‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

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Reading an introduction to The Surrealist Manifesto written by Andre Breton in 1924 I was struck by a phrase that Rainey, the editor to my Modern Literature Anthology attributes to a young Breton growing up, “his omnivorous reading habits.”

I like the idea of certain books being meat oriented (Carnivorous) and some being vegetable based (Herbivorous). It makes me reflect on which category certain authors would find themselves being placed in. Someone like William Shakespeare would be considered a carnivorous read, full of meaty content and sustenance. A writer like Albert Camus though would in my mind be herbivorous by nature. Camus is indeed filling but gently and lightly, not as weighed down by all of the meat, scraps, and offal that Shakespeare brings with his epic folio.

Maybe this is crazy, something to consider though.

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Written by thebeliever07

August 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm

A book should be a book, right?

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I’ve read two recent articles over at the Guardian and it has made me reflect on a trend that seems to be occurring at the moment, the blending of mixed media when it comes to the book form.

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Nick Cave, a musician, poet, artist, actor, dare I say it: renaissance man recently released: “Nick Cave’s new novel The Death of Bunny Munro – the story of a sex-maniac travelling salesman taking his last road trip – goes to market through the iPhone App Store, in an enhanced edition that is being launched before the print version.”

The enhanced app has the following advantages:

you can faff with fonts, change colour, bookmark it, and so on; and there’s some smart social networking stuff attached. But it also includes enhancements that could have a noticeable effect on the experience of reading. Instead of paginating the book conventionally, it’s presented as a continuous vertical scroll (one geek-pleasing trick is that you can adjust the scrolling speed with the angle of tilt of the phone), and the App includes an audiobook that syncs with the written text. Pop on the headphones, thumb the screen and Cave’s voice picks up where you left off.

So the question is? Is all of that necessary for the enjoyment of a book? Thomas Pynchon’s latest release Inherent Vice now has an added feature to “enhance” the reading. Pynchon has released a playlist to accompany the reading:

a list of the songs which feature in Inherent Vice, which follows the story of pot-smoking private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello. From The Beach Boys (God Only Knows and Help Me, Rhonda) to The Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love), Frank Sinatra (Fly Me to the Moon) and Pink Floyd (Interstellar Overdrive), the soundtrack, whichhe designed for Amazon.com, is a journey through the music of the 1960s, the setting for his new novel.

It also includes a few fictional tunes: a song “performed” by Doc himself, Skyful of Hearts, as well as providing a nod to Scott Oof of Vineland fame, whose band Beer “performs” the theme song from The Big Valley.

Again, I have to ask if all of this is necessary for the reading of a book? I guess on the one hand I can understand that in today’s modern world with all of the distractions that are constantly around us, I can understand the desire to add some pizzazz and punch to a work of art in any medium to attract people so that they generate some interest and passion for the work. But it is also sad that it takes this much excess to draw the eye.

A book cannot be a book anymore, it must have a playlist, it must be read to us, it must glow in the dark and be downloaded instantly into our minds.

The fact that books now have “trailers” astounds me and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not? Good in catching the eye, but as I’ve said, bad because this signifies that we are too caught up in the light-show and that these works cannot simply stand on their own now.

I enjoy mixed media and I support the arts in all of its forms, but still, sometimes a book should just be a book. Maybe I’m turning into a curmudgeon (I can hear Erin saying outloud, “turning into….” with a very particular tone).

Your thoughts?

Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Connecting

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I’ve been reading G.M. Malliet’s mystery book Death of a Cozy Writer, and feeling a bit nosy I sought out her webpage and blog. I posted a comment on her site. A few days later, I find that she has found me out on twitter and is now following me.

There are some who mock me and my twitter usage, but I enjoy connecting with various authors and celebrities. I recently corresponded with Aravind Adiga, Booker prize winning author of The White Tiger. I realize that I am not on a first name basis with these people as much as I would love to be with @neilhimself, but it is nice to ask questions or comment on a work of literature or a question that I may have and to receive immediate contact this way.

The internet may be a lot of things and we all know that Social Networking will be the downfall of all of society as we creep ever closer to a 24/7 network neural life, still, you have to admit its pretty awesome when you ask an author who you respect a question and they respond back. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

August 4, 2009 at 5:54 pm

For Worse

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Ok, here goes. I have a long history with this comic strip. For those unaware For Better of For Worse is a long running family comic by Lynne Johnston. The comic ran for 28 years and one of its signature elements is that it aged the characters in “real” time. So as time progressed in our world, so too did it in the characters, a young couple whose family grows and passes through various generations. Her comic is noted for tackling tough issues: marriage, parenthood, homosexuality, death, birth, etc. [ How well it tackles these issues is another matter all together. ]

The comic runs very much like a family sitcom. I think I noticed this comic in my newspaper back when I was a young adult and I would glance at the panels and usually would move on. It never struck me as anything significant, as a child I preferred Peanuts & Marmaduke. About 5 or 6 years ago I was sitting at Chapters during one of my breaks and I picked up a massive anthology of her work, a compendium of 20 years of strips and it somehow infected me. I found myself pouring through the various collections she had released throughout the history of the strip. I found myself looking forward to the events of the family. “Farley is getting old, what’s up with that?” … “Wow, he just came out to his friend, interesting.” … “She’s working with Native Americans up north, didn’t realize they had it so poor.” While the strip is not always politically correct, I mean lets face it, who among us is without a single prejudice or bias; still Lynn Johnston tackled some fairly heavy subjects and it is nice to see a Canadian work of art so popular throughout the world examining the minutia of small town family life.

Recently though, the strip has changed and is not as “progressive” as it once claimed to be.

The comic began in September 1979, and ended the main story on August 30, 2008, with a postscript epilogue the following day. The various family members, all grown up and with children of their own was given some closure. Then, beginning on September 3, 2007,[3] For Better or For Worse changed to a format featuring a mixture of new, old and retouched work, which allowed Johnston to “keep alive her partly autobiographical comic while not having to devote as much time to it.”[1] On September 1, 2008, Johnston began what she calls “new-runs”, restarting her storyline with new art and jokes. The time frame appears to be 26 years before the present day.

Stephen Pastis comic artist and writer of one of the best strips ever made: Pearls Before Swine [ Which I urge you to seek out and enjoy. comics.com & gocomics.com ] made this joke about the new format: In the strip, Pig referred to For Better or For Worse as “that great strip that was gonna retire, but then didn’t, then started running repeats, then didn’t, then ran new ones, but then fixed up the old ones, and now is gonna run new old un-new new ones”.

Ok, so why this blog post on FBoFW you ask? With the new format I and I am sure a few others thought, this will be nice. Her character who started off as a young 20 something wife/mother ended up as a retired book seller, so this “reboot” of her strip into the “classic” era would put Elly back in a more youthful place, providing some more commentary on young women who juggle family and work.

This is not what has happened. One thing that I have noticed throughout this strip is the firm adherence to the “nuclear family” model. Yes, yes, fans will cite the those historic panels and moments where she did tackle issues: homosexuality with Lawrence a friend of Elly’s eldest child Michael who came out to his mother:

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I’ll let you reflect on the way that Mrs. Johnston tackles this issue yet still conforms to basic stereotypes of how heterosexuals view homosexuality. Look at the last strip, oh you’re so witty Michael 😦 Ugh!

Anyways, you can see from this series of panels that she does indeed bring up subjects that people encounter every day and for the most part it is done well. I’m not saying it’s perfect but there you go.

Now with this reboot, she was afforded the opportunity to go back and let a whole new generation see how Elly transformed herself from a young house wife whose sole occupation was the household, to a woman who balanced a hectic lifestyle of work (at a bookstore, and subsequently bookstore owner), along with her husband, and children, and grand-children. It was a nice thing to watch her character grow and as much as the Nuclear Model was still emphasized, it did show a woman in the work force and not simply in a domestic capacity.

This “reboot” is what pisses me off. I think Mrs. Johnston has gone senile in her old age and has reverted back to a 1950’s Ward & June Cleaver idealization of the home. Her current strips reflect the standard: HUSBAND WORKS, WOMAN CLEANS AND COOKS model. Let me post a few strips from the past few months and you reflect on what kind of a message she sends to readers and young adults everywhere. Please, post some commentary and lets get some discussion going, it pisses me off so much. Cheers.

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Why work when you can clean and cook, forget your dreams...right?

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You can't be married and feel beautiful about yourself.

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I just sign shit, I cannot think or read or pay bills, I'm only a housewife."

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You know it's your fault for not keeping yourself pretty for me.

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Housewives are desperate and lonely.

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Translation: You're good enough to be a hooker tonight.

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Having a good education and career are nothing unless you're a MRS.

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I think your friends are hot and I've missed the point of this conversation. I'm an idiot husband/man.

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I'm the provider, just ask for your allowance and I'll consider it, now back into the cage with you.

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Cook, Clean, Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

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I think your son might be gay. He's crying a lot, so not manish, he's what 7 or 8 now, shouldn't he be out working and womanizing by now.

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(Loss for words and caption for this one.)

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This one is interesting. In the original series, Michael meets a girl in university who he falls in love with, they end up married and having kids. Lynn has seen fit to go back and rewrite Michael's childhood so that they once encountered each other and "liked" each other, completing that fantasy of the childhood sweetheart, it's nice when things fit into neat little boxes and packages, life is just this simple and uncomplicated isn't it.

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Don't ask me, I'm just a man and can't possibly understand "womanish" feelings and junk.

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You're doing that "thinking" business again, what have I told you about that.

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Your mom was ugly, and not tv ugly, but ugly ugly.

Written by thebeliever07

July 10, 2009 at 9:14 am

“Imagined Reading”

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I’ve mentioned on this blog at various times how I frequently wander over to the Washington Post Book Section and how I am a member of Michael Dirda’s “Reading Room”, a forum for all things literary. Each week Michael poses one or two threads about various aspects of reading:

  • What books get you through tough times?
  • What works shaped you as a reader?
  • Snacking while enjoying a good book.
  • Do movie ruin a good book?

And etc. For those as passionate about reading and literature as I am, it is a great resource for those: What would you put on your top 5 or 10 lists.

Recently Michael Dirda posted a thread asking “What are your ‘Get Well’ Books?” The following is from his post and I felt it was worth blogging and asking with my fellow readers: download

Hi, Reading Roomers. (Every time I write “Reading Roomers” I imagine semiologists trying to decipher the subtext of the latest gossip.)  I’m still in Ohio with my Mom and— in the way of these things—have just learned that my middle son has broken his leg playing basketball. It’s not the worst break in the world, but it’s changed the complexion of Mike’s summer. Right now he’s been reading through The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes instead of getting ready to hike the Appalachian Trail. When you are sick or your life strands you in a place where you can’t really do much, what books do you imagine reading? Under what conditions would you like to recover as you read them?

So, let me piggy back off of his discussion, what are your ‘imaginary reads’?

I think that if I knew I was going to have a fairly long recovery time in a bed or a hospital (*knocks on wood&), that I would attempt some of the larger literary giants that have up until this point scared me off, largely due to their length: The Brothers Karmazov by Dostoevesky, Les Miserable by Hugo, Gravity’s Rainbow by Pynchon, The Regulations by Gaddis. These are all 500-700+ reads and while I’ve read books of that length before, these authors tend to be fairly well known for being dense. How about you Erin, in what imaginary future do you foresee yourself starting and finishing Oblomov or The Kindly Ones? Some day eh….someday 😉

Don Quixote….MAYBE?

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Don_Quixote

Cannot sleep. Wired from work for some reason, but I am starting in on Cervantes Don Quixote. Two summers ago I purchased the book with the intention of making it my summer read but I found myself being distracted by other things, one hopes that does not occur again. I made it through the introduction and the first few chapters of Vol. 1, so here’s hoping. I would enjoy reading something long and drawn out this summer, big reads are fun, lets a person really sink their teeth into a text and just revel in it. Faith, I think you know what I mean what with your Infinite Summer.

UPDATE: June 17, 2009 12:13 p.m.  I think that maybe last night I was a bit out of it and I was being quite ambitious. Am I really going to read Don Quixote? I am not so certain. It’s heavy and long and I’m lazy and my attention is sparse. Ugh, what to read, what to read?

Written by thebeliever07

June 17, 2009 at 1:52 am

“The strangest thing I’ve signed is a woman’s artificial leg,”

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To Marty, This bespells doom! A recent reading in Manhattan at the Strand bookstore by David Sedaris, whose most recent book is “When You Are Engulfed in Flames,” may have offered a glimpse of the future. A man named Marty who had waited in the book-signing line presented his Kindle, on the back of which Mr. Sedaris, in mock horror, wrote, “This bespells doom.” (The signed Kindle was photographed, but its owner’s full name is unknown.)  CLICK FOR MORE:

To Marty, This bespells doom! A recent reading in Manhattan at the Strand bookstore by David Sedaris, whose most recent book is “When You Are Engulfed in Flames,” may have offered a glimpse of the future. A man named Marty who had waited in the book-signing line presented his Kindle, on the back of which Mr. Sedaris, in mock horror, wrote, “This bespells doom.” (The signed Kindle was photographed, but its owner’s full name is unknown.) CLICK FOR MORE

Written by thebeliever07

June 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm