‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘books

‘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?

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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

End of Summer Reading Review:

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The end of the summer is here and I thought it would be nice to list everything that I’ve managed to read over the summer.

This has been one of the slowest reading summers in quite some while. I usually manage to read a bit more than this but being at work so much of the summer I sometimes struggle to read. Also, for most of July I was unable to read anything. I just found myself unmotivated and uninterested in everything I picked up. A reading summer-slump.

I have so many “half-started” books as I like to term them, chapters two and three being popular points of abandonment. Woolf, Lancaster, & Whitehead were some of the best works that I read this past summer and I recommend them to everyone. I’ve linked to the various postings and individual reviews.

Still, despite the fact that I fell into a bit of a summer-slump, I enjoyed this summer’s reading variety. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

August 11, 2009 at 8:54 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 😉

“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

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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This is my first introduction to Cormac McCarthy who is best known for his Border Trilogy which comprises of one book that I think many have at least heard of it not read, All the Pretty Horses. It is hard for me to talk about his style as this book is different from many of his previous which seem to predominantly focus on an aging western landscape. The Road is an amazing book that will be hard to put down. The writing is fragmented and sparse which reflects the narrative, a tale of a boy and his father as they traverse a barren landscape. Some kind of natural or man-made disaster has decimated the entire population and its landscape. In this world everyone is homeless and all men are thieves to some capacity.

roadSome walk on the road struggling to live. Some eat others. Some capture others. Some wish only to be left alone. To own something is to be burdened and these are some of the issues that this father and son confront as they walk this landscape, struggling to make sense of their lives. Life consists of a rather dull routine for these two: wake up, find food, walk, find more food, eat, hide, sleep; repeat.

The subject of the story is depressing and rather serious, so this is not a light read, but rest assured it is also short, only 287 pages. The pacing as I said is quick and the writing is broken up which makes the reading flow much smoother. Just as these two characters, who are simply referred to as Man and Boy, break up their day into small segments, so too is the writing.

If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pass it along to you. Also, as a side note: the book has already been adapted into a film starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlise Theron, Robert Duvall, and Guy Pierce. From what I’ve seen of the trailer, it looks to be fairly faithful to the original story.

Enjoy.

Written by thebeliever07

June 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm

A Half-Finished Marilynne Robinson is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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A few years ago I took a Valuing Modern Fiction course. Now while the course work and lectures were of a quality and standard that I did not appreciate, the one thing the course did provide me with was an exposure to some wonderful contemporary authors. The selection of the books reflected the various awards that had been given out that year in the industry: [ Pullitzer, Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Giller, CBC Canada Reads, Hugo Award, National Book Award, etc ]. The following books were selected:

  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toewes
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

A nice selection of books, some I enjoyed more than others,  but the reason I am writing this post is that I’m now kicking myself in the ass for not having read one book in particular. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. She has made quite a name for herself, notably with her most recent publication: Home. Home is a sequel to Gilead which was just awarded the Orange Prize for fiction. It has also been featured as a book that President Obama recently read which has drawn some attention to the work as well.

Gileas is a story about a small, dusty prairie town in 1956, written in the form of a letter from a 75-year-old preacher to his six-year-old son.

I remember enjoying the writing and the premise but I did not finish the book in the time that we were given, what with other English course loads, and life distractions. The sequel Home takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s closest friend. Apparently the books are independent and can be read as stand-alones on their own, but I hate knowing that there is another book that preceded this one as I feel I would be missing out on certain insights and conclusions drawn from the prior book by jumping into this one. Do I go back and re-read half of a book that was enjoyable so that I can read this book which is drawing so much buzz?

Lesson of the Day: Finish your assigned readings, so you don’t get annoyed the way I am with this issue.

Written by thebeliever07

June 8, 2009 at 8:45 am