Vulcan’s Peak

Archive for the 'books' category

Book nerd strikes again

February 21, 2007 2:23 pm

This morning I’ve been catching up on book publishing newsletters that one of my profs forwards to us. Most of it is business-y (mergers and appointments and one heck of a mess with a distributor going bankrupt), but in between the cracks you can find the fun stuff. So here are three tidbits to make you say “huh!”

1. Bookstore tourism. That’s right, independent bookstores are becoming tourist destinations. It’s a little kooky, but I think it’s cute.

2. Viggo Mortenson founded an independent press (and they have a very strange main page). I knew he was a poet and an artist, but this was news to me! This blog has a nice piece all about it.

3. This year’s Newbery Award winner is causing a furor among parents and librarians. Apparently it uses the word “scrotum,” which, you know, is completely inappropriate for nine to twelve year old children. Because of course children are entirely asexual and we wouldn’t want them to learn the scientific words for their genetalia. It would be much better for them to be completely embarassed by their own sexuality and become repressed or repressive adults who freak out when scientifically appropriate words like “scrotum” appear in children’s books.

Whether the book is any good or not I don’t know (though now I intend to seek it out) — reviews are mixed, though as noted, it did just win the Newbery.

Apparently, it’s all in my head.

11:44 am

I was greatly disappointed by my poetry class last night. Situation was that I had to turn in a paper, give a presentation, and submit a poem for discussion, so rather than stress about three things, I used a poem that I wrote for the poetry class I took a year and a half ago. It was a piece that I didn’t think all that highly of, but which my professor liked, so I had some confidence in it, but I also knew it had problems. So I sent it off to my classmates and went to work on the paper and presentation which didn’t go all that well, I thought, but I’m just glad it’s over. Yik.

This particular poem is a description (of sorts) of a night at Furman when I was walking to my apartment one evening, probably going home at ten from a CCLC shift. It was a foggy night and I came around the corner into a slightly wooded area around the apartments and a little way ahead of me was this girl who was practicing for a kickline or something — literally taking three steps and then throwing a leg up over her head, three steps, kick, three steps, kick.

Well, strange thing that my brain is, it comes up with the Saggy Baggy Elephant, who goes around the jungle dancing one, two, three, kick! one, two, three, kick! Is this ringing a bell to anybody?

Show me more… »

I am fascinated…

February 3, 2007 7:54 pm

Sticklebook, the invisible bookshelf.

I’m also skeptical. I would want to play with one before ordering. How can they really not bend the pages all out of shape?

wanders off to experiment with a comb…

Browsing John Adams’ Library

January 31, 2007 11:40 am

Two Fridays ago I had an open afternoon between a morning in payroll and a late afternoon staff meeting for my new lab assistant job. To pass the time, I wandered into John Adams’ library.

I had passed the main branch of the Boston Public Library on several occaisions because it’s within easy walking distance of the college, but never gone in before. It is, in fact, two large buildings. The first door I opened led to a grand old space with stone lions and Classical figures painted on the walls. I briefly wandered around with my jaw open and a nagging sense that I wasn’t really supposed to be there, eventually figuring out that it holds only the non-circulating research and reference sections. Eventually I made my way into the Johnson building, which is built in the style we might call Mid-Twentieth Century Ugly (you could say Utilitarian if you think that’s harsh), and houses everything that normal people expect to find in a three-story library. But before I got there, I wandered into a temporary exhibit called John Adams Unbound.

The focus of the exhibit was a wall of books: Adams’ personal library. Fascinating to see the great variation in size — some books wouldn’t be out of place in a row of paperbacks, but his collected works of Locke would compare favorably with my parent’s largest atlas.

Show me more… »

Bedtime story, read by Mal

November 22, 2006 1:34 am

Just a bit of late night linkage. The Softwire looks to be a B-grade cross between Ender’s Game, Star Trek, and possibly Dickens. But .mp3 files of the first three chapters are free online as read by Nathan Fillion. Entirely worthwhile if you feel like listening to Mal’s voice for an hour or so…and I freely admit that I’m curious about the rest of the story.

Being bookwormy

November 20, 2006 11:30 pm

Kimberly called me this evening! When I sent her my new cell number, I hinted that she should give me a call sometime, and she did! (I was somewhat mortified to not recognize her voice when I picked up.) We hadn’t talked in months, so that pretty much made my evening.

I spent the afternoon tripping around the city to do some preliminary Christmas non-shopping, which was fun. Spent a little while in the MIT Press Bookstore — I didn’t see any gift ideas there, but a few interesting-looking volumes caught my eye:

Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady. Even though my grandmother was a hospital dietician, she hadn’t heard of anyone who was really allergic to milk (as opposed to lactose intolerant) until when my parents learned that their baby girl had such an allergy. This could be a pretty cool book.

Hamlet on the Holodeck. I don’t know if this would actually be any good, but when I picked it up in the store, it looked like a very Jane sort of book — exploring communication and narrative and new technology. Looking closer, it’s been out since 1998, so that alters the definition of “new technology” in the last sentence. I wouldn’t buy it (without further investigation or recommendation), but it intrigues me.

And here’s one I don’t even really have any interest in reading, but the cover made me laugh and I think it will amuse you too: Textual Poachers.

Stupid things bothering me

September 10, 2006 3:34 pm

Item 1: TOS is getting a facelift. [article; q & a] This makes me very tempted to get my hands on a DVD set before the digitally-redone version comes out. It’s a very “Han shot first!” sort of impulse — though to be fair, it looks like they’re trying very hard to be faithful to the intentions of the original directors and designers. File this one under “being a purist.”

Item 2: …and file this one under “being a snob.” I finished Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons yesterday morning. Funny thing about Dan Brown. I read The DaVinci Code when it first came out and heard from my mother that it was making a splash among our Unitarian friends, who were intrigued by some of the wacky ideas it presents and appreciative of the way it presents the sacred feminine. I enjoyed those aspects — and hey, it’s a fun chase story if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing. I was also impressed that one villain committed a murder by abusing his knowledge of another character’s peanut allergy. (Awareness is spreading! Yay!)

Show me more… »

Some slightly dated Harry news

July 21, 2006 8:39 am

I’ve been staring at this for a few days now in case I changed my mind, but I still think it’s a bad idea:

Composer wants to create a Harry Potter opera cycle.

Okay, give the lady credit. From the quotes in the above article, it sounds like she wants to use HP’s immense popularity to revitalise opera and make it interesting to kids. But I just get the feeling that some things should not be set to music. They talked about making a Star Trek musical at one point, after all. Not to mention the fact that opera singers are stereotypically middleaged and overweight for a reason: the voice doesn’t finish maturing until you’re about thirty and opera music is demanding. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done. But I don’t think it would be a service to the stories. The composer likes that HP is “pure epic” — but I don’t think epic and opera are as analogous as she would like to make out.

Fortunately for all involved, both J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers have denied permission for the project.

In other Harry news, I really want someone to remind this guy [‘Harry won’t die’ says literature expert] that JKR has explicitly told us that Neville is NOT the chosen one. Voldemort made Harry the chosen one when he tried to kill him as a baby…because he percieved Harry, not Neville as a future threat.

I also think that the first point quoted in the article is bogus. YES, like in Dickens’ work, good has to win in the end, but that doesn’t require Harry to survive the book. He just has to take Voldemort with him if he does die.

I think what really gets my goat about that article is the way Prof. Krasner talks about Harry as though he’s got all the answers. Snape is “really fighting for good despite all appearances,” he says. Well, yes, the thought has crossed most of our minds, now hasn’t it? No call to sound presumptuous about it.

Talkin’ books

July 6, 2006 6:49 pm

Bragging, bibliophile style. And I wish it were a little more nuanced: I thought Animal Farm was interesting, but in no way did I love it the way I did Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice. However, that’ not going to stop me from going overboard on this. Hang on to your hats. Real content tba.

What have I read?–Overall
from What Should I Read Next?

I liked it! I didn’t like it! I want to read it!
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
1984 – George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story – George Orwell
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
Angels and Demons – Dan Brown
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

And of course you can always…

Show me more… »

Christmas and movies

December 22, 2005 12:59 pm

Not a great deal of news here, folks. Christmas is happening, with all usual activities. Tree is up, outside lights are up, cookies are baked, presents are wrapped. I took the boys shopping the other day, which was almost not as much of an ordeal as last year. When they know what sort of thing they’re looking for – they were better on this than last year – that’s half the battle. The other half is finding this stuff. Last year we managed it all at the mall, I think…this year took us from Books-a-Million to the mall to Circuit City to WalMart.

Oh – and I managed to go to the post office at Christmas time without crushing my finger. *bows* So my grad school applications are all mailed off.

Came home last week and got my nose buried into three books, as usual. I came home reading Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, something I’ve wanted to find since I saw the musical based upon it when I was in London a year ago. Mmm, London. Mmm, Christmas lights in London.

I also picked up my German version of the first Harry Potter book in an effort to pull my Deutsch back again – I have a German lit course next term. Harry is, I find, a nice way to wade back in. I know the English well enough that it helps me out. Oh yeah, is that what merkwurdige means? Riiiight…

The third is a massive tome that my parents gave my brother for his birthday last spring. It falls in the “What to read after Harry Potter” advertising category, but between its size and his general busy-ness, he hadn’t started it yet. So I did. The first page or so is very clever, but then the 80 pages that follow are fairly slow. By pg. 80, though, I was hooked, and by 200 it hums right along quite nicely. The title is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and it’s set in the early 1800’s, as England is at war with Napoleon. Much magic and fairies and high society. Reminiscent of Patricia C. Wrede’s Mairelon books, but I have several hundred pages to destroy that illusion.

This Christmas has brought an unusually large number of movies I want to see! Since when does that happen, anyway? The Producers is out, as is Peter Jackson’s King Kong. There’s a new Pride and Prejudice, and I’m intrigued by the premise of Memiors of a Geisha (only sufficiently intrigued to rent it later, probably). This isn’t even counting the two (two!!) I saw last week, Rent and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Rent is a musical I hadn’t known anything about except that a lot of people really like it – I have one friend in particualr who is a big fan. When Pug and I went to see it at the mall, they were having some sound problems – way way way too much bass in some of the big numbers, so much so that you couldn’t hear the words…and the words were important. That whole setting up the plot and introducing the characters thing? Yeah. They evened out as the movie went on, and I really liked the show itself.

Narnia I enjoyed too. Pug, Tae, Elf, and I went out to dinner and saw the Narnia movie a week ago. Though I think the White Witch looked all wrong, there was a lot more that looked just right. The creatures were great (not the only way in which this production improves on the old BBC version with people in animal suits, but a major factor!), and the children were well cast. At first, I was a bit bothered by how much they seemed to be bickering, but when I looked back at the book later that night, I realized that they’d made a change for the realistic. No kids talk like they do in C.S. Lewis, not even British kids.

Personally, I’d been a little down on Narnia in recent years. Somehow, the more clearly I saw the Christian symbolism, the more I dismissed the tales. (Sad truth: I’m not as open-minded/tolerant/accepting as I like to think.) Seeing it all again reminded me that it is a good story all on its own. Christ figures don’t mean much to me, but dear old not-a-tame-lion Aslan does. That’s where the story is powerful to me. So I guess that’s what I liked best about it.