31 January 2010

Idle chatter

  • I was all set to cheer for this poll in which Americans ranked books as their top indulgence (ahead of dining out, shopping, vacation and movies)... until I noticed it was conducted by Harlequin. Sneaks.
  • If you get an e-mail from Don DeLillo, it's probably spam. Also, this is the second high-profile author interview from the Wall Street Journal I've linked to recently (McCarthy was the last -- also an unwilling interviewee). What does Rupert have on these dudes? It must be good!
  • "Nothing is more frightening than 9th graders jeering '4 legs good, 2 legs bad' over and over again." Teachers on their favorite and least favorite books to teach.
  • The National Book Critics Circle (of which I am a member) recently announced its 2009 award nominees, but one winner to note: Joyce Carol Oates is picking up a lifetime achievement award, which is not a set-up because I recently read that JCO has been unable to write since her husband died in 2008. That is just damn sad. (Also, am jerk.) So, congrats on the award, and sorry for your loss.

30 January 2010

Amazon the publisher? Not quite.

Book publishers have feared Amazon would further cut into their business for years. But the truth is Ian McEwan didn't sign a deal with the site for exclusive e-book rights, as this article clearly wants you to believe -- he went to an indie e-book publisher who then turned around and got Amazon to double the royalties he was getting through his publisher on five titles (see which ones here). Still, it's a big deal because McEwan probably sought similarly favorable terms from his current publisher and wasn't able.

I'm not sure how this affects e-book versions of those five titles already on the market (if there were?), but I suspect it's easier to get this kind of deal if your book came out more than 10 years ago and has no mention of electronic publishing in its contract; the newest McEwan up for grabs in this lot is 1987's THE CHILD IN TIME. I didn't know that authors commonly get 25 percent on e-books, but as is pointed out in the London Times, publishers' overhead costs are much lower on those seeing as there's no there there.

I'd love to see a paper contrasting current e-book practices within publishing with the Jay-Z/ Live Nation deal of 2008, but I'd probably have to write it myself.

29 January 2010

On my library fines

In a recent episode of "Medium," a show I was surprised to discover is still on, Patricia Arquette's middle daughter discovers that the stack of overdue library books mouldering away in her closet has sent her account into collections. Since she now owes full retail price on them, adding up to over $90, she starts working at the library part-time to make up her fines by shelving books for the mean librarian.

I have worked at a library, although not for this reason. But the truth is I too am a library debtor. I currently owe $11.50 to the New York Public Library, dating back to around last March, which is odd because I thought that the rule was you could only rack up $5 in fines or carry a fine for 6 months before you would be prevented from checking out books. They must have changed this policy, possibly in deference to the current economic climate, but I can't blame the recession for my inability to pay these. Wouldn't be fair.

How did I rack those up in the first place? Returning books late, in one case more than a week late (I'll get to that in a second). Sometimes if I'm almost finished with a book I'll keep it out a few days till I finish. Especially if books are due in the middle of the week, sometimes it's hard to remember to get to a branch before it closes. That's no excuse either, but the last $1.50 I have an excuse for: I waited to drop off my books before I went home for the holidays until the Sunday before, only to find when I arrived at the Mid-Manhattan that it was closed due to the snowstorm we had just had. One of those books was due very soon and I couldn't renew it, so it sat in my apartment racking up fines till I got back.

And why haven't I paid them off? Also a stupid reason: I never seem to have the correct change when I go to the library. If I have my wallet with me, chances are I've only withdrawn cash enough for another errand and the library falls to the bottom of the list.

I feel a little ashamed writing this, which I guess is sort of the point. I'm not fiscally angelic but I would never let another bill go late, much less this late. I'll put the cash aside and do it this weekend. New goal: try to keep 2010 library debt free.

28 January 2010

Breaking: RIP J.D. Salinger, 91

The Garbo of letters, says the New York Times; TIME calls him a hermit crab. The Onion: "Bunch of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger."

Books and the iPad

What will Apple's new touchscreen tablet computer do for e-books? Flavorwire has some information and speculation, along with the crucial question, "Seriously, we're all really gonna call it that?"

I'm not burning to rush out and buy one; not only do I already have a computer that works just fine, I don't do well with touchscreens. I thought about getting an iPhone but typing on that tiny screen I felt like a chimp trying to fly a helicopter. Still, I definitely would like to try one.

Two articles about things more important than the Apple toy of the week: GOOD Magazine's Haiti reading list and (I'll get through it eventually!) the Times Magazine's profile of James Patterson.

27 January 2010

Filmbook-to-Be: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010?)

Back in October it was announced that the Swedish adaptation of the first volume of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy would be released in the U.S. after speculation that only the inevitable Hollywood remake would hit screens here. Here's the subtitled but NSFW trailer:

It opens March 12 (great day to debut) March 19 (thanks for ruining my joke, film industry) in New York and Los Angeles.

Regarding the inevitable adaptation, listed on IMDb with a 2012 release, a fun game to play with people who have read the book is to mock-cast its leads. None of these are spoilers but if you hate thinking of actors while reading, don't go on to the next paragraph.

I can see Keira Knightley in her "I'm going to get a bad haircut and do stunts in order to win an Oscar" capacity as Lisbeth Salander. (I would also be interested to see what Kristen Stewart would do there; aside from this whole vampire business, I think the kid can act.) Blomkvist is harder and if I had my druthers I'd get in a time machine and pick up 1980s William Hurt for the part, but I don't have my druthers (or a time machine). My dad suggested Liam Neeson, which was a stroke of genius considering he hasn't even read it yet. The flip side of this game is coming up with the worst possible cast, for which I've got down Kevin Spacey as Blomkvist and Hilary Duff as Lisbeth Salander. Dare you do worse?

26 January 2010

This modern love breaks me

Last year this blog breathlessly reported that Neil Gaiman and half of the former Dresden Dolls were an item. They're engaged now. Congrats!

As it is the 21st century, she tweeted about how weird it was to say the word "wife" while looking in a mirror; he tweeted pictures of her in a see-through dress with no bra on on the red carpet at the Golden Globes.

25 January 2010

That was after the Internet called his house 20 times and hung up

Joshua Ferris (whose second novel THE UNNAMED came out last week) recently recommended some "on the road" books in a piece on Goodreads. But it's not clear why they decided to name the article in question "'In Bed' With Joshua Ferris."

Discussing Ferris' first novel THEN WE CAME TO THE END with The AV Club this week won't secure you a place in his affections, but we may have some elbow room in ours. The live chat is Thursday at 3:30 CST/4:30 EST.

Ferris is also on book tour right now, including stops in Philly, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles; check his website for details.

FTC cover-assery: I got a free copy of THE UNNAMED.

24 January 2010

Cristina Nehring's Bad Romance

I know, I know, I've been meaning to write about this book for a few weeks now now; it even snuck into my best nonfiction of last year. I can only plead distraction by the rest of life, a forecast likely to continue into this week. But I still wanted to make my point on A VINDICATION OF LOVE, so I will. And if you make it all the way through this I've stuck on a preview of coming attractions so you can see I haven't forgotten you. That's right, I'm my own hype man. Well, someone's got to do it.

I picked this book up because of a Wall Street Journal review that made me skeptical about its premise but intrigued about its argument. Nehring's thesis is that we smart and savvy 21st-century citizens have overrated compatibility and stability in seeking relationships, turning love into "an organized adult activity with safety rails on the left and right, rubber ceilings, no-skid floors and a clear, clean destination." Instead, she advocates a little turmoil in love, drawing examples from both fictional characters ("Antony and Cleopatra" as Shakespeare's only play about adult love) and creative women in the past 200 years (Emily Dickinson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Frida Kahlo).

Can I say that this book was successful if it failed to convince me of its point? I suppose from the author's perspective I can't, but even though I disagreed with most of it, it gave me a lot to think about and I enjoyed reading it much more than I expected to from the introduction. In fact, I'm sort of still thinking about it. This book made the term "intellectual page-turner" seem like not such an oxymoron and I love that. So if you get cramped-up and eye-rolly over the introduction, keep reading, it gets much better.

The Journal review focused on how feminism had negatively contributed to this conception of love, which is slightly misleading because Nehring definitely doesn't blame feminism and doesn't spend all that much time addressing it directly. (Sometimes I forget the Journal's ideological bent -- and then I am reminded.) Instead, she considers it more of a cultural shift, into which rising social equality for women may have contributed but isn't a cause. She suggests otherwise equal relationships have room for the perceived imbalance that heightens romantic love, quoting author Siri Hustvedt on how she feels differently about her husband (also a writer) when watching him address a large crowd than when he's doing chores around the house. This imbalance can come from awe, from separation or distance, from engagement on planes other than the purely emotional -- a variety of sources, most of which get their own chapter.

Nehring uses female writers and artists to show how romantic instability enriched their lives, and while I disagree that those details have been neglected in other biographies, as she claims, these are not passive lovers. And to that point, her takedown of HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, mocking its glorification of control through not doing anything, may be one of my favorite parts of the book.

It's not surprising at all that a book that draws on literature and literary figures for its examples would be so captivating to me, but what I also hadn't expected from other reviews and coverage was its scholarly bent. When I mentioned on Twitter that I was starting this book, one of my tweeps said the book's takeaway was that the author must be very difficult to date. I wouldn't know because at no point does Nehring use her own experience to justify her theory. In fact, some reviewers have decided to parse her acknowledgments section to make conclusions about her love life. Is it sexist of me, to assume that she would use her own life as proof in this post-EAT, PRAY, LOVE world? I think it was a sexist expectation, and I regret that, but it's also a shrewd editorial choice because it would allow the book to be more easily written off by its detractors as... well, another Gilbert remix.

And this isn't a self-help book, either; nowhere does the author say "Here is how you add more drama to your love life." (No one deserves to end up like Heloise and Abelard, am I right, non-cloistered ladies and non-castrated gentlemen?) She instead suggests that some of the factors considered needing to be ironed out for a relationship to be successful don't have to be -- and on that point at least we are agreed.

Some things you can expect to read about on Wormbook in the next two weeks:
  • First impressions of the Kindle
  • How much I have in library fines (it might surprise you!)
  • Plus reviews of SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT, THE LOST SYMBOL and, speaking of eating, praying and loving, Elizabeth Gilbert's second book COMMITTED

23 January 2010

The Terrible, Horrible Temp-To-Perm Debacle

The description of this adult choose-your-own-adventure book made me laugh out loud:

You, the reader get to be the main character in an exciting tale of blackmail and corporate espionage. You’re an alcoholic temp with a dream of one day being a celebrated novelist. Unfortunately, you drink too much. When you wake up from a blackout, you discover you’ve been framed for murder. Someone wants you to take a permanent job, and he’s ready to blackmail you into doing it. What will you do? Will you turn yourself over to the cops and write a memoir about being wrongly imprisoned? Will you go perm and enjoy the benefits of health care? Or will you escape into the sewers and live with the Mole People? The choice is yours!

It's part of a series, the first book carrying the also-quite-funny title YOU ARE A MISERABLE EXCUSE FOR A HERO.

22 January 2010

Times in 2011: Pay Up!

Not book-specific, but since I link to them constantly, the New York Times announced this week that it will begin charging readers for access to its website in 2011, giving visitors a limited number of articles to read for free before locking up. Of course we all remember the Times instituted a paywall for some of its content under the name "TimesSelect" a few years ago and that was widely regarded as a failure, but maybe it didn't fail big enough?

I think it's a bad idea but I would probably pay, not so much for news as that for features and reporting, I have not found anything close. Obviously I read the headlines every morning and have since before I moved here, but that's not all of it. The Times can make me care about laundromat regulars in Brooklyn and an orchestra strike in Cleveland and what kinds of dogs are bad for running with and the origins of the term "guido" and... you get the picture. Even when I'm making fun of the Paper of Record, it's still Of Record.

I guess the folks in charge are banking on the fact that people like me will grudgingly fork over when the time comes. And then there's the question of how much the decision makers at the Times believe access to be worth, versus how much consumers are willing to pay. I don't pay for any other subscription sites like Salon, so that's a leap for me. (Hulu is going through this process as well, and it's difficult to say which will occasion the greater hue and cry when it starts collecting. Just kidding, it's totally going to be Hulu. Chris Anderson would say, Free wants to stay home from work and watch "High School High" and "Beverly Hills Cop III," proving that Free has bad taste in junk film.)

At the same time, if I'm behind the pay wall and you're not, how can we have a conversation about the content of the paper? If I send you an article and you've exceeded your quota, do I have to settle for describing the article to you. Or do I screencap it and send it to you anyway... ahem. As one could potentially do. That's where I think this decision verges on the illogical -- we're not making enough online ad revenue off our stories, so the solution is to ensure even fewer readers see them? But I'm not privy to their financials so maybe this works on paper. (No pun intended.)

Would you consider paying to read the Times if you don't already?

21 January 2010

What do you get when you mash up author names and band names?

20 January 2010

Blame it on the raven

The mysterious visitor who leaves roses and cognac at Edgar Allen Poe's grave on his birthday failed to show last night for the first time in 60 years. (What, Elizabeth, were you busy?) On the bright side, one of the few dozen people who came out to see the so-called "Poe toaster" could be ready to assume the mantle.

The article notes that Poe died in Baltimore at 40 "after collapsing in a tavern," which may be true but is kind of disrespectful. I mean, did they have to point out it was a tavern? His death is further complicated by the fact that his rival Rufus Griswold wrote a lot of posthumous biographical material on him that played up his bad behavior. The University of Maryland re-opened Poe's hospital file in the '90s and, noting that he did not have alcohol in his system when admitted, concluded that he might have had rabies.

19 January 2010

Seen reading at work

I've been working with E.D. on and off for several months and I only just learned she's fluent in Turkish. Awesome!

Şafak is a best-selling writer in Turkey although she was born in France and has also written a few books in English. This novel, which will be published in English in February as THE FORTY RULES OF LOVE, draws parallels between a romance in contemporary Amsterdam and the life of the Persian poet Rumi.

Book cover: gittigidiyor.com

18 January 2010

"Fearfully waiting for the sun to rise"

Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat tells NPR she has not been able to reach most of her family in Haiti after last week's earthquake. The president of Haiti's chapter of the international writers' organization PEN and his wife are among the estimated 140,000 killed by the quake so far.

17 January 2010

There'll be time for trash talking later

The Morning News has posted the shortlist for its 2010 Tournament of Books, in which literary judges (and, curiously, Andrew W.K.) are assigned pairings of books published in the past year and asked to choose winners. Readers at home can vote for a "Zombie" that will return in the semi-finals to challenge anew. Here's the longlist as well if you're feeling ambitious.

Ironically, I think I did worse on my picks for this bracket last year than on my NCAA March Madness bracket. The less you know...

16 January 2010

NYC: INFINITE JEST-inspired art exhibit

The LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia is putting on an exhibit of works based on the filmography of James O. Incandenza. And if you've read the book you know how holy wow cool this is. (For non-Jesters, it's like a real-life MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK.) Opens January 29th, and if you like, I can recommend you a good place to eat in the neighborhood.

15 January 2010

Vendela Vida, when can I see ya

Fun Friday! Via Galleycat: The Brooklyn band Dinosaur Feathers has written a song name-checking Vendela Vida, novelist, screenwriter, Believer editor and spouse of Dave Eggers. She should be relieved, it's pretty catchy with a sort of samba beat. And look, I just blew my entire BHD allowance in two sentences and a title!

She doesn't appear to have a website, but a quick search reveals Vida's third novel THE LOVERS is due out in June.

14 January 2010

Math rules!

From the dramatic side of life: The Playgoer has a list of the top 10 most produced plays of the past decade, and David Auburn's "Proof" is tops in a sprint. I saw "Proof" in the past decade (at Trinity Rep in Providence) and really liked it, but I haven't heard of a few of these. I'm inclined to buy the Playgoer's theory about why "The Glass Menagerie" gets produced over other, better Tennessee Williams plays, but a little shocked that it's the only "classic" up there.

13 January 2010

Via Tara on Twitter, Quirk Books has announced its follow-up to SENSE & SENSIBILITY & SEA MONSTERS, and it's not Austen: It's Leo Tolstoy's ANDROID KARENINA, a much longer book than the first two to receive the classic mash-up treatment (and one of my favorites, at least in its historic form).

Co-author Ben H. Winters will be speaking on a panel at the Morgan Library here in New York on the 26th about adapting Jane Austen. From poking around on Quirk's website, I also learned that Natalie Portman has signed to star in and produce the P&P&Z movie adaptation; her co-producer told Variety the book "lends a modern sense of urgency to a well known love story."

12 January 2010

All that you can't leave behind

Fellow ink-stained wretch and alum of best school ever Sonia alerted me to two articles in the Times that fit in well with an ongoing discussion on this blog, "Books You Can Live Without" and "Books to Live By." In the first, authors share their secrets for maintaining their collections -- at least the ones who will admit to giving away any books at all. In the second, commenters share the one or two books they wouldn't give up for love or money.

A few thoughts:
  • Most of the authors approached this question practically and metaphysically, with the exceptions of Fred Bass of the Strand (all practical) and Joshua Ferris (all metaphysical). The former end suits if you run a giant used bookstore; as for the latter, it must be hard to take a principled stand against discarding any, but I too have fallen prey to the "addiction of good intentions."
  • The closest I ever came to narrowing down my library to essentials was probably when I studied abroad -- but that was a false cull: I was only giving up my library for six months, making the separation slightly easier.
  • To the commenter who asked if anyone had felt euphoria while reading: Yes, you are not alone.
  • Do you own any books you aren't re-reading (or have no plans to re-read), but can't bear to give away? Reference books don't count.
  • Also, discuss:
"Is a gentleman’s library of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves anything more than a vanity? Now if I can just get rid of all the mirrors in the house." --Billy Collins

11 January 2010

Goodreads Choice Awards

The YA dystopian sequel CATCHING FIRE won the first annual Goodreads Choice Awards. The third book in former Nickelodeon writer Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series is due out in August this year, and I hear good things from literary quarters about the first two.

Top fiction and nonfiction honors went to book club favorite Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP and Dave Cullen's COLUMBINE. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES lost in its category by 13 votes to one of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels, but at least one book I voted for won: Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE smacked down Dan Brown to take first in the mystery/thriller category.

If you don't use Goodreads already, it's really fun to play around with either to make pithy comments or longer reviews on what you're reading. A neat feature I never use any more but should is the ability to order your to-read list according to which books you're going to read right away, and which can wait a while. Ideal for the short attention span! If you're on already, let's be friends.

10 January 2010

Jokes About Zombies And Their Relation To The Unconscious

Great news! With the new year Sigmund Freud's body of work has now passed into the public domain, so if you can think of a Freud parody that hasn't already been done, you are now free from legal action on it.

Other authors in the class of '10: W.B. Yeats and Ford Madox Ford.

Slippers (get it?): Unemployed Philosophers Guild

09 January 2010

NYC: A bookstore that delivers

I can't decide if this is genius or the act of dirty enablers: If you order a book from McNally Jackson in SoHo by 3PM and it's in stock, and you happen to live in the neighborhood, they will bring it by on a bike before 5.

Now granted, Barnes and Noble already offers this, and Amazon's trying to, but I bet the McNally J. delivery person is much more charming -- I'm seeing a trailing scarf and one of those baskets with plastic flowers on the front -- and probably won't just stick the door tag on and leave without ringing the bell, FEDEX. Too bad I'm not in the neighborhood!

08 January 2010

I am thinking of Achilles' grief, he said. That famous, terrible, grief. Let me tell you boys something. Such grief can only be told in form. Maybe it only really exists in form. Form is everything. Without it you've got nothing but a stubbed-toe cry -- sincere, maybe, for what that's worth, but with no depth or carry. No echo. You may have a grievance but you do not have grief, and grievances are for petitions, not poetry.
--Robert Frost as a character in Tobias Wolff's novel OLD SCHOOL

07 January 2010

As long as we're on matters of security

If you're trying to come up with a name with positive literary connotations for your new data protection software, is your best option really Grendel?

First in-flight book ban takes effect

And so it begins: Transport Canada has banned carry-ons for U.S.-bound passengers citing "pressures at the security checkpoint" related to the attempted Underbomber. Passengers can carry on medication, coats and laptops, but have to check books and magazines, although if they wanted they could buy new ones after clearing security.

There's usually something worth reading in your average airport bookstore, but I wouldn't want to have to rely on that, especially since I like to plan what I'm reading in advance. But who would've thought this would start with Canada, the international equivalent of that girl in your high school class who is popular because she's actually nice to everybody?* And the caveat about being able to carry on what you buy in the terminal is reminiscent of the liquids ban, in a bad way. And unlike with liquids or shoes, no plot has surfaced so far suggesting terrorists were going to use books in any attack. (Judging by past practices, the TSA should be banning underwear right now. I'm not saying they will or that it's a good idea, but the record is there.)

The regulations, which began Dec. 28, will be in place "until further notice" according to a Jan. 4 press release. They're also offering pat-downs, in case you didn't get your relative hug quota over the holidays. And by offering I mean requiring.

*The U.S. in this analogy being the guy or girl who is the subject (possibly the source) of rumors every summer that s/he won't be coming back, only to surprise everyone in September by failing to move to Europe, get arrested or enroll in boarding school.

06 January 2010

Filmbook: Adaptation Grab Bag

Movies, I saw movies:

"Sherlock Holmes" (2009) -- Exquisite set design, extra-loud punches, jaunty hats and people running away from explosions. This movie was silly, but fun, and probably won't damage the Holmes legend forever, although it's true what they say: Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. have more chemistry with each other as long-time partners in detection than with their respective female counterparts.

"The Informant!" (2009) -- Great Matt Damon performance around a solid movie in which he plays a naïf caught up in an international corporate scandal (or is he?). It runs a bit long but I was with it the whole time because it has a very carefree, almost idiosyncratically cheerful tone. Melanie Lynskey is very good as Damon's wife, capping a year of small scene-stealing parts (see also "Away We Go" and "Up In The Air"). Also, a great "Hey! It's That Guy!" movie, especially if you like comedians.

"The Lovely Bones" (2009) -- It's been so long since I read this book I'm not reliable on how much was changed, but this movie is part Hallmark and part horror and it's a mighty uneasy mix. (The last trailer I saw shaped it into a Mark-Wahlberg-avenging-dad movie, and it is very little of that.) One juxtaposition in particular made my skin crawl even as I felt I was supposed to be moved by it. But Saoirse Ronan is terrific as Susie -- a little older and she would be a Best Actress shoo-in. Can't imagine ever sitting through this one again, but it's great to look at; the visuals of "the in-between" are more wow-inducing than "Avatar," while Earth is shot in the same lovely-scary palette as "Little Children."

05 January 2010

Join an online book club this year!

The A.V. Club's Wrapped Up In Books kicks the year off with Joshua Ferris' THEN WE CAME TO THE END, a book I'm looking forward to re-reading. Discussion starts January 25. The next two books are Patrick O'Brian's MASTER AND COMMANDER and Stephen Dobyns' THE WRESTLER'S CRUEL STUDY.

The organization FKA Infinite Summer pledged to spend a few months on the long road of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, although no official schedule has been posted yet. (ETA: The blog BolañoBolaño.com has forged ahead with a schedule, planning to start Jan. 25.) Hopefully after reading it I will be able to answer why it's called 2666, as I was unable to when I unwrapped it Christmas morning. ("Uh... maybe part of it is in the future? Or it's a statistic? Why don't you go play with Penguin Race?")

Common Sense Dancing's new pick is Mark Helprin's WINTER'S TALE, starting Feb. 1. I'm not that familiar with Helprin -- failed to get through the first hundred pages of FREDDY AND FREDERICKA -- but this one comes well recommended and is set in New York City.

04 January 2010

Should auld unbookening be forgot

Note: As last year I didn't count any books I bought as presents since they went straight back again.

Checked 11 out from the library
Received 10 for Christmas
Bought 1 (ugh. Long story.)
Brought 1 back from home
Got 5 to review
28 in

Returned 13 to the library
Donated 3
Returned 15 home
Lent 1
32 out

03 January 2010

Of new houses and old men

They say it’s a natural part of becoming an adult, when you start to realize — gradually — that the house where you grew up isn’t where you live anymore. You begin to understand that the phrase “childhood home” actually means the place where people tried their best to prepare you for your own life.

Some children take it gracefully. Others, like Jonathan Franzen, write thinly veiled autobiographical novels excoriating their parents.

“Do me a favor,” I pleaded, “don’t read ‘The Corrections’ until you give the new house a chance.”
--Michelle Slatalla has a little fun at Mr. Franzen's expense as she breaks it to her college-age daughters that they're moving to a new house. I'll say this, my parents still live in my childhood home and I'm pretty attached to the place. They just became empty nesters, so this topic is definitely in the air, but if their moving caused me to write something a tenth as good as THE CORRECTIONS... it might be worth it. Good thing they don't read here, or else they could be packing by the end of this sentence.

Unfortunately this is only my second-favorite literary scene from this weekend's New York Times, prize going to this sentence from a Katie Roiphe essay:
After reading a sex scene in Philip Roth’s latest novel, “The Humbling,” someone I know threw the book into the trash on a subway platform.
Sorry, she did what? I haven't read THE HUMBLING yet. I don't know whether it's good. Some Roth I liked and some I didn't. But we do not throw away books. At least you could donate it! Or pass it off to a BHD on a Brooklyn-bound train. Or sell it at the Strand and buy something less personally offensive.

There are jaw-droppers aplenty in the rest of the essay, which is about sex and the male American novelist then and now, but I never got over that anecdote. If she can afford to throw away a hardcover why is she taking the subway in the first place? She could take a cab... or perhaps a magical money-eating winged chariot. I hope Roiphe had to provide the name of this "someone [she] know[s]" for a fact-checker who called her up and said, "Did you, Janeane Q. Public, really throw a Philip Roth book away on a subway platform? Really?" And then that fact-checker hung up, slammed his forehead down on his desk several times, and went back to trying to verify that Antonin Scalia is shocked that not everyone likes him.

02 January 2010

New Year's Reading Resolutions

Here were my resolutions for the past year:
1. Read Richard Yates' other novels, since I loved REVOLUTIONARY ROAD so much in 2008. Whoops. I read one of his novels, COLD SPRING HARBOR, but didn't like it.

2. Continue the Unbookening: going through the books I already own and haven't read, reading them, and trying to get rid of some before I buy more. Hooray, I did this. Except for March and April I was either even or gave away more than I got, which is better than last year.

3. Read one Modern Library list book a month. Oops. I read three -- HOWARDS END, OF HUMAN BONDAGE and APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA -- and started WOMEN IN LOVE.
Oh well. New year, new raised expectations:

1. Finish the SANDMAN series. I've read two of the volumes, which means I have eight left, but they're quick reads.

2. Keep Unbookening. I thought about this a lot when I was at home over the holiday but I'll save the proselytizing for later.

3. Summer project: Read some more David Foster Wallace (first novel, three story collections, two essay collections) before THE PALE KING comes out. My best intel right now is that THE PALE KING will be out not this year, but in April '11; still, I think this would be fun. This is just a placeholder till I figure out what I actually want to do.

4. Read all the Modern Library books I currently own -- I haven't counted, but I believe there are 8.

Do you make resolutions about what you want to read in the coming year? Have one you want to share?

01 January 2010

I Raise A Glass To You All

I rang in 2010 at a bar named for a poet. Even when I don't look for this stuff, it finds me! Happy New Year to you; let's talk about reading-related resolutions tomorrow.

(Since I practice Safe Internet you can freely assume I am no longer at that bar, if you sleuths can figure out what it is. Also, did I bring a book for the long, cold subway ride home? It's possible.)