30 April 2009
29 April 2009
Right on the heels of last week's article about how the Kindle hides what you're really reading, I saw this ad campaign on the subway shuttle for M-Edge Kindle accessories. (Please excuse the blurriness; it was taken on a moving train with my non-smartphone.)
They are sharp, and as someone with a carefully considered iPod case I can see the utility of them as well.
28 April 2009
27 April 2009
As it happens, I do some business at a widget factory* nearby and can occasionally be found making widgets late into the night.** I always thought of the neighborhood as pretty good -- its branch gym is freaking spectacular compared to mine -- so it surprised me that this kind of trade would be going on there, even late at night.
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES was published in 1992 so I took its gritty details to be a remnant of the pre-Giuliani era, a time in which I never lived in New York but keep hearing about as either the best or the worst of times. Besides, the only people I usually saw out after a day of industrious widgetry were workers from the 28th Street Duane Reade taking smoke breaks and clumps of tourists who had taken a wrong turn from Union Square... until early this morning.
I would like to give Ms. 3:15AM the benefit of the doubt -- after all, I was out there too, albeit dressed more like the hipster grifter*** than in shorts and fishnets -- but what struck me as odd was that she didn't seem to be going anywhere. There's pleasant loitering, such as I was doing earlier that afternoon on Amsterdam Avenue in the sunshine, and then there's a deserted street just begging to be crossed. She lit up a cigarette and sank down to the sidewalk looking more bored than anything, while I was so tired I found myself putting the word "cab" into this little ditty (0:57 if you're in a rush). Cabs were scarce that night, so I could overlook her pacing east from Park and back again, but when I finally found one she didn't even attempt to beat me to it.
It was a glimpse into a different New York -- or a sign that I really should try getting more sleep.
*much more colorful than the truth
**behind two levels of security, Mom
***if you haven't heard of this story yet, perhaps don't read New York-centric media, you are simply missing out. As a correspondent put it, "Never, ever start a relationship with a tattoo as stupid as 'I love beards.'"
25 April 2009
Years ago, [Baker] walked into a temporary job with a copy of ULYSSES. “I wanted people to know I wasn’t just a temp,” he said, “but rather a temp who was reading ULYSSES.”
24 April 2009
- Your eyes don't deceive: That's best-selling author Jennifer Weiner surveying the virtual crowd before her July release BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. I don't think she needs any help, but if I were her I would advertise on blogs I like (could be reading, could be otherwise) and do a major author tour.
- Flavorwire just had a little wrap-up of reading-related iPhone applications. The author concludes that reading on your iPhone is "worth it to carry a few books on it for when you get restless at a bar" and goes on to suggest reading ULYSSES at 1AM in bars, which coincidentally is going to be the theme of my New York-based social club should I ever found one.
- Speaking of New York and fancyphones, a Brooklynite used his subway commute to write an entire novel -- 45 minutes each way, twice a day. This is clearly a scheme for someone with supreme focus, but I can see how it would work. The author is Peter Brett, and the book is called THE WARDED MAN. Let's hope the MTA doesn't hear about it, or they'll just cut more service under the guise of making us all Joyces.
- Online reading clubs are the new hot thing: The New Yorker Book Club is "discussing" DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON, which I recommend, while New York magazine kicked off their "Vulture Reading Room" feature with Charlotte Roche's WETLANDS, the racy German bestseller that is either a boundary-breaking erotic classic or a dirty, dirty book. (I don't know since I haven't read it yet.)
- On a more personal yet still literary note, yesterday outside my apartment I nearly bumped into one of my high school English teachers from back home. While it would have been indecorous to point out, I am always a little pleased when this happens in New York, the "small town with a subway." He's not teaching any more or even working at my high school, but I'm reasonably sure that wasn't my class's fault.
23 April 2009
By the way, my first Shakesperiences? Reading "The Tempest" and watching, cringe all ye purists, the Baz Luhrmann "Romeo and Juliet." And yours?
22 April 2009
What's in? Novels about "society," for which Michaels provides the examples of AMERICAN PSYCHO and HBO's "The Wire," though only one of those is a book last time I checked. Naturally, the authors the Observer asks to account for their inability to write more generally claim they either have already done what's been asked of them (Wells Tower) or at least thought about it (Joanna Smith Rakoff), because apparently there's nothing indecorous about asking a writer point-blank "Why didn't you do it differently?"
"The end of the novel is sort of like the weather, people are always talking about it . . . but maybe this time, we’ll get some results," Michaels writes. This caught my eye because I have just started watching "The Wire," approximately 5000 years after the rest of the world crowned it the Best Show Ever. Michaels heaps on:
If AMERICAN PSYCHO harks back to the great novels of Edith Wharton—novels of manners in which the hierarchy of the social order is always what’s at stake—"The Wire" is like a reinvention of Zola or Dreiser for a world in which the deification of the market is going out rather than coming in.I like "The Wire" so far although I'm only partway through season 1, but my viewing is undoubtedly filtered by having read David Simon's books HOMICIDE and THE CORNER. While both address the problems of Baltimore generally, in some ways they fail Michaels' test: They depict the past (the '90s) in specific detail (i.e. naming the bars where policemen drink) and develop particular characters, some of whose problems have to do with their ethnic and cultural background. Of course, Michaels would probably retort that Simon later learned his lesson, but I don't totally buy that either.
21 April 2009
In nonfiction: Annette Gordon-Reed, THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO
In biography: Jon Meacham, AMERICAN LION: ANDREW JACKSON IN THE WHITE HOUSE
In poetry: W.S. Merwin, THE SHADOW OF SIRIUS
In general nonfiction (how is this different?): Douglas A. Blackmon, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME
In drama: Lynn Notage, RUINED
I'm 0 for 6 on these... anyone else?
Also, this week's sign of the apocalpyse (TM Sports Illustrated): Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the Mesa, AZ East Valley Tribune shared an award for best local reporting for a five-part story on a local sheriff's undue focus on immigration enforcement; Giblin has since been laid off as was metro editor Patti Epler who shepherded the project. The paper's publisher told Portfolio that she didn't think it diminished the prize at all. Hmmm.
20 April 2009
Anna Quindlen, IMAGINED LONDON
Started when: I was on the flight back from the Dominican Republic.
And why: Recommended by my madre.
Possible obstacle: Was hoping to use it for a different writing project, which is why I put it down in the first place, opting instead to finish a book I could leave on the plane guilt-free.
James Ellroy, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
Started when: I had just gotten back from the D.R.; this was one of the two books I brought and didn't read.
And why: I really liked THE BLACK DAHLIA and wanted to experience more Ellroy.
Possible obstacle: Ellroy's novel is less a procedural than a series of overlapping procedurals told from multiple characters' points of view. The longer I stay away from this on the harder it might be to get back into it.
Gerald Kolpan, ETTA
Started when: Right after I returned hme
And why: I was thinking about reviewing it. Upon reading some I felt it maybe wasn't a good fit, but was still sufficiently interested to keep reading.
Possible obstacle: The only hardcover in this bunch.
Janet Flanner, THE CUBICAL CITY
Started when: This past weekend.
And why: I was headed out on the town and swapped my usual carry-all for something smaller before realizing none of my books fit in it. What's that you say? Go out without a book? Please. I think we know each other better than that.
Possible obstacle: Its diminutive size could also work against it as, with room for only one book, I'd be more likely to take a more substantial one where there is room. Maybe I should just leave it in the handbag which required it.
Ted Conover, WHITEOUT: LOST IN ASPEN.
Started when: I can't remember.
And why: I took a college class in long-form writing in which we read an interview with Conover, a journalist who specializes in experiential writing where he goes undercover as a prison guard or rides the rails with hobos. For this one, he drove a cab in Aspen, which doesn't sound quite so rigorous, but I have been to Aspen several times and thought it might be interesting.
Possible obstacle: Not remembering what has happened in the book so far? I was only a chapter or two in, though, so it shouldn't be too hard to regain that ground.
19 April 2009
I was at home and working this week, but it felt like a vacation. With one of my sisters in town, my usually prosaic off hours became a mad dash to see and do things I either would never have thought of or had been putting off. I love being a tourist in my own town.
One of the places we stopped by was this park near the Hudson River whose name I didn't notice (and, somehow, can't find online) -- just one of those tiny corners of Manhattan I seem to forget about and suddenly rediscover. A policeman strolled the oval looking bored; across the lawn, a blond man and a curly-haired girl rehearsed some kind of scene with a coach in a white T-shirt. We were flush against the West Side Highway but it seemed preternaturally quiet inside, despite the pile of bikers in the grass and the older couple on the bench next to us. New Jersey looked on, placid.
I'm looking forward to coming back this summer, with a book, a friend, or both.
18 April 2009
17 April 2009
Deschanel's musical project She & Him is officially endorsed by Wormbook as a great soundtrack for reading (and other things).
So being named after Franny and Zooey, we wanted to know how many times you had read it. Once. Just once. Maybe twice.
Are you reading anything right now? Yeah, I'm constantly reading. I read like ten books at once, I'm like one of those people. I got one of those Kindle things. So awesome. The Kindle 2. I'm reading this book called "Under the Banner of Heaven."
Do you have trouble finishing books when you're reading ten at once? When I'm reading like five books at once, I feel like I never finish any of the five. Yep, that's a big problem. But I always have tons of scripts to read to so my fun reading is books and magazines.
Do you subscribe to any magazines? On my Kindle, I subscribe to The New Yorker.
Well, look at you. Well, look at me.
16 April 2009
As a potential graduation present, I wanted to recommend them some fictional books about college, which take place in college or somehow reflect the "college experience," but I'm coming up a little short. To appreciate a great academic satire like LUCKY JIM, they'll probably have to spend some time in a department or at least get to know some grad students, good and otherwise. Donna Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY is awesomely moody, and has twins in it to boot, but also a plot twist which would be inappropriate under the circumstances. And I was only in high school when I read JOE COLLEGE, so maybe it wasn't as stellar as I remembered.
All of this is to say that maybe the great American twenty-first-century liberal-arts college novel has not been written yet. Well, at least I'll know to whom to dedicate it. But I must be missing something! Got any great fictional books about college to praise?
15 April 2009
14 April 2009
--I probably like it better than any Jane Austen book, yeah--
--She digs HOUSE OF MIRTH, and ETHAN FROME too--you have read ETHAN FROME, right?
--You haven't read ETHAN FROME?
--Oh no. Oh man.
--Because I said "Yeah, she really likes ETHAN FROME too..."
--There goes my last chance. Now I have to read it and like it, or else.
--Easy for you to say. "You haven't read ETHAN FROME? Get out of my house!"
Okay readers, now it's your turn to either tell me why I will definitely like ETHAN FROME, because somebody backed me into a corner on this one, or confess the last book you pretended you'd read which you didn't. Don't worry, death is not really on the line.
13 April 2009
A TALE OF TWO CITIES -- Sure, it's supposed to be about the French Revolution, but the First Zombie Revolution has such a good ring to it! Peasants want representation in the government; zombies want to eat the other estates' delicious, cake-fattened brains.
OF MICE AND MEN -- It all makes sense now! Why would Lennie have to be contained? What made him different from everybody else? Clearly John Steinbeck's past as a zombie hunter in pre-Depression California has yet to be explored in depth.
BEOWULF -- Note to self: Rent 2007 Robert Zemeckis adaptation to find out if zombies have already been added. Unable to discern from online screenshots.
THE SCARLET LETTER -- It's a little creepy how the tiny Puritan town moves in such lockstep with its leaders. It's like none of them remember what it's like to be human and fallible. Maybe they don't...
JANE EYRE -- Would she still fall in love with Mr. Rochester if he was (spoiler) a zombie instead of blind? Wait, yes she would. Boring. But girls will go for it.
11 April 2009
Romance readers have always tended to buy in much higher volumes than people who read other genres like literary fiction. So even though some romance readers may be cutting back — Sue Grimshaw, the romance buyer at Borders, says people are buying four or five instead of five or six books a week — they are still buying more than readers of other book categories.Five books a week? Oh look, we just found the people who are keeping the lights on in book publishing.
10 April 2009
Now in the cultivation of the mind one of the most important factors is precisely the feeling of strain, of difficulty, of a task which one part of you is anxious to achieve and another part of you is anxious to shirk; and that feeling cannot be got in facing a novel. You do not set your teeth in order to read 'Anna Karenina.'"
--Arnold Bennett, HOW TO LIVE ON 24 HOURS A DAY
09 April 2009
Because Quirk Publishing assures these folks that they will be watching, I should specify that I did not ask for, nor was I offered a copy of P&P&Z (as I have just decided it shall be abbreviated). And embargoes, as old-world as they seem in this case, can mean big money for publishers. Breaking them is not just a new-media thing: did Scholastic freeze Michiko Kakutani out when she famously got hold of a copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS and published a full review of it before the street date?* But in this case it sounds like Quirk got a little indignant about the standards of the online buzz machine it was trying to court at the same time. I assume there was some egregious violation which prompted such a stinger, but I can't find it.
The simplest solution would have been the best: If you don't want people writing about your free books ahead of time, don't give them out ahead of time. I highly doubt Quirk would have gotten the brush-off had P&P&Z arrived on bloggers' doorsteps precisely on March 31. For longer-lead publications, send 'em out earlier. If, by chance, a blogger had walked into the store on March 25, the day the book went on sale, bought a copy and went home to write about it... well, that would be his or her right.
That said, I am still looking forward to P&P&Z. How can I not? Zombies, folks.
*Actually, I don't know the answer to this question; I just assume it wouldn't happen.
08 April 2009
Do you believe I will rave about or pan Zoe Heller's THE BELIEVERS? Find out this evening.
Tune in ~7:15PM EDT (4:15PM PDT, 1:15PM Anna Time) on WEBR (and available through your TV) for D.C./Virginia/ Maryland locals
Everyone else: Listen online.
If you've read THE BELIEVERS and want to air your grievances live on "Talk of the Town," don't forget you can call in to the show live at (571) 334-9189.
And yes, I know there were technical issues last show -- sorry if you tuned in for naught! I feel confident we've got that all ironed out now, though.
British cover of THE BELIEVERS (love!): fantasticfiction.co.uk
07 April 2009
06 April 2009
Alternately, if you feel like you haven't accomplished anything in life and may not accomplish anything, it makes an excellent tool of self-flagellation.
05 April 2009
04 April 2009
[Times writer Mark McDonald] They cut out the gay, tattooed, cocaine-snorting priest with a leather fetish who dies in a murder-suicide with another priest. They changed a lot.I liked "Slumdog Millionaire," but now I will always be waiting for the "Satan's Alley" section.
03 April 2009
02 April 2009
I haven't read the Ogawa book yet but Picador is one of the first imprints I ever knew by name because they published paperback editions of two books I remember very vividly from my teen years, Brian Hall's THE SASKIAD and Kate Atkinson's BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE MUSEUM (specifically this cover design). I can't totally recommend them given that I haven't read either since the late '90s, but THE SASKIAD was one of my favorite favorite books when I was 12, and reading them and their slightly racy moments made me feel like I was getting away with something. See kids, back in the day, we didn't have YA like they have now; it was SWEET VALLEY UNIVERSITY and Christopher Pike, or Real Grownup Books. I was going to call this the B.S.M. (Before Stephenie Meyer) era, but it wasn't TWILIGHT which caused YA literature to catch on like a house afire... but what was it?
01 April 2009
Not that I really fooled anyone last year, but check out my post on books about worms. Elsewhere, check out Improv Everywhere's inappropriate mission, ThinkGeek's amazing new product and the Justice Department getting their jollies. Note: One of these links leads to a true story.
Mooched 3 books
Got 4 from the library
Received 4 books for my birthday
Got 13 books to review
Bought 3 books, 2 of which for review projects (still!)
Borrowed 5 books on vacation
Borrowed 1 when I got back
33 books in
Donated 3 books to Small Thrift Store
Returned 5 to the library
Gave away 7 books
Left 9 books on vacation
24 books out
This month I'm going to try not to buy any books except for book club, something which is unavoidable when the book in question has a long wait at the library. I'm thinking it's time to filter out those Bookmooch e-mails too. Beyond that, though, I need to seriously edit my to-read shelf. At least I solved my library problem, but that isn't helping much overall.