Margaret Atwood loves Twitter.

Seriously, she loves the Twitter. She writes:
One follower led to another, quite literally. The numbers snowballed in an alarming way, as I scrambled to keep up with the growing horde. Soon there were 32,000—no, wait, 33,000—no, 33,500… And before you could say LMAO (“Laughing My Ass Off,” as one Twitterpal informed me), I was sucked into the Twittersphere like Alice down the rabbit hole. And here I am.
Oh my goodness, Ms. Atwood, I officially love you.

Celebrity gossip? Count me in

I am a devoted Jezebel reader, and they have yet to let me down. A perfect example of this continued excellence is this gallery of 20 celebrity biographies you must read. Damn you Jezebel, giving me more to read...

Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

Never had to have a chaperone, no sir, I'm there to keep my eye on her.

Sisters are important, reader types, because, as the song says, they care, share, stick together--all sorts of things. Celebrate sisters with this list of the best books about sisters, which I think is pretty good (except it includes I Capture the Castle, which I haaaaated last time I read it).

And, to leave you with the immortal words of sisterly love: Lord help the mister, who comes between me and my sister, and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man.


Yes, Twilight is a writing style

This discussion of the writing style of the Twilight novels is one of the funnier discussions I've read. I know hating on Twilight has been done to death (I am especially guilty of this one), but this piece ends with my favorite comment on these books perhaps ever:
Marc: Holy [bleep], did I just stumble into actual analysis of this thing?
Say what you will about loving it or hating it--you will stumble into an actual analysis, and it will blow. Your. Mind.

And the bans played on

Sometimes society feels a need to band together and say, "Heck no, our chittlins should not be reading!" And when that happens, Mommy kisses Daddy, and the angel tells the stork, and the stork flies down from heaven, and leaves a diamond under a leaf in the cabbage patch, and the diamond turns into a banned book.* Yes, the explanation doesn't make much sense, but the books that get banned also don't make much sense. Little Women? The dictionary? Nice work, America.

*Five imaginary dollars if you can tell me a) what movie that's from and b) why it is the greatest movie of all time.

Guided iPad tours? Sign me up

Oh wait, the tours are on the internet. Then...don't sign me up.

Happy Apple morning to you all!


Shel Silverstein writes from beyond the grave

Shel Silverstein, beloved poet, will be publishing a second posthumous collection for children. I would be more excited, but I recently saw a staging of "Shel's Shorts," which was, perhaps, the dirtiest collection of short plays I have ever seen. Shel, your childlike wonder is now tainted by hilarious dirtiness.

Don't believe me? The first one stars a guy who dreams about effing his daughter. I saw this sitting between my parents. Emotionally scarred!

A man of twists and turns

No, not that man. In fact, men are not the only twisty turny creatures, as these stories fit the description as well! The link leads to a map of the paths of four different stories and the different geographical locales they have shown up in through time.They all start in the Fertile Crescent and most end up in LA. Coincidence?

History! So important!

Sexy politicians, emotional scars

Sorry for the unexpected hiatus, reader types, but I was laid low last week by these erotic excerpts from novels written by politicians. These are super, super disturbing, and may make you too need a week off. Consider yourself warned!

And, of course, all thanks and shame to CKHB, for sending this along. Thanks, I think...


Sorry for the radio silence, folks

Things have been a little crazy in Combreviations-land, but things should be back to normal later this week/early next week at latest.

Until then, besos for you, sirs and madams!


Eat, pray, watch

The trailer for the movie of "Eat, Pray, Love" is up.


Say what?

Dialogue and conversation are very, very (oh so very) different. Evan Maloney says:
Dialogue is, of course, distinct from conversation. While people have conversations, characters have dialogues – and, ideally, every piece of dialogue in a story is a means to a narrative end. In real life, conversations can be purely pragmatic, or solipsistic; sometimes they're nothing more than an antidote to silence, sounds to fill the quiet margins of our social lives.
True story, sirs. True story.

Round it up

Am back on the "alive" wagon--proof is in my Pimp My Novel Round Up.



Dogs and fonts

To the font lovers of the world: doggy typefaces!

Shakespeare puts out a new play

Shakespeare may have written an heretofore unknown work, with a dubious and complicated past. Torrid! Shocking! So Shakespearean!

The Country Bunny is the best books ever

At the New Yorker Book Bench, Kelly Bare writes about introducing her son to books she read as a child, including The Country Bunny.

I looooved this book as a kid (hey, Jews love Easter too...for candy and bunnies...). Some fun facts about the secret civil rights and feminist undertones:
“The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes” was published in 1939 by Du Bose Heyward, who is most famous for “Porgy and Bess” (he wrote the novel “Porgy,” co-wrote the play of the same name with his wife, Dorothy Heyward, and wrote the libretto and some of the lyrics for Gershwin’s opera). It’s illustrated by Marjorie Flack, whom you probably know (if you know her) from “The Story About Ping,” and it is the kid-lit total package. Lyrical writing, glowing illustrations, fuel for the imagination, a sense of humor, and, of course, a message: plucky little girl bunnies who defy prejudice and believe in themselves can grow up to become fully actualized lady bunnies who raise smart, happy, kind children and do fulfilling work outside the warren.
Having an excuse to purchase this book is on my list of reasons to have children. Also on the list is making it less weird to go see children's movies, and having a small tribe to begin building my army.


Publishing and desperation

This great Jacket Copy post includes the following quotes:
[P]ublishers were at heart “a slow-moving, retarded group of people.”
“Publishers are square-dancing on a sinking ship.”
The speaker is described thusly:
Whiskered, sporting a fedora and a sly grin, he is the kind of attendee conferences love to have. He's here because of his popular Twitter stream, Sockington, in which the travails of his cat, Sockington, are meted out 140 characters at a time.
I also take all of my advice from people promoting cats. Seriously. Worth the read for hilarity!

Childhood heroes

The Guardian has a great slideshow of the top ten heroes from children's books, including Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, Matilda, and Sara Crewe of A Little Princess. There are also some boys on the list, but, you know. Eh.

You have a collection of what?

Mental Floss has an awesome list of odd collections at the libraries of different universities. One of my favorites:
If you’re looking for a particularly obscure spell, Cornell might have some answers for you. The Cornell Witchcraft Collection includes over 3,000 titles that examine the history of persecuted witches. Although the collection—which the school started assembling in the late 19th century—focuses mostly on the theological aspects of treating witches as heretics, there are also Latin volumes on demonology and graphic depictions of the torture of suspected witches.
Maybe there is a reason to go to Ithaca.


Bunnies are where it's at


Yes, it's a Friday. What tipped you off?

The siren song of the bookstore

Some days it is hard to pass by the bookstore without getting juuuust one book. Sometimes you need to know when to quit buying, and to read what you already have.

I actually did this for about a year (not because I was being moral about book buying, but because all my money went to "housing" and "food" and other such things), and it was actually pretty fun.I read, among other things, Band of Brothers, The Bell Jar, World War Z, and half of Catch 22 until I wanted to stab out my eyes with a fork and quit. I finished books I had abandoned and titles with ugly covers that I had been avoiding (it turns out, they have very nice personalities!).

The best part was that it confirmed that I do, in fact, have great taste.

Let's focus on other things I do

Like the Friday round-up at Pimp My Novel.


Casper the friendly ghost(writer)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every out of office US president needs to put out a memoir, and can use a little ghostwriter help. And, it turns out, he may be inclined to pick his speechwriter who is all of 28 and who started as an unpaid White House intern.

American dream coming true for someone? Check. Boozy afternoon for those of us who haven't managed to luck our ways into ridiculously sweet writing projects? Also check. Join me, won't you?

Haterade, 40 ways

A bunch of academics came up with a list of the worst 40 books, which is really 40 academics discussing one, several, or no books at all that they think are terrible. Of course they were roundly chastised by the internet via Jacket Copy, and the best, best thing was said by one of the commenters:
A friend of mine was at an academic conference session about "Ulysses." Someone on the panel referred to an episode where a character in the novel had coffee at a restaurant. The rest of the panel turned on him, and one of them hissed, "It was cocoa!" Now do you see why this ridiculous list came about?

I am right, YA edition

For those of you who cannot, cannot get enough of me (hi Mom!), I'm sure you've seen my post about kids, reading, and book difficulty. In it, I said something about reading level dictating content and, lo and behold, someone else made that argument for the prevalence of adults reading YA.

Thus, I must be a genius. Q.E.D.


Book mooch!

Oh em gee do want Book Mooch. Must go set up an account.

The interwebs ruins reading, part one thousand and four

Normally, I would mock someone who said technology is hindering her reading. But this rang so true for me:
My reading has taken on a strangely driven, guilty quality, as I try to justify the cost of all those subscriptions and all that hardware by consuming fiction in an unprecedentedly multiplicitous and simultaneous way. Secretly, I long to return to a world in which I had a loving, stable relationship with one paperback at a time.
Snaps to this, reader types. I get this kind of book anxiety all the time, and wish I read more non-internet texts, in part because reading War and Peace is impressive, whereas reading the same length in blog posts is...kind of sad.

The facts and fictions of Hiroshima

The Last Train from Hiroshima was recently published to strong reviews, until the hiccups of truth started to show up, and we realized parts of the title were fictionalized. Motoko Rich asks: where does this leave good faith in publishing?
Publishers say that responsibility for errors and fabrications ultimately must lie with the author. “It would not be humanly possible to fact-check books the way magazine articles can be fact-checked, just because of length,” said Robert A. Gottlieb, the renowned editor who worked at the publisher Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker magazine, which has a celebrated fact-checking department.

But in many recent cases publishers did not seem to ask basic questions of authors, accepting their versions on almost blind faith.
Ouch. But a fair point! We tend to take as fact anything published, in a way we don't necessarily believe, say, Wikipedia (which is the greatest invention of our time), when binding up someone's suppositions doesn't in fact make them true, even before blind faith gets involved.

And, to be realistic, is it really worth the expense to have an expert fact check every non-fiction book that comes out, when only a fraction of those titles will be commercially successful and actually have an informed readership? From a publisher's standpoint, I really doubt it, as it would eat into some probably already pretty slim profit margins. And, as was the case of Jayson Blair, for many titles that rely on interviews, most of what you have to fact check with are the notes of the writer, which, if fabricated, are completely useless (without re-doing an interview).

Life's hard, reader types.


The prince has read Dystopia!

As the world is clearly headed for a zombie apocalypse, I think other people's dreams of dystopian futures are quaint and sadly misinformed (except for the ones that involve surviving said zombie apocalypse). But, if you are so inclined, check out these top 16 dystopian novels. Enjoy the creepy creep-ness, friends.

Also, extra hugs to whoever can tell me the inspiration for the post title.

Things I cannot do: Cover edition

While I have many (many) skills, "art" writ large is not among them, and so I respect this cover making ability:

Oh man, friggin' awesome.

I am the savior of waterlogged books

So once, as an adorable and precocious child, I dropped a book into a lake, and convinced my dad that not only did I need that book, but I needed that exact, somewhat damp, copy. So my dad got the book from the polluted, Blinky infested, opaque waters, but by that time the waterlogged book was totally unreadable, which absolutely ruined my weekend, which I in turn ruined for the rest of my family. Because I'm charming!

If I had but known that wet books can be saved by freezing, I would have probably been less of a jerk. At that particular moment. Probably not overall.


A preemptive bookshelf eulogy

Woe to the world, reader types--the bookshelf is dead! Well, not actually, but it's coming. Ok, not really soon, but eventually. Russell Smith writes:
People come to see my minuscule new living room and say, hmm, you could have another foot and a half without that wall of bookshelves. True, but then you would never be able to distract yourself, while waiting for me to dress, by pulling down, at random, Weapons of World War II and 100 Erotic Drawings.

But you’d probably have brought your own e-reader with you, which you’d be looking at anyway (checking Facebook, updating: “I am so mad right now”). Book-walls are just aesthetic now, just an unusually dense wallpaper: We don’t really need them for consultation....And all our books will be invisible, like our music: The sum total of our literary experience will be a list of file names on a grey plastic machine in a briefcase.
After careful consideration, I think Smith is overreacting a little here. There will always been a need for secret bookcase passages, and a place to store trophies.

Plus sized must mean any size on the plus side of zero

We all know that fashion does not realistically depict women, in that most women weigh over 80 pounds. It's a good thing that books do not fall prey to this slimmed down version of reality. Oh, wait, never mind.

I think where Jezebel is particularly on the money is that the covers highlighted (at the link above) are not supposed to represent just any women; they're meant to represent large ladies as protagonists. Like the Bloomsbury cover whitewashing debacle(s), this shows that publishers think that no one will pick up a title with a big girl on the front (even if the title is "Big Boned").

One day soon, reader types, we will not be treated like idiots. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Danielle Steel, please be my friend

Having recently discussed Danielle Steel, I don't think I properly expressed how great I think she is. To quote:
"I'm very organized," Steel says of her regimented schedule. "You can't have nine children and not be organized. Otherwise it just looks like Appalachia."
Oh my, Danielle. You are a feisty lady. Please come hang out.


Girls are better readers, also cooler in general

A survey of students aged 5 to 16 showed that, while boys and girls read the same number of books, girls choose more difficult titles than boys. Ladies: always awesomer. What I found interesting was this:
High-achieving children - defined as reading two years above their age - are not challenging themselves enough when it comes to reading as they tend to opt for easier books than their reading ability warrants, the report suggests.


"If they [children] are reading books that are below their independent reading level it may give them enjoyment but it won't extend their reading ability and literacy rates are at risk of continuing to decline," [Professor Topping] said.
I have trouble believing that, considering the difficulty getting kids to read in the first place, the article judges children who read for fun. Also, content often dictates reading level to some degree, and you know what you're getting into, more or less, when reading YA fiction versus adult fiction--something pretty obvious when you consider the large number of adults reading the Twilight novels.

Actually, this "iPad thing" looks pretty cool

While the cell phone quality and head in the lower right hand quarter of the video imply, at least to me, that perhaps Penguin wasn't involved in the release of this video, I think Penguin UK has some cool stuff for the iPad in the works:

Well, I'm pretty sold (that is not sad, don't judge me sirs and madams). Because it's shiny and a touch screen! Also, facts about stuff besides shininess here.

The science of romance

At one point or other, I considered pursuing an academic career, and then decided that it wasn't for me (with some help from those who have already been there). Now that decision is vindicated, because I would no longer be the first to do an academic analysis of romance novels. And what an analysis it is!
Coming from an evolutionary psychology perspective, they hypothesized these titles would reflect mating preferences that have evolved over the millennia — specifically, a desire for a long-term relationship with a physically fit, financially secure man who will provide the resources needed to successfully raise a family.

They found considerable support for this theory, although some of their speculative specifications were spelled out more directly than others.
Love it. Love. It.


Abraham Lincoln + vampires + Tim Burton = Oh em gee

I have gone on record not liking book trailers. Today, I make an exception, for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter:

Apparently Tim Burton wants to adapt this, but I say no thank you: someone needs to make Quentin Tarantino do this. And then make it Babe-raham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

I think I just blew my own mind.

Reaping the writing rewards

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I feel that we've known each other for some time. Several months, in fact. Why, pray tell then, have I not received any $20,000 checks in the mail? I say important things! Like...that thing the other day...you know what I'm talking about. That one time.

Ok, for reals, I understand that I'm not super contributing to society or "journalism-ing." And I don't loath anyone a nice check, and anonymity makes it a little difficult to accept your monies.

I'm just saying. Some people like checks.


Laura C. Ombreviations

The life of the writing woman

Confession: I do not always love the blog the Millions, mostly because it actually asks me to read real paragraphs and essays, which is beyond me on the internet. Another confession: I mostly hate when people write about writing. I find it excruciating. But Victoria Patterson's essay on the writing woman was just sooooooo goooood that I think I need to re-evaluate my stance on both the site and writing about writing. To quote:
I’m a nervous writer. I drink coffee and subsequently get thirsty and drink water. I chew gum—packs and packs, studding the wastebasket with my spit-out wads. I read my work out loud, again and again (I imagine one might hear a light mumble coming from my direction). There are frequent trips to the bathroom (coffee and water). I have to haul my writing materials—computer, notebooks, etc.—with me, so that they won’t get stolen. Or else I take on the Bathroom Sprint—going as fast as I can, returning in a light sweat.
Please, Victoria. Be my friend. The essay in its entirety is well worth the read.


Reading is important, especially for drinking

How can you know what wines to order, if you can't read the list well? Finally, a guide to reading a wine list, so your drunkeness can be well informed.*

*This is totally relevant to publishing. Shh.

Hipsters of the world, unite for the Strand

The Strand is having a contest to design its next tote bag. Please, swoon away from the computer.

Classically adult

Yesterday morning a friend sent me a list of names she had put together as a sample for work, with the note, "Am I pushing this too far?" I looked for dirty anagrams for 10 minutes before I wrote back, "...No?" Apparently they were all literary characters I had neeeeever heard of.

Enter Cathleen Schine, who wrote a really baller essay on cultural illiteracy and reading classics as an adult. She writes:
I got to read “Huckleberry Finn” for the first time when I was 35 years old. And when I eventually moved on to a different partner, there waiting for me was a new bookcase full of other books. I read “My Antonia” for the first time last month. That is a kind of grace.
I feel this on such a personal level it is almost unreal. I read Catcher in the Rye for the first time two years ago (and you know what? Should have read it when I was 12. Not so good the first time around as an adult). I got through my first Faulkner (eh), and read (and enjoyed, for the first time ever!) To Kill a Mockingbird.

Some days, you have to enjoy being functionaly illiterate.


Cover up that postcard, my friend

If you have old books hanging around, and don't want to give them to others, or are a little arty and destructive, check out these instructions on how to make postcards from book covers.

Feel free to send them to you favorite people (cough I am right here cough).

Editors: Yay or nay?

Carole Baron put up a post at the Huffington Post about why authors still need editors (which, as Gawker points out, really could have used a copy-editor). Baron lists ten (valid) reasons we still need editors and traditional publishing, but I think Scott Sigler gives us an even better reason, through his own foray into self-publishing.

Sigler founded his own imprint to put out his latest book. He says he made ten times the profit per unit, but only sold a tenth of the copies he has sold through a traditional publisher (which, for the not so math inclined, implies he made the same amount both ways). Sigler, an established author, was built up first by himself through his website, where he distributed audiobooks and podcasts, and later by the publishing machine, which put out paper copies of his work, to be a profitable brand of Sigler-ness.

While he points out that his particular self-pubbing method can be profitable, he seems to believe (and rightly so) that it will only really work for established authors who "defect" from traditional publishing--his example being Stephanie Meyer. And yea, she could self-publish and make a ton of money, but a) she was created by the publishing machine, and b) anyone who doesn't have a huge cult following isn't going to do so well.

Sigler says, "[T]hat's the kind of kind of thing that could take away from big publishing and put some of that control back into the hands of authors." What he really means is that control would be in the hands of established authors, who want to take on the responsibility of editing, copy-editing, designing, and producing their own work, but editors and publishing writ large are still necessary for the unknown who wants to be a profitable author. And, perhaps more importantly for this argument for authorial control, if a number of large cash cow authors did defect, publishing houses would lose those profits, and would no longer be able to take risks on new authors, who would be in a worse position than they were originally.

Maybe Meyer could defect, publish her own books, and then start Meyer House. That way, in 50 years we can complain about Meyer House's place in big publishing, quashing the hopes of the masses.

Anonymous publishing bloggers? I have not heard of this phenomenon.

Publishing: super mysterious! Blogs: super anonymous! Entry level publishing people: folks who think that working in publishing will give them some secret handshake that will get their great American novels published, and anonymously blogging will somehow get them from point unpublished to point Grisham!

Someone in England has noticed that there are a lot of anonymous publishing blogs that demystify the process.

I, for one, can safely say that I have never ever heard of this.

Bask in the glory, folks. Bask in it.