Friday, September 20, 2013


From: The Book Blog

"[…] Like [Robert Louis] Stevenson I am a cartophiliac, and because of Stevenson I am an islomaniac. Maps fire my mind because they offer—as Rosita Forbes put it—'the magic of anticipation without the toil and sweat of 'realization.'
     They give you seven-league boots, allowing you to cover miles in seconds. On a map, visibility is always perfect. Tracing the line of a walk with the point of a pencil, you can float over gorges and marshes, leap cliff-faces at a single bound, and ford spating rivers without getting wet. My father taught me how to read maps, such that landscapes would rise magically out of them. A snarl of contours became a saw-toothed ridge or gouged corrie, a break in the hachures implied a sea-cove on which we might safely land a rowing boat. After reading Stevenson, I sought out the work of other island-writers: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, John Fowles’s The Magus, and D.H. Lawrence’s extraordinary The Man Who Loved Islands, set on a nameless islet four miles in circumference, with two hills at its centre, gorse and blackthorn scrubbing its rocky fields, and cowslips thronging the verges.
     I began to devise and map my own ideal islands. There was a black-rock skerry somewhere in the North Atlantic, in whose lighthouse I would over-winter and around which, during the biggest storms, vast waves would whitely fold. […]"
— Robert Macfarlane, More Intelligent Life
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See a related post here...

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?" — Vita Sackville-West

Return to this site often, and keep watch for the latest news about the 2014 Elora Writers' Festival (our Twentieth Anniversary) Writing Competition.
     If you didn't start something yesterday, right now is as good a time as any...

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime…” – [U.S.] Justice Potter Stewart (1966)

From: U.S. Embassy, Nigeria

"A lack of 'literary value' has apparently left Ralph Ellison's landmark 1952 novel, Invisible Man banned from school libraries in Randolph County, N.C., the Asheboro Courier-Tribune reports. […]
     As the school district's policy requires, the complaints [of a Randolph County, N.C. parent of an eleventh grader] lead to votes on the school and district levels. Both held that the book should remain available to students in the library. However, in a 5-2 vote, the school board voted to ban the book, with one board member, Gary Mason, stating, 'I didn’t find any literary value.'
     Mason's blunt assessment however, runs counter to decades of intellectual criticism of the novel, which won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction, beating out Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck's East of Eden.
     In 1995, writing for the New York Times, Roger Rosenblatt praised the novel as a masterpiece.
     'Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953, was instantly recognized as a masterpiece, a novel that captured the grim realities of racial discrimination as no book had,' Rosenblatt wrote. 'Its reputation grew as Ellison retreated into a mythic literary silence that made his one achievement definitive.'"
Huffington Post
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"[…] All [Randolph County Board of Education] members were given copies to read before the vote. Board Chair McDonald said 'it was a hard read.'
     Mason said, 'I didn’t find any literary value' and objected to the book’s language. 'I’m for not allowing it to be available,' he added.
     A school district official said ahead of the vote that Invisible Man was just one of many options in school libraries, and that no student was forced to read it. She also stressed that the state Department of Public Instruction approved the book for student consumption.
     Invisible Man was one of three books that Randleman High School juniors-to-be in the 2013-14 school year could choose to read for the summer. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin and Passing by Nella Larsen were the students’ other choices. Honors students had to choose two of the three books."
Read more…

Here's another post about censorship...

For a list of books banned in the U.S. go here...

Here's a link to what's happening in your area of the U.S.A. during Banned Books Week — September 22 - 28, 2013.

Buy Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and the other books mentioned in these posts here...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

game theory

"For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries. In his book Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff refers to the first half of the 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of children’s free play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework.
     Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways.
     Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing. It’s not just that we’re seeing disorders that we overlooked before. Clinical questionnaires aimed at assessing anxiety and depression, for example, have been given in unchanged form to normative groups of schoolchildren in the US ever since the 1950s. Analyses of the results reveal a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled. […]
     For more than two decades now, education leaders in the US, the UK and Australia have been urging us to emulate Asian schools — especially those of Japan, China, and South Korea. Children there spend more time at their studies than US children, and they score higher on standardised international tests. What US Education Secretary Duncan apparently doesn’t realise, or acknowledge, is that educational leaders in those countries are now increasingly judging their educational system to be a failure. While their schools have been great at getting students to score well on tests, they have been terrible at producing graduates who are creative or have a real zest for learning."
— Peter Gray, aeon
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See a related post here...

"[...] the courtroom spectacle"

"Dickens, who began his career as a court reporter, was ever more partial to emotive portraits than to the art of facticity. Bleak House, for instance, is populated by a judiciary of supreme inefficiency, who run their 'horse-hair warded heads against walls of words.' The reader, implicated in this warped system, has two unlikely tales from which to fathom events: Esther’s guileless, jarring earnestness or the ingenuity of the omniscient narrator. The novel, in general, seems to favor the slippery, unreliable narrator over the ingenuous. Villains, after all, often make for far more compelling characters. In such cases, the reader assumes his or her role of moral adjudicator: the more these infamous characters do protest, the more we discerning readers deem them treacherous.
     To 'narrate' was originally a term of law, used to designate the initial statement of a trial; and much has been made of the parallels between literary and legal detectives, of the court as a spectacle wherein players compete for the juror’s attention; the juror, like the reader, is charged with sifting fact from fancy.
     'The journalistic ‘I’ is an overreliable narrator,' Janet Malcolm writes in her seminal work, The Journalist and the Murderer, 'a functionary to whom crucial tasks of narration and argument and tone have been entrusted, an ad hoc creation, like the chorus of Greek tragedy.'
     It perhaps comes as no surprise that the Greeks, who loved a good chorus, invented trial by (sizable) jury."
— Jess Cotton, Los Angeles Review of Books
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Law Library, Des Moines, Iowa (from: Best Travel Photos, via The Girl and Her Books)


From: seekextreme

Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.

Procrastination is an alluring siren taunting you to Google the country where Balki from Perfect Strangers was from, and to arrange sticky notes on your dog in the shape of hilarious dog shorts. A wicked temptress beckoning you to watch your children, and take showers. Well, it’s time to look procrastination in the eye and tell that seafaring wench, 'Sorry not today, today I write.'”
— Colin Nissan,  McSweeney's
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

[...] choose kindness."

"In Wonder, R.J. Palacio tells the story of Auggie, a tough, sweet, 10-year-old boy, who was born with distorted facial features — a 'craniofacial difference' caused by an anomaly in his DNA.
     Palacio tells NPR’s Michele Norris that the book was inspired by a real life encounter with her own kids six years ago. They were at an ice cream store when they sat next to a little girl with a severe facial deformity. […]
     Palacio started writing the book that night. She says the characters came to her fully formed. The book opens as Auggie enters school and the story unfolds from several points of view — we get the perspective of his sister, his parents, his best friends, the do-gooders and the mean kids. One of Auggie’s teacher challenges the kids: 'When given the choice between being right, or being kind, choose kind.'
     And at the center of all these stories is the same challenge Palacio faced back at the ice cream store: How to confront the discomfort around difference; How to 'choose kindness.'”
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poet channeling

"Nicholson Baker never meant to write a sequel to The Anthologist. And yet, he explains by phone from his home in Maine, the narrator of that 2010 novel, a poet named Paul Chowder, kept demanding to be heard.
     'It was more a refusal,' Baker notes, voice dry as a whisper on the wire. 'A refusal on Paul's part to be overlooked. I was writing a different book, in my own voice, and I kept slipping into his voice. At a certain point, I just gave in.'
     What Baker's getting at is the tendency of characters — or certain characters — to assert themselves, to emerge in a piece of writing whether we want them there or not. Paul is such a figure: idiosyncratic, unashamed of his quirks and ticks and odd obsessions, not unlike the author who created him.
     'It's helpful,' Baker acknowledges, 'to write about a guy who is like me but also a little different. It allows me to reveal the uncomfortable truths.'
     Among those truths? The longing for love, for a kind of order, as well as a sense of the impending press of mortality, the recognition that inexorably and not-so-slowly, time is running out.
     Such themes reside at the center of Baker's new novel, Traveling Sprinkler [...], in which we meet Paul again a few years after The Anthologist. He is 55 now and at work on a new collection of poetry, which isn't going anywhere."
— David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
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Buy all of Nicholson Baker's books here...

"[…] nature has already constructed the symphony, and we're trying to find what it is."

"In his new book, The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe, Oxford physicist Frank Close reviews decades' worth of brain-teasing theories and looks ahead to puzzles yet to be solved.
     Close traces the decades-long effort to find the deep connections between the fundamental forces of nature and resolve the 'infinity puzzle' — that is, the fact that the mathematics of quantum theory came up with nonsensical numbers. That puzzle was eventually solved, as Close describes in the book, but an even bigger puzzle remains: Why is the cosmos built the way it is?
     Some clues could emerge from Europe's Large Hadron Collider, where physicists are looking for a mysterious particle known as the Higgs boson. Close delves into the strange role that the Higgs plays in contemporary physics, but he emphasizes that his latest book is about much more than the science.
     'The Infinity Puzzle is not just another story about the physics of the LHC,' he told me this week. 'It's focusing on the people. Science is a pure ideal, but the scientists who do it are people. And we all have the same desires and pressures. ... There are heroes and villains in science, as there are everywhere.'"
— Alan Boyle, NBC News Read more…

"First theorized almost 50 years ago by British physicist Peter Higgs and others, the Higgs boson is the only particle yet to be observed in the Standard Model of Physics, which basically explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact.
     'The Higgs field is everywhere around us, and all particles are moving in the presence of this field,' said William Trischuk, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto. All these particles 'interact more or less strongly with it, and they are either slowed down or not slowed down so much and that's what gives them mass.'
     'The heavier ones interact strongly with this field and the light ones interact very weakly with this field.'
     Trischuk is part of the ATLAS collaboration, which is one of two experiments seeking out the Higgs using the Large Hadron Collider. 'We hate calling it the God particle but the reason it picked that up is because it goes out and touches every other particle and gives them their property, which is their mass,' Trischuk said."
— Jon Hembrey, CBC News
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

“[...] the Citizen Kane of bad movies” — Entertainment Weekly

"In 2003, an independent film called The Room — written, produced, directed, and starring a very rich social misfit of indeterminate age and origin named Tommy Wiseau — made its disastrous debut in Los Angeles. Described by one reviewer as 'like getting stabbed in the head,' the $6 million film earned a grand total of $1,800 at the box office and closed after two weeks.
     Now in its tenth anniversary year, The Room is an international phenomenon to rival The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Thousands of fans wait in line for hours to attend screenings complete with costumes, audience rituals, merchandising, and thousands of plastic spoons."
goodreads Read more…

"'Imagine a movie so incomprehensible that you find yourself compelled to watch it over and over again. You become desperate to learn how (if) on earth it was conceived: Who made it, and for what purpose?' These words could only refer to The Room, a cult phenomenon frequently described as the Citizen Kane of bad films; they come from The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, by Greg Sestero and the peerless Tom Bissell."
— Sadie Stein, The Paris Review Read more…

Buy this book here...

Monday, September 16, 2013

you can lead a hearse to water but you can't make it sink...

Cover Browser, Amazon, Fantastic Fiction, rarelist 

Bad puns never die.
     Especially when it comes to detective fiction titles. From early Pocket Books and other paperback potboilers (by some of the pioneers of the genre) to the latest "hot-off-the-keyboard" e-book incarnations, playing on the word "hearse" seems almost compulsive.

"Etymology: Middle English herse 'a triangular frame for holding candles,' from early French herce 'frame for holding candles, harrow,' from Latin hirpex 'harrow' : a vehicle for conveying the dead to the grave.
     Word History: An early form of French used the word herce for a harrow, a farm tool used to break up and smooth the soil. Herce was also applied to a triangular frame that was similar in shape to the frame of a harrow and was used for holding candles.
     Herce was borrowed into English as hearse, and both the literal sense of 'harrow' and the extended sense of 'a frame for holding candles' were kept. In those days a large and decorative framework might be raised over the tomb or coffin of an honored person. Because this framework was often decorated with candles, the word hearse was applied to it.
     A series of slightly changed meanings led to the use of hearse for a platform for a corpse or coffin, and from that to a vehicle to carry the dead to the grave."
Miriam Webster (Word Central)
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Modern Girls

"New York City, 1924: the Volstead Act has spawned a thriving bootlegging industry, jazz throbs from secret speakeasies, the hemlines are scandalous, and girls are bobbing their hair. The world has changed so rapidly that even some of the young are disoriented. Rose, Suzanne Rindell’s narrator, is a straitlaced young woman who was raised by nuns. She views the excesses of the jazz age from afar and with some suspicion. Rose understands that some people have the luxury of risking the wild freedoms of this new era, and others don’t. She has an orphan’s understanding of the precariousness of her place in the world. She follows the rules. […]
     Rose is wary of 'modern girls' like Odalie, with their bob haircuts and their casual entitlement, their way of moving through the city as if the city existed for their amusement. The Other Typist is a chronicle of a woman’s unraveling, but it’s also a subtle examination of economic privilege. The rapidly loosening mores of that time looked like freedom, but the level of risk that comes with freedom is never, of course, the same for everyone."
— Emily St. John Mandel, The Millions
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Buy this book here...

“A writer’s life is in his work, and that is the place to find him.” — Henry James

Raold Dahl's writing hut (from: hermastersvoice)

"Is there something frankly embarrassing or shameful about being a 'writer'?

The public identification does seem just a bit self-conscious, at times. Like identifying oneself as a 'poet,' 'artist,' 'seer,' 'visionary.'

Yet you are, are you not, a 'writer'? After all these years?

If I’m required to identify myself on a form, I write 'teacher.' I’ve been a teacher almost as long as I’ve been writing. [Pause.] I think of myself less as a writer than as a person who writes — or tries to. Each morning is a kind of obstacle course in which the obstacles seem to have all the advantage.

A curious and unconvincing sort of modesty! Your name is on your book covers, after all.

But my name is not me."

— Joyce Carol Oates, The Washington Post
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"Kraus's dichotomy: Mac versus PC"

"Here, for example, is the first paragraph of [Karl Kraus's circa 1911] essay 'Heine and the Consequences.'

Two strains of intellectual vulgarity: defenselessness against content and defenselessness against form. The one experiences only the material side of art. It is of German origin. The other experiences even the rawest of materials artistically. It is of Romance origin. [Romance meaning Romance-language — French or Italian.] To the one, art is an instrument; to the other, life is an ornament. In which hell would the artist prefer to fry? He'd surely still rather live among the Germans. For although they've strapped art into the Procrustean Folding Bed of their commerce, they've also made life sober, and this is a blessing [...]

     Kraus's suspicion of the 'melody of life' in France and Italy still has merit. His contention here – that walking down a street in Paris or Rome is an aesthetic experience in itself – is confirmed by the ongoing popularity of France and Italy as vacation destinations and by the 'envy me' tone of American Francophiles and Italophiles announcing their travel plans. If you say you're taking a trip to Germany, you'd better be able to explain what specifically you're planning to do there, or else people will wonder why you're not going someplace where life is beautiful. Even now, Germany insists on content over form. If the concept of coolness had existed in Kraus's time, he might have said that Germany is uncool.
     This suggests a more contemporary version of Kraus's dichotomy: Isn't the essence of the Apple product that you achieve coolness simply by virtue of owning it? It doesn't even matter what you're creating on your Mac Air. Simply using a Mac Air, experiencing the elegant design of its hardware and software, is a pleasure in itself, like walking down a street in Paris. Whereas, when you're working on some clunky, utilitarian PC, the only thing to enjoy is the quality of your work itself. As Kraus says of Germanic life, the PC 'sobers' what you're doing; it allows you to see it unadorned. This was especially true in the years of DOS operating systems and early Windows."
— Jonathan Franzen, The Guardian

Buy books by Jonathan Franzen (and Karl Kraus's books) here...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This guy needs his own Ace Double… both sides of it.

Source image: TAG

"'But it's the globalists here running my life, that's why they're my front-and-center problem,' [fringe conservative radio host Alex Jones] said. 'Because they are the biggest, most organized, eugenics-based, scientific dictatorship, trans-humanists at the top that plan the extinction of almost everybody and a new species to rise up or humans merged with machines.'
     'That's their religion, and no one's discussing that,' Jones added. 'Everyone is going to be deindustrialized, everyone is going to be put back into the Stone Age and controlled. And Obama and the globalists and the robber barons, they're going to fly around in their jetcopters and their Air Forces Ones and their red carpets, like gods above us. And they're going to get the life-extension technologies.'"
Crooks and Liars

"[...] and better marks in school!"

From: Retronaut

Park Avenue Godmothers

"The poet Langston Hughes liked to wryly describe the Harlem Renaissance — the years from just after World War I until the Depression when black literature and art flourished, fed by an awakening racial pride — as 'the period when the Negro was in vogue.' Note the past tense. [...]
     The names of Harlem's heyday are now part of the American literary canon: Hughes; his good friend Zora Neale Hurston; fellow writers Arna Bontemps and Jean Toomer; poet Countee Cullen; and novelists Nella Larsen, Wallace Thurman and Jessie Redmon Fauset. What is far less known are the white patronesses who made much of their work possible.
Langston Hughes, 1958
From: TheAlchemist's Pillow
 Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, historian Carla Kaplan, who teaches at Northeastern University, introduces readers more fully to those women. ('Miss Anne' is a generic term within the black community for white women, especially those who rely on the privilege of their race. Kaplan's use of it in the book's title signifies her insider's knowledge — as well as her intent to be purposefully provocative.) Many of us who read about the works of Hurston and Hughes, two of the most famous Harlem Renaissance figures, knew that they and other writers had white women who helped support them while they produced their art. But these women were seen as ancillary to the process, referred to in the black writers' letters and papers as the holders of purse strings that, when loosened, allowed the artist to continue his work. Although, as we discover through Kaplan's book, that support was not unconditional."
— Karen Grigsby Bates, Code Switch
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"Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston’s friendship lasted five years and ended in jealousy and perhaps an unrequited love. In the Spring of 1927 Langston was invited to read his poems at Fisk University’s Commencement exercises. From there he planned to do another reading in Texas but the Great Mississippi Flood cancelled those plans.
     A change took him South where he ran into Zora in New Orleans. She was touring the South in her own car, collecting materials for research. Together they spent several weeks driving through the rural South collecting folk songs and stories.
     They returned to Harlem and Hughes introduced Hurston to his patron the 'Park Avenue Godmother' Charlotte Mason. Under Charlotte Mason’s sponsorship they began to collaborate on a play Mule Bone. Mason hired a third Harlem Renaissance figure Louise Thompson to do the typing for $150 a month.
     Zora found Louise and Langston growing a little too cozy. Then one can only surmise by some mischief concocted by Zora, Louise was suddenly fired. Hughes wanted Louise to continue typing and offered to share author credits. Zora opposed the idea and with only two acts completed Hurston packed up and took off on another tour taking the notes and manuscript. Despite his great affection for the Godmother Hughes was feeling controlled, beholden and with his creativity stifled their relationship deteriorated and not long after she cut him off."
Norwood Holland's Editorial Independence
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Buy this book, and works by all the writers mentioned in this post here...

"[...] a tour d'horizon of contemporary fiction"

"When Robert Macfarlane, the chair of this year's Man Booker Prize judges, announced the longlist he called it the most diverse in recent memory. He was right, and the same is still true of the shortlist he and his peers have just selected. The 151 novels they started with represented a tour d'horizon of contemporary fiction, a grand vista that encompassed everything from the epic to the miniaturist. The longlist distilled the numbers but kept the flavour and now the shortlist has intensified it further."

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
The Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Penguin)

— The Man Booker Prizes
Read more…

"Two writers with Canadian credentials – B.C.-based writer Ruth Ozeki and London, Ont.-born Eleanor Catton – are among the six finalists for the prestigious Booker prize for fiction.
     A Tale for the Time Being by Ozeki, who is American born but now lives in Whaletown, B.C., and The Luminaries by Catton, who lives in New Zealand, are on the shortlist announced Tuesday for the £50,000 ($81,000) prize.
     The winner of the prize – open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth – will be announced Oct. 15."
— The Globe and Mail


"The great Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño liked to argue, plausibly enough, that poetry is a higher calling than fiction.
     He also liked to argue, with no plausibility at all, that he was a better poet than a novelist. 'The poetry,' he said, 'makes me blush less.' Like so many writers, Bolaño (1953-2003) was an unreliable guide to his own oeuvre.
     His collected verse, now in a plump, handsome bilingual volume called The Unknown University, has flecks of the intense pleasures contained in his best novels: The Savage Detectives (1998), By Night in Chile (2000) and 2666 (2004). But you will need to pan for these, like someone searching for gold in a river bottom.
     Bolaño died too young, of liver disease, at 50. Before his death he had time to begin compiling this volume and to give it its title."
— Dwight Garner, The New York Times
Read more…

Buy all of Roberto Bolaño's books here...

padlocked and loaded

"The Facades belongs to the same subgenre as Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn: detective novels influenced as much by Kafka as they are by Chandler.
     Generally speaking, in these novels, style and atmosphere trump plot and action, the setting is as crucial as the crime, and intertextuality is more important than investigative chops. Just as we have the collective term for the Southern Gothic, perhaps it is time to name this bastard offspring of Dashiell Hammett and Jorge Luis Borges. Hardboiled Existentialism? The Metaphysical Whoodunit? The Urban-Decay Procedural? Take your pick.
     Certainly, in its foregrounding of its setting, The Facades fits the bill. The crumbling, financially strapped city of Trude, once dubbed 'the Munich of the Midwest,' is now filled with the 'abandoned mansions of industrialists,' and boasts 'the most diverse and effective suicide lobby' in the region."
 — Jon Michaud, The New Yorker
Read more…

Buy all or any of the books mention in this post here...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I sleep, therefore I am...

From: Bizrice

"If I put my literary specs on and do a little free-association, what I see in these two figures is a Proustian thing, characters in search of time, freezing time, preserving it. Time, and everything else, everything that can be associated with a human experience captured and recaptured, recirculated, resuscitated, replayed, re-envisioned, remembered, recognized, over and over again. Kind of like a memory hell, in a way, only in Proust's hands it all sounds and tastes so beautiful.
     Another peek without those wicked nega-specs and I see two robots from a pulsing Disney film, actions in search of characters--the possibilities are endless, particularly if you develop a little narrative. The real story of what is happening here is complex version of a simpler solution.
     And the key to it all: hypoxia."
Ptak Science Books
Read more…

"But no matter what maybe the cause, there is no insomnia that modern alternative medicine like hyperbaric oxygen treatment can not cure. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment with its pressurized 100% oxygen has already been proven to cure insomnia. And what’s more better about it is that you can buy or rent your own hyperbaric chamber so there would be no need to go to a hospital to get the treatment."
Sleep Apnea Facts
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"A lot of famous people are recorded as having suffered from insomnia. Sir Isaac Newton suffered from depression and had difficulty sleeping. Winston Churchill had two beds because if he couldn’t sleep in one, he would try the other. Thomas Edison, like my father, was a cat-napper, because he couldn’t sleep at night. Some insomniacs turned to drugs. Marcel Proust and Marilyn Monroe took barbiturates to help them sleep. English writer, Evelyn Waugh, took bromides to induce sleep. As we know, Michael Jackson died because of a lethal cocktail of medications to help him sleep, including propofal, used for sedation before surgeries, lorazepam, used for anxiety, and a host of other meds, including midazolam, diazepam, lidocaine and ephedrine. He was obviously so desperate to sleep that he was willing to try them all."
Mindy's Muses
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"[…] the credit balance of the writer is his childhood"

First U.S.  edition (1964)
From: Pinterest

"[John] Le Carré believes that the credit balance of the writer is his childhood, citing Graham Greene. By this standard, le Carré was an early millionaire. He was born in 1931, in Dorset, to a family that he celebrates despite (or perhaps because of) its manifest dysfunctionality. With a largely absent mother, his father became the central figure in his early life. Ronnie Cornwell was 'seriously bent,' volatile, a convicted fraudster, yet also 'exotic, amusing' and lovable. He avoided military service during the war by standing as a parliamentary candidate, an Independent Progressive. The postwar period offered Ronnie a goldmine of shady activity, allowing his son to enter maturity in an unpredictable environment populated by racehorses and Bentleys, passing from St Moritz to the Savoy Grill in the company his father kept, which included the Kray twins ('lovely boys,' his aunt called them). […]
     The secret world offered space for the larcenous side of his character, and satisfied the desire for a 'sense of commitment.' He has long disabused me of the sense that his family background might have been an impediment to joining the British intelligence services. The attraction of someone with a semi-criminal background was irresistible to the spooks, he says. They were looking for recruits with a broad sense of morality, individuals who were unanchored and wayward, who hankered for discipline ('his father’s a bit bent, we could use a bit of that'). If the secret service produced so many bad eggs, he tells me, it’s because they looked for them."
— Philippe Sands, FT Magazine
Read more…

Buy all of John Le Carré's books here...

gospel truthiness

From: Retronaut

"As a writer and teacher, I try to learn something about the craft every day. A gold coin of inspiration may come in my reading, in a conversation with another writer or even in the process of revising this essay.
     I learned an important lesson, somewhat unwittingly, on July 19, 1975, while watching an interview with two of my favorite writers, William F. Buckley Jr. and Tom Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe was making fun of an art critic who had begun an essay with the sentence 'Art and ideas are one.'
'Now, I must give him credit for this,' said Mr. Wolfe. 'If you ever have a preposterous statement to make … say it in five words or less, because we’re always used to five-word sentences as being the gospel truth.'”
— Roy Peter Clark, The New York Times
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ever wonder

"It’s 2068 and Adam Leith Gollner, who half a century ago wrote a bestselling book about fruit hunters, is at a cocktail party where the drinks are resveratrol shakes and the chatter is about memory uploading, genitalia’s new-found obsolescence and stem-cell injections that will allow injured laggards to finish an ultramarathon of the circumference of the moon. […]
     In the course of the book, Gollner visits a former professor, a Jesuit (now suffering from Alzheimer’s – and a stark example, perhaps, of why people become interested in life extension); goes hunting for David Copperfield’s fountain of youth; travels to Esalen, where a psychologist warns him about becoming 'caterpillar soup' on a vision quest; visits a cryogenics lab and meets the proprietor, a man who, within seconds of his wife’s death, began operating on her to prepare her for freezing; and so very much more."
— Lisan Jutras, The Globe and Mail
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dumb down, or dumb up

"[…] Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s forthcoming book, Without Their Permission […] bears a small mark, which indicates that the book is a '5-hour read.' In a picture Ohanian posted of the book on imgur, he adds, 'Hope this becomes a trend — I believe we’re the first book to do it, yes?'
     […] What is the purpose of this sort of thing, I wonder? It certainly isn’t to give you a true idea of what kind of investment is required to read the book. It just can’t be that people think they know exactly how long it will take the average person to read the book. In my anecdotal experience, reading times vary not just by page-length, but also by the difficulty of the prose and the clarity of the author’s thinking. This is a 272-page book, which means the author expects you to read at roughly a page a minute. For most people that would constitute speed-reading […]"
— Michelle Dead, Flavorwire

"[…] when you see the word 'car', the little voice in your head says 'C-A-R, car'. This sub-vocalization slows reading to a snails pace. To speed read, you must learn to see words as images. You must re-learn to process what you read with the right side of your brain instead of the left side.
     Speed reading is a technique that allows you to take in the printed word just like you take in images while watching a movie. You learn to change how you view words so they are seen as images by the right side of the brain instead of using the voice in your head with the left side. This completely changes how your brain processes information. […]"
— Michael Ford, PositiveArticles
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Monday, September 9, 2013

In situ

"Bless an author with a long enough career, and even the most outcast elements can get a second chance. In Thomas Pynchon’s encyclopedic, pull-out-the-stops first novel, V. (1963), the Upper West Side merits only a withering dismissal:
     This was on Broadway in the 80’s, which is not the Broadway of Show Biz, or even a broken heart for every light on it. Uptown was a bleak district with no identity, where a heart never does anything so violent or final as break: merely gets increased tensile, compressive, shear loads piled on it bit by bit every day till eventually these and its own shudderings fatigue it.
     Fifty—fifty!—years later, Bleeding Edge, his latest, situates its heroine, Maxine Tarnow, and much of its action firmly on the 'Yupper West Side.' Though the area retains a rep as 'a vague sort of uptown Dubuque,' Pynchon’s affection for Maxine means the neighborhood gets his signature treatment, three parts laughing gas to one part subterranean profundity."
— Ed Park, BookForum
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Buy all of Thomas Pynchon's books here...

slinging hash and other vittles

"The story of the hashtag begins sometime around the fourteenth century, with the introduction of the Latin abbreviation 'lb,' for the Roman term libra pondo, or 'pound weight.' Like many standard abbreviations of that period, 'lb' was written with the addition of a horizontal bar, known as a tittle, or tilde (an example is shown above, right, in Johann Conrad Barchusen’s Pyrosophia, from 1698).
     And though printers commonly cast this barred abbreviation as a single character, it was the rushed pens of scribes that eventually produced the symbol’s modern form: hurriedly dashed off again and again, the barred 'lb' mutated into the abstract #.
     The symbol shown here on the left, a barred 'lb' rendered in Isaac Newton’s elegant scrawl, is a missing link, a now-extinct ancestor of the # that bridges the gap between the symbol’s Latin origins and its familiar modern form. Though it is now referred to by a number of different names—'hash mark,' 'number sign,' and even 'octothorpe,' a jokey appellation coined by engineers working on the Touch-Tone telephone keypad—the phrase 'pound sign' can be traced to the symbol’s ancient origins. For just as 'lb' came from libra, so the word 'pound' is descended from pondo, making the # a descendent of the Roman term libra pondo in both name and appearance."
— Keith Houston, The New Yorker
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Saturday, September 7, 2013

We need you...

Illustration: Michael Hale

Dear friends of, and strangers to, the Elora Writers' Festival.
     It's a new year (for me, the year really starts in September) and now is the time to embellish your connection to this blog spot—and to the Elora Writers' Festival.
     Have you read a wonderful book lately—or a really disappointing one? And need to share your feelings and thoughts about it with the rest of the world?
     Why not post a review of it, here? On our blog spot. What readers think—regular, book-buying readers—is very important to us; you are our audience!
     And if you are a budding writer the formal demands of such a modest project go a long way in improving you writing skills. You will be amazed at what you're really thinking about, what your true opinion of a book is, once you put the Muse into top gear.
     Try it.
     If you don't like it, remember: It's the "shitty first draft" and you should let it get "cold" for a day or two and come back to it later.
     There are no deadlines here. But keep in mind that successful writers learn to impose their own deadlines.

When you're ready, get in touch with us through the blue-framed "Contact Us" box below.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Happiness is a warm gun..." — Lennon–McCartney

"Sometime in late 1968, Charles Manson was listening to 'The Beatles,' to use the proper name of what’s most often called the White Album, and decided that 'Helter Skelter,' an upbeat rocker about a roller coaster at an English amusement park, was a call to black insurrection in America, to be set off by the brutal murders of an actress, a hairdresser, a coffee heiress, and several other innocents.
     The question that this horrible incident has always provoked was not just: How could anyone have thought anything so murderously insane? It was also: Why was Charles Manson listening with such hallucinative intensity to an album whose other highlights were John Lennon’s delicate bossa-nova ballad to his mother Julia, Paul McCartney’s lyrical invocation of Noël Coward, and George Harrison’s mystical celebration of the varieties in a box of English chocolates[…]
     These questions come to mind in reading David Shields and Shane Salerno’s heavily hyped biography Salinger (Simon & Schuster), not least because, in one of the most bizarre sections of a bizarre book, they themselves raise the issue of murder-by-bad-reading, in connection with the murder (fearful symmetry!) of the Beatles’ John Lennon by Mark Chapman, who happened to have hallucinated a motive within The Catcher in the Rye. Shields and Salerno’s own peculiar view of Salinger forces them to insist that Chapman was not just a crazy hallucinant, but in his own misguided way an insightful reader, responding to the 'huge amount of psychic violence in the book.'”
– Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013)

"Author Frederik Pohl, who over decades gained a reputation of being a literate and sophisticated writer of science fiction, has died at age 93. His wife, Elizabeth Hull, said Tuesday that Pohl died Monday at a hospital after experiencing respiratory problems at his home in the Chicago suburb of Palatine. News of his death was first announced by his granddaughter, Emily Pohl-Weary, in a tweet.
     Pohl wrote more than 40 novels. Two of his better-known works were The Space Merchants, written in the early 1950s with Cyril M. Kornbluth, and 1978's Gateway, a winner of the Hugo Award for science fiction writing. Pohl was a literary agent and editor before getting his own work published in science fiction magazines of the 1930s. He's credited with launching the careers of James Blish and Larry Niven.
     'It is difficult to sum up the significance of Frederik Pohl to the science fiction field in few words,' Pohl's editor James Frenkel said in an obituary released by the family. 'He was instrumental to the flowering of the field in the mid-to-late 20th century, and it is hard to dispute that the field would be much the poorer without his talent and remarkable body of work as a magazine and book editor, a collaborator and a solo author.'"
— Herbert G. McCann, Huffington Post
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