Parting is such sweet sorrow

Dear reader types,

I am taking what we in the business like to call "a vacation." Assume a hiatus until the 4th of 2010, unless something wonderfully hilarious just. Can't. Wait.

Peace out, tigers, and happy holidays!

Creatures from the deep, beware

Authors, we all know, are temperamental creatures. They can't help it, and we appreciate a little crazy from our creative types. There comes a point, however, when the crazy needs to be countermanded by a few deep breaths and sleeping on a bad review, which author Candace Sams learned the hard way.

When a negative Amazon review popped up, Sams started to respond anonymously, but was quickly outed. Her comments have since been removed (sadly), but there's a round-up of shenanigans here that's worth a look.

But, in case you wanted the short version: it's kind of a train wreck.

Fox News smacks down your e-reader dreams

Yesterday, I said that buying an e-reader is an American, patriotic duty. It turns out (and it pains me to admit it) that I may have been wrong. Why? Because Fox News says not to buy e-readers.

Now, we all know Fox News is never wrong, and they are more American than an apple pie covered in peanut butter wrapped in an American flag smashed with a baseball bat. (For those of you of a non-American persuasion, that is very, very American.) Plus, your e-reader might be spying on you. Back to the traditional paper book and writing on papyrus!


Up is down, black is white: Self-publishing house makes bank in traditional publishing mode

The apocalypse is upon us, reader types: PublishingWorks left self-publishing for traditional publishing and is making money. You heard right. The end is nigh!

But seriously, kudos to them. Continue to make that mythical "profit."

Drawing from a classic

PW has a great article about adapting graphic novels from classics. Although the earliest adaptations were in the 1940s, they have seriously picked up steam, with traditional comic book publishers, trade publishers, and academic publishers jumping on the bandwagon.

But, as the author Ada Price writes:
But some of the biggest problems in adapting Shakespeare, as well as other classics, remain the abridgment of the text and the work's original language, which can be difficult and off-putting for modern readers.
And while editor Thomas LeBien says, "The graphic novel doesn't cannibalize sales of the original. They re-energize the originals," do we agree? Does this add to people reading classics? I liken this to the Twilight/Wuthering Heights phenomenon, in which Twilight boosted Wuthering Heights' sales. It might just make people ask if the classic is "in old english or mordern understandable english."

E-merson for the enthusiastic

If you've heard of Hemingway (and I'm not sure if you have), you've probably heard of this "Emerson" guy as well. And for $10 on the internet, you can read the collected works of Emerson—something that would cost you hundred or thousands of dollars in a paper copy.

Clearly Emerson was all about e-books, as Mick Sussman quotes, "'To those dwelling in the old,' wrote Emerson, the new 'comes like an abyss of skepticism,' but 'the eye soon gets wonted to it' as its 'innocency and benefit appear.'" Since disagreeing with Emerson makes you a terrorist (he was a great American!), e-books must be great. Quod erat demonstrandum.


The e-book test drive

For the e-book fearers out there, the LA Times did a video test drive of a number of e-readers (not the Nook, unfortunately, although I've seen one and it looks awesome). Check it out, and see which one you'll be purchasing in January.

Stealing books for fun and pleasure

Margo Rabb wrote a great essay on a recent rash of bookstore shoplifters, trying to have their unemployment and reading too. The most frequently stolen book? The Bible. In the shoplifters' defense, the only people Jesus straight up promised entrance to Paradise were thieves so...logical connection to stealing his Word?

This I liked:
Fiction is the most commonly poached genre at St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village of Manhattan; the titles that continually disappear are moved to the X-Case, safely ensconced behind the counter. This library of temptation includes books by Martin Amis, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo and Jack Kerouac, among others. Sometimes the staff isn’t sure whether an author is still popular to swipe until they return their books to the main floor. “Amis went out and came right back,” Michael Russo, the manager, told me.
Maybe they should put the Bible back in the X-Case.

Handwriting is dead, long live the computer

Almost two years ago, Anne Trubek wrote an article declaring the death of handwriting, and people went apeshit. Fast forward to this year, in which she still thinks the same thing, no matter how many people yell. She writes:
Most of us know, but often forget, that handwriting is not natural. We are not born to do it. There is no genetic basis for writing. Writing is not like seeing or talking, which are innate.
Oh, snap. The whole article is really interesting, and recaps a history of the written word and handwriting (really, really briefly). It also says, about A.N. Palmer and his system of handwriting, "He rejected the slightly fey Spencerian for a muscular, rugged script better suited to a commercial culture."

The real question, then, is: did Palmer invent modern handwriting? Or modern MANdwriting?


Santa and Shakespeare: Friends of yore

McSweeney's has a series of letters to Santa written by Shakespearean characters (which is such a McSweeney's thing to do, but I digress). Although a friend of mine says that, like most things at McSweeney's, the title is better than the content, I did like this letter from Macbeth:
Hail, Santa, King of the Elves!

Many thanks for the male-enhancement products you brought me last year. But as my wife has since forsworn me, I will not be needing them again. Hence, I devote this year's list to her Christmas wishes. She demands the following items:

— A gift certificate for LATTICE eyelash treatment

— A Wonderbra (size: 36D; color: Midnight Animal)

— Arctic-raised Reindeer Pâté

— "Buns of Steel" DVD

— Dolce & Gabbana Bling Sunglasses

— One ticket to Barack Obama's 2010 New Year's Day Brunch [or another exclusive political event]

Santa, may I be frank? My Lady says that if she does not receive all of these anon, she will fly into a murderous rage. Just thought you should know.

— Macbeth

P.S. If you find a posset of cocoa labeled "For Santa," do not drink it.
HA. Click on through for the rest.

What your favorite authors say about you (it isn't very good)

Lauren Leto, of Text From Last Night fame, put together an amazeballs list of what types of people like certain authors. My personal favorites:
Dave Eggers: Guys who are in the third coolest frat of a private college.

Nick Hornby: Guys who wear skinny jeans and the girls that love them.

Phillippa Gregory: Women who have repressed their desire to go to Renaissance Festivals

Richard Dawkins: People who have their significant other grab them under the table in order to shut them up whenever someone else at a dinner says something absolutely ridiculous and wrong.
Michael Pollan: The girl who just turned vegan to cover up her eating disorder.
I know that Michael Pollan girl. She is a "model" and "eats," she swears.

Round up, over there!

Click click click click click on through.

Fingerprinting the greats

Literary scientists have analyzed the collected works of different writers, and come up with charts of which unique words different people use, and how often.
The researchers gathered together the complete works of Hardy, Melville, and Lawrence, and measured that dependence—counting the number of new unique words as a particular author's works get longer and longer.

They used sections from books of varying lengths, randomly pulled from novels, alongside shorter works and short stories.

They found that the authors had distinctly different "unique word" curves.

The team suggests that a work by an unknown author could therefore be compared to prior works, with the curve acting as a linguistic "fingerprint".
My fingerprint-able words would be "zombie apocalypse" and "shenanigans."


Judge Judy pitches a book and a fit at the same time

I don't watch Judge Judy, but Jezebel took the plunge for me, and got this gem, in which the judge takes a piece out of someone for texting at dinner, and says:
"I wonder if anybody's ever written a book about texting etiquette."
To which her baliff said:
"If not, it's coming. It's probably online."
This lady is after my heart, with her potshots at rude texters and chats about e-books.

Illustrating Moby Dick

Matt Kish has decided to illustrate every page of Moby Dick, and it is pretty friggin awesome. Below is a favorite of mine, "Page 048 : Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed."

Pachow, culture!

Life is full of regrets

Including, sadly, book regrets. Check out this list of books people regret reading. And vote yourself!

And before you say anything: I do think it says something that all of the Twilight books are in the top 5. It says that like everyone has read those books. Aspire to the top of the list, people--no one can regret reading your book if they don't read it.


Romance dos and do nots

This is an amazing, amazing list of things main romance characters shouldn't do. And the list is so good. My favorite?
Have the longest legs the hero’s ever seen, especially if I’m only five foot tall.
And, of course:
Borrow clothes that are too snug in the bosom.
Because these things come up in my life all the friggin time.

Got fear?

Books defeat your fears, with pop up technology!

Because life isn't scary enough.

Louisa May, is there anything you can't do?

No. No there is not (besides still be alive). Not only is she cool enough to get a biopic, but now we learn that LM Alcott only wrote Little Women so her father could get a book published. That's some serious filial respect at work, friends.

Take the lesson: if you do nice things for your dads, you too will become the writers of American classics. This reminder counts as my nice thing. Happy early Father's Day, Dad!


Zombies are getting slayed by Natalie Portman

You heard right, ladies and gents. Natalie Portman is producing and starring in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the motion picture. I haven't read the book, but my sincere love/hate relationship with zombie culture leads me to believe that I will watch anything with zombies getting beasted.

The big question is: do you find NatPo killing zombies believable? I think she'd be more likely to do something twee and hipster than behead the undead, but hey, people will surprise you. And I'm behind anyone trying to stave off the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Delaying e-books for fun and profit

GalleyCat has put together a great round-up of thoughts on the delay of e-book releases.

I have to admit that I don't actually have much of an opinion on the delay of the e-book just yet. I don't like being denied immediate access to an e-version of a book, but I also don't like being denied immediate access to a paperback of a book, and most people deal with that pretty well.

So: is this publisher pigheadedness? Is this a fight against Amazon price fixing? Are there other viable ways to handle this? I have no idea. But the GalleyCat group seems pretty well versed, so click click and read away.

No, I do not want a "reader's guide"

Imogen at the Guardian book blog has hit upon one of my biggest pet peeves in literature: the stupid shit that publishers put in at the end of a book.

"Was there any symbolism in the symbolic symbol in chapter 4?"
"Does it change your reading experience to know that The Wizard of Oz was a thinly veiled response to William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech?"
"Does Ishmael really want to be called Ishmael, or is that just shenanigans?"

She writes:
No back matter should contain essay topics or anything resembling them. I don't think even school texts should come with the literary equivalent of an answers page, posing patronising questions with embedded solutions – "Do you notice anything about the treatment of love/weather/eating in this chapter?" (rib-nudge). Any English teacher worth their salt should be able to come up with their own spider-diagram stimuli without having recourse to these dull and generic lists.
Amen sister.

Post-post Q&A:
How do you think Laura feels about this topic?


Abandonment is sad

But, you know, I'm on a mini-vacation (see last Friday at Pimp My Novel, which I would link to, but I'm writing this last Thursday, in the past).

Consider yourself sad and alone. Please don't cry. See you tomorrow! Probably, unless I get tired.


What to read? Ask a graph

Is it my fault that GraphJam keeps making graphs about books? No. No it is not.

funny graphs and charts


Waffles are so deadly

Guys. Guys. Guys. This is why you never want to hear a zombie say, "Leggo my Eggo."

The art of return

An American soldier who took some things from Hitler's stash at the end of WWII just found out that one of the things he took was a book of Hitler's art (hey, it's a book, it's book related, hence: blog material).

Okay, so it's slightly misleading. These aren't paintings done by Hitler, but pictures of paintings he got (at least one from Mussolini!) that were going to be in a museum. So hey, you, check your attic for WWII treasures that may have been looted. And then mail them to me, and I will sell them on the black market.

...You're welcome.


Louisa May Alcott continues to rock

Louisa May Alcott is one of the few authors I would actually like to know more about. And, lucky me, Book Bench let me know that there's a PBS biopic about her life coming out. And there's a video of five things you didn't know:

Oh, LMA, you're so cheeky. And I also just found out that my DVR doesn't let me record things almost 20 days out. Someone remind me to watch this!

The beginning of the end

Yesterday we saw a list of novel last lines, and today is a list of firsts. Check out these sweet starters.

I actually like this group better than the enders of yesterday—they're just, you know, better.

Cooking with Coolio is my new life

Those averse to vulgarity: maybe don't read this post (or..er...this blog?).

Remember way back in November when we learned about Cooking with Coolio? And it was awesome? Well, Jezebel does a great round up of his current cooking shenanigans. He now has a cooking show (whhaaaat) and was on the Today Show to pimp himself, where he mentioned that he recently saw Julie and Julia, which caused him to get moist in his eye:

Aw, cute, right? Now check out the first episode of his cooking show (which is so beyond NSFW and so, so necessary to watch):

As the man says, this meal will absolutely get you in the panties of a salad eating bitch. The only way this could be any better is if Samuel L. Jackson showed up to yell things about motherfucking spices.


That's all she wrote

The American Book Review put together a PDF of the 100 best last lines in novels. Included are:
"Now everybody—" –Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
"Sorry I forgot to give you the mayonnaise."–Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America (1967)
“'And then the storm of shit begins'” –Roberto Bolaño, By Night in Chile (2000; trans. Chris Andrews)
He loved Big Brother. –George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

Pimping to the center

Pre-comment-disclaimer: I recognize that there is a lot of America between California and New York. I recognize your existence, non-coasties. You are the delicious inner brownie to the crispy brownie edges (do you prefer "innies"? The coast types can be "outies"). I think you are super great.

Anywho, Nick Reding said his publishers discouraged him from doing book promotion in flyover states, because they don't believe that innies buy books. Boo to that. Also, if you read the longer interview, I don't think that calling your publishers "dumb fuckers" helps your future with said publishers.

Innies, I know you're out there reading (I have Google Analytics on this sucker, and it comes with a sweet map overlay). What say you? Do you feel the disdain of outie publishers?

Taking a cannon to the canon

We had a bit of a chat about Hemingway and his place in the canon on Monday. So what do we count as a classic? How long does a book have to stick around to be inducted, as it were? And could there be an entirely different understanding of what a classic is?

Chris Cox (link above) argues that there are two types of classics: those in the canon, and those that "we've read five times, can quote from on any occasion, and annoyingly push on to other people with the words: 'You have to read this. It's a classic.'" One might argue that the latter are just what we call "super good books." Thoughts?


Silly rejections

PW has a list of ridiculous reasons people have for rejecting books. Por ejemplo:
One of our most loyal, longtime customers flatly dismissed Water for Elephants because "I don't do books about elephants set during the Depression."
You know what? Fair. Elephants have no place in the Depression. Plus, I have a whole list of books I won't read because of the person who recommended them (you get one recommendation to prove your taste isn't terrible. After that, you're on the list), so I can't really judge.

But you know what no one will reject? A book written in a beer box. Just saying.

Letters rock emails (not for reals though)

Apparently today is the day of me not appreciating other people's appreciation of old tech at the expense of new tech (because isn't it slightly hypocritical to write an online article about why the internet is the devil?). At Slate, Megan Marshall writes about how emails will never replace letters for biographical research. Why? Because people write shit emails.

I rebut: people wrote shit letters as well as good letters—we just conveniently ignore the bad. So we can safely ignore the bad emails, and assume that people who write well probably write long, involved emails the way people used to write letters back in the olden days of the 1990s. And eventually we can hack into their email accounts and air their dirty laundry to the world.

Great writing is predicated on no technology

At the Guardian, Tim Adams writes about how e-books are going to be the downfall of good writing. The article is a diatribe against technology in general, and how the internet is bad for our brains. He drives this home by comparing Don DeLillo writing on a typewriter to reading classics on the DS.

I'm sorry. Maybe it's my internet addled brain but: what? I think the intended point is that reading on a screen is different than reading on a paper page, that the physicality of typing on a typewriter is somehow holy, and that if you read too much internet you become incaple of literary creation. But then, how is this the fault of the e-reader? Well:
For the time being the Kindles and the rest are standalone devices, but it will surely not be long before they and the thousands of books they contain are bundled up with all the other must-have applications into a single computer which will mediate our lives: more undifferentiated text to match our own mood.
Oh. So...it's not the fault of the e-reader at all. But it could be their fault in the future.

Can someone please explain this to me?


Ernest Hemingwho?

Ken Korczak did a very informal, very unscientific survey, and found out that almost every teen he asked had no idea who Ernest Hemingway is.

On the one hand, that sucks, and the great American writers should be taught and celebrated. But on the other hand, I don't think I ever had Hemingway on a curriculum in high school, and I figured it out. And while I'm super awesome at figuring things out, I think we love to blame things on schools that maybe could be mentioned by parents. Like safe sex. But also Hemingway.

The internet has punctuation?

The answer is yes. Check out this chart, comparing regular punctuation to internet punctuation. The difference is that the internet sucks at punctuation. Please note that:
While "You have cancer of the :" may be the most efficient way to deliver a diagnosis of colon cancer over Instant Messenger, one should strive for clarity when using punctuation.
Punctuation and grammar are here to help, friends. Don't be anti-punctuation. That shit gets you e-mocked for e-ternity.

Digging up Shakespeare's trash

Archaeologists are digging up Shakespeare's lawn, in the hopes of finding his shit. His literal shit. Ahem:
Richard Kemp, of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “We are hoping to find organic debris that will teach us what the great man had for dinner. Our dream find would be the first draft of The Tempest, which we know Shakespeare did write here.”
I don't know if Shakespeare would approve, but, hey, he's dead. Any bets on what they find? Slash what he might have had for dinner?


Graphing literacy

I am an avid follower of GraphJam (you should be too!). And so, as we end our week together, I thought I'd share a reading venn diagram with you all.

funny graphs and charts

I drooled so much at this tablet reader I shorted out my keyboard

Fact: I could not give two craps about sports journalism (not even a single crap, actually). Fact: I watched over three minutes of video about sports journalism because of the tablet being shilled:

Ok, another fact: as Gawker points out, this is all theoretical and doesn't actually exist yet (and it probably won't be as cool when/if it's for real). Whatever, guys. This tablet is my own personal Twilight. I will obsess about its awesomeness in my imagination until I am incapable of telling fact from fiction and live my life according to the one true way. My Life is Tablet.

Friday round ups don't live here

They live at Pimp My Novel. Scoot!


How can we reach these kids? Slang!

I know everyone wants to know how we can reach these kids. And we do it by bastardizing the language of classics to make them more approachable. But don't worry, it's not slang that's the problem, it's that modern slang is lame, and ye olde slang is hip:
[T]here is a difference between idiom and modern slang in literature. Shakespeare's use of slang opened up the world of the theatre to all of the audience, displaying the mental agonies of the Prince of Denmark to the most boisterous groundling and bringing the horseplay of Dogberry and co to the attention of the most cerebral courtier. Modern slang is different, being cut through with dark knowing humour and packing a linguistic punch, as the Guardian's recent compilation of 1950s slang bears witness.
When Shakespeare used slang he was opening up language to the masses, but when you do it you're insulting art. I tried to come up with some good slang for comic effect, but it didn't really take. Feel free to contribute your own slang take on classics in the comments.

Pirates are everywhere, stealing your books

Two things really stuck out about this article. First the title, "Pirates find easy new pickings in open waters of e-book publishing" (ha!), and also the first line:
Digital pirates, who for years have tormented the music and film industries, have found a new source of plunder in e-book publishing.
Yes, you heard right, e-book piracy has just started. Well, okay, publishers have just kind of figured out that it exists.

But don't be worried, e-books are about to explode. Well, maybe if they get cheaper. Although your e-book is probably basically BetaMax.

In other news, if you understand the internet you can make about a billion dollars consulting for publishing. Get on it.

It's elementary, dear e-book

Sherlock Holmes is getting vooked (awww shiblies). Vook is adapting “The Man with the Twisted Lip” and “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” and I think it might look a little something like this:

But probably lower budget and with less RobDown Jr. and Jude "My personal life totally overshadows my acting even though I'm a pretty solid actor and maybe I should stop impregnanting people" Law.


Some people still use typewriters, also mimeographs

Ok, the mimeograph part was a joke. But many authors heart their typewriters. Says Frederick Forsythe:
"I have never had an accident where I have pressed a button and accidentally sent seven chapters into cyberspace, never to be seen again," he points out. "And have you ever tried to hack into my typewriter? It is very secure."
Touche to you, sir. The main perk I see in a typewriter is no internet, no solitaire (spider or otherwise), no distractions (no this blog is not one massive distraction from potentially more important work, hush). That said, no one would write me comments if this blog was typewriter based. So huzzah technology—you are more useful than not!

What killed Jane Austen? Cows.

I'm sure some of you thought that viruses jumping from animals to people was relatively new, a la bird flu or swine flu or AIDs (all: very bad). Well guess what? It's just drug-resistant forms of these diseases from the overuse of antibiotics in our food and lifestyles that's new!

There's a new theory that Jane Austen died from cow TB. And you know what? That is super lame. But, on the plus side, if you become a really famous author, dear reader, in 200 years people will come up with all sorts of theories about what killed you (hopefully not something terribly ironic, like a huge paper cut at a book signing).

More Twilight: You're welcome

I had a sincere desire to lay off the Twilight today (seriously!). And I was totally going to, but Geekologie ruined my resolve. So I present to you: My Life is Twilight. People write in and explain why their lives are so Twilight, and then people can vote: "Your life is SO Twilight!" or "Need to up the Twilight..."

I say this in all seriousness: universal happiness depends on reading this. And that is a maxim by which I will live my life. This is categorical imperative type shit (whatever, my Kant is weak, but you get the point).

An example:
Today I was sitting next to a boy in my science class, I suddenly touched his skin and said "you're pale white, and your skin is ice cold " turns out he was sick. MLIT
Today, I decided for Christmas I will be getting my boyfriend a body wash with sparkles so when he goes out in the sun he will shimmer like Edward. MLIT.
New. Favorite. Website. Although if anyone was thinking about starting a family today, maybe this will dissuade you from eventually having teenagers.


I am out of Twitter jokes

Rick Moody is tweeting a short story, with snippets every ten minutes until Wednesday (except for sleepy time). That is a lot of effort, and a lot of tweeting (which I don't do, because I can't schedule it the night before and then be pleasantly surprised when it magically pops up during the day. Pop!). Whatever, Doonesbury made fun of it, and Doonesbury is never wrong.

But, the coolest part? If you want, you can get the whole short story in a book of tweets! I know, I know, I'm great and I do things for you all the time. It must be true that human nature is helpful.

Twilight is probably bad for the ladies

I know we all like to hate on Twilight. ...And here's some more of that. But in a serious vein!

A LiveJournal user posted about how Edward from Twilight shows sign of being stalkery and abusive (something I've mentioned previously, and that Jezebel discusses. Please marry me, Jezebel). And, in this article discussing racism in the series, Jacob shows similar signs.

People. Please. Respect the ladies. Or you will also be invited to Slap Town USA (oh yea, I will abusive you right back).

Saving the environment one book at a time

I'm shaking my fist at you, Canada. You and your booksellers are always trying to one up America. You have two national languages, and publicly funded health care, and your dollar tried to beat up our American dollar. And now your booksellers are trying to force environmentalism by public shaming. Indigo wants publishers to report on the recycled status of their paper and what forest their paper comes from. Oh yea, Canada? Who's going to do that?

...Apparently Hachette. Okay. You win this one, Canada. Back to the Bat Cave.