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Archive: Books

Listening to Fiction

By JK Evanczuk on Thursday, January 28, 2010 - Comments Off

on the radioI have a “like/apathetic” relationship with books on tape, short story podcasts, etc (my feelings about them aren’t quite strong enough to reach the “love/hate” stage). I’m fond of listening to short stories read by their authors, or those accompanying an interesting discussion/analysis. I’m not fond of listening to short stories read by people who mumble, or by people who so overact that you end up paying more attention to the acting and less to the actual words.

But even if the book on tape/podcast/etc is perfectly put together, and even if I can get myself to focus enough so as to keep up with the story, for me, the aural short story just can’t compete with the physical and cognitive experience of holding a book in your hands and seeing the words on paper.

The fact that I (and I’m guessing, many other people as well) tend to prefer reading text than listening to it is somewhat ironic, seeing as it’s the oral tradition that came first. Then again, the stories told thousands of years ago are pretty different from today’s stories, aren’t they? Compared to the epic tales of yesteryear told by master storytellers, many of today’s short stories are big on prose and nuance, which I don’t think translate quite as well to the oral form.

Which is not to say today’s stories are not worth listening to. Read more »

More: Books, Radio

Winter Reading for the Cast of Jersey Shore, If They Actually Read

By Toby Shuster on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - Comments Off

p>mtvNow that the first season of MTV’s Jersey Shore is over, the cast members will have some free time on their hands. The following is a list of book recommendations for the guidos and guidettes to digest in between their gelling, juicing, and tanning.

Read more »

Are Zombies Bringing Austen Back to Her Roots?

By Tracy Marchini on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - Comments Off

Laura Miller’s piece in Salon last week touched upon our continued interest in reinventing Jane Austen into what most pleases ourselves. Given the ridiculous success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and multiple vampire books*, there’s been much talk about whether Jane Austen herself would be rolling in her grave, or perhaps amused to see her stories with “ultra violent zombie mayhem.”

pride_prejudice_zombies1w11

I can’t help but wonder though, if we’ve unconsciously brought Jane Austen full-circle. Though Austen never wrote about zombies, her juvenilia is full of scandal — carriage chases, divorce, murder and other mayhem, without always punishing the offending character. (Though this may not sound very scandalous to us, but in Victorian England this was extremely shocking, and to protect her reputation, Austen’s juvenilia was not published by the family until over 100 years later.)

But much like the spirit behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Austen’s humor is tongue-in-cheek, and at 14 she’s already noticed the inordinate number of women who faint in the novels of her time. In Love and Freindship[sic], written when Austen was still a teenager, she writes, Read more »

More: Books

Why I Love Crappy Books

By JK Evanczuk on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - Comments Off
"The Da Vinci Code" actually translates to "The Of Vinci Code." Which makes no sense. Score one for Dan Brown.

"The Da Vinci Code" actually translates to "The Of Vinci Code." Which makes no sense. Score one for Dan Brown.

Because they’re just as useful, if not more so, than good books in learning how to write well. See also: How To Write Badly Well.

Because, even if you can’t actually learn anything about writing from them, they can still be a boon to your self-esteem as a writer by comparison.

Because they can (sometimes) be unabashedly guilty pleasures. See also: the Twilight series, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Notebook, anything by Dan Brown.

Because they can be a wonderful source of unintentional humor. See also: Dan Brown’s 20 Worst sentences. This made me laugh for about twenty minutes: Read more »

More: Books

I’m Not Allowed to Love Book Covers, But I Do

By Tanya Paperny on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - Comments Off

So, judging a book by its cover is like cardinal sin numero uno, right?  We’re in an era when people often find books NOT because of their quality but because they have a pretty cover or they have a long enough title that it matches one of their google search terms. So I should be fighting against the valorization of pretty book covers, right?

Yipes, wrong, I guess.  My design nerdery means that I actually love to browse all the book covers in the bookstore.  I did some graphic design in college and led my own campaign against ugly flyers. That’s how seriously I take design.  This love of all things pretty, well-designed, well-composed, with nice typography means that I’m totally digging this list of the best book covers from 2009 from The Book Design Review blog.  My favorites from the list below the fold:

Read more »

When a Character Becomes So Popular Even His Author Is Jealous

By JK Evanczuk on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 - Comments Off

Introducing...Steampunk Fight Club--er I mean Sherlock Holmes the movie.It’s a rare–and highly interesting–phenomenon when the success of a character overwhelms even its creator.

A. A. Milne found Winnie the Pooh’s popularity a source of profound annoyance. Despite his credentials as an established author and playwright, few took his “adult” work seriously after the success of Pooh.

J. M. Barrie had the same troubles with Peter Pan, who entirely overshadowed Barrie’s other works, past and future.

Better-known are the woes of Arthur Conan Doyle. The writer absolutely hated Sherlock Holmes, whom Conan Doyle believed was distracting him from his more important literary pursuits. So plagued by the stature of his own creation, Conan Doyle resorted to throwing Holmes off a cliff in 1893. Public demand and financial need prompted Conan Doyle to revive the famous detective a decade later. The detective has not died since. Read more »

Little House on the Prairie, 75 Years Later

By Toby Shuster on Monday, January 11, 2010 - Comments Off

LHMainTitleIt’s enjoyable to reread classic pieces of literature once every few years to garner a deeper understanding of the work.  But it’s not always a Brothers Karamazov kind of day.  So sometimes I like to go back to the childhood classics.  And by revisiting once beloved texts with a different set of sensibilities, we can decide for ourselves if the things we loved as kids have held up.

Last December, I spent a few days in the feminine utopia of Little Women. This year, I tried Little House on the Prairie, the 1935 children’s book about a pioneer family’s westward expedition.  I remembered the elemental aspects of Ma and Pa’s wisdom, a covered wagon, and cornmeal mush, all of which all seemed very reassuring after several long months of working in a brightly lit office cubicle.

I made it through the first fifty pages before I was drop dead bored.

Why? Read more »

More: Books

Guest Post by Caleb J. Ross: Used Books, the Origin of the Book Networking Circle

By admin on Thursday, January 7, 2010 - Comments Off

notes written in the margins of Nabokov's LolitaI recently read about old phone books in Somerset, England being converted to mini-lending libraries, which prompted me to consider the social aspects of a used book.

Last year, I happened upon a used copy of Nabokov’s Lolita at the wonderfully ancient Prospero’s in Kansas City (bricks and books, but so, so many of each). Having been familiar with the book’s pedophilic legacy, I approached, more curious than anything. I’m not easily offended, so I anticipated little reaction. But, aside from being minimally offensive and much funnier than I would have imagined (Nabokov can turn quite a phrase), the book surprised me on another level.

Used books, I discovered, are perhaps the origin of the virtual book networking circle. Consider this exchange between two Lolita readers: Read more »

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On Portability, Ani DiFranco, Keeping Books, and Resolutions

By Tanya Paperny on Friday, January 1, 2010 - Comments Off

gg-pkd-book-collectionAni DiFranco has this song called “Soft Shoulder” from her album To The Teeth.  I love that song.  The first verse is perpetually stuck in my head:

I don’t keep much stuff around
I value my portability
but I will say that I have saved
every letter you ever wrote to me

I want to be able to value my portability.  I’ve lived in four different cities and seven different apartments in the last six years, and sometimes I wish that moving was as easy as filling up a backpack and a little satchel and walking to the next destination.  That’s what I imagine Ani doing.

I’m no pack rat, but I do have a few boxes of letters, postcards, ticket stubs, mementos, school work, photos, and Xerox copies of interesting articles.  And books.  I’m not a collector — I think I have less than 150 books — but the books take up the most space each time I move. Read more »

More: Books, Rants

Lunar Park: The Strangest Book of the Decade

By Jessica Digiacinto on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - Comments Off

lunar-park1As the decade draws to a close and my reading habits slow down to a trickle of Us Magazine and the occasional novel bought in a fit of fear that my brain is going soft from all the reality television I watch instead of reading, I’ve decided it’s time to memorialize the weirdest, craziest book I’ve read in the last ten years. Mostly to prove to myself that I once read actual literature, but also to let the rest of you know about perhaps the most messed up, most beautiful book written in the last decade.

And that book is Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis.

I’ve been a fan of Ellis ever since I read American Psycho over the course of two weeks (when I say ‘read’ I mean mostly read with occasional skimming because a girl can only take so many detailed descriptions of mutilated prostitutes). I liked his style, how he didn’t seem to care about what people were going to think about the blatant narcissism and the way women were treated (or disemboweled) in his words. Read more »

More: Books