Archive for October, 2012

Daily Book Links 10-26-12

October 26, 2012

a letter from Charles Bukowski. Have to admit, I like Bulowski’s writing. I’m never sure what to say or write about it, but I enjoy reading it. All of it. The novels. The newspaper articles. The poems. It’s all good. This letter is just more Bukowski. Enjoy.

Here’s an article on zdnet by Eileen Brown defending Amazon’s right to wipe your Kindle. The bad thing is that she has a point about their EULA, and it’s nothing new since software companies have been doing it for years now with things like MS Office, Windows, etc. The whole idea that you don’t actually buy something when you “buy” it at Amazon, but are really just buying the right to access it (which, to me, sounds a lot like renting rather than buying) and not the actual whatever it is itself.  This is something I have long complained about in those venues, too. You “buy” something, you “own” it. And I don’t understand why any consumer willingly takes a stance that opposes this. You’re just pointing a gun at your foot and pulling the trigger at that point. Maybe you shouldn’t own the car you paid for, but just the license to insure it, drive it, park it, maintain it, etc. But if you do something that Saab isn’t happy about, they should just take their car back, keep your money, and leave you hanging out to dry. Does that sound fair? Does that sound right? Of course not. And using the boogeyman of fighting media pirates and protecting copyrights is just bull. If someone rally wants to steal your stuff, DRM is not stopping them. It has never stopped them. It never will stop them. Know why? This is why. And I support Ars Technica in this because you should have that copy for yourself, even if you have to break a ridiculously unfair and likely illegal EULA agreement to get it. Or maybe no one will listen to us until we chuck a few barrels of Kindles into Boston Harbor.

Here you can download a short Halloween themed recipe book. It’s a quick download, the recipes look alright, if you don’t mind baking some cookies or making a cosmo, might be worth your time.

I really don’t know what to make of hitrecord.org, but they have their second tiny book coming out and JGL’s web site just interests the hell out of me. If anyone has any experience with them, or just an opinion to share, hit up at the bottom. Just wondering what some other’s thoughts are on it.

Alright, that’s all for today.

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Tau Zero by Poul Anderson – review

October 25, 2012

I enjoyed Tau Zero, an old hard scifi book about people journeying past everything and back, but it’s also not the most entertaining read in the world. This is going to sound a bit harsh, but what I found most interesting was the book itself. From the library, it is a first edition hard cover from 1970 with wonderful cover work done by Anita Siegel. I hauled the image to the right from the novel’s wikipage and, if everything went right, you should be able to go there for a plot synopsis and other things by clicking the image. I’ll try to stay away from talking much about the actual happenings and goings because there really isn’t much to say that wouldn’t kill what plot the book has.

When saying it is a hard scifi novel, it means it focuses a good deal on the science and less on the people. I’m sure there are hard scifi books out there that do a great job hitting on both, but I don’t know what they are. The effect with Tau Zero is that I found the science a  bit hard to plough through while the characters were a bit hard to care about beyond their rather thin construction.

Which sounds like a devastatingly negative review, I know, but it’s not. It’s still an enjoyable read, perhaps made more enjoyable (at least for me) by getting through it quicker. While the characters really don’t matter a whole helluva lot, it makes up for it at least a bit by where they are going. What it really suffers from is just a general lack of vision. I think Anderson has a clear, strong grasp of the scientific aspects of his novel, and he goes into loving detail about tau – a detail that I just found dense and cumbersome compared to the lack of details he goes into with his characters, settings, and work.

In fact, he seems to go out of his way to not give details about the lead character, Reymont. The captain of the ship is shunted off. The other characters are either nearly as cold as Reymont, aren’t really delved into, or are even shown  as weakened a bit by their emotions.  It really seems as if Anderson just didn’t want to fill his novel out with anything but a framework so that he could talk about the science behind the idea of his story.

Which is a shame. While I wasn’t a big fan of Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, it shows what can be done by cramming a bunch of people into a small area and just observing them and reporting back on what you see. Stephen King makes use of such a theme in story after story after story, trapping people in everything from vampire infested small towns to psychotic monorail trains to under a big invisible dome. However, this is also old scifi, which never really seemed to put an emphasis on the story. That was left to their fantasy tale spinning cousins, I guess.

If you like old scifi, or hard scifi, I think Tau Zero could be up your alley.  If you just sort of go walleyed and feel a tight clenching in your bowels by the idea of having to slog through some mathematical formulas about time dilation or having to keep track of a host of vaguely similar and thin characters, this is probably less for you. As I said, the most interesting part for me was the book itself. An artifact from 1970, its coverwork is distinctly scifi in its oddness and openly interpretive meanings in relation to the work. On the last page there is still a library card in the little paper slot, a single date stamped onto it (May 7 1970), though there are a host of Date Due stickers on the back cover, the most recent being 11-26-01.  Perhaps the best part is the brief synopsis on a little sticker on the cover page:

A space adventure which takes fifty people to the end of the universe, infinity, and the beginning of a new eternity.

Yeah, that sums it up pretty well.

Tau Zero at Barnes and Noble

Poul Anderson at Wikipedia and GoodReads

Anita Siegel’s archived NYT obituary at Legacy and a google image search. There is startlingly little I could really find on her.

Book Links 10-23-12

October 23, 2012

Peter Osnos has a  short article up at The Atlantic saying to ignore the doomsayers. In many ways I agree with him. While tech is throwing a major disruption at the publishing industry, it is also throwing gobs of opportunities at it. Unfortunately, publishing houses seem to be barely more adept at change as the recording industry and have allowed the tech, and tech companies, to get out ahead and threaten to lap them. This is where I think the real worry is with publishing – that the business will not only be disrupted, but that they won’t adapt quickly enough to stay relevant, and will be wedged into a position by other, more adaptable companies (like Amazon).

For you poetry lovers out there, Melville House has an article up about the return of the villanelle. I’m not really into the whole poetry scene, and I won’t be able to remember what a villanelle is for the life of me, but it’s something I don’t see much talk about, and I figure someone else might like seeing it. I like the idea that some sort of form is finding popularity again. Free verse is nice and all, but every time I pick up a lit mag and try reading the poetry, it’s stuffed with free verse and it rarely grabs me.  It’s just everywhere, and a lot of it isn’t done well. instead, it reads more like someone took the first lines from every paragraph in a story and just strung them together. Which actually might not be a bad idea. It’s mine! Don’t steal it! (though I’m guessing there’s been at least twenty people who have done it already any way).

Finally, Apple hauled out the ipad mini today. I don’t have a link for it because I’m sure you can find links everywhere if you want a peek at it. It’s definitely a big deal, though, if for no other reason than that it is Apple. Oddly, this is the first time I’ve seen some obvious brushback against an Apple product in quite awhile. The cost plus the lack of any truly special hardware plus the small storage size and inability to upgrade seem to have hit some people in a very much wrong way. I think it’ll be a well designed and durable piece of tech, but a bit on the expensive side for me.

Book links 10-22-12

October 22, 2012

I know I hammer on Amazon a bit, but they’ve really gone out of their way to meet me in the middle today. First, a Kindle user claims that Amazon hijacked his reader and then deleted all of his ebooks. This, of course, flies in the face of an earlier court case and numerous promises by Amazon from a few years back. Making this case a bit worse is the labyrinthine correspondence record between Amazon and the accuser that seems to end rather bluntly with an email that can be cleanly summarized as, “screw you, all your eliteratures belongs to us!”  Maybe I’m just an old fogey, but I don’t believe any company should retain that type of control over a device you have paid for and own. It’s not like you’re renting your ereader. It is your device, it is your ereader. It’s just too much control to give away for a product you have bought. It makes me unhappy.

 

The next article is that Amazon is playing tax games in Europe. Essentially, they seem to be paying a 3% vat tax in Luxembourg, while collecting a 20% vat tax charge from British publishers. Yeah, can probably find examples of similar work by other countries as they seek to pay as little tax as possible,  but this still has a nasty stench to it.

 

This is pretty straight forward.  A saved video chat from earlier today involving Mark Z. Danielewski. I’ve listened to about half of it. Nothing earth shattering but not a bad listen.

Book Links 10/18/12

October 18, 2012

Librarians getting their pictures on. I don’t know why, but I just find this cute/humorous. If you’re a librarian and you’re proud, put your picture up. I have to wonder if other occupations have tumblers like this.
A big bunch of Kafka writings are being released. I enjoy Kafka, but I’ve never gotten into anything about this in the past. Honestly, I have a hard time seeing it as a bad thing. Guy was a great writer and more material is more material. I don’t really get Self’s complaint at the end of the article about it just leading to more bad lit crit. If that’s really a concern then nothing should be published. If you really don’t want to read bad criticism, don’t read it. It’s not a big deal. In mean time, appreciate the added source material.

I thought I had a third link but I can’t find it now. It was a long day. I had my first dental visit in seven years that wasn’t for an urgent problem. It took an hour and a half out of my day, I was told I would probably need to hook up with an oral surgeon to extract a tooth, and I still consider this visit wildly positive considering how I feared it would go. Also, the Tigers are going to the world series. It’s been a good day and a busy day, and I’m just in a pretty decent, if somewhat tired, mood.  Not lit related, but Go Tigers!

from Getty Images

 

Book Links 10/17/12

October 17, 2012

Yet another  Holden Caulfield link. This is from Jen Doll at The Atlantic. It starts off about the recent book recently bought by Amy Einhorn Books before venturing over to whether we still care about the character of Caulfield, then back to the likelihood of the Salinger estate filing a lawsuit to kill the book. It wasn’t my favorite book in high school, and I was unable to get through a re-reading of it. However, one of the noted criticisms in the article, from some current high schooler, that he can’t care about “some rich kid with a free weekend in New York” is really the bottom of the barrel when it comes to high school lit crit. I think a better question regarding Caulfield’s relevance might be the social maturity of high schoolers now compared to then. Whether they actually are more socially mature or if they’re just better at faking it I’m not sure, but society has certainly shifted a bit over the past fifty years.

Jobs you don’t want? Apparently one of them might be cataloging David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King.

Emily Witt at The Cut delves into why adults are reading teen lit. I think she’s hit on something true that it is a bit of escapism, and trying to push another weird middle grade on us (somewhere between teen lit and adult lit it seems) isn’t going to have the same pull.

Book Links 10/16/12

October 16, 2012

A couple of tributes to the writer Harvey Pekar are taking shape in and around Cleveland libraries over the next few weeks. The statue looks impressive, and I’ll probably make a trek over there to check it out. I like Pekar’s work, his focus on real people and the every day ins and outs of just getting by. If you’re in the area, check out the statue. Buy some American Splendor gear. Watch the incredible movie starring Paul Giammati. It’s all worth it.
Something I’m a little less sure about: someone using Holden Caulfield in their novel. In the end, it should stand on its own merit. At the same time, it’s choosing not to by hauling Caulfield into its structure, opening the door for such criticism.  I have mixed feelings on it (for the record, not thrilled with pretty much anything like this, from Ahab’s Wife to the various Classic Lit + Monsters mash-ups), but I thought it was worth putting out here.

Harper Lee writes a letter to Oprah. I don’t know why she hasn’t put anything else into print since To Kill A Mockingbird, but every time she does put something out before the public, I can only think her voice is one we needed more of over the years. She is smart, she is truthful. It’s an old letter, from 2006, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. So I’m sharing it.

Finally, Ben Masters (author of Noughties)(which I haven’t read) has a nice article up NYT about literary excess. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I don’t read a lot of literary criticism, though I had to sit through a lot of talks about it as the wife went through her MFA program and everyone talked about what gets published, what’s “in,” etc. And from what I’ve gleamed, Masters is right that there does seem to be a preference for pared down prose that goes straight to the point and goes on to the next point (just the facts).  I think people who actually buy books might agree with Masters, too.  In the world of wallets doing the talking, the average best-seller hovers just under 400 pages.

Book Links 10/14/12

October 14, 2012

The NY Times has a piece about Christopher Kimball up right now. Maybe not entirely lit related, but he’s taken a singular path in publishing Cook’s Illustrated and building into a damn good show, some web sites, etc. I love America’s Test Kitchen, I like watching Kimball and his singular, nearly acidic sense of humor. I also like that he went out on a limb with Cook’s Illustrated and its spartan look and focus on food rather than on a bunch of shiny crap.  I wonder how it is transitioning to the digital age, if they will (or have) kept the design or if they’ve felt a necessity to make some concessions to the medium.
And this has been kicking around my bookmarks for awhile, and I never quite find a place to chuck it in. 26 Beatnik slang words and phrases.

 

Yeah, not much here, but not much coming across my wires that really grabs me lately. Congrats to Mo Yan.

Book Links 10/9/12

October 9, 2012

In my continuing quest to make Chris Ware more money, I am once again linking to something Ware related that will help hawk his new book, Building Stories. This is an interview he’s done at Phawker that talks quite a bit about his new work. I am unashamedly marked out for it. I love the collection of different materials, the variety of forms, etc. I love thinginess and this is thinginess in spades.

Some of you might be aware of the The Humble Indie Bundle. It’s typically been a sale that has grouped together five or six video games from independent publishers and put them on sale for whatever you’re willing to pay. And not only do you get to set the price, you get to decide how much of your money goes to everyone involved. How much do the game makers get? How much does Humble get? And how much does charity get? Didn’t I mention that part of the reason they do this is for charity? Well, it is. And I am definitely trying to just guilt you into throwing your money at them.  Especially their current bundle. Ebooks.  Yes, right now they are having (as far as I know) the first ever Humble Bundle Ebook Sale!  They have an awesome collection of:

Cory Doctorow: Pirate Summer
Kelly Link: Stranger Things Happen
Kelly Link: Magic For Beginners
Paulo Bacigalupi: Pump Six
Lauren Beukes: Zoo City
Mercedes Lackey: Invasion

and if you donate more than the average, you get:

Neil Gaiman: Signal to Noise
John Scalzi: Old Man’s War

and a chunk of your money goes to charity (if you want it to)(and who wouldn’t want it to?). I’m also enthusiastic about this because it’s different. And maybe publishers will look at this and realize that, hey, maybe there is more than one way to skin a cat. And sell a book. can every book be sold in a bundle like this, likely averaging out to far less than they’d be sold separately? Of course not. But maybe there is something there that can be taken and used in the future to push ebooks on terms that are positive for the industry.

Okay, just two links today, but I make up for it by rambling on about both.

Book Links 10-4-12

October 4, 2012

EContent has a good article about YA publishing and its ability to cross barriers to bigger audiences.  I’ve tried, but I just can’t find YA lit overly interesting. I know this is going to sound disparaging, but I’ve tried Hunger Games, I’ve tried Potter, etc. and I just don’t feel engaged by it. Still, if you’re looking for a place to write and make money in, YA definitely seems like the destination to be.
Over at BookRiot there is an article about the Musashino University Library in Tokyo. Not much to say, just a neat library to look at. They need to fill more of those shelves, though!

On a similar note, here’s a collection of home libraries from dornob. I thought my wife and I had a lot of books, but these folks put us to shame. Check it out, be envious.

Microsoft and B&N complete Nook Media. I will admit that I’m not entirely sure where this is going to go, but I find it interesting none the less. while Amazon and Apple have an all-in-one thing going with their own devices and stores, B&N and Microsoft have teamed up to (apparently) provide a similar service. Considering my distaste for Amazon, and my too thin wallet for Apple, I’m probably on MS/B&N’s side here. I prefer the Nook ereaders to the Kindles, and I really like the idea behind the surface tablets (though the possible price tags for the “pro” edition are a bit of a stumble for me).