Updated children's classics

Disney is updating Harriet the Spy so Harriet a blogger, not a journal writer, and Jezebel has gone the extra mile to update the plots of classic kid's books. My favorite update is for The Twits:
This Roald Dahl classic is tailor-made for a social media updating. Mr. and Mrs. Twit are two online misanthropes who use their shared Twitter account to say mean things about people. Then they learn that Twitter is for niceness, and everyone lives happily ever after.
I think this is great because we are all these kind of twits (internet jerks, unite!), but also because my favorite part of The Twits was that Mr. Twit would store food in his beard, and they could totally keep that part in the remake. Always made me wish I had a beard.

Everyone everywhere is reading the same things, almost

The Daily Beast has a gallery that shows different regional best sellers. And you know what? They're really the exact same across the board, except for regional sports non-fiction. Clearly we all read thrillers and The Secret and love Joe Torre.

Rounding up those nooks and crannies

Check out the Friday round up at Pimp My Novel (and learn why I can never sell the trade secrets Thomas' English Muffins).


Never give up, never surrender

One, I think Eric already used this post title. Two, it is more apt here, because this is about people who can't quit any book, even the bad ones. I suffer from this disease! It is frigging terrible! I would love to quit sometimes, but I just. Can't. Toby Lichtig sums it up:
I read the first few pages of a book, I can't quite get into it, but I struggle on until I'm a third of the way through and after that I simply have to reach the final page. It's not exclusive to novels. It's not even just to find out what happens. I think it's more compulsive than that: something to do with being assured that I've actually read the damn thing and not wasted my time on only some of it.
Seriously, this man is in my head. Please cure me.

Author arts and crafts

Needlepointer Joanna paid homage to Kurt Vonnegut by making crafts in his honor. And you know what? They are awesome.

I propose we all make arts and crafts for our heroes. Max Brooks, I'm coming for you: in craft form.

Email me any author-crafts you make, and I will showcase them on my fridge. Also on the blog, but mostly my fridge.

Happy anniversary, the phone book

Or, more pointedly, congratulations the phone book, for still being around! What's more:
Thought The Da Vinci Code or the Bible were the most popular printed works ever? Paul Collins, writing in Slate, says you're wrong: the phone book is, having gone viral after the first one-page directory was printed in New Haven in February, 1878. The same posturing for attention that we see today on sites like MySpace or Facebook surfaced there, too, as people changed their names to things like Zznar or Aaaaaron to assure a prominently first or last position in the listings. Thought that language was purer b4 the proliferation of SMS shorthand and twitter books? Because of space constraints, telephone books brought abbreviation to an apotheosis unparalleled until texting. (In phone book speak, you could say that you were meeting “wm” at the “delctssn” after seeing your “phys.”)
Oh snap, modern society. Respect your elders.


Dead pigs + the ocean = science

Why is science so gross and so cool all at the same time?

Epically violent, epically okay?

Violence in children's books is most likely bad. But is it ok if it has epic, historical, mythical background? Some say yes!
Realising that grim, wrist-deep violence in books for children and teenagers seems OK to me if it comes with an epic or mythological pedigree doesn't make me proud of myself – it's a perspective as reductive and unhelpful as the Mail's kneejerk reaction to books with "knife" in the title. One day I'll wake up all salt-and-peppery, steel-rimmed as to pince-nez, and start two-year-old Tarquin on the Iliad in the original Greek before locking myself in my study with hard liquor and Robert Muchamore. But I still feel that classically epic violence in books for children – loosed knees, starting eyeballs, gouting blood and the like – can be justified and balanced by epic scope.
The lesson here is that if you have historical backing, you can depict terrible, terrible things. Yep. That's what I took away from that.

Penguins with sweet tats

Penguin is putting out a number of titles with covers made to look like tattoos. They look pretty sweet, but as one commenter wrote:
those are cool looking covers, but im not wowed by the book choices….bridget jones diary????


The right way to write: The rules

The Guardian ran different authors' rules here and here--Anne Enright has the ever amazing "Try to be accurate about stuff" and "The first 12 years are the worst."

Book Bench shakes this down into the essential truths: you have to make your own rules. And remember: if you don't write it down, it never happened.

Funfetti for the whole family

Three words for you: funfetti cookie sandwiches. Oh. Em. Gee.

You can eat these while you lounge in your room covered in stacked paperback wallpaper in your enchantment under the sea apartment.

Monstrously entertaining (there is a pun involved here)

This list of ten great monsters is so, so good. Some of these are even on the venn diagram of monsters, which, alas, does not include the doughnut narwhal.

Thanks to CKHB for the venn diagram link--she could take the love-child of a basilisk and a kraken with her bare hands.


Medicine and the Bible

Seriously, this is great.

Book bags: Suddenly cool

Because Kate Spade designs them. I wish I were cool enough for these...

A librarian pushes for Push

Adalena Kavanagh, a New York City librarian, gives a thoughtful and spirited defense of Push, the book that's the basis of the movie Precious. She writes:
As a librarian, when students demand a book, I am inclined to give it to them. We struggle every day to make literacy important to our students, so when they find something that actually speaks to them we can’t ignore it, or wish it would go away, no matter how controversial it is, or how uncomfortable it makes us feel. To call Precious a stereotype is to believe that readers cannot distinguish between a character’s experience and a racial group’s reality, and that is giving readers and Sapphire very little credit.
I haven't read Push or seen Precious, but I think this is a fair argument. And I think this falls well within the "is it better that kids are reading if this is what they're reading?" dilemma. I always err on the side of kids reading. Huzzah!


Classics can be oh so graphic

Flavorwire has a great list of classics made better as graphic novels. The Macbeth looks awesome. Take some peeks!

Huck Finn, post-consumerism

Professor Tom Wortham of UCLA loves him some Huck Finn memorabilia. But not because he's weird:
Wortham says he has spent thousands of dollars on what he admits is "junk" to show students how commercialism sold one of American literature's most enduring characters down the river.
YEA. Take that, commercial culture. Plus, it was totally Mark Twain's fault. How dare he try to profit off of his work? For shame.

Round-up ahoy

Check it out at Pimp My Novel.


A Steel-y gaze and a beach house later

Danielle Steel, queen of romance (and also not romance, as she will tell you), has had her fair share of homes, and has recently bought a beach house that she has, for the first time, decorated to her liking:
The main theme seen throughout the three-bedroom, one-story home is hearts, which appear in paintings, in prints and via pillows. Reds, oranges, pinks and lime greens jump out from paintings, sculptures and objects, and heart pillows are inscribed with sayings ("Real love stories never have endings," reads one). Ms. Steel's bed, situated underneath a heart painting, is covered with heart pillows, stuffed animals and cloth dolls.
All I have to say is hells yes, decorating to make yourself happy. I wish I didn't live with someone with opinions slash didn't rent slash had the money to redecorate, because I would live in an under the sea apartment. What's that? I can't hear your judgment through the ocean sounds on the white noise machine and the constantly looping Shark Week footage.

Surviving the great outdoors with skills developed in the great indoors

Are you a bookworm? Are you enthusiastic about the outside, but slightly, er, outdoors-ly challenged? Fear not--someone else has done the legwork of getting lost in the woods and trying different survival guides. And he lived to write the article!

So, next time you're stuck in the woods and happen to have internet, remember this post, so you can be linked to the article, so you can go to the nearest store and buy a survival guide. So you can survive.

Occupation: Optimist

Margaret Atwood, prolific author and adorable lady, may write about really depressing things, but she says she's still an optimist.
"Anybody who writes a book is an optimist," the much-honored writer says, with a dry impishness, in a phone interview. "First of all, they think they're going to finish it. Second, they think somebody's going to publish it. Third, they think somebody's going to read it. Fourth, they think somebody's going to like it. How optimistic is that?"
Hurrah to you, optimists! Who says being an aspiring writer isn't fun?


Mon dieu, racist Gerard Depardieu!

Given our previous Alexandre Dumas news, it should come as no surprise that the man is a drama storm. Gerard Depardieu was cast to play Dumas in a biopic, in which he darkens his skin and changes his hair to play the biracial author, a la Ben Kingsley as Ghandi.
Non-white celebrities, some Dumas experts and black organisations are angry because they say that the producers missed a chance to celebrate ethnic diversity in France and remind the world of the writer’s origins. “There is a mechanism of permanent discrimination by silence,” Jacques Martial, a black actor, said.
France has a pretty terrible record when it comes to not being racist (and religiously tolerant), so I am not surprised that people are mad.

Anything but the eyestrain

Good Lord, please no eyestrain! Alas, the screen-versus-paper debate gets more complicated:
Doctors and researchers note that in most instances, paper can offer more visual sophistication than a screen. But certain types of paper, including inexpensive newsprint and the paper in softcover books, can actually provide an inferior reading experience for our eyes than the electronic alternatives.
If only these e-versus-paper decisions didn't keep getting harder.

Crowdfunding advances

Deanna Zandt got a book deal, but no advance, and so decided to solicit donations on her website to fund her writing. Some people took issue with her method of funding her title, especially as she called those giving her hand outs "investors," who, in exchange for $100, got a free book and no portion of her profits.

Now, on the one hand, I am never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and will gladly take your money. On the other hand, I don't give money to homeless people on the subway because I am not a sap.* Thoughts?

*You heard me. Money to legitimate charities: absolutely. Money to the guy who tried to steal a six-pack from the supermarket and then got his ass handed to him by the store manager: no.** I live in a place where there are many, many places to go for help (I know this for a fact, as I lived with someone whose job was to place people in these programs), and the subway is not one of those places.

**This totally happened yesterday on my way home.


Unearthing more of Shakespeare's world

Digging up Shakespeare's lawn was not enough, reader types! Archaeologists have excavated both the Rose and the Globe, and have found...things. Like food remains: oysters, crabs, mussels, periwinkles, cockles, Walnuts, hazelnuts, plums, cherries, peaches, dried raisins and figs. But class ruled all:
The distribution of food remains over the site suggested that there was a class divide in the consumption of snacks. [Julian] Bowsher explained that remains found underneath the gallery seating suggested that the wealthier classes munched on crabs and sturgeon, as well as imported treats like peaches and dried figs. Meanwhile, oyster shells were found scattered all over the yard area, where commoners stood.

"At that time, oysters were indeed the staple diet of the poor," Bowsher said.
There was also a lot of pipe smoking, proving that the Globe and the Rose were mostly in use before the smoking ban in New York. Or they weren't in New York. Science!

The copy and paste generation

I am a member of the copy and paste generation, both by age(-ish) but also, hey, look at this blog--it is almost all commentary on what others have written. This puts me in the same generation as Helene Hegemann, Germany's 17 year old bestselling author who is accused of plagiarism. Alas, by payment standards we are leagues apart, and she has done way more than I did by her age. But I digress.

Hegemann lifted a page from a novel by another writer without attribution, in addition to other unattributed bits and pieces. However, she doesn't see this as stealing, but rather "mixing," and others agree with this:
“Obviously, it isn’t completely clean but, for me, it doesn’t change my appraisal of the text,” said Volker Weidermann, the jury member [for the Leipzig Book Fair fiction prize] and a book critic for the Sunday edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, a strong supporter. “I believe it’s part of the concept of the book.”
Robert McCrum at the Guardian writes that Hegemann doesn't understand what plagiarism means because of her age and "the Internet age." And yea, maybe it is part of her shtick, because her novel is all about remixing, and here she's remixing other texts. But I take offense to the idea that because people in their late teens and early 20s grew up with the internet they (we) don't understand what is and is not stealing.

We aren't stupid, and we're no more unethical than those who grew up with the telegraph (although that already ruined journalistic integrity). This smacks of the nastiness toward Tavi Gevinson, the 14 year old fashion blogger, in which her every mistake is because of her youth, and her successes aren't credited.

The structure of true romance

I am in love with this guide to writing romances, with interviews from some of the most prolific Mills & Boon writers. Because most genre is incredibly formulaic, the incredible output of thrillers, space operas, and yes, romances from a stable of authors is all the more impressive.

While I'm sure many consider success to be personal recognition from the public and Safran Foer-ness, I consider it fiscal, not artistic, and would loooove this kind of stable (in both the secure and the horses senses) writing work. Mills & Boon, or, hey, Harlequin, call me. I have no idea how to write any of this stuff believably or well, but I will take your money and help comment on your covers.


Rags to riches is much better than rags to rags

We all love Susan Boyle (or we did the first time we heard her, at any rate) because she was so unexpected, and it was nice to root for someone for once, instead of tearing someone down. This is the underlying theory behind Tatjana Soli's formula for writers to like as people, and honestly, I think it's a pretty solid formula, because it's hard to root for the Lauren Conrad-as-author types of the world.

So here's a "hurrah" for all of you currently humble, quirky job havers, who will one day shoot to immortality (and hopefully not for falling down in a YouTube video). As for me, my story will track my meteoric rise to fame from humble waffle and burrito connoisseur to...er...arrogant waffle and burrito connoisseur. Bask in my humble glory while you can!

Writing for a living is hard, for all new reasons

At the LA Times, Dani Shapiro writes an article about how it used to be that writing as a career was difficult because of the time commitment involved for success, and now you don't even get that. She writes:
The emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself. The publishing industry -- always the nerdy distant cousin of the rest of media -- has the same blockbuster-or-bust mentality of television networks and movie studios. There now exist only two possibilities: immediate and large-scale success, or none at all.
Bleak? Yes. Truthful? Absolutely. Sure, a major house can support the literary equivalent of Arrested Development, and keep saying, "Everyone loves it! It'll break out!" But eventually, all those jerkwads who looooove the show but don't bother to actually watch it while it's on (or buy the book when it first comes out) snowball and everything goes out of business. And, for realsies, the Arrested Development model almost never happens, in books or on TV.

This brings me to the inevitable question: if you're not doing it for profit or being published, voluntarily or otherwise, are you still a writer? This question is posed in relation to Salinger--he wrote a handful of books and then stopped publishing (but we can now assume kept writing). Can you quit being a writer, or is it like being in the Mob? And is it the act of writing that makes you count, or the recognition of credibility through being published?

Round up at Pimp My Novel

Well, that was a pretty straight foward title. Tally ho!


Homeless lit is so in

Homeless lit is hard to find, but does exist. Ben Myers writes:
You'd think that the predicament of homelessness would vary little from epoch to epoch – food and shelter being timeless basic human needs – but The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, published more than 100 years ago, reminds us that today's homeless have a whole extra set of problems, including the stigma of being one of society's displaced.
I would guess that the biggest problem today with writing while homeless is the technology gap. However, with recession lit taking off and the economic troubles of yesteryear (and also this year), I think this could become an interesting and niche-popular memoir genre.

Alexandre Dumas: The old James Patterson

I am actually very sad about this: Alexandre Dumas farmed out a lot of his work to the peons, a la JPatts.

What a Dumas.

Be with the one you love...unless that one is imaginary

At Shelf Life they ask: what literary character are you in love with? This is a very important question, because it tells you a lot about you. Examples:

You love Mr. Darcy: you wish you wore hoop skirts and are full of sass.
You love Edward Cullen: you are dead to me.

For those of you who realize you can't date a fictional character (sorry, lovelies), you can at least live vicariously through these literary matches, characters who would love each other...if they were real.


I think I'm turning Japanese, in order to write my cellphone novel

15 year-old "Bunny" wrote a three volume novel on her cellphone, which has been turned into a paperback and has sold over 110,000 copies and grossed more than $611,000. She's a Japanese high school student, who doesn't want her friends to know she's been writing because "It's embarassing." Dude, seriously, all of my writing profits are also an embarrassment. An embarrassment of riches! (Zing.)

The moral here is that I need to become a 15 year Japanese girl. This is only doable through MySpace or creepy chat rooms. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Respect for others: The Twilight edition

Summit Entertainment, the god of the Twilight movies, is putting the kibosh on a documentary about Forks by Topics Entertainment, because they are also putting out a Forks documentary. Summit of course has to protect its nest egg of vampire blood, which means they must screw over other companies and, of course, the Quileute people must suffer, through the Trail of Tears of Twilight fanatics.

Hamlet (from the mouth of babes)

Brian Cox teaches a 2 and a half year old Halmet's soliloquy. And you know what? He is a baller.

It's like Hamlet-let! As in, you know, Hamlet, and the "let" from piglets...no? Whatever, it's adorable.


Reality TV infects romance novels

In case you are too old for a personalized children's book with your name featured prominently, you can showcase your love in the new Vows imprint of HCI, which "will match romance writers with real life couples, turning the wedding column into steamy nonfiction."

So if your sex life isn't weird enough, you can now read someone else's steamy interpretation of your romance. Hell, send me $5 and a waffle recipe, and I will write you a story about your romance with a zombicorn (or in which you and your lover defeat a zombicorn? I'm flexible). It'll be super steamy.

Climate changing smut

You heard it first here: climate scientists made up global warming to up the sex factor in their novels. Dum dum duummmmmm. This is like Peter Parker level scientist gossip.

Thank you CKHB for the link (which she tells me is via Sierra Godfrey)! Your assiduous and meticulous coverage science will not go unrewarded. ...This is your reward.

If monks can rap, so can I

My name is Laura and I'm here to say, rapping monks are a-okay. Kansho Tagai, a.k.a. Mr. Happiness, is a rapping Japanese Buddhist monk.

Next up for this guy is tap dancing while chanting, and potentially the samba. This just goes to show you that working in an office is either looking terrible or really good in comparison. I choose the latter, because my last dance recital ended with a five year old Ombreviations arguing on stage with a friend about steps while everyone else danced their way offstage. These scars run deep, my friends.


Watch out for steampunkers

Because they now have working guns. Boing Boing highlights these functional blunderbusses. I am officially frightened, and will be more careful around the steampunk inclined in the future.

Soldier and author

The New York Times has an article about soldiers who write about combat, and says the main difference between soldier writers of yore and of today is that the modern American army is an all volunteer force. The article says:
As part of a modern all-volunteer force, they explore the timeless theme of the futility of war — but wars that they for the most part support. The books, many written as rites of passage by members of a highly educated young officer corps, are filled with gore, inept commanders and anguish over men lost in combat, but not questions about the conflicts themselves.
I don't think I've read enough books by soldiers to truly spot a difference between the writing of draftees and volunteers, but I think it's an interesting comparison, if anyone else is more qualified to comment.

Marginalia as a lifestyle choice

Toby Lichtig writes at the Guardian book blog about his love of writing in book margins–not just notes, but addresses, phone numbers, etc. He writes:
My flirtation with textual mutilation started off at school with primly creased corners and pencilled underlinings, but I soon progressed to cocksure highlighting and full-blown ink-on-paper action – the effluence of engagement, the living, livid trace of dialogue. If, as the poststructuralists have suggested, the act of reading is an act of violence, then scrawling across the page in cheap biro must be its logical corollary.

I'm not just talking about highbrow jottings: notes and queries, references and witticisms, the literary art of "marginalia" (a term coined in 1832 by that keenest of annotators, Samuel Taylor Coleridge). No, in my library anything goes: doodles, numbers, addresses, lists, recipes and the ensuing food stains. Personalising my books is an intrinsic part of the interaction (which is why I tend to be neurotic about holding on to what I've read). Perhaps it's the fault of my somewhat sluggish memory: the marks and scrawls help me to recall the text – and, crucially, the person I was when reading it: how I was feeling, where I was sitting, whom I was with.
While I don't tend to use my books as notebooks, I do tend to read and eat simultaneous, and can remember whole meals from the food stains as I reread (much ramen has been eaten in my lifetime). I think this system of self-memory only works for people who are book buyers, not borrowers, and big rereaders, but it's a nice way to pretend that you're not the egoist with the Moleskine–you're the reader who happens to take notes.


The answers are at the tips of your fingers

There's an article at Salon about braille dying out in favor of text to speech and audiobooks. It says:
In this New York Times article, we find that many blind people, including the governor of New York, don't read braille. Instead they rely on audiobooks, recordings of newspapers and magazines, and human assistants to orally brief them on the business of the day. Text-to-speech technology allows people to hear their e-mails and other documents.

And in this Canadian Broadcasting Corp. article, we find that the major provider of books in braille in Canada is about to go out of business if it can't get government funding or some other source of revenue. They are having a hard time convincing people that braille is even necessary anymore.

Zombies versus unicorns

Who will win???

Zombies, biyatches.

Cat fight: Faulkner and Twain edition

Writers are filled with haterade, reader types. Example?
[Mark] Twain himself took it on the chin from fellow Southerner William Faulkner, who called him a “hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven ‘sure fire' literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”


Texas prisons ban books, people are up in arms

Titles by Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Alice Walker, John Updike, Pablo Neruda, Pat Conroy, Hunter S. Thompson, James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen, John Grisham, Sapphire, Jenna Bush, and Jon Stewart have all been banned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. And some people are mad.
Inmates who don't read, for example, have a harder time finding jobs, said Marc Levin, a criminal justice analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

"Literacy, or lack of it, is one of the biggest problems we have with respect to re-entry," Levin said. "Inmates who want to read should have that opportunity."
Guys. I'm sorry. There are 89,795 titles on the approved list. Maybe my heart doesn't bleed enough here, but if you're in prison, you give up certain rights. Like your freedom, but also your right to read whatever the eff you want.

Salinger fan mail: Not always fun mail

Joanna Smith Rakoff wrote an article that made me sad, about answering fan mail for J.D. Salinger. She says:
The letters came from Sri Lanka or the Netherlands or Arizona. They included deeply personal admissions—cancer diagnoses, bankruptcy, divorce—and were often written in Salinger's own brash style or, at the very least, incorporated the slang of the period he chronicled....For the most part, they knew that Salinger didn't read his fan mail—in fact, he'd insisted that nothing, not one letter, be passed on to him—but each was convinced that his letter was going to be the one that was so moving, so brilliant, so funny, so perfectly aligned with Salinger's interests and sensibilities, that we, at Ober, would pass it on to him.

...These were not letters that the writers had tossed off carelessly, but notes that had clearly been written and rewritten, until just the right tone was struck. How could I simply throw them away? I began sending them personal letters telling them how much we appreciated hearing their stories and explaining, more gently, that we were prohibited from sending Salinger his mail, but we so often wished that we could.
Back in the day I used to answer a subset of religious and spiritual slush, which was heavily populated by car crash victims and lonely little old ladies, and so I recognize the urge to write really, really, really nice "sorry and no thank you" letters. (A few times writers sent me long handwritten thank you notes in response to my rejections, which actually almost made me cry at work once.)

As much as people in the industry give shit to the slush pile (and I give a ton of shit to the slush pile), and as hardened to illiteracy and jerk-ness as everyone gets, there are still some letters that crack you open like a tiny crustacean.

Why do we keep reading "The Lottery"?

That story is messed. Up. And the Onion acknowledges it, in an article entitled, "Watching Faces Of Students As They Finish 'The Lottery' Highlight Of English Teacher's Year."
"Oh, my God, the looks on their faces when they realize the villagers are actually going to stone Mrs. Hutchinson to death right then and there!" said Hamlin, who added that she never allows students to read the story as a take-home assignment. "I'm almost too excited to sleep. Oh, it's so great! They're never gonna see it coming!"
My confusion about this article comes from the fact that it is, in fact, in the Onion. Isn't this what being an English teacher, nay, any teacher, is all about? Watching the faces of children as you crush their sense of what is right?


( Also thank you to the Rejectionist for emailing me yet another faboosh link, for which she has earned one waffle cookie, redeemable at her earliest convenience. Wouldn't you ALL like waffle cookies, reader types? Send links!)

Good morning!


I am right, once again, this time about hell

For avid readers (hi dad!), you will remember that I mentioned the EA game based on Dante's Inferno. The rest of The Divine Comedy was too boring for a video game, but the Inferno--that's where it's at.

While I suggested a follow-up game based on The Decameron, EW put together a good list of other potential book-to-game options, including:
Don Quixote: A lot like the old arcade game Joust, except your enemy is a windmill.
Catch-22: There is no way to beat this game.
I need to start playing more video games.

Lost reading, for when Lost isn't on

I am an unabashed J.J. Abrams fan. I watched Alias for years, even when it went insane and everyone (especially the writers) lost the plot thread, and I am a (charmingly) rabid Lost fan. Because it is the greatest show, in the history of time. Eric disagrees, and I recommend that you leave anti-Lost comments on his blog, because I will not support those shenanigans here.


There are a ton of details to sift through, and Flavorwire very thoughtfully put together the best books from Lost, in terms of literary-ness, not Lost importance.

Smoking hot books

Tank Books has a new format for their books: reading in cigarette boxes! Yes, now books can be as cool as John Travolta in Grease.

But in all seriousness, I want.


Oh my goodness Bill Watterson speaks

Bill Watterson, illustrator of Calvin and Hobbes and notorious recluse, has done a rare interview, about the strip, his life, and his legacy. He says:
I just tried to write honestly, and I tried to make this little world fun to look at, so people would take the time to read it. That was the full extent of my concern. You mix a bunch of ingredients, and once in a great while, chemistry happens. I can't explain why the strip caught on the way it did, and I don't think I could ever duplicate it. A lot of things have to go right all at once....Readers will always decide if the work is meaningful and relevant to them, and I can live with whatever conclusion they come to.
Hurray Bill, for writing something so awesome, knowing when he was done, and keeping his values strong (I would have sold out to merchandising day one, reader types. Just saying).

Getting down the Goethe

Clancy Martin writes about a friend who gives Goethe to the ladies and they, in return, have sex with him. No, seriously, that's what the guy says. Martin writes:
I have a friend who, after a date or two, would give the woman he was trying to seduce a copy of Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” “It’s like feckin’ magic, Clancy,” he told me, in his churning Irish brogue (which helped him, I suspect, more than the book). “It’s short enough they kin read it in a night. Da next day they’re straight into the sack, I’m tellin’ ya.” The ploy here is to convince a woman that you believe in a certain kind of love–the desperate, romantic sort–and that even if she’s currently with a man, that man is the everyday, sensible, dull “Albert” sort (like Lotte is condemned to marry in the book), while my friend is the desperate romantic willing to die for love, like Werther.
This proves either one of two things. One: ladies are easily bamboozled. Two: this guy is handsome, and has completely deluded himself into thinking that the ladies are interested in him for his suave smarts as opposed to his looks. I vote option two. What a sap.

People steal from children and Ricky Gervais

More than 12,000 copies of Ricky Gervais' Flanimals Pop-Up were stolen from a truck, totaling more than $240,000 worth of lost merchandise. Says Gervais:
“This is obviously a misguided Flanimal Rights Group or an organized gang of eight-year-olds,” he said in a statement. “Just like the books, the thieves will fold under questioning.”
Aw, Ricky. You always know what to say.


What's in a name? A lot of stress

Nigel Farndale writes about the difficulty of naming books (and also children). And, while sometimes publishers will change a title between the hard cover and the paperback, and people will occasionally rename children, for the most part, yea, I can see that being a stressful decision, that you will live with for the rest of your life.

Farndale cites the title changes for Lord of the Flies (nee Strangers From Within and A Cry From Children) and The Name of the Rose (nee The Abbey of the Crime and Adso of Melk). Given how "eh" some of the alternate titles were, does it make that much of a difference to sales and title longevity? Potentially!

Reading reality in television

As we all know, reality TV is 100% unscripted, and the editing does not in any way shape people into characters or make mountains out of molehills. I know this because I watch Jersey Shore, the greatest reality show of our time. For those of us who want to emulate the stellar cast of this show, Lit Drift put together a reading list for the cast of Jersey Shore (if they ever deign to crack open a book, that is).

If Jersey Shore isn't quite your style, and you prefer the (kind of eh but I guess okay) drama of the Hills, Lauren Conrad has done an interview with EW about her writing (warning: do not read if you are an aspiring author who does not want to hear that someone made the NYTimes bestseller list after mostly reading SparkNotes and Goodnight Moon her whole life).

And if you'd rather skip the whole reality trope (although I have to tell you, you're missing out), someone finally read Dustin Diamond's book and unearthed the juicy behind the scenes bits from Saved by the Bell. Spoiler: it mostly involves drugs and a lot of sex.

So, does anyone else think they made a major life mistake by not trying harder to be a famewhore? ...Me either.

Macmillan and Amazon: Not friends

I'm sure this has already reached your ears, reader types, but in case not, Amazon gave Macmillan the proverbial Facebook unfriend (defriend?), delisting all Macmillan titles from the bookseller's site. Galleycat has a great round-up of events and coverage, and John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, issued a response, which outlines the proposed system that Amazon rejected:
Under the agency model, we will sell the digital editions of our books to consumers through our retailers. Our retailers will act as our agents and will take a 30% commission (the standard split today for many digital media businesses). The price will be set for each book individually....Our disagreement is not about short term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.
So, interesting so far. Then Amazon released a statement, that says:
We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.
For a little perspective on Amazon's stance, Amazon UK delisted Hachette in May of 2008 during a fight over discounting, and it doesn't appear that things were settled until June of 2009, if Bookseller's dates are accurate (props if anyone can tell me if that's right). In the Hachette situation, while titles were not removed from Amazon whole hog, the option to "buy now" by clicking one button was gone, and instead of buying from Hachette the consumer had to go through through a third party seller. So, while there is a precedent for delisting publishers for extended periods of time, I'm going to have to assume that Amazon's need to capitulate so quickly is at least in part because, as Sargent says, "The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less."

I'm not a sales type (although a little birdie has told me that a sales type will be discussing this topic today), so I can only make guesses and assumptions, but I would assume that Amazon a) doesn't want e-book prices dictated by publishers (dur) and is taking an aggressive stand on it now, and b) will fold for money after taking what Cory Doctorow is calling a farcical stance on consumer rights.