality and life.

Also, I too would fall in love with a man who looked like a cross between a bear and a buffalo if he had a library that looked like this:


What can I say?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Geeks and Nerds and Dorks, Oh My!

Last week, we got into a philosophical discussion regarding the correct classification of nerds, geeks, and dorks.  While these terms are definitely up for different interpretations, I decided to tighten up the requirments of each group within the realm of Not-So-Gentle Reader

How Come I Don't Have an App for That?

I'll tell you why: because I don't have an iPhone, for various reasons that include the fact that I refuse to pay their ungodly-high monthly service rates, in addition to the fact that all of the AT&T towers in downtown Denver are "corroded," so you definitely don't get what you pay for, anyway.  (I also dread becoming that person who pulls her iPhone out during Thanksgiving dinner to play a Billy Idol or some other stupidass video that is completely unnecessary.  I freaking hate those people.)

However, this might just change my mind: check out "Get London Reading," an iPhone app that tells you which books were set where in London.  This means that I have to find someone who has an iPhone and become good enough friends with him that I can invite him on my litnerd tour of London, but not good enough friends that I have to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner--because I freaking hate those people.  (You know the ones I mean.)

Denver has something kind of similar, though, although not nearly as cool.  If you walk around Denver, you occasionally come across a sign with a phone number on it, and if you call it, it gives you the history of the neighborhood you're in, although it's kind of a pain to find the signs in the first place and... yeah, I really need to make friends with someone with an iPhone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears feature advice on how not to title literary fiction, as well as a pick-me-up courtesy of the romance genre:
  • Darragh McManus of The Guardian tells us "How Not to Title a Novel," focusing on the oh-so-generic titles that "literary fiction" seem be limited to recently.
  • Do you hate Nicholas Sparks?  If not, you should, because he's what we who pride ourselves on our extended vocabularies call a "douchebag."
  • Though I'm all for reading to your kids, this story of a father who read to his daughter every single night until she left for college rubs me a little wrong for some reason.  Maybe it's because it's in the "fashion" section of The New York Times?
  • Apparently there was something about Ted Hughes.  Four years after his wife, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide, his mistress, Assia Wevill, did the same.
  • Oh, and speaking of Ted Hughes, he now "Joins Literary Greats at Poet's Corner."  I can't wait to finally take my litnerd tour of London, by the way.
  • Colorado spring snow storms got you down?  Read the MST3K review of Diana Palmer's Iron Cowboy over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  It's long but freaking hilarious and definitely worth a read.  My favorite part:
"You know what else people in Jacobsville can do? DANCE. Is a mutha-effing dance-off, y’all! The Caldwell’s are doing a spirited Paso Doble, but then the Grier’s challenge them to a Tango. I’m totally not kidding here, guys. In a previous book there was a dance battle to the Macarena. THE MACARENA. Only 10 years after the fad came and went too. That’s practically current, by Palmer’s standards!"

Not-So-Gentle (Re)Viewer: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I saw this movie several weeks ago but never quite got around to writing about it because I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to say about it.  Yes, it's a Disney-fied Tim Burton, which tells you almost everything you need to know about the "feel" of the film.  The actors were fine, the costumes were fine, but the story was, in my opinion, not-so-fine.

While the original Lewis Carrol stories deal with a girl thrust into utter madness and changeability, Alice in Wonderland deals with a girl thrust in a stereotypical good-vs-evil combat, with Helena Bonham Carter playing the Red Queen and Anne Hathaway playing the White Queen.  (In addition, the final battle scene was a rip-off of The Golden Compass, which was a plagiarization of The Chronicles of Narnia, which was a pale imitation of The Lord of the Rings.  Not good.)

Burton apparently made this cliched storyline on purpose.  According to IMDB, "he attempted to create a framework, an emotional grounding, which he felt he never really had seen in any version before. Tim said that was the challenge for him - to make Alice feel like a story as opposed to a series of events."  I can understand that it's difficult to create tension in a storyline comprised of a series of minor events (I've spoken before about my problems reading Huckleberry Finn), but this storyline was so far from the original that it's a bit shocking they bothered to put the name "Alice" in the title at all.  The themes were lost, the point ruined.

Save your money, folks, although I'm pretty sure most of America's already thrown their dollars at Burton's feet.  I'm regretting the fact that I was one of them.

How Not to Write a Romance Novel: On the Way to the Wedding, by Julia Quinn

First off, I know I'm blogging about a romance novel (which I try not to do, because I often don't have all the much to be said about them that isn't said ten times better at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.)  Therefore, let those who have not sinned throw the first stone, yada yada yada. 

Now that that's out of the way, I only have one thing to say about On the Way to the Wedding: while I generally enjoy Julia Quinn's books, I hope never again to read a book in which the heroine pops out nine freaking babies in the epilogue.  I don't know why, but for some reason the thought of pushing nine watermelons out of a six-centimeter-hole (that is full dilation, right, because hell if I know) is frankly less than romantic and does a thorough job killing the reading-romance-novels-while-it's-snowing-outside buzz.  I'm weird like that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Science and Art: Feynman and the Flower, Practicality and Beauty

I was first exposed to Richard Feynman by an Astronomy professor in college who insisted we watch the1993 documentary The Best Mind Since Einstein. (For those of you who have never heard of him, Feynman was the scientist who testified to the Shuttle Commission about the faulty O-rings in the Challenger which resulted in its explosion in 1986.)   Feynman had a lets-try-this-and-see-if-it-works approach to life, and he was incredibly observant about day-to-day events.  He was also a writer.  This is noteworthy because (a) it shows the interconnection between the sciences and the arts and (b) because he was a very funny man and his books are both easy to read and enjoyable. 

It was for these reasons that I picked up a copy of Classic Feynnamn: All the Adventures of a Curious Character, a compilation of selections from his books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?  Feynman had a dry sense of humor and what seems to be a talent for letting other people believe he knew more than he really did.  (This is not to suggest the man was not a genius, because I think he was.)  His books are also beautiful in the way that one does not have to read from page one to the end to understand them--each chapter can pretty much stand on its own, and if you're looking for a short, entertaining read, it's easy to find in this book.

However...

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Oh! The Places You'll Go (2009)

My parents gave me this book when I graduated from fifth grade, but I have to say it means much more to me now than it ever could have when I was ten years old, and it means a whole heck of a lot right now in particular.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

... or, in the case of the Wordle my friend Homero made for me, somewhere between 100 and 200 words.  (I didn't actually count them, so that's an approximation.)  My favorite is "Gothic-with-a-capital-G," mostly because I think the phrase is funny.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Science and Art: The Arts of Industry in the Age of Enlightenment, by Celina Fox

Apparently I'm not the only one who's interested in the interesection of the "sciences" and the "arts."  While I've written briefly about the subject a number of times, here's an entire book that sounds like it's right up my alley.  (Of course, I've thought the same thing before and came out with mixed results.  I think I'll request it from the library rather than shelling out £40 (or  $60.58 for you Yanks).  I didn't know they even published books that cost that much.  No wonder the industry is dying.)

Still, from the write-up by Jenny Uglow in The Guardian from this weekend sounds absolutely fascinating.

Not-So-Gentle (Re)Viewer: Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1986)

First off, let me admit that I've only read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey once and it has been several years.  Though I appreciate her tongue-in-cheek mockery of the gothic genre, I never found any of the characters to sparkle the way they do in some of her other books, and I was never much of a fan of Mr. Tilney.

Therefore, I probably wasn't predisposed to like Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.  And I didn't, especially in view of the fact that the film is missing the few things I liked about the book.  The movie completely foregoes Austen's wry treatment of the Gothic-with-a-capital-G, and much of the over-the-top melodrama has been cut from the film.  This movie should have been quite funny, and I would have enjoyed it if it had felt at all like a parody. 

Unfortunately, the screenplay was treated with too much solemnity (despite the brief forays into Catherine Morland's private fantasies) and the movie was ultimately boring.  It deserves the five-and-a-half stars (out of ten) that IMDB users have given it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Denver Events: Speaking of Nerds...

I found this ad for the local "Word Nerds" club at a local coffee shop, NOVO Coffee.  If you live in Denver and like Scrabble, you should probably check it out.

Friday Featured Comic: Wondermark

Check out Wondermark's archive for an awesome collection of comic strips and illustrations.  While not all of David Malki !'s comics are stricly "literary," the ones that aren't are still amusing enough for a mention.

Killing Time Online: Kafkacotton Blog

Hey, guys, check out Kafkacotton, a company that creates literature-inspired t-shirts (some of the best I've ever seen in that they're cool and subtle, two things seem to be hard to come by in the world of literature-inspired t-shirts.)  Kafkacotton goes one step further, however, and donates 5% of all proceeds to fight illiteracy world-wide.

If, however, "you got no money, honey, we got your disease."  Instead, watch the videos of Gregor, a man with what I assume is supposed to be a German accent dressed in a cockroach outfit touring the United States (very Kafka-esque).  It's like Borat for literacy, and it's quite funny, especially since the site links to local news stations that cover his visit to their cities.  It's worth taking a look.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears feature an argument about feminism in geekery as well as the ethics of breaking news via social media sites:

Keep Your Day Job... They Did

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: The Making of a Bookcover: BLAMELESS, by Gail Carriger (2010)


Am I the only one who cannot get enough of sped-up Photoshop videos?  I love them, and this one is both interesting and amusing.

Work: Boring or Important?

I've written before about how strange I find the disconnect between "work" and literature.  While there are television shows (The Office) and movies (Office Space) which explore the role that work plays in the lives of the people who show up every morning at eight in the a.m., the idea that worklife has something to offer seems to be largely missing from the publishing industry.

Jennifer Shuessler of The New York Times suggests in "Take This Job and Write It" that this may because young novelists don't have any experience in the white collar industry, which is where a large percentage of Americans make their livelihood, but I have a hard time believing this when so few "young" authors are published, anyway.  Alain de Botton of The Boston Globe calls for a "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Data-Entry Supervisor," pointing out that if literature focused on the world of work, it might invigorate our perception of work.  After all, it's a real drag to show up at the office every morning when you have a hard time seeing the value of it beyond your bi-weekly pay check.

It is for these reasons that I so enjoyed Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End and I picked up Something Happened by Joseph Heller several weeks ago at a used bookstore.  These are books that are exploring the meaning behind where I spend 10 hours a day.  Whether or not a particular field of work is "good" is for each person to decide, but it's important to realize that it's more than just boring.  (By the way, if anyone can recommend another book about "work," please do.  I'm definitely in a frame of mind to read it.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March!

I normally try not to post too much about "real life" on Not-So-Gentle Reader, but let me tell you what I'm going to watch out for next March 15th: Nyquil the night before.  It casts a real cloud over your day when you're three hours late to work because you slept through two alarms, five phone calls, and a hungry cat.

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (2010)

Hey, folks, check out the book trailer for Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Steve Hockensmith's sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Regency costumes? Check.  Blood, guts, and gore?  Double check.  Enjoy.

Ulysses in a Week: Regrettably Cancelled

If this week had been a typical week, it might have worked.  Unfortunately due to illness and possible imminent life changes, Mr. Joyce has had to take a back seat to real life.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ulysses in a Week: Day Two

(Note: Here's the history of my journey to the end of Ulysses thus far, for those of you who are curious.)

Unfortunately had very important plans that could not be pushed back, so only had the chance to read right before bed.  Happy to say a party Saturday night has been pushed back a week so I'll be able to focus on my week-long endeavor.  (Even happier to say that at least I started to catch a cold now rather than next week so at least I won't have to go out while sick.  Perfect excuse to stay in and read.)

"Pride and Prometheus," by John Kessel

Hey folks, check out the novella "Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel.  (Scroll down a ways to find the beginning of the story.)

Though it sounds hokey to say it's "Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein," it's one of the first mash-ups I've seen that plays with the themes of the original stories while staying true to the characters. 

(It also won the 2009 Hugo Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), if you won't take my word for it.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ulysses in a Week: Day One

I set off straight after work to find a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses.  Unfortunately, the Denver Library did not have a copy of the book and I would lose too much time in requesting a copy from another branch.  (Note to self: must resolve to check available resources before making bold statements in the future, else looking like an ass much more likely.)

Found a very attractive copy of the book at Barnes & Noble as it is the closest bookstore to my apartment.  Felt a bit alarmed when the cashier held the book up and gestured to it Vanna White-style before saying simply, "Good luck."

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears feature single-sided shouting matches about genre as well as an exploration of "new feminism":

Review: Lost in a Good Book, by Jasper Fforde

When I first picked up Lost in a Good Book, by Jasper Fforde, I was impressed with the entire premise of the story.  A literary detective who can duck in to fictional stories, dozens of subtle literary references, a lost Shakespearian manuscript... it seemed like a recipe for my kind of book.  While the book was shelved in the "general fiction" section of the Denver library, it is much more accurately classified as fantasy--a genre I tend to enjoy if it's done with even a modicum of skill.  In addition, though I had already read The Eyre Affair, Fforde is thorough enough in the first couple of chapters to make Lost in a Good Book able to stand on its own, story-wise.

Unfortunately, Fforde is often just a little too cute for his own good.  While I appreciate the many literary references, Fforde also peppers the story liberally with too-saccharine details--for example, the villains of the story are Jack Schitt and Schitt-Hawse.  The bumbling pairs of secret agents are Kannon / Phodder, Walken / Dedmen, and Blake / Lambe, among others.  A fictional lawyer speaks with Thursday via the footnotes on the bottom of each page.  Fforde seems intent on proving just how clever he is, while the story drags nearly to a half and I had to quit after about 250 pages.

I therefore regret to say that I wasn't even able to finish this book, and it sat on my bedside table for about a week untouched--far too long for any book that isn't written by Gabriel García Márquez or John Milton, in my opionion.  The only way I could have finished it would have been to zip right through it--thereby missing the very things I appreciated about it in the first place.  I would not recommend this book. At. All.

The Wisdom of a Fortune Cookie

I find it interesting that every time I go into J.J.'s Bistro (in Sakura Square here in Denver) I get a book-themed fortune cookie fortune, while my friends never get one.

(Of course, I kind of disagree with this particular bit of "wisdom"--the best books don't stay "the same today and forever," but actually change with you as time goes on, teaching you something new every time you read it.)

By the way, did anyone else know that "lo mein" in Colorado is "chow mein" in California, and vice versa?  (According to wikipedia, it's a West Coast / East Coast variation, but I'm kind of surprised that Colorado aligns with the East Coast when it's Western in so many other ways.)  Regardless, the lo mein at J.J.'s is quite delicious.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Science and Art: Victorian Ctrl+X and Ctrl+V

This isn't a strictly "literary" issue, but it's fascinating nonetheless.  There is a really interesting slideshow over at Slate entitled "The Dark Art of Cut and Paste" which explores the Victorian trend of photo collage: mid-nineteenth century Englishwomen would paste photographs of their friends and family onto other images in a kind of proto-Photoshop.  (The exhibiton is currently on display at the Met, for those of you in New York.)

What makes these images especially intriguing is their seeming anachronism with the timeline of art history: "This is Saul Steinberg's world a century before his time. It is Surrealism 70 years avant la lettre. It is photomontage 60 years before the Dadaists did it in Berlin. It is collage 50 years before the Cubists 'invented' it in France."  I've discussed before the role that photography played in the shifting definition and purpose of art (by which I mean art which is in a medium other than photography), but this is slightly different, a kind of l'art pour l'art in the way that it was created in the home for the home.  It shows the way that rich women embraced new forms of art by folding it into more traditional ones (such as sketching and watercolors).  It was not mass-produced and it was not created to make a statement--rather, it was created to differentiate between the calling card albums of the social strata.  The fact that these women were far ahead of their time is absolutely amazing.

(Slate does manage to jump on the current Alice in Wonderland bandwagon by observing the influence of Lewis Carrol's  "puns and wordplay, misunderstandings, references to dreams, and bizarre transformations" on Victorian society, but the slideshow also traces evidence of Darwin's Origin of the Species in the Victorian cutting-and-pasting, as well, thereby redeeming itself.  God, I wish this exhibition comes to the Denver Art Museum, because I would be all over that like white on rice.)

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Sassy Gay Friend: Hamlet (2010)


Despite the fact that this video shamelessly promotes stereotypes of "sassy" gay men, I can't help but wish somebody had told Ophelia the things he does. "There is something rotten in Denmark, and it's [Hamlet's] piss-poor attitude!"  (By the way, how pathetic is it that I've only just now figured out how to embed youtube videos?)

Killing Time Online: Bloggers Anonymous

Hey folks, check out Bloggers Anonymous if you have some time to kill.  It's pretty amusing, even if, like me, you don't have a problem with blogging.  Really, I don't have a problem.  I can quit anytime I want.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reading James Joyce

By God, I'm going to try one more time to actually read Ulysses by James Joyce, with the idea of finishing it by St. Patrick's Day (so I'll have a cut-off date at which to give up if I don't make it by then).  The last time I tried to read Joyce, I made it to something like page 17 before my eyes rolled into the back of my head.  Not unlike Marilyn Monroe, I find the book "hard going."

Saints preserve us.

Why Nobody Wants to Watch a Movie With an English Major


(This was inspired in part by my friend Homero's comments on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.)

Casual Conversations: The Sesquipedaliarian and I

Friday night I had a conversation with a gentleman who referred to himself as a "sesquipedaliarian."  The conversation went something like this:
Sesquipedaliarian: The wife and I are sesquipedaliarians.
Me: Oh?  What's that?
Sesquipedaliarian: It's means a person who uses long words.  Like, do you know what iambic pentameter is?
Me: Yes.
Sesquipedaliarian: And how a line of pentameter is five feet? 
Me: Uh-huh.
Sesquipedaliarian: "Sesquipedalian" translates literally to "a foot and a half."  Basically a syllable and a half.
Me: ...okay.
Sesquipedaliarian: We use a lot of big words.
Me: Huh.
First, let me say that the sesquipedaliarian had consumed a considerable amount of scotch, so he may have been making less sense than he would have been otherwise.  (For example, a foot is not the same thing as a syllable in English verse, but I think he probably knows that and just mispoke.)  Secondly, let me say that I don't think "sesquipedaliarian" is a real word, since, as far as I can tell, "sesquipedalian" is an adjective when it is not being used to mean an incredibly long word and I found no evidence online that adding a suffix to it makes it a noun in proper usage.  Therefore, I suspect that this gentleman--and his wife--may, in fact, have made up the word.

That is not, however, the problem.  The problem as I saw it was the fact that the self-proclaimed sesquipedaliarian didn't seem to see the value in using short words when short words are needed.  Rather than focusing on how many syllables a word has in determining its value, I think that one should focus on how accurate or appropriate said word is in the situation.  In addition, being able to pass a vocab test is not the same thing as having something interesting to say.  (I therefore find it entirely appropriate that one possible definition of sesquipedalian is "given to the overuse of long words.") 

Therefore, from now on within the realm of Not-So-Gentle Reader, the definition of sesquipedaliarian shall be as follows:
ses*qui*pe*da*li*a*ri*an: (noun) A person who is pedantic to the point of pretension and finds it necessary to tell others how much he knows rather than simply engaging in conversation that would be mutually satisfying. 

Synonyms: pedant, didact.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Denver Events: Dan Simmons (TONIGHT)

Dan Simmons, local science fiction / horror writer, will be at the Colfax Tattered Cover tonight at 6:30 pm.  Here's the blurb from the Tattered Cover website:
Colorado author Dan Simmons, celebrated for his science fiction, horror and history novels, including the Hyperion books, The Terror, and Drood, will read from and sign his new historic ghost story Black Hills ($25.99 Reagan Arthur Books). Seamlessly weaving together the stories of Paha Sapa, a young Sioux warrior, General George Armstrong Custer, Mount Rushmore, and the American West, Simmons depicts a tumultuous time in the history of both Native and white Americans.
Somewhat unrelated, I'm sure Mr. Simmons is wishing that Nora Roberts hadn't recently come out with a novel also titled Black Hills, because the heavyweight "contemporary women's" author takes up the first bajillion google results in a quicky search online.

For more Denver "literary" events (and a map showing the location of the Colfax Tattered Cover), see the Calendar of Denver "Literary" Events.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happy Late "World Book Day" and "National Grammar Day" and Saint Casimir's Day!

I didn't find out that World Book Day was yesterday until today, but I find it a little strange that it's described as "the biggest annual celebration of books and reading in the UK and Ireland."  Shouldn't it be "North-Western Europe Book Day" or maybe even "UK and Ireland Book Day" rather than World Book Day?

Regardless, I find it difficult to keep up with all of the rather pointless "literary" days that have been created.  There's National Grammar Day (which was also yesterday, coincidentally; apparently the two groups didn't compare calendars before they set up their websites), National Punctuation DayNational Science Fiction Day, National Poetry Day (UK), World Poetry Day (United Nations), Teen Literature Day, International Children's Literature DayWorld Intellectual Property Day, World Book and Copywrite Day, National Day on Writing, National Reading Day, National Read Across America Day, Tolkien Reading Day, the National African-American Read-In, and International Literacy Day.  I'm assuming this list is missing about a bajillion other "literary" days, but you get the idea.

To be honest, the only "book day" for which I can really muster any enthusiasm is Free Comic Book Day--and that's mostly because I like anything with the word "free" in the title.  I think that celebrating individual writers (like Robert Burns) is a great way to expose kids (and adults, come to think of it) to poets and authors who made a significant cultural impact, but the endless list of "holidays" that are celebrated mostly in the blogosphere reminds me of the endless list of patron saints that are celebrated mostly at Catholic Online.  It's mildly interesting but ultimately just a lot of paperwork.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Denver "Literary" Events

You'll have noticed, I'm sure, the new tabs at the top of the page--one of which just happens to be "Calendar of 'Literary' Events."  Click on it, and you'll see the newest addition to Not-So-Gentle Reader, a calendar of local literary events.  I hope this will help someone out, because the sites that I've found--Westword, Eventful--are such a pain to navigate that I'm sure someone's been discouraged from actually going to a book signing (or Beatnik party).

Denver Events: Dave Eggers (TONIGHT)

Sorry for the short notice, folks, but Dave Eggers will be at the LoDo Tattered Cover tonight at 7:30 pm.

Here's the blurb from the Tattered Cover website:
Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including his most recent Zeitoun, a nonfiction account of a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina; The Wild Things, a novelization of Maurice Sendak’s beloved picture book; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco, that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (The Believer), and Wholphin, a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. Eggers will discuss and sign his various works.
Be there or be square.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears prove that the academic "elite" (as Ms. Palin would put it) really are out to corrupt our youth, while a publishing elite was snubbed by the Hollywood elite, and, long story short, liberals are the devil:
  • According to The New York Times, there are now "Textbooks That Professors Can Rewrite Digitally."  (This really wouldn't have affected my academic career if it had appeared about five years ago, if only because all my professors made me buy their textbooks, anyway.)
  • Yet another author wearing pants-on-fire has been revealed.  James Cameron's S.O.L.
  • Elizabeth Bachner of Bookslut discusses "Beauty, Decay: Reading The Hypochondriacs: Nine Tormented Lives by Brian Dillon."  The connection between illness and genius (in popular culture's understanding of genius, that is) is fascinating.
  • C. Max Magee of The Millions discusses "Judging Books by Their Covers: US vs UK", and he welcomes your "inexpert analysis," as well.
  • Apparently some dude named John Bertram challenged the faceless millions of the internet to create a cover for Lolita.  Here are the results, some of which are freaking disgusting considering what the book is actually about.
  • Dreaming of writing a novel that will be so great it will get a movie deal, which will be so great that it'll be nominated for six Oscars, and you'll be able to rent a tux or buy a dress and walk the red carpet?  Tough.

Can't Find What You're Looking For?

That could be because you're in the

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: The Dr. Seuss Rap "Wubble Down" (2010)


In honor of Dr. Seuss' 106th birthday yesterday (or what would be his 106th birthday if he were still alive), check out "The Dr. Seuss Rap 'Wubble Down'" from Half Life Today.  It really replicates Dr. Seuss' rhyme scheme in a pimpin' ain't easy kind of way.

The "Happy vs. Interesting" Dichotomy of Genius

Penelope Trunk's "Is Your Life Happy or Interesting?" test is, I would say, equal parts bullshit and pop psychology.  (For those of you who think "bullshit" and "pop psychology" are synonymous, allow me to say that there are aspects of pop psychology that may be useful to people with absolutely no people skills.)  What I find interesting about it, however, is the not-so-subtle implication that a person may be either happy or interesting but by no means both.  While I don't really know what "$20 eyebrows and $70 eyebrows" has to do with this, I think it naturally leads to the question of whether a person who is happy is at all capable of creating something interesting.

I've discussed the idea of "genius" before, mostly because I'm fascinated by the assumptions we have about it.  In the 1800s it involved tuberculosis, in the 1900s it involved drug use.  Since its cultural inception, it has generally been preceded by the word "tortured."  I've read of artists who were deemed somehow less "artistic" when they went on anti-depressants, despite the fact that the quality of their art (from their point of view) changed very little. 

You Do Not Talk About Book Club

Check out the Unshelved Store for all of your literati clothing needs.  My personal favorites are the "Book Club" shirt (back shown at left) just because things like this make me giggle like a twelve-year-old boy and the "Intellectual Freedom Fighter" shirt.

Of course, working for Corporate America really puts a crimp in my plans of wearing Chuck Paluhniak-referencing t-shirts.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Brian Dettmer's Altered Books

Check out Brian Dettmer's flickr collection of altered books.  I'm torn as to whether or not this kind of thing is kosher--on the one hand, there's something so beautiful about a book turned into a work of art.  On the other hand, he's destroying books in the process.  He's chosen aesthetics over utility, and I'm not sure how I feel about that from a philosophical standpoint.

But they are freaking cool.

Extra, Extra! Not-So-Gentle Reader Slowly Moving into 21st Century!

As some of you may have noticed, Not-So-Gentle Reader is slowly undergoing a bit of a change in the layout department, specifically regarding the Facebook widget now available to the right.  Become a fan of your favorite litblog (or, if this isn't your favorite, then just this litblog) and earn my never-ending respect and admiration. 

The Facebook group will probably have a limited number of posts, focusing only on the truly noteworthy or the very amusing, as a little pick-me-up for those of you who, like me, have friends who post every single thing they do all day.  (I mean, really.  I don't care that you're going to Pottery Barn tonight.  I can't believe even you care enough to post about it.)
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