Monday, November 30, 2009

Jon's Writing in Vintage Seattle

I got to write about a very old bathroom for Vintage Seattle. Exciting, no?! Very much so. This is the first piece I've ever written about a comfort station! Thrilling, yes? Yes, indeed.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives.

The World's Oldest Antiquarian Bookseller

Meet Muriel Craddock. She's 97-years-old and is still selling books. You can read her story in Australia's The Age.

From the piece...

At the tender age of 97½, Muriel Craddock would like to announce the re-opening of her family bookshop in the Assembly Hall building in Collins Street. Yes Muriel, seated regally in a corner, is back in-store with daughter Kay and enjoying the unique ambience of the antiquarian book business they started with Muriel's late husband, Les, 44 years ago.

''Mum is much-loved by customers,'' says Kay. ''Just sitting there, talking to people.'' Muriel says she never loses interest in the book trade, but in recent times she has been concerned at the attrition of old faces. ''I'm out-living everybody,'' she frets.

A Future Beyond the Printed Page

The Financial Times discusses books in the digital age.

From the piece...

Ten years from now, electronic paper will be indistinguishable from the magazine you are holding. And not only will it be as flexible and lightweight as the printed page, with the same colours and clarity, it will also be dynamic, updating itself via a wireless internet connection and perhaps even showing video.

That is the boldest prediction from today’s most ardent proponents of e-paper. And the hype around electronic reading devices is at fever pitch. Amazon’s Kindle is now on sale outside North America for the first time, and a flood of rivals is heading for the market from retailers such as Barnes & Noble, computer makers such as Asus and new companies including Plastic Logic (with which the FT has a content partnership).

But even today’s e-readers are going to look out of date pretty soon. Next year will see the first devices with flexible displays. Already, e-readers with colour screens are becoming available, and advances in technology will soon create a glossier look and feel closer to a printed magazine. Also next year, Apple is expected to launch a touch-screen “tablet” that could create a whole new category between laptops and mobiles.

Quote of the Week

To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.
- Allen Ginsberg

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Books That Changed America

NPR has a discussion with Jay Parini, who has just published a new book, Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America. Start here to listen.

The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

How did the title of one of Williams' best-known plays come to be? Gary Dexter lets us know.

From the piece...

Tennessee Williams’ sister Rose suffered from lifelong mental illness, and underwent a pre-frontal lobotomy in 1937. The operation was new and untested, and in Rose’s case was a disastrous failure, leaving her permanently brain-damaged. She spent the rest of her life in institutions, unsure who she or her family were, and convinced that she was forever twenty-eight years old. Tennessee Williams’ attempt to explore the tragedy of Rose gave rise to many of his greatest plays, and Rose herself appears in various guises throughout his work.

Here's a bit of the play, one that has Katharine Hepburn and Sam Watterson:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

An Interview with Rare Book Collector Ken Sanders

Collectors Weekly recently caught up with famed book collector, and dealer, Ken Sanders about book collecting, specifically in regards to collecting books from, and about, the West.

From the interview...

Collectors Weekly: What are some of the most sought-after Western titles of the 20th century?

Sanders: To stick with the Beats for a moment, a beautiful copy of On the Road by Jack Kerouac, in its dust jacket, is a $10,000 to $15,000 book now. An autographed copy of the little first edition of Howl, depending on who’s signed it, could sell from $5,000 to $25,000. Gary Snyder’s first book, Riprap, from 1959, sells in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.

The rarest book by Wallace Stegner, one of the giants of Western literature, is a little monograph published by the University of Utah that sells for around $15,000. His rarest novels are his early ones, Fire and Ice, On a Darkling Plain, and Big Rock Candy Mountain. Nice copies of those are always in the thousands of dollars.

A lot of early books aren’t necessarily rare or valuable, such as Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang; N. Scott’s Momaday’s House Made of Dawn; Frank Waters’ novels and his book on the Colorado River, The Man Who Killed the Deer; the William Eastlake’s trilogy; and Vardis Fisher’s books.

As for rarities, David Seals, a relatively unknown Sioux writer, had a hit movie made from his self-published first novel, Powwow Highway, in 1989, but I’ve never been able to get my hands on a first edition on that book. The University of Chicago Press published several thousand copies of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It as a favor to a former professor. He wrote the book at age 70 after he retired, and it became a hit movie, but that first edition is tough to find.

Before The Big Sky, A.B. Guthrie wrote a murder mystery called Murders at Moon Dance that he was so embarrassed by he never allowed it to be reprinted. It’s never listed on any of his books, so a lot of people don’t even know he wrote it. That book in its original jacket is very hard to find. Another bad first novel of note is The Indians Won by best-selling author Martin Cruz Smith. In it, the Indians and the Mormons team up and take over the interior of the United States. That book is really hard to find in the true first edition.

Billy Collins' Action Poetry

The poetry of Billy Collins has been subject to new wonderful animations by various artists. You can see the pieces, here.

Alice + Pooh + Potter + Cowardly Lion = $

A valuable collection of children's literature is about to be sold at auction. The Los Angeles Times has the story about the collection, owned by former NFL kicker Pat McInally.

From the piece...

Other first-edition children's books for auction include "Stuart Little" signed by E.B. White; "The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien; "Watership Down" by Richard Adams; and "Mother Goose in Prose," L. Frank Baum's first book, in which Dorothy makes her debut. A copy of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is accompanied by a letter about Narnia written and signed by C.S. Lewis. There are also limited editions of "Winnie the Pooh," "The House at Pooh Corner" and "Now We Are Six," all inscribed by author A.A. Milne and illustrator Ernest H. Shepard, as well as a limited edition of the first four Harry Potter books inscribed by J.K. Rowling.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fatherhood in Poetry

In Roger Robinson's Poetry Workshop, on The Guardian, there's a discussion of poetry involving fatherhood. He's asking for your best poem on fatherhood as well. Why not submit something?

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert E Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

What Are the Cheesiest and Most Inappropriate Sci-Fi Covers Ever?

io9 has got the list, one filled with oddities, a list with covers that'll make you laugh, cry, or get a little queasy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Serving Up Some Poetry with Your Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

"Thanksgiving," by Edgar Albert Guest:

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

The Poetry Foundation offers up some selections for you to read before your feasting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

It's an intriguing list, and now a book. Romeo and Juliet (pictured above) made the Top Ten. Buck Rogers is #84.

The Remains of Albert Camus

Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.
- Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)

Camus' last judgment was in Burgandy, January 4, 1960 when he died in a car crash at the age of 46. Should his remains, then, stay where they are or should they be moved to Paris's Pantheon? The debate rages.

Writing about Writers

It begins...

When I first encountered Joan Didion, I was on a bus heading back to my apartment in the middle of the night. This was in Cambridge, Mass., in 1975, and I had picked up a paperback copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Didion’s first nonfiction collection. The opening piece, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” begins with a description of the San Bernardino Valley, east of Los Angeles, and of “the hot dry Santa Ana wind that comes down through the passes at 100 miles an hour and whines through the eucalyptus windbreaks and works on the nerves.” Three pages later, with an October Santa Ana bearing witness, a dentist’s wife named Lucille Miller watches her husband burn to death in the family Volkswagen. By the time I emerged from this sinister dreamscape, I had overshot my bus stop by a mile.

Three decades later, as I could not possibly have imagined in 1975, I found myself in Didion’s Manhattan living room, interviewing her for The Washington Post.

I was an aging rookie on the Post’s book beat, which I’d recently been asked to take over. I was also quietly terrified, as I would be many times when talking with writers I admired. Fear isn’t a bad thing for a reporter. It forces you to prepare and keeps you alert. But in retrospect, I put this interview in a category of its own.

That’s because preparing to talk with Didion — though I was scarcely conscious of this at the time — taught me how to think about my job.

You can read more of Bob Thompson's article in The American Scholar, here.

Julian Wasser/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dead Caulfields

From a site dedicated to the works of J.D. Salinger...

Aside from his Nine Stories, JD Salinger published twenty-two stories in various magazines which remain uncollected. Several attempts have been made to compile these stories together but have met stiff resistance by the author. Spanning his literary career between the years 1940-1965, these stories display changes in both the author's style and message. While some are plainly of commercial quality, most are serious works containing an expansive gift of enlightenment and self-examination.

Collected on Dead Caulfields? The uncollected stories of J.D. Salinger.

The Bible is Ha-Ha Funny

First up, the always super McSweeney's, with "Tom Swifties Excised from the Bible."


"Seriously, Eve, you were created from my third nipple," Adam ribbed.

"Cain, will you spot me while I try to bench this giant rock?" Abel said bashfully.

Next up, the even superer Ricky Gervais on the Book of Genesis:

Since When Did We Start Making Such Great Movies Based on Books?

This is the question Esquire is asking, with all the great literary adaptations hitting the silver screen lately (Fantastic Mister Fox, Where the Wild Things Are, The Road, etc).

From the piece...

Look at who's converting some of these titles for the screen. Jonze adapted Wild Things alongside novelist Dave Eggers, whose fantastical revisionism both owed to and grew from Sendak's slender storybook. Its young hero is the product of a broken home representing not only divorce and alienation, but also the enduring battle between those who take control of their imagination and those who would sooner outsource it to Disney or, worse yet, Hasbro. The acclaimed author Nick Hornby addressed a similar fissure in his script for An Education, based on Lynn Barber's coming-of-age memoir about a girl who suffers the consequences of mistaking affect for sophistication. It's easily the same accusation you could level at the "minds" who reinvented films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Last House on the Left, atmospheric '70s masterpieces that refused to do their audiences' thinking for them.

Those were the days, and the adaptation boom is part of a concerted creative effort to reclaim them — a chance for nice guys like Eggers and Hornby to break through and beat Hollywood at its own derivative game. It's not a fluke, either; novelist Larry McMurtry probably struck the first blow four years ago with the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. Adapting Annie Proulx's short story, he and co-writer Diana Ossana won Academy Awards for penning American cinema's most mainstream gay drama to date. Two of the next three years' Best Picture Oscar winners were book adaptations as well — hardly a new phenomenon, but one that made ultimate insiders out of inveterate iconoclasts like Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) and Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), who compromised neither their sources nor their styles in maneuvering to the top. Peter Jackson they weren't.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Are the Greatest Swashbuckling Heroes in Sci-Fi in the Last 100 Years?

io9 separates the wheat from the chaff, here.

Where, Oh Where, is the Good Sex in Fiction?

This is the question The Guardian asked recently.

From the piece...

As the bad sex in fiction award shortlist lined up yesterday, the authors and their publishers scrambled to declare they'd have been offended not to have made the cut. Perhaps they were forgetting: it's the quality of the writing, not the sex, that's being assessed – and writing about sex well is one of the hardest things to do.

There's an assumption that it will involve writing the nuts and bolts, what goes where. Wrong. Try it. "His right hand slipped down her left thigh, as his left hand deftly undid the catch of her bra, and then he whispered in her ear … " – which one? Where's this guy standing? Or is he sitting? Perhaps lying? And what's she doing with her hands, right and left?

Writing about sex can be like a complicated game of Twister. You sit in front of your laptop, trying to work out where everything's going. It's worse than following the instructions for assembling flatpack furniture. Maybe there are some people who are turned on by DIY manuals, but for most of us they have the opposite effect. There are better ways for the writer to seduce the reader.

And talking about sex, AL Kennedy, also for The Guardian, has a new piece on writing, entitled, "Just because a story's about sex doesn't mean it's about sex."

From her piece...

It's sometimes difficult to explain this to people – and journalists – who seem to expect all kinds of strenuous research for which I personally would lack, in every way, the flexibility. Fiction about sex is still fiction – standard operating procedures apply. Equally, it is occasionally disconcerting to deal with emerging writers' work when half the notes you have to give read roughly along the lines of "As far as I'm aware, the average penis doesn't extend to three feet and is unable to go around corners." Or "Is this scene followed by reconstructive surgery?" And a percentage of the remaining comments may mention errors caused by embarrassment or a desire to shock. But we, as writers, are already sitting in the nice privacy of the reader's head, enjoying the usual range of necessary intimacies, which we earn by being beautiful, interesting, hypnotic, poetic and all the rest – jumping out from behind a damp bush and ejaculating wildly would almost always be inappropriate and shoddy. And there is, naturally, nothing to be embarrassed about – the reader thinks of sex a ridiculous number of times per hour without our assistance already. We are simply dreaming together – anything goes.

Painting by Frances Lynn.

The Books That Changed My Life

Famous authors reveal their favorite titles in Best Life Magazine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quote of the Week

One gains universal applause who mingles the useful with the agreeable, at once delighting and instructing the reader.
- Horace

Terrible Poetry Jokes

Care of Peter Lavelle at McSweeney's.

A sample joke...

Wordsworth and Coleridge are watching the Lakers game. They can't get service at the crowded bar. Coleridge smiles and says to Wordsworth: "Lager, lager everywhere, and I can't get a drink." Wordsworth says to Coleridge: "I have pleurisy."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why We Use Cookbooks

The great Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, discusses our hunger for cookbooks.

From the piece...

A man and a woman lie in bed at night in the short hour between kid sleep and parent sleep, turning down page corners as they read. She is leafing through a fashion magazine, he through a cookbook. Why they read these things mystifies even the readers. The closet and the cupboard are both about as full as they’re going to get, and though we can credit the fashion reader with at least wanting to know what is in fashion when she sees it, what can the recipe reader possibly be reading for? The shelf of cookbooks long ago overflowed, so that the sad relations and failed hopes (“Monet’s Table,” “A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews”) now are stacked horizontally, high up. The things he knows how to make that are actually in demand are as fixed as any cocktail pianist’s set list, and for a clientele of children every bit as conservative as the barflies around that piano: make Parmesan-crusted chicken—the “Feelings” of food—every night and they would be delighted. Yet the new cookbooks show up in bed, and the corners still go down.

Vicarious pleasure? More like deferred frustration. Anyone who cooks knows that it is in following recipes that one first learns the anticlimax of the actual, the perpetual disappointment of the thing achieved. I learned it as I learned to bake. When I was in my early teens, the sick yearning for sweets that adolescents suffer drove me, in afternoons taken off from school, to bake, which, miraculously, meant just doing what the books said and hoping to get what they promised to yield. I followed the recipes as closely as I could: dense Boston cream pie, Rigó Jansci slices, Sacher Torte with apricot jam between the layers. The potential miracle of the cookbook was immediately apparent: you start with a feeling of greed, find a list of rules, assemble a bunch of ingredients, and then you have something to be greedy about. You begin with the ache and end with the object, where in most of the life of appetites—courtship, marriage—you start with the object and end with the ache.

If you have an interest in antiquarian cookbooks, start here.

Welcome to Forks, Washington

Forks, not far from me, is the setting for the Twilight books that are all the rage these days. A writer for Details Magazine traveled there and discussed it with an essay, "So the Woman You Love Has the Hots for a Vampire. What Does That Say About You?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Klingon as a First Language

BoingBoing has the story. It's of a father from Minnesota who spoke Klingon to his child for the first three years of his life. That bears repeating - a father spoke Klingon, and only Klingon, to his child until the age of three.

For some Klingon propoganda:

The Very Best in Bad Sex Writing

Who is going to win the coveted prize this year? Philip Roth? Paul Theroux? Nick Cave?

From the piece...

The Pulitzer prize-winning Roth makes the line-up for The Humbling, in which the ageing actor Simon converts Pegeen, a lesbian, to heterosexuality. The Literary Review singled out a scene in which Simon and Pegeen pick up a girl from a bar and convince her to take part in a threesome. Simon looks on as Pegeen uses her green dildo to great effect. "This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be," writes Roth. "There was something dangerous about it. His heart thumped with excitement – the god Pan looking on from a distance with his spying, lascivious gaze."

'Roth is very anxious about his description of sex," said Jonathan Beckman at the Literary Review of the extract. "Why write of a scene that repeatedly features a green dildo, 'this was not soft porn', unless you're worried that it might be taken as such - in this case, with sentences like 'then she crouched above Tracy, brushing Tracy's lips and nipples with her mouth and fondling her breasts...', the worry seems justified. But it's the overcompensation that qualifies this passage for the award – the totems and shamans are an attempt to convince us that Roth's leering is actually giving some vital anthropological insight."

A History of Science Fiction Classics...

told through its book covers.

From the post on io9...

A single book can inspire a wide range of covers, and sometimes those covers can be works of art themselves. We look at some classic science fiction novels and the various covers they've worn throughout the years.

We've collected various book covers from a number of classic science fiction novels to see how different artists have interpreted the same book. The covers are sometimes surprisingly pulpy, others are elegantly minimalist, and still others are variations on the same theme.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top Twenty Book Covers of the '00s

The Book Cover Archive Blog tries valiantly to pick the best dust jackets in the last ten years.

Pictured above: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, with illustration by Erich Lessing and designed by John Gall.

One of the Greatest Creations of 19th Century American Culture

Welcome to the Fisher Fine Arts Library.

From the piece in The Wall Street Journal...

Because books were such a familiar and natural component of Furness's upbringing, he did not sentimentalize them. When his contemporaries set about designing libraries, they tended to treat them reverently, as if they were a shrine for sacred objects. But Furness knew that books were active, useful, even incendiary things—the antebellum abolitionist tracts that his father wrote had brought repeated death threats.

Frank Furness's building, then, was perhaps the only library to treat the act of reading as an active and dynamic enterprise. The building is an engine of active thought, divided into four separate volumes, each serving a different function and assuming a different shape. Most dominant is the stairhall, rising to 95 feet and isolated from the library proper so that the sound of footsteps would not penetrate the main reading room (a problem that classical libraries, with their central stair, never quite resolve).

Photo by Margie Politzer.

The French Town That Can't Let a Bookstore Die

Welcome to Poligny, a town of book lovers.

From the piece in the Washington Post...

Just off the town square, a few hundred feet down La Grande Rue, a bookstore has been dispensing culture and entertainment to the people of Poligny for 150 years. Over the generations, residents said, it has become part of the landscape, a place where children tarry on the way home from school and their parents duck in to pick up the latest novel.

That's why, when the shop looked as if it would have to close this spring, a group of townspeople put up cash to form a little corporation, capitalized at $70,000, and bought the lease to keep it running. As a result, the New Bookstore reopened two weeks ago with a coat of fresh paint but a familiar mission: to be a haven where people feel welcome dropping by to buy a ballpoint pen or browse for books.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Sporting Life in Books

AbeBooks has a beautiful little collection of sports books to take a gander at.

In Cold Blood - FIfty Years On

Truman Capote's masterful In Cold Blood is fifty years old. The Guardian takes another look at the book and the slaughter of a family in Holcomb, Kansas.

From the piece...

Four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives." That was how Truman Capote summed up the murders with somewhat greater drama, referring to the four Clutter victims and their two attackers who died later on the gallows. After reading a short newspaper account of the killings, he decided to make the 1,700km journey from his home in New York to Holcomb to chronicle the impact of terrible violence on a small community. The result, six years later, was In Cold Blood. It propelled him to household fame and fortune, and in the process ensured that Holcomb was put on the map, and changed forever, in ways that many of the townspeople did not – and still do not – appreciate.

It is hard to think of any murder case involving six relatively unknown individuals that has captured so many imaginations. In Cold Blood has sold millions of copies and been translated into 30 languages. It was made into a black-and-white film of the same name in 1967 and there was a colour remake in 1996. The story of how it came to be written became the 2005 movie Capote, followed by Infamous the following year.

The Dutch Literary Tradition

Is there such a thing? Indeed! Eurozine takes a look at the writing of the Netherlands and contemporary Dutch literature.

From the piece...

Does the Netherlands have any great literature to boast of? This question is often put to me when I am abroad. So who then are the doyens of that Dutch literature? Many of the people I talk to are unable to name even a single writer from the Dutch-speaking world. Erasmus, Spinoza, Anne Frank – it appears that none of these are directly associated with the Netherlands, even though Erasmus lived in Rotterdam, Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, and Het achterhuis [The diary of a young girl] was written in an Amsterdam house overlooking a canal.

Anyone wishing to sketch a picture of Dutch literature of the past fifty years must look at five major writers: Willem Frederik Hermans, Gerard Reve (both now deceased), Harry Mulisch, Cees Nooteboom, and Hella S. Haasse.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jon's Writing in Vintage Seattle

I recently wrote about the fabulous Fox Theatre that was on 7th and Olive in Seattle for Vintage Seattle. I hope you enjoy the small piece here. And for more images of the grand building, you can visit the University of Washington's image collection here.

A Feminist Reading List

Ariel Levy offers it in The New Yorker.

From the brief piece...

It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the piece I wrote, but as long as we’re talking about feminist memoirs, I highly recommend Andrea Dworkin’s, “Heartbreak.” I think it is her best book, certainly her most accessible. It is the perfect antidote to the myth that Dworkin was a simplistic thinker—and writer—who thought that all sex was rape.

Now this is really a stretch, but just by the by, I think my favorite biography of a feminist icon is Nancy Mitford’s unbelievable “Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.” Oof, that’s a good book.

The Bible - X-Box Edition

Thou shalt play games.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quote of the Week

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
- Chinese Proverb

Gene FOXP2

It's that gene, that single solitary gene that separates chimps and us in regards to speaking abilities. We can, they can't. It's because of the gene FOXP2. UCLA scientists discuss it here.

From the piece...

"Earlier research suggests that the amino-acid composition of human FOXP2 changed rapidly around the same time that language emerged in modern humans," said Dr. Daniel Geschwind, Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Chair in Human Genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Ours is the first study to examine the effect of these amino-acid substitutions in FOXP2 in human cells.

"We showed that the human and chimp versions of FOXP2 not only look different but function differently too," said Geschwind, who is currently a visiting professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's Poem

Dorothy Parker's "General Review of the Sex Situation":

I Can Tell By the Pixies...

Letters of Note, which day after day has some incredibly interesting posts, had a post the other day on Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle was an avid spiritualist and believed in faeries, actual faeries, and the like. He wrote a letter to a girl who had taken a "photograph" of a faerie.

A Novel Crime Cure

The BBC recently looked at how reading classic literature can help those in prison from reoffending.

From the piece...

Mr North says literature also helped addicts and other sick people.

He said: "Literature is an incredibly broad thing and heals all of us all the time.

"We're interested in how you deliver it in a highly charged way to get a result."

Mary Stephenson, formerly writer in residence at Channings Wood prison in Exeter, said she had seen at least two prisoners change after reading classic novels.

"It made them realise they weren't thick or stupid and they were just as much an audience for that kind of writing as anyone else.

"That gives them a great boost and a lot of them started to do education."

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and the modern adventure novel Touching the Void by Joe Simpson all resonated with offenders in different ways.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Writers Define the First World War

There's an illuminating post in The Guardian (without question one of the best book sites on the internet) about World War I, the literature it spawned, and how those on the firing line recorded their experiences of it.

From the piece...

Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front became an instant bestseller around the world. It is the one book that provided a continuing market for the others mentioned here. It spawned a new literary movement in books condemning the war, making the style suddenly fashionable in the late 20s, just as books about teenage vampires are today. It also inspired the first great war film which set the tone for what would follow. Future conflicts – the second world war, Vietnam, Iraq – would all inspire more great celluloid than pages.

The first world war was the first time war was seen and understood by writers, by a whole generation of them, who didn't see it remotely, through chivalrously tinted lenses but in the mud and the blood and the shrapnel. Before the real dawn of cinema and after the birth of literacy, the first world war is the only war that must be read to be understood.

The Smell of Books

Double-Breasted Dust-Jacket has an interesting post about a new study that was done about the smell of books. Called "material degradomics" - analyzers can tell the age and condition of a book by sniffing it.

The Antiquarian Book Market in Mexico City

It's a good one, notes the Los Angeles Times. Travel to Mexico City and there are treasures to be found, partly because most book collectors look to the United States or Europe for their books, secondly because oftentimes the bookstores owners in Mexico don't use the internet and price their books at lower prices because of it.

From the story...

You don't have to read Spanish to love these bookstores. There is an incredible range of old, odd books in English (as well as in French, German and Italian) scattered throughout the shelves. In Bibliofilia, a Donceles bookstore that specializes in rare, antique and out-of-print books, a 1960s Manual for Refrigeration Mechanics, a first edition of T.S. Eliot's "The Cocktail Party" and the 1866 "History of the United States" in four volumes illustrated with steel engravings are for sale at about a third the price of what they could fetch north of the border.

In general, the price of antique, out-of-print and rare books in Mexico City is cheap compared with the prices in the U.S. and Europe. Collectors outside the country often don't know what's available in Mexico, and booksellers here may not use the Internet to find out what prices are elsewhere. This, of course, gives the informed, or just lucky, book buyer a real advantage.

Although good deals can be found on blankets spread out along the avenues around the city, in the well-stocked bookstalls on the traffic islands in the Roma, Condesa and Coyoacán neighborhoods or at the weekly flea markets, the dozens of used-book stores lining Calle Donceles, with upward of 1 million books on sale and prices often as cheap as on the street, are still the place to go for one-stop used-book shopping.