FT: Lines of beauty—British Library’s medieval manuscripts go digital.
Geekwire: Amazon wins broad patent on reselling and lending ‘used’ digital goods.
Sounds like really onerous DRM will be required.
NY Review of Books: Speak, Memory.
“It is startling to realize that some of our most cherished memories may never have happened—or may have happened to someone else. I suspect that many of my enthusiasms and impulses, which seem entirely my own, have arisen from others’ suggestions, which have powerfully influenced me, consciously or unconsciously, and then been forgotten.”
Gear Patrol: 100 Best Books for Men.
Needs more nonfiction and philosophy, if you ask me. A novel can be a terribly time-wasteful way to glean a threadbare moral or a few ‘truths’.
More Intelligent Life: Henning Mankell on Timbuktu.
“One of the things that is said over and over again about Africa is that there is no written history, but that is a blatant lie. If you go to Timbuktu you will see it is absolutely not true. Timbuktu takes away a lot of lying about Africa.” Folks tend to generalize on Egypt as being the first civilization of consequence, but predynastic Egypt was the result of migrations from Ethiopia. African history is rich and deep, for those with eyes to see, ears to hear.
ArtDaily: Most Timbuktu texts saved, say curators.
“A vast majority was saved… more than 90 percent.” Thank goodness.
Guardian.UK: Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies wins Costa prize after unanimous vote.
“Murray said Mantel’s prose was poetic and beautiful …” *cough* *cough* You saw my previous on this, I hope.
NPR, The Salt: Haul Out the Haggis, It’s Time to Celebrate Burns Night.
Ye gods, someone linked to this and used the term “Bobby Burns.” What do they teach in schools these days? He’s spinning in his grave. Rabbie, please.
WaPo: Stephen King releases gun control essay.
“In the 1970s, he published a novel called ‘Rage’ under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It told the story of a high school kid who takes a gun to school, shoots his Algebra teacher and holds a class hostage. ‘Rage’ sold only a few thousand copies, but starting in the late 1980s, King began to hear about teenage boys who were inspired by the book to commit similar crimes in their own schools.” King had his publisher pull it because, while he didn’t feel it was a cause, it was an accelerant. However you want to rationalize it, pulling such items is not new - it’s called ‘simple social responsibility.’ Trevanian did it in the wake of the art heist performed nearly verbatim from his novel The Loo Sanction. He purposely limited his descriptions of techniques in followup books, and told the reader so.
Zyzzyva: The West as ‘Lonely, Heartbreaking, Scary, Sacred’ - Q&A with Rubén Martínez.
“How did I come to feel so alienated that I needed to reinvent myself as a Western subject by wearing a cowboy hat? It seemed to me that I arrived in a land where alienation was the only common discourse, alienation borne of radically different causes, of course.” I’ll have to sample this book; sounds worthy. Puts me in mind of the current lawsuit taking place over a downtown Santa Fe residence; some East coasters upset that their home is not ‘real adobe.’
Guardian.UK: RSC wins rights to stage Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels.
Funny coincidence; I just finished Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Both novels remind me of when I was a child, walking along a gutter, kicking a stone … you’re in a sort of zombiefied ‘zone’, briefly breaking that trance to aim and kick the stone along again. It’s neither particularly challenging nor exciting, but it kills time. In these books, the narrative is your zone and major historical events are the kicks—and together they murder time. Except for the brief account of Walter Cromwell’s abuse of Thomas, the books are preternaturally calm emotionally, probably to reflect the protagonist’s (Thomas Cromwell’s) personality. There are no buildups to anxiety-filled panics, no dramatic crises, dialog has no tension at all … though Henry VIII’s reign was all upheaval. We all know what happens to Anne Boleyn, but any anticipation is our own—certainly no anticipation is being developed here. Every peak is a valley. Cardinal Wolsey’s persecution and death are taken at almost a walk. This calmness throughout both books becomes dull, to the point where you’d like to skip a chapter or two to find some action, some fireworks—anything but long tedious dialogues leading to the executioner’s axe—but know you’d miss some little detail. In spite of all this, I kept on reading, because I simply wanted to know what happened next. Yet I couldn’t help imagining at one of these kingly discussions, Henry VIII orders the author to change the book’s protagonist to someone more reactionary. He roars, “Another dratted thick book, Ms Mantel? Surely not from Cromwell’s perspective again. The man’s prose reads like a missive from Parliament.” So, these are rendered as single-perspective soap operas, Prozac parlor dramas. But mostly unrelieved monotone words, words, words.
Given that I love historical novels, I gave these books a lot of leeway. Would I read them again? No. I’d rather go read actual biographies of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. Various situations mentioned in the novels kept pushing me to consult Wikipedia or other historical sites to get needed background anyway. Might as well pick up a really scholarly work on these personalities instead. I am appreciative, however, of the push to dig deeper into this period and these characters. I thought I knew the period well; surprised to find I did not.
A note: Wolf Hall, the editor should be horsewhipped. Dialog problems. Many times I found myself following a “He said x” statement and never knowing whether this was Cromwell or some other male character. Characters can, unpredictably, be referenced by first name, last name, both, by rank, or just “He”. Understanding slips away when you have a lot of Henrys, Thomases in the same drawing room. This writing style repeated over many pages will have you tearing your hair out. Bring Up The Bodies was much better about this, albeit a bit clunky and high-school-English in execution.
Later: Why did I buy the second book, if the first was so dull? Because I hoped something would finally happen. Unfortunately when it does, it’s another yawn. I really wanted to like these books. I just couldn’t. The writing got in the way. When a third book comes down the pike, I’ll look to borrow it, not buy it. But I will eventually read it, just to finish off the series.
Bloomberg: Lance Armstrong Sued for Peddling ‘Fiction’ as Memoir.
Not convinced this’ll stick. I mean, given the state of political nonfiction … well, you know.
Boston Review: Forget Harry Potter.
“Why do some books written for children draw adult readers while others don’t? Which ones deserve the attention of adults? I’ve tried to read (as I entertained the possibility of writing one) a large number of children’s books and am usually stopped by the simplifications of language, life, and fictional possibility that ‘YA’ writers are required, or feel compelled, to adhere to. I grew almost instantly bored with the Harry Potter series, but Louis Sachar’s Holes, beloved by young readers, is masterful—a grownup could love it for the grand chutzpah of its plot machinery and be as moved as young readers are by its hero’s dilemmas and bravery.” One has to admit, HP was a rough slog to stay awake in some of the books, esp. towards the end.
NY Mag: How Self-Help Publishing Ate America.
They’re the first things I donate to the library. And vow never to purchase again.
ArtDaily: France’s port city of Marseille hopes for image makeover.
They need another serial novel written about them. When Dumas wrote “The Count of Monte Cristo”, it brought such tourism to Marseilles that the cab drivers refused to take his money.
Oh, and visit the Château d’If while you’re there.
GlobalPost: Germans love Mark Twain.
“He’s the exemplary American for us.” For many Americans, too.
ArtDaily: Seven ancient Roman statues linked to Latin poet Ovid unearthed.
“We know that there were numerous representations of the myth in paintings and sculptures, in ancient Grece as well. Before leaning towards one hypothesis or another, we have to precisely date the statues—a lengthy job.” Statues or the poem, chicken or the egg. Which came first? We’ll have to wait and see.
NY Mag: The Self in Self-Help.
“Let us call it the master theory of self-help. It goes like this: Somewhere below or above or beyond the part of you that is struggling with weight loss or procrastination or whatever your particular problem might be, there is another part of you that is immune to that problem and capable of solving it for the rest of you. In other words, this master theory is fundamentally dualist. It posits, at a minimum, two selves: one that needs a kick in the ass and one that is capable of kicking.” Great article. Self-help books can give you a boost sometimes, but in bulk become a cloying preachy pile of paper pulp in the back of your bookshelf.
TNR: Victoria Beale Reviews New Books By Alain De Botton And Philippa Perry.
“I felt dissatisfied. I found I was dreaming of replacing all my furniture. What was I doing? … I was breathing shallowly.” Read the whole thing - a romp. This is how I feel reading many of the latest A-list bloggerati these days.
WorldCrunch: My Father’s “Eviscerated” Work - Son Of J.R.R. Tolkien Finally Speaks Out.
“The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.” Via GitM on FB.
NY Times: Klemens von Klemperer Dies at 96 - Wrote of Nazi Era.
“The determination of the German Resistance to reach the ‘greater world’ stands as an example for the many dissidents and freedom movements who in our day, still plagued by oppression, are appealing to the conscience of the world.” I was not aware of this work, but I will seek out the book now. Rest in peace, good sir.
HiConsumption: Wacky Racers Driving Experience - The World’s Fastest Couch.
Guardian.UK: Diarykeeping is an exceptional and heroic act.
“But to write a diary for any extended period is an exceptional and eccentric act. If historians wanted to relate a truly representative history through diaries, they would have to include the vast, forgotten majority that do not see January out. It would be an eternal winter in this alternative history, populated by a tribe of initially loquacious people who suddenly become monosyllabic and then lapse irrevocably into silence.”
WSJ: Philip Hensher, Missing Ink Author, on Handwriting Notes.
“In a British survey carried out in June, it was discovered that the average time since an adult wrote anything at all by hand was 41 days.” Mine own hath degenerated, unless I wield fountain pen in hand.