Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Watch this space

Due to illness and busyness, it seems unlikely that I will have the time to post properly until October. But don't go away, because I will return.

Until then, here are a few interesting links.

The 'Real Reason' that Rushdie was snubbed for the Booker short list.

The MAGIC of Alan Carr

Bookmarks on FIRE!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Congrats Tony Kushner!

This is just a note to say
that Tony Kushner won the inaugural
Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award.

It couldn't have happened to a better playwright.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Brooklyn Book Festival

I had a great time wandering around the Brooklyn Book Festival yesterday. I would have had an even better time if it had not been hellishly hot and humid. I do not sunburn easily, and I picked up my first real sunburn of 2008.

The talks were interesting, but I found it difficult, with the heat to sit in one place, in direct sunlight, for very long. Still, I did catch a sizable chunk of the conversation between Adrian Tomine and John Wray. I hadn't heard of Wray before, but am interested in reading some of his work after hearing him talk. I already knew that I liked Tomine's work. It was a great conversation, full of interesting information about international influences, particularly in comics.

My favorite part of the festival was all of the representation by small publishers. I found some interesting things and people over at the Verso Books table. They will soon be publishing a graphic novel biography of Che Guevara, written and drawn by Spain Rodriguez, and I got my hands on a copy. It's excellent, and I'm enjoying watching graphic novels expand in the direction of history and biography of historical figures.

On the subject of books as beautiful objects, I loved the booth for Chin Music Press, who describe themselves quite accurately as 'publishers of beautiful and engaging books and media.'

Both of these publishers, and a number of other groups, had information on upcoming readings and events, and I have to sort through them all, because I want to go to all of them and many occur at the same time in disparate parts of the city.

Also, in a bit of silliness, I wore this shirt. It clearly proved to be the right choice, and helped start a number of interesting conversations. If you're in the area next year, I highly recommend the Brooklyn Book Festival.

David Foster Wallace

I've never read any of his books, but his loss still seems quite sad. One day I plan to read Infinite Jest, which sounds like something I'd enjoy. To learn more about Wallace, try just about any newspaper book section, and at least half of the links on my Blog Roll.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Brooklyn Book Festival

This Sunday in Brooklyn Borough Hall, is the Brooklyn Book Festival. I'm really looking forward to it.

As a quick preview, Gothamist has a great interview with one of the organizers, Johnny Temple, reader, publisher, and bassist in the band Girls Against Boys.

Beyond the Cover

I'm all for liking books as physical objects as well as containers of stories and information, but dressing to match your book? That seems a little much to me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Should They Stay, or Should They Go?

Your old books that is.

If they stay, there will be trouble (you'll drown in books), if they go it will be double (you might run out of things to read).

I think I'll stop committing crimes against the Clash now. What I'm really asking is, what do you do with books when you're done with them.

Aside from books you take out from the library, if you're a heavy library user then good for you!

I'm talking about the books you own. Do you hang on to everything you've enjoyed, or just a few that are extra special? And what do you do with the ones you don't save?

I hang on to far too many books, and need to start getting rid of them. I have a sizable pile of books to get rid of, but they've been there for months. I've gotten rid of a few by offering them to friends. They'll go through them, consider a few, and then decide they don't want them. I don't blame them, I didn't want them either.

When I lived closer to a used book store, the answer was easy, I would periodically bag up a bunch of books and take them over. I ended up with store credit, but store credit at a bookstore is useful for me. Now I have to take a real trip if I want to take these books to the used book store, I can't do it on a whim, I need to carefully plan a part of my day around it. Maybe I'll do it this weekend, but I've said that before.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Closing Tabs

I have way too many tabs open right now. Very interesting things that I wanted to post about. Instead I'm just going to list them all here.

Tyler Bender Book Co. are the makers of the coolest notebooks out there. Each one is unique because they're made from old hardcover books. has an incredible range of poetry available. One of the best parts is all of the audio recordings. I listened to Langston Hughes talk about and then read The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and was thrilled.

Driving across the country to promote reading sounds like a lot of fun, and a great idea. David Kipen of The Big Read, is doing it, and blogging about it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Books are more than just entertainment

To quote Richard Wright, "books are weapons." I really need to read some of his books.

I think that we as a culture know this. It can lead us to love books, or to fear them. Books can help us fight against injustice, and remind us that we are not alone when we struggle. They can educate us and give us the tools we need to advance ourselves and our ideas. They also enable authors like Richard Wright to be heard long after they're physical presence is gone.

In that regard, there are two links I wanted to pass on.

First, is this brief tribute to Richard Wright, who would be 100 years old today.

Second is this longer article about Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, publisher of 'The Little Blue Books.' Haldeman-Julius believed strongly in making books available and affordable to everyone. He was referred to as the Henry Ford of literature, and like Henry Ford, he was fairly eccentric, though not in the same ways.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Recommended Reading

I like book recommendations, particularly when the person doing the recommending feels strongly about the book. I also think that knowing a few books that mean a lot to someone is a good way to get a sense of who they are.

To that end, I've recently discovered two new sources of such recommendations. Over at the Penguin UK blog they've started a nice series called "Five in Mind" that seeks to let readers get to know the staff at Penguin UK by having them each give a list of five books. I've been enjoying that quite a lot.

Then there's also NPR's series "You Must Read This". I feel terribly guilty that I've fallen behind on almost all of my regular NPR podcasts, because I'm such a big fan of their programing. This is a great example. Authors are asked to tell us why we must read a certain book. I particularly liked Michael Chabon's, which I found very convincing. I also loved Charles Baxter's recommendation of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, which is one of my favorite books. You must read it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Literary Coincidence

It's interesting how once you become aware of something, it keeps popping up. At the moment, I'm referring to The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. Here's the little chain that's brought up what seems to be a fairly obscure (for English speakers) Portuguese novel.

As you know, I've been reading The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine. Last night I finished it. Tonight or tomorrow I will begin to write my review of it for the VQR contest.

Early this afternoon, I discovered The Drawbridge, which looks like a very interesting literary journal. In browsing the current issue, I saw Rabih Alameddine had written an article for them, so I read it. In it he told me yet another story, the beautiful intricacy that is Fernando Pessoa. I'll let him tell you, since I couldn't do it justice.

Then, just now, I learned that Philip Pullman has provided a list of 40 favorite books to the Timesonline for the Waterstone's Writer's Table. We already know that I'm fond of book lists, so I went over his. I haven't read that many items on it, but I agree with him on the ones I have read. What else did I see on his list, but Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet. That's two recommendations in one day. And from authors I like. So that has decided me, I want to read this book. Now I just have to find a copy, I hope to fit it into my to read pile sometime next year.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nearing the Finish Line

About 50 pages left to go in The Hakawati. I finally realized why it's been taking me so long. It's so good that I don't want it to end. This happens to me occasionally, though only with certain really good books. I have to become really fond of the characters, in addition to really enjoying the story.

I've also become completely obsessed with Georges Simenon. I've read four of his books so far in the last month or two, and I want more. Fortunately, there are a lot more out there, unfortunately, books cost money. I know, it's a terrible and complicated formula. There are two types of Simenon books out there at the moment, both excellent, though different. The Inspector Maigret mysteries, being published by Penguin in cute, oddly shaped little books. And the New York Review of Books is republishing a lot of his excellent, more literary character studies. Both make for attractive books.

Any new author obsessions out there for you?

UPDATE: Apparently, an interest in Simenon is particularly appropriate on Labor Day weekend. David L. Ulin explains over at the LA Times.