Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Things

Hello, readers. It's been a while. A few things have happened. There's a new president, for one. People seem to think he'll be great, or possibly fail, but most hope he succeeds. Except for this guy. Also, it's possible that life, the universe, and everything, including you, reader, is just one big hologram.

Three other things, then, from our holographic universe:

Thing 1) Haruki Murakami wins the Jerusalem award, which is given to those authors, like Arthur Miller or Simone de Beauvoir, whose work deals with "human freedom, society, politics, and government."

Thing 2) The Louvre opens an exhibition of original plates by comic book artists, which makes sense considering the French love of Tin Tin and Asterix and other les bandes dessinees. "Just like comics are not only fun or for entertainment," curator Fabrice Douar says, "the Louvre equally is not dusty and boring." [via Rhea Cote Robbins, photo AP/Thimault Camus]

Thing 3) TIME talks the evolution of publishing, relating our current time of economic and technological transformation to the fluxy turn of the 18th century when new fangled things like capitalism and printing technology brought about the "novel" as we know it today. Things like fan-fiction, wikipedia, and YouTube, according to TIME, have lessened the freakiness of self-publishing and pushed copyright to its limits, and may lead to a form of fiction "ravenously referential and intertextual." The article ultimately posits a future dichotomy between Old Publishing ( "stately, quality controled, and relatively expensive" ) versus a New Publishing ("cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money, or institutional taste"). [photo Getty/Chris Jackson]

Happy Thursday, readers.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Literary Thursday

Hello, readers. I'm not sure at what point these posts began having particular subjects for particular days, but that seems to be what's happening so I will go along with it.

Two Ursula K. Le Guin interviews appeared before me tonight, one by Guernica from February of 2008, and one by Vice from more nowish. In them, you'll learn the importance (or unimportance) of being literary, as well as what Ms. Le Guin believes essential to art (hint: passion, patience, obsession). [via LCRW].

A new issue of Ninth Letter came out today.

The Rooster 2009 tournament matches 2008's literary hot-shots against each other in a sort of March Madness-esque Thunderdome throwdown. 16 books enter...

The literature of Lost as discussed on NPR.

And finally, some good news, it would appear the reports of the death of the reader have been greatly exaggerated. The NEA says fiction reading among adults is on the rise.

Have a happy Friday, readers. I know I will.*


*As much as anyone can know anything of course. It's quite possible, I suppose, that a day spent watching fourteen hours of Battlestar Galactica might lead to unhappiness. But I have a mind to do it, and so it will be done. So say we all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Illustrated Wednesday

Good evening, readers. As has been discussed before on this blog, literature isn't always about words. Sometimes it's about pictures. Sometimes, too, it's about girls deflowered by swans, but we'll leave that for some future mythical Monday.

Edward Gorey wrote and illustrated many a whimsically ominous book. Many of them were popular with children. A great deal of them were set or drawn in a decidedly Edwardian or Victorian style (I was never that good at telling the two styles apart). He was not, though, particularly fond of children. Nor was he particularly British, despite the fact that I thought he might be when first I saw his work. He actually came from Chicago. Reading bookslut, I came across scans from a Gorey book called, The Recently Deflowered Girl: The Right Thing To Say On Every Dubious Occasion. It's a parody of etiquette books and includes advice on such various and likely situations as deflowerment by proxy or deflowerment by a chinese detective. No word on what to do if an Australian illustrator takes your flower, though.

Speaking of Australian illustrators (by which I mean, of course, illustrators who live in Australia and not the sort of people who spend their time illustrating continents), there's an interview with Shaun Tan over at The Walrus. His 2007 book, The Arrival, won book of the year in Australia. In the same year, he also received the World Fantasy award for best artist. Tales from Outer Suburbia, his latest work due out in the States in February, is a collection of fifteen stories exploring the strange things that sometimes happen in our ordinary world, such as a little girl asking directions from a giant water buffalo.

Happy Wednesday.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Things

Thing 1, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology is no more. Though it may be resurrected in some new form, thereby upholding the tradition that no monster worth its salt dies the first time you kill it. In fact, Ellen Datlow already has a deal with Night Shade books for two volumes of a year's best horror. This I learned from the article's comments which you should read to understand how much this anthology meant to a great many people.

Thing 2, Secret New Year's resolutions from fictional detectives. Example: "I will steal my mother's clown pants."

Thing 3, J.G. Ballard talks nudie surreal paintings, the importance of living next to a movie studio, and the poison wrapped gifts of modern life.

Thing 4, Christian Science Monitor initiates book podcasts.

Fare well, readers.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Magical Monday

Hello, readers. Welcome to a new week. Here are magical things.

It's Haruki Murakami's birthday today. Or at least, it was. I'm fairly certain it's already tomorrow in Japan. In any case, Murakami's a magical sort of man. He believes in trances. He writes scary, weird, and wonderful books, like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, in which unicorn skulls have dreams. His latest book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, talks of his passion for long-distance running. Check out Laura Miller's interview with him, here, and a more recent one about the relationship between marathons and writing, here.

Speaking of Laura Miller (who may or may not eat cheerios while watching Battlestar), To the Best of our Knowledge talked with her yesterday as part of their program on "Magical Thinking." She discussed, among other things, how she learned to be both a skeptic of, and believer in, Narnia. Other guests included, Robert Price, who discussed "pop mysticism" and The Secret. As well, Mark Barrowcliffe, author of The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons, and Growing Up Strange, and Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, both stopped by to talk about the value of alternate realities.

Finally, McSweeney's has published a children's illustrated guide to cold fusion. One suspects there may be some kind of chicanery afoot.

So long, gentle readers. Remember, the magic was inside you all along.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Challenges To Be Met in 2009

Hello, readers.

Yesterday, this blogger promised to list his resolutions and/or challenges in which he intended to participate. Being a man of my word, just like the Joker but with slightly less eye make-up, here are some resolutions and challenges with which I plan to challenge myself.


1) Publish three to five stories.
2) Get paid for a review and/or an interview.
3) Celebrate next New Year's in a foreign country.
4) Fail spectacularly at something*.
5) Surprise myself and others. Bonus points if done simultaneously.
6) Continue saying yes to life, as taught by Joseph Campbell, improv artists, and at least one Jim Carrey movie.
7) Be awesome.
8) Have an adventure or two.
9) Get new glasses.

As for reading challenges, I've decided rather than limit myself to two or three, I'll go ahead and commit to many too many. I did resolve to fail at something spectacularly, after all.

1) 50 books challenge, in which I read 50 novels. This will not seem so crazy when one understands that books read for other challenges count.
2) Graphic Novel Challenge, in which I read 18 graphic novels.
3) Read n'Review, in which I plan on reviewing, to some extent, every book I read in 2009. Should help with the getting paid for a review resolution.
4) The Dream King Challenge, in which I become a devotee, or possibly a zealot.
5) The Baker Street Challenge, in which I rediscover a childhood love of elementary deduction.
6) Serial Readers Challenge, in which I read every book in a series.
7) Childhood Favourites Reading Challenge, in which I re-read books I loved as a child, such as A Cricket in Times Square or The Last Unicorn.
8) 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge, in which I act on my rediscovery of love for things of a young adult nature.

Good luck on the new year, readers. Dream big. Fail better. Surprise yourself. Try again.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Year Ahead, In Which There Are Many Challenges, A Licked Moon, And Zombies

Hello, readers. Have you made resolutions for the New Year? Plan on Wii-ing your way to a better body? Or finally getting started on that poem about licking the moon and eating bras (Alas, someone beat you to that one.)

Maybe you plan on taking part in one of the numerous literary challenges that abound around the internet. There's the livejournal 50bookchallenge where you and others can join in the noble goal of reading 50 books a year. Perhaps you've got a stack of books waiting to be read? There's a challenge for you, too, at avidbookreader's TBR challenge. For a site to browse various challenges for the one that inspires you, try the novel challenges blog. They've got a list of active challenges around the web, including, among others, a "Graphic Novel" challenge and a "Get Inspired" challenge, the latter being a challenge to pick a self-improvement work to read in the first part of the year, and then act on for the remaining months. Very helpful, perhaps, for those with resolutions.

If you need inspiration for new books to read in 2009, check out the anticipatory lists of forthcoming great reads, graphic and otherwise, at The Millions and Comic Book Resources. Writers to look forward to in 2009 include Zadie Smith, Jonathan Lethem, and Philip Roth--who somehow still manages to put out a book a year despite his never-ending struggle against the zombie hordes which threaten our world.

Tune in tomorrow wherein this blogger will list some resolutions and/or/maybe some challenges he'll be taking part in.

Happy it's-already-almost-Friday. ttfn.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday Things

Hello, readers. There isn't much time. Events are happening. Here's a clickable list of wonders.

Vote for your favorite literature blog.

Paula Kinkaid yearns to be historicized. Also, she talks science fiction novels, about their being about now, and as examples, she looks at two novels, Of Wind and Sand and The Quiet War, which seem to be reactions to the current Iraq War.

Reviewers at Strange Horizons review 2008.

The Costa book award winners. Once upon a time these were called the Whitbreads.

Must attend to events now, readers. ttfn.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On Snark and Men Named Thursday, Plus More...

One should probably be asleep at this hour, and yet there are so many wonderful things to watch and read that sleep seems a rather frivolous way to spend one's time.

Unless you're having extravagantly weird, or dark, or glorious dreams. In which case you might enjoy this little slice of Neil Gaiman history from a Canadian television show called, Prisoners of Gravity.

This is exactly the sort of show I would've watched as a young boy, delighting in the tinfoilness of the set and the very small television set on which Neil's face appears. It's also the kind of show I would watch now, if such shows still existed.

Speaking of things which may or may not exist, there's a sort of ongoing war over Snark, which as Clive James points out, was originally a nonsense monster created by Lewis Carroll, but has, in recent years, come to mean a bit of snidely delivered sarcasm, or sarcastically delivered snide. The current debate began with David Denby's new book, Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation. Adam Sternberg wrote a not exactly snarky rebuttal in the New York Magazine Book Review in which he didn't quite label the book an EPIC FAIL. And now, the good folks at the Elegant Variation have put up a link to a 2003 article by Clive James which more or less anticipates and puts a lid on this particular debate.

And because I promised a man named Thursday, go read this Wall Street Journal article on the aphoristically gifted G.K. Chesteron who said such marvelous things as:

"The business of the Progressives is to go on making mistakes, while the business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."

"Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance."

"He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head."

"The aesthete aims at harmony rather than beauty. If his hair does not match the mauve sunset against which he is standing, he hurriedly dyes his hair another shade of mauve. If his wife does not go with the wall-paper, he gets a divorce."

And that is enough of that.

Happy beginning of the week, readers.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Half The Time You're Gone But You Don't Know Where, Or A Blogger's Rumination on Young Adult Literature

An evening stroll around the Oxford Square resulted in my wandering into Square Books, Jr. Perusing the shelves of young adult fiction, I came across, among other things, a handful of Tender Morsels and Spectacular Nows, as well as a couple of Terry Pratchets, a lonely Swan Maiden, and a boy caught up in the process of becoming invisible. It's only recently reoccurred to me how much I enjoy reading books purportedly written for children. I think, besides wonderful titles like The Cabinet of Wonders, my enjoyment comes somewhat from the sparseness and directness of the language, which at once leaves far more room for a reader's imagination to flit about and decorate rooms and moonscapes as they see fit, but also, on occasion, snaps the world, or a character's essence, into a sharp, painful focus without fear of "telling" the reader too much. Sometimes a simple "He loved her, and she was gone," is all that needs to be said*.

It's possible my resurrected love of children's literature comes from currently reading, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's a tale of a little girl orphaned in a boarding school, as so many young adult books seem to be, but it is also a story about stories and the necessity of invention--the power of pretending to help us bear what otherwise couldn't be beared**. Joss Whedon lists it as one of his five desert island books, and I, to state it directly, am in love with it.

It's also dawned on me, though, that many of the "adult" writers I love, people like Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, E.B. White or Kurt Vonnegut, all tend to write in the same concise and deceptively simple phrasings as some might associate with young adult literature. They also tend to leave large gaps for a reader's imagination to fill in. And they all have written, at one time or another, children's or young adult books.

Baudelaire said, "Genius is childhood discovered at will." So, if you get the chance today, readers, close your eyes and pretend you're something you're not, maybe a a three-footed wallaby on Mars or a glowing fish swimming deep in a dark sea. Maybe just that you're eight years old again, alone in your father's Brooklyn apartment, your nose pressed against a window and your heart full of wonder at the thought of a zombie apocalypse, of finding yourself in the enviable and perhaps terrifying position of being the only living boy in New York.

Let your honesty shine, shine, shine, readers.


*Well, not really. That would be a disappointing story, indeed, that consisted only of this one sentence.

**Which reminds me of this clip I ran across over at Ed's Rants in which Will Smith, in Gods and Monsters, finishes his speech about Catcher in the Rye by saying "that the imagination is God's gift to make the act of self-examination bearable."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year and Things

Hello, readers, welcome to the future. It's 2009. Only one year left until we're in a whole new decade. I celebrated last night with music, free champagne, and occasional dancing. Other things happened on New Year's though, besides my kickin about, two things in fact. Two things and no more.

Thing One: Terry Pratchett, author of Discworld and proponent of mildly homicidal luggage which doubles as a bodyguard for its carrier, must now and forevermore be referred to as Sir Terry Pratchett. Apparently, the Queen is the kind of frood that really knows where her towel is, if you know what I mean.*

Thing Two: io9 published their list of the best science fiction novels of 2008. Making the cut, among others, include Anathem by Neal Stephenson, Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell, and Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery. Also here you'll find brief interviews with some of the authors, including Ekaterina Sedia, author of Alchemy of Stone, who talks of the "myth of superpowered machines," as well as her next book, which tells the story of a girl and her salamander.

Thing Three: People lie. Trust suffers.


*In case you don't.