Archive for September, 2012

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby – a review

September 23, 2012

Occasionally you happen across something that so perfectly distills the human experience,  its striving against the inevitable, that the world appears differently afterwards. I had this feeling the first time I saw the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, directed by Julian Schnabel. a man is locked within his body after a stroke, his only means of connecting with the outside world through blinking one eye.  He is at the mercy of the world, of his nurses, of his therapists, of pretty much anyone who can lift an arm and has an aggressively minor grasp of physical ability. It was something I can’t really say I had experienced since. There have been some very good books and movies but nothing that I could honestly call transcending. Malick’s The Tree of Life maybe came the closest.

Like all good English majors and lit bloggers, I had the original memoir on my shelf for over  a year now. While Borders was going through its death throes I spied it among the jetsam on one of the shells, inevitably crammed in somewhere it didn’t belong. Nothing belonged anywhere as those stores closed their doors. They just worked at condensing the books into an ever smaller space, which resulted in strange bedfellows (though it also resulted in me hauling together damn near the entire translated works of Roberto Bolano).

Considering its brevity I’m not sure why I hadn’t gotten around to reading before now. Maybe it was the memory of the initial power of the movie, not wanting something to creep into that space. It seems to be the standard line to say movies never live up to the books,but I find it’s often because people have an irrational love for every bit of minutia in a book’s pages giving them reason to overlook what a director actually puts on the screen. we may not like it, but a lot of  book isn’t always necessary to tell the story that’s being told, and all of those little extras occasionally need to be sacrificed, and probably should be sacrificed for a transition to the visual.

Anyway, I finally plucked the thing off the shelf, at least partially because it was so short and I wanted something that I could read quickly. I did read it quickly, but not because it was short. It was that damn good. There are differences between it and the movie, as there must be, and I’m hesitant to say one is any “better” than the other. While they tell the same story, they tell it differently and each method has a movement all of its own.

So if you’ve seen the movie but haven’t picked up the memoir it was based 0n, check it out. It won’t disappoint and it won’t dim your appreciation of the movie. They can exist symbiotically.

Book Links 9-17-12

September 17, 2012

Salman Rushdie has recently had the bounty on his head reinstated and the reward upped, so he went on Today to talk about the recent storm generated by a youtube video. First, I just don’t see the point of going after Rushdie. It was stupid then, it’s stupid now and I just wish the guy could live his life. I also agree with him about people doing things like the youtube video just to get people riled up. At the same time I find it pathetic that such a large group of people could be so easily and transparently trolled into action. Wake up.
Richard Kadrey’s doing a blog this week for Powell’s Books. Today he wrote about writing a series rather than a singular novel. As always, it comes in Kadrey’s inimitable style. If you like his books or his twitter feed, you won’t be disappointed.

William Gibson has an excellent interview on Wired.

Alright, that’s it for today. I have other work I need to dive into and the hour is growing late.

Book Links 9-14-12

September 14, 2012

Hard to improve on the original title, Authors Behaving Badly.  Scary stuff that I, frankly, don’t understand. Yeah, we all love what we do, and it hurts like hell to hear someone else say that they don’t. It still doesn’t give you the right to assault them.  Just seriously not cool. Hope the agent is recovering well.
Popular science lets us know that literature is good for our brain. Well, yeah. Though I’m not sure they should have a picture with an Ayn Rand novel in it for the article. I guess it goes to show that any literature has to have some benefits.
The New York Times has an interview with Nicholson Baker. I like the guy’s books, so I’m putting it up here.

Some good news on the book buying front: sales at bookstores went up in July. I’m not sure it’s so much a sign of people going to bookstores rather than Amazon or if it’s just another sign of the economy turning around. I’m betting the latter.

And it looks like we know where publishers are going to try to make their money back if Amazon is going to slash prices. Hachette has “bumped” their prices to library’s by 220% for ebooks. I can sort of get Random House’s limiting downloads, though 26 seems way WAY too low. Someone somewhere has to have an idea of how many times a book is typically taken out of a library before they have to buy a new copy, and that number has to be far higher than 26. Find that number and use that. And just charge them what you’d charge them for a typical hardbound copy. Libraries is one of the last institutions we should financially plunder.

Book Links 9-13-12

September 13, 2012

A good article from the Irish Times about the importance of ebooks. What stood out to me, maybe because it was the last bit of the article, were the stats listed at the end – especially the bit about how once someone owns a kindle, they buy 4X as many books from Amazon as they did before. Considering Harper Collins expects 50% of their sales to come from ebooks within the next 18 months, and how much of the book business flows through Amazon and their hawking of their kindle, the importance of the anti-trust case becomes clearer. It could directly  affect where the power flows in the publishing industry and how the business will go forward.

From galleycat, Harper Voyager is accepting unagented manuscripts for a bit.

From Publisher’s Weekly, someone made a map for David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  I love the obsessiveness of it. and I know I’m not doing it justice so check it out and see it for yourself.

Book Links 9-11-12

September 11, 2012

Book selling seems to be a rough sport down under. Dymocks, an Australian book seller, is pulling entirely out of New Zealand. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury is selling his international press, Murdoch Books, to the larger publisher Allen and Unwin. This consolidation of publishers is something we should maybe start getting used to. On a related note…

Harper Collins has reached new agreements to sell its ebooks. And Amazon immediately slashes prices on two best sellers to $10.  Contrary to popular belief, converting to a digital format doesn’t appear to erase the majority of the costs for publishing companies. It’s not surprising that this misconception exists, I was under it at one time, too. However, from all that I’ve read about it the actual creation of the physical book, the paper and cardboard and ink, makes up all of 20% of the price of the books we buy. The rest of those costs? Well, some go to the writer (hopefully). Some go to the publisher as profit (again, hopefully). A lot goes to people like editors, designers, marketers, etc. Actual people who work damn hard to make a book good and interesting. And, yes, covers matter. The physical design of a book matters. I still STILL covet my hardcover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because of the awesome Chris Ware designed cover. Murakami’s recent 1Q84 has an equally incredible cover by Chip Kidd. I scoop up Criterion Collection movies from used stores partly because the movies are great but also because they put a lot of effort in making awesome inserts to go with the movie.   Okay, rant over. There’s just a good reason that ebooks shouldn’t head straight to Clearance Bin level prices – especially if ebooks become the primary mode of distribution. People deserve to be paid for their work.

Speaking of Chris Ware, he has a new object coming out. Building Stories. I haven’t seen it yet, obviously, but I’m a big fan and this thing is just neat looking. I’m still trying to decide if I have the money to throw down on it. I’m thinking of getting it and, if I do,  a review will go up here fast.  I just heart Chris Ware.

Finally, the short list for the Booker prize has been announced.

Book Links 9-7-2012

September 7, 2012

Not a pure book/literary link, but The New Yorker  talks about Bill Clinton’s spontaneous riffing during his speech at the DNC. I think it’s a great article, and really shows how amazing Clinton is at giving speeches. But I think it also gives some good points on creating good dialog. All of those folky things Clinton throws into his speech as he goes, all of the little asides he makes to pull the listener in…that’s not just an incredible speech maker, it’s awesome story telling.  There’s also a link in the The  New Yorker article for someone who took the original speech and compared it to the one given.

Judge Cote okayed the settlement between the DOJ and three publishers, and now Bob Kohn has filed a motion to stay the settlement because of the harm it would do to the industry.

Lastly, Fast Company has an article about Amazon’s serial publishing about how authors could take data mined by Amazon about how people react to different elements of one part of the serial so that the author can tailor future parts to fit what’s going over the best in the current part.  I hate this idea. No offense to readers, but we’re often idiots and what we like doesn’t necessarily point to what makes something good. And because a reader, or group of readers, doesn’t get why something is happening right now doesn’t mean they’ll hate what it leads to. I’m sure there will be some money to be made off of this, but tailoring a piece of work to reader’s most immediate desires just seems like an idea whose time should never come.
On a related note, I’m kind of downbeat about admitting I like the Kindle Paperwhite.  I don’t like it enough to pay for it, but I think it’s neater than the traditional e-ink displays. Still, I just can’t find enough justification for a device that does so little. Also, such things still force eliterature to behave in the same way as traditional print literature. If we’re going to start reading in a digital medium, all of the benefits of the medium should be taken advantage of. So maybe literature should (or at least could) have some video or audio components, some graphs, still photos, something. With that said, I just don’t like tablets yet. They aren’t functional enough. the closest things that I really really like are the ultraportable laptops like the macair. I think Lenovo has something, or has something coming out, where the screen and keyboard can either be attached or run separately, which is neat. I’m really looking forward to the MS Surface tablet. Something I’m wondering, though, is what you do with the keyboard/cover when you don’t want to use it. Does it fold over and clip to the back somehow? Do you just stuff it in your bag? A bit off-topic,but that’s what I’m wondering right now.


edit: alright, just as I posted this, PC Mag put up this blistering article about the Kindles and Amazon’s putting ads on them to subsidize their costs (and then charging a good bundle to take them off).  I’m not a fan of it, but I think they’ve been doing it for awhile and I don’t know why anyone would buy a kindle without knowing this. All the more reason to buy a Nook, imo, and support a real book store.

Book Links 9-5-2012

September 5, 2012

Flavorwire has a list of the 12 most beautiful online literary magazine covers. Their first choice, Paper Darts, would probably be pretty high on my list, too.

Laura Miller has  a good article up at Salon about the length of novels centered around a recent example of a new writer letting his editor cut half his book. The writer is David Abrams and here’s his equally excellent blog post that inspired Miller’s article.

And Shortlist has a lengthy list of the 50 coolest book covers. I love actual things and their thinginess, including cover design for books, insert design for CDs, those awesome little booklets that come with Criterion Collection movies, etc. So I love this list. Looking through it, I think my favorites are the Fahrenheit-451 and A Clockwoork Orange covers. Not on the list, I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles has an awesome hardcover illustration on the dustjacket.