Thursday, July 31, 2008
A library patron recently challenged a book, Uncle Bobby's Wedding, that was at their local library. A librarian responded thoughtfully.
The story, in part...
You feel that a book about gay marriage is inappropriate for young children. But another book in our collection, “Daddy's Roommate,” was requested by a mother whose husband left her, and their young son, for another man. She was looking for a way to begin talking about this with son. Another book, “Alfie's Home,” was purchased at the request of another mother looking for a way to talk about the suspected homosexuality of her young son from a Christian perspective. There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views. We don't have very many books on this topic, but we do have a handful.
In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents' notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.
The Christian Science Monitor visits the world of academia as it relates to the Silver Surfer. The subhead reads, Comic figures gain new academic respect as they enter the world of literary and critical analysis.
The story reads, in part...
Amid the spectacle of the world's largest comics convention, tens of thousands of attendees had Batman on the brain.
But only graduate student Kate McClancy came armed with an analysis of how an asylum in the Caped Crusader's world reflects the American debate over treatment of the mentally ill.
It's an obscure topic, to be sure. But Ms. McClancy's treatise was right at home at Comic-Con International, which was held here this past weekend.
Dozens of other scholars were tackling arcane subjects from "the geek as melodramatic hero" to "the problem of vigilante justice" in the famed graphic novel "Watchmen."
Just 15 years ago, many professors would have scoffed at the in-depth study of comics.
Now, comics are coming into their own in classrooms of all kinds, gaining an unprecedented level of respect and spawning serious debate over their greater meaning.
The Chicago Tribune strolls along with read-walkers.
From the small story...
"I feel pretty protected," Akre says of her read-walking regimen. "But I don't always notice the loose brick in the sidewalk, so there's an occasional stumble."
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Care for the books of Christina Rossetti? G.K. Chesterton? Rudyard Kipling (pictured above)? Oscar Wilde? George Eliot? Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu? The Victorian Web highlights, rather prodigiously, the authors of the Victorian age.
T-shirts can be had. Wear what you read! Your favorite author is on one side, a quote of theirs is on the other. Dostoyevsky's shirt reads, "The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for." You can get Toni Morrison, James Joyce, Lord Byron, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Noel Coward, Henrik Ibsen, Albert Camus, Epicurus, and many more.
Monday, July 28, 2008
As usual, Sunday’s Apartment 3-G merely repeats installments from the previous week, but the final panel seems to have been drawn as some kind of challenge. It’s basically saying, “Oh, you thought Lu Ann was a little too excited about going to South Dakota yesterday? Well, check this insanity out.” In yesterday’s installment it just looked like she had mistaken South Dakota for someplace exciting; today she appears to be in the grip of hilariously misplaced delusions of grandeur. “Did you hear me? I said South Dakota! SOUTH DAKOTA! MU HA HA HA!”
The site always makes me giggle.
In the recent issue of Metro Dot Pop, "the fashion magazine for the rest of us," I've written a short piece about P.F. Flyers. It's their annual "footwear issue," and so I got to learn all about our friends at P.F. Flyers. I even got a pair from their Bob Cousy collection. Comfy cozy, they are.
Mystery writer Howard Engel woke up one morning terrified to find that he couldn't read the words in the newspaper. In his new memoir, Engel describes living with a rare condition called word blindness, which leaves him able to write, but unable to read. NPR discusses the new book.
Is the internet turning kids onto reading or turning them off? The New York Times looks into it.
From the story...
Books are not Nadia Konyk’s thing. Her mother, hoping to entice her, brings them home from the library, but Nadia rarely shows an interest.
Instead, like so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer here in this suburb southwest of Cleveland.
A slender, chatty blonde who wears black-framed plastic glasses, Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses myyearbook.com, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on quizilla.com or fanfiction.net, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.
Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A’s and B’s at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Ms. Konyk said, “I’m just pleased that she reads something anymore.”
Friday, July 25, 2008
With the Olympics fast approaching, the world is turning their eyes towards China and, more specifically, on Beijing. For those wanting to get a feel of that gigantic city (the 2nd largest in China after Shanghai with a population of 17 1/2 MILLION), Catherine Sampson of The Guardian offers some reading suggestions.
And, for those wanting a wider view of China as a whole, you could do no better than reading the articles in a recent issue of National Geographic.
Susan Larson at New Orleans's The Times-Picayune gives us a short list.
From the story...
It's hard to get a read on how much America reads.
On one hand, recent surveys suggest that few American adults read a single novel in any given year, and illiteracy is skyrocketing. In the July/August issue of The Atlantic, in an article called "Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, " writer Nicholas Carr describes the loss of "deep reading." "In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, " Carr writes, "we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas."
And how many times have you heard someone say, "I just don't have time to read any more"?
But, on the other hand, can you find a parking place at the Barnes & Noble parking lot in Metairie? I'm sure that you know someone -- or lots of someones -- who are members of, or are thinking about joining, a book club. Do you know a student who doesn't have a summer reading list?
To help us make sense of it all, books that explore the role of reading and books in our lives just keep on coming.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The list according to Best Colleges Online. Pictured above: the Central Denver Public Library.
To note: Seattle's own Rem Koolhaas-designed library is one of the eight noted for its architecture.
Presidential candidate reading lists. Do they mean much? Maybe.
From The Guardian...
"I am a voracious reader. I read all the time". These words from presidential hopeful John McCain (stress on the second syllable) do offer one interesting explanation for his eclipse in the campaign thus far: he's had his head in a book.
Of course, many candidates use their bookshelves as election placards, and all their various spines can usually be relied on to declare: "I'm brainy, well-informed, and committed to the issues that mean most to you and your family." But not always.
Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton's proclaimed reading habits show intriguing overlap, including both the classic American novel Invisible Man and Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. (Translation: "I am with you black America; I have some liberal tendencies; I fear the wrath of both God and the electorate in the midwest.") And so on.
George W said he reads a lot about Churchill. (Translation: "I'm useful in battle.) But he also said in 2006 that he was taking Camus' Outsider on holiday - we never found out whether it was the promise of gratuitous killing of Arabs that appealed, or whether he wanted us to know he was not the know-nothing hick he was painted as.
So what is McCain's would-be presidential library telling us? Well, he's often advertised his fondness for Hemingway, saying "I read anything by [him] all the time. He's my favourite author." Indeed, his 2002 memoir, Worth the Fighting For, describes adopting the hero of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, as his role model at 13 ("... aspiring to Jordan's courage and nobility and certain I would possess it someday"...).
Hollywood is wanting to teach your kids how to read. This, according to a story on Slate.
From the story...
In 1957, Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated what's considered to be the first early-reader book. It was called The Cat in the Hat. Before Seuss' book came along, children who were just beginning to read had been stuck with dull Dick-and-Jane school primers; now they had the misadventures of one very mischievous cat. Seuss' book was a phenomenal success, and in its wake there followed a series of books that would become classics of the early-reader genre: Frog and Toad, Little Bear, and Go, Dog. Go! Recently, a new breed of early readers has appeared. Rather than featuring original stories and artwork, these books are based on PG-13 action-adventure movies like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. There's no denying that kids, especially little boys, love their superheroes, and the whole point of early readers is to get kids excited about reading. But do you really want the Hulk teaching your kid to read?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I've been a trombone player since 5th grade.
"Your mouth is too big for the trumpet mouthpiece," said Mr. Mill, my 5th grade band director. "Why don't you try the trombone?"
"If I HAVE to."
Of course, I didn't really have to. Mr. Mill just needed a trombone player in his band. I'm glad he chose me for that esteemed position since playing the trombone has been an integral part of my growing up.
Because of that trombone I got...
1) To go to Europe (and, by extension, eat roasted pigeon in a Dutch convent).
2) To go to Washington, DC (and, by extension, to climb to the top of the nation's capitol building without anyone noticing except a disgusted janitor).
3) To go to the Hoquiam Loggers Play Day (and, by extension, get those loggers pissed off when we shouted "Save the spotted owl!"
4) Engaged (and, by extension, dumped).
And there's the big stuff, too, like lasting friendships, fellowship with like-minded geeks, and playing Toto's "Africa" for our 7th-grade band concert.
Also? I found Halftime Magazine (since I've been a member of many a marching band). I wrote my first feature for them in the July/August issue. It's about halftime drill writers. You can read it online here.
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.
The image above is one I created using all the text from one of my favorite short stories, Jack London's To Build a Fire.
Experience the National Archives by doing a little exploring.
Pictured above: Taken in 1920, this photograph shows the installation of President Abraham Lincoln’s statue at the Lincoln Memorial. Originally designed to be 10 feet tall, the likeness was 19 feet high when completed, so that the cavernous chamber would not dwarf the statue. National Archives, Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital
From our friends at the Utne Reader.
From the story...
The essay is in a bad way. It’s not because essayists have gotten stupider. It’s not because they’ve gotten sloppier. And it is certainly not because they’ve become less anthologized. More anthologies are published now than there have been in decades, indeed in centuries. The Best American Essays series, which began in 1986, has reached 20 volumes. The problem is that anthologies end up in the basements of our local libraries, where they sit until they are released gratis to used-book stores that, in turn, will sell them for a buck apiece to college students who’ll place them next to their dorm beds and dump them in an end-of-semester clean-out.
Is it our fault? Are we, as readers, responsible for the decline of the American essay? Have we become lazier, less interested, less educated? Attention spans, to be sure, have shortened. Gone are the days when people pored languorously over periodicals during transatlantic crossings. But this is not the reason why essay collections gather dust and why essayists so often count themselves “second-class citizens” (in the words of E.B. White). If the genre is neglected in our day, it is first and foremost because its authors have lost their nerve. It is because essayists—and their editors, their anthologists, and the tastemakers on whom they depend—have lost the courage to address large subjects in a large way.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I've written about Dorothea Lange before but NPR is highlighting a new book that's been published, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field. I'm looking forward to reading it.
From the story...
Lange was part of the legendary stable of photographers at the Farm Security Administration during the New Deal. They were sent out to document conditions nationwide and help build public support for government improvement programs. As the 1930s wore on, Lange documented those programs that succeeded — and those that didn't.
And, as Spirn tells NPR's Andrea Seabrook, "She set the standard."
The book zooms in on a single year, 1939, when Lange was at her most productive — and her most feisty. She took thousands of photos that year and wrote simple but eloquent text blocks she called "field reports." But she was fired after a series of conflicts with the FSA's photo chief, Roy Stryker.
Lange died of cancer in 1965. The book's title was inspired by a comment she made late in her career: "No country has ever closely scrutinized itself visually. … I know what we could make of it if people only thought we could dare look at ourselves."
Yes, yes you can. Just ask Lyza Danger Gardner how it's done.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Liam Durcan for the Globe and Mail discusses it.
From the story...
One of my favourite paintings is The New Novel, by Winslow Homer [pictured above], showing a woman lying on her side in a field of clover, enthralled by the book she holds. For me, it captures the very essence of reading. The escape. Solitary and personal, the act of reading strikes us as being one of the least interactive things we do, and yet we are coming to understand that reading, and especially reading fiction, is an activity that may hone skills vital to relating to others.
In a recent study conducted by University of Toronto psychologists, subjects who read a short story in The New Yorker had higher scores on social reasoning tests than those who had read an essay from the same magazine. The researchers concluded that there was something in the experience of reading fiction that made the subjects more empathetic (or at least take a test more empathetically). The study provided some proof for what has often been intuitively argued: Fiction is, in some very important ways, good for us.
Friday, July 18, 2008
The Oregonian celebrates William Stafford's poetry, a decade and a half since he died.
Do you know Stafford's work? You should. His most famous poem is probably this one:
Traveling Through the Dark
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
My mother, when a student at Lewis & Clark University in Portland, had Stafford as her professor. She received a C. I wrote Stafford a letter when I started getting into poetry myself for a couple of reasons...
1) To chastise him for giving my mom a C in his class.
2) To show him one of my own poems.
The poem I wrote him was Stafford-esque but terrible because I was just starting getting into poetry myself and it was terrible. Something along the lines of...
The salmon jump over starbursts
at twilight as the wind reveals secrets
about the way of things
He wrote back. It was great. He apologized for his grading of my mom "Forgive me for my faulty teachings." He sent me a poem he had scribbled out that very morning. He applauded me for my poem. Of course he was being nice (it was a terrible poem) but it boosted a young man's ego.
Stafford died soon after. I still have that letter and I still, whenever I wander into a bookstore, check to see what Stafford books they have in stock.
A couple more poems of his I've always liked...
Waking at 3 AM
Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn't matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.
You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.
You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.
And another, and my all-time favorite Stafford poem...
For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid
There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world, and we all live there.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The Talisman has always been my favorite Stephen King novel. I remember thinking, while I was reading it as a middle school twerp, I want to write like this some day. A filmmaker by the name of Stephen Spielberg (you may have heard of him) has held onto the film rights for years. A Canadian filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe, wishes that wasn't the case. So much so, he's made a six minute video based on the book to grab Speilberg's attention. Wired Magazine's Underwire blog has the story and video.
CBC journalist Ghazal Mosadeq recently returned to Tehran from Toronto and filed an audio report for the Dispatches program on the current state of publishing and censorship in Iran. Writers, readers and book-sellers are all trapped in a system of rules which are often tacit, confused and haphazard. You can listen to the dispatch, thanks to The Millions blog here.
The Washington Post has a great story about bookselling in Baghdad. Tragedy hit last year when a bomb exploded on Mutanabi Street, destroying bookshops and lives. One year later, the city's bookstores are opening once again.
From the story...
"We opened our eyes in this bookstore," recalled Najah al-Hayawi, 62, the eldest brother.
So enchanted was Nabil that he attended law school at night rather than miss working at the bookstore. He became one of Iraq's youngest judges. After their father died in 1993, the brothers inherited the shop and later opened their own bookstores.
After the U.S.-led invasion, freedom coursed through Mutanabi Street. Booksellers openly displayed Shiite religious texts, extremist Sunni Wahhabi literature and Western magazines depicting scantily clad women. Once, that would have brought prison sentences. But Iraq's growing chaos spawned disillusionment. The government imposed a Friday curfew. Sales plummeted. Many booksellers fled Iraq.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I recently reviewed "The Baseball Project" CD, a collaboration between some R.E.M. guys and Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate. You can listen to some of it here.
As a brief aside: Did you ever want to know the story behind "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"? Find out here.
I recently found a series of questions on the So Many Books blog that I thought I'd answer myself...
Do you remember how you developed a love of reading?
In 2nd grade, Mrs. Harbison was my teacher. We were supposed to be doing math studies. I had my math workbook open but behind it I was reading a book (undoubtedly it was The Hoboken Chicken Emergency). She found me out. "Jonathan, you're supposed to be doing your math." I looked up at her and said, "But Mrs. Harbison, I was BORN to read."
What are some books you loved as a child?
Garfield comics, Ed Emberley, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss.
What is your favorite genre?
Non-fiction (magazine journalism, mainly) though, for the longest time, I read nothing but novels (most contemporary).
Do you have a favorite novel?
I waffle between "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Of Mice and Men."
Where do you usually read?
On the bus.
When do you usually read?
Whenever I'm able to (usually during my commute in the morning and evening).
Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
Of course. I can't read more than three books at a time though. Usually, I'll read two. One that's mentally challenging, one that's a breeze.
Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
I have to concentrate more when reading non-fiction so I usually do that during the peak hours (morning, afternoon) rather than when I'm sleepy (I'm not what you'd consider a night owl though lately I keep myself awake to watch 'Seinfeld' reruns. Still funny, those).
Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out from the library?
I get most all my books at the library. I love reading hardcovers and there's no way I'm going to fork over $30 for a hardcover that I'll read in a few days that I can get at the library for free.
Do you keep most of the books you buy?
I try to, though space is limited so I have to weed from time to time.
If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them?
Mo Willems makes me, and my daughter, laugh.
What are you reading now?
Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill; The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda; The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics & Religion At the Twilight of the American Empire, by Matt Taibbi.
Do you keep a To Be Read List?
Not particularly. I thumb through Publisher Weekly's and then make note of the books I think I might want to read. Then I put holds on those specific books at the library.
The Full Burn : On the Set, At the Bar, Behind the Wheel, and Over the Edge with Hollywood Stuntmen, by Kevin Conley
What books would you like to re-read?
I re-read Catcher in the Rye every few years. It's always those books that you read when you were younger that made an impression on you. For me, it's books by Orwell and London and Twain.
Who are your favorite authors?
Impossible to list them all but a few...
Dead Ones: John Steinbeck, Pablo Neruda, William Shakespeare
Living Ones: T.C. Boyle, Jose Saramago, Annie Dillard
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
You could do worse than getting writing advice from the great Kurt Vonnegut.
From the story...
1. Find a subject you care about
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.
I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way --- although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.
2. Do not ramble, though
I won't ramble on about that.
MotherReader comments on Barack Obama and his brief thoughts on reading.
From the post...
There was one question in particular of interest to us book lovers, and that came from a woman who asked what Obama would say to young writers. He was surprised by the question, which he admitted was one he hadn’t heard before, but didn’t hesitate to answer. He referenced his two books, and specifically mentioned how he wrote them himself, along with many of his speeches. With a light inflection, he said, “In terms of getting a job, knowing how to write is a good thing.” He talked about how he kept a journal, and how it was important for teaching him not only how to write, but also how to think. But my favorite part was when he said, “Over the course of four years I made time to read all of the Harry Potter books out loud to my daughters. If I can do that and run for president, then you can find time to read to your kids. That’s some of the most special time you have with your children.”
Monday, July 14, 2008
AFP has the story about Pablo Neruda's last love.
From the story...
A series of unpublished poems by Chile's late Pablo Neruda, winner of the 1971 Nobel prize for literature, are shedding light on his last romance with his wife's niece more than 40 years his junior, a collector said.
The 14 poems were found in a book titled "Black Island Album," named after the house in central Chile which Neruda, his third and last wife Matilde Urrutia and her niece Alicia Urrutia shared, according to Nurieldin Hermosilla.
The lawyer and Neruda collector said he bought the book recently from a book dealer, who in turn had acquired it from an anonymous seller.
The poems are handwritten in Neruda's traditional green ink and are "a direct and definitive confirmation from the poet's own pen of his love for Alicia," Hermosilla said.
I could go on and on about how great Pablo Neruda is. He is, for me, without a doubt, the best poet I've read thus far in my short life. He's most well-known for his love poems, thanks in no small part to the wonderful Italian movie Il Postino , well worth watching if you haven't already.
Though I can't choose just one best love poem of his, I'll give you this:
And now you’re mine. Rest with your dream in my dream.
Love and pain and work should all sleep, now.
The night turns on its invisible wheels,
and you are pure beside me as a sleeping amber.
No one else, Love, will sleep in my dreams. You will go,
we will go together, over the waters of time.
No one else will travel through the shadows with me,
only you, evergreen, ever sun, ever moon.
Your hands have already opened their delicate fists
and let their soft drifting signs drop away; your eyes closed like two gray
wings, and I move
after, following the folding water you carry, that carries
me away. The night, the world, the wind spin out their destiny.
Without you, I am your dream, only that, and that is all.
There's hope for me. Scientists are saying, according to The Globe and Mail that the more I read the less socially retarded I can become. Thank goodness.
From the story...
A group of Toronto researchers have compiled a body of evidence showing that bookworms have exceptionally strong people skills.
Their years of research - summed up in the current issue of New Scientist magazine - has shown readers of narrative fiction scored higher on tests of empathy and social acumen than those who read non-fiction texts. And follow-up research showed that reading fiction may help fine-tune these skills: People assigned to read a New Yorker short story did better on social reasoning tests than those who read an essay from the same magazine.
Those benefits, researchers say, may be because fiction acts as a type of simulator. Reading about make-believe people having make-believe adventures or whirlwind romances may actually help people navigate those trials in real life.
Ah, social ineptitude no more! Thank you, Toronto researchers!
The New York Times has a story and slide show about the disappearing newsstand.
From the story...
IN 2006, the photographer Rachel Barrett began documenting Manhattan’s newsstands, the makeshift sidewalk stores that sell candy, soda and lottery tickets, as well as newspapers and magazines. To date, she has photographed all 236 that she could find.
Ms. Barrett was drawn to the newsstands because they are ubiquitous and largely taken for granted, and because they forcefully demonstrate that New York, unlike cities whose streets have lost their vitality to car culture, still teems with on-the-run pedestrians.
For the photographer, these grass-roots businesses present variations on a theme. Each reflects the personality and business acumen of its owner as well as the needs and tastes of its neighborhood.