‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Reflections:

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Ted Kennedy died last night and while I recognize the passing of a significant political figure and legislator I find myself fairly apathetic towards his death.

I think I feel this way towards most politicians. A couple of months back when President Barack Obama was inaugurated I watched coverage of people who were swept up by all of the emotion and energy of this figure. And as I said above about Ted Kennedy, I recognize the significance of someone like President Obama, but I have never been moved to tears or to such a degree that I feel the need to attend a speech or a rally.

I think that I am much too jaded for the world of politics and I distrust the politicians that represent me. Do not misjudge me, I vote and pay attention to the news and listen to the topics and issues that affect me. But I find myself unable to be moved emotionally in any way by most politicians.

Writers and authors are figures in our culture that inspire me. The deaths of David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Arthur C. Clarke; these are the types of figures I tend to feel great emotion for, frequently because their passing is often overlooked or quickly forgotten and so too their contributions to literature, media, and culture.

But this should not be surprising as my blog focuses primarily on authors and writers that I’ve read and that I find inspiring. I have devoted my life towards English Literature and so I focus more on these figures.

Still, there is something very uninspiring to me about so many of the politicians I see before me. I will note their significant contributions towards society and history, but I have not been moved by such figures, at least not yet.

It is easy to fixate on Michael Jackson’s passing or Ted Kennedy when there is 24/7 news cycle of these figures, but a writer like Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn gets a few days and then the world moves on.

I figure Ted Kennedy should last towards the week’s end. Hmm, how sad that the media coverage a person receives reflects our current societies value of that person in our culture.

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Written by thebeliever07

August 26, 2009 at 9:02 am

‘Smoking Martyr’

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I do not personally smoke cigarettes. But let me be clear, I have no problem with people that do smoke as long as it does not get in my face as I hate the smell and would rather not breathe it in.

The following article is interesting though: ‘Smoking Martyr’ Lynn Barber pulls out of festival.

Barber, who writes for the Observer, was due to appear at Richmond’s Book Now festival in November to discuss her memoir, An Education, which tells of the destructive affair she began as a teenager with an older man who picked her up at a bus stop. Her publisher Penguin had supplied a black and white photograph of Barber for inclusion in the festival’s brochure, embroidered scarf around her neck, head thrown back, cigarette in mouth.

But Richmond council deemed that using a picture of an author smoking went against its responsibility to encourage “good health habits”, and asked Barber to provide another. She declined and pulled out of the festival, saying that she had “always wanted to be a Smoking Martyr and obviously this is my opportunity”.

“If a pic of me smoking is such a threat to the good burghers of Richmond, imagine what my presence would do,” she said this morning. Barber, winner of five British Press awards, is also the author of a study of Victorian naturalists, The Heyday of Natural History, along with How to Improve Your Man in Bed and The Single Woman’s Sex Book.

I believe that this festival has every right to deny access or limit the types of people that attend and this includes the type of documentation that they publish (advertising, etc). But even though they have every right to do this it seems a bit much to ask that a photograph of an author be replaced because deemed unworthy of the “good health habits’ that the festival wished to promote.

Lynn-Barber-001This is a book festival not a health fair. I could understand if the primary sponsors of this festival was an organization that was about lung cancer or something of that nature, but this is a festival. Should the festival censor the types of writing that authors and publishers are promoting. God forbid an author have a character that smokes or does drugs or dare I even think it: have sex.

The festival responds as follows:

“A Richmond council spokesman said: “We don’t like to use images of people smoking in our promotional material. As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area, and to be seen to be endorsing smoking, no matter how unintentional, doesn’t complement this.”

What do you think? Is it out a bit much for the festival to demand this photo be changed? I think that she was right to pull out of the festival. I’m sure that if other authors were scrutinized along with their photographs someone, anyone, would find  a reason to object.

I am going to hold a Literary Festival of my own and invite famous authors and publishers but I swear to God if I see one photograph of an author sitting in an armchair it’s off with your damn head.

Your thoughts and commentary?

Written by thebeliever07

August 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Gastronomic Exotica by Louis Bakay

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Several things are interesting about Dr. Louis Bakay. The first being that he is a brain surgeon and historian on the Faculty of Harvard Medical School, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Buffalo. The second is that in his past time he enjoys reading and writing about a history of epicures and societies obsession and love for all things food-related. The third is that he is not even a passable cook but an enthusiastic gourmet. flegel3

Random books are the best and I stumbled across this in the food section a week ago while browsing for some gifts for a few of my friends. Dr. Bakay takes the reader through a history of eating from the Stone Age where “the bones of animals found during excavations in Europe reveal what man ate in prehistoric times” all the way to modern French cuisine.

The book is full of interesting facts and random information surrounding the history of how society (mainly Western) has consumed food. For example:

“A typical example of feudal meals was one recorded of the wedding of Wilhelm von Rosenberg at his castle in Bohemia in 1578: 370 oxen; 98 wild boar; 2,292 hares; 3,910 patridge; 22,687 thrushes; 12,887 chickens; 3,000 capons; a large number of eel, carp, salmon, and pike. Also 5 tons of oysters and 40,837 eggs. It was washed down by 6,405 pails of wine.”

You have to love the excess of it all. Not that much has changed since then, but still all of that for a single wedding is impressive.

If you can find this book, it seems to be out of print, or if you can find me and remind me to lend it out, this is definitely a fascinating review of how we eat through the ages. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am

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I have not blogged recently because I’ve been a bit busy with work. The past few weekends have seen us selling out a fair bit, which is good for the hotel, but it also means some extremely grueling days that are quite long and exhausting. I do not mind the work but I find that when I get home most of my day is gone and I find myself sleeping. This summer has gone by fairly quickly and I’m not so sure that I’m ready for school again. Will blog shortly about something more interesting than my boredom and lack of blogging. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

August 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

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Just finished Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, and it feels good knowing that I’ve read a fantasy novel. It has been far too long since I read a good fantasy that I could sink my teeth into. I am going to jump right on into The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay, hopefully I can sneak a few more books in before school starts this September. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2009 at 11:44 pm

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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.

booksfuture1

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

Links Galore:

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Enjoy:

Thirty-Two pages of mispelled 😉 signs in New York City, New York. The commentary is also delightful.

This next one is amazing and something I am quite thankful to have stumbled across. For all my fellow Bibliophibians: The Book Seer. Type in the name of the book you’ve just finished, and The Book Seer will provide recommendations for your next read.

I am not a big fan of Kevin Smith films in general. I find there to be a certain amount of pretension that just gets on my nerves, probably because I have a similar personality and dislike for all things in the world that anger me. That being said, his blog is hilarious at times and I was trolling around on mefi when I stumbled upon this dated but hilarious post: “On the Perils of Strip Clubs”.

First seen on the web this week, posters have sprung up in LA and Atlanta. Interesting discussions on the WashingtonPost.com site. Many different ideas about the posters and their significance. Tampa Bay Times also takes up the debate.

And this is just cool, that’s all for this your most current Links Galore post. Enjoy.

Written by thebeliever07

August 11, 2009 at 1:53 pm