Reviewing books is often a good way to feel like a puppy-kicking sonuvabitch. And sometimes, when you find yourself the lone grump before a buzz juggernaut, you can feel like a crazy, puppy-kicking sonuvabitch. That’s about where I sit after finishing Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, The Snow Child (Reagan Arthur Books), a novel already popular in Europe, a novel the Christian Science Monitor and Oprah tell me to watch for in 2012, and a novel of which one enthusiastic blurber was moved to say: “If Willa Cather and Gabriel García Márquez had collaborated on a book, The Snow Child would be it.”
“I confess that I had the book on my shelf for a few months before delving in, because, having skimmed the first sentences and the shapes of each story, I couldn’t imagine “getting into” them. But by the third story (once I did set myself to reading), I couldn’t wait to see how [Daniel] Orozco would do it – how he’d come up from behind me with a beat-up old club chair, slip it underneath my knees, effectively saying, “Stay a while. Have a seat. You’ll need it.”— Post-40 Bloomers: Daniel Orozco by Sonya Chung
“There is beauty as well as hatred in [Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’], and it deserves its place on the shelf. Yet the central question it poses was stupidly buried under censorship in the 1930s, and gleefully swept aside in the permissiveness of the 1960s. Kate Millet asked the question in the 1970s, but the effort to ignore it is prodigious. A new round of mythmaking is ignoring it once more. The question is not art versus pornography or sexuality versus censorship or any question about achievement. The question is: Why do men revel in the degradation of women?”— Jeanette Wintersonbrings the heat in The New York Times’ Sunday book review.
“I think, though, that the bigger reason why there’s no social stigma attached to downloading is because, on some level, most people break laws when we find them inconvenient and when we don’t see harm in doing so. Drivers exceed the speed limit all the time–some do it recklessly, but others do it moderately. I’ve been known to go 75 in a 70 under the notion that a state trooper isn’t likely to pull me over when there are people going 80 or faster. I rationalize it by saying to myself that the damage I’m doing is minimal at worst. There’s no question I’m breaking the law, and if a trooper gives me a ticket, then I can’t really complain about it (though I no doubt will).”—Brian Spears, “Missing the Point on Content Piracy” on The Rumpus.
“You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.”—John Waters
Atlanta places fourth, San Francisco comes in at number nine, and NYC and LA don’t make the to ten cut, listed in positions 22 and 59(!) respectively, out of the 75 cities included.
Goodgot in touch with CCSU president Dr. John Miller, who crunched the numbers and discovered a correlation between the wealthiest and most literate cities, and it’s not what you might expect.
And, of course, the LA Timeswants to set a few things straight: "As in years past, Los Angeles didn’t fare well. Why should we? We’ve only got the largest book festival in the country, vibrant independent booksellers, major univeristies, a fantastic public library system, highly literate public radio shows…. Sigh." I can’t help but agree with them… I mean, how is it even possible that the home of the Los Angeles Review of Books is so far down on this list?
“While society tends to treat profanity differently than other classes of words, the lexicographer cannot. The goal, remember, is to attempt to concisely and accurately communicate the lexical meaning of a word, and obscene and vulgar words, with all their shades of meaning and many, many, many uses, need the clearest definitions of them all. In fact, when I buy a new dictionary–something that I’m sure you all do on a regular basis, right?–I judge it on two criteria: treatment of the Big 8 and treatment of profanity. A dictionary written for an adult English speaker should cover profanity. (School dictionaries tend not to include profanity because classroom materials tend not to drop f-bombs. This is because I do not write classroom materials.) If I pick up a dictionary and can’t find a single cussword, I begin to wonder what else the editors decided not to include.”—Kory Stamper, lexicographer with Mirriam Webster, on dropping different kinds of f-bombs and other curse words into your dictionary.
“I may be overly optimistic or utterly blind, but my view of contemporary American fiction is that it is as rich as ever. Some of the best work is being written in what until recently was considered, at least among the conventional literati, genre fiction. Horror, gothic, mystery, fantasy, fabulism. There are so many stunningly original and serious writers working these fields. I have to think that anybody reading this interview would agree.”—Bradford Morrow in conversation with Edie Miedav.
“The story of Job, the righteous yet put-upon recipient of God’s trials, remains ever-present in all these narratives, and like it or not, becomes the central problem in every piece of contemporary Jewish fiction. Why, despite our best efforts to avoid trouble, does it follow us everywhere?”— So, Nu?: Shalom Auslander’s Hope: A Tragedy by Jessica Freeman-Slade
“Joking and hand-wringing about the future of books aside, is it really possible that a book could be written and illustrated collaboratively on some kind of social media platform and then edited by hundreds or thousands of online contributors? Even if it were possible, is it desirable? Common sense and a decent respect for the creative process suggest that a novel or short story, even a book-length work of nonfiction produced by such means would be a ghastly thing — a Frankenstein’s monster that, though animated, could not be given life; it might resemble a book, but it would not live and breathe.”— Frankenstein’s Crowdsourced Monster: hitRECord’s Tiny Book of Tiny Stories by John Davidson
Getting your rocking chair into a shop is important. It gives a person license to teach others how to make rocking chairs. It doesn’t matter if nobody buys your rocking chair or sits in it; what matters is that it’s in the shop.
Since the goal is to just make it into the shop, it makes sense to charge a contest fee. In my contest, everybody gets a rocking chair, so entrants get something for something. In fact, some of my colleagues run contests where people don’t even get a rocking chair for their fee. Is that unfair? I don’t think so. This isn’t about selling the rocking chairs. It’s about selling the idea of rocking chairs.