Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bookscans


BookScans is a free online reference site, listing tens of thousands of .jpg images, arranged numerically, by publisher, displaying how cover images and graphics changed during the early years of paperbacks.

Have fun trolling the site, here.

Pat the Zombie

Literary One-Hit Wonders


The list, care of the Telegraph.

From said list...

Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights

Bronte published her one and only novel in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. She died the following year of tuberculosis. In 1850, a new edition of Wuthering Heights was published with a preface written by her sister, Charlotte.

12 Life Lessons You Can Learn from Jane Austen


The list, care of the Huffington Post.

In a Similar Vein


Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd, explains the allure of writing about vampires and suggests some of her favorites.

From a post on the Guardian...

Many people have asked me why I think that vampires are currently so popular, and to me, it's a mixed-bag of reasons. For one, in many ways, a vampire is the eternal bad boy. He's dangerous, sexy, and can offer us an escape that no one else can or will. Plus, nobody but we understand him, that beneath the fangs, he's something more. For two, people are inextricably drawn to The Thing Under The Bed. We fear It, but at the same time, we're peaking under there to see what It's up to. Vampires are an excellent metaphor for many things, which contributes to people wanting to read about them in order to explore the human condition. But what it boils down to is that we, as a society, have tasted the dark side, and we liked the flavor of it so much that we can't stay away. This isn't the first trend of vampire love, and it certainly won't be the last. Vampires will always turn back to popularity over time.

My bookshelves are overflowing with various vampire tales, but one definitely stands out above the rest. It's a book that I nudge my Minions to again and again, and one that many younger readers have yet to discover. DRACULA by Bram Stoker.

While it can be argued that the book had issues, I love the story for what it is: a dark, twisted journey of corrupted innocence and the undead.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray


Over 120 years after it was condemned as 'vulgar' and 'unclean', an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is published by Harvard University Press.

From an article in the Guardian...

Wilde's editor JM Stoddart had already deleted a host of "objectionable" text from the novel before it made its first appearance in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in June 1890, cutting out material which made more explicit the homoerotic nature of artist Basil Hallward's feelings for Dorian Gray and which accentuated elements of homosexuality in Gray himself.

Deciding that the novel as it stood contained "a number of things which an innocent woman would make an exception to", and assuring his employer Craige Lippincott that he would make the book "acceptable to the most fastidious taste", Stoddart also removed references to Gray's female lovers as his "mistresses". He went on to cut "many passages that smacked of decadence more generally," said Nicholas Frankel, editor of the new edition, for Harvard University Press.

The public outcry which followed the novel's appearance – "it is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction," wrote the Daily Chronicle – forced Wilde to revise the novel still further before it appeared in book form in 1891.

Books With the Worst Dating Advice, Ever


Thanks, Huffington Post!

George Saunders Interviewed


One of my favorite living writers was recently interviewed on Bomblog.

From the post...

Patrick Dacey

It’s been a few years since I was a student of yours at Syracuse, but I always enjoyed your classes because they felt more like conversations and I remember certain things you said that have been invaluable to me as a writer. A couple have stayed with me: “The moment when things get complicated, that’s what we try to move towards.” And: “A father and son in a bedroom doesn’t mean that something sexual has to happen.” Does it seem to you that writers sometimes choose to shy away from complications by going to the extreme?

George Saunders

Right—those two are kind of like bookends—although also, wow, what a terror, to be quoted so accurately at such great temporal distance. You may remember some of my other biggies, such as, “Any monkey in a story had better be a dead monkey,” and “Aunts and uncles are best construed as the heliological equivalent of small-scale weather systems,” or (the mother of all advice-quote-pairs): “The number of rooms in a fictional house should be inversely proportional to the years during which the couple living in that house enjoyed true happiness.”

The first idea (“move towards the complicated”) is, I think, best understood as a habit of mind generally worth cultivating. Basically: steer towards the rapids. Say we’re writing “Little Red Riding Hood,” and we’ve just typed: “One day, Red’s mother handed her a picnic basket and told her to go see Granny, but not to talk to any strangers along the way.” So—should we have her meet a stranger? Yes. Should that stranger be potentially dangerous, like, say, a wolf? Sounds promising. Should Red engage with the wolf? (What a drag, if, at that point, she takes Mom’s advice and ignores the wolf: story over). Should the wolf she meets be evil, or a gentle, New Age wolf, who gives her some nice poems about daughter/granddaughter relations? Looking at a familiar story like that one, it’s pretty clear: a story is a thing that is full of dozens of crossroads moments, and if we make a habit of first, noticing these, and, second, steering toward the choice that gives off incrementally more power (or light, or heat, or throws open other interesting doors, etc.), this will, over the long haul, make the story more unique, more like itself, more incendiary. (Although even as I type this, I find myself intrigued by the poem-giving wolf. . . . )

That’s where the second idea comes in: as we try to steer toward the rapids, we sometimes do so reflexively, thus overriding reality, or probability, or story-power, in a way that can seem like a tic. We often auto-choose the naughty, the verboten, the violent, the coolly uneventful, the “literary.”

For example, a few years back, in our admissions pile at Syracuse, we were getting a gazillion stories where everyone over 40 was a pedophile. Or, you know—if he/she wasn’t a pedophile, it was through sheer act of will. And I started feeling that move as sort of habitual—it was what a young writer did when he/she didn’t know what else to do: throw a pedophile in there. So that decision—which must have felt, to those writers, like “steering toward the rapids”—was actually the opposite: it had become the lazy, go-to solution—a way of avoiding complexity.

That second bit-o’-shtick you mention in your question (“A father and a son in a bedroom. . .”) might refer to a larger principle, namely: we have to know what our reader is expecting and take that into account. If, for example, we make that father a Father—i.e., a priest—and have him call that kid into the dark, secluded back room of the church—well, at this particular cultural moment, certain expectations arise. And as writers, we have to know those, and deal with them somehow. If I say: a priest summoned an altar boy into the back room of the church—well, at some level we “expect” a molestation. We just do. Maybe in 1931 we didn’t—but we do now. (And “expect” might be too strong a word. Let’s say “molestation” comes into the realm of likely narrative possibilities.) So the writer has to know this, and respond accordingly. The molestation could occur, of course, but we’d have to make it occur in a way that somehow takes into account the fact that molestation-by-priest has become a trope and a Tonight Show punch line.

We all know that nice feeling that happens when we are expecting Thing A from a writer and we go, “Oh no, not that, that would be just too obvious,” and then she delivers, instead, Thing B, and Thing B evidences a bigger heart, or a wider experience, or just more attentiveness on her part, etc., etc. So: there in that back room, the priest might do or say something that suddenly reminds us that “priest” is a category that contains multitudes—from molesters (yes, sure, O.K.) to Merton-like spiritual beings of great kindness, like that priest at (I think it was) Auschwitz, who sacrificed himself so that some other people could live, and was then starved to death in a pit, and the others heard him singing hymns literally to the very end.

(Or, for that matter, the priest might do something that reminds us that “molester” is also a category that contains multitudes (!). That is, the molestation could go ahead and occur, at a level of detail/insight that astounds us and makes it all new again.)

I suppose what we’re really trying to develop is the ability to see, at a given moment in a story (stuck there, sick of our own prose, blinded to it by the hours we’ve already spent), all the inherent possibilities, and then choose the one that is most. . . something. I would tend to say: the one that is most uncommon, i.e., the one that would take the most time/energy/acuity of vision to come up with—the one that is farthest down the trail, so to speak. But I suppose that’s what distinguishes one writer from another: how he/she might complete that sentence: Choose the one that is most (??).

And, of course, all of the above is mere concept—we “decide” how to write by doing it over and over, all the while trying to avoid nauseating ourselves—and then we look up afterwards and maybe try to figure out what we’ve done, and what we, therefore, must “believe” about writing.

Collecting James Bond First Editions


The Cataloguer's Desk is here to help.

From the piece...

Ian Fleming’s James Bond titles are some of the most popular spy thrillers ever written. They’re also beautifully designed books that look great as a set, and they’re a fun and accessible starting point for those interested in collecting modern literature.

Unlike some authors with complex publishing histories, Ian Fleming is straight-forward and his first editions are easy to identify. He wrote 14 James Bond books, all of which were published by Jonathan Cape in London between 1953 and 1966. There are only two simple rules to identify a Fleming first edition:

* the novel should say Jonathan Cape on the title page
* and it should state “First published…” with the correct year (and no others) on the back of the title page.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Paper Books of Flavio Demarchi


Enjoy!

"Jersey Shore" Gone (Oscar) Wilde

26 Important Comic Books


Sure, it may seem silly, but, comic books mean something. Soldiers used dog-eared copies of Captain America to keep their spirits up in WWII. The Green Lantern and Green Arrow made kids actually think about issues like racism and heroin. And millions gasped when they heard the news that Superman died. In fact, the vibrant medium is so often pegged as children’s pulp, or fun for the feeble-minded, that people tend to forget that comics have actually grown with and continued to reflect the spirit of our times.

The list, care of Mental Floss.

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee


Today's her birthday. And, no, she's not authorized a biography about her.

Why is Science Fiction So Sneered At?


That's the question recently posed by the Spectator.

From the piece...

In recent years the question of why the literary mainstream continues to marginalize and ignore writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy has become a live issue, perhaps most eloquently demonstrated by the furious reaction to the BBC’s shabby and offhand treatment of the genres in its World Book Night program, The Books We Really Read.

As someone who reads widely in both fields it’s an irritation I have some sympathy with. Where forty years ago any reader worth their salt would have at least a passing knowledge of SF authors such as J.G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss and Ursula Le Guin, many now wear their ignorance of the form proudly, dismissing it with the same shudder they reserve for Twilight.

At least part of this shift stems from the fading of the notion of the avant garde Ballard and others operated within, a process that is itself a small part of a larger shift in the idea of what literature’s role should be. It’s possible Michel Houllebecq believes, as Ballard once did, that the novel is capable of rewiring reality, but he’d be one of the few.

How Businessweek is Made...Sort Of

BUSINESSWEEK: THE MOVIE SORT OF from bizweekgraphics on Vimeo.

Shaun Tan's Wild Imagination


The New York Times profiles the marvelous writer/artist.

From the article...

Tan himself has arrived in a big way this year. A few weeks ago, a month after collecting his Oscar, he received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the richest ($765,000) international prize for children’s literature, adding to a string of past honors that include the Hugo and the World Fantasy awards. Already celebrated in his native Australia, he has emerged on the global stage at age 37 as a major visual storyteller. This spring, Arthur A. Levine, his American publisher, followed up “The Arrival” and a book of illustrated stories titled “Tales From Outer Suburbia” with “Lost and Found,” a volume collecting three of Tan’s most popular Australian picture books. And he’s in talks with Nick Wechsler, producer of “The Road” and “Requiem for a Dream,” about a feature-film adaptation of “The Arrival.”

Tan creates picture books, but he’s not a children’s author, exactly; “The Arrival” is a masterpiece of the graphic-novel form, but he’s not really a graphic novelist either. Chris van Allsburg, author of “The Polar Express” and other picture books that parents are happy to pore over repeatedly with their children, comes to mind as a peer, but the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, perhaps best known for “Spirited Away,” might make a better comparison. Like Miyazaki, Tan engages audiences across a wide range of age and sophistication. I teach “The Arrival” in a graduate seminar on the city in literature, and my wife teaches it in an undergraduate course on immigrant narratives, but our daughters enjoyed it when they were kindergartners, and one of them, now 10, has recently been stealing “Lost and Found” from my desk. Tan’s low-key, open-ended, enigmatic stories are often about coming at a forbidding world from a fresh angle, making it strange on the way to making it one’s own — an experience that children share with immigrants and with artists.

Do You Want to Get Published in a Literary Journal?


Than read this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cool Non-Literary Uses for Books


Enjoy!

The Art of Bookplates


Enjoy!

The Avengers Assemble


The Los Angeles Times has brought out some exciting news, comics geeks! Filming has begun for the coming Avengers movie. More, here.

The Internet is Not to Blame for Your Unfinished Novel: You Are.


Colson Whitehead offers up some thoughts on writing.

From a post on Publishers Weekly...

There are those who moan, oh, Shakespeare wouldn't have written all those wonderful plays for us to "modern update" if he'd had Angry Birds and Darklady.com. Is it so terrible, here in the 21st century? A sonnet is perfect Tumblr-length, and given the persistent debates over the authorship of his work, the bard would have benefited from modern, cutting-edge identity theft protection. The old masters didn't even have freaking penicillin. I think Nietzsche would have endured non-BCC'd e-mail dispatches in exchange for pills to de-spongify his syphilitic brain, and we can all agree Virginia Woolf could've used a scrip for serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I digress. The Internet is not to blame for your unfinished novel: you are. People write novels in prison, for chrissakes.

A little company during the workday. I used to think that I was the only one hunched over a keyboard in soiled pajamas, rummaging through the catalogue of my failures and intermittently weeping. Now, I open Twitter and see that I am not alone. I am part of a vast and wretched assembly of freaks who are not fit for decent work and thus must write, or wither. I am fortified by their failures, and I hope they take succor from mine. Some of those out there are established, some are just starting out. I don't give a whit about your accomplishments—all I care about is your facility for describing the fine grain of your work-related suffering, in less than 140 characters, preferably 100, so I have room to add a footnote. I debrief them on my repulsive day; they inform me of their ongoing tortures. The miles disappear, the borders of nations evaporate as we log on, disburden, commiserate, and then, most important, log off. Log off, because even though it's nice to have someone to talk to during the day, it's also nice to shut 'em up.

11 Grammatically Incorrect Movie Titles


The list, care of 11 Points.

The World's Last Manual Typewriter Factory Closed


Sorry, typewriter lovers. They're not making them anymore.

From a piece in the Atlantic...

With only about 200 machines left -- and most of those in Arabic languages -- Godrej and Boyce shut down its plant in Mumbai, India, today. "Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India -- until recently," according to the Daily Mail, which ran a special story this morning about the typewriters demise. "Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers." Secretaries, rejoice.

"We are not getting many orders now," Milind Dukle, Godrej and Boyce's general manager, told the paper. "From the early 2000s onwards, computers started dominating. All the manufacturers of office typewriters stopped production, except us. 'Till 2009, we used to produce 10,000 to 12,000 machines a year. But this might be the last chance for typewriter lovers. Now, our primary market is among the defence agencies, courts and government offices."


All is not lost, however. Electric typewriters are still being made. Phew.

And, don't forget the USB typewriter.

Top Five Non-Religious Books on Living a Good Life


The list, care of Slate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seattle's Iconic Elliott Bay Book Company Making a Comeback


There was a hue and a cry about Elliott Bay Book Company moving from Seattle's Pioneer Square to the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Turns out it was a good bet.

From a piece in the Puget Sound Business Journal...

Relocating his iconic bookstore to Seattle’s Capitol Hill saved the business, but Elliott Bay Book Co. owner Peter Aaron is keeping a keen eye on where the retail publishing industry is headed.

Aaron said monthly sales in the new location at 1521 10th Ave. are up 15 percent to 20 percent from the store’s former Pioneer Square location, where it had a 36-year run. The recession and a difficult retailing environment had the Pioneer Square store near death.

“It was either close the business or move to a better location,” Aaron said about the new Capitol Hill site.

Elliott Bay Book benefited from moving to a neighborhood with more residents and a stronger mix of stores and restaurants. Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College are nearby. All contributed to increased foot traffic, on which the store is capitalizing.

Of the new location, Aaron said: “It just feels safe and lively... It’s been gratifying.”

Amazon's $23,698,655.93 Book About Flies


Get out your checkbook!

From a post on It Is Not Junk...

I sent a screen capture to the author - who was appropriate amused and intrigued. But I doubt even he would argue the book is worth THAT much.

At first I thought it was a joke – a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each be offered for well over a million dollars. And the two sellers seemed not only legit, but fairly big time (over 8,000 and 125,000 ratings in the last year respectively). The prices looked random – suggesting they were set by a computer. But how did they get so out of whack?

Amazingly, when I reloaded the page the next day, both priced had gone UP! Each was now nearly $2.8 million. And whereas previously the prices were $400,000 apart, they were now within $5,000 of each other. Now I was intrigued, and I started to follow the page incessantly. By the end of the day the higher priced copy had gone up again. This time to $3,536,675.57. And now a pattern was emerging.

Would You Have 10 Surgeries in 10 Months to Look Like Shakespeare?


No? There's someone who would. Find out more, here.

Does the Novel Have a Future?


The answer is in an essay by Tao Lin.

From the piece in the New York Observer...

A certain literary discourse, about what others should or shouldn't be doing with their art, will probably always exist as a distraction from writing novels. I discerned this afresh while studying said discourse for my addition, arguably, in terms of "the future of the novel," to the discourse. My addition—herein, itself a distraction from the composition of my third novel—summarizes part of the discourse I've studied, then asks, "What different kinds of novels actually exist?" and "What, then, is the future of the novel?" and can be read, in entirety, as an effort, while distracted, to encourage myself (by first discerning what exists in the absence of distractions and if I desire that) to be less distracted in the future.

The Act of Reading in Bed


We readers do it, a lot.

From a post in the Los Angeles Times...

You know that joke that shows everything's better when you add "in bed" to the end? The same can be said for books, according to a report by Sony released Friday.

The survey, conduced in March, showed that 79% of Americans are most likely to read books in bed. That's more people choosing to read in bed than in the living room (73%), on vacation (37%) or while commuting (8%).

Sony conducted the international study with American, British, Canadian and Australian readers to commemorate World Book Day, celebrated most places on April 23.

Top Ten Essential Sports Books


The list, care of Indigo.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ayn Rand on Atheism

Artists Remix Classic Book Covers


Enjoy, care of Flavorwire.

The 3-D Type Book

The 3D Type Book by FL@33 from Tomi Vollauschek on Vimeo.

The Incredible Hulk Reviews "Eat, Pray, Love"


Wow.

From the piece...

HULK PRETTY GOOD AT AVOIDING MOVIES HULK KNOW WILL MAKE HULK WANT SMASH. BUT THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCE, HULK HAVE WATCH EAT, PRAY, LOVE THE OTHER NIGHT…. IT SO ENRAGING HULK HAVE GO TO DESERT FOR SOME TANK-TOSSIN’ JUST TO BLOW OFF STEAM… BUT NOW, HULK FINALLY READY TALK ABOUT IT.

YOU MAY EXPECT HULK SIMPLY TEAR APART A FILM THAT SEEM LIKE FROU-FROU NONSENSE ON OUTSIDE. THAT NOT WHAT YOU GOING GET THOUGH . HULK WORK HULK’S ASS OFF ON THIS SO YOU GOING TO GET A FOUR-PART, 7000+ WORD TREATISE ON SELF-DELUSION, SELFISHNESS, THE TRUE VALIDITY OF MENTAL HEALTH, FEMINISM, AND WESTERN MALAPROPISM.

ENJOY!

FIRST, A FEW THINGS CONSIDER:

1) HULK NOT AGAINST “CHICK FLICKS.” HULK EVEN FIND THAT TERM REASONABLY OFFENSIVE. MANY PEOPLE CONFUSE THE LOW QUALITY AND PANDERING NATURE OF RECENT HOLLYWOOD ENTRIES WITH THE ACTUAL POTENTIAL QUALITY OF THE GENRE. THAT BIG MISTAKE. IN HULK’S VIEW, THERE SIMPLY GOOD MOVIES AND BAD MOVIES. HULK NOT CARE ABOUT GENRE OR INTENDED AUDIENCE. SO EAT PRAY LOVE = MOVIE ABOUT FEMININITY AND PERSONAL ENLIGHTENMENT? SURE, PERFECT! IT TOPIC NOT EXPLORED ENOUGH IN MOVIES, SO SIGN HULK UP! BUT HULK’S EVENTUAL PROBLEM WITH EAT, PRAY, LOVE THE ACTUAL CONVEYING OF SAID MESSAGE/SOLUTIONS/THEME AND NOT MESSAGE/SOLUTIONS/THEME ITSELF.

2) HULK NOT HATE JULIA ROBERTS. SHE BELOVED FIGURE FOR REASON. SHE ALWAYS CHARMING. AND IN RECENT YEARS SHE EVEN BECOME DECENT-TO-PRETTY-GOOD ACTRESS… BUT EVEN SHE NO SAVE THIS PIECE OF SHIT.

Jon Krakauer's Hunt for Truth


The famous journalist's revelations about Three Cups of Tea's Greg Mortenson are the latest in his relentless quest to find the truth and expose fraud. Nick Summers on what drives Into the Wild's Jon Krakauer.

From a piece on Book Beast...

With evidence of crimes both literary and financial, the meticulously researched stomping last week thrilled Krakauer fans, among whom are some of the best in the narrative journalism game. "I found it completely riveting," said Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief. "Human nature is drawn to a train wreck, and this had that quality." (Attempts to reach Mortenson via his charity were unsuccessful.)

Three Cups of Deceit was published as a short e-book ($2.99, byliner.com), another departure for Krakauer, who at this stage of his career can put a big hardcover on the bestseller list with just his name on the cover. But the doggedness with which Krakauer goes after his subject—for maximum impact, he timed its release to a blistering 60 Minutes report on Mortenson, in which Krakauer appeared—reveals the maniacal side of his approach. Whether he is investigating a single man or a high-ranking conspiracy over a soldier's death, once he has a topic in his teeth, Krakauer appears incapable of letting go.

Krakauer declined an interview, but he talked about his approach in the 2005 anthology The New New Journalism. "Essentially, I grab a shovel and start digging hard, for a long time," he said, describing a "feverish hunt for material." As for topic selection, he said, "I'm intrigued by fanatics—people who are seduced by the promise, or the illusion, of the absolute."

That may describe Krakauer himself.

Writing Poetry on Natural Disasters


In the latest installment of the Daily Beast's poetry month series, a new poem from Dana Goodyear is paired with a classic by Louise Bogan. Both wrestle with natural disaster.

From the post...

Los Angeles, in Earthquake Light

The black pit bubbles up a princess
every now and again. One has bound
hands and a wildflower diadem.

The desert creeps at the rate
of fingernails; the abbreviation for street
is the same as that for saint.

In the doctor’s waiting room, a young man
screams into a telephone “What the fuck?”
which is exactly what everyone else is wondering.

On the periphery, tents
pitched under overpasses
cant against the dirty wind.

Congratulations, baby. You are rich
enough to drive your own limousine
to your own funeral.

All sashay together on the count of three.
Chandelier, swimming pool, patient EKG,
Abracadabra, you are free.

—Dana Goodyear

Become Someone Else


The book ads of Mint Vinetu are cool.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter Bunny Book Quiz


Good luck!

Judging the Cover of a Book


Penguin art director Paul Buckley shares how he chose the 75 best covers to celebrate the publisher's anniversary.

From a piece in Salon...

Growing up, were you taken aback by Penguin book designs? What was the first cover that caught your eye?

I honestly cannot say that I had any Penguin moments as a child -- until the age of 13 my reading consisted solely of science fiction and anything on biology. Though I do remember my first book cover eureka moment ... I was 12 and we had just moved into my stepmother's house, and everything was new to me. Upon exploring the garage I came upon a huge open box full of pulp books from the '50s. They really grabbed me and I remember going through them one by one. There were easily 300 books in this box that probably held the washer or dryer; each cover was more insanely fabulous than the next. Not long after, no doubt to make space, that box was thrown out without much thought, which makes me nuts to think about. I fantasize that if I had those books today, I'd somehow create a wall with them, maybe behind a sheet of plexiglas that goes edge to edge, floor to ceiling, and just stare at this beautifully odd spectacle of books.

As a designer, what was it about Penguin paperbacks that drew you in initially, before you started working for the company?

In this regard, my path was an incredibly lucky one. I was working as both a freelance illustrator and designer and had just come back from a three-month trip through Central America and was looking for something steady just long enough to get my finances back in shape. Through a sister of a friend, I landed an interview at New American Library (NAL) and was immediately hired as a junior mass-market designer. In the next room over, they were doing trade books, and that felt like a much better fit to me. The art director took a liking to me, and two months later, hired me to work on the Dutton and Plume imprints. Soon after I started, NAL merged with Penguin, and the Penguin art director inherited me. He rapidly shook off these new employees, but I was tenacious and put up with everything he threw at me and was the only one that clung on -- and I'm still here. So to answer your question, like much in life, I just wound up here; but once I did, I very quickly realized what an amazing place I was in, and I was not leaving. No publishing house has the cachet that Penguin does, and that was very hard-earned on their part. We do the best books and embrace great art and design and the people working on this imprint are wonderful and smart and funny. I was simply extremely lucky.

Kid Drawings Painted Realistically


Enjoy!

On the Scene in Seattle


The New Yorker visits my hometown of Seattle and tries to find its literary scene.

From the piece...

Five years ago, I moved to Seattle from New York. In that time, I’ve come to understand why Seattle is considered such a literary city: the bookstores (big and indie), Hugo House (events and classes), the rain. I used to partake of the offerings quite regularly, but now that I have two kids, I’ve become something of a shut-in. So last week, when the Book Bench, curious what the literary scene in my new city looked like, asked me to attend an author reading and cocktail party hosted by Debut Lit (an event series with the laudable goal of helping new writers gain wider exposure, in this case, Alexi Zentner and his haunting d├ębut novel, “Touch”), I decided it was time to cast off my washable house attire and put on something a little more dry-clean-only. I was stepping out—into the rain and onto the scene.

Except that Seattle doesn’t really have a literary scene, per se. No, what Seattle has is more like a community, one in which the Elliot Bay Book Company, where the event was held, is a venerable icon (albeit a recently relocated icon). For the reading, we gathered downstairs in a cold space with spindly legged wooden chairs perched closely together atop a concrete floor (seat-shifters beware: any movement whatsoever produced a squeaking, screeching, tooth-achingly horrible noise). Thankfully, however, the setting was nowhere near as bleak as one from that night’s reading: a frozen river; a hole in the ice; a father; a daughter; a son.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poems for a Wedding


Carol Ann Duffy brings together a collection of wedding vows written by some of our leading poets in the Guardian.

From the post...

John Agard
Nuptials

River, be their teacher,
that together they may turn
their future highs and lows
into one hopeful flow

Two opposite shores
feeding from a single source.

Mountain, be their milestone,
that hand in hand they rise above
familiarity's worn tracks
into horizons of their own
Two separate footpaths
dreaming of a common peak.

Birdsong, be their mantra,
that down the frail aisles of their days,
their twilight hearts twitter morning
and their dreams prove branch enough.

A Visit from the Goon Squad Visiting Television?


Yup.

From a piece in the New York Times...

How exactly the novel, which chronicles more than a dozen characters from the 1970s to the year 2019 or so, will be turned into TV fare is not entirely up to Ms. Egan, who will be a consultant on the project. (Michael London, a producer of films including “Win Win” and “Sideways,” is its executive producer, and Jocelyn Hayes Simpson, a producer of the television version of “This American Life,” is co-executive producer.)

Nor is Ms. Egan fretting too much about how the show’s creative team consolidates the adventures of Lou, the record executive, Jules Jones, the celebrity journalist, and La Doll, the publicist, into a weekly show.

“I don’t envy them the job, I’ll tell you that,” Ms. Egan said on Thursday in a telephone interview. “But then again, that’s partly because I have no idea how to do it.”

Based on preliminary conversations with the producers, Ms. Egan said it was her sense that the series would “try to capture the polyphonic quality” of her novel.

“I would be startled if, for example, a particular character became the main character,” she said. “But I do think when you option rights to your work, you really have to be ready for anything.” She added, “You’re giving someone the right to build their vision on yours, but I do think you have to let them have their vision.”

HBO confirmed the deal but is not yet discussing specifics, since many projects in development do not always end up on a programming schedule.


And, speaking of Jennifer Egan, here's an interview with her no the Days of Yore site.

Morrissey's Autobiography


It's big.

From an article in the Guardian...

Morrissey's autobiography is done, he just isn't sure if anyone's going to read it. The former Smiths frontman confirmed that he has completed the first draft of his memoirs, and it's already about as long as Moby Dick.

"I'm really not that interesting, so I don't know why I've written so much," Moz admitted in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Front Row. "I have been through the whole life. I just wonder if 660 pages are too much for people to bear. And then I sit down and think, well, are six pages too much for people to bear? I really don't know. [It's] baffling."

The much-anticipated Mozography is almost three years in the making, and the singer hopes to publish the tome in 2012. "I've reached the re-drafting, trimming stage," he said. But despite reams of material – 200,000 words, according to interviewer John Wilson – Morrissey has yet to find, or choose, a publisher. Last year, an editor at Faber said it would be "the fulfilment of my most pressing and persistent publishing dream" if Morrissey brought his "much-rumoured memoir to the House of Eliot". This week, the 51-year-old quipped that he wants to see the book immediately published as a Penguin Classic.


Sexed-Up Literary Classics


Booktryst gets a rise from them.

From the post...

And so the two embark on the journey, circumnavigating the world and investigating, for anthropological purposes only, mind you, the sexual behavior of the women in each country they visit, who, in the true spirit of international relations, throw themselves at Fogg, the irresistible. And Passepartout? Well, you never know when an extra cock'll come in handy for these inquiries and, Fogg being a graduate of the English public school system, when a little buggery is just the thing to pass idle moments in the caboose - or other conveyance.

Calga Publishers of Los Angeles had an ambitious release schedule devoted exclusively to "Adult Sexual Versions" of twenty-eight classics of literature including, The Adult Version of Robin Hood, (When Robin made Marion, and oh, those merry men!), The Adult Version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Adult Version of Frankenstein, The Adult Version of Dracula, The Adult Version of The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Adult Version of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Adult Version of The Sea Wolf (don't ask), etc.

The Best Stoner Novels


The list, care of the Daily Beast.

Friday, April 22, 2011

We Can't Read Everything. In Fact, We'll Miss Most Everything


NPR discusses the sad, beautiful fact that we're all going to miss most everything.

From the piece...

The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers.

Consider books alone. Let's say you read two a week, and sometimes you take on a long one that takes you a whole week. That's quite a brisk pace for the average person. That lets you finish, let's say, 100 books a year. If we assume you start now, and you're 15, and you are willing to continue at this pace until you're 80. That's 6,500 books, which really sounds like a lot.

Let's do you another favor: Let's further assume you limit yourself to books from the last, say, 250 years. Nothing before 1761. This cuts out giant, enormous swaths of literature, of course, but we'll assume you're willing to write off thousands of years of writing in an effort to be reasonably well-read.

Of course, by the time you're 80, there will be 65 more years of new books, so by then, you're dealing with 315 years of books, which allows you to read about 20 books from each year. You'll have to break down your 20 books each year between fiction and nonfiction – you have to cover history, philosophy, essays, diaries, science, religion, science fiction, westerns, political theory ... I hope you weren't planning to go out very much.

Green River Killer: The Graphic Novel


True thing. Comics Alliance has more, here.

Dead Man's Comic Book Stash Worth - Holy Currency, Batman! - $1 Million


Gary Dahlberg of Minneapolis died last year after a lifetime of collecting comic books. They're valued above $1 million.

From a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune...

Erupting in the kitchen of the modest north Minneapolis home, the fire that killed a retired bus driver spared a treasure worth more than $1 million.

Stacked high and deep in a spare bedroom that escaped the flames and water hoses last July, the thousands of comic books Gary Dahlberg had spent a lifetime collecting remained just as he had kept them, carefully cataloged and perfectly preserved.

"He loved his [comic] books," his sister, Wendy Kuiper, said. Her brother was 12 or 13 years old when he began plunking down 12 cents an issue for the comic books in the early 1960s. "As he got older, my mother would ask, 'What are you going to do with all those books?' My mother used to say they couldn't be worth anything."

What neither knew was that 2,500 to 3,000 of Dahlberg's 20,000 comic-book collection would end up "easily" worth more than $1 million. "Maybe closer to $2 million," said Ed Jaster, senior vice president of Heritage Auctions.

Does Anyone Want to Be Well-Read?


There's a swell essay by Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times about reading.

From the post...

That's how I've done my reading: Haphazardly, by inclination. I consider myself well read, but there has been no plan. Reading Cynthia Ozick's article brought me up short: I realized I knew almost every writer she was referring to, and I realized they were no longer read. In deciding to begin this piece with the list of all the names in its second paragraph, I realized I would probably alienate many readers. I decided that was all right. This would only be of interest to those who knew a name or two.

All right, then. Bellow has lasted and may continue to last. Setting aside living writers, who is still read? I speak of considerable writers, not potboilers. Dickens, George Eliot, Austen and Trollope, and then some people get to Mrs. Gaskell. Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy. Kafka. Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal and Hugo. Poe. Mark Twain. James and Wharton. The big four Americans of the first half-century, Cather, Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald. The smaller Americans, Chandler, Steinbeck, Hammett. John O'Hara? Not so much. Sinclair Lewis? Not at all. Nabokov. From Britain, Conrad, Evelyn Waugh, Greene, Forster. Anthony Powell, Iris Murdoch, Virginia Woolf, Orwell, Wodehouse. From France, Georges Simenon endures and Camus hangs on. From South America, Borges and Marquez.

Top Ten Quest Narratives


The list, care of the Guardian.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Run-On Subtitle


The Millions take note of a new trend.

From the article...

While writing my very first blurb recently – it was for an old friend’s new book about the creation of America’s interstate highways – I was delighted to discover that this otherwise very strong piece of work had just two weak points. One was the title, The Big Roads, which strikes me as a big snore. The other was the subtitle, a panting pileup of purplish prose: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways.

Suddenly, every time I walked into a bookstore or read a review, I started noticing similarly breathless subtitles. What had struck me initially as an unfortunate decision by the publisher of The Big Roads now began to look like a full-blown trend. Two books in particular fed this dawning revelation – Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost At Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them; and Man Down!: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fun Managers, and Just About Everything Else.

After discovering dozens of run-on subtitles, I naturally began to wonder what was at work here. My initial theory was that this sudden gush of wordiness is a natural by-product of book publishing’s desperate times. In a marketplace glutted with too many titles – and in a culture that makes books more marginal by the day – publishers seem to think that if they just shout loudly enough, people will notice their products, then buy them. In other words, the run-on subtitle is literature’s equivalent of flop sweat, that stinky slime that coats the skin of every comedian, actor and novelist who has ever gotten ready to step in front of a live audience knowing, in the pit of his stomach, that he’s going to bomb. But when I asked around, my flop sweat theory started to hold less and less water.

The Pun Also Rises

Bad Romance Novels


Bad excerpts from bad romance novels...every day.

An example...

His breath smelled of coffee, mint, and faintly of cheese, one of her favorite sinful pleasures.

“Star Bright” - Catherine Anderson (Submitted by Jane)

Some Thoughts on Self-Publishing


HTML Giant highlights how to go about it.

From the piece...

Here is how I do it:
First of all, printing and publishing are two different things. You want to be a printer? Go buy a printing press*. You will also require ink, plates, solvents, large quantities of paper, a guillotine cutter, a bindery, reinforced floors, a loading dock, and numerous other things I know nothing about because I’m not a printer. If you think you can print large quantities of books all dirty and on the cheap, think again. I have syringed ink into my printer cartridges and trust me, it doesn’t work. Oh, but you’re going to use a Xerox? That’s nice, but we’re talking about books here, not zines. Even if you’ve discovered another way to print off thousands of pages, you still need to consider how you’ll be cutting all that paper down (your well-honed X-acto skills will not get you far), and most importantly how to bind it all together.

Bindings you will try and realize are futile or look like crap:
-ribbon
-thread
-linen tape
-book cloth
-other kinds of cloth
-all types of glue
-contact paper
-various rivets
-spiral binding
-hand-made perfect binding

All of these methods fail because you need to go bigger; you need to outsource**. Sending your book to a professional printer will mean less time spent printing/cutting/collating/binding, much higher quality overall, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the cost difference. Making books by hand seems cheaper, but often it’s not.

I currently have my books printed at Cushing-Malloy in Ann Arbor, MI. However, there are tons of printers out there, and which one is best for you depends on the specs of your print run. This includes the quantity of books, number of ink colors, dimensions, binding and cover type, paper stock, coatings, freight cost, and so on. Some small publishers like doing print-on-demand, which is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than ordering a full print run (usually anywhere from 250-1000 and up), you pay for copies as you go, or as you sell. The benefit here is that you don’t have to store or cart around hundreds or thousands of books, or worry as much about financial loss if the book doesn’t sell. Unfortunately, print-on-demand limits you to a narrow range of dimensions, page count, paper stock, and other specs. Personally, I find print-on-demand books lacking in quality as far as visual and tactile prettiness; they’re not typically gorgeous, but they do the job.

The Death of the Book


The Los Angeles Review of Books has an interesting essay about, you guessed it!

From the post...

Pity the book. It’s dead again. Last I checked, Googling “death of the book” produced 11.8 million matches. The day before it was 11.6 milion. It’s getting unseemly. Books were once such handsome things. Suddenly they seem clunky, heavy, almost fleshy in their gross materiality. Their pages grow brittle. Their ink fades. Their spines collapse. They are so pitiful, they might as well be human.

The emphasis shifts with each telling, but every writer, editor, publisher, bookseller, and half-attentive reader knows the fundamental story. After centuries of steady climbing, book sales leveled off towards the end of the 1900s. Basic literacy began to plummet. As if television and Reaganomics were not danger enough, some egghead lunatics went and built a web—a web!—out of nothing but electrons. It proved a sneaky and seductive monster. Straight to our offices and living rooms, the web delivered chicken recipes, weather forecasts, pornography, the cutest kitten videos the world had ever seen. But while we were distracted by these glittering gifts, the internet conspired to snare our friend the book, to smother it.

The alarm at first built gradually. In 1999, Robert Darnton, writing in The New York Review of Books, consoled his readers that, all the grim prophecies notwithstanding, “the electronic age did not drive the printed word into extinction.” The book seemed safe enough for a few years, in more danger from the avarice of the carbon-based conglomerates that ate up all the publishers, than from anything in silicon. Safe until the fall of 2007, when lady Amazon released her hounds. Within a month of the Kindle’s debut, the New Yorker was writing of the “Twilight of the Books.” (Cue soundtrack: all minor keys, moody cello.) The London Times worried that “the slow death of the book may be with us.”

Last summer Amazon announced that it was selling more e-books than the paper kind. The time to fret had passed. It was Kindle vs. kindling. MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte—whose name is frequently preceded by the word “futurist”—declared that the demise of the paper book should be written in the present tense. ”It’s happening,” Negroponte said, and gave the pulpy artifacts just five years to utterly expire.

None of this is new of course.