Posts Tagged ‘reading’

March 4, 2014

Over on IO9, there’s an article debating how we read and whether it is the right or wrong way. I sort of bristle at the idea of right and wrong ways of doing most things, let alone reading. All of us have individual ways of getting from points A to B, and as long as you get there, I’m not sure the “rightness” always matters (obviously outside of doing some sort of willful harm to others as you make your journey). While people may have fewer marathon sessions with a book in their hands while reclining on the couch, I’ve come away from such sessions with little long term memory of the book I had just read – often too exhausted to remember or having passed by everything too quickly for it to gestate. By the same token, reading in too small of blocks can leave a book feeling fragmented, disconnected. In the end, I think our habits generally come to conform to how we digest what we’re reading. If we can take in a bunch of small chunks of reading and put it all together, we’ll do it that way. If we can’t, we won’t, because the experience won’t be fulfilling enough to continue (at which point we may just give up reading altogether).  Maybe a follow up question should be about how well we monitor ourselves and know how we’re reacting to what and how we read.  Our reading habits may have less to do with distractions and more to do with a lack of self-awareness.

Publisher’s weekly has an article chock full of charts and graphs about what’s popular in kid lit. Perhaps what is most frustrating is how encompassing the category “children’s literature” is for the article. Something that combines YA and picture books and tries to give an idea of what genres are popular…yeah. Not sure how well all of them overlap and how clear of a picture it paints. Might help if I was interested in that segment of publishing, though.

I don’t like Philip Roth and he has a long ass interview in The Times.  I have a (bad?) habit of tuning out things like interviews when I get the sense of something I disagree with, so most of this interview didn’t really register past my eyeballs. It seems more self-serving than anything, as he tries to get out ahead of his critics and define his legacy. If he is going to give up on writing because it was just so difficult for him, I don’t mind if he gives up on commenting about it, too. I’ve never been able to get in to his work, though.

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Book Links

January 10, 2014

Frankly, a bunch of numbers too big and too numerous for me to really get into. If you’re curious about how many people are sending their little literary babies into the world, though,  here’s an article you’ll want to read.

Reading is a workout for the brain. Yeah. Not exactly surprising for anyone who reads, but at least now we have some more evidence that reading is literally good for you.

Hey, someone 3D printed a slip cover for a book. Check it out.  It looks pretty cool, not something I’d pay extra for (sorry folks) but if you have the cash and Chang-rae Lee is one of your guys, something like this could be up your alley. Regardless of whether or not you would buy it, still pretty cool.

And The Atlantic has a a great article on Marian Bantjes. She’s a designer who does a lot of great looking stuff with lettering.  Worth the read.
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Book Links

October 23, 2013

9 Books to scare the hell out of you. A good list with some I didn’t expect. I still have a hard time seeing lists like this with an array of newer titles while leaving anything by King, Rice, Matheson, etc. off. I know The Shining can only be on so many lists, and newer works deserve (and need) the exposure, but it’s still a bit weird for me. Nice seeing Shirley Jackson get some much deserved love, though. Despite her greatness, I think she gets overlooked at times.

 

Irma Boom: objectification of the book. I love books as physical objects, and Boom takes this to wonderful places. If you don’t know her work, check it out. You will enjoy it.

 

Libraries of the Rich and Famous.  I love the clutter of Keith Richard’s library, but I think Woody Allen’s tastes would most mirror my own. If I was filthy rich, that is.

 

We don’t read as well as we used to.  A new study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that American adults had a lower reading proficiency than their counterparts from twenty years ago.  It’s a bit of a thing that “young adult” books are becoming increasingly popular with adults, that it is common to see someone with some salt in their beard or grey in their hair lugging around Twilight or The Hunger Games, and it’s always assumed it’s because young adult fiction is becoming so well done. Maybe it’s because more and more people can’t handle more difficult reads.  This isn’t to say young adult novels are bad, but they are not really difficult, either. Anyway. There is my moment of fire in a crowded theater for this post.

Finally, David Bowie has a list of 100 must read books.

Men Don’t Read! (but they do!)(but boys don’t!)(and what about that Ipad?)

May 5, 2010

well, I guess when you essentially disappear from the blogosphere for a week you tend to miss things like the dust-up caused by Jason Pinter’s article about men not reading any more (except they do!) and Laura Miller saying  not to blame the feminine editors, men just don’t want to work low paying jobs while Will Weaver sneaks a little article in about how young men don’t have many options in the library (except for his own book, of course, geared towards boys, which he mentions repeatedly).

I can’t say I buy Pinter’s argument at all. For one, he seems to be calling for more crappy writing geared towards men. I don’t really care who is lining up for Tucker Max. He is not a good writer. He’s entertaining for guys the same way Kathleen Woodiwiss is entertaining for women. And while I’m sure Jericho has led an interesting life, getting more guys to read celebrity bios doesn’t seem like a great goal.

I also don’t buy Miller’s argument, what there is of one. It’s more of a plea not to blame women for being editors while slamming guys for taking jobs that pay better.

Weaver is the one I would put money on for being on the right track. And I know from experience. I have a six year old boy who is a voracious reader who is running out of material to read. There isn’t any. And not just because the majority of it is geared towards girls (though it is) but because there literally just isn’t a lot out there for his reading stage where he’s getting past needing pictures and what is out there is crap. Or geared almost exclusively for girls. Going to the library is grueling. Thank god for Bunnicula lately. And, apparently, Carl Sandburg (who knew the kid would be a fan of rutabegas?).

By the time guys get old enough to buy books the publishing world has already lost them. Their reading experience has likely sucked and they haven’t even taken the necessary courses in high school to be prepared to read serious fiction. And Miller is wondering why more guys aren’t becoming editors? Not surprising considering their test scores on reading/writing when they were younger and how fewer of them are going to college in general.

And, no, it won’t matter if the Kindle is marketed differently. Apple markets the Ipad as an Apple product, occasionally mentioning the few things it does (and here’s a review of the keyboard dock so it can be at least a marginally functional piece of tech). throw the Apple logo on Kindle’s and they’ll sell like crazy. Well, even more crazy than they were selling before.

You want guys to read? Take a lesson from Big Tobacco and Alcohol: Get Them While They Are Young.

Apple IPad – hands-on

April 25, 2010

I finally got my grubby little mitts on an IPad yesterday. It’s a cute little thing. Very light, pretty comfortable. Found some of the controls awkward. Tried typing, which was alright but only comfortable when done one-handed. My complain with it is pretty much the same, though: a lack of use/functionality.

Give it a stylus and I think it would excel as a notepad. It’s size is perfect for even tiny desks and it weighs next to nothing. Instead of having the ruffled pages of a couple of notebooks crammed into a backpack, this thing could be a wonderful substitute.

But beyond notetaking, it seems pretty limited. It’s not overly powerful, it doesn’t have even a USB connector and to set it up with an actual keyboard and what not you have to go out and buy a bunch of accessories.

What it seems to be targeted at is stuff like Kindle and the Nook, devices which have also drawn my ire. As a media viewer, it’s nearly ideal. The screen is a good size for personal viewing, very bright and, after a fwe minutes of acclimation, the system was easy to navigate. I didn’t have a problem with text, though I think Kindle still has a better screen, but I’ve also never had much of a problem reading off a computer screen for long periods of time so I might not be the best judge for that.

So I guess my question comes down to do you want to spend that kind of money just to watch/read downloaded content? I’ve already made taht decision regarding the Kindle and other e-readers – it’s just not worth it to me.

The device I’m still curious about is the Lenovo U1 Hybrid. Significantly more expensive base price than the Ipad (though similar prices when all of the accessories for IPad are bought) but with more function built into it.

Katie Makkai – Pretty (reading)

April 22, 2010

The Reading

March 12, 2010

Last night I went to a poetry reading involving my g/f and a couple of other women. Apparently this month is Women’s History Month or something. I don’t mean for that to sound denigrating, I really am not sure what it is as it was only mentioned to me once, but it set the stage for who was presenting poems and for the subject matter.

I’m happy to say the whole thing went well. Kate was good. She says she was nervous but it didn’t show. The second lady I wasn’t overly thrilled with but was still good. Confident. at ease. the open mic was less successful. One woman read a poem by someone else, a poem about a woman with a hat made from iguanas. It went far too long and I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would read a poem on open mic that wasn’t there own. One woman delivered her poem particularly well, from memory, clearly accostomed to performing but it lost energy halfway through. An undergrad got up and read poems that sounded like poems written by an undergrad but he gets marks for just stepping up and doing it.

What  I again realized, though, was something I’ve realized in the past. I’m not always good at following something being spoken. My interest wavers. I lose track of what’s being said or I simply don’t bother following it from the start.

What I do pay attention to is the person. The performance. The audience. Kate looked good up there. The audience laughed at seemingly appropriate moments. Without entirely following her poems I knew she was doing well.

Strangely, the poetry I followed the best was the one that was more directly performed rather than read. She was a blonde woman, sturdy with hair that just seemed to go everywhere for a bit. She wore glasses, rectangularish with this plastic frames. Very much the student look before incorporating such quirks in smaller more focused ways for adulthood. Her poem started out and it was funny and catchy about tits on TV at the house of her guy friends but it devolved into a bit of social commentary and what not and lost its energy.

There is something about a performance that focuses my attention.

What’s doubly odd is that I can sit through a recorded reading just fine. I have been watching some David Foster Wallace readings on youtube lately and find them interesting and engaging. But they can’t be all that different from a reading attended in person. Granted, he may just have a style that I find easier to “get into” but maybe the fact that it is filtered through a screen also has something to do with it. The idea that it becomes instantly more entertaining and engaging the moment it is viewed through an additional medium rather than just with my own eyes some how making it more palatable is an interesting and also disturbing one.

Does something filtered through an entertainment medium now lend credibility, even if only subconsciously? I mean, I watch television and I can decide what I think is crap and what isn’t crap and what I want to watch and what I don’t want to watch. but is there still a thought process saying that at least since it’s on television that there must be some purpose to it? Something that makes it worth of being transported to my living room as entertainment? and what’s youtube but the world’s largest cable subscription? Granted, most of the shows are, at most, a few minutes long but still, they’re there to be decided upon whether or not they should be viewed and just being there…well, are they more legitimate for that?

and this is without going into the idea of what exactly legitimacy is. Something that I, frankly, don’t want to delve into right now and will leave for everyone to contextualize as they desire. After all, I think that once given a basic set of parameters, even loosely defined as in the rambling predecessor to this paragraph, I think a general idea of legitimacy as intended by for this piece can be approximated by everyone.

In the end, all I’m really wondering is why I can watch a reading on youtube and be entertained and engaged and follow what is being said while not having a roughly equative experience in-person. I wonder if this is some innate or, possibly, learned shortcoming of mine of if it is something everyone has to deal with. And it’s not a problem I solely have with readings of fiction/poetry but with concerts as well. I’ve been to a few verve pipe concerts with my girlfriend and, outside of the songs I know, I’ve really had no idea what was being sung for great stretches of time but I did enjoy the music. Like a verve pipe concert, last night I didn’t always know what was going on but I did enjoy the music.

My Own Failing Memory

March 1, 2010

Or: Why I Write These Things

I tend to read quite a bit and I try to reflect on what I read. But ever since leaving school I have found that I have went without a certain stimulation and the memory I have for what I read has begun to slip. Finer points become lost. Meaning becomes less, well, meaningful.

Realizing that a lot of years and a lot of money was quickly becoming lost to me, training falling by the wayside as it were like a carpenter long long out of practice finding that his ability to visually measure a gap or to trim a piece to fit has eroded, I knew something needed to be done to try to keep me going.

Watching a kid, looking for work, and day to day life doesn’t afford me much time (or cash) to get out, though. To try to horn my way in with people in the real world if I knew where people in the real world met to talk about such things.

Having weighed my options and assessed my situation, I came to the realization that my only real outlet was the web. It’s something I can access from home, where I can carve out my own little space and, with some luck and persistance, maybe find my way into my own little niche here.

By and large it has worked. I feel I get more out of my reading now, and that I can recall more from it to find specific reasons why I love/hate whatever piece of work I’m writing about, why it might be significant or insignificant or why I might pick up another book the writer. While reading (and writing) is a solitary act, there is a social aspect to it that has to be engaged in to reap the full rewards of the solitary acts. To closet yourself away, to forego the experience of sharing a book or an idea, is to complete the experience only halfway.

Now is a blog (or any digital interface) as fulfilling as a person-to-person encounter? yes and no. On the digital medium, it does offer up more time for people to deliver a thoughtful response but you also lose the immediacy of a moment. There is a certain kind of energy that comes with talking about a book or a movie with someone who has shared that experience and who is excited by the discussion of it. Also, it’s easier to go out for drinks when the person you’re talking to is next to you. No one wants you to drag your laptop down to the pub and set up shop at the bar.

Cel-a-brate good times come on!

August 16, 2009

i finished reading through the novel I’ve been writing today. It’s been read, crossed out, circled, noted and note carded.  so next comes the “fun” part of re-writing the thing. I think the re-write should go relatively quick once I get everything sorted out from the notes and what not. I’ll, essentially, have a checklist of what needs to be fixed and what works, what could be added adn what should be removed.

but that’s for the (near)future. As for now, there’s been a mini-celebration. got the drinks out, had a steak, and enjoyed this moment of triumph.

a whole lot of words going on (uh-uh-huh)

February 3, 2009

In a fit of decisiveness or lunacy I decided to adopt page minimums for how much I read/write/edit every day. This decision took all of a minute and a half and most of that was in deciding whether or not the writing portion could be broken up over several projects or whether it must be one project.

Like most things jumped into with more ambition than forethought, I have quickly found that I may have overstepped my abilities a bit. The reading and editing parts are the easiest. I decided that I would read 100 pages every day. This may not sound like much but it forces me to sit down and just take time out from the day and focus on one thing. The focusing part is something I have had trouble with recently but this part has went well.

So has the editing which I set at 10 pages per day. I have never been an enthusiastic proofreader/editor/re-writer but I know it’s a process that has to be applied. And while I dread it and put it off I have found that when I sit down and start working on the stuff, the ten pages usually go by pretty quickly.

And then there is the writing portion.  Some foolish part of me thought that this would be the easiest part. I think I am a hideously slow reader, so I figured that might be difficult for me and my dislike for slogging through the grunt work is something I am very self aware of. But writing? That should be easy.

And now I’ve tried to actually do it. Sit down and churn out ten pages in single spaced, times new roman (it’s my personal formatting choice).  I’ve gotten about three pages cranked out today and it damn near killed me. what’s doubly discouraging is that I used to be able to sit down and turn out pages like I was a fax machine. Everything felt as if it used to come so easily that I never considered the possibility that one day it wouldn’t.

Though I must also admit that I write much better now than I did then. The story would come out but it lacked polish and style. But having found how so much easier it is to proof read, I wouldn’t mind going back to a time when I could then get to the proofreading quicker. Maybe it’s yet another sign of me getting older or maybe it’s just the natural progression of a writer. But it seems like we are never wise enough to know what we have and what to do with it until we have to make sense out of something else.